Sunday, May 28, 2017

Slowly Does It

As I drove slowly along Head Dyke Lane I heard a singing Chiffchaff and then saw a Kestrel watching over a field from an overhead line. At Gulf Lane the sitting Oystercatcher raised her head above the crop to see what the stopped vehicle was up to. She sounded a warning but the rapidly growing crop has already outpaced any tiny youngsters and I couldn’t see them. A pair of Skylarks circled and then dropped into the same area of the field and I made a mental note of the spot for another day. 

All I saw from the Braides Farm gateway was a single Roe Deer, 400 yards from me but just a few yards from the sea wall with not a tree in sight; a strange beginning to my journey of Cockerham to Conder Green. 

Roe Deer

There are still 3 pair of Avocets at Conder Pool and one pair have two youngsters that scurried along the water’s edge at their parents’ behest. 


Meanwhile the Oystercatchers with the roadside nest still play chicken with each car that passes by. It’s a weird routine they have; I watched them do the same thing over and over. The female stays on the nest for passing vehicles but if one slows or stops she walks off the nest, crosses the road to the edge of the creek, calls, and then waits until the male joins her. There’s a crow continually trying to rob the nest so one of the Oystercatchers is tasked with chasing off the villain. When all returns to normal, cars and crows, the female crosses the road again and sits back on the nest. If the “oyks” pull this one off they deserve a medal for perseverance. 

A second pair of Oystercatchers that nested to the left of the screen now has two tiny youngsters, with at a guess still three to five other pairs yet to hatch their young. 

Oystercatcher chick

Black-tailed Godwit numbered 120+ again feeding in the creek or the very far side of the pool. It’s late in May for so many lingering godwits when by rights they should be well north of here, especially since a good number are in adult-like plumage. Of course each day could see different birds passing through but who’s to know for sure? They are a colourful and welcome addition to the usual year round waders and I imagine a few non-breeders may actually spend the summer here. 

Black-tailed Godwits

On the pool and close by – 1 Little Grebe, 6 Tufted Duck, 8 Shelduck, 10 Redshank, 2 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 4 Whitethroat, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Reed Warbler. 

Shelduck - male

 Shelduck - female

There was another Reed Warbler on the Jeremy Lane circuit where the roadside ditches are in great shape with their mix of bramble, nettle, scattered hawthorn bushes and fine stands of phragmites reed. 

On the leisurely circuit up to Cockersands and back I counted 10+ singing Sedge Warber, 8 Whitethroat, 8+ Skylark, 4 Reed Bunting and 1 Blackcap as i stopped here and there to take a closer look. 

Sedge Warbler

 Sedge Warbler

In the fields nearest to Cockersands where Lapwings and Skylarks were ploughed out by spring farming I noted at least three Lapwings sat in new nests. After the recent drought the earthis now almost bare and very dry. Let’s hope the Lapwings have better luck this time. 


For weeks I’ve tried to get half decent pictures of a Brown Hare.  Today the roadside growth partly hid the car as it slowly edged along the road allowing me to stop and turn off the engine. When soon another, taller vehicle came along the hare dashed off across the field into the distance. 

Brown Hare

Brown Hare

Those long and powerful hind legs allow a Brown Hare to run at up to 35mph - pretty useful if you don’t fancy being “jugged” or roasted.  On the other hand we all know the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, the best-known of Aesop's Fables where the hare loses a race through being over confident of its speed. 

Maybe there’s a lesson for some birders?  Slow down, you will both see and learn more by travelling at a nice steady pace, stopping and starting where necessary, instead of dashing around like a headless chicken and seeing bugger all.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday and Anni's birding.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Shooting Times

After the mishap in Menorca my Canon lens has gone to the lens doctor for a thorough examination. It may or may not come back, and it could be three to four weeks before the decision. I chanced upon a possible replacement, a Sigma, a lens which by all accounts performs quite well. 

So I waited for a sunny day to test out the substitute, and when this morning dawned bright I took off for the hills of Bowland with fingers crossed. 

Lapwings and Curlews were in good numbers but I struggled to see and photograph both Oystercatchers and Redshanks. Maybe another week will see more activity as young emerge from the mostly distant nests I could see and hear but not picture. The Lapwing I photographed had young, perhaps obvious from the demeanour of the adult as it frantically warned the youngsters in the field to run and hide. It’s unusual to see a Lapwing on a wall. 



I slowed the car hoping to photograph a Snipe calling from a roadside post. The road was a little too narrow and the Snipe flew off into the rushy field. I made a mental note of the spot for another day. A pair of Curlew had two youngsters on a date I thought rather early. Against the light and into the bright cotton grass came a couple of pictures. 



I saw lots of Meadow Pipits but none appeared to have youngsters just yet. Catching them on a roadside post or a wall with a beak full of food makes for the best chance of a picture but none would perform today. Likewise the Pied and Grey Wagtails; the former outnumbered the latter by 10/1 on my journey, the Pied seen almost everywhere, the Greys mostly at Marshaw stream. 

Meadow Pipit

It was near Marshaw and Tower Lodge I saw and heard good numbers of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Also, a pair of Stonechat feeding young out of the nest and several pairs of Mistle Thrush, one of them feeding a just fledged youngster. 

I had an unusual one today – a Red Grouse chick. As I tried to photograph a pair of adults I saw two youngsters scrambling up the roadside bank trying to reach their parents. 

Red Grouse chick

Red Grouse

The Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica, also known as the moorcock, moorfowl or moorbird is a bird of heather moorland with a range restricted to areas of blanket bog and upland shrub heath. It is a subspecies of the Willow Grouse Lagopus lagopus lagopus, whose range extends across the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia and North America. The Red Grouse differs by not developing white plumage during winter and having a diet almost exclusively of heather. 

Since the mid-1800s, upland areas of heather have been managed to produce grouse for shooting. Grouse shooting has been one of the major land uses of upland ground and an important source of income for many estates. 

The Red Grouse population is declining, perhaps linked to diseases, the loss of heather moorland largely due to over-grazing by sheep, and conversion to forestry. Numbers have declined seriously in Scotland and grouse are now only present in very low numbers in Wales. 

The Red Grouse is considered a game bird and is shot in large numbers during the shooting season which traditionally starts on August 12, known as the Glorious Twelfth. There is a keen competition among some London restaurants to serve freshly killed grouse on August 12, with birds being flown from the moors and cooked within hours. 

Many moors are managed to increase the density of grouse. Areas of heather are subjected to controlled burning; this allows fresh young shoots to regenerate, which are favoured by the grouse. Extensive predator control is a feature of grouse moor management: foxes, stoats and crows are usually heavily controlled on grouse moors. The extent to which it occurs on grouse moors is of course hotly contested between conservation groups and shooting interests. The subject generates a lot of media attention in relation to grouse moors and shooting with one bird of prey in particular, the Hen Harrier, a major source of dispute. 

I didn’t see a single raptor this morning, no Kestrels or Buzzards, not a Sparrowhawk nor a Goshawk, and certainly no Hen Harriers. Just a coincidence I’m sure. 

Standby for more shooting from Another Bird Blog – camera only.

Linking today with Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Three Finches

Our targeting of finches at Oakenclough near Garstang paid off again with three very interesting recoveries via the BTO - a Siskin, a Goldfinch and a Lesser Redpoll. 

A Goldfinch we ringed with letter/number Z470813 on 18th February 2016 was later recaptured by members of Grampian Ringing Group at Newburgh, Aberdeenshire on 1st March 2017, just over one year later and 381kms north of Oakenclough. 

We tend to think of Goldfinches as a somewhat sedentary garden bird but the species is a partial migrant throughout its extensive range in Europe and Asia, with its northern limit approximately along the line of the 60° latitude. Aberdeen is situated at the latitude of 57 degrees. 

This first year female had probably moved south to winter in England for 2016/207 but was returning to Scotland as early as 1st March 2017.


Goldfinch - Oakenclough to Aberdeen

The second recovery concerns Siskin with ring number Z470786. Andy and I caught this adult male on 11th February 2016 at Oakenclough. It had a good weight of 14.2 grams suggesting that it was on migration to the conifer forests of Scotland or perhaps Ireland, a typical movement we have seen with other records in the spring.  Z470786 was later recaptured 13th April 2017 at the RSPB Bird Reserve of Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, Wales. 

Siskins with their unpredictable main food supply are known to make irregular movements in search of food, and an individual does not necessarily winter in the same location each year. RSPB reserves generally have good supplies of bird food on offer to draw in both birds and birders. 


Siskin - Oakenclough to Lake Vyrnwy

The third recovery involves a second winter/spring Lesser Redpoll of S295643 that Andy and I caught at Oakenclough as the first bird of the day at 0600 on 8th April 2017. The original ringing details tell us that S295643 was first ringed by Graeme, an ex-member of Fylde Ringing Group who now rings with Cuckmere Ringing Group. The Goldfinch  was ringed on 28th October 2016 at Litlington, East Sussex. 

This is a classic case of a young Lesser Redpoll migrating south to spend the winter in probably France or Belgium and then returning north in the following spring. 

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll - Litlington to Oakenclough

Meanwhile during my recent holiday in Menorca, another and different outbreak of avian flu occurred in our area at Thornton-Cleveleys in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks. A 3 km Protection Zone and a 10 km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading and there is a ban on ringing in those zones. 
 Avian flu exclusion zone

These outbreaks are becoming all too frequent but hopefully things will settle down soon. Let's  hope so.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Living Dangerously

After yesterday I just knew that Oystercatcher nest was close to the road. But why would the silly birds make their nest just 12 inches from the verge where vehicles whizz by and where just yards away large wagons and other vehicles park while the occupants stretch their legs. 

Feet away on the other side of the hedgerow is Conder Pool with tons of places they might set up home. The “oyks” picked a spot where a tiny area of gravel lies next to a roadside marker post. Good luck with that - they will need it. 


 Oystercatcher nest

Oystercatcher nest

Maybe the other pairs of Oystercatchers, at least four others around the pool, chased them away, or possibly the two pairs of Avocets? I noted that the female Common Tern is now sat on her nest on the floating pontoon, the bird just visible behind the opaque screen while the male stood guard just a metre away. 

Also today in my flying visit – 120 Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Tufted Duck, 6 Little Egret, 2 Wigeon, 2 Greylags, and a handful of both Sand Martins and Swallows. Two Ravens croaked overhead as they flew around in a circle and then back up the river towards Lancaster. 


Black-tailed Godwit

I drove down towards Bank End in time to see a rainbow and just before it dissolved into the morning sunshine. 

Bank End, Cockerham

Bank End, Cockerham

The quarry held about 120+ Sand Martins, two pairs of Oystercatcher and a pair of Redshanks. At the end of the lane I counted 15/20 Lapwing and 6 Oystercatcher on the bare earth field where I think the farmer has designs that don’t include nesting waders. In the coppice there was both Blackcap and Willow Warbler in song plus a male Reed Bunting singing from a post on the marsh. I watched the male fly into a patch of reedy marsh and where it was joined by a female. 


A Pied Wagtail waited for my car to move as she sat on a barbed wire fence with a bill full of sheep’s’ wool with which to line her nest. There’s enough sheep’s wool around here to line a million nests. Eight or ten Brown Hares were having a frenzied chase around until one stopped to take a morning wash. 

Brown Hare

Pied Wagtail

I had things to do like still catching up from Menorca, but time to take a look at Gulf Lane. 

Farmer Richard has replanted his set-aside with a crop of wild bird seed and other goodies so that the field looks spot-on for a productive autumn of ringing as long as there’s no more avian flu. There was Sedge Warbler singing from the ditch, Oystercatcher on eggs, a pair of Skylarks, 5 Stock Dove and a distant Buzzard. 

Things are looking good!

Meanwhile I'm linking to Anni's Birding

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Conder And How Not to Bird

Things have sure moved on since last I was at Conder Green. There are now two pairs of Avocets breeding plus a pair of Common Terns showing all the signs. I was there this morning and somewhat surprised to see two Avocets flying from the pool to feed in the creek and to then see two pairs on the far island – six Avocets in total. 

The ones on the island are very distant but the two in the creeks gave a half decent chance for a picture. Early on I’d counted 170 Black-tailed Godwits, split 100/70 in favour of the creek. 


Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Also on the pool, a pair of Common Terns spent time and energy around the metal pontoon and fishing out towards the River Lune. I watched the male bring in small fish with which to entice the female to stay around; it looked like she was impressed. 

Common Terns

A couple of pairs of Redshank were in display mode plus several pairs of Oystercatcher, Mute Swan and 6 Tufted Duck as 3 pairs. In the creeks I saw a Grey Heron, a single Little Egret and 12 Shelduck. 

There’s a pair of Oystercatchers breeding very close to the road, so close that they think nothing of playing “Oystercatcher Chicken” with oncoming traffic as they casually walk to the verge when a vehicle approaches. The Oystercatcher is a very common bird and also a very handsome one I think you will agree. 




Good thing I was there early as a “birder” arrived, dressed in suit, shirt and tie for the office party and pretty clueless as to how to bird. He proceeded to walk down into the creeks with apparently no thought to the fact that wild birds have eyes, ears and the ability to fly away from predators like man. I guess when he got to the office he explained how he went bird watching but didn’t see much, just birds flying away? 

How Not To Bird

I pretty much cleaned up on singing warblers with 2 Blackcap, 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, and 1 Reed Warbler. In the same patch as the Reed Warbler was a singing Reed Bunting. Over and around pool the main hedgerow - 2 Stock Dove, 4 Swift and a handful of Swallows. 

I took a drive around Jeremy Lane and up to Cockersands to find a day-flying Barn Owl and a good number of Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats and Skylarks – a minimum ten of each. 

While Sedge Warblers mostly sing hidden in the depths of a roadside ditch they do sometimes like to use a high point like telegraph poles from which to launch into their song flight.

Sedge Warbler

I saw good numbers of Brown Hare, Lapwings young and old and stopped to picture at Swallow waiting for to farmer open up the barn. 

Lapwing chick



Please look in tomorrow when there’s news of a Siskin, a Lesser Redpoll and a Goldfinch.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Menorca Mishap

We had a great time in Menorca. Two weeks of unadulterated sunshine and not a drop of rain. We visited most of our favourite island places and saw lots of birds. Birding highlights proved to be thousands of Common Swift delayed from heading north by days of northerly winds. Mixed in with the common we saw a few Alpine Swifts, Swallows and Sand Martins. We had a morning of migrating Red-footed Falcons together with superb views of a female Montague’s Harrier. 

There was a disaster when on day two I damaged my Canon 400mm lens to the extent that for the rest of the holiday I had to use a bog standard 35-135mm zoom – not good for taking bird pictures. Apologies then for the lack of bird pictures but please do enjoy the extra number of photographs of sunny Menorca. Don't forget to "click the pics" to enjoy the sunshine.

We saw Scop’s Owls every evening in the hotel grounds where they appeared as if by clockwork about 2130 to feed on moths and beetles. About 400 yards away another pair of Scop’s spent their daylight hours roosting in a pine tree after annoying the hotel guests with their monotone hooting throughout the night. This owl has reputation for being hard to see as it sits motionless against the trunk of a tree. On some days both owls were sat within inches of each other but on other days just a single one would sit unperturbed as people below struggled to give definition to the dark shapes above. 

Hotel Sant Tomas

Sant Tomas, Menorca

Scop's Owl

Scop's Owl

On day one, May 1st, a few late Wheatears could be seen along the hotel frontage or in the grounds. The local Turtle Doves can get fairly tame, quite unlike their country cousins who live their lives away from tourists. As ever, Spotted Flycatchers can be found near tourist spots where a 135mm lens shows how the species is tiny. 


Turtle Dove
Spotted Flycatcher

In the centre of the picture below is El Toro, at 342 metres, the highest point of the island. There are few birds up there except for Greenfinch, Goldfinch and the ubiquitous Sardinian Warbler and House Sparrow. The many viewpoints do give good views of the island common raptors, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Egyptian Vulture and Kestrel. Naturally there’s a shop selling tourist goods but like most places in Menorca the parking is free and there is never a feeling that visitors to the island are simply cash cows.
 At Torre del Daume

View from El Toro

El Toro



Es Migjorn

Es Migjorn

Es Migjorn

Cookery demo - Es Migjorn

Menorcan centipede

It was on day two that I broke my lens. We had stopped at the Cattle Egret colony on the outskirts of Ciutadella and taken a few pictures before contusing on to Punta Nati and the specialities of Blue Rock thrush, Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark and Corn Bunting. 

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egrets

By early May the Menorca breeding season is well under way with most species either feeding young in or out of the nest. Upon crossing one rocky field I heard the warning “chip, chip” calls of adult Corn Buntings and within a few minutes found a young Corn Bunting hiding in the grass. Like many ground nesting birds, young Corn Buntings leave the nest before they can fly. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that lessens the chances of a nest full of youngsters falling victim to a predator whereby at least one or two young will survive to adulthood. 

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

I tripped over a particularly well hidden rock and dropped my lens onto the stony ground. Today I’ll parcel it up and see if a lens doctor can make it better. If not, those floorboards will need to come up. 

The road between Es Mercadal and Cap de Cavalleria proved the best for birding with regular Bee-eaters, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Nightingale, Tawny Pipit and a mix of herons. We managed to see the regular species of Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Squacco Heron and Little Egret. It was along the same road that one morning we found a single but superb female Montague’s Harrier quartering the fields. A morning following overnight cloud and a cool start saw a movement of 15/20 Red-footed Falcons quite high in the sky and drifting steadily north. We found a single female on a roadside post which gave us a short but spectacular hunting display above a thistle-filled field before she too hurried on. When we checked the road the very next morning all the falcons had gone, along with hundreds of Swifts that had filled the sky. 

To Cavalleria


Near Cap de Cavelleria

Es Prat, Tirant

Es Mercadal

Es Grau produced water birds like Coot, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Purple Heron, Grey Heron and Little Egret. Yellow-legged Gulls nest here but I think the much less common Audouin’s Gull nest only on offshore islands. 

Audouin's Gull at Es Grau

Es Grau


Es Grau

Es Grau

 Es Grau

 Es Grau

Hopefully I will be up and running soon with local news and my lens back in action for better photos; so log in soon to Another Bird Blog. 

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday.

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