Thursday, September 1, 2016

More Of A Circus

Andy and I were due to go ringing this morning but then he cried off because of an emergency baby-sitting request. Grandparents come in useful sometimes, even if the old fools do vote the “wrong” way in referendums and generally don’t do as they are told. 

Not to worry, I decided to go birding instead of ringing. I was at the car putting on a jacket when I heard a Tawny Owl hooting from nearby gardens, a reminder of autumn and that today is the first day of September. 

The main times to hear Tawny Owls call is during the breeding season which runs from February/March to May, and then again in the autumn when the adults have finished their moult. In June and July the adults tend to go silent and only the young may be heard, squeaking for food throughout the night from dusk. August, September and October can be very active times vocally for adults as they set about reaffirming their territories in preparation for the next breeding season. 

Tawny Owl

As usual I drove over the moss road towards Pilling. It’s a more productive bird route than the main road although in the half light of this morning the best I managed was a Kestrel on the usual roadside post. Near Pilling village I saw a Barn Owl on a fence post so slowed the car in preparation for a possible photographic encounter. Not this time. The owl was away and across the fields before I could even lift the camera. 

I made for the flood at Out Rawcliffe where on Saturday 27th August I’d seen the Marsh Harrier and a few waders. Today was also the first day of the inland shooting season, something I remembered when from across the fields I heard the sound of gunfire but saw no people carrying shotguns. 

The parish of Out Rawcliffe is one of the largest in England. It takes more than a couple of hours to walk north to south or east to west over the mossland, so I wasn’t too worried that the guns would be on me soon; there was time to scope the flood for birdlife. 

Out Rawcliffe, Lancashire

On the water I counted the wildfowl as 150+ Mallards and 24 Teal. So many Mallards indicated the recent release of captive-bred birds and another reason for the sound of gunfire. By contrast the Teal are truly wild birds and recent arrivals from north and east. Waders today comprised just the two species, 220 Lapwing and 4 Black-tailed Godwits. 


There was a single Kestrel about plus 3 or 4 Buzzards, and then as a bonus 2 Marsh Harriers in the air together over the trees and the distant water. There was some interaction between the two harriers when I could see that both were “cream tops”, juvenile/female types with noticeable and extensive creamy foreheads. Local Swallows instinctively mobbed the pair of raptors but I can’t imagine the circling harriers were any real threat to the Swallows. 

Marsh Harrier and Swallows 

Soon a line of a dozen or more sportsmen appeared on the horizon, spread right to left at regular intervals over the maize field dotted with blue feeder bins that sate the released partridge and pheasant. The shooters were headed slowly towards the flood so it was time for me to head in the direction of Conder Green. 

In the wildfowl stakes I counted 19 Little Grebe, 5 Shoveler and 3 Wigeon on the pool, 4 Goosander in the main creek and 20+ Teal in all. Just 3 Little Egret today but a zero count of Grey Herons and a species that continues to disappoint in the numbers seen at expected and traditional locations. 

Waders obliged with 105 Lapwing, 24 Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 3 Snipe and 1 Common Sandpiper. A Kingfisher put in the usual fly-by appearance as did a passing Kestrel. 

Over near the railway bridge the nesting House Martins numbered 20+, a similar quantity to the Swallows hanging around the nearby farm buildings. Otherwise - 15 Linnet, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Reed Bunting. 

House Martin

I was saddened today to hear of the passing of a fellow blogger and ringing pal Lew/Errol Newman, a name that blog readers will know from reading the “Under Rydon Hill” link in the right hand sidebar.

Like me Lew was a regular visitor to Bardsey Island, Wales where our paths sometimes crossed. Lew almost singlehandedly built the main Heligoland trap in the central withy beds. It was a trap that worked like as dream and I had cause to thank Lew on a number of occasions when his construction presented me with bags full of birds and several ringing “ticks”. Lew will be greatly missed by friends, colleagues, family and his partner Jenny.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Blogspot.


eileeninmd said...

Hello, so sorry to hear about the loss of your birding friend Lew. Wonderful shots of the owls, lapwings and the cute house martin. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

Linda said...

Beautiful photos, Phil, and I am very sorry for your loss of your friend Lew.

David Gascoigne said...

Hi Phil: Sorry to hear about your friend Lew. I sense that he had a good life and that's all we can hope for. I guess we are getting to that stage in life when friends start to pass away and we sometimes wonder perhaps when it will be our turn. All this to repeat the oft repeated mantra about living life to the fullest, but it is so true. Enjoy every moment. The next time you band a unique bird remember Lew - that's all he would have wanted.

David Gascoigne said...

I was unfamiliar with Heligoland traps so I googled them. What impressive structures! I don't know of anything similar here in North America, but it sure appears to be an efficient way to trap birds.

KK said...

Very sad to hear about the loss of Lew.

Anu said...

Interesting text and great photos. I am very sorry about the loss of your friend.

David Gascoigne said...

Hi Phil: Thanks for the information on the Heligoland traps. It was right here in my own back yard and I was unaware of it. I have visited the banding station at Old Cut many, many times but have never been out at the point so I have not witnessed the banding operation out there. David Hussell died quite recently, a few months ago if my memory serves me correctly. He was a well respected ornithologist as you know and an almost legendary figure around Long Point. He was married to Erica Dunn, another formidable ornithologist. It's great that you had this connection with Long Point.

Lowcarb team member said...

Sorry to learn of the loss of your blogging friend.

Yes Grandparents can be so good, and we have come in for 'some stick' recently on news programmes etc haven't we !!!

Really enjoyed all your photo's again and they enlarge so nicely

Hope your weekend is a good one

All the best Jan

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Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) So sorry for the loss of your birding friend Lew. It's always sad to think you will never see a friend again, but the memories live on. A very enjoyable read except for the part about the hunters. My husband is a reformed hunter, and now he enjoys looking at birds, and only shoots pictures of them. Lovely photos of the House Martin, and Tawny Owl, and thank you for the tip about the Owl bird box.:)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil! Awesome photos and birds. My favorite is the Tawny owl. Great sightings. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Stuart Price said...

Sorry to hear about your friend. I'm sure many folk will have good memories of him.

Yeah, grandparents, so reactionary...what is the deal with that eh? Bet they read the Daily Mail too. Tsk.

sandyland said...

Sandy's in love with a wigeon

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

My condolences for the loss of your friend.

This morning, prior to breakfast, I went out in my backyard and counted 13 different birds. I was so excited! Busy, busy yard.
The wild grapes are growing, there are caterpillars in the trees, and they are into tht bird bath, too! So cool!
And we had a bear!

Anni said...

Sad about Lew's passing. It's like family when I read of a fellow blogger leaving us behind. But there will always be memories to make us smile.

I'm a bit late in getting over to visit with you this weekend...hope all is going well, and thanks for adding your blog to the linking tool at I'd Rather B Birdin'.

That Tawny owl's feather color/pattern looks so much like chenille fabric. Wow. What a fantastic photo. And the house marting looking so dapper against the bright blue sky! Well done. As always love reading what you experience when out birding....Oh, and babysitting instead of ringing? Must teach him how to prioritize his 'jobs'....ringing for me would come first. [kidding of course]

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The Tawny owl looks like it would have the softest feathers! I like what Anni said, it looks like chenille! Beautiful...every photo but especially the owl! Enjoy the week ahead!

Mary Cromer said...

Phil, I was sorry to just read of the passing over of a dear friend of yours. I am sure that I have seen Lew's blogging in the past...
The Tawny Owl is really a beauty, such a keen look to it and those eyes, Owl eyes are so amazing!
The House Martins are grand birds just like the Purple Martins here.
I hope that you and Sue enjoy your holiday and that you are feeling better these days~

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