Saturday, April 14, 2018

Early Pipit Late Owl

A 6 am start beckoned and I met Andy at Oakenclough in near perfect conditions - a light southerly, and compared to recent weeks, a temperature that felt quite agreeable. 

Once again newly in birds were rather limited so we struggled to reach double figures with just 10 birds ringed but the emphasis on quality rather than quantity: 5 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Goldfinch and 1 Tree Pipit. 

In most years April 1st is around the normal date for the arrival of the first Willow Warblers so the two males caught today are approximately ten days “late”. Maybe they picked a good time to arrive with predicted temperatures of up to 64°F and fine days for next week. In so many recent years Willow Warblers have arrived into cool and wet weather that continued throughout May and had a detrimental effect upon their breeding success. 

Willow Warbler 

Lesser Redpoll 

Today’s Tree Pipit, our first of the year, was aged as a second year bird (born in 2017). April 14th is bang on the expected date of the first Tree Pipits arriving from Africa. 

Tree Pipit 

A Tree Pipit resembles the slightly smaller Meadow Pipit. Both are at first glance unexceptional looking LBJs, streaked brown above and with black markings on a white belly and buff breast below. 

The Tree Pipit is distinguished from the slightly smaller Meadow Pipit by its heavier bill, stronger more yellowish, heavier streaking and greater contrast with the white belly. The former also has pink legs rather than the flesh-coloured legs of Meadow Pipit. As the name suggests, Tree Pipits spend more time in trees than ground dwelling Meadow Pipits.  Tree Pipits breed across most of Europe and temperate western and central Asia. It is a long-distance migrant and spends our winter in Africa and southern Asia. 

The song flight is unmistakable. The bird rises a short distance up from a tree, and then parachutes down on stiff wings, the loud song becoming more drawn out towards the end.  It is many years since I heard the song here at Oakenclough where it used to breed in the open woodland and scrub of the late 70’s and early 80’s.  The habitat is still suitable now but unless the Tree Pipit regains its former population level it is unlikely to return. 

The Tree Pipit's flight and contact call is a buzzing "dzzz" sound, heard mostly during migration. It’s a high-frequency call that becomes harder to hear for us older generation birders. Luckily we can catch them, take a closer look and confirm that the label of “Little Brown Job” is far from the truth. 

The morning proved quiet in the way of birding except for the usual five or six Buzzards in the air as the morning warmed. Two Red-breasted Mergansers “over” and a smattering of redpolls proved to be as good as it got with little sign of visible migration. "Otherwise" local birds included a handful of Chaffinches, 1 Jay and 2 Mistle Thrush. 

The journey home was quite interesting by way of a Barn Owl hunting across farmland at 11.20am. Many Barn Owls are sat on eggs by now, a scenario that requires the non-sitting bird to spend extra hours in search of food. 

Barn Owl

Nearby I noted a single Kestrel and also a pair of Buzzards at a nest. The female was clearly visible in the huge pile of sticks close to the top of a tall, uncropped hawthorn hedgerow. Let's hope the conspicuous nest will not become a target for vandals and/or those who would harm the mostly harmless Buzzard.


Log in soon for more birds from Another Bird Blog. In the meantime, linking to World Bird Wednesday and Anni's Birding.


Charlie Bowman said...

I always worry for Barn Owls seen during the day although as you say, the breeding season necessitates daytime hunting. I was pleased to see one 'just over the bridge' before dusk last weekend.

Buzzards have shown such a resurgence in recent times, which is all the more remarkable considering the shocking ignorance shown by so many who quite incorrectly regard them as the enemy.

Jay and Mistle Thrush have been in the garden of late; both are such striking and surprisingly large birds.


Lowcarb team member said...

Today's weather in my part of the UK has been far more Spring-like, and this afternoon there were butterflies dancing in the air - so wonderful to see.

You've shared a nice selection of birds here Phil, but that barn owl in flight is just amazing.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

All the best Jan

Betty Crow said...

I have only seen one owl out during the day and I did get a fairly good picture of him. Love this one in flight. Have a wonderful weekend.

Jean said...

Love the photo of the barn owl in flight! The weather here has probably really confused our poor birds (and the people). Seventies yesterday afternoon and cold, rainy evening with snow forecast for overnight. Hope you're having a great weekend!

Anni said...

The lighting of the owl in flight is true perfection Phil! It's a grand day for birding & banding when the weather cooperates, isn't it.

For this week, I send my thanks to you for sharing with us bird lovers at I'd Rather B Birdin'!

David Gascoigne said...

Good morning Phil: I am glad to hear that you were able to get out and do a little banding even though the results were not entirely what you might have hoped for. You had quality birds, however. Maybe when the tree leafs out the Buzzard's nest will not be quite as visible and people will leave it alone. Kids sometimes seem to be unable to resist throwing rocks at birds and a prominent nest like this might well attract the wrong kind of attention from them, to say nothing of the actions of misguided adults.
This weekend we are having a monumental ice storm here so I have been pretty much housebound and it looks for all the world like the dead of winter outside. Spring, which seemed to be putting in an appearance, has vanished for the moment, and the early migrant birds must be suffering.

Rhodesia said...

Some interesting birds banded there and I just love the barn owl, fabulous. Have a good week Diane

Angie said...

Phil - I am getting addicted to your owl pictures ... we are in our new house as of Saturday and I have already seen many more birds than we saw in our 'town' environment - mountain bluebird, sandhill cranes, and an eagle eating carrion by the side of the road. I will have to start perfecting my bird photography skills!

Handmade in Israel said...

What a wonderful photo of the Barn Owl in flight!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

The owl in flight is spectacular but I also have a fondness for the LBJs of this world and the tree pipit is a sweet example! From your description, it would be lovely to hear as well as to see!

Powell River Books said...

I hear owls but have yet to see one near our cabin. One reason is that the forest is solid right next to where we live, no trails to explore. - Margy

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

All of the birds are wonderful but I do have a thing for owls.

NC Sue said...

Beautiful shot of the owl!
Thanks for linking up at

Lady Fi said...

Fab shot of the owl!

Fun60 said...

An owl out at lunch time. How strange that sounds.

Kay L. Davies said...

It's always a pleasure to travel remotely with you on your ringing expeditions, Phil. The barn owl is my favourite of the day, because I've always loved owls and this one is so lovely in flight.
I hope further ringing trips are more productive for you. Meanwhile, hugs from here to you and Sue.
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Judy Biggerstaff said...

Beautiful pics. Love the barn owl.

June Caedmon said...

Great captures, Phil. I love seeing the owls in flight!

Findlay Wilde said...

Hope the Buzzard pair don't get any disturbance. A great chance to follow their progress.

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