Saturday, July 30, 2016

Overground And Underground

I set off this morning just in time to see a spectacular sunrise appear over Cockerham. Our west coast of Lancashire has remarkable sunsets also but there’s something very special about the light of a new day dawning over misty fields. 

A Cockerham Dawn

As usual I was on my way to Conder Green where with luck and more than a little perseverance it is possible to see a good selection of birds. I wouldn’t be disappointed, especially as the regular Barn Owl was doing the rounds of the road and the marsh at a steady 20 or so mph in trying to evade my camera and the odd vehicle that came by, even at 0600. 

Barn Owl

The usual birds graced the pool and the nearby creeks with waders at 90+ Lapwings, 30+ Redshank, 14 Oystercatcher, 5 Common Sandpiper, 2 Avocet, 2 Greenshank and 1 Dunlin. In the egret and heron department were the customary 3 Little Egret and a single Grey Heron, the numbers of both yet to show any real increase this autumn. 

Common Sandpiper

Tufted Duck have been present all spring and summer in fours, fives and sixes with the appearance today of a single brood of tiny young. With just three in tow the female has considerably less than the 10 or so ducklings more typical of the species immediately after nesting. The female flew in alone from over the canal calling to the youngsters as she landed that the coast was clear. The chicks quickly left  their hiding place in bankside vegetation and joined mum on the water. 

Tufted Duck

Other wildfowl seen - 6 Little Grebe, 2 Wigeon, 1 Teal and 1 Goosander. Four Swift flew around briefly and I suspect they were migrants as overall Swift numbers are down in the past week or two. How soon does summer change to autumn.

A quick look at Glasson Dock revealed several Coot, 6 Tufted Duck, a single Great Crested Grebe, and 2 Common Terns fishing both the dock and the yacht basin. 

I drove back over Stalmine Moss where I followed the song of a Yellowhammer, an increasingly scarce farmland bird which has reached almost celebrity status with local birders. A yellow male was singing from a fence post with a browner bird flying off as I approached the spot. 

Stalmine Moss


I stopped to watch a pair of Buzzard circling overhead but then noticed what looked like a small animal immobile in the centre of the carriageway. It was a very fresh but also very dead Mole. 

Mole - Talpa europaea

The Mole Talpa europaea is one of the most common and widespread of mammals in the UK, but because it spends most of its life in the tunnels which it digs, it is rarely seen. For most people, it is the familiar sight of molehills of soil in woods and fields and even on lawns which is their only experience of these secretive animals. 

Moles are only about 15cm long, but have stout forearms and broad front paws with strong claws which give the animal its ability to tunnel so effectively underground. Their bodies are roughly cylindrical with no neck and a pointed nose, and they are covered in thick, dark fur. 

A Mole’s diet mainly consists of earthworms, but they also feed on beetles and other insects, even baby mice and occasionally shrews if they come upon them while on the surface. A mole needs to eat the equivalent of its own bodyweight each day. In autumn they make a store of hundreds of earthworms to last them through the winter. The worms are usually chewed off at the front end so they cannot crawl away, but remain alive and so provide fresh food for several months. 

Moles are not blind, as most people believe. They do have eyes and internal ears, but these are very small to prevent them being clogged up and damaged during tunnelling. Although they can see, the mole’s eyesight is poor, with no ability to detect colours, just light from dark and movement. However, the mole has a special weapon to help it find other animals underground - an area of bare pink skin on the snout covered in tiny pimples that detect movement and the scents of prey and other moles. 

Large molehills mark the position of a nest, sometimes known as a “castle”. A line of small molehills marks the direction of a deep tunnel while a continuous line of earth marks a very shallow tunnel. Moles are considered as pests where they damage lawns and fields that farmers like to see flat. Many methods are used to try to eradicate them, often with only limited success. 

Mole harvest at Pilling

Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog. This weekend I am studying “Britain’s Birds”, an entirely new and must-have photographic field guide due for publication in mid-August. Read my review on here very soon. 

Britain's Birds

That's all for now. In the meantime I am linking this post to Run A Round Ranch and Anni's Birding Blog.


Linda said...

Beautiful photos, Phil, and a fascinating installment about the mole.

Rajesh said...

Looking forward to more birds from after the study of the book.

sandyland said...

birds yes
mmoles not so much

David Gascoigne said...

You are such a lucky guy, Phil! How many people can pretty much guarantee they can go out and see a Barn Owl any time they wish? As you know, where I live it's an impossibility - and it is such a wonderful creature. The last one I saw was in the UK last year.

Bob Bushell said...

It is really what man can goes killing the Moles, for what?????????

Chris Rohrer said...

Sounds like a relaxing and enjoyable time out. I look forward to your review of the book. I'm thinking about a trek in the next two years to Wales. And I appreciate all of your knowledgeable info about your world of birds. Thank you! Moles and voles are interesting little critters:)

Jo said...

Beautiful photos, Phil. And such an interesting post about moles. They are rather ingenious regarding their winter food storage! I look forward to the book review. Greetings Jo

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I guess the mole is not welcome anywhere. We don't like them tearing up our lawns here in Florida but I've never seen anything like that line of dead ones! EEEEE!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I enjoyed this interesting (as always here ) virtual birding day with a few surprises -- starting out with that glorious sunrise. The barn owl in flight is great; the tufted duck with babies great -- and the (sadly) rare yellowhammer certainly posed beautifully for you. And the mole! How interesting to read more about this seldom seen dead-or-alive creature. I imagine the vultures waited to lunch until at least a few hours later to let the poor thing ripen a bit.

Anni said...

Neat photo of the robin [I believe] on the new book cover.

So very interesting reading about moles. VERY interesting.

The bird numbers you see as you drive to your favorite birding hot spots are so impressive!! Love the 'celebrity' bird....its colors [and I will have to go out on Google now to listen to its song]...and the sunrise. Gorgeous.

Your contribution for us birders at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend has been an awesome experience...thanks!!!

Electra said...

Love your sunset, the mole, not so much. lol

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, beautiful sunrise. I love the Barn owl shot. You do have some great birding spots there. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

NC Sue said...

Beautiful photos.
Thanks for sharing at

Karen said...

Enjoyed your photos, especially the Yellowhammer.

Not a fan of killing moles. I expect if they could think, it would be humans that are the pests!

Prunella Pepperpot said...

Poor Mr Mole! They do make a lot of mess though. Did you get a photo of a buzzard carrying it off?
Loved your yellowhammer and sandpiper.
The photo of the dawn is beautiful.
Have a wonderful week :)

Kay L. Davies said...

Fascinating mole stuff, Phil. Now I know more about moles than I ever thought I would.
Now to try to remember how to link my newest blog post to Our World Tuesday. Funny, I can recite reams of Rudyard Kipling, but I can't remember how to do linking.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

I have never seen a barn owl! Good for you. You are a serious birder!

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

No idea how moles look! I have never seen one. Otherwise, phenomenal photos.

Haddock said...

That Yellowhammer looks so cute.

carol l mckenna said...

Lovely bird photography and nature ~ love the Yellowhammer ~ unique to me ~

Happy Days to you ~ ^_^

Margaret Adamson said...

Pity about the deaad Mole but thanks for all the info on it. I have never seen one in real life.

Bruce Clark said...

Interesting fence toppers...

Ruth Kelly said...

Why would they hang the moles on the fence? Strange.

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) As always lots of bird sightings, how exciting! The Yellowhammer is such a pretty bird, and lovely photo, but that last photo is a pitiful sight, I have never seen anything like it, but I have seen moles, but now, thanks to your info, know a little more about them.

TexWisGirl said...

wow, the moles hung on the fence... they used to do that with coyotes here in texas.

Ida said...

The Yellowhammer is a darling bird. It was so nicely perched on that fence post for you.

Oh my all those moles on the fence. I know they are considered,
"pests" but it makes me sad to see them all dead and displayed like that.

Mary Cromer said...

Lovely photos Phil. I apologize for being two weeks since a visit, but things got crazy with a new puppy flown in from Iowa and my knee continues to give me heartache, make that knee pain. I hope that your health has improved since your last writing. These bodies of ours, just give up on parts a bit from time to time. The opening image is so pretty. Moles, I had no idea that they could see, thought they were all blind. Will try and keep up, but have not much to share until end of the coming week. Take good care~

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