Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Gamekeeper Shoots Short-eared Owls

There's nothing much to add to the video below. Watch and see if your blood boils.


For this outrageous and despicable crime the derisory “punishment” handed out by the court is equally outrageous. The perpetrator Tim Cowin was fined £400 for killing each owl and £200 for possessing a calling device, which was forfeited by the court. He was ordered to pay £170 costs and a £40 victim surcharge. A total of £1,210.

This kind of cruelty and disregard for our wildlife will continue until proper sentences are imposed and landowners become liable for crimes committed on their land.   

Read more at: RSPB Investigations.

Back soon with more pleasing news.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Slowly Does It

This ringing lark gets more difficult to predict. After the rain and wind of Sunday and Monday we felt sure that a fine start to Tuesday might produce an influx of birds to our site at Oakenclough. I met up with Andy at 0630 and then we waited, and waited. 

It was a good thing that the feeders were well topped up because that is where we realised the majority of our 20 birds, mostly finches: 14 Goldfinch, 3 Chaffinch, 1 Blackcap, 1 Willow Warbler and 1 Goldcrest. 

Of the 14 Goldfinch, 11 were birds of the year in varying stages of post-juvenile moult. An adult female had a clear and well-defined brood patch suggestive of current or very recent breeding this late in August. Such determined productivity and willingness to adopt the suburban garden defines the outstanding success of this now abundant species. 


In the field someone might easily label the below Blackcap as an adult male because of the black cap. Closer scrutiny showed a juvenile/first year tail but also, the tell-tale remnants of a juvenile brown cap. By late August juvenile male Blackcaps show hardly if any brown in their black caps. 



Ageing autumn Willow Warblers in the field is very hard, some might say impossible with any degree of certainty given the often brief views of a tiny warbler flitting through the greenery. 

The process is much easier in the hand when we employ an understanding of the moult strategy of Willow Warblers to separate the two age classes. Adult Willow Warblers go through a complete autumn moult while juveniles undertake a partial moult, so that by late summer/early August individual birds of different ages can initially appear identical. 

The tails of adults are typically broad, rounded with little or no abrasion; juvenile tails are usually narrower, more pointed and usually look more worn that the equivalent adult tail. In general but not absolutely, adults have whiter bellies than first year birds. 

Willow Warbler 

There seemed to be little visible migration this morning with just tiny groups of Goldfinch and Chaffinch making their way overhead. We saw 10-20 Swallows heading south and a probable local Sparrowhawk. 

We followed up a sighting of a few days ago – five or six Little Ringed Plovers on the margins of the nearby reservoir where the water level remains at summery lows. Yes indeed, 5 Little Ringed Plover. Thanks Peter. 

Little Ringed Plover 

Looks like a day off tomorrow. But back on Thursday with Another Bird Blog. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Going Nowhere

The breeze was just too strong for a ringing session. Even at 10 mph we are blown off course at Oakenclough.  I set off instead for a spot of birding in what would prove to be a quite productive and eventful morning. 

At Lane Ends Pilling I was early enough to see the Little Egrets depart their island roost. The site is now so overgrown that it’s impossible to see the egrets from any direction, the only option being to count them in at dusk or count them out at dawn.  In the morning they signal their imminent departure by their barking calls after which they fly in ones, twos and threes from the trees to the marsh below. I counted 28 heading out and landing on the marsh before they gradually scattered in all directions to later spend their day in Morecambe Bay. 

Little Egret 

There was a flight of Greylag Geese off the marsh and heading south over my head. I counted 70+ in just ten or fifteen minutes. By the time I reached Braides Farm Greylags were still on the move with another two parties of 40+ birds, they too heading south. There was a Kestrel here, a young bird and one of very few juvenile Kestrels I've seen this year. 

There was a very good selection of waders at Conder Green by way of 270 Lapwing, 44 Redshank, 7 Greenshank, 4 Dunlin, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Curlew, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Snipe and 1 Oystercatcher. 


Other “water” birds appeared as 12 Little Grebe, 3 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Shelduck, 1 Common Tern and 1 Kingfisher. The Kingfisher didn't come close and I was forced to watch it hovering and then plunge-diving across the pool and in front of the far island. This where the grebes hang out and where there are lots of small fish to be had. 

Little Grebe 

A single Whitethroat and 6 Goldfinch was the sum of the passerine count although 120+ Swallows was a welcome sight. 

At Glasson the Tufted Duck numbers are building with 22 there today plus a single Great Crested Grebe, but otherwise a decent number of uncounted Common Coot and a single Grey Heron. 

Tufted Duck 

There were more Swallows along Jeremy Lane where the good folk of Gardner’s Farm seem not to mind their roof and TV aerial being decorated by Swallows and House Martins. 



House Martin & Swallow 

Further up the lane I had to turn around and head back. A recovery truck was on its way to rescue an Asda delivery van from the roadside ditch. Someone near Cockersands would wait in vain for their Internet shopping bags. 

Going Nowhere 

Asda Delivery 

The lanes up here are often single track where a driver unfamiliar with local niceties like giving way to large tractors may find they are off-road with nowhere to go. 

Back near Pilling again I found 4 Buzzards in the air and a Little Owl sat in the sun but sheltered from the now stiff northerly wind. 

Little Owl 

More soon. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni's Birding Blog.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Looking For Improvement

The weather continues to thwart plans for ringing with strong winds and frequent showers. Saturday looks slightly better with Monday and into next week an improving picture. Fingers crossed. 

In the meantime, and ever looking to share good news with my readers, I found another boost for birds via agri-environment schemes - 21 August 2018 in Farming Life of Northern Ireland.  

Three key farmland bird species increased in number over a five-year period in response to an agri-environment scheme (AES), according to a study by the RSPB. Yellowhammers, House Sparrows and Tree Sparrows rose in abundance in farms taking part in the project across east Co Down, Ireland. 

“Yellowhammers – a Red-listed species (a bird of high conservation concern) which had been in sharp decline were up by an impressive 78% between 2006 and 2011. As well as the surge in Yellowhammer numbers on farms taking part in the AES, House Sparrows were up 46% and Tree Sparrows up 207% in the five-year period. 


The study assessed whether changes in the abundance of priority farmland bird species differed over a five-year period between farms under AES management and a similar sample of farms not subject to the management. It was conducted in Co Down, one of the last remaining areas of lowland mixed arable farmland in Northern Ireland. Three target species (House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer) showed more positive increases in abundance on the AES farms. 

Prior to the current EFS being made available last year, there had been a couple of years without an available AES and this will have had a negative impact on species including the Yellowhammer. 

Tree Sparrow 

This week sees the opening of the Northern Ireland Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS), whereby farmers can sign up for a system that compensates landowners for undertaking work to enhance biodiversity and water quality. EFS, administered by the Department of Agriculture the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), is open to all active farmers who have management control of at least three hectares of eligible farmland. 

Key options in EFS highlighted are provision of winter feed crop for wild birds, retention of winter stubble, creation of arable margins and creation of pollinator margins. 

Kendrew Colhoun, RSPB senior conservation scientist, said: “We see the EFS as a critical component as part of our work to maintain biodiversity across the countryside in Northern Ireland. Our study provides unequivocal evidence that AES can deliver for key species if the correct mix of EFS options (such as ones to provide summer and winter food and nesting habitat) are targeted to the right places and coupled with advice.” 

Farmer Jack Kelly, who has a farm outside Downpatrick, employed a range of wider options on his land - including wild bird cover, overwintering stubbles, rough grass margins, pollen and nectar margins, annual wildflower margins, native hedging and a hay meadow.  

Jack Kelly said “The agri-environmental scheme has been beneficial for us, providing the opportunity to help wildlife on areas of our land which may not be as productive as other areas. We were able to utilise field margins or awkward corners and turn them into havens for wildlife. The overwintered stubbles and wild bird cover plot provides my family and myself with a great spectacle over the winter when hundreds of birds come to feed on the seed. It works well within our farming practices and we would encourage other farmers to make the most of the EFS.” 

House Sparrow 

Sean Woods, RSPB NI conservation advisor added: “The opening of the wider EFS provides the opportunity for farmers to help some of our most important species such as the Yellowhammer, while receiving a financial reward. “Many of our iconic farmland wildlife species rely on farmers utilising measures such as those found in the scheme. We are urging as many farmers as possible to enter EFS to help nature thrive on their land and we would also like to thank the forty-plus farmers that took part in the original research project.” 

Read more at Farming Life  August 2018 

On the same topic. During the week I talked to a game-keeper who with shooter colleagues, and at their own expense, are trying to get farmers interested in planting up small areas of their land with wild bird cover crops – e.g. a corner or strip of a field as above. Obviously the shooters’ main aim is in making such crops suitable for game-birds like pheasants and partridge, but there is no doubt that such schemes benefit many small farmland birds. 

I am not a fan of shooting. But not for the first time I found that if we as birders take time to talk with them, many sportsmen have a genuine desire to help recover the situation that has seen the UK population of farmland birds plummet over many years. And as this example shows, they often walk the talk and provide an example for others to follow.

Linking today to Eileen's Blog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Trepi Trio

At last! After a week of dire weather there was a 5mph wind; although there was a gloomy, misty start, the murky skies cleared within the hour. 

I met up with Andy at Oakenclough where we expected to catch up with the species, if not necessarily the individuals, we missed in the interim. At this time of year many birds are on the move in either post-breeding dispersal or actual southerly migration. If the weather is not too good birds will fly around or above the obstacle or even delay their flights until conditions improve. Such things make for exciting mornings when we may have an idea of what species to expect in but not necessarily the numbers. 

Gloomy Start 

The early overcast may have blocked some early movement but we finished up with 24 birds of 8 species as follows: 5 Willow Warbler, 4 Chaffinch, 4 Great Tit, 3 Tree Pipit, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Dunnock, 1 Robin. 

We caught the five Willow Warblers early one while it was still misty but none later, suggesting that they were leftovers from Monday or before. All five proved to be birds of the year. The numbers of young Willow Warblers seem to be up this year and we speculated that the excellent summer with the lack of the usual downpours has helped ground nesting species like Willow Warblers. 

Willow Warbler 

TREPI is the computer input code for Tree Pipit. Inputting this morning’s data is a job for later in the day via the BTO’s DemOn, (Demography Online) an on-line application which allows users to input their ringing and/or nest records. All three Tree Pipits were birds of the year – juveniles. 


As Tree Pipit breeds sparingly in the North West of England we can be fairly sure that the three caught this morning are from the Scottish population, or maybe even from Scandinavia. Maps that show the Tree Pipit breeding right across the UK are in fact inaccurate as the species' range is more limited. 

Tree Pipit distribution - RSPB 

Tree Pipit 

Tree Pipit 

Goldcrests are bang on time and we should now catch good numbers right through to November. 



The young Robin showed just a hint of red breast. 


There seemed to be Chaffinch on the move this morning when a few small parties flew over giving their characteristic, soft, “chip, chip” contact call. 


Other birds seen during the four hour slot -  1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Buzzard, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Redshank, 2 Cormorant, 8 Goldfinch, 20+ Chaffinch.  After the mist cleared and the air warmed a number of Swallows appeared, mostly heading south in singles or small parties of between 2 and 6 individuals - in all 30+.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Whiter Shade Of Pale

The week has been a frustrating one of dull days, bouts of rain and irritating wind speeds that preclude even an hour or two of ringing. Consequently I've not done a lot of anything birdy wise. 

During the dry spell of June and July the garden was devoid of birds apart from a few Goldfinch, the usual Woodpigeons and a passing Great-spotted Woodpecker. Last night when dozing half asleep I heard the screech of a Tawny Owl that sounded very close, probably in our apple tree. It’s about now that Tawny Owls start to sort out their winter territories as a prelude to their often post-Christmas breeding and each year and there’s always a pair in the trees just along the road from here. 

Tawny Owl 

But in the last few weeks, and with the change of season, lots of Goldfinch reappeared on the feeders in some numbers. These birds are about 90% juveniles and probably the second or even third brood of their productive parents. Yesterday I counted up to 20 Goldfinch at a time on the feeders, so goodness knows how many individuals that represents using the garden during the course of a day. 

So when Sue went off shopping to the big city, I was left home alone with just a mist net for company and where the breeze was not a major problem in the sheltered back garden. I caught just Goldfinches and no other species, exactly as expected where Goldfinches are by far the most common bird in our semi-rural location. 

What I didn't anticipate was to catch a very leucistic Goldfinch. It was one born this year. With its washed out appearance and lack of pigmentation I sexed it as male by a combination its long bill, the lengthy wing and healthy weight. I didn't see or catch any similar birds so there is no way of knowing if this was a one off, if there are similarly affected siblings or whether it inherited the leucism from a parent.  

Leucistic Goldfinch 

Leucistic Goldfinch

'Normal' Goldfinch

Here’s a little more about leucism & albinism in birds. From the British Trust for Ornitholgy (BTO). 

"Leucism is an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited on a bird’s feathers. This results in white feathers, unless the normal plumage colour also comprises carotenoids (e.g. yellows), which remain unaffected by the condition. Although leucism is inherited, the extent and positioning of the white colouration can vary between adults and their young, and can also skip generations if leucistic genes are recessive. 

The reduction of pigment in leucistic birds causes feathers to weaken and be more prone to wear. In some situations this can hinder flight, which, in addition to leucistic birds usually being more conspicuous, can heighten risk of predation. There is also evidence that leucistic birds might, on occasion, not be recognised or accepted by a potential mate. 

Leucistic Goldfinch 

Leucism is an umbrella term to encompass a number of plumage irregularities that can be difficult to distinguish from each other. One of these is called ‘progressive greying’, which also results in white feathers. While leucism is heritable, progressive greying is not – but without knowing the history of a bird, these two conditions are difficult to tell apart. 

‘Dilution’ is another condition grouped under the category of ‘leucism’. Here, plumage colour often appears ‘washed out’ (i.e. ‘diluted’). In dilution, melanin cells are present (unlike in leucistic birds) but produce less pigment than normal. White feathers can also be caused by chromatophore (pigment cell) defects, rather than an absence of melanin-producing cells. 

Albinism also results in white feathers but true albinos are thought to be rare in the wild. Albinism is caused by a genetic mutation causing an absence of tyrosinase in pigment cells. An albino individual is unable to produce melanin pigments. This leads to a good diagnostic feature with which to distinguish leucistic and albino individuals – the colour of the eye. 

Leucistic Goldfinch 

Albinos have pink eyes while the iris pigmentation of leucistic birds remains dark. Most albino birds die soon after fledging, primarily as a consequence of their poor eyesight, and albino birds are not thought to progress to adulthood in the wild. As with leucistic individuals, albinos can retain carotenoid pigments if normally present in the plumage. A common misnomer is ‘partial albino’ – this is not possible since albinism affects the whole plumage of a bird, not just part." 

Because so many birders rely on plumage colours and patterns for bird identification, seeing an unusual bird with lighter colours or white patches can initially be confusing. By understanding what leucism is and how it can affect birds, birders can better appreciate the great variety of avian life they see. 

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Up There. Somewhere.

Migration, the regular movement of birds and wildlife from one part of the world to another and back again is one of the wonders of the natural world. It’s a subject often discussed or referred to here on this blog when a post concerns the ringing of birds. 

We know lots about bird migration, most of it gleaned through the ringing of birds, but there is still a great deal to learn. There are techniques developed in recent years which have the potential to add to our knowledge of how, when, where and why birds orientate and navigate. There are new and developing methods like data logging through radio tracking, radar observations or aural (listening). The physiological basis for bird migration has also received considerable attention, particularly the effects of seasonal increases and decreases in daylight and the seasonal rhythms that influence birds’ movements. 

But now a new study shows that small birds migrating from Scandinavia to Africa in the autumn occasionally fly as high as 4,000 metres (about two and a half miles) above sea level - probably adjusting their flight to take advantage of favourable winds and different wind layers.

The study concerns two species I see at migration time each year in Menorca and Greece, May and September respectively – the Great Reed Warbler and the Red-backed Shrike. 

Red-backed Shrike 

This is the first time that researchers have tracked how high small birds fly all the way from Sweden to Africa. Previous studies have successfully logged the flying height of larger migratory birds. 

The aim of the study was to investigate whether the measuring method works on small birds, which involved measuring acceleration, barometric pressure (air pressure) and temperature throughout the flight using a small data logger attached to the bird. 

A data logger was attached to two individuals of different species: Great Reed Warbler and Red-backed Shrike. Among other things, the results show how long it takes for each bird to fly to their destination. The measured barometric pressure showed that Great Reed Warbler occasionally flies at altitudes of up to 3,950 metres, while Red-backed Shrike flies at up to 3,650 metres. Both individuals flew the highest above ground across the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara, but the shrike also reached high flight altitudes closer to its winter grounds in southern Africa. 

Great Reed Warbler 

Red-backed Shrike 

"We only followed two individuals and two species. The fact that both of them flew so high does surprise me. It's fascinating and it raises new questions about the physiology of birds. How do they cope with the air pressure, thin air and low temperatures at these heights?," says Sissel Sjöberg, biologist at Lund University and the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen. 

Both individuals flew the highest above ground across the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara, but the shrike reached higher flight altitudes closer to its winter grounds in southern Africa. 

Sissel Sjöberg thinks it is likely that other small birds fly as high, maybe even higher. But there is no evidence of that yet. 

"In this study, we only worked with data collected during the autumn, when the small birds migrate to Africa. There are other studies that indicate that the birds fly even higher when they migrate back in the spring, but we cannot say for sure." 

Great Reed Warbler - photo credit Vitalii Khustochka 

There's one thing for sure. The next time I see those two species, I will think of them in a new light and try to imagine them heading to and from Africa two and a half miles above me. Up there - somewhere in the sky. 

Journal Reference: Barometer logging reveals new dimensions of individual songbird migration. Journal of Avian Biology, 2018.

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Shakespeare And Stroganoff

There was no ringing planned today so instead I had a scoot around Cockerham way. It’s guaranteed to produce a good variety of species and sometimes excellent numbers of birds. 

I kicked off at Conder Green, where for an hour or more the place was alive with Swallows and Sand Martins taking breakfast. The cool morning produced a hatch of thousands of insects above the hedgerows and close to the water’s edge. 

The birds took full advantage as many took insects on the wing while others fed on the ground, almost as if they were collecting nesting material.  It was hard to estimate the mass of birds, especially as some perched up in the straggly hedgerow briefly before returning to the bonanza. My best guess was 350 Swallow, 25 Sand Martin and 15 House Martin. 

Some of the House Martins were from across the way where they nest on the sides of at least two buildings close to the tidal creeks, the ditches that provide food and also mud for nest building. 


House Martins 

The House Martins here seem to have enjoyed a very productive year with upwards of 60 in air around the said buildings earlier in the week. Similarly, the colony of House Martins on a single house on our road in Stalmine-with-Staynall have done really well this year with more than 40 individuals on some days. At the end of the season the UK breeding bird stats will make for interesting reading to gauge the effect of the longest, hottest summer for many, some say fifty years. 

Despite the numbers of both swallows, martins and air-borne insect food, I didn't see a single Swift this morning; it would seem that many have now left for Africa. 

The midday tide began to run about 10am where it pushed a good number of mainly Redhanks into the creeks and onto the pool: 280 Redshank, 80 Lapwing, 3 Greenshank, 3 Curlew, 1 Oystercatcher, 3 Little Egret and 1 Grey Heron. 

On the pool otherwise were noted 12 Little Grebe, 6 Common Tern, 5 Greylag and 5 Pied Wagtail. 

Those dabchicks are so elusive. One second it’s there, the next it’s gone, made no splash or noise but slipped into the water as if its plumage were lubricated with WD40. As suddenly as it dived to leave just a ripple of water, so it reappeared, but never in the exact same spot, as if to tease the amateur cameraman. 

Little Grebe 

“A di-dapper peering through a wave, 
Who, being looked on, ducks as quickly in.” 
William Shakespeare 

You must excuse me. I have a beef stroganoff to make and a bottle of wine to uncork. But never fear there’s more soon from Another Bird Blog. 


See you soon. Cheers.

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Low Level Ringing

Oakenclough is very much an autumn and winter ringing site where nothing much happens in the summer except for nest boxes containing Pied Flycatchers. But the autumn/winter and early spring of 2017/18 was so wet and miserable that we never managed to get here until today, our first ringing at the site since November 2017. 

In the meantime we enjoyed our hottest, driest summer for 50+ years with very little rainfall. The nearby reservoir is about one third full and where the typical water level is near the top of the brick towers and covering the immediate bank of stones. 

Low Level Water 

I met Andy at 0630 and we hoped to catch up a little on our lack of visits. We packed in at about 10.30 when the early minimal breeze wind increased to unmanageable levels. But we had a nice mix in the catch of 8 Willow Warbler, 2 Garden Warbler, 3 Goldfinch, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Treecreeper and 1 Blue Tit. 

The two Garden Warblers, Sylvia borin, were the first ringed here since 2014, when I ringed a nest full of four youngsters. It was soon after that we were forced to abandon the site when out of control rhododendron took over the plantation and made it impossible to work as a ringing site. About four years ago United Utilities employed contractors to clear the site and to then replant in the hope of restoring its former glory. 

Both of the Garden Warblers proved to be adults, one male, one female, with feathering growing over their bellies, a sign of recent breeding. But as we caught only the two adults, there is no way of knowing if they bred on the now suitable site. The plantation now resembles how it looked in the 1980 and 1990s and hopefully some of the missing breeding species like Garden Warbler, Tree Pipit and Lesser Redpoll may reappear. 

Garden Warbler 

Garden Warbler 

All eight Willow Warblers were birds of the year, with six of them caught together in the same net – a flock of Willow Warblers! 

Willow Warbler 

There was no doubt about age and sex of the single Lesser Redpoll caught - adult male. 

 Lesser Redpoll

We don’t catch too many Treecreepers, here or anywhere else. They often accompany roving flocks of titmice and small warblers but not today. 


Birding in between ringing was very quiet. Highlights were 3 Great-spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Kestrel, 35 Goldfinch and a thin but noticeable movement of Swallows – about twenty heading due south in three hours.

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Wild Day With Honey

Saturday morning and there was time for a whizz around Conder Green before I met up with Andy at lunchtime. We’d agreed to take part in a “Wild Day” at Cockerham. 

But first. Early doors showed things were pretty tame at Conder Green despite the sight of 380 Lapwings, the most I've seen here this autumn. Mostly the Lapwings stayed on the island or the rough grass beyond and very few ventured close to the viewpoint. 


Lapwing numbers fluctuate here according to the tidal bore of the River Lune a quarter of a mile away. It’s not unusual to see three or even four thousand Lapwing on the Lune sandbanks in autumn and winter where they often mix closely with flocks of Golden Plovers and Redshanks. 

Waders otherwise numbered 95 Redshank, 10 Curlew, 10 Oystercatcher, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Common Sandpiper and 2 Snipe. 

It was good to see a brood of 5 young Shelduck and although there were no adults, the young seemed quite independent. In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find broods of Shelduck along the shores and estuaries that they favour. 

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) figures suggest that the overall UK and Ireland population of Shelduck is stable.  Maybe it’s a local issue, especially on our shores where disturbance has become very regular and more prolonged.  It’s no longer just a weekend problem with the human disturbance affecting every one of the many species of coastal waders and wildfowl. 


Shelduck - via British Trust for Ornithology

Shelduck were persecuted in the 19th Century in the sandy areas of Britain because they competed with rabbits for burrows to nest in. While in those days rabbits were good eating, the salty Shelduck was less sought after. 

Nowadays the Shelduck is a protected species that should not be shot. But living as it does in the close company of “game” ducks like Teal, Mallard and Wigeon, the Shelduck is as wary of man as the wildest of waterfowl and is sometimes shot by inexperienced or cowboy shooters. 

Other counts: 10 Little Grebe, 8 Little Egret, 1 Kingfisher and 6 Common Tern. 

Between the six or more regular Common Terns there’s feeding the single youngster taking place but also the presenting of fish by male on female.  It is rather difficult to tell which individuals are involved in what is likely to be late summer courtship displays, a prelude to the same individuals returning here in 2019 where they will find similarly minded birds.  However it is as well to know that Common Terns do not generally breed until their third or even fourth years, and that these courtship rituals may be wishful thinking. 

Common Tern 

Of course the Common Tern is not just a European species. It is the most widespread and familiar North American tern, known and for its long history as a symbol of the conservation movement. The Common Tern was the impetus for the formation of the Audubon societies and other conservation initiatives of North America. The Common Tern was widely sought after in the late 19th century for the millinery trade, in which feathers, wings, or entire stuffed terns were mounted on fashionable women’s hats. 

Slaughter of terns and other seabirds for this purpose peaked in the 1870s and 1880s, and by the end of the century the species was almost lost from the North American Atlantic Coast and many inland areas. Fortunately, the efforts of the burgeoning conservation groups culminated in 1918 with the passage of comprehensive bird protection legislation, the Migratory Bird Treaty between the United States and Canada. 

Back to the present, and on the drive through Cockerham village a Barn Owl crossed the road some distance ahead of the car. By now the road was busy with traffic with nowhere to stop but from old I knew the farm it headed for.  Along Lancaster Road I found 5 Buzzard in the air together and where at least one of them seemed to be a youngster still begging food. 


The afternoon venue was Moss House Caravan Site at Cockerham where our group of bird ringers had agreed to host a table for the annual “Wild Day”.  The BTO kindly sent a pile of magazines and a host of leaflets covering a wide variety of bird-related subjects: Garden Plants for Birds , Garden Birdwatch, About The BTO, Nest Recording, Feeding Garden Birds, The Sparrowhawks & Garden Birds, Bird Ringing etc,etc. 

Bird Table 

We had two separate slides shows running on laptops. The first one showed birds in the field while the second one consisted of birds in the hand and shots of bird ringers doing their thing. We also had several field guides for people to browse. There was great interest in our display and a number of people stopped to ask questions and to talk about the birds they see in the local area. 

Other participants included RSPB, Bowland Wildlife and The Naturalists Trust plus exhibits of bee keeping with pots of natural honey to buy. For the kids large and small there was “build a bee” and other entertainment by way of goats and miniature pigs brought along by a local farm. 

The afternoon provided an entertaining and valuable exercise in spreading the word about birds. And I came away with a rolled shoulder of goat for the roasting pan together with a jar of real honey.   


Back soon with more news and views. In the meantime keep those comments coming and I will return your visit very soon.

Linking this post to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

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