Saturday, January 2, 2016

Birding 2016

My first birding of 2016 entailed a drive to Oakenclough where the feeders at the ringing site needed a clean and then a top-up. What with the Christmas holiday and the continuing inclement weather we still struggle to fit in a ringing session, but there looks to be a few small windows of opportunity by the middle of next week. 

Owls have been in the news lately with both Short-eared Owls and Barn Owls being seen in good numbers locally. It’s a time of year when the owls’ favoured foods are normally in short supply, forcing the birds to feed more frequently and for longer periods. 

So when I set off early in the direction of Stalmine, Pilling and Rawcliffe mosses I wasn’t surprised that almost the first bird I saw in the distance ahead was a hunting Barn Owl. The owl flew through someone’s large garden, ghosted across the road ahead, perched briefly on a farm fence and then flew off behind some large buildings and out of sight, over one hundred yards away. It was a typically brief glimpse of a Barn Owl, a shy species which doesn’t normally hang around for the camera. I left it alone, hoping it would find breakfast without my intrusion. 

Barn Owl

I headed for roadside fields where last week I’d seen a huge flock of 1400 Fieldfares. Some were still feeding in just one of the same fields and now just 250 remained but a quite separate flock of 200+ could be found in flooded stubble half a mile away. This second field proved to be full of a good mix of species but all very flighty due to the proximity of the main road which heads north to south carrying fast, noisy traffic. 

Here I found the second gang of Fieldfares, this time with a single Redwing among them, together with 200+ Linnet, 40+ Chaffinch, 12 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 10 Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark and 16 Corn Bunting. 

Corn Buntings continue to be extremely scarce in these parts just as they are elsewhere in the UK. Small wintering flocks of Corn Buntings can be easily overlooked as to the untrained eye this brown farmland bird superficially resembles a Meadow Pipit or a Skylark. These few Corn Buntings were the first I had seen in six months or more. 

Corn Bunting

Meadow Pipit


Further along the road an extensive flood held 200+ Black-headed Gull, 275 Lapwing, 2 Shelduck, 1 drake Pintail and 90 Mallard. It’s unusual to see a Pintail so far inland, even Shelducks in winter. In the far distance was a single Buzzard sat along the fence-line. That's two month's worth of rain below. And now it's official - December 2015 was the wettest month ever from UK weather records kept since 2010. 

Rawcliffe Moss


Heading towards Garstang Town along Skitham Lane I came across a flock of 30+Goldfinch and 6/8 Tree Sparrows close to a farmhouse which has bird feeders in the garden. Then all was literally uphill to Oakenclough with a roadside Kestrel the single bird of note until I spotted a mixed flock of 90 Fieldfares and 70 Starlings feeding on a windswept hillock.

Starlings and Fieldfares

Around the bird feeders were Chaffinches, Coal Tits and Goldfinches, enough for a reasonable catch should Andy and I return on a suitable day. Wednesday is looking good; but this can change as we know only too well from 2015. 

Close by I surveyed the water and found 120 Mallard, 1 Goldeneye, 3 Snipe, 1 Cormorant and 1 Grey Wagtail. 

Happy New Year everyone. Join in soon for more birding during 2016.

Linking today to  Stewart's World Bird Wednesday and  Anni's Birding Blog.


Gunilla Bäck said...

A happy new year to you, Phil!

David Gascoigne said...

Kudos to you, Phil, for letting the Barn Owl go about its business undisturbed by you. If it is hunting in broad daylight it's obviously an indication of difficulty finding food as you surmise, and to disturb it unnecessarily would be unconscionable. You are in my good books already in 2016!

Linda said...

Phil, I can rarely pick a favourite in your beautiful bird photos, because I love them all! Gorgeous! Happy 2016 to you! :)

Anni said...

PS....hope we both get a change in weather...sooner than later. I'm going stir crazy with no birding! LOL

That barn owl in flight is just plain awesome.

Here's to better weather and great birding/ringing in 2016. I look forward to your posts.

eileeninmd said...

Phil, sounds like you are off to a great start birding in 2016. I would like to add the Barn owl to my list this year.
Great birds and photos. Happy weekend!

Russell Jenkins said...

Happy New Year, Phil. i'm sorry I haven't visited you often in recent months. My job has been really intrusive ithe past year and i've been ignoring the more important world of birding. Excuses aside, i'm glad to see you out and about with good bird counts and beautiful pictures. May you stay away from harm in the weather I've been reading about in the UK.

Marie C said...

The Barn Owl sighting is so least it would thrill me to death as I have never seen one in the wild! All the bird photos are awesome! Looks like a perfect day!

Wally Jones said...

It seems the flooding continues to be a boon for the birds and a source of misery for humans. Nature's karma at work?

Hopefully, one of those weather windows will open a bit this week and you'll get in your first ringing session of the New Year. (Hmmm, could it have been a birder who coined the term "ringing in the New Year"?)

You introduced me to a new species, the Corn Bunting. I can see how it might be challenging to identify from similar birds. I'm jealous you spotted a Barn Owl, they are quite scarce in our area.

We're having our first day of rain for this new year and the temperature is scheduled to drop about 30 degrees by tomorrow morning. The good news is along with the colder weather, we will have clear skies and maybe the birds will be hungry after staying indoors with today's rain. We shall see.

Best of luck with your own weather and we hope to read about a thrilling ringing adventure in the coming days!

Stewart M said...

Barn Owls! Not sure there is a bird want to add to my Australian list than this one! used to see them most night when I was in a house on the outskirts of Ulverstone in Cumbria - but that was last century!

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

mick said...

The fleeting glimpse of the owl is magical - no wonder they became the stuff of legend! Two months of rain is terrible! When we get our heavy tropical downpours at least they go away and we can mop up and continue with life. I hope it starts to dry out soon for you. I wish you all the best for the new year,

Fun60 said...

Another great set of photos.

carol l mckenna said...

All very beautiful! My favorite is the owl 'in flight' ~

Wishing you a happy week ~ ^_^

Laura said...

So many lovely birds. Happy New Year :)

Felicia said...

Happy New Year and happy bird watching.

Bill Nicholls said...

The photo of Rawcliff Moss reminds me of the track to the Thames at Cholsey Marsh near where I live where Oxon Birder watches over what goes on from time to time

Findlay Wilde said...

Love the picture of the Barn Owl in it's natural settings.

Powell River Books said...

A friend of mine does bird counts several times a year. I do it informally at our cabin home, but don't see that many different varieties. Now that it's winter it mostly the ravens, an occasional heron, mergansers, and once in a while a sparrow like bird. - Margy

Margaret Adamson said...

What a fabulous way to start the year by seeing so many birds love the Pintail shot. Happy New Year. I am home now from my trip to Malawi but thanks for leaving me all the comments when I was away.

Neil said...

Happy New Year.

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