Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hare Today - Sorry

28th April. This was the sight that greeted me on the driveway. Not the most enticing start to a spring morning. 

Spring in Lancashire

Birders don’t give up that easily. I scraped the screen and set off over the moss roads. Needless to say there was a hunting Barn Owl but I’ve so many Barn Owl pictures of late that I clicked a few shots and then carried on driving. 

Barn Owl

At Wrampool Creek the farmer has ploughed the weedy set-aside and already there’s a pair of Lapwings showing an interest. As the female looked on the male was busy with his “scrape display”, tilting down into his proposed hollow and then showing his rear end to the female. If she is impressed by his skill and devotion she will join him in completing this or one of a number of other scrapes nearby, but she has the final say. 


There was a single Stock Dove on the same field, plus a few Woodpigeons, a Pied Wagtail, 4 Linnets and 4 Goldfinch along the wire fence. A Kestrel flew off from near the farm buildings. 



I found the resident Buzzard at Braides Farm. It was in the usual spot about 150 yards away sat atop a fence post. I counted 20 + Lapwings scattered across the fields where a number of them clearly have young as shown by their desire to chase not only crows but other Lapwings that strayed into the wrong territory. There are still Golden Plovers to be seen with circa 75 today, many of them wearing full summer, spangled plumage, a wondrous if somewhat distant spectacle. 


Golden Plovers

Golden Plovers

I came away from Conder Green with a good list of birds but not a single photograph of waders and wildfowl which totalled 10 Black-tailed Godwit, 18 Redshank, 14 Oystercatcher, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Redshank, 10 Shelduck, 2 Tufted Duck and 3 Little Egret. 

House Martins are back on territory with two about the café rooftop and the under eaves. The nesting Pied Wagtails remain very close by. In the immediate area I clocked up Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet, all of them in song. 

House Martin

A drive up and around Jeremy Lane and Moss Lane proved to be hare raising with large numbers of Brown Hares both visible and highly active. In one field alongside Jeremy Lane were 8 of the animals with 5 or 6 of them at a time taking part in chasing around the field at high speed. I saw more hares towards Cockersands where my final count of 18/20 was if anything, on the conservative side. 

From Wiki - Nocturnal and shy in nature, Brown Hares change their behaviour in the spring, when they can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around fields and meadows. During this spring frenzy, they can be seen striking one another with their paws ("boxing"). For a long time, this had been thought to be competition between males, but closer observation has revealed it is usually a female hitting a male, either to show she is not yet ready to mate or as a test of his determination. 

Brown Hares

Brown Hares

Birds on this circuit – 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Whitethroat, 10 Skylark, 10 Tree Sparrow, 8 Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting. 

Reed Bunting

Log in soon for more hair raising adventures with Another Bird Blog.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Scotland And A Manchester Connection

Our ringing of migrant Siskins at Oakenclough paid off with an interesting recapture of ring number Z470850, a second year male Andy and I caught and ringed on 23 March 2016. This bird was recaptured by other ringers just 21 days later on 13 April 2016 near Fortrose, adjacent to the Moray Firth in the highlands of Scotland. This was a distance of 416kms. 

Google Earth shows this part of Scotland to be eminently suitable for breeding Siskins but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Siskin had further to go to its final destination, perhaps even Norway. 

Siskin - Oakenclough to Moray Firth


We recently received information that a ringed Lesser Redpoll caught at Oakenclough had been ringed earlier in the same month of 2016 near Manchester. Details of this were published here on Another Bird Blog.

Now comes a similar recovery, a Lesser Redpoll with ring number D700694, another one ringed in the Manchester metropolis, this one on 11 Jan 2014 in a Walkden, Manchester garden. We recaptured D700694 more than 2 years later on 18 March 2016 at Oakenclough, 50 kms from Walkden. 

Lesser Redpoll - Manchester to Oakenclough

Lesser Redpoll

This recapture shows how ringing often provides clues as to what an individual bird may be up to but cannot always tell the full story. Where had this redpoll travelled to and from in the intervening two and a bit years? 

There is yet another outstanding Lesser Redpoll recovery beginning D948, details of which will reach us soon.  What’s the betting that this will prove to be another Manchester ringed bird? Ringers often buy in their rings in amounts of a thousand or more at a time, especially if they anticipate ringing lots of birds or if the price of rings is due to increase!

It’s staying cold with northerly winds here “Ooop North”, conditions which aren’t favourable to ringing but I’m hoping to get out birding tomorrow. If so read about it here on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Close Call

I didn’t venture far but stuck to Pilling with a wander around Fluke Hall. I hoped for a few newly arrived birds and a chance to check out the resident nesting species. 

Hardly anyone walks along the road that cuts through the trees at Fluke Hall. In the early morning there’s just a procession of cars loaded with dogs. Buy a dog and get fit. But first you have to load the animals into a vehicle and then transport them miles from your home to take part in the walk, preferably with dozens of similarly minded people. And then at the end you load the dogs up again and drive back home? Is it me? 

In between the noise of vehicles rushing past me the bird song and random calls returned, but finding a small bird in the now burgeoning spring growth is a difficult business. It’s when a birder’s trained ears become the first weapon of choice and binoculars an afterthought. Of summer migrants I located Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, at least three each of the first two and a single only of the latter. 

Willow Warbler

There were Goldfinch a plenty, Blackbird galore, the chatter of Tree Sparrows, the drumming and “chick” calls of Great-spotted Woodpeckers, and even the rarity of a singing Greenfinch to enjoy. Rarer still I spotted a pair of Treecreepers moving though the higher branches. The species is now so locally scarce that seeing one is something of an occasion. 


The everyday stuff of Blue and Great Tits, Dunnocks, Robins, Wrens and Starlings added to the woodland feast. Wood Pigeons clattered from the trees when I walked past their resting places as a pair of the less boisterous and much shyer Stock Doves flew silently from the canopy. Crows alerted me to a male Sparrowhawk which circled above before the crows won the day and the hawk retreated to cover. 

A Starling dried out in the sun after a bath while singing and wing-flicking to his mate. Although superficially the same at this time of the year, a close up view of each sex will show that a male has a blue base to the bill, whereas the opposite sex prefers a feminine shade of pink. 


A good selection of species then, and a pleasant hour or two of birding, but more than one species was missing. There was no sight or sound of Song Thrush or Mistle Thrush, an absence of Kestrels near their regular nest box, no mewing from overhead Buzzards and few birds newly arrived. And where are the Goldcrests this spring?

Such is the incentive and ultimate reward for knowing and learning one site over many years rather than dashing here, there and everywhere in pursuit of “message birds”. 

Along the marsh I found a Curlew and a Whimbrel close to each other, two species which are sometimes confused by inexperienced birdwatchers, perhaps because it is not always easy to make a side by side comparison. The Curlew is the bigger of the two, with a body size which rivals that of a large Gull, whereas a Whimbrel is closer to the size of a Black-headed Gull, but if they’re not standing next to each other there is no direct comparison. 

Curlew and Whimbrel

The Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and the Curlew Numenius arquata are close relations in the large family of Scolopacidae - waders or shorebirds. The family includes many species called sandpipers, as well as those called by names such as curlew and snipe or ”shank”, although there is but a single whimbrel. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked from the mud or soil. Different lengths of bill enable different species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. 

Inland of the marsh were dashing Skylarks, displaying Lapwings, Redshank and Oystercatcher, a Reed Bunting, a pair of Pied Wagtails, a Wheatear and a Whinchat. 


There was nearly a sticky end for the Whinchat when a male Sparrowhawk appeared from nowhere, flew low and fast, slowed montarily and then stretched out a talon to grab the chat. The Whinchat spotted the hawk at the very last second and dropped out of view. 

Phew, that was a close call. 

Did everyone "click the pics" for better views of the birds? No problem, just head back and start all over.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Thursday Trip

I missed out on a ringing session yesterday because the car was in for service. Andy did OK without my help by way of another 6 Lesser Redpolls, 6 Willow Warblers, a Jay and a Tree Pipit – nice. His haul included two birds ringed elsewhere, a Willow Warbler with ring string HPH etc and the third previously ringed Lesser Redpoll of the year, this one beginning D948 etc. 

With the car back on song I set off with birding this morning with the intention of getting a few new images for the blog. Things carried on as before as yet another Barn Owl appeared over the moss road just as the sun rose above the horizon. It’s weird how the same bird can look completely different with identical camera settings, just fifteen minutes apart but with differing light and distance to the subject. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

By the time I reached Braides Farm the sun was well up in the sky with the resident Buzzard warming up on the fence. There are Lapwings and Oystercatchers on eggs and displaying Redshank and none of them took kindly to the Buzzard, the Lapwings in particular dive bombing the unconcerned hawk. There are Skylarks on territory here too, possibly with one or two early nests. 

Buzzard and Lapwing


It was a cold morning with the dash displaying a “possible ice” warning and a temperature of barely 4°C by the time I reached Conder Green. Little wonder then that hirundines were hard to come by with singles only of both Sand Martin and Swallow. On the pool and in the creeks – 6 pairs of Oystercatcher, 20+ Redshank, 12 Shelduck, 6 Tufted Duck, 3 Teal, 2 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron and singles of Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank. The wintering Spotted Redshank is now turning noticeably dark and well on the way to its black summer plumage. It keeps a safe distance from roadside viewing spot and hardly ever comes closer than 70 metres range. 

Spotted Redshank

A walk along the old railway found summer visitors in the shape of at least 3 Willow Warblers together with the more regular fare of 10+ Linnet, 8+ Goldfinch, 6/8 Chaffinch, 4 Greenfinch, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Meadow Pipit and 2 Pied Wagtail. A male Pied Wagtail was collecting nest material and flew with his prize towards the unfinished roadside constructions where there are countless nooks and crannies to hide a nest. 


House Sparrows scattered from the bridge at Jeremy Lane where a Blackcap was in song in the trees below the bridge. It’s a regular spot to hear the loud and unmistakeable warble of a Blackcap, and if I’d bothered to walk the path there would be a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler or two. Further along the lane I found 2 Wheatears using the fence line, a Whitethroat in song, a dandy-looking Reed Bunting staking out a claim and a Chaffinch bursting forth. 

Reed Bunting


It was a productive morning of birding. There will be more soon on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni's BlogEileeen's Saturday and Run A Round Ranch in Texas.

Monday, April 18, 2016

In A Ringer's Garden

I’ve been marooned indoors most of the weekend, followed by a Monday of mostly rain when birding didn’t appeal. Instead I completed a few chores and then relaxed at home, even tried a little garden ringing between showers. Apart from a few unwary Goldfinch and a pair of resident Blackbirds that blundered into the single net while chasing around, nothing else played ball. The camera proved more effective in capturing birds than the single 40ft net I employ. 

I suppose I was trying to catch a few of the Lesser Redpoll that I’ve seen about the garden for a week or more, a species yet to appear in my home ringing list. It’s hard to tell if the handful of redpolls have been are involved, but at this time of year it seems unlikely when large numbers of them are speeding north. I finally managed to get a few pictures of this scarce garden visitor by moving the bird feeder closer to the downstairs bedroom window. The feeder is filled with a mix of niger and millet, with the redpolls seeming to prefer the black stuff. 

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

Over a cup of coffee the IPMR ringing database told me how many of each species I have caught in the garden by occasional ringing since moving here in late 1990. I found one or two surprises amongst the almost 600 birds of 25 species.  Click the table below to see it larger.

Garden Birds

Goldfinches are the most abundant visitor, so much so that the once plentiful House Sparrow is now just an occasional visitor. The Goldfinch is way ahead as the most ringed bird and although as a partial migrant species I do try and catch them when they are around in numbers, the total of 217 ringed a true reflection of their profusion in recent years. 


Just 15 Chaffinch came as a shock as the species is fairly common in the garden, but upon reflection they do tend to appear in tiny and often unexpected handfuls, mostly mopping up under the feeders. In comparison Goldfinches often swarm over the feeders and can number up to 15/20 at a time. 


The traditional garden birds of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits feature well along with a good number of the less typical garden dweller the Coal Tit. 

I was pleased to see the Blackbird total at a healthy 56 including some nestlings, but disappointed to see just a single Song Thrush in the list. This is yet another reflection of how a once common garden bird has declined. More than one pair of Blackbirds is busily feeding young just now; the male below caused a rumpus today when a robber Magpie came by. 


Note the odd one out in the list, a single Swallow, a juvenile bird caught by hand in the partly constructed house when Swallows took up residence before us in late 1990. The builder kindly let the Swallows finish their family before fitting the front door.


The ones that got away? I well remember a Woodcock which flapped from the net before I could reach it, not to mention the more than one occasion when a Sparrowhawk did the same, including today. 

You can't win 'em all.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blown Away

The forecast was pretty good so I decided to head for Oakenclough and do a little ringing. Unfortunately and after a calm enough start, the easterly wind increased beyond expectations and I was forced to pack in having ringed just 8 birds: 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Lesser Redpoll , 3 Siskin and 1 Goldfinch. 

The Willow Warblers were my first of the year, two males of at least seven singing males on the site. Both Siskins and Lesser Redpolls have tailed off from recent highs with very few seen. There was a Chiffchaff on site as well as a Redstart but neither found the nets. 

Willow Warbler



Lesser Redpoll

It was on 31st March 2016 that Andy and I caught a Lesser Redpoll wearing Ring Number S109508, not one of our own ring series. It turned out via the BTO that the redpoll had been ringed in another ringer’s garden just 26 days earlier in Swinton, Greater Manchester, 52 kms south east of Oakenclough. This may not be the most exciting result from catching an already ringed Lesser Redpoll but this individual was almost certainly in the throes of migration on both 5th March and 31st March and remains at large to provide more data at later times should it be recaptured again. 

Lesser Redpoll - Greater Manchester to Oakenclough
We still have another outstanding Lesser Redpoll (D700 etc), this one caught on 18th March and for which we await information from the BTO. 

On the way home I stopped near Nateby to watch a displaying Buzzard when two Barn Owls arrived on the scene. Both were hunting very actively at 11am. When one caught a rat and carried it across two fields towards distant buildings, I wondered whether the owls might have young. It is not totally unknown that Barn Owls have youngsters so early in the year particularly following a mild winter, but if so the owlets will be quite small yet. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

It was a shame the ringing was curtailed but as readers know there’s always another day with Another Bird Blog. Don’t miss it.

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Canadian Nostalgia

A blogging pal of mine David Gascoigne who lives in Ontario recently posted A Day at Long Point,  words and pictures of a visit he made to Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO), 130 kms south of his home. He kindly mentioned Another Bird Blog in his post, knowing that I visited Long Point some years back (1989 and 1990) when I spent 7 weeks as a bird banding volunteer. 

Since 1960, Long Point Bird Observatory LPBO has operated a research station at the eastern tip of Long Point where scientists study migration (bird, bat and insect) and other aspects of natural history. The observatory opens some of its accommodations to visitors interested in joining in the research, education, and training programs. The point itself is the longest (about 40 km) freshwater sand spit in the world and is the most remote wilderness location in southern Ontario and a Globally Important Bird Area of 400 + species. 

 Long Point, Canada - courtesy of Birds Canada

For David, and as a bout of pure nostalgia on my own behalf I am posting a number of pictures from the two visits. The years 1989 and 1990 were pre-digital cameras and the pictures posted here were taken with slide film and a 35mm Pentax Me Super. After being stored in a cardboard box for many years the slides were eventually transposed via a not very good slide copier into digital images, hence the very poor pictures for which I apologise. However the species encountered and pictured here together with the memories they invoke more than make up for the poor images, although none would pass muster for a present day blog other than this self-indulgent post. 

The pictures were taken at two LPBO field stations, Breakwater and Old Cut. Breakwater is an hour or more boat journey across Lake Erie and about 8km from the observatory base station of Old Cut. The Breakwater station was, and I believe still is, a very small cabin with bunks and mattresses for up to 4 people in one tiny communal bedroom. In April and May it was very cold, even with four bodies crammed into the miniscule space, the occupants sleeping in daytime clothes to ward off the icy nights. We bathed in the great outdoors where the outside toilet overlooking Lake Erie marshes provided a unique place from which to engender a somewhat original bird list. 

Banding at Long Point

Breakwater cabin - Long Point

The working base of Long Point, the Old Cut Research, Education and Training Centre now includes a comfortable house with all the amenities, research laboratories and specimen collection, visitor centre and even the LPBO Shoppe (not in my day). There is a small library, living room, office space, laboratory and 5 bedrooms with bunks. The odds are that visitors will share a bedroom with members of the opposite sex at any of the three field stations. Many a good friendship blossomed at LPBO. 

Below are just some of the species encountered at Long Point, Canada. 


Cerulean Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Hooded Warbler

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Wilson's Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow-breasted Chat


Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Wood Thrush

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Black and White Warbler

Scarlet Tanager

Red-eyed Vireo

Tennessee Warbler

Baltimore Oriole

Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

Indigo Bunting

Blackpoll Warbler

Great-horned Owl

pellet - Great-horned Owl

Thanks for jogging my memory David. Should you revisit LPBO again soon I hope you can join in banding that wonderful array of spring warblers. Better still, make sure you get to handle lots of Cardinals and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. 

The flag of Canada

Most of all, please pass on best wishes to my Canadian friends and to Canada. 

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