Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Late Off The Mark

Early rain delayed my birding start until the skies held a patch or two of blue.

I drove around Jeremy Lane, Cockerham thinking I might see the local Barn Owls but had to make do with a Buzzard that frequents a dead tree a field away. The Buzzard is yet another species which seems somewhat scarce lately, in direct contrast to recent years when the population spiked noticeably upwards. Maybe it’s just a natural cycle rather than anything untoward, a scenario that is always a possibility in this part of sporting Lancashire where long-standing ideas about Buzzards and the need to “control” them persist. 


There are still lots of fields of lush grass as the farmers wait for a dry spell in which to cut and dry their crop. Despite this I managed to find several Brown Hares and even a large flock of 300 + Curlews hiding in a slightly less rampant crop. 

Along a stretch of roadside ditch Sedge Warblers were feeding young and even a Reed Bunting in song, but less than 30 Swallows on the whole circuit. I noted a few Linnets and Goldfinches about today with perhaps the beginnings of small flocks feeding on the plentiful seed heads at this time of year. 


Along Moss Lane I found myself driving behind a Weasel in the throes of dragging a dead vole along the road. I slowed the car to halt to take a closer look, hoping the Weasel might stop but it tugged its prey into the roadside vegetation and was lost to view. 

Weasel - By Bering Land Bridge National Preserve [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The weasel (Mustela nivalis) is a fearless little killer easily confused with the larger and more frequently seen Stoat (Mustela erminea). A Weasel is about the size of a large mouse and reminds me of a skinny squirrel whereas a Stoat is closer to the size and bulk of a brown rat. A Weasel is about 15-25cm whereas a Stoat is 15-30cm. 

The lean, fast and vicious Weasel preys on small mammals like mice and voles. Stoats can manage rabbits and rats. Both kill by biting into the base of their prey's skulls. Both species are light brown with pale underside but the Stoat has an obvious black tip to its tail that the noticeably smaller Weasel lacks. This is often the only distinguishing feature gained from the normally brief views given by either species where size is difficult to judge. 

Over the years I’ve managed to get a few pictures of Stoats but never a Weasel. It’s possible to just see the black tip of the Stoat’s tail but otherwise this animal is remarkably similar to a plainer Weasel. 


At Conder Pool there was a Little Stint but briefly before it flew off calling, over and beyond where the Avocets hang out. There’s a number of puddles and pools out of sight and behind the islands close to the canal where birds can feed undetected and undisturbed for many a long hour,. Quite unlike the roadside view point where vehicles lumber noisily past and birders poke their heads into view. 

Clearly visible Lapwings numbered some 170+, from the calls more hidden from view. Also 30+ Redshank, 8 Oystercatcher, 2 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpiper, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Goosander. 

For a week or more there have been two Avocets, one adult and the single juvenile now nearing fledging. Like many other wader species, one of the pair has already left to fly south before the other, leaving the remaining adult to care for the youngster. In many wader species it is the male which remains with the chick and the female which leaves. In this case, because both male and female Avocets are pretty much identical, so it is impossible to say with certainty which one is left, but more than likely it is the male. 

It’s also interesting that the average breeding success of Avocet pairs is just 1.1 young, so our local pair managed to more or less hit the notional average having lost at least two youngsters in the early stages. 

Avocet- Neokortex [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Here’s Charlie from the BBC with tomorrow's weather. 

Weather Forecast

Things are looking pretty grim up North again. But log in soon to see where Another Bird Blog has been on Thursday.

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


grammie g said...

Hey Phil... and yes the Buzzard said their is that Old Buzzard a field away, that I have to put up with. LOL
Yes Phil I am still alive, and still able to give you a hard time.
Good to see that your getting out there, and keeping your blog going.
Me not sure, so darn hot I can't stand being outside after 9:00 am!


Linda said...

Beautiful birds and animals, Phil! Here in Montreal it is very hot and humid, not my kind of weather at all. I can take the heat when it is dry and comfortable but the humidity is deadly for me.

David Gascoigne said...

A pox I say on all those with a rifle who think that shooting birds of prey is somehow indicative of their manhood, whose prowess with a long gun is a substitute for poor performance in other areas. Time to leave our wildlife alone folks and let it be. Nature had a wonderful way of regulating all of its populations until we came along to throw everything into disarray. Great post as always, Phil.

TexWisGirl said...

i can see why the weasel and stoat are easily confused. good luck w/ weather!

genie said...

WOW!!! A weasel. It was a treat to see that photo. I think you had quite a fine girding day. genie

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, the weasel is a cute critter. Love the Goldfinch. I hope your weather is cooler, it is hot here.

Great photos! Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

Tanya Breese said...

cute weasel and stoat, never heard of a stoat and thought it was another weasel :)

Wally Jones said...

Any day that includes sighting something as magnificent as a Buzzard is a good one! And if it happens to include a few hundred curlew and sundry songbirds, well, that's a special day.

That was quite an interesting description of stoats and weasels. I only recently discovered we have weasels in Florida (and not just in government, either!). I've never seen one in the wild.

I'm busily cleaning lenses of all the optical gear today in hopes of actually putting them to use tomorrow!

Here's wishing you decent weather in the coming days. Take care!

David Gascoigne said...

Hi Phil: Unfortunately I cannot play the crow episodes to which you sent me the link. Here is the message I get when I try: BBCiPlayer only works in the UK. Thanks for thinking of me, however. I am just sorry I won't be able to watch.

Stuart Price said...

July always seemed to be a 'dead' month when I birded the Ribble, judging by the birds you see at this time of year perhaps I should have looked a bit harder..........

Ida said...

That little Lapwing is a cute little bird. How fun to see the Weasel. I've never heard of a Stoat before so that was an interesting thing to see.

Electra said...

Wonderful photos!

Lowcarb team member said...

I do like your new header / banner of the Common Snipe.

... some lovely photo's again Phil, my favourite is the Goldfinch. But such a shame about the weather, it does seem you are in for more rain!

Take Care

All the best Jan

Valerie said...

What extraordinary plumage on the Buzzard!

monique carnat said...

très belles images ! le chardonneret me plait beaucoup ***

Marleen said...

The goldfinch is beautiful!
I remember BBC's Springwatch had an interesting item on stoats this year with amazing footage. Maybe you watched it too :)
Happy weekend.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, beautiful birds and photos. The Weasel is cute too. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Jim said...

Beautiful shots.
Sydney – City and Suburbs

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

We are desperate for rain here in Ontairo.
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

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