Thursday, August 24, 2017

Cream Top Etc.

Conder Green was quiet as quiet can be this morning. I was a little late as I waited for the rain to stop, but even so, rarely have I seen the water and the immediate area so devoid of birds. There was a solitary Lapwing on the island and the usual handfuls of Cormorant, Little Grebe and Little Egret, but no sign of the regular Kingfisher. 

A dozen or so Pied Wagtails skittered around the margins, joined briefly by two loudly calling Green Sandpipers. The sandpipers flew off towards the canal and in the direction of Glasson Marsh.

Little Egret

I followed the Green Sandpipers and stopped overlooking Glasson Marsh where I hoped to see a Marsh Harrier. There have been good numbers about in recent weeks and one of my contacts tells me that a pair bred successfully in The Fylde. That’s the River Lune on the horizon. 

Glasson Marsh

Out on the marsh I could see a couple of Little Egret and Grey Heron, 2 Ravens, a Kestrel and a gang of about 30 Swallows. I found many Lapwings in the fields adjoining Jeremy Lane with upwards of 600 where the pastures are still sopping wet after the rain of recent weeks. One field had 5 Stock Dove as well as wagtails, gulls galore and a Grey Heron. 

I was side-tracked by a large bird flying inland, a Marsh Harrier. It stayed very distant as Marsh Harriers tend to do. As strong and fast flyers they have a knack of avoiding roads and people as the two pictures long-range of the female “cream top” show. For almost an hour the harrier stayed distant or completely out of sight and I think that at some point it flew out to Cockerham Marsh. 

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

The Marsh Harrier is typically illustrated in field guides as a sexually dimorphic species, with several age classes identifiable by differences in plumage pattern and colour. In some populations however it is known that the species can show extreme plumage variability in adult males and, to a lesser extent, in adult females. Populations may be markedly polymorphic with highly distinct patterns of coloration and almost continuous individual variation between those different morphs with few adult males resembling a typical ‘field-guide male’. Since this plumage variability is independent of age and sex, it is almost impossible to age birds solely from their plumage. This contradicts the established view and questions the claims of birders who age and sex Marsh Harriers from hundreds of yards away. 

Marsh Harriers are a still scarce, possibly declining breeder in Britain with just a few dots on the map in comparison to Europe. Their UK stronghold is East Anglia with a few pairs in NW England and others in locations withheld. 

Western Marsh Harrier - Circus aeruginosus 

At home Goldfinches are back in the garden with a good number appearing to be recently fledged youngsters. Goldfinches have been absent for weeks now as they feed on the plentiful seeds in the countryside. I will catch and ring some very soon. Last evening a young hedgehog paid us a visit. 

As with most small mammals living around humans, vehicles pose a great threat to hedgehogs. Many are run over as they attempt to cross roadways. It is suggested that peaks in road deaths are related to the breeding season and dispersal/exploration following independence. 


From Wiki – “In 2006, McDonald's changed the design of their McFlurry containers to be more hedgehog-friendly. Previously hedgehogs would get their heads stuck in the container as they tried to lick the remaining food from inside the cup. Then being unable to get out, they would starve to death.” 

McDonald’s have a lot to answer for.  I went there once.

Linking today with Anni's Birding Blog.


Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) How wonderful that Swallows and Lapwings abound in this beautiful area, and now the Marsh Harriers have taken up residence nearby, it will be great to see more of them, if you are lucky enough to get close. It's a shame they are so shy, but understandable. If only more care was taken in the disposing of plastic cups and other containers their would be no need for modification, but High 5 to McDonald's for at least trying to save the lives of these precious creatures.

Phil, the Monarch butterfly was introduced into Portugal, but colonized naturally in the Canary Iles. I saw one in Tenerife about thirty years ago.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Very interesting about the Marsh Harrier - great that you got pictures of this elusive bird (elusive for sighting and IDing apparently).... when we were in London we met a lady who belonged to the Society for Saving hedgehogs (that wasn't exactly the name of it, but it was the purpose)... just a passing acquaintance, but I told her I would love to see one. She mentioned about the fast-food cups which, according to the WIKI article you cite, would have happened the year before we were there. i still wish we could see a hedgehog -- and all of the birds in England that we don't have here. If we ever get to come back it will be for nature -- forget all those castles and history ;>) (if you've seen them once ....)

Linda said...

Beautiful series, Phil! I have seen blue herons here in Montreal but never an egret!

David Gascoigne said...

Good morning Phil: This whole business of birders identifying raptors in flight as to sex and age is fraught with peril, misplaced ego and not a little deception. Here in North America, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks and Northern Goshawks (especially females) are often misidentified in flight. There seems to be a great reluctance to simply state "accipiter, sp. ", as though doing so signifies failure or a lack of expertise. And, as I sometimes remind people, it is no accident that their book is called a field GUIDE. That is exactly what it is, a guide.

Gordon said...

Interesting post Phil , good news about the Harriers, that is on apar to the the new pair at Bass lake. you still see more on a quiet day than I do in a week or more round Penrith.
All the best, Gordon.

Jeanna said...

I love the pic and posture of the little egret.

Judy Biggerstaff said...

Thanks Phil for sharing the info on the Marsh Harriers and the pic. My goldfinches are visiting pretty regular.

sandyland said...

Marsh harrier fascinates me

Jane said...

Some lovely nature images here, thanks for sharing :)

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

lovely photos of the birds, and the hedgehog is so cute

Anne (cornucopia) said...

Nice mix of photos.

Gentle Joy said...

Wonderful pictures! :)

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I always enjoy your commentary and photos - I'm in love with the hedgehog by the way. Wish one could visit my yard. Oh well. Wrong continent.

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

A gorgeous location! Thanks for sharing.

Lowcarb team member said...

You have got some lovely photos of the birds, and quite a good selection too!
Why do hedgehogs look so cute, we need to look after them ... take more care.

All the best Jan

Bill Nicholls said...

Superb photos as ususal Phill though I agree on the Hedgehog far too may ar run over though I hav eseen a few more running around lately

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

Tons of beautiful photos! I really like the one were your captured the hedgehog. I have never seen one. Hope they keep out of the road!

NC Sue said...

Beautiful shots.
Thanks so much for sharing at

Rajlakshmi said...

Beautiful shots. I have never seen a hedgehog in real life. It's sad that they get under the vehicles

Mary Cromer said...

That darling Hedgehog, what a little sweetheart. It is sad when these wild ones get out onto the roadways and get blinded by the lights and are killed. We have so many road kills out in the country where I am. Sometimes, I think that some just try to do it for sport ;(
Wonderful that you saw the stunning Marsh Harrier,beautiful bird.
I have yet to see a Cormorant here this season, but maybe soon they will show up a little bit.
Happy to have caught up a little Phil. Always very pleasant. Take care~

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