Monday, January 26, 2015

What's The Weather Back Home?

Here are a few more pictures from Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain where the temperature hovers around the 21°C mark, just the job to shift those winter blues. 

Birding here isn’t the easiest in the world with a limited number of species, some of which are difficult to find and none provided on a plate but it all makes for interesting and often exploratory days. This all works quite well as it leaves time for Sue and I to enjoy the touristy parts of the island or simply relax on a sunbed around the hotel pools. 

The tourists don’t hit the beaches too early after sampling the nightlife of Purto del Carmen the previous night so a morning walk surveying the deserted beach while looking for a coffee stop provides an agreeable morning. 

Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote

Not too far from the promenade, the shops and the lines of sunbeds there’s an area of rocks and sand which hold Yellow-legged Gulls, Turnstones, Sanderlings and maybe one or two Whimbrel. 



In the old and very picturesque part of the harbour Little Egrets and Turnstones search through the fishing boats hoping to grab a bite to eat. There are lots of gulls and at the harbour mouth a number of Sandwich Terns loafing away their time until a passing boat sends them back out to sea looking for a meal. 

Puerto del Carmen


Little Egret

Sandwich Tern

The waters off the Canary Islands are rich in Atlantic breeding seabirds, including large numbers of Cory's Shearwaters, Manx Shearwaters, the rare Barolo's Shearwater, White-faced Storm-petrel, Madeiran Storm-petrel and European Storm-petrel, while the list of other regularly-occurring pelagic seabirds includes Wilson's Storm-petrel. 

Watching the sea along the southerly coastline here can result in sightings of whales and dolphins including the Short-Finned Pilot Whale and Common and Bottlenose Dolphins, and it is said that Hammerhead Sharks and Loggerhead Turtles are present. The Canary Islands were also formerly home to a population of the rarest pinniped in the world, the Mediterranean Monk Seal. 

From the hotel I have seen distant whales in past years so keep a look out although I’m more likely to see one of the many ocean going yachts moored locally. 

Yacht at Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

Back at our hotel there are a couple of walks across the often parched landscape might provide Houbara Bustard or Cream-coloured Courser. Oases of greenery including gardens can turn up the goods like Trumpeter Finch, Desert Grey Shrike, Collared Dove, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Berthelot’s Pipit and Spanish Sparrow.

Calero, Lanzarote

Spanish Sparrow

Trumpeter Finch

Desert Grey Shrike

Hotel Costa Calero

This week I found nesting Desert Grey Shrike, breeding Stone Curlew, Houbara Bustards and a pair of Trumpeter Finches yards from the hotel.

It’s back to normal in the UK very soon on Another Bird Blog. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sunny Days

This is a short post from Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain where Another Bird Blog is exchanging the UK winter for a few days in the sun.

There are scenes and birds from Lanzarote holidays past and I am back in the UK soon to relieve the house sitter of domestic niceties. In the meantime and subject to the island's attractions I’ll try to keep in contact with Blogger friends through my netbook and the hotel WiFi. 

Hotel Costa Calero, Lanzarote

The common pipit in the Canary Islands is the undistinguished Berthelot's Pipit, so named after the French naturalist Sabin Berthelot, a one time resident of the Canary Islands. The pipit can be unobtrusive, feeding away quietly in the often grey, volcanic landscape of Lanzarote. When it calls it is somewhat reminiscent of a Yellow Wagtail but of course looks nothing like one.  

 Berthelot's Pipit

There can't be a single tourist who's not been to the famous Teguise Market.

Teguise - Lanzarote 

A visit or two to the Salinas and the coastal Laguna of Janubio is usually worthwhile to see species like Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover plus commoner waders like Greenshank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey Plover and Little Stint.   

Janubio - Lanzarote

Black-winged Stilt

 Common Sandpiper

The taxonomy of the Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus is undergoing current research. Here on the Canary Islands there are two subspecies, one in the Western Canaries F. t. canariensis  and one in the Eastern Canaries F. t. dacotiae. Here on Lanzarote I guess I'm seeing the latter but as a rather unapproachable bird it is difficult to see much variation from our nominate UK Kestrel.


Below is a picture of the ubiquitous Spanish Sparrow, although of course the House Sparrow is also to be found in the Canary Islands, so where Sparrows are about best to look at the males to be 100% certain which species I'm looking at.
Spanish Sparrow

The Green Lagoon, Charco de los Chicos, Lanzarote

More news and views from Lanzarote soon.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Fun

The weather finally relented a little and there was no need to travel far to see the first birds this morning. 

In Thursday’s howling gale I’d seen Pink-footed Geese flying over the house and dropping into fields about half-a-mile away at Staynall, an area the geese have used lately. The geese use the Staynall fields every winter in varying degrees but the meadows are very undulating in addition to having few access points or roadside stops from which to view the geese or obtain accurate counts. On Friday morning I settled for “several hundred” and promised myself another try in a day or two. 

Pink-footed Goose

All was not lost with sightings of both Kestrel and Barn Owl, the owl another distant one to go with the many of late. It’s the time of year when Barn Owls and Kestrels face difficulty in locating enough of their favoured small mammal food, and hence a time when both species are forced to spend more time hunting. 

Barn Owl


I came across a Brown Hare trying to blend in with the landscape. A passing glance might see a large clomp of earth in the middle of a rough grass field until closer inspection revealed a brown furry animal, the sleeked back ears and the large orange eye of a Brown Hare. 

Brown Hare

The European Hare (Lepus europaeus), known in the UK as Brown Hare, is a species of hare native to Europe and western Asia. It is related to and looks very similar to the European Rabbit, which is in the same family but in a different genus. Hares are considerably larger than the European Rabbit, have longer ears and hind legs and breed on the ground rather than in a burrow. 

The Brown Hare is predominantly nocturnal, spending most of the day in small depressions in the grass known as forms. At night the hare ventures out, grazing on the young shoots of grasses and herbs as well as agricultural crops. Quite early in Spring the animals become increasingly active and hence more visible, especially when they indulge in courtship behaviour which inspired the English idiom “mad as a March hare.” 

Heading north I stopped near Fluke Hall and again near Lane Ends where fields saturated by recent rains were awash with waders almost as far as the eye could see. Best estimates came in at 1100 Lapwing, 900 Golden Plover, 850 Curlew, 450 Redshank, 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Dunlin and 200 Black-headed Gull, but not forgetting a single Ruff. 

Golden Plover and Lapwing

I stopped at Braides to note another Kestrel, a Little Egret and a flight of about 18 Teal, while behind the distant sea wall hundreds more Golden Plover and Curlews. 

By now there was snow with hail and rain showers, the bursts sudden and dramatic enough to cause an accident near Conder Green where a car had left the bendy road and ended up a bank and half way through a hedge. 

I spent the next hour dodging the weather, taking pictures at ISO1600 of the wildfowl at Glasson Dock, the 43 Goldeneye, 40 Tufted Duck and 1 Red-breasted Merganser. This week’s gales had blown the Goldeneye in from the estuary, but as soon as a canal boat started up for a circuit of the yacht basin the shy Goldeneyes whistled off overhead and back to the sanctuary of the wide River Lune. 

Tufted Duck

Goldeneye - juvenile male and adult male 

Goldeneye - adult male and juvenile male

 Goldeneye - adult female and juvenile female


Red-breasted Merganser

I was back home in time for lunch after a good morning’s birding - at last.

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

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday’s Birds

After a weekend of dire weather it was raining and blowing again on Monday. The only feasible birding was a pre-determined trip to the ringing site at Oakenclough where the birds need feeding every few days if they are to stay around. Eventually we’ll fit a ringing session in between the bouts of wind and rain but that looks unlikely all week. 

At Rawcliffe I clocked up the regular Mistle Thrush, Kestrel and Buzzard without stopping. Towards Oakenclough the sky was definitely brighter than down on the coast with even a hint of unaccustomed sunshine so I looked in the fields where last week I’d seen so many Fieldfares. The thrushes were there again but this time no Redwings mixed in, just Starlings. The flock was very flighty and stayed distant although I was eventually able to estimate their numbers as 350 Fieldfare and 300 Starlings. 
Fieldfares and Starlings

Oakenclough, Lancashire

Closer to the roadside wall was a pair of Red-legged Partridge, a species I’m reluctant to photograph as they are the product of releases of many thousands of bird captive bred for winter shooting and therefore not a truly wild bird. After a month or two of shoots they become “wild” enough and prove difficult to approach, some even surviving the shoots and the winter to breed in coming years. It’s not the birds’ fault that our native Grey Partridge is all but extinct while this introduced invader inhabits the places that our Grey Partridge once did. The UK shooting industry seems to be a law unto itself, not subject to the proper checks, controls and public scrutiny that other businesses have to comply with. 

 Red-legged Partridge

At the feeding station a Kestrel sat perched above the feeders, keeping the small birds away for a while as it watched the ground below. We regularly see voles as we walk through the rank grass and heather and from the Kestrel’s position it appears that voles come out to feed amongst the seed we drop on the ground for finches. 


Around another set of feeders were the usual 20+ Goldfinch, 8 Chaffinch and good numbers of Blue Tit and Coal Tit plus lesser numbers of Great Tit. The feeders are emptying pretty quick and I’m sure that my numbers are gross underestimates, a simple snap shot of the small time spent on site when topping up. The next ringing session will reveal the true throughput of birds. 

I drove home via Winmarleigh stopping briefly for a distant fence-hopping Buzzard and a field with 160+ Lapwings ready for flying to roost. Yes it was 1530 too soon, the sun going down but just the right time for a Barn Owl, and even at 200 yards who could mistake that ghostly shape on the fence post? 


Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Fingers crossed for more birding soon despite that rotten forecast.

Linking this post to Theresa's Thursday Blog and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sniffing Out The Birds

My thanks to many blog readers for their sympathy, advice and tips to defeat my common cold of almost three weeks. Something finally worked to make me 99% operational apart from a lingering sniffle. I suspect it was the home made garlic and tomato soup, so stand well clear for a birding update from today. 

Thick cloud was slow to clear and it was 0930 before I arrived at Pilling to flights of Whooper Swans heading strongly inland from their roost out on the salt marsh. The twenty-four I saw was but a small sample of the hundreds in the area. A typical winter count for the Pilling area is 300-400 but I have seen up to 480 in one particular year, a breath-taking sight with an awesome soundtrack. 

Whooper Swans

Little Egrets seem to have adopted a field close to Lane Ends where this morning I counted 15 of them feeding in the grass. When I drove back the same way hours later the number had reduced to five. There was a Kestrel using the fence posts alongside the road but as an experienced adult and accustomed to constant passing traffic, there was no way it would let me get close. 


A Sparrowhawk came from the plantation and headed off low in the direction of the village where there are bird feeders aplenty. One of the hazards of visiting gardens is that occasionally a hawk may stun or kill itself by colliding with a glass window, just as the Sparrowhawk below found in Pilling village beneath a window. 


Karen in Ontario has mixed feelings about regular garden visits from a Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii, a close relative of our own Eurasian Sparrowhak Accipiter nisus. Both birds have similar habits and will target concentrations of birds as an efficient and cost-effective way of hunting which has little risk to them. Meanwhile Karen’s Cooper's Hawk is alive and very well. 

I found another 18 Whooper Swans with 6 Mute Swans in a field alongside the A588 at Sand Villa, Cockerham and on my way to Conder Green. 

Swans - Cockerham Marsh

At Conder Green little had changed from my last visit pre-Christmas with too much water giving just the usual smattering of wildfowl: 1 Grey Heron, 1 Cormorant, 2 Goldeneye, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Goosander, 2 Tufted Duck, 60+ Teal and 12 Wigeon. On the island 3 Snipe almost melted into the vegetation while a single Lapwing may have an eye on a territory here in the coming weeks. 

There are still 6 Little Grebe on the pool plus one or two in the creeks with the count varying as the species is so shy and secretive, even outside of the breeding season. 

Little Grebe

Little Grebe has a wide distribution, their breeding range extending across Europe, central/southern Asia and central/southern Africa, to Japan and Papua New Guinea in the east. In Europe, they breed from Iberia and Britain & Ireland in the west as far as the borders of Russia and the Caucasus. In the eastern part of this range, Little Grebes are totally migratory, with birds moving south and west in winter to avoid the severe continental winters. 

Range of Little Grebe  -

Elsewhere in its European range the species is a partial migrant, with some birds being resident, whilst others move to coastal waters, where feeding occurs in shallow tidal areas. Every January I see good numbers of Little Grebes at a coastal lagoon and salinas in Lanzarote, Spain where I suspect they are winterers from the colder parts of Europe, some possibly from Britain. 

Close to the main road was another Kestrel, not a common bird here at the pool although I have seen one here on the last three visits. 


Near the car park I found 15 Chaffinch and 2 Pied Wagtail and discovered that someone has chopped down a couple or more very old and valuable hawthorn trees where thrushes and finches feed and hide. 

Take your eyes off somewhere for a week or two and the vandals move in. Back to birding UK style 2015. 

Sniffing out more birds soon with Another Bird Blog.

In the meantime linking to Anni's Blog, Eileen's Blog and Run-a-Roundranch.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year Birds

Like many others I’ve been laid up with a dreadful cough/cold and sinusitis for the past ten days, my traditional January misery. “That’s what you get for standing around in draughty, cold and wet fields bird watching” was the predictable response from Sue. Despite the lack of sympathy I soldiered on and limited my birding to a couple of trips to top up the feeding station. Andy is also out of action for a week or more after his minor knee operation so the job falls to yours truly until I find him a walking stick. 

On the way to Oakenclough today I paused at Out Rawcliffe to note both a Kestrel and Buzzard and then stopped to watch a flock of about 40 Fieldfares and a few Redwings feeding in a field of maize stubble. It’s at this time of year, when autumn fruits are more or less depleted, that Fieldfares earn their name by taking to feeding in fields rather than hawthorn hedgerows. Redwings adopt the same feeding strategy and mix freely with their larger relative. The thrushes were wary of my car at the roadside and also watchful of a number of Black-headed Gulls intent on stealing any substantial items of food rather than finding their own. 


A Redwing doesn’t actually have a red wing, the area of red plumage is situated on the flanks beneath the armpit, and not always visible, but it’s easy to see how the bird acquired the name. 


The partly tidal river here is traditional haunt of Goosanders so I wasn’t surprised to see 4 males in flight, an incidental and early year tick for someone who takes such things seriously. 

East of Garstang Town and following a number of journeys this way I again saw a pair of Buzzards in a now familiar spot, and a little further on a Kestrel dashing from the same stretch of ivy covered trees noted on my last drive. It’s surprising how easy it is to begin to build up a picture of the species which inhabit an area, and a foot survey of this locality could yield interesting results for anyone looking to adopt a “local patch”. I don’t know of many birders in this very rural and attractive part of Lancashire, not since Professor Lane left for Hampshire and A.N.Other took semi-retirement from birding. Maybe the ones left like to keep a low profile? It‘s often a good idea. 

The feeding station held a welcome but expected bird of 2015 in the shape of a niger feeding Siskin, just the one but it’s a start. We’re hoping that once the alder cones lose their autumn succulence the local Siskin population will turn to our well-stocked feeders. I’m happy to report no further thefts of feeders at the moment, so fingers crossed for a Siskin-filled February and March, the months of the year in which to expect Siskins at feeders.

Also in the locality and on or around the feeders, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Goldcrest, 25+ Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch, 8 Chaffinch and the usual titmice, Coal Tit numbers in the ascendant. 

I took a look on a few fields close by and found a fairly distant mixed flock of approximately 250+ Fieldfare, 25 Redwing and 140 Starling, plus 3 Mistle Thrush. I imagine that the Mistle Thrush are local birds as there is a healthy population up here. The others will winter hereabouts as a roaming and so unpredictable flock until they head back North in February, March or even April.

It was good to get out in the fresh air, banish the sniffles and open up my 2015 notebook to a good few entries. 

Catch more birds soon from Another Bird Blog.

Linking this post to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

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