Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Green Theme Birding

The last week has seemed autumnal rather than mid-July. There’s been wind, rain and then more rain and I’ve done little in the way of birding or blogging. Finally on Wednesday the skies improved and I set off birding into something of a green theme. 

The weather may feel like autumn, but many waders that breed around the Arctic Circle like Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank are already flying south towards their winter quarters in Africa. It seems just a few weeks ago that these same birds were flying north to grab the brief Arctic summer which provides 24 hours of daylight and an abundance of food. There’s enough time to raise a family and then off they go to Africa. 

I was reminded of all this when the first bird I heard at Conder Green this morning was a Greenshank, probably fresh in from the Arctic or maybe even the wilds of the Scottish Highlands where a number of Greenshank breed. For anyone who has never read the book, I recommend “Greenshanks” by Desmond and Mamie Nethersole - Thompson, a classic Poyser book that relates the couple’s lifelong work studying Greenshanks in Scotland. 


When disturbed by a gang of squabbling Redshanks the Greenshank flew off towards the railway bridge and the wider creeks that open out into the River Lune. Redshanks numbered 40+ and already an incoming tide pushed them off the creeks and over towards Conder Pool. 

Conder Green - Lancashire

The Redshanks joined the many Lapwings, 130+, scattered loosely around the islands and pool margins. With their dark green colouration Lapwings can be surprisingly difficult to pick out when they roost with head tucked in, motionless in a green landscape. Many of the Lapwings are birds of the year like the one below with a tiny tuft of a crown and flight feathers edged with the buff colours of a juvenile. I counted the Lapwings when a Sparrowhawk flew low along the hedgerow, turned a sharp right through the roosting waders and scattered them in all directions. 


Meanwhile while the ever vigilant pair of Avocets flew directly at the intruder, twisting and turning so as to have more than one go at seeing it off in defence of their single half-grown chick. Within what seemed just seconds of the Sparrowhawk departing in the direction of Glasson, everything returned to normal. Having missed the action two adult Common Terns returned with food from an expeditions out to the Lune or Glasson Dock. Although still being fed their two chicks appear to be of sufficient size to fend for themselves. 

I returned to studying the landscape where I spotted a Green Sandpiper bobbing along the far side of the pool, a tiny wader when compared to an adjacent Lapwing. 

Green Sandpiper - Ferran Pestaña from Barcelona [CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

The Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus is a small wader of the Old World. The genus name Tringa is the New Latin name given to the Green Sandpiper by Aldrovandus in 1599 based on Ancient Greek trungas, a thrush-sized, white-rumped, tail-bobbing wading bird mentioned by Aristotle. It’s a bird of the coniferous forest belt or taiga of the high Northern Hemisphere. Quite remarkably it usually lays its eggs in old nests such as those of Fieldfare, Redwing and Woodpigeon, as well as in disused squirrel dreys.  On migration in Europe Green Sandpipers avoid strictly coastal waters and are almost always found on wetland habitats, very often tiny ponds or streams.

Also on the pool/creeks – 20 Oystercatcher, 5 Common Sandpiper, 4 Tufted Duck, 3 Wigeon, 1 Teal, 4 Pied Wagtail, 1 Goosander, 2 Little Egret, 15 Swallow, 3 Sand Martin, 15 House Martin. No Swifts today. 

Along the roadside hedgerow I counted 6 Goldfinch, 2 Reed Bunting and two family parties of Greenfinch numbering 8+ birds. Now there’s a novelty, to see the once abundant Greenfinch. 


Reed Bunting
I note that despite the best efforts of the the cafe owners to deter House Martins making nests under the eaves of the building at the Conder bridge, the martins persevered and constructed nests anyway. The nests are at the front of the building where walkers and cyclists congregate and where they might be perceived as more troublesome to the owners than had they simply left the birds alone in the first place at the side elevation. Birds are both determined and persistent in their urge to breed, something of which these people have no understanding. 

House Martin

Now, local birders, let’s keep or eyes and ears open and make sure the nests remain where they are. To interfere with the nesting martins as they build nests and sit on eggs would be to break the Wildlife and Countryside Act.  Perpetrators should be reported to the authorities.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog and  Run A Round Ranch .


David Gascoigne said...

It's really interesting that you mention the Nethersole-Thompson book, Phil. As you say it is a classic. I have been trying to get my own copy, but of course it is long since out of print and the prices asked for it are simply ridiculous. Maybe one day I'll get lucky and find it at a garage sale or at second hand book store unaware of the price it now commands. Perhaps you would be willing to sell your copy to me for a quid or two. That would certainly be a noble act in cementing transatlantic relations. I'll even cover the postage!


I sit here broken-hearted! Just look at all the good stuff you have coming your way. Here, the birding spots are nearly vacant. Just very few in the way of even the most common ones. Of course the doves and the mockingbirds remain...I can't wait for Fall.

Another great series of images and fabulous narration Phil.
Rain? What's that? In May we had mid July it's so dry and hot here we have a dust bowl.

Linda said...

You are truly blessed, Phil! Thank you so much for sharing.

David Gascoigne said...

I ordered the book. Than ks for the lead!

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, you do always see the fantastic birds. wonderful series of photos. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The house martin is a neat photo...looks like you caught him at a busy time. I'll look for that book too! Thanks!

TexWisGirl said...

lovely shorebirds and love the greenfinch and bunting!

Ida said...

Always a pleasure to see the birds here as there is such a variety and ones that we don't have around where I live. I really liked the Lapwing.

sandyland said...

I love that you show the environs too

Lowcarb team member said...

Some lovely birds here, and nice to see/ read about Greenshanks book.

All the best Jan

David Gascoigne said...

I received my book and I am very happy to have it. It is not, however, what I thought I was getting. The original work by Nethersole-Thompson was, as I am sure you know, The Greenshank, published in the New Naturalists series in 1951. That is what I thought I had lucked into! I should have been a little more vigilant I guess and realized that the title was different. Quite fascinating, apart from the book, is a letter written to "The Times" on 13 February 1982 by Desmond and Maimie Nethersole-Thompson in response to an accusation by a certain David Nicholson-Lord that their book was divulging the location of Greenshank breeding sites, thereby assisting egg collectors. He recommended that the RSPB screen other forthcoming books for similar transgressions. Needless to say the accusation was roundly rejected by Desmond and Mamie. This letter has been clipped from "The Times" and carefully preserved in a plastic pouch. I guess I will have a unique bookmark!

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, pretty birds and photos. Sorry, I am just catching up after being away. Thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy day and week ahead!

Chandra@GreenComotion said...

Hi Phil-
Lovely series of birds and photos!
Well done!
Have a Happy Weekend!
Peace :)

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