Saturday, December 15, 2018

Headline Birds

Friday. There was a frosty outlook and a cold south-easterly and I was ready for a spot of fresh air birding. 

Once again a hunting Barn Owl stole the morning headlines as it put on a short display over Stalmine Moss. Soon it was gone, back to roost in a nearby barn. The Barn Owl is well named; although in parts of the UK they nest in hollow trees, cavities or tree-mounted boxes, in this region of Lancashire they nest in newish agricultural buildings where provision has been made, or where they still exist, older type barns yet to be “modernised”. 

Barn Owl 

At Fluke Hall I was in time to see 100+ Whooper Swans land behind the sea wall fresh from their roost on the nearby marsh. Hardly had they settled when a shooter/farmer plus Border Collie arrived on a quad, unbolted the metal gate, drove across the field and scattered the swans into the red of the morning sky. The swans take some of the shooters’ bait laid to pull in wild geese, wildfowl and their released game birds but thankfully the swans are “protected”. 

My own seed drop at Gulf Lane was for a different reason and upon arrival I saw a flock of 60 or more Linnets circling the plot. I walked the icy path in trainers and scattered a full bucket of millet and rape seed, retraced my steps to the car and then watched as the Linnet flock grew. Perhaps the frosty start moved them from other sites but they certainly seemed hungry, so much so that within thirty or forty minutes the flock grew to between 220/260 birds that piled as one into the seed. There was a single Stock Dove in our net ride and also a Snipe that flew from the adjacent drainage ditch. This winter has seen very few Stock Doves in contrast to the winter of 2017/2018 when up to a dozen could be seen here most days. 

Stock Dove 

Conder Green seemed strangely quiet with a distinct lack of anything “new” and just the usual crew of ducks – Teal down to 140, Wigeon steady at 64, Mallards present, and 5 Little Grebe. Even waders were sparse in the frosty creeks and on the surrounding grassy margins - 55 Curlew, 40+ Lapwing and 25 Redshank. 



The story continued with an uneventful run up to Cockersands where lingering Fieldfares scattered from the roadside trees then leapfrogged ahead as they looked for the last of the berries. Near the caravan park and around the dilapidated barns were 4 Pied Wagtails and a single Grey Wagtail. It was noticeable how as they all fed around the yard the Pied Wagtails were the dominant species as each in turn chased the Grey Wagtail to the edges of the area. 

Grey Wagtail 

Alongside the white frosted marsh was a small flock of 8 Greenfinch, 3 Reed Buntings, a couple each of Chaffinch and Tree Sparrow. 

The Greenfinch; not too long ago this was a ubiquitous bird of farmland and garden that birders could ignore, safe in the knowledge that commonality would ensure the species' continued success. How wrong we were; the Greenfinch has become a headline bird, one to notice and to then report as something of a rarity. 


Meanwhile birds featured in other headline news. “200 Turkeys Vote For Christmas” and “A Lame Duck Flaps Into Brussels” ran just two of the comical stories. The nation laughed out loud until tears ran down our collective ruddy cheeks. 

If politicians were an endangered species we might all sleep safer in our beds.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday,  Anni's Birding Blog and Eileen's Saturday


Anu said...

Hello Phil. Interesting post and great photos. That Grey wagtail is beautiful. It is a very rare here in Finland.

Jo said...

Hi Phil, i love owls and have Barn Owls calling through the night just beyond my little cottage on the farm. I was immersed in you setting up to photograph the Whooper swans, when my heart sank. I thought the farmer and his dog were about to annihilate the birds. Thank goodness this didn't happen. Thanks for sharing all the interesting information and for the beautiful images. Have a great day. Jo

David Gascoigne said...

Hello Phil: Given your recent couple of posts, I smile a little grimly when I read that “Swans are protected.” Their legal protection, of course, assumes that the brave and noble hunters, out there with their weapons of bird destruction, a. recognize the birds, b. know the law, c. respect the law, and d. know how to shoot straight. The one constant on your posts is the regularity with which you see Barn Owls and that is encouraging. I was also happy to note that new barns are constructed with provision for Barn Owls. Now that’s a progressive step.....obviously politicians had no hand in that decision! The last few days have been gloomy here, but if the weather improves at all over the weekend we will go looking for Snowy Owls. If we find any you know what my next post will be about!

Bob Bushell said...

Fantastic birds, I love them all.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

You know I'm always envious of your owls! This one is quite impressive! Love all of your photos and try to remember some of these birds for future reference! I'm trying! Enjoy your weekend!

Anni said...

Extraordinary sighted birds today Phil!! That Green Finch is very attractive. And your widgeon is a bit different than the one seen here, but still quite colorful [head and body shape identical to ours tho].

Here, in America, I think it is illegal to lay out feed in the wild...I don't understand can have feeders in your yard, so, what is the difference? Laws are to be broken I guess...and only illegal if you get caught.

G'day my fellow birder!! I'm here, as always, to send along my sincere thank you for sharing this post with us at I'd Rather B Birdin' this week!

Rhodesia said...

You seem to have done quite well seeing some interesting birds. As you know by now, the Barn Owl is one of my favourites, and I am delighted to know that nesting boxes have been put up for them. I will never know what happened to the one we saw regularly here, maybe a box is an answer to try and attract another one. I just do not trust the French hunters!!
We will be on the road tomorrow and will visit if and when I have time. Happy Christmas and all the best for 2019. Diane

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I don't know why but I am in love with owls. He's such a beauty!

Fun60 said...

Another beautiful barn owl.

Lady Fi said...

Such feathered beauties!

italiafinlandia said...

Hello, besides the Barn Owl I like the Teal best, which is also quite new to me.
As for politicians...ehm...ours are not better than that. Have a nice pre-Christmas week!

italiafinlandia said...

Hello, nice to see the Barn Owl and the Teal! They are both quite new to me. As for politicians...ours are not better than that...
Wishing you a good pre-Christmas week!

Ana Mínguez Corella said...


Beautiful series of images .. Happy holidays ..

Lowcarb team member said...

I enjoyed seeing all of your photographs.

Your last paragraph made me laugh too!

All the best Jan

NC Sue said...

Great shots. I especially love the barn owl. I've never seen one "in the flesh"... or is it "in the feathers"?
Merry Christmas to you, and thanks for sharing at

Angie said...

Phil - as always, I adore your owl photos! I keep showing them to my hubby and he is just shocked you get these photos in the UK. Obviously, he never in his lifetime got up as early as you do!

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