Friday, July 28, 2017

Boxed In

Friday, and once again the week’s weather dictated a lull in ringing, birding or photography. July will surely end as one of the worst ever. 

The rain held off long enough for Andy and I to meet up at Gulf Lane on Thursday to cut a net ride for the continuation of our Linnet project. While doing so we noted a flock of 40 Linnets and several Tree Sparrows using the crop of bird seed mix. Such a relatively high number of Linnets in a flock situation in July suggests that many Linnets have finished their breeding season and that numbers will climb quickly in the coming weeks. We will set a few nets just soon as the weather reverts to summer or at least a settled autumn feel. 


We called at another farm where the owners regularly see Barn Owls and now wish to attract the species to breed. We looked around the many buildings and suggested a couple of spots where suitable boxes might be erected, using plans and ideas found on

The Barn Owl Trust website is a useful and informative for farmers and landowners looking to attract owls onto their property. There is lots of practical advice on nest boxes plus guidance on how and where to locate a box for best results. For the lazy or like me, the simply unskilled at woodworking, they sell nest boxes ready assembled and suitable for Barn Owl, Tawny Owl or Little Owl. 

Barn Owl nestbox

In a couple weeks we’ll call back at the farm and see how their work is progressing. Fingers crossed for a suitable outcome for owls, famers and ringers alike. 

Barn Owl

I called at Conder Green where the wind whipped across the pool and many Lapwings sheltered on the grassy island. I had a good count of returning Black-tailed Godwits - 46 to add to the 140 Lapwing, 40 Curlew and 30 Redshank, but no show from either Greenshank or Common Sandpiper. In the choppy conditions I noted just a single Little Grebe but expect more were sheltered in the lee of the islands. Three Pied Wagtails and 2 Stock Dove around the margins, plus 2 Little Egret partially hidden from sight. 

There was a Tufted Duck with five fluffy youngsters and I think this was a different female to the one noted here a week earlier with just four young. The family swam across the water to avoid marauding Carrion Crows looking for a meal. 

Tufted Duck
A Kingfisher put in a brief appearance low down in the channels and out of the wind. Sand Martins rather liked the conditions as 40 or more plus a few Swallows flew continuously up, down and around the hawthorn hedgerow to pick off the many highly visible flying midges. 

Saturday morning looks slightly better and I’m sure I will be out somewhere or other bins and camera at the ready. Read about it here soon.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird WednesdayAnni's Birding  and Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ups And Downs

I followed up yesterday’s Yellowhammer sighting by going back for pictures on a quiet and sunny Sunday morning. Yellowhammers tend to be late breeders and it’s not unusual to see and hear them in full song in the latter half of the summer. I saw nothing of the female today, just the male sending out his song acrosss the landscape. His mate is obviously sat on a second brood of eggs not too far away from the various song posts.




The Yellowhammer is in poor shape in this part of Lancashire, part of a national and European decline caused by decreased survival rates and agricultural intensification. 

I can’t do better than quote from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) website and include their graph that really says it all. 

“Yellowhammer abundance began to decline on farmland in the mid-1980s. The downward trend has continued to at least 2009, although with substantial increase in Scotland since 2003. The Breeding Bird Survey map of change in relative density between 1994-96 and 2007-09 indicates that in Britain there is a sharp divide between decrease in the east and south and limited increase in the northwest; the population in Northern Ireland has also declined. 

Atlas surveys in 2008-11 indicate that range loss in Northern Ireland and western Britain, first noted in 1988-91, has continued strongly. The species, listed as green in 1996, has been red listed since 2002. There has been widespread moderate decline across Europe since 1980.” 



Less than a mile away I found another male in song, this time from the top of a hawthorn bush. Like many species, Yellowhammers like to sing from a prominent post so as to project their voice far and wide. 


Not far away I found a few Jackdaws on typical territory - chimney pots. Yes, Jackdaws increasingly nest in disused chimney pots now that people have central heating rather than fires at the bottom of the chimney.  However not everyone likes Jackdaws around their property and a simple mesh can do the trick, but maybe with the addition of a “Keep Out” sign? 



“Jackdaws have increased in abundance since the 1960s and more recent Breeding Bird (BBS) Survey data suggest that the increase is continuing in all UK countries. The BBS map of change in relative density between 1994-96 and 2007-09 indicates an increase fairly uniform across the UK range, but with some minor decrease in eastern Scotland. Numbers across Europe have been broadly stable since 1980.

The graph for the Jackdaw is a mirror image of that for the Yellowhammer.

The morning was getting busy with hordes of wannabee Bradley Wiggins' crowding noisily across the carriageways so I made a beeline for the relative quiet of Gulf Lane. 

The farmer here is undertaking a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme until 2020/21. He receives Government money via Natural England to set-aside part of his land to enhance wildlife, in this case planting a large field with a wild bird seed mix.

We ringed 208 Linnets here in the winter of 2016/2017 and plan to start ringing very soon and then through to March/April 2018. Let’s hope that next winter there’s no more avian flu in the area to throw a spanner in our essential work to discover what id happening to this Red Listed species.

Wild Bird Mix



There’s a good mix of birds here now - a small flock of Linnets, a couple of Whitethroat, ten or twelve Tree Sparrow, plus a few Reed Bunting and Goldfinch. Next week Andy and I will go and cut a ride through the crop mix in readiness for our first ringing session of the new season.

And finally, in particular for my friend Anni in Texas, here's a Yellowhammer telling us all about his "little bit of bread and no cheese".

Back soon. Don't miss out.

Linking to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday 22nd July

What a rotten week it’s been. Rain most days, often windy and nothing like summer. Saturday promised slightly better so I set off on the usual trail over the moss and in the general direction of Conder Green. 

I hit upon a young Kestrel and then a singing Yellowhammer, the latter not quite as rare as hen’s teeth but certainly getting that way. It took me a while to locate from where the male proclaimed his “little bit of bread and no cheese” until I spotted him 30ft up a roadside post. 


Seems there was a Cattle Egret at Conder Green during the week, a one-day wonder on Thursday that a good number of people saw but perhaps not enough to ensure the species figures on everyone’s British List. 

Just as well I saw one there on April 2nd, part of  a small invasion of the species to the UK. But the Cattle Egret is still an elusive species to many a birder. Not so in many countries I’ve visited including Egypt where Cattle Egrets are as tame as church mice. 

There was no Cattle Egret today so I made do with 4 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron as part of the 40 species I saw. A Kingfisher put in two brief appearances in between flying across the water to try its luck on the other side of the pool – afraid the light was poor again at ISO1000.


I guess the Kingfisher is after the same tiddler prey as the five Little Grebes. It was most unusual that one of the grebes came in fairly close today, a juvenile bird but one that arrived from elsewhere in the last two or three weeks. On the raft today were two Common Terns, birds seemingly uninterested in the tiddlers in Conder Pool, but heading off to the estuary where they might find something more substantial. 

Little Grebe

Waders are back in some numbers now, mostly Lapwings with a count of 180+ and many more on the fields beyond the canal. In the week and during a rain aborted look, I counted 900 Lapwings and 400 Curlews in two fields not far away. 

Back to today and in addition to the Lapwings, 48 Redshank, 10 Oystercatcher, 7 Common Sandpiper, 2 Dunlin, 2 Curlew, 1 Greenshank and 1 Whimbrel "over". The Oystercatchers on the island still have one chick, now growing nicely thanks to two attentive parents. 


"Odds and ends" amounted to 2 Stock Dove, 8 Greylag and 2 Cormorant, but not forgetting the Tufted Ducks, mother proudly in charge of four tiny ducklings and father nowhere to be seen. 

Along, around, and over the roadside hedgerow proved pretty good with 10+ Swift, 40 Sand Martin and several Swallows. There was a Sparrowhawk carrying small prey but I lost it as it flew over and behind the trees at the rear of the Stork Hotel. 

Passerines along the hedgerow: 6 Goldfinch, 3 Linnet, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Reed Bunting and 1 Meadow Pipit. 


Reed Bunting

The weather is looking better for next week. Let’s hope the experts are right for once?

Linking today to Anni's Birding.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Little Bit Of Blackpool

Tuesday meant a ringing trip to Marton Mere, Blackpool. This Lancashire seaside resort is famous for many things, including a 1937 George Formby song "With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock", a ditty banned by BBC radio of the day for having suggestive lyrics. Nowadays, anything goes in trendy but traditional Blackpool. 

Two miles from the world famous Blackpool Tower, the Pleasure Beach, the honky-tonk Promenade and alleged debauchery of Blackpool nightlife is Marton Mere. The mere is a water body believed to occupy a kettle-hole formed during the last glaciation over 14,000 years ago, and is thus one of only two remaining water bodies in Lancashire of natural origin, the other being Hawes Water at Silverdale, also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

Marton Mere is now local nature reserve, a tranquil refuge on Blackpool’s urban fringe, important for nature conservation, quiet recreation and environmental education with a number of bird populations and other nationally important species of dragonflies, butterflies, bats and orchids. 

Marton Mere, Blackpool

I met up with Andy at 0630, a time when many Blackpool revellers choose to retire to bed after a long night of song and dance. We set up shop near the rangers’ hut and waited for our little bit of Blackpool to begin. 

Unlike 10 days ago, today we managed just 8 species in the catch of 21 birds dominated by Reed Warbler and a healthy number of Blackcaps – 8 Reed Warbler, 7 Blackcap 2 Blackbird, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Wren, 1 Great Tit and 1 Dunnock. 

Six of the Blackcap proved to be first year birds, probably bred on site or close by. The area of the mere is now almost surrounded by extensive parkland and woodland of Stanley Park and Blackpool Zoo, all of which hold many pairs of Blackcap in ideal habitat. 


 Our eight Reed Warblers included a male first ringed here in 2015, the rest all juveniles/first years. 

Reed Warbler

 Just one Sedge Warbler from what is now not prime habitat for this species. 

Sedge Warbler
Other species seen but not caught included Cetti’s Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting and Song Thrush. 

Common Whitethroat

And in case you were wondering – here’s a little stick of Blackpool Rock. 

Blackpool Rock

Log in soon for more sweet stuff and birds from Another Bird Blog.

Meanwhile, take a look at Eileen's Blog and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More Smarties

A catch of Sand Martins was the major objective for today. I’d been to the colony in the week and noted lots of martins around with upwards of 450 flying around at any one time. I was due to meet Andy at the quarry at 0630 but first I spent 45 minutes at Conder Green. 

A pair of Oystercatchers had hung around the near island all spring and summer without much luck. They probably lost the first brood of eggs/young to predators but today, quite late in the season, their perseverance paid off when they appeared with a single newly fledged chick of one or two days old. 


Two Kingfishers flew past at their usual breakneck speed but within ten minutes or so one of them (or perhaps a third?) appeared on the parapet of the outflow. The Kingfisher spent five minutes doing not a lot before it flew across to the far side of the water and out of sight.

Kingfishers eat their prey whole, which means that there are bits they can't digest, so they regurgitate any left over parts as a pellet. Not the prettiest sight, but an interesting part of their behaviour, partly captured in the pictures below, minus the pellet. 




I counted 5 Common Tern, 4 Little Grebe, 6 Common Sandpiper, 22 Lapwing, 20 Redshank, 15 Oystercatcher, 2 Tufted Duck, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Little Egret and 1 Reed Bunting. 

A few Swifts and hirundines fed over the pool and hedgerow - 14 Sand Martin, 6 Swallow and 8 Swift. 

At the quarry we caught 48 Sand Martins – 12 adults and 36 juveniles out of the approximately 450 martins around. The ratio of 1/3 adults/juveniles suggest a pretty good breeding season so far. A few of the juveniles were very fresh from the nest, others from first broods with less obviously sandy-edged body and flight feathers. 

Sand Martin

I tried to get some photos of the martins on the nearby wires but the morning sun was directly into the camera, so mixed results and far from perfect pictures. 

 Sand Martin

Sand Martin

Sand Martin

Sand Martin

Sand Martin

We stopped off at Gulf Lane and a look in the set-aside field and found 12 Tree Sparrow, 4 Linnet, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Skylark and 1 Kestrel. 

A very productive morning. Birding, ringing and even a few pictures!

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


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Early Birding

Most people would settle for seeing a Barn Owl. I saw four this morning, all different birds as they were at widely spaced localities. While Barn Owls can breed in any month of the year they do mostly favour the summer months around here. All four were headed back to farm buildings and I watched two of them carry food through open ended barns and into the darkness beyond. 

I have no doubt that there are a number of young Barn Owls soon to emerge into the Fylde countryside. Needless to say, I am not about to divulge the whereabouts of breeding sites of an owl that has Special Legal Protection under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act.  At this time of year only those people with the necessary paperwork should be anywhere near a Barn Owl.  

Barn Owl

Soon after first light I stopped at Braides Farm to see a very young Kestrel sat on top of a pole. It was a very young bird, so young that it was still downy and its flight feathers not fully formed. 


There was little else to see so early in the morning so I journeyed my way north and towards Conder Green. 

All seemed quiet since the Avocets departed some days ago. It appears that between the three or four nesting attempts, none were totally successful with not a one fully fledged youngster. A disastrous year for ground nesting birds here with local birders concluding that Carrion Crows, American Mink, Red Fox and large gulls conspired to relieve nesting Avocet, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Mallard and goodness knows what else of eggs and/or chicks. 

Wisely the Common Terns chose to nest on a floating platform, out of harm’s way and some yards into the centre of the pool; a good result for them as they now have three fully flying youngsters. 

Common Terns

Common Tern

Apart from the terns there’s little to report. A count of 30+ Swift feeding over the hedgerow is nowadays quite notable for a declining species that once flew in their hundreds over local fields. Swifts were so numerous that intercepting and then ringing dozens of them in a single ringing session in the 1980s is now but a distant memory. 

In the creeks waders and wildfowl- 20 Lapwing, 6 Common Sandpiper, 18 Redshank, 12 Oystercatcher, 6 Shelduck, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Curlew and 2 Little Egret. I noted a few passerines and hirundines by way of 8 Goldfinch, 2 Pied Wagtail, 4 Swallow, 4 Sand Martin, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap. When I looked at a Goldfinch photo on the PC, I could see it had a ring on the right leg. But not enough detail to read the one letter and six numbers. 

On the way back home I stopped at Gulf Lane to weigh up the set-aside field where we hope to start ringing on 1st August. The field is looking superb with already a good mix of birds feeding on the multitude of insects and more butterflies than I have seen all year, plus 10 Tree Sparrow, 4 Linnet, 4 Reed Bunting, 3 Whitethroat and a number of Swallows hawking low over the still burgeoning growth. 

Set-aside at Cockerham July



 Please lookin in soon for more early birding with Another Bird Blog.

Linking to World Bird Wednesday and Anni's Birding Blog.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mere Ringing and LBJs

This morning I went along to Andy’s local patch and joined him for a ringing session. 

Marton Mere is a mere (lake) and Local Nature Reserve in Blackpool, Lancashire. It is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (1979) and supports various habitats such as open water, reed beds and grassland as well as pockets of woodland and scrub. The area provides home to a good variety of birds both resident and migratory. Over the years the mere and its surrounds has turned up a good number of rare birds including American Bittern, Whiskered Tern, Short-billed Dowitcher, Hoopoe, Barred Warbler, Little Bittern, Wryneck and Savi’s Warbler.  In doing so the mere attracts good numbers of bird watchers and twitchers hoping to see the current or next rarity.

Marton Mere -

Our focus this morning was on catching resident birds and where possible proving breeding. The mere went for many, many years with no breeding bird surveys or bird ringing on which to formulate an environmental management programme for the area - a sad state of affairs. 

In very recent years, and thanks to the cooperation of Blackpool Borough Council, Andy has been allowed and encouraged to undertake a bird ringing project in a small and secure area. We spent 5 hours there this morning during which we caught 44 birds of 14 species including a good number of warblers. As we might expect in early July, all of the species we caught were either in breeding condition as adults or recently fledged local juveniles. 

Totals - 17 Reed Warbler, 6 Blue Tit, 5 Whitethroat, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Cetti’s Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 2 Dunnock, 2 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Chiffchaff , 1 Treecreeper, 1 Reed Bunting. The phragmites reed is now very extensive and now good enough to hold many pairs of Reed Warbler and even regular wintering Bitterns and sometimes, Bearded Tits. 

We work just a small area of the reed perimeter so our catch of 11 new Reed Warblers and 6 recaptures from 3 weeks ago was very worthwhile.

Reed Warbler - first year/juvenile

Cetti’s Warblers first appeared at Marton Mere in the early 1970’s following their colonisation of the southern England in the 1960’s. Because Cetti’s Warbler is very elusive, more regularly heard than seen, breeding is difficult to prove. Today we caught a female with a good sized brood patch and so in in breeding condition. The juvenile was not noticeably young but clearly a local bird, and by now the female could be on with a second set of eggs. 

Cetti's Warbler - first year/juvenile

Just three Sedge Warblers caught - all adults. The area we worked is not absolutely suited to Sedge Warbler, added to which, habitat changes in recent years across the whole site have caused the species to decline since the 1990’s. 

Sedge Warbler - adult

A Chiffchaff sung all around us most of the morning so it was not a surprise to find that we caught it. 

Chiffchaff - adult male

The Whitethroat is another species to have suffered an on-site decline due to habitat changes with species being somewhat replaced by the Blackcap, a more strictly woodland bird. The Robin is a species of mainly woodland, the Treecreeper almost exclusively so, and a species unheard of at Marton Mere in the past. 

Blackcap - female
Whitethroat - first year/juvenile

Whitethroat - first year/juvenile

Robin - first year/juvenile

Treecreeper - first year/juvenile

Forty five little brown jobs kept us pretty much occupied with little or no opportunity for birding, but other species noted included Sparrowhawk, Grasshopper Warbler, Common Tern and Goldfinch. 

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday.

Related Posts with Thumbnails