Friday, December 16, 2016

Where Did It Go?

It’s that time of year and an excuse to delve into the archives for a review of the year on Another Bird Blog. 

Today’s post is my entry in Jim Goldstein’s 10th annual best photos of the year blog project. It's at Take a look, and enter your own pictures. 

I am posting a picture for each month of 2016. As the blog sub-title suggests, and for new visitors to this blog, there are tales of bird ringing and bird watching together with a spot of bird photography. Don’t forget to click each pic for a bird close-up and slide show. 

In January and midwinter in the Northern Hemisphere most folk are a little bored of short, dark and dismal days that mostly coincide with days of wind and rain. The lack of sun makes us yearn for a little warmth and brightness as an antidote to days spent in layers of clothes and sitting next to radiators while surfing and blogging. 

In January Sue and I travelled via a four hour flight to Lanzarote for a dose of winter sun. The Trumpeter Finch, Bucanetes githagineus, is a small passerine bird that is relatively common but far from numerous in Lanzarote. The huge and brightly coloured parrot-like bill gives the bird a somewhat comical appearance.

Trumpeter Finch

Trumpeter Finches breed in the Canary Islands, across North Africa, and in the Middle East and into central Asia. There is a small European population in southern Spain where the species is essentially non-migratory with most birds largely resident. In the summer of 2005 there was a notable eruption of this species into north-western Europe, with several birds reaching as far as England, where it remains a very rare bird and subsequently one that does not appear on the list of many twitchers. 

February proved to be a good month for catching Siskins Spinus spinus, at our ringing site at Oaeknclough, near Garstang, Lancashire. The 60 ringed there during the month provided a couple of later recoveries in Scotland and close to where the Siskins would breed.


March at Oakenclogh continued the finch theme with good catches of Lesser Redpolls, Acanthis cabaret, a close relative of the Siskin. Both are members of the finch family, Fringillidae. There is evidence of Lesser Redpolls visiting garden feeders on a more regular basis, so much so that several used my own niger feeders for a week or more. 

 Lesser Redpoll

A male Reed Bunting is a handsome bird. Sparrow-sized but slim and with a long, deeply notched tail, the male has a black head, white collar and a drooping moustache. Females and winter males have a streaked head and don’t look nearly as striking as a male in April song. Here’s a male looking for a mate at Cockerham in April 2016. 

Reed Bunting

Most blog regulars will know of my addiction to May in Menorca, Spain. Every year I try to take pictures of Bee Eaters and rarely do I succeed except perhaps the in-flight picture from May 2016 is one of my better efforts. 

Bee Eater

During June and July I made trips up to the Bowland Hills about twenty miles from my usual birding patch . It’s where waders like Redshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe breed in the wet meadows. Without a hide, a wound down car window is almost as good. However, a certain degree of knowledge about a species’ habits, preferences and likely reactions is essential before embarking on a trip and expecting a result. 



August proved to be a mega month for picturing Barn Owls. I latched onto a pair with a regular hunting beat. Once again, knowledge of a species’ habits is essential, as is respect for UK law which protects Barn Owls from disturbance. I am reminded of the antics of a “togger” I watched this year who chased a Barn Owl across fields and prevented the owl from hunting as it should. My own picture below was obtained by waiting for an owl to appear and then let it do what comes naturally. 

 Barn Owl

“Togger” is urban slang for photographer; specifically, one who takes photographs out of a passion for photography and a desire for kudos from other toggers, rather than out of a passion for birds. Most birders I know substitute the letter “s” for “g” when discussing toggers and their antics. 

2016 began badly for Swallows. Poor weather on their journey north killed many off before they could arrive in Britain. Any that managed to set up breeding territories were slowed and frustrated by a cool, cold and wet spring. In most years I expect to take many pictures of Swallows; not in 2016. 

The weather improved during August and September allowing Swallows to catch up a little. Below is one that made it from the nest. Let’s all wish for a better 2017 for our struggling Swallows. 


September and it’s time for a non-birdy picture. “Thank goodness for that”, goes up the cry. The picture is from Skiathos, the other love of our life and another Mediterranean island that Sue and I visit each September. What could be better than relaxing in a beachside taverna with a cold beer while watching the famous blue and white Greek flag flutter in the warming sun? Thanks to the shenanigans of Germany and the European Union the proud Greek people continue to take a battering which they do not deserve. “Yammas” to each and every one of my Greek friends. 

Skiathos, Greece

October 8th promised to be just another average day of ringing up at Oakenclough for Andy and I. By midday we called a halt at 123 birds caught and both ringers cream-crackered after processing more than 30 birds every hour. Whoever said that ringing birds was easy work? The biggest surprise was that our catch included 61 Goldcrests. This included several greyish looking individuals which almost certainly originated from Fennoscandia a day or two earlier. 


A tiny bird that weighs not much more than 5gms would seem to be no candidate for long distance migration. However, ringing has shown regular movements from countries around the North Sea and Baltic into Britain for the winter. One has even reached us from Russia and several from Poland, though Norway, Sweden and Finland are their usual starting points. It seems amazing that any of them can survive two journeys as well as the cold weather but some clearly do, as several Goldcrests ringed in the UK in winter have been found back home in Scandinavia. 

Another Scandinavian visitor that brightens up our UK winters is the Fieldfare. It is a highly gregarious creature that arrives on our shores in sometimes huge numbers, this November being no exception. It seems a contradiction that the species is gregarious but also intensely shy, but that is the truth as anyone who has tried to photograph them will confirm. In November I caught up with Fieldfares in a row of hawthorns at Cockerham where I snapped the picture we all crave – a Fieldfare holding its prize of a bright red Christmas berry. 


December was almost a write off with many grey, dismal days and never ending rain. Andy and I had been busy at our Linnet project since early October at one small site at Pilling where to date and nearing the end of 2016, we have caught, ringed and fully processed 140 Linnets. The Linnet is a declining farmland bird whereby anything we can do to collect data on its current abundance is a positive contribution to conservation. 


Thanks for wading through this post. I hope that everyone that’s done so will return to Another Bird Blog soon and read more about my bird ringing, bird watching and bird photography. And finally, thanks to Jim Goldstein for hosting this get together of like-minded folk for yet another year.

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


Linda said...

What a great variety of gorgeous, sweet birds, Phil! You have made my weekend! :)

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I am sure that assembling this kind of retrospective kindles happy memories. A great year of birds be sure!

Stuart Price said...

Great Bee-eater BIF Phil.............

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

You have had a wonderful year for birding Phil as these shots shows us. Maarvellous images

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, your choice of birds for each month of 2016 are all beautiful. I would love to see them all myself. The Trumpeter Finch reminds me of our female Cardinal. Lovely photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy weekend to you! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Breathtaking said...

Good morning Phil!:) Thank you for all these wonderful pictures. They are all so lovely. Your idea of showing a bird from each month of the year fills me with a longing to visit some of the places you have mentioned. Hubby and I know the Canary Islands quite well, and Lanzarote in particular, but we never saw the Trumpeter Finch on the many occasions when we were there, and I'm quite jealous of your brilliant in flight photo of the Bee-eater. I can't wait until June, when with a bit of luck we will see the beautiful bee-eater before they leave for Africa.

Rajesh said...

Very beautiful and colourful birds.

sandyshares said...


Jenn Jilks said...

You are a dedicated birder!
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

GreenComotion said...

Amazingly beautiful birds, Phil.
Lovely series of photos.
Have a Happy Weekend.
Peace :)

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

What a wonderful idea! I may try to do this soon too. You've seen some beautiful birds this year and my favorite is the owl! I still have high hopes I will see one this winter. Enjoy your weekend!

KK said...

Great pictures Phil

Is the oystercatcher standing on one leg in the picture?

Anni said...

The bee eater in flight and the close up of the siskin are my favorites of them all....

Beautiful images! Many thanks for sharing at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend. Have a glorious week ahead. I was even thinking of doing just this for the first week in January 2017 to recap the year in birding. You beat me to it.

baili said...

your birds are truly a treat to eyes .
i loved and enjoyed looking at them for looong

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Suggesting it was 'Wading through' is the only wrong thing about this post... I enjoyed every word and every picture (the latter twice). And though some of your travels I remembered from your previous posts , some I had missed (or forgotten...age). And I learned the marvelous new word 'toggers'... well, of course I wish there was no need to know it, but so sadly even in my amateur outings I've definitely met a few of them over here. And the alternative spelling is of course equally appropriate .

Aritha said...

Such a variety of beautiful birds. The barn owl is my favorite!

Valerie said...

A beautiful collection Phil. The colours in the Bee Eater are amazing, but the Barn Owl sure is captivating. Thank you for the joy your bird photography brings. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

NCSue said...

Your bird photography always makes me jealous - I can almost feel the feathers looking at them!
Thanks for linking up at

Lowcarb team member said...

I think it's great to do a post like this, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It's lovely to see the variety of birds, I do love the Fieldfare and those red berries.

Thank you.

All the best Jan

Prunella Pepperpot said...

Hello Phil, some amazing shots of gorgeous birds. I just wanted to pop by to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year with best wishes from Prunella Pepperpot!

Jim Goldstein said...

Amazing captures Phil. Thanks for taking part in my year end blog project. As a whole your years body of work is really impressive. Have a great 2017.

@Rich_Greene_LA said...

What an amazing set of birds -- particularly like the barn owl.

Related Posts with Thumbnails