Friday, August 28, 2015

Escape To The Hills

Just lately my local patch has become rather crowded as folk arrive at Conder Green targeting the ever elusive Spoonbill and looking for the more recent Lesser Yellowlegs. Even the Yellow Wagtails of Cockerham Marsh have received attention from folk who no longer see the species, so rare has it become. 

I also saw a couple of twitchers at Fluke Hall, maybe looking for Green Sandpipers but surely not Tree Sparrows? One never knows for sure these days when bird watching is learnt back to front, the rarest first and the most common species last. 

 Yellow Wagtail

With a brief lull in the wind I decided to head for the hills of Oakenclough for a spot of ringing. I managed three hours before the wind arrived again, this time bringing heavy showers prompting an early finish. An interesting session saw me catch 20 birds of 7 species, one of which was a species I’d not handled for almost 30 years, the last time in 1988. 

The numbers were 5 Chaffinch, 5 Goldcrest, 3 Coal Tit, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Chiffchaff and 1 Bullfinch. The Fylde Ringing Group has ringed only 23 (now 24) Bullfinch in its 30 years of existence. It was in 1988 that I last ringed a Bullfinch at Winmarleigh Hall, a year or two before that lovely old woodland was sold to developers to create an “educational adventure playground”. 

Yes the Bullfinch is a rarity on the coast where I live, becomes more marginally common inland but is never widespread and certainly never ever numerous. Today’s Bullfinch was a recently fledged juvenile, a "3J", and with being so late in the month of August, probably from a second brood. 



The first year Lesser Redpoll below is in the process of renewing its centre tail feathers, the newer ones destined to be a rounder shape and of different colouration to the outermost pointed and now worn ones of birth. 

Lesser Redpoll

Meanwhile an adult male Lesser Redpoll is renewing its flight feathers, the older and slightly bleached outer primaries markedly different to those feathers which are both new and still growing. Many birds are rather scruffy at the time of year when they are in various stages of moult. 

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

The adult’s tail feathers are new, fresh and rounded in comparison to the pointed tail feathers of a first year bird. The characteristic of tail shapes is very common in finches and other bird families but there are exceptions designed to trap the unwary. 

Lesser Redpoll


Birding in between the ringing saw 140+ Swallows, 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 15+ Siskin and 1 Buzzard. 

The current weather forecast doesn’t improve much so I may not escape to anywhere at the weekend. If I do, read about it here on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to I'd Rather Be Birding and  Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Legging It

There was excitement at Conder Green at the weekend when ringer and birder Ian Hartley, found a North American Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the tidal creeks. Nice one Ian. 

These same creeks are home to many common migrating waders at this time of year (see recent posts on Another Bird Blog), but just occasionally a vagrant and therefore rarer wader appears. It’s a good few years since I put my name to both White-rumped Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper here so it is very enjoyable to connect again with another North American wader on a local patch. 

I wasn’t able to get to Conder until today but worked on the assumption that the bird had probably crossed the Atlantic ocean very recently so wouldn’t be inclined to go anywhere else for a while, and would at least feed up for a day or two. 

Lesser Yellowlegs - picture  courtesy of USFWS

I hear that many folk twitched the yellowlegs on Sunday although not everyone had luck when their target disappeared for a while. Today a dozen or so people were pulled up at the roadside viewing the “legs”, a slimmed down, daintier but long-legged version of our own common and widespread Redshank. Usefully, and for comparison purposes at one point, the yellowlegs fed in the loose company of 3 Ruff, a Common Sandpiper, a Greenshank and Redshanks. It was noticeable that in the pecking order of the creek the yellowlegs was equal to Common Sandpiper, Ruff and the larger Greenshank but Redshanks were able to bully the stranger away when their feeding desires clashed. 

This now lost bird may soon get the urge to continue south, but equally and on past occasions, Lesser Yellowlegs have been known to winter in Britain. 

The following is by courtesy of Birds of North America Cornell University -

“Lesser Yellowlegs usually travel in small, loosely structured flocks, but concentrations of thousands are seen at preferred foraging sites during migration and at their main wintering areas in Suriname. The species is a widespread migrant in North America, with primary movement through the interior (spring and fall) and along the Atlantic Coast (fall). Across their wintering range and in the southern portion of their breeding range, Lesser Yellowlegs are often found in the company of their larger congener, the Greater Yellowlegs.” 

Of the two species the Lesser Yellowlegs turns up more often in the UK than its larger cousin the Greater Yellowlegs, mostly in the autumn but occasionally in spring. 

Range of Lesser Yellowlegs in North America

The following disturbing information is also from Cornell University. 

“Lesser Yellowlegs were avidly sought by sport and market hunters in the late 1800s. High harvest levels during this period were partly due to this species’ propensity to return and hover above wounded flockmates, making them easy targets for gunners. Many observers of the day speculated that populations declined during this period but subsequently recovered once hunting in the USA was outlawed. As recently as 1991, however, several thousand Lesser Yellowlegs were still being shot annually for sport in the Caribbean, and this shooting continues. Recent (2012) estimates suggest that 7,000-15,000 individuals may be shot each fall in migration at wetlands constructed by shooting clubs on Barbados; perhaps half that many may be shot each fall on Guadeloupe and Martinique, with a potentially significant take also on wintering grounds in Suriname and Guyana. See details in Clay et al. (2012). Clearly this is a significant threat to the species and requires continued monitoring.” 

There was sun above so I decided to motor back to Fluke Hall for a walk around. There was a Grey Heron fishing in the wood where it seemed to find what it was looking for. Above the wood - 3 Buzzards, a pair and a flying juvenile. 

Grey Heron

Grey Heron


Along the sea wall was quiet except for the usual handful of Little Egrets and Linnets but noticeable numbers of Swallows heading west along the marsh. A Kingfisher flew along the same ditch where I’d seen 3 Green Sandpipers at the weekend, but no sign of the waders today. 


The guy from Hi-Fly said he’d seen the Kingfisher too and recounted again the story of last winter’s Grey Phalarope so I made sure he had my mobile number. 

He was busy filling feed bins for the already released Red-legged Partridges. Gangs of the little game birds had legged it across the fields as I approached (they don’t fly much) and I knew that pretty soon birders would be reporting high numbers of the loathsome creatures. 
Red-legged Partridge

There are more birds soon on Another Bird Blog - a few flying, one or two just sitting around, maybe one or two feeding but some just legging it.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer Time Birds

Breakfast time - Rain splattered the conservatory roof, summer breezes shook the apple tree and the TV weather forecast for the day was gloom, but not as yet the doom. That arrives at the weekend with predictions of hail, thunderstorms and even a tornado! Welcome to an English summer where it’s definitely “Grim Up North”. 

It's Grim Up North

It was now or never so I set off for a round of birding and ended up having a very respectable morning.

At Conder Green I found the usual selection of waders in the creeks dominated by 195 Redshank. Searching through the remainder of the birds found 21 Lapwing, 14 Teal, 4 Common Sandpiper, 5 Curlew, 3 Greenshank, 2 Oystercatcher, plus singles of Ruff and Snipe. On the pool - 2 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Kingfisher and 1 Pied Wagtail. 

Ruff  - Photo credit: Ian N. White / Foter / CC BY-ND 

Many more wagtails were scattered across the extensive marsh of Bank End, with a minimum of 120 Pied Wagtail and feeding amongst them 7 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Meadow Pipit, 6 Linnet and 2 Wheatear. The hundreds of sheep which graze on the flat marsh here create a bonanza of insects for both wagtails and pipits. 

Pied Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Bank End, Cockerham Marsh

I called at Chris’ farm to check out the Linnets and the Sand Martin colony. The Linnet flock was  around 30 highly mobile birds while the Sand Martins now number approximately 45. The martins  will surely be gone by this time next week, off to spend the winter in warmer climes.

The sky was bright enough to walk a circuit of Fluke Hall, through the wood, along the sea wall and then back along the hedgerows. This has been a “silent summer” and continues to be so as the only passerines I saw or heard were small handfuls of Robin, Linnet, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow. Better was along the sea wall with 5 Stock Dove, 2 Buzzards and then a Red Fox which quickly sloped off into the undergrowth.

Red Fox

Towards Worm Pool were 3 Green Sandpipers together in the landside but still flooded ditch. The sandpipers saw me coming too and flew off at rapid speed with their characteristic loud jungle calls, flashing their white rumps like over-sized House Martins. 

Green Sandpipers are a very rare breeding bird in Britain, with just a handful of pairs nesting each year in hidden parts of the Scottish Highlands. These three are on their autumn migration, and have already travelled more than a thousand miles from the wet woodlands of Scandinavia. 

Scanning the marsh I noted a Merlin sat on a post, a favourite hunting ploy of the tiny raptor. I’d not seen or heard any Meadow Pipits but the Merlin obviously saw one and took to the skies when from the bright plumage, long wings and body size I could see that it was a juvenile female. The Merlin harried and chased the pipit, rising above the little bird and stooping at great speed a couple of times but without success. 

The pipit found safety by diving into a field of maize but the Merlin chased it all the way and didn’t give up until the pipit was deep in the growing maize. So honours even and great birding. 


There are more birds and pictures soon from Another Bird Blog’s northern summer.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Martin Kingfisher

I was to meet Andy at 7am for our last ringing session of the year at the Sand Martin colony. Very soon the martins will be heading south and we won’t see them until March and April 2016.

Into August and the daylight birding hours are getting shorter which left just 50 minutes or so to check out Conder Green before meeting Andy. 

There were 2 Kingfishers flying though the creeks, one behind the other so I couldn’t be sure if the chase was territorial or family based. Two minutes later I knew for sure when both birds appeared on the sluice wall about 6ft apart with no aggression shown between the two. After a minute or two they flew off together again, this time to the western end of the pool. At 0615 the light was very poor and the resulting Photshopped picture equally as dull as the light. The second Kingfisher is just off to the right and out of sight. 


There were 4 Little Grebe, a single Little Egret and a number of Redshank and Lapwings dotted around the margins plus a handful of Swallows hawking the early insects. 

Back to the tidal creeks where the good selection of birds approximated as 110+ Redshank, 20+ Lapwing, 6 Dunlin, 3 Greenshank, 4 Curlew, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Little Egret, 8 Teal and 2 Shelduck. 

The Sand Martin colony is now seasonally reduced with fewer holes occupied and an obvious decline in numbers from the 200+ birds around in June and July. Our count was more like 80/90 birds today. We caught just 19 Sand Martins - 6 new ones and 13 recaptures. One of the recaptures proved to be D350512, a breeding adult male first ringed in 2014 some 20 miles away at a Sand Martin colony on the River Lune.  The picture below is of a juvenile bird from today. 

Sand Martin

During one of the periodic Sand Martin “dreads” this morning we saw the cause of the temporary panic to be an overhead Merlin. The tiny raptor didn’t linger but continued on a flight path to the north and towards Conder Green. 

Also in evidence on the farm is at least one, possibly two flock of Linnets numbering 100 - 125 birds in total, plus a regular gang of 10/12 Tree Sparrows. 


I don’t know of any birders who answer to “Martin Kingfisher” but it sure is a good name for a bird watcher don’t you think? More silly suggestions to Another Bird Blog please.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Apologies for the misspelling as I do know how to spell "tremendous", but it is very rare that Tree Pipit appears at the top of a ringing session total.

I’d driven quite slowly to Barnacre and even stopped a few times to watch a hunting Barn Owl and then two Buzzards, one sat atop a barn and the other roosting in a half dead tree. The owl disappeared across the fields as Barn Owls mostly do while each of the Buzzards took their leave as the car slowed for a picture. 

So it was an hour after dawn before I finally set a couple of nets, more in hope than eager anticipation, but I managed to catch a good mix of species, most of them juveniles of the year. Nineteen birds were caught - 4 Tree Pipit, 3 Goldcrest, 3 Chaffinch, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Willow Warbler,2 Coal Tit, 1 Nuthatch and 1 Robin. 

August is a peak month for the southerly migration of Tree Pipits but they are not always seen until their high-pitched flight call, often high above, gives then away to a knowing birder. Even then the birds do not necessarily make landfall as they are a long-distance migrant and on their way to south of the Sahara desert where they winter. 

Tree Pipit

A few pairs of Tree Pipits used to breed on this very site some 20-30 odd years ago where the inclined ground and fairly sparse plantation provided ideal habitat requirements. The pipits disappeared during years when the plantation was allowed to become overgrown with invasive rhododendron, so the Tree Pipit here is now a spring and autumn visitor only. Recently the landowners spent many thousands of pounds in removing invasive species and replanting native trees to make the site resemble the original, but it is unlikely that Tree Pipits will return to breed as the species has in recent years also suffered a range contraction in this part of Lancashire. 

Tree Pipit

All three of the Lesser Redpolls caught were juveniles and each of them in their partial juvenile moult. The three Goldcrest proved to be juveniles, and then one juvenile and one adult Willow Warbler. 

Lesser Redpoll


Willow Warbler

Other notes from the morning - 1 Stoat, 2 Raven, 120+ Swallows, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, a handful of Siskin and 15+ Lesser Redpoll. Also, 2 Crossbill flying overhead towards distant conifers. 

From Saturday, a few bits and pieces at Glasson/Conder - 90 Swallows and 1 Grey Wagtail in the area of the yacht basin.

Glasson Dock
In the creeks at Conder Green - 190 Redshank, 23 Dunlin, 2 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpiper. And the beginnings of an autumn Goldfinch flock with a count of 30+ about the area of Conder Pool. 


Don't forget! There’s more birds soon on Another Bird Blog. Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

“A” Good Day

These fine mornings are too good to waste, especially since we are promised a day or two of downpours next; so I set off early to make hay and visit a few regular birding spots. 

Morning Has Broken 

Swallows have been fidgety all week with small gangs of them along roadside wires and others more obviously moving south during the day. As I drove along Head Dyke Lane through Stalmine and Pilling I noted several groups of roadside Swallows, one of which numbered 100+ birds close to a likely looking roosting site. 

At Glasson Dock I found more than 30 Swallows feeding around the moored boats and over the yacht basin. While not a huge count it was more than I’ve seen there all year with my own observations suggesting that some Swallow pairs have managed to produce just one brood of chicks this year. 


Today the first signs of an increase in Coots with a count of 18 although Tufted Ducks remain at a handful. There was the usual Grey Heron fishing from the jetty and a Cormorant diving nearby but both fly off towards the estuary at the first signs of human activity. A couple of Pied Wagtails fed around the lock gates together with a handful of Goldfinches and the regular Collared Doves. 

I walked part of the old railway path and picked up on a dozen or so flighty Goldfinches, 2 Whitethroats and 2 Willow Warblers, the warblers being the first for a good number of days if not weeks of the species’ absence during our lost summer. 


At Conder Green I glimpsed the Kingfisher in a fly past before seeing the standard wading fare of 160 Redshank, 90 Lapwing, 4 Common Sandpiper, 3 Snipe, 1 Greenshank and 3 Little Egret. Ducks and grebes etc - 3 Little Grebe, 4 Teal, 2 Shelduck, 1 Tufted Duck and 1 Wigeon. 

The Wigeon, in theory a winter visitor, has been around the pool throughout the summer and is perhaps missing the company of its own species by the way it trails in the wake of the local Mallards. It does though remain very wild and difficult to photograph at close quarters. 


On my way to Fluke Hall I called at Lane Ends, Pilling to have 5 Little Egrets, 1 Little Grebe and 1 Sparrowhawk. At Fluke Hall there was a Jay in the woodland together with 2 Buzzard, while along the hedgerows I found a Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler and then towards Ridge Farm a single Corn Bunting. 

This once abundant and common farmland species, and as advised a number of times on this blog, now clings to existence by a single thread in this part of coastal Lancashire. This area once grew crops which people could eat - carrots, potatoes and all manner of vegetables, and where the left over winter stubble would feed Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and finches galore. Nowadays the same fields are crammed with cattle and sheep. Our bellies are full of meat but the birds have gone for ever. 

Corn Bunting

I spent a while enjoying the sunshine at Knott End and saw 100+ Sandwich Tern, 1400 Oystercatcher, 130 Dunlin, 28 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Grey Heron, 30+ Swallows on the move, and a couple of Eider duck floating on the flat iron sea. 

Now wasn’t that a good day’s birding? 

Knott End, Lancashire

By the way, did you know that Google has renamed itself Alphabet? But if you do a search tomorrow you will still find Another Bird Blog listed under “A”.

Linking today to Anni and Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Spoon Or Spear?

Tuesday and a day set aside for the joys of grand parenting. But first an hour or two at a regular birding spot. 

A Spoonbill, a waif and stray from continental Europe has been the centre of attention at Conder Green since the weekend. There was no rush to see it as I see Spoonbills in Spain each year, but when I finally caught up with the bird this morning it was distant at the mouth of the River Cocker, and as Spoonbills are wont to do, just sitting around and doing very little. It didn’t stay around long but flew up river towards Lancaster and to the bolthole it seemingly uses when disturbed, usually by those doggy folk. Not to worry, better birding was provided by more mundane birds like a Peregrine, Kingfisher, and other wading birds which provide lots to appreciate for the average birder. 

This vagrant Spoonbill has appeared along with an increased number of Little Egrets, my recent five or six finger counts here surpassed today by one of eighteen, 15 on the estuary and 3 on the pool and in the roadside creeks. A Spoonbill seems to spend all of its time standing around doing nothing whilst a Little Egret spends most of its time thrashing around in shallow water. One is bound to ask, which is the most efficient way of feeding, a spoon or a spear?


 Little Egret

Trying to get a handle on the numbers of waders here is difficult due to distance and looking into the early morning light but I came up with guesstimates of 450 Redshank, 800 Lapwing, and 3 Greenshank until a Peregrine came along. If a Peregrine can be nonchalant this one was; an accomplished hunter which set thousands of birds into the air but then ignored them to simply grab a slow-to-react Redshank from the marsh below. The Peregrine flew to the far side of the river as the Redshank swung beneath and the Lapwings swirled around and called in alarm before they settled again. When a life is lost in the natural world the moment is soon passed, the drama over in the blink of an eye before everything returns to “normal”. 


A Kingfisher hunted Conder Creek where it hovered at eight or ten feet above the shallow water now and again before diving into what seemed inches of water. The Kingfisher took breaks by finding a suitable place to sit on the sandy sides of the creek where I left it to dry off and nurse its headache while I looked for other birds. Three Little Grebe, 2 Teal, 2 Shelduck and 3 Common Sandpipers was all I could add. 

On the way home a juvenile Kestrel studied the ground below from a roadside pole, the falcon oblivious to my presence. 


At Knott End and as the tide rolled in, 30+ Sandwich Tern, 1900 Oystercatcher, 90 Redshank, 18 Curlew and 2 Little Egret. 

Too soon my pass expired but there are more birds soon on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Birding Around

With a cool, clammy mist and the temperature gauge showing 6⁰ the morning had a definite autumnal feel but one which promised sunshine. At Braides Farm the Buzzard sat along the fence posts waiting for the off. 

Dont forget to "click the pics" for a better birding experience.

Morning Glow - Cockerham


The mist cleared quickly in the strong sunlight and Conder Green was haze-free. There are good numbers of Lapwings feeding and roosting around the pool margins now, some 150 birds, part of the large numbers which commute between here and in the fields on the other side of the canal. A later drive around Jeremy Lane found a further 150+ Lapwings as well as similar numbers of Curlews. Good numbers of Brown Hares in evidence with sometimes just their ears visible in the silage fields. 

Brown Hare

Back at the pool I counted 1 Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 4 Little Grebe, 1 Wigeon, 4 Little Egret and 1 Grey Heron. Otherwise most of the action was in the creeks with 3 Greenshank, 6 Common Sandpiper, 70 Redshank, 4 Curlew and a single Shelduck. 


Eight or ten Swifts hawked above the hedgerow again as a handful of Swallows and Sand Martins circuited the pool, but the morning here was mostly House Martins. Feeding around the railway bridge and the dwellings were approximately forty. Perhaps not all were from the small number of nests on the few houses here although some martins were still busy collecting building materials from the roadside. A Sparrowhawk appeared from above the houses but the martins were onto it instantly as the hawk took a few flaps and a long glide and headed off towards the pool. 

House Martin

I called at Glasson to enjoy the light and to see 20+ Swallows, 3 Swift, 3 Pied Wagtail and 1 Grey Heron. 

Grey Heron

Glasson Dock

Next I checked a couple of ringing sites for possible visits. First the quarry and 90+ Sand Martin, 20 Linnet, 15+ Tree Sparrow, 4 Pied Wagtail, 1 Curlew, 1 Oystercatcher and 1 Golden Plover. 

Then came Oakenclough, the ringing site destined for a visit pretty soon. Although it’s only early August Andy and I have put up a few feeders to see just when birds begin to use them. At the moment there is lots of natural food but there seemed to be a small number of Chaffinches, a couple of Siskin, and a single Lesser Redpoll in the area of the feeders. 

In the wider plantation to where we erect mist nets - 5 Willow Warblers, 2 Pied Wagtail and 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker. On the water- 2 Tufted Duck, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 120+ Greylags. 

Tufted Duck

The weather looks marginally better for the weekend so there should be more birds on Another Bird Blog. Log in soon for more birding around.

Linking today to Theresa's Ranch , Anni's Blog and Eileen's Saturday.

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