Friday, June 30, 2017

Goldfinch Day

What a frustrating week! Here in North West England we’ve had at least three and a half days of windy and rain-filled days. Now on Friday and with the promise of better weather for weekend, the morning was still cloudy, grey and breezy from the north - not the best for birding or photos. 

All week I watched the garden fill with Goldfinches, and where like many British gardens, the highly successful Goldfinch is a common and often numerous visitor. Other species qwe see are typical suburban companions - Blackbird, Dunnock, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Starling, Magpie and Wren. This week we’ve had a couple of visits from a Great-spotted Woodpecker, but mainly it’s Goldfinch galore. 

So this morning and with our south facing garden sheltered from the breeze I decided to do some garden ringing and see just how many Goldfinch are around. I did rather well by way of 33 birds - 23 Goldfinch, 4 Blackbird, 2 House Sparrow, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Dunnock and 1 Woodpigeon. 

As one might expect at this time of year there are lots of juvenile Goldfinches about with my catch split 14/9 in favour of newly fledged birds. All of the adult Goldfinch were in various stages of their main post breeding moult. 




A juvenile Blackbird showed serious faults at the tip of the tail suggesting a food shortage immediately prior to its fledging. 


Blue Tit



There’s ringing and/or birding tomorrow with more news and views from Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Circuit

The week has been mixed - more of our very special English summer and the longest days when wind and rain battle for supremacy and winner takes all. It’s hard to say which came out on top this week but let’s just say that my suntan didn’t improve and birding was left on hold for a day or two. 

Sunday morning dawned dull and cloudy but I was determined to have a go so set off on the usual circuit. A Barn Owl hunted over Stalmine moss but then dived into the farmyard as the car got closer. Never mind, I saw another one later on the way back home and in broad daylight hunting next to the busy main road. 

Barn Owl

I guess most Barn Owls have mouths to feed at the moment and are spending more time in hunting, even in the daylight. Just three weeks ago Andy and I had a brood of four Barn Owls at an ideal stage to ring but had to call it off as the owls were in an avian flu zone where ringing was suspended. 

Ringing restrictions have been lifted but it seems that the source of last winter’s major outbreak, a game bird hatchery, is now up and running again after receiving Government (taxpayer) compensation rumoured to be around £1,000,000. Now if we could just spend the same amount of money on protecting a few of our local sites for birds and people? 

I stopped at Gulf Lane to survey the set-aside field and where we hope to restart our Linnet ringing project in August. The field is looking good with tremendous growth on the wild bird and wildflower mix and a few birds in evidence by way of 4 Skylark, 4 Whitethroat, 3 Tree Sparrow, 4 Stock Dove and a Kestrel. A Grey Heron flew over – on the way to Pilling duck pond from the direction of flight. 



At Conder Green I donned a jacket against the cold north wind and spitting clouds. Likewise and on on the floating pontoon the tern chicks huddled against the plastic cladding and waited for the adults to arrive with breakfast. 

Common Tern

There have been good counts of Avocets in recent weeks. The best I could manage again today was 4 adults and just one half-grown youngster so the overall survival rate here seems very low given that up to five pairs may have bred or partly bred. 

Lapwings are back in some numbers with a combined count of 36 ensconced on the island or feeding in the channels. Redshanks are on the increase too with a count of 30+, also 2 Common Sandpiper, 15 Oystercatcher and 3 Curlew. Duck counts are restricted to just two species at the moment until the Wigeon and Teal arrive, so 6 Tufted Duck, 15 Shelduck and 22 Mallard. 

Tufted Duck

Feeding around the pool and over the hedgerows I counted 10+ Sand Martin, a handful of Swallows and a single Swift. In the creeks - 2 Grey Heron and 1 Little Egret. 

That was about my lot when the rain returned and I headed home. I’m out birding in the week so call in to Another Bird Blog soon and see what you’ve missed.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Golden Times

There are more pictures from the hill country today. Birding is more than a little quiet and the weather so perfect that I took to the upland roads with camera at the ready. 

Noticeable today was the reduction in numbers of waders with many already gone for the coast, mainly Lapwings, Redshanks and Curlews but to a lesser extent Oystercatchers. In fact I struggled to get pictures of Curlew and Redshank and managed just one Lapwing. Despite that a number of Snipe continued to both sing and display and to show themselves on dry stone walls and fences. 


Like me, the Oystercatcher below was searching the skies for the Golden Plover singing unseen. I didn’t see the plover but the unmistakeable melody rung out loud and clear across the open fell. 


Maybe the Oystercatcher didn’t recognise the song as the Golden Plover is now extremely rare in Bowland. Amazingly, and to the eternal shame of the United Kingdom, the Golden Plover is still classed as legitimate “quarry” for shooting from September 1st to January 31st except in the Isle of Man where it has full protection. 

Golden Plover -courtesy of

There are still lots of wagtails around, both Pied and Grey varieties, and of course many dozens of Meadow Pipits which now include fresh juveniles. 

Pied Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

I did see a Cuckoo today as it dashed over the tree tops “cuckooing” as it went and then calling continuously on a circuit of the hillside and back to the start. 

It’s amazing what Photoshop can do. One minute there’s a barbed wire fence; the next minute the fence has gone! 

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Common Snipe


There are a couple of things to notice in these Snipe pictures, things that aren’t too apparent with the often poor views of this secretive species; the upper part of a bill has a subtle node end and is also marginally longer than the lower half of the bill. Note also the very long toes, an adaptation for wading birds which spreads the bird's weight over a large surface area and thus facilitates walking on soft surfaces where such species both breed and feed. The marsh loving Snipe is a prime example. 

Common Snipe


Wader foot

Apart from the everyday hazards faced by all birds the upland environment presents a particular danger to waders which breed in amongst the sheep - wool. The loose wool that lies on the ground is a special hazard to chicks that can quickly accumulate large amounts of the tough wool around their feet and legs. It sometimes leads to the loss of toes or feet and can also cause entanglement in fences or other everyday objects.  The bottom Oystercatcher has several strands of sheep wool around both legs and may haave lost part of a toe.



There's more sun tomorrow and then the weather is going downhill once more. Oh well, never mind there's always something to do and it's been good to see so much sun.

Linking today to Anni's Blog, Stewart's World Bird Wednesday and

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Martin Morning

2016 was a year without ringing at the Cockerham Sand Martin colony because the martins’ nest holes were too high up the quarry face for us to catch them. It’s the same this year with the birds mostly out of reach of the mist nets. But with so many being around Andy and I decided we’d experiment with catching some down at ground level today. 

We met up at 0700 and set to with a single mist net in the base of the quarry where the martins had been feeding and flying through on their way to and from the quarry face. We had only partial success with a catch of 9 birds, 4 adults and 5 fresh juveniles. 

We reckoned on something like 200 individuals milling around the colony and upwards of 60 occupied nest holes, even though counting those is subject to interpretation. 

Sand Martin

There are Sand Martins in my picture below taken from 50 yards or more; a closer approach sees the martins into the air en masse. For readers who have never witnessed a Sand Martin colony the photo which gives some idea of the density of holes and nests, bearing in mind that not every hole is occupied. 

Sand Martin colony

Sand Martins - Nabu of Germany

Also on site - 1 Grey Heron, 4 Oystercatcher, 1 Kestrel. 

We’ll have another go at the “smarties” in a week or so when the weather permits. 

Before I met up with Andy I’d spent an hour a mile away at Conder Green to catch up with recent changes. The Avocets are down to two pairs now and I saw only one youngster. It’s tempting to think that the adults spend so much time chasing off other birds that they somehow or other neglect their own young. 

There are still at least 4 pairs of Oystercatchers but only one of those pair with 2 well grown young as other adults sit it out. Otherwise, 8 now summering Black-tailed Godwits, 6 Tufted Duck, 15 Redshank, 6 Shelduck, 2 Common Tern, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Little Egret. 

Common Tern

In the passerine department - 3 Reed Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting 2 Whitethroat and 2 Pied Wagtail. And in “miscellaneous” – 1 Stock Dove, 4 Swift, 4 Swallow, 12 House Martin.

Linking today to Anni's Birding.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mainly Pics

I took lots of pictures up in Bowland this morning, almost 400 and easily packed onto half of an SD card. I know there are some who refuse to abandon the traditional 35mm film photography, but give me digital photography, computers and Photoshop any old day. 

It was a morning of waders again with a number of Snipe on show, plus Redshanks and Oystercatchers with young. I even managed a picture of the very shy Red Grouse. Other highlights of the morning included two Ring Ouzel and at least one Cuckoo, but all too distant to photograph.

Click the pics for a closer look.



Red Grouse

Snipe seemed especially active this morning whereby I saw 8/10 individuals in poses, behaviour or voice that suggested they now have young.





Bowland, Lancashire

A barely fledged Redshank  had quickly learnt about using dry stone walls as a parent looks on.

Redshank chick


Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail

Bowland, Lancashire


War Memorial, Bowland

That's all for today. Come back soon for more birding. photographs or ringing with Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to  Viewing Nature With Eileen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Back Already?

Spring is barely over but already it seems that a few waders have left their breeding haunts. First back this morning at Conder Green – a Common Sandpiper. It’s a species which breeds up in the hills 15/20miles away and not in lowland Fylde. I heard it call as it flew behind and then over my head as it lost height, flicked over the pool, landed on the near island and then bobbed along looking for a meal. I glanced at the date on my watch. Bang on time, perhaps one or two days early for the annual excitement of spotting returning waders, the spick-and-span youngsters or the adults showing copious amounts of their summer plumage. 

Common Sandpiper

It made me look at the local waders on show and not far behind the frontrunners - Oystercatchers with half grown young, 3 Pairs of Avocets with 3 youngsters on show, noisy complaining Redshanks, and a gang of Lapwings young and old. 

I counted 20+ Redshanks without actually seeing any youngsters but the behaviour of adults told me that chicks were not too far away. Around here we’re sort of celebrating the Avocet success of recent years but as I watched their aggressive behaviour in chasing off godwits, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Shelduck I wondered what the future holds here for other species now that the Avocets will return each year. 



Rather oddly, there are still 40 or more Black-tailed Godwits here that have been around for several weeks and who chose in recent days not to go north with many of their compatriots. I did note today that most of those left are second-summer rather than fully adult birds, a fact which explains their reluctance or lack of urgency to leave. The feeding here is very good. I watched the godwits take endless numbers of worms from the mud and then walk down to the water’s edge to dip and clean their prey before swallowing them whole. 

Black-tailed Godwits

On the pool also: 15 Shelduck, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron and 8 Tufted Duck. I watched as a male Tufted Duck slowly reassured the female that all was well to go back to her island nest. She climbed up the grassy bank, slipped through a tunnel of vegetation and was gone. The male floated off to join his mates. Tufted Duck incubation is up to 28 days so she can’t be far off leading her chicks into their brave new world; I hope they do better than last year’s brood of 10-12 which vanished in double quick time. 

Near the bridge and main road were at least 3 singing Reed Warblers, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Whitethroat and 2 Song Thrush. A Kestrel overhead hovered, hunted low and then flew off carrying food. 


 Back soon folks. Stay tuned.

Linking today to  Stewart in Australia.

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