Friday, October 31, 2014

If Only Day

There was really good birding to be had this morning as Redwings and Fieldfares arrived with a vengeance, the thrushes joined by a good number of Chaffinches and Siskins on the move. The only problem was that I worried that at any one time I might be in the wrong place and miss something elsewhere. 

With such an overdue and predictable scenario of visible migration taking place it seemed a shame that throughout the morning I saw one other birder only, and he intent on disturbing everything in sight by displaying the field craft of a complete novice. 

In the half-light I pulled into the gate at Braides Farm to look for the Buzzards which seem to spend nights out near the sea wall, effectively in the middle of nowhere. Sure enough the two of them were close together moving along the distant fence line, searching for food on the ground below or in the nearby farmer's midden. 

Midden - Wiki - “early Scandinavian; Norwegian: mødding, Danish: mødding, Swedish regional: mödding) is an old dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, vermin, shells, sherds, lithics (especially debitage), and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with human occupation.” 

It’s been said a number of times on this blog. Buzzards do not spend much of their time hunting game birds. Released Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges make up a tiny proportion of a Buzzard’s diet. Buzzards are more likely to feed on carrion, supplementing that with reptiles, amphibians, larger insects and earthworms. There is no valid reason for persecuting Buzzards and no excuse whatsoever for killing them unlawfully. 

Buzzard and Grey Heron

It would have been good to watch the Buzzards finding breakfast but I was intent on getting to Conder and Glasson after a Thursday morning walk to babysit Holly The Dog hinted at thrushes on the move. 

There wasn’t a lot different on the pool or in the creeks. With one ear and one eye on the sky there followed the customary array of 140 Teal, 14 Little Grebe, 12 Snipe, 2 Goosander, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Kingfisher,1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Little Egret and 1 Grey Heron. 


Just after 8am a couple of Reed Buntings dropped into the hedgerow and 2 calling Fieldfares flew south so I moved around to the elevated old railway line to watch from there. The southerly wind began to pick up quite noticeably but between 0830 and 0930 thousands of both Fieldfares and Redwings flew over in parties of anything of up to 300/400 strong, the birds arriving from the north and appearing to follow the tree line of the River Lune until they hit Conder Green. 


It was here that the flocks veered off into south westerly and westerly streams with just a very few Redwings stopping to feed. At first the flocks seemed to be Redwings mixed with a few Fieldfares but gradually turned to a stronger Fieldfare presence and by 0945 I had noted 1200 Redwings and 1400 Fieldfares. Chaffinches were using the same north to south flight lines, some remaining in the car park where I could also hear the pinging calls of more than one Siskin. 


I hoped to find grounded thrushes near the churchyard and in the hawthorns at Glasson but there were none. It had become too windy from the south with the trees and bushes flailing about. On the water here were 55 Tufted Duck and the welcome return of a single Goldeneye. 


I decided to try Pilling where thrushes might have found the trees at Fluke Hall. Here it was windy too with a bank of grey cloud to the south and a reason perhaps that a flock of 400/500 Fieldfares headed over the sea wall but this time in a clear north easterly direction; an attempt to reorient to a different but visible route south? I saw no other Fieldfares and considered that migration here was over for the day at 1030 hours.


Chaffinches were on the move here. A couple of small flocks flew in from the west along the sea wall and into the shelter of the wood where I found 40+ Chaffinches and 2 or more Siskins high in the treetops. Also in and around the wood I found a pair of Kestrel, 3 Buzzard, 1 Nuthatch, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2+ Goldcrest and 1 Pied Wagtail. 


From the sea wall - 450 Pink-footed Geese on the stubble and 110 Whooper Swans on the marsh. 

Whooper Swans

It was a fascinating but slightly frustrating morning, spoilt by the early sun turning quickly to cloud and as usual, the rapid increase in the wind strength. It's best not to be a churlish birder but while the morning was extremely interesting and at times exciting, there's no doubt it was also one of those “If Only” days. 

Log in soon for more birding days with Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni's blog and  Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Weighing It Up

The new feeding station near Garstang was due a top-up this morning and it was time to see how many birds have found the foodstuff in the last ten days. Depending upon the numbers present and the species mix there could well be a ringing session soon. 

It’s a thirty minute car journey inland heading in an easterly direction towards the Bowland hills, through countryside where I glimpsed more than a few interesting birds but no time to linger - Kestrel, Buzzard, Tawny Owl and Mistle Thrush. 

Mistle Thrushes often start singing from early November, December and into the New Year, from a treetop or other elevated spot. The male is most vocal in the early morning with its tendency to sing after, and sometimes during, wet and windy weather, a trait which led to the old English name of Storm Cock or stormcock. 

Mistle Thrush

As I neared the wooded uplands I noted several Jays, many crows plus dozens of pheasants and Red-legged Partridges. Yes, it’s sporting countryside within a stone's throw of where Hen Harriers are sought out for special attention. 

As I arrived there was a Roe Deer rushing up and down, trying to find its way over the barbed wire fence and back to where it came from, away from vehicles and humans. After a while the animal found the open gate just down the hill. Linking today to Run-A-Round Ranch.

Roe Deer

Birds are no different to us humans in being able to find food, and just as we can see and smell a takeaway shop along the high street, so are birds able to quickly locate a new buffet table laid out near their homes. 

Around the bird feeders and from a standing start just over a week ago, I found a good mix of 12+ Coal Tit, several Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tit, 4 or more Goldcrest and single Chiffchaff and Nuthatch. The number of conifer trees in the area accounts for the good numbers of Coal Tits and Goldcrests. 

Blue Tit

Coal Tit

The general idea is to catch finches so good news arrived in the form of 20+ Chaffinch, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Bullfinch, 2 Goldfinch, and then 1+ Siskin overhead. 




Other birds in the vicinity - 2 Kestrel, 4 Pied Wagtail, 6 Blackbird, 4 Mistle Thrush, 40 Lapwing. 

Pied Wagtail

I was out a good four hours this morning with no sight or sound of thrushes from Europe, the Redwings and Fieldfares now well overdue for their annual arrival in NW England. The wet and generally westerly weather, often overnight, has not been conducive to the birds setting off from Scandinavia. 

The prospects look bleak for the rest of the week as the forecast is for more of the same. Oh well, not to worry. If there’s half a chance Another Bird Blog will be out looking and reporting in here. 

Don’t miss it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Almost Weekend Birding

It’s been a truly awful week of weather and a struggle to get meaningful birding in. This morning promised a window of half decent weather before more rain arrived so I set off for Pilling. 

There was a Buzzard flying alongside Head Dyke Lane and near to two small copses again, a regular location for a pair. And then the usual Buzzard at Fluke Hall disturbed by someone or something unseen, the hawk calling in protest as it flew inland a couple of hundred yards or more to its alternative daytime roost. I watched a Sparrowhawk flap glide high across the stubble and off towards Lane Ends to try its luck. 

After the week of rain the stubble field now has a number of good looking flashes of water, puddles that held a hundred or so Black-headed Gulls, a dozen or more Skylarks but no waders as yet. The woodland seemed very quiet with the usual mixed tit flock, a calling Nuthatch and several Chaffinches. The Chaffinches were nowhere near the number of a week ago and there was no sight or sound of Bramblings today. Seven or eight Tree Sparrows hid in the hedgerow. Tree Sparrows are good at playing inconspicuous and it’s often their chippy call alone which betrays their presence. 

Tree Sparrow

Beyond the car park and a couple of fields back from the road many hundreds of Pink-footed Geese fed on the remains of the spud harvest, groups of the geese coming and going from the nearby marsh and shore. The farmer won’t mid too much as he gets his soil turned over and knows where he can bag a goose or two for Sunday lunch by way of an early morning shotgun. 

Pink-footed Geese

I walked towards Lane Ends to find 41 Whooper Swans on the marsh in their usual spot, joined today by a Ruff, a few Redshanks, two dozen Pink-footed Geese and 30+ Shelduck. Any geese, Shelduck and waders always fly off whereas the swans are more tolerant of a human being walking very slowly and not looking directly at them. Once past the group of swans a peep over the sea wall and a backward glance might get a photograph. 

Whooper Swans

There was little doing along the sea wall except for a single Snipe, an array of 7 Little Egrets on the marsh and a distant Peregrine in wait for high tide. 

At Conder Green the incoming tide was just beginning to fill the creek, leaving enough time to find a single Ruff, 2 Goosander, 60+ Teal, 40+ Redshank and 7+ Curlew. Yes, it’s a poor record shot of the Ruff but a handy one for displaying the long-legged jizz of a Ruff to blog readers who rarely see this handsome wader. The two Goosanders sailed serenely upstream and a Curlew played ball with the camera.




In the garden and searching around the flower pots I found a Hedgehog. Maybe it was on its way to a nearby dense hedge which has been a traditional winter hideout ever since we came to live here 14 years ago.  

The name hedgehog came into use around the year 1450, derived from the Middle English heyghoge, from heyg, hegge ("hedge"), because it frequents hedgerows, and hoge, hogge ("hog"), from its pig like snout. The collective noun for a group of hedgehogs is array or prickle.


Not a bad morning's birding and with luck there will be more news and views via Another Bird Blog at the weekend.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird WednesdayAnni's Blog and Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Blowing In The Wind - Tuesday/Wednesday

The weather folk were spot on with their forecast for Tuesday. The tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo raged on with the result that there was no birding in the gale force north westerly’s. 

Instead I met with Andy near Garstang where we looked over an old ringing site of the 1980s and 1990s. The area became unsuitable for ringing when invasive rhododendrons won the day, but following recent extensive clearance by the site owners we may be able to utilise the place again. So clutching our newly printed shiny permits we explored the now almost rhododendron-free ground looking to identify net rides. 

Before the rhododendrons overran the landscape the open structure of the woodland was especially good for breeding Willow Warblers, where over a number of years around 400 nestling Willow Warblers were ringed and many nest records completed. 

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler nest

It is a site with breeding Willow Warblers, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Bullfinch, and where Yellowhammers, Tree Pipit and Wood Warbler once nested. I found what may have been the last nests of Yellowhammers here in 1996 and 1998 but none since. Nesting Tree Pipits disappeared from here about 1997 but still occur as migrants, while Yellowhammers are now as scarce as hen’s teeth. After the recent extensive ground works both species might just make a comeback but I’m not betting on it. 


Andy and I identified a number of net rides, put up a few feeders to attract Siskins and Redpolls, scattered seed for ground feeding finches such as Chaffinch. We will return when the weather improves. 



On Wednesday a 9 metre high tide at Knott End rather appealed even though the wind was still too north-westerly to produce much in the way of seabirds; well at least if the showers returned I could bird from the car. 

A couple of hours were all I managed as by 11am the rain had started again. In between times I counted the nearest waders as 230 Oystercatcher, 180 Redshank, 45 Lapwing, 35 Sanderling, 40 Bar-tailed Godwit, 300 Knot and 22 Turnstone. 

On the shore, the incoming tide and the river - 11 Eider, 5 Red-breasted Merganser and 1 Grey Heron. 


After three days of abysmal weather passerines were hard to come by with just 30+ Goldfinches, 5 Linnet and 3 Pied Wagtails along the marsh the best. 

Let’s hope Gonzalo relents soon to leave us with sunshine instead of so much wind and rain. 

Linking the Chaffinch on the barbed wire fence to Run A Round Ranch.   

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Short Saturday

There was rain until 8am and even though the sky brightened a little I kept one eye on the threatening grey clouds, the other on the birds. Out on Pilling Sea wall there’s nowhere to shelter should the heavens open. 

There was a Peregrine way out on the sands but on a closer tidal flood, a gang of Whooper Swans which take up residence here each winter. Forty-five Whoopers plus two Mute Swans, 30+ Shelduck, 7 Little Egret and 3 Grey Heron. 

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

On the wildfowler’s pools just 40 Teal, 2 Pintail and 150+ ex-release Hi-Fly Mallard. There have been at least 3 or 4 Wednesday shoots already this autumn so the numbers of Mallards is way down. There are still many Red-legged Partridge across the stubble and maize, probably 300+ left over from the release of 2,000 of them for the shooting season. Interestingly, I was told that the wildfowler’s peak (and quite staggering) count of 6/7000 wild Teal occurred in September, probably when I was away in Skiathos. 

 Red-legged Partridge

On and near the stubble field - 15 Skylark, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Snipe, 100+ Jackdaw and 140+ Woodpigeon. 

By now the promised wind was brewing up. It’s the legacy of Gonzalo, so I headed for the relative shelter of the trees at Fluke Hall. A good number of Chaffinches were around today, with a higher number of contact calls than of late and also more small parties of birds moving through the tree tops. There was at least one Brambling so a count of 40+ Chaffinch and 1+ Brambling. 


Also in the trees and along the roadside, 1 Pied Wagtail, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Jay, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Buzzard and 15+ Long-tailed Tits. I think the splendid looking male Pied Wagtail has recently completed its summer moult. 

 Pied Wagtail

Here's a sepia-style Fluke Hall for old times sake.

 Fluke Hall - Pilling

There’s meant to be even more wind tomorrow which if true rather limits any birding opportunities. But as ever for Another Bird Blog, if it’s half decent there will be more news and pictures soon.

Linking today to Anni's Birding Blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

No Such Luck

This morning saw my first autumn Redwings and Bramblings along the coast but no luck with a hoped for Yellow-browed Warbler, the autumn speciality which instead turned up in mist nets at both Heysham Observatory and Walney Island. When out birding I can see both sites from Pilling or Cockerham, this morning a very breezy and probably bouncy flap and glide for a tiny warbler crossing Morecambe Bay north to south. 

I stopped at Braides Farm to scan across the farmland where more often than not there is little to see until winter rains create a flood which becomes attractive to waders. Just where the field will soon flood I counted 55 Curlew, 5 Golden Plover and 300/400 Starlings, many birds partly hidden, so the area must be soft for probing and still concave enough to hold water. 

There was a distant Buzzard on a fence post waiting for the rising sun and warmer flying conditions. A circling and hovering Kestrel scattered the Starlings more than once before heading off over the sea wall towards the marsh. 


Doh! I’d forgotten the resurfacing along the road at Conder Green where wagons and workmen now filled the lay-by, the yellow jackets, noise and activity emptying the creek and pool of many birds. So a less than perfect look and minus a few regulars but 100 Teal, 80 Redshank, 3 Snipe, 7 Curlew, 6 Lapwing, 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Little Egret, 1 Grey Wagtail and 1 Pied Wagtail. 


The water at Glasson was both choppy and windswept although the Tufted Duck count of 52 proved the best of the autumn. 

Tufted Duck

I set about looking in a couple of sheltered spots for warblers and thrushes. A number of hawthorn bushes are rather loaded with berries this year, the one below in a very open and windy position next to the estuary, so no birds there for now. 


Along the canal in the churchyard and a well-wooded spot I found 30+ fidgety Redwings which flew off almost immediately; still on the move from their overnight excursion. Also 10+ Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrush plus a mixed flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, no Yellow-browed Warbler but a Robin in dispute with a brown headed Blackcap. 



The shelter of Fluke Hall wood seemed a good bet so I headed there and at 1030 into the easterly wind flew a dozen Chaffinches and then 5 Greenfinch - worth a closer look. Two Bramblings were in the treetops with Chaffinches, the nasal calls of the Bramblings singling them out for extra attention. Glimpses only as the finches moved through the trees and then lost to sight and the calls of resident Buzzards. 


The noise of Land Rovers and time to go - It’s Wednesday and Hi-Fly shoot day when the Red-legged Partridge earn their keep and the Buzzards make themselves scarce. 

Me too, but I’ll be back.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

More Goldfinch, More Whoopers

Early Sunday and perhaps too premature for Conder Green where an autumn mist lay across the pool so nothing to look at except the farmer’s two cattle. So I motored slowly up to Glasson where there might be a Kingfisher and a Grey Heron or two. 

It wasn’t misty here on the larger expanse of water. And then right on cue a Kingfisher appeared but didn’t stay. There was nothing doing on the water with just the regular 25 Tufted Duck and similar numbers of Coot. 

Tufted Duck

At Conder Green things had warmed up a little, the mist cleared and so I was able to tot up the waders and the Teal. 3 Spotted Redshank, 70 Redshank, 7 Snipe, 6 Curlew, 4 Lapwing, 3 Goosander and 90 Teal was OK but neither sight nor sound of the regular Greenshank or Common Sandpiper rather took the edge off the count.

One of the Spotted Redshanks has a droopy wing, I noticed it earlier in the week. Two of them were a bit far apart to fit in the frame. 

Spotted Redshanks

On the pool a Kingfisher, 2 Pied Wagtail, 5 Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Little Egret. 

Pilling next stop. On the wildfowler’s pools I found 34 Whooper Swan, 2 Mute Swan, 38 Shelduck and 8 Wigeon while out on the marsh were “many thousands” of Pink-footed Geese, and I’m thinking 10,000 plus. The whoopers peeled off in small groups to fly south and over Pilling village - on their way to Martin Mere Wildfowl Trust at a guess. The folk at Martin Mere feed them even better than the Pilling shooters.

Whooper Swans

I gave the woodland a go with little to report save for a Nuthatch, a single Kestrel and 3 Jays but still no sign of Brambling or Yellow-browed Warbler despite my persistence. The weather charts suggest that things might happen on Monday/Tuesday in the way of Redwings and Fieldfares and possibly more.

Later and back at home I noted many Goldfinches in the neighbourhood treetops again plus a good number on the niger feeders. So after a leisurely lunch I set about catching more to add to the 19 ringed since Monday. The Goldfinches piled in and I ended up catching another 22 with no recaptures from Monday, Friday or today, thereby confirming once again that the day-to-day birds we see aren’t necessarily the same individuals, especially in the spring and autumn.

Other bits and bobs came in the form of 2 Coal Tits, a single Blue Tit and a Long-tailed Tit with attitude. A young male Sparrowhawk escaped from the net before I could get there and flew to next door's sycamore tree.

Coal Tit

Blue Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Goldfinch - juvenile

Goldfinch - female

Goldfinch - male

More news and pictures soon from Another Bird Blog.

In the meabtime I'm linking to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday

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