Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Birding In The Sun

Sue and I are in Lanzarote, Spain. Until we return home here are more photos of Lanzarote together with some of the birds met along the way. 

At any time of year near perfect weather is more or less guaranteed in the Canary Islands. It gets windy sometimes and storms aren’t totally unknown, but at the moment it’s sun every day and temperatures hovering between 21- 23C. Whenever we go the attire is nearly always shorts and a tee shirt with a light jacket as backup for the cool of morning or evening. 

All over the island of Lanzarote is the influence of the visionary artist, architect and environmentalist César Manrique who saved Lanzarote from the effects of rampant tourist development. His unusual creations emphasise the unique landscapes and geology of the island and are a major attraction to travellers. 
Fondación César Manrique - Near Tahiche, Lanzarote. 

Agave attenuata - Lanzarote

Lanzarote is rain-free for 95% of the year producing a near desert like environment in many places. It’s a landscape attractive to three speciality birds of the island, Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser and Stone Curlew but none of them are easy to find in the type of terrain they inhabit.

Houbara Bustard

Stone Curlew 

Beware! - Bustards about

Watermelon - Lanzarote

Berthelot’s Pipits are fairly common if sometimes difficult to pick out against the often grey, volcanic landscape. They are known to run around the feet of the tourists where there’s often a morsel or two of food, preferably the local queso tierno (tender cheese). Just occasionally I have seen Berthelot’s Pipits in the grounds of the hotel, once whilst lazing on a sunbed as the pipit walked along a nearby path. They also occur in nearby residential areas in amongst unfinished roads or housing developments, as do Desert Grey Shrikes, Linnets, Spanish Sparrows and Collared Doves.

Berthelot's Pipit

A favourite drive is to head south along the coast to the village of El Golfo where we stop for a coffee or a snack followed by a walk along the headland where Yellow-legged Gulls abound but Lesser Black-backed Gulls are more common at migration time. There’s usually a Little Egret to be found amongst the rocks, together with small numbers of Common Sandpiper, Turnstone or Whimbrel.

El Golfo - Lanzarote

Yellow-legged Gull

Little Egret



Thank you everyone for continuing to visit Another Bird Blog in my absence. If you leave a comment I promise to get back to you as soon as possible via the hotel WiFi. Failing that I will return your message as soon as possible when back in England.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Canary Time

Regular readers may not be surprised to hear that Sue and I have escaped the wet and wind of Lancashire to take the winter sunshine of Lanzarote, the northernmost of the Canary Islands, Spain. Don't forget to click on the pictures below for a better view of Lanzarote and its birds.

The Canary Islands

After four hours from Manchester Airport followed by a 10 kilometres drive from Arrecife Airport we’re quickly ensconced in our hotel close to Puerto Calero on the South-West coast of Lanzarote. 

The upmarket marina just 500 yards away at Peurto Calero is a great place to unwind, ogle the fabulous (and expensive) boats and boutiques while soaking up a bit of the luxury atmosphere that permeates the whole place. A few hours sat in one of the cafes or restaurants makes for a great place to relax away from the winter gloom of Lancashire. 

The Marina, Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

There aren’t too many birds in the immediate area but by including a walk over the headland to Playa Quemada and a slightly different route on the return journey the first couple of days produce a useful number of species. We clocked up Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Desert Grey Shrike, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Spanish Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Sandpiper, Berthelot’s Pipit, Little Egret, Kestrel, Linnet and Trumpeter Finch. It’s a sunshine list not to be sniffed at. 

Common Sandpiper
Little Egret

Desert Grey Shrike

The Lanzarote Desert Grey Shrike is a bird of open country but also something of a garden bird where it can be found on boundary walls, roofs and often singing from TV aerials. 

Desert Grey Shrike

Spanish Sparrow

Berthelot's Pipit
Playa Quemada


We're usually back from our walks for the afternoon when we grab some well earned sunshine.

Hotel Costa Calero, Lanzarote

Although we have a hire car the general idea is to gently relax and explore slowly rather than spend two weeks dashing about the island. 

There are several spots in the south and west of the island just a short drive away from base camp. Another day a route takes us through the tranquil town of Yaiza and then towards the salt lagoons, Salinas de Janubio. 


A trek around the salt pans of Janubio and the adjacent shore sees a good selection of waders and one or two wildfowl species including Black-necked Grebe, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Grey Plover and Little Stint. Just yards from the shore, the salt pans can often be quite windswept making for a challenge in photographing the very active Black-winged Stilts and the good number of other waders which use the locality. 

Black-winged Stilt

Overlooking the salt pans the mirador (viewpoint) café is usually a good spot to see Berthelot’s Pipit, Trumpeter Finch and Spanish Sparrow while sat sampling the local apple pie.

 The Mirador - Janubio, Lanzarote

Trumpeter Finch

Apple Pie- Lanzarote Style

That’s all for now but there’s more from Lanzarote very soon, so stay tuned. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Whistler In The Wind

There was snow this morning. Looking north over Morecambe Bay it was obvious the Lakeland hills had taken a hit. Down here on the Fylde coast I was thankful the white stuff had barely coated the roads. 

There's Snow In Them Thar Hills

I stopped off at Cockerham’s weedy field to see that the recent Linnet flock still numbers circa 120, and although there was no sign of Stonechats, there were 2 Reed Buntings. 


There was a Kestrel near the farm buildings with four wildfowler’s cars parked up, the occupants already ensconced out on the marsh but the geese flying high above the guns and out of range. Many geese must have circled and then dropped back near the sea wall because less than a mile away at Sand Villa/Braides were upwards of 1500 geese feeding in fields immediately behind the embankment. 

Pink-footed Geese

At Braides Farm the extensive flood held several hundred each of Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Starlings and alongside the seaward path a Buzzard on the distant fence. 


It had been many weeks of rain and bluster since my last visit to Conder Green where by all accounts the pool would be full to overflowing. So it was, with the almost submerged islands and the broad sweep of deep water holding 38 Wigeon, 6 Little Grebe, 35 Lapwing, 3 Snipe, a single Goldeneye and 30 or more Teal. Many more Teal were in the nearby creeks to give a respectable total nearer to 140 of our smallest dabbling duck. There was no sign of the recently reported and wintering Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper, hidden from view today in the meandering creeks. 


A few bits and pieces enlivened the railway bridge walk. Namely - 2 Pied Wagtail, a single Rock Pipit, a singing Greenfinch accompanied by a second bird, a Reed Bunting and 8+ Chaffinch around the car park/café. How strange it seems that the once abundant Greenfinch is now so scarce that a sighting of a single one should be both noted and applauded.

I parked up at Glasson Dock with a count of 1 Grey Heron, 15 Tufted Duck, 8 Cormorant and 15 Goldeneye, 13 males and 2 females. A couple of the Goldeneye whistled overhead and out to the Lune estuary. The whistling sound of a Goldeneye’s wings in flight is quite unique and the reason why North American shooters in particular call the species “The Whistler”. 

Male Goldeneyes

Now here’s a question for all the bird experts lurking out in blogosphere. And let’s face it there are lots ready to pounce, as anyone who sweats blood and tears to produce a regular blog while inviting comments will testify. 

Why do male Goldeneyes cruise mob handed around our winter waters? OK, by looking carefully you may find a dowdy looking female sailing on the far edge of the eye-catching black & white jamborees, but the general impression is that guys rule and don’t they know it. In fact the reason for the mostly all-male gatherings involves that old fashioned word “courtship”. (Readers below the age of forty might wish to consult a dictionary). 

Goldeneyes indulge in communal courtship where gangs of males with one or two females in attendance are a precurser to the male Goldeneyes’ elaborate displays designed to snare a willing member of the opposite sex. These presentations include much throwing, shaking and stretching of the head and neck together with over-egged wing fluttering. As we near the end of winter the elaborate but highly ritualised displays should begin any day now. 

Log in to Another Bird Blog soon for more news, views and pictures of tuneful birds.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Owl etc

I set off around Stalmine Moss this morning hoping to see a Barn Owl or maybe a Little Owl now that the weather has turned a little colder. 

It didn’t take long to find a Barn Owl hunting nearby fields although the initial light was quite poor necessitating ISO1600. The owl was hunting a circuit of several hundred yards as I stayed in one spot and from the car window waited for the bird to reappear. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Gradually the morning light improved but not enough to go below ISO800. The owl was moving further away via the fence line and as it fence-hopped it trailed a long piece of snagged grass added on one of its many forays into the meadows. At one point the owl caught a vole when a Kestrel appeared as if from nowhere and then in mid-air tried to steal the animal from the Barn Owl. After a brief skirmish the owl flew off over the fields and down into a ditch to consume its prey as the Kestrel went off in the opposite direction. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

The owl drifted further away and I decided to head towards Knott End for a walk up river and along the promenade. 

The end of a rainbow lit up The Mount Hotel over at Fleetwood. I didn’t take the ferry across to check for a pot of gold but I understand that the hostelry does serve a good pint of bitter. 

Fleetwood seen from Knott End

A Peregrine was in attendance at the now defunct roll-on roll-off terminal where ferries berthed in between their journeys across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man. The tall structure is on the left of the picture where on a bright, sunny morning a Peregrine or two is visible from the Knott End side of the river. There’s lots of food for Peregrines up and down river, along the coast or without straying too far from their steel citadel which gives unrivalled views of Fleetwood’s feral pigeons and waders along the river.


There was a good amount of Peregrine food along Knott End shore with 2000+ Oystercatcher, 95 Dunlin, 80 Curlew, 35 Lapwing, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 11 Turnstone and 5 Redshank. I didn’t count the many hundreds of gulls, mainly Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls. 



Along the promenade/marsh grass: - 1 Rock Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail, 8 Twite. 

The weather’s looking very changeable for the rest of the week but there’s bound to be some bird news and views via Another Bird Blog. Don’t miss out - Log in soon.

Linking today to Run-a-roundranch.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Taking A Chance

This hobby of mine is about taking every available opportunity to grab the camera, head off birding or plan a ringing session, especially so during the historic wet and windy winter of 2015/16. Yet again Sunday’s weather forecast looked likely to sabotage any chance of a birding or ringing session in the week ahead as tightly packed isobars drew ever decreasing circles on the charts. 

Then late on Sunday afternoon a window of light winds and zero rain opened up in the centre of the low pressure system sitting directly over Oakenclough. I sent a text to Andy - Ringing 0800? A message came right back. Andy was game. 

It proved to be a good decision when our four hour session produced a respectable total of 66 birds, but for us, an unusually high number of recaptures. We had 28 new birds comprising 9 Chaffinch, 7 Goldfinch, 1 Siskin, 7 Blue Tit and 4 Coal Tit. The single Siskin caught was an adult female in fine condition. 



The remaining 38 recaptures were made up of 3 Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch, 10 Coal Tit, 11 Blue Tit, 10 Great Tit and 2 Dunnock. 


The unusually high numbers of recaptures of the tit family in the last two visits here suggest that the mild winter of zero frosts and nil snowfall has allowed many birds to survive, individuals which might otherwise have perished. Additionally today we noted that a nearby house which normally has full bird feeders had allowed the said feeders to become empty and to lead more birds to visit our own feeding station where we prefer that the Nyger feeders catch finches only.  Our objectives of ringing at Oakenclough include catching good numbers of finches and if possible to avoid catching large numbers of the titmice family, an aim realised to good effect since recommencing ringing at the site in late 2104. 

Hopefully the tits will leave the immediate area soon and allow us to concentrate on catching migrant Siskins and Lesser Redpolls, not to mention the newly arrived warblers of the burgeoning Spring. 

Blue Tit

Coal Tit


Back home I noted an increase in garden Goldfinches, Blackbirds on territory and Great Tits taking an interest in a nest box. Things are looking up.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday in Australia.

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