Friday, January 5, 2018

First Of The Year

What with that stubborn cough, Christmas, New Year and some pretty dire weather that included storm Eleanor, I struggled to get out birding or ringing. 

Finally this morning and with a bright start I set out for the usual spots via the road that heads north over Stalmine moss just half-a-mile from home. After the rain of recent weeks there are a number of flash floods in the stubble fields here with a couple of handy pull-offs/passing places on what is a single track road. There on patch that’s held unpredictable numbers of wild swans, Lapwings and Snipe in recent weeks. Today saw no swans, but 45 Lapwing, 2 Snipe and 2 Ruff. 

Ruff by J.M.Garg - Wiki

The Ruff is an interesting record as mid-winter sightings in this part of Lancashire are both unpredictable and irregular and almost certainly involve birds moving westwards from continental Europe at the first signs of cold weather. Should cold weather take hold here these birds may well move south again to join the large numbers of Ruff that winter in West Africa south of the Sahara in the regions of Mali and Senegal. 

The Ruff is a common breeding species in Fennoscandia and Russia but breeds in much smaller numbers elsewhere in Europe. In England a few dozen pairs breed in eastern counties but Ruff are more commonly recorded as a spring and autumn migrant across the whole of the UK during March to May and then late July to October. 

In the late 1970s early 1980s there was a spring and early summer lek on the North River Ribble adjacent to the British Aerospace plant at Warton, Fylde, about 15 miles away where up to 20 or more Ruff, males and females could be seen resplendent in their summer finery. In some years breeding took place with handfuls of chicks noted on two or three occasions during the early 1980s. Over the years the numbers of Ruff seen there declined following expansion of the aircraft factory, development of nearby land and the subsequent disturbance and the species is no longer recorded there. 

There was Corn Bunting sub-song coming from a sparse hedgerow on the other side of the road and when I looked across a gang of five were sat on top taking the early morning sun. There were 15 or so Chaffinches too which flew into the stubble as the buntings stayed around. Both species were still there as I drove off towards Pilling. It’s a little strange that we don’t see Corn Buntings for months but as soon as the New Year arrives, so do the “corn bunts”, a yearly occurrence which suggests that they are birds from further afield and their arrival weather related. 

Corn Bunting

I had two lots of seed to drop. The first stop was Gulf Lane where the Linnets numbered 160, plus a couple of Chaffinch and a Skylark. There was a Little Egret and as I sloshed through the pathway a Snipe flew off from my feet. There’s still natural food here for the Linnets with no real evidence of them taking our already two or three bags of seed, most of which has washed into the adjacent ditch where an egret or two is ever present. 

Little Egret

High tides and Storm Eleanor have filled Conder Pool to the brim where there are plenty of ducks, but few waders. Best I could do today was 70 Mallard, 150+ Teal, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Goosander but barely handfuls of Redshank, Curlew and Snipe. 

At Glasson Dock I counted 250+ Linnets feeding in the field of bird seed mix. Just like the field at Cockerham, the farmer here is paid to plant and manage this small and otherwise out-on-a-limb field for the benefit of birds and insects. Our two Linnet projects currently hold a combined minimum of 400-500 birds which might otherwise struggle to find such a regular and consistent supply of food through the winter months.  If only the weather would allow us to catch and mark a few more!


But it’s good to see environmental schemes having a positive impact on wintering birds. In an announcement on Thursday, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said that post-leaving the EU Britain will only pay public funds to farmers who provide public benefits such as wildlife habitats or improved soil quality. Good news following a recent string of policy announcements and well received interventions – tighter regulation on puppy farming, CCTV in slaughterhouses, a ban on microbeads and the intention to ban neonicotinoids a pesticide linked to a decline in the bee population. 

Meanwhile, on the water adjacent to the village – 36 Tufted Duck, 40 Coot, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 2 overflying Raven from the direction of the marsh. 

A circuit of Jeremy Lane/Moss Lane produced 1 Kestrel, 6 Fieldfare and 3 Mistle Thrush. Recent high tides have left a good amount of tide wrack for birds to search and doing just that at Cockersands were loads of Starlings, 15+ Meadow Pipit, 6 Goldfinch, 6 Greenfinch, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Stonechat, 1 Pied Wagtail and 1 Rock Pipit. 

Rock Pipit

Meadow Pipit

We’re promised that the weather may settle down for the weekend. Mind you, it was it was the BBC who said that, so don’t plan too much.

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


Jenn Jilks said...

They are such lovely birds. We're so cold here in Ontario!

Prunella Pepperpot said...

More gorgeous birds. I shall have to take a closer look at my garden birds to see if any ones you have shown are visiting my feeder. We had a few blackcaps the other day but I sadly didn't get any photos.
The horrible cough is unfortunately doing the rounds. Hope you get rid yours soon.

Stuart Price said...

I can recall a displaying male Ruff on Longton Marsh in the early 80's actually...........

Margaret Adamson said...

Lovely to see a rugff and corn bunting aht hose are good shots of the Pipits

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil! I would love to see and photograph a Ruff. The Linnets look like ornaments on the tree. The Corn Bunting is pretty, reminds me of a sparrow seen here. Great photos, happy birding. Thank you so much for linking up your post! Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

David Gascoigne said...

I have never seen a Ruff in breeding plumage, let alone a lek. It would be a singularly amazing experience. I have, however, seen Greater Prairie Chickens, Greater Sage Grouse and Gunnison Grouse lekking in North America, and Cock-of-the-Rock and various Manakin species in Central and South America, so I guess that's not too bad! Glad to hear your cough is better, Phil.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The Linnetts look like ornaments on the tree! And I like seeing the birds you see there that we don't have here! Happy weekend!

sandyland said...


Hootin' ♥ Anni said...

Thank you so much for joining us birders this week at I'd Rather B Birdin'. Hope you can return again throughout 2018.

I DO HOPE you're feeling better each day Phil! Not fun being homebound. You showed us a great variety of birds this time around!

A Colorful World said...

Love the Ruff and the Meadow Pippit (?) Great photos! And I always learn so much on your posts!

Jean said...

The Ruff is a really pretty bird! I love seeing the photos and learning about all the birds you share on your posts. Hope you start to feel better and are able to get out more in the next few weeks (and that the improved weather report turns out to be correct for you).

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

We went to a bird festival in high-desert Oregon once specifically to see sage grouse leks and the birds displaying ... just an amazing thing to see. But I had developed a bit of a cold due to the dry February cold and nearly killed myself trying to suppress coughs because we of course were trying to stay as quiet as we possibly could from our blind. The more you try to suppress ....

So anyway, I'm glad your cough was not one that kept you from birding and that you saw such wonderful birds (and as I always tell you 'so many'.) Happy to read some good environmental news too. Can you send any of that over here?

Mary Cromer said...

Oh that sweet little Corn Bunting!!!

Lowcarb team member said...

Hope your horrible cough has now gone, this time of year there are always nasty bugs going around.
I love the meadow pipit, it looks so sweet.

All the best Jan

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