Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Goodbye Ophelia. Hello Birds.

Thank goodness. Hurricane Ophelia passed over us without doing too much damage apart from destroying any chance of birding or ringing. Hopefully, and as the wind subsided throughout Tuesday night, it opened up a window of opportunity for migration to take place. 

I met with Andy at 0645 on Wednesday morning at Oakenclough where the trees barely moved in the still of post-dawn. We set up shop and hoped for a good catch of birds to ring and where with a little time between the processing of birds we might observe “vis-mig”, visible migration.
The Ringing Point

It’s in the half-light that we mostly catch Redwings but we caught just the one this morning. And then within an hour of dawn that small arrival of Redwings stopped completely and we caught no more. Of the forty or so Redwings that arrived in fives and tens most did so from the east and then left very quickly and headed off west towards the coast.



The hoped for vis-mig continued to be very slow with movement comprised of the early Redwings and groups of Woodpigeons totalling 90+ flying strongly south and quite high in the clear skies. It was almost 10am before finches appeared in the shape and sounds of Lesser Redpolls, Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Even then the large number of 120+ Goldfinches comprised of probably local feeding flocks as distinct from true migrants. Small numbers of Lesser Redpoll arrived and also Chaffinches but not in the numbers we hoped for. And where are the Siskins this year? 

Mostly our birds arrived unseen in the form of Goldcrests, an unexpected Reed Bunting and a rather nice first year Blackcap. We made up our total of 38 birds with the usual Blue Tits, Great Tits and local Goldfinch.

Total - 38 new birds of 9 species with nil recaptures from previous occasions. 11 Goldcrest, 7 Lesser Redpoll, 8 Goldfinch, 4 Great Tit, 4 Blue Tit, singles of Blackcap, Reed Bunting, Dunnock and Redwing. 



Lesser Redpoll

Other birds seen this morning 2 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 4+ Pied Wagtail, 4+ Bullfinch, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Stay tuned. We may try again tomorrow if the weather holds.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

First Redwings

Tuesday 10th October. There was a chance of Redwings this morning after a good number were seen in the UK in the last few days, mainly on the east coast. I’d seen a handful of Redwings over the house early on Monday so hoped that Tuesday might be suitable for ringing up at Oakenclough with an opportunity to catch our first Redwings of the autumn. The forecast of an early 15 mph wind, cloud and showers was rather marginal but after some deliberation we decided to go for it on the basis that on a westerly the nets are fairly sheltered, and also on the expectation this might be the only suitable day of the week. 

I met up with Andy at 0645 when it was still quite dark and very soon after dawn we caught the first couple of Redwings and then a few more as the morning continued. We finished at 11.30 with a good mix of 12 species and 51 birds in total which included eight Redwings. 

Species and numbers: 16 Goldfinch, 12 Goldcrest, 8 Redwing, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Great Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Blackbird, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Reed Bunting. 

Redwing - first autumn/winter


We aged and sexed the Reed Bunting as a first autumn/winter male. 

Reed Bunting

 The single Blackcap proved to be an adult female. 


Our catch of Lesser Redpolls was smaller than recent weeks and almost certainly due to the bluster and short, sharp, showers. Below is an adult male. 

Lesser Redpoll
The morning’s visible migration was not especially eventful but even as the wind dropped with clearing skies about 10am, any arrival or movement of birds was hardly noticeable. The highlight was the 90+ Redwings we counted in singles, small parties, or the biggest one of 30+ birds which arrived without any obvious directional movement during the cloudy and showery period. 

Otherwise our biggest counts came from the number of Goldfinches about in small parties that totalled over 100 individuals. The Goldfinches we caught came mostly from our feeders that are designed to catch mainly Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. 

Others noted this morning: 2 Jays, the first seen or heard here for many months. Also, 8 Pied Wagtail, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Raven, 1 + Bullfinch.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding, Eileen's Saturday and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Out For The Count

Sunday morning and there was time for a gentle run around the block before rain arrived about 10 o’clock. 

I was early enough to check Lane Ends where Little Egrets were beginning to leave their tree roost. Second one out was a Great White Egret, followed by 32 Little Egrets and then four or more Little Egrets still sat in the trees when I left 20 minutes later. Scattered across the marsh was a count of several thousand Pink-footed Goose, perhaps up to 9/10,000 and 29 Whooper Swans. Also, two male Sparrowhawks flew in and out of the trees in a rather strange way and I got the impression that they were not adversaries but perhaps siblings of the family that bred here this year. 

Just up the road at Gulf Lane I dropped seed at the Linnet project. There have been 100+ Linnets for a couple of weeks now but we’ve not been able to ring there due to constant wind across the open field. Patience is the name of the game and we know we will get a go eventually, preferably when numbers have built to 200+. 

There was a Barn Owl this morning on the distant fence and also a Kestrel, both birds showing a particular interest in one patch of ground. Three Swallows flew quickly through heading south-east. 

Barn Owl

Conder Pool was rather quiet again with few birds to set the pulse racing. A Common Sandpiper is still around, perhaps destined to be this year’s wintering one. Also, 40 Lapwing and 8 Snipe but a handful only of both Curlew and Redshank.  Apologies for the poor shots, the light was poor. 



In the wildfowl stakes - 84 Teal, 12 Little Grebe, 2 Wigeon, 1 Cormorant and 1 Goosander. 

It was spitting with rain when I checked the flood at Pilling/Rawcliffe where I found 40 grounded Meadow Pipit, 18 Pied Wagtail, 40 Linnet, a Grey Heron and a single Buzzard. 

The rain didn’t last long and by now and back home I found more to do. All week there’s been waves of Goldfinch coming through so I set a single net in the garden for a few hours. 

I ended up with a catch of 2 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 1 Dunnock and 16 Goldfinch, a bonus for the day’s birding. All but one of the Goldfinches proved to be juvenile/first autumn birds. I could not sex a couple of them as even now in early October they had yet to attain sufficient head colour to determine male or female.  Is breeding well into September part of the secret of the Goldfinch’s success of recent tears? 




And now own up, who thought that the Robin in their back garden was always the same one? 

More birds soon with Another Bird Blog.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Into The Moonlight

At last, a morning without a howling wind and rain with a chance to do some ringing. I met Andy at Oakenclough at 0645, just before dawn in the light of a full moon. 

Full Moon

Nets were up in double quick time in readiness for whatever arrived on site. After more than a week of poor weather where little migration took place we hoped for an interesting and productive morning. 

As predicted there was a light wind and sun from the off. After 5 hours we were pleased enough with our steady but unspectaular catch of 35 new birds and five recaptures making up the total of 41 birds. Lesser Redpoll topped the score sheet for the first time ever here with finches outnumbered by tits, although our five recaptures were Blue, Great and Coal Tit from recent times. 

Totals caught: 9 Lesser Redpoll, 9 Great Tit, 6 Coal Tit, 5 Blue Tit, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Meadow Pipit, 3 Goldcrest, 1 Chaffinch. 

We catch fewer Meadow Pipits than Tree Pipits here in the hills so we made a special effort today to even up the score. 

Meadow Pipit

This is the last year that we separate Lesser Redpoll and Common (Mealy) Redpoll because from January the two species are “lumped” together as one (again); and not before time in my humble opinion. 

At this time of the year most of our redpolls are left unsexed as they show very little if any redness in their body plumage, especially so if they are birds of the year,

Lesser Redpoll

Below is a first winter male Chaffinch. Easy enough to age via tertial colour, tail wear and colour contrast in the primaries, even in the field for those birders so inclined to show their prowess in  the often erroneous world of competitive birding. 



In the clear skies the visible migration this morning was far from spectacular with small groups of Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch as the main constituents but noticeably few Chaffinches, hence the single one caught. 

Otherwise we noted 6-8 Swallows, a number of on-high Meadow Pipits, 5 Pied Wagtail and 1 Grey Wagtail but quite a number of birds too high to identify with any certainty. It was 10.30 before Buzzards took to the warming air whereupon we counted 6 or more in the sky together with one Kestrel.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

This And That - Sunday October 1st

A run around the block on Saturday before the rains came didn’t produce too much in the way of birds. Sunday and it's still raining. 

I checked out the Linnet flock at Gulf Lane in the hope of a ringing session soon but a glance at the weather for the coming week doesn’t hold out much hope. While I was away in Greece Andy added another 25 Linnets and a handful of Goldfinch to the totals. Looking today most of the Goldfinch seemed to have moved on with the flock of 100+ birds almost exclusively Linnet. October is the peak migration time for Linnets so we expect the flock to increase again soon and also that those birds will include Linnets from further afield. 

Of course in Greece I’d missed the mid-September first arrivals of Pink-footed Geese to Lancashire but rather made up for it with many skeins flying off the marsh and over my head towards an inland destination. I’d counted more than 1700 in dozens of flocks before the movement died off and I too moved on. 

Pink-footed Geese

There was a Wheatear on the gateposts at Braides Farm with approximately 90 Lapwing and 100 Curlew scattered across the long grassy fields. 


A good find on a flooded field at Pilling/Rawcliffe Moss was a single Ruff feeding amongst a flock of 95 Lapwing but little else with a Saturday shoot with its accompanying noise and disturbance about to begin. 


So in the absence of local news, and not much prospect for the coming week against the tail ends of two hurricanes, here’s more from Greece, 14-28 September 2017. 

A friendly horse - Platanias, Skiathos
Alonisos, Skiathos

The Yellow-legged Gulls of Skiathos are quite unlike our large UK gulls in exploiting the process of rubbish disposal and the British love of feeding birds. The Yellow-legged Gulls of Skiathos rarely come ashore but spend their time feeding offshore and sitting on the mostly flat sea, apart from on windy days. It was along the shore here at Alonisos that we had super views of an Eleonora's Falcon as one dashed left to right and quickly out of sight after being chased off by a Kestrel. 

Yellow-legged Gulls, Alonisos, Skiathos

I didn’t get any new birds this year but had a butterfly “tick” by way of a White Admiral Limenitis arthemis, a woodland species that we found along the margins of an olive grove near Alonisos. It took me a while to find this on Google because perhaps naturally enough, I searched for “black butterfly”. Doh! Seemingly, this species occurs in the UK and is increasing. 

White Admiral

We saw many, many Swallowtails this year, probably hundreds - a very beautiful butterfly that we also see during May in Menorca. “Papilio demoleus is an aggressive and very common butterfly. It is perhaps the most widely distributed swallowtail in the world.” – Wiki. 


Below is yet another Red-backed Shrike and then a Whinchat. We saw very few Whinchats this year due to the lack of migrant birds as a whole. Also, not a single Wheatear and very few Yellow Wagtails. 

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike


I knew that Spotted Flycatchers occasionally eat fruit but never witnessed it until this year in Skiathos. In the dry summer of Greece blackberries aren’t nearly as plump as those from a UK hedgerow but clearly good enough for a Spotted Flycatcher. 

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher


The Boat Yard, Skiathos

Stay tuned for more news, views and photos soon.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesdasy.

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