Monday, April 29, 2019

Comedy Gold

I am grateful to my pal who sent me a catalogue of messages from North West Birding Whatsapp. The messages summarise the fun and otherwise surrounding the appearance of a Hoopoe on 27th April 2019.


From Wiki - “The Eurasian Hoopoe is widespread in Europe, Asia, and North Africa and northern Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The Hoopoe is indeed very, very common in the region of the Mediterranean Sea in countries like France and Spain where it can be easily seen in towns, villages, gardens and parks. It is also an annual and regular visitor to the UK, mostly in spring and autumn with sporadic breeding records. 


From Whatsapp: To save any embarrassment, names and phone numbers have been omitted from the messages.

  • 20:50, 4/27/2019 - Reports on RBA (Rare Bird Alert) of Hoopoe in Charnock Richard at 8.20pm 
  • 10:48, 4/28/2019 - Hoopoe Charnock Richard. Mate of mine has some great pics just waiting to see where it is. 
  • 10:50, 4/28/2019 - Location has been taken off the public domain and please not shared due to trespassing on the farmer's land. 
  • 10:50, 4/28/2019 - Church Lane Charnock Richard. 
  • 12:39, 4/28/2019 - Hoopoe still present but being disturbed by photographers!!! 
  • 12:43, 4/28/2019 - Birders or photographers? 
  • 12:50,4/28/2019 - What a surprise... sounds same as the blyths earlier in the year.... 
  • 12:50, 4/28/2019 - Toggers? 
  • 12:52, 4/28/2019 - I posted the comment as advice for anyone else visiting, not for discussion. Remember this is a sightings page which I had posted. Thanks. 
  • 16:01, 4/28/2019 - Any news on hoopoe please 
  • 16:36, 4/28/2019- Hoopoe in fields on north side of church lane with sheep west of church 
  • 16:41, 4/28/2019 - Is there somewhere to view from? 
  • 16:44, 4/28/2019 - There is a small memorial garden. Can be seen by looking through the far trees 
  • 16:44, 4/28/2019 - Thanks 
  • 17:29, 4/28/2019 - Hoopoe showing well from private garden Charnock Richard at 17.15 
  • 17:32, 4/28/2019 - Are we allowed to know where exactly or is that against the owner’s wishes? 
  • 17:59, 4/28/2019 - I spoke to the young lad from the farm and he said that he had to get the police yesterday as people were refusing to land his field until they got a photo. So guess he's not that happy 
  • 18:02, 4/28/2019 - Ok, so best not to report it anymore please. 
  • 18:24, 4/28/2019 - It was the young farmer (Dan) who took me into his garden to see bird. A chap was arrested yesterday for refusing to leave field where pregnant ewes were spooked. His issue is trespassing - not folk birding from footpaths etc. 
  • 18:31 4/28/2019 - That would be aggravated trespass, which has fine of £200-300 for 1st offence, up to 3 months subsequent offence. And a crim record. Just for a pic 
  • 18:33, 4/28/2019 - Name and shame the clown. 
  • 18:34, 4/28/2019 - He's been arrested. That's surely enough? Can we not leave this group for sightings alone? 
  • 18:35, 4/28/2019 - Here here (sic) zap 😴 
  • 18:35, 4/28/2019 - Here here (sic) 
  • 18:38, 4/28/2019 - No further discussion on the Hoopoe in Lancs please. If you decide to go for it please observe the birders (sic) code of conduct the countryside code of conduct and the law.

April 29th and all seems to be quiet on the Hoopoe front. Welcome to the world of twitching.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Willy Chiff And Others

After our not very productive ringing of Saturday, and on a slightly marginal forecast, we decided to have another go at Oakenclough on Monday. Well, after all, it is spring when many millions of birds migrate from Africa to Europe, so we might just catch a few. 

I met Andy at 0615 where he was already busy with setting the mist nets in a less than ideal 10 mph breeze but partly sheltered situation. We caught better but with a truncated finish at 1030 due to the ever strengthening easterly wind. 

There was little obvious migration however most of our catch of 15 birds proved to probable migrants - 5 Siskin , 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Wren. 

This has been a pretty poor year for Lesser Redpolls, our catches below expectations. The two on Monday could well be the last until their autumn migration begins.

Siskin - adult female 

Siskin - tail of adult female 

Siskin - adult male

Lesser Redpoll


Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff are both “phylloscopus” warblers, which means they are in the same bird family as each other. They also look very alike. They are both small birds with slender legs and bill. They both show greyish green and white plumage with no striking features. Field identification isn't helped by the fact that they are both very lively birds; constantly on the move, flicking through the foliage in search of flies and insects. 

Leg colour may be the easiest way to separate Chiffchaff from Willow Warbler, and while it is not fool proof it is mostly a good guideline. Chiffchaffs have black legs and Willow Warblers have light brown, flesh coloured legs. The problem with this feature is that Willow Warbler leg colour can sometimes vary and birds with dark legs have been seen but this is the rare exception to the rule. 

Willow Warblers tend to have  more pronounced supercilium but not always so, especially in the autumn time.  


Willow Warbler

The songs of these birds could not be more different and are well worth learning. Chiffchaff is a very easy song to remember as the bird simply says its name over and over again. A loud chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff. The call is a loud "hweet". Willow Warblers have a very fluid like song consisting of descending notes and once learned is easy to remember. Call is a loud "hoo-eet". 

Although both warblers are ground nesters, Chiffchaffs tend to inhabit taller stands of deciduous trees and woodland. Willow Warblers can be found in a variety of habitat, from parks and gardens to hedges and willow copses. While on passage in spring and autumn both warblers can be found virtually anywhere. 

If you ask any experienced birder how to tell Willow Warbler from Chiffchaff, they will tell you that primary projection is the proper way to do it and as so it's worth explaining. It's not as hard as it sounds but it does requires a basic knowledge of bird topography, in particular the different groups of wing feathers and where they are situated. Basically it is the length that the primaries extend past the tertials and how this relates to the tertial length e.g. in the figure below the primary feather projection is only half the length of the tertials in Chiffchaffs. Whereas in Willow Warblers the primary projection is equal to the length of the tertials. 

Wings of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff - PJ Grant

This “wing formula” gives a Willow Warbler a longer wing and also indicates that Willow Warblers travel further on migration - all the way to tropical Africa compared to Chiffchaff which winters in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding and to Eileen's Saturday Birds. Take a look.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Two Willies

I met up with Andy soon after six am. Here at Oakenclough we’d suffered three aborted ringing sessions in previous days. But now a gentle southerly easterly of 5 mph, a break in the clouds with a promise of sunny skies suggested things might improve. Perhaps a spot of Solar Energy might finally erupt in the bleak shadows of the Pennines hills? 

I was hoping to celebrate my birthday of the day before with a few “good” birds, or failing that, a jumbo catch of both warblers and finches, or perhaps a Tree Pipit or two? A search of the Internet on Friday revealed that a good number of warblers, chats and redpolls arrived in coastal locations 12 miles away on both Thursday and Friday as prevailing winds moved to more favourable directions. 

This morning we saw or heard zero pipits or redpolls with just a few Siskins overhead. There was no sign of martins or swallows on the move in what appeared to be ideal conditions for their diurnal migration. It was a very poor catch of just 8 birds - 3 Blackcap, 2 Robin, 2 Willow Warbler and 1 Pied Wagtail. 

Major compensation came in the form of our first Willow Warblers of the year and a “first for the site” in the shape of a fine Pied Wagtail. At first glance the wagtail appeared to be an adult male but closer inspection revealed the presence of some of worn, greyer feathers from its first year plumage, so indicating a second year rather than an adult. 

 Pied Wagtail

Pied Wagtail

The two Willow Warblers caught were both males. We counted seven or eight in song scattered over the entire area but noted that there was no “chasing around”, a sure sign that there are few if any females here yet. Willow Warblers are one of the species where in most years there is a clear time-lag between the spring arrival of males followed a week or more by the females. 

Willow Warbler 

The Willow Warbler is a very numerous species that inhabits extensive parts of northern Europe from the UK in the west to Asia in the east. Willow Warblers breed in Northern Europe and winter in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Over two million pairs of Willow Warblers breed here in the UK and Ireland. That’s three times as many as Swallows, and the same as the next two commonest migrants Chiffchaff and Blackcap combined. Although Willow Warblers are widespread their population, especially in southern Britain, has undergone a moderate decline over the past 25 years making them an Amber List species. 

We caught three female Blackcaps but none of the two or three males in song nearby. 

Male Blackcaps use their black crown feathers in their display to attract a female; the plumage of the latter is much more subdued than the silvery appearance of the male. 


Studies of the Blackcap in recent decades have proved that substantial numbers of central European birds have taken to wintering in gardens in Great Britain, and, to a lesser extent, Ireland. Previously the Blackcap was just a summer visitor to Britain and Ireland.  

Although the British climate is sub-optimal, compensatory factors include the ready availability of food, (particularly from bird tables), a shorter migration distance, and the avoidance of the Alps and the Sahara Desert in order to return to Africa. 

These wintering birds come from Germany, and isotope analysis of feathers shows that German birds wintering in Britain tend to mate only among themselves and do not usually interbreed with those wintering in the Mediterranean or western Africa. This is because the British migrants arrive back on the breeding grounds earlier than Blackcaps wintering around the Mediterranean, and form pairs before the southern birds arrive.

Linking today to Anni's Birding in Texas.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Alouette, Gentille Alouette

Here is a story that first appeared in Birdwatch Magazine and on the Bird Guides Internet page on 07/04/2019. French Hunting Complaint Lodged With EU.

It concerns the Skylark, Alauda arvenis, a bird that regularly features on Another Bird Blog. 

I reproduce the article here for the benefit of blog readers because it deserves a very wide audience in the World at Large, here in the UK and also in member countries of the European Union. 

Once again it displays how the French have never been big on obeying laws of any kind. There’s a disregard shown at the highest level, here by the double standards of the French President Emmanuel Macron who allows himself exemption from the laws of his beloved EU. 

While the story is from Bird Guides, the Skylark photos are my own. 


“Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) is to lodge an official complaint with the European Union (EU), accusing France of breaking rules on hunting and trapping and failing to protect endangered species. 

LPO is using the 40th anniversary of the EU's Birds Directive, which outlaws the "massive or non-selective" killing of birds, to highlight what it deems cruel and illegal methods such as glue sticks and traps. 

After the French government ignored previous pleas from LPO, the organisation has been left with no choice but to lodge the complaint. The state council approves of glue sticks, saying the method was traditional and there was no other satisfactory method of trapping the birds. Stone crush traps, once banned for a century, were legalised in France in 2005 and are also considered unnecessarily cruel as often trapped birds do not die instantly. 

Wood Pigeons, Eurasian Skylarks, Eurasian Curlew and many species of migratory thrush are all fair game for French bird hunters and, although hunting periods and species quotas are set for different departments within the country, LPO says these are often ignored. 


Kim Dallet, LPO spokeswoman, said LPO had lodged numerous complaints to the government over hunting methods of hunting birds and the threatened species involved. She said: "To mark the anniversary of the EU directive, we're taking it up to European level, which will hopefully force the French government to respond and to respect the directive. 

"We have species of bird in a bad way in terms of conservation that are still being hunted in France, which is absolutely against the directive. French hunters can kill around 63 different species while in other countries in Europe it's 20-30 at the most. Also, hunters in France do not respect the agreed hunting period or local prefects give them extra hours or days to hunt. I don't know what it is about hunting in France, perhaps because we have more of a hunting tradition. But the situation has to evolve." 

Reports by French researchers last year found that the number of birds in rural areas had dropped by a third in 15 years, partly because of intensive farming and the massive use of pesticides. 


The French president, Emmanuel Macron, joined a hunt during his 40th birthday celebrations at the Château de Chambord in December 2017. "Hunting is a wonderful advantage for biodiversity, development of our rural territory and a popular activity to safeguard," he told the hunting lobby. Chasseurs de France tweeted a picture of Macron with hunters, saying he had "praised the contribution of hunting to nature", which brought a swift response from the Elysée that the photo should not be published as Macron had specifically banned pictures being taken.” 

Emmanuel Macron

Meanwhile, in a boucherie in Provence.

"At the back of the shop a woman prepared the speciality of the day, which my friend told me was called allouettes sans têtes, skylarks without heads. I soon found myself singing the song we were taught as children in French class.

Alouette, gentille Alouette   (Skylark, nice skylark)
Alouette, je te plumerai       (Skylark, I shall pluck you)
Je te plumerai la tête           (I shall pluck your head)

The song continues adding all the other bits of the little bird that will be plucked, le bec - the beak, le cou - the neck, le dos - the back, les ailes - the wings, les pattes - the feet,  la queue - the tail.

Each time a part of the bird is added, you repeat all the other parts, so it goes on and on, presumably it was meant to teach the French words for parts of the anatomy, and I remember our French teacher, Madame Gailleman patting the parts of her body that the song referred to whilst singing the song."

Linking today to Eileeen's Blogspot and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Saturday Sortie

Almost three weeks of cold easterly winds has meant not much ringing. There have been a few migrants arriving but not in any great numbers. Until today I had seen a single Swallow and just two House Martins, the latter back on territory at the big house on the corner on 12th April. 

Saturday morning and the dashboard read 1°C as I set off birding in winter woollies. 

There was a fine start at Pilling by way of a couple of rarities followed by the customary Barn Owl. At Lane Ends, Pilling I watched a couple of Little Egrets on the marsh just as a larger egret flew east towards Cockerham. Something made me lift my bins to look closer at the Grey Heron sized bird, upon which it turned out be a Great White Egret – same jizz, same size as a grey, but definitely all over white and with a large yellow bill. Four Swallows flew east as both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler sang from the trees. 

Great White Egret 

Not far away a pair of Grey Partridge fed in a weedy field where the mild winter has produced a second crop of oilseed rape. As noted here on the blog many times, the Grey Partridge is now exceedingly uncommon in this part of Lancashire, so scarce that it is difficult to see how even with environmental schemes designed to help the species can ever reach its former status as a common farmland bird. 

Grey Partridge 

Compare the sad state of out native partridge with the introduced and now ubiquitous Red-legged Partridge. This is now the common partridge of the UK courtesy of the shooting fraternity who release many millions into the countryside each winter for “sport”. The birds left from the winter slaughter go on to breed in the same countryside that is now devoid of our native partridge and many other farmland birds. Such is the topsy-turvy way that we in the UK are governed by hopeless politicians and disinterested administrators whose loyalties are given to anyone but the people who pay their wages. 

Red-legged Partridge 

The Barn Owl, a poster boy for Wyre Council, was one of two I saw this morning, the other around Jeremy Lane when on the way to Cockersands. 

Barn Owl 

Barn Owl 

At Braides Farm there was a Merlin, a single Wheatear, 8 Linnet, 4 Pied Wagtails, 1 Little Egret, and three more Swallows flying into the easterly breeze. 

At Conder Green the principal species at the moment is Oystercatcher and where just as a week ago I counted 50+, most of them still in the throes of sorting out their forthcoming family life. If these numbers stay the same we should end up with 10-12 pairs breeding on habitat now highly suitable to their requirements. No Avocets today, or at least none in sight or heard, so perhaps the dozen or more individuals seen this year have all gone elsewhere. Otherwise - 12 Greylag, 4 Canada Geese, 12 Shelduck, 8 Tufted Duck and 2 Little Egret. No Swallows, Sand Martins or House Martins seen but there was 1 Willow Warbler in brief song. 


A drive up to Cockersands proved uneventful apart from a single but elusive Barn Owl that twice escaped closer inspection as it hunted a wide expanse of fields. Barn Owls are pretty easy to see just now if you know where to look. I suspect that a good number of hunting birds are feeding young, their sitting partner, or both. 

I found a lonely Swallow on the way to Cockersands. A single bird was sat above a traditional farm’s doorway, waiting for someone to open the door. The poor thing had not long arrived from scorching Africa to a familiar UK greeting of cold easterly winds and daytime temperatures of less than 10° C. 


There was a lovely flock of about 800 Golden Plovers on the fields at Cockersands. A flock has been thereabouts all through winter but it is only now that many begin to show their black and gold-spangled plumage. The Golden Plover is a truly beautiful bird that unbelievably, in 2019 and for the foreseeable future, can be legally shot in this country and many others. 

Golden Plover 

It is very difficult to get photographs of our Golden Plovers, hunted as they are throughout Northern Europe by homo sapiens.  

I watched as the flock spread out across two large fields, feeding as they went, stopping occasionally to crouch in unison as an unseen threat emerged. Their spangled plumage serves them well, even in the winter when they might become the target of an overhead Peregrine.  

Gradually, after a minute or more and when the coast was clear, they would stand one by one, two by two, and then continue feeding at a walking pace until all were at 80 yards or so from the field edge. And then soon after, at some unknown signal or perhaps when they sensed they were too close to the road where people and vehicles pass by, they would rise and fly as one back to the far edge of the field 400 yards away. Very quickly they started again their slow crossing of the field in search of food.      

Although the forecast is for yet another week of cold, easterly winds, back soon with more news.

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


UK citizens - Please sign this petition. 

Grant legal protection to Swallow, Swift and Martin nest sites not just nests. Live bird nests have legal protection, but nest sites do not. Swallows, Swifts and Martins return to the same nesting site year after year. If these nesting sites are destroyed, with few alternatives available, local extinctions are likely. 

Swallows, Swifts and Martins are already in severe decline, in part because of fewer insects, reduced habitat when they live abroad, and because their nesting sites are being destroyed. Addressing habitat loss and insect declines are very important, but require long-term resolution. This makes it all the more vital to prevent existing nest sites being destroyed - something which can be legislated on straight away. 

Link to the petition here- Petition Parliament  

Barn Swallow 

Barn Swallows 

Barn Swallows 

Barn Swallows

Thank You.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Blown Away

The morning proved mostly frustrating. I’d met up with Andy again at Oakenclough on a forecast of an 8 mph easterly wind that would drop during the morning until by 3pm it would be no more than 5 mph. Another Fake Forecast from the Brussels Broadcasting Corporation! 

From a very cool and steady 10 mph the wind actually increased to something like a bitterly cold 20 mph. For a while we sat in the car with the heater at full blast and the heated seats switched to “on” just to keep warm as the nets produced nothing. I tell a lie, a single Lesser Redpoll was all we had to show for our labours and the 0630 start. We’ll save our efforts for another day soon. 

There came recompense in the form of yet more news of the Lesser Redpolls we ring here at Oakenclough . A juvenile male number S800767 ringed here during autumn migration time on 26 September 2017 was later recaptured by other ringers.  The redpoll, by now an adult male, was caught again on 25 March 2019 at a garden centre near Kingswinford, West Midlands.  Almost certainly it was migrating north, the likely destination Scotland, our Oakenclough site a stop-over.   

S800767 probably spent the winters of both 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 many miles south of the West Midlands, perhaps near the south coast of England, or in a region of France or Belgium.  

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll - Kingswinford to Oakenclough

Because we finished early this morning I took a detour home via Garstang, Cockerham and then Pilling. 

Although pretty bare vegetation wise the now enhanced Condor Green was stuffed full of Oystercatchers and to a lesser extent Redshanks, both looking for territory in which to breed. I counted 58 Oystercatchers, 18 Redshanks and 2 Avocets, many already paired up, and from the Oystercatchers more than a few “piping parties”. 

There have been a number of Avocets passing through here recently but as far as I have seen none yet on territory – not a bad thing for a bird whose eye-catching looks belie an aggressive nature. 


There were still 8 Teal, 2 pairs of Tufted Duck, 3 pairs of Shelduck, 10 Greylag and a pair of Canada Goose. 

At our ringing site for Sand Martins at Cockerham I counted 60+ martins around last year's holes but it is far too early to disturb them; best for now to let the birds settle in and repair/excavate their new homes for 2019.

Sand Martin colony    

At Braides Farm - a lone Wheatear, 40+ Golden Plover in the grassy field and the pair of Pied Wagtails around the buildings where a Starling examined a nesting cavity. 


Pied Wagtail 


At Lane Ends Pilling I noted 4 Little Egret, the resident Little Grebes, a party of 5 Wheatears close together on the marsh. In the trees, song from 2 Chiffchaff and a single Willow Warbler. 

At Damside a pair of Kestrels is in residence, and seen from the gateway, another Wheatear along the fence line that heads to the marsh.

The weather next week suggests more moderate to strong easterlies, not the best wind direction to help returning migrants or one that might help our ringing.  But as ever our focus will be on the weather forecasts to find those windows of opportunity for birds, birders and ringers alike.

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

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Long Time No See

My April Fool of Sunday evening produced mixed results. Many readers failed to notice, even remarking that Birdchase seemed a great idea. The blog stats reveal that just one canny lady from Canada spotted the obvious clues, while several others didn't and then followed the link to read about “God’s Gift to April Fool's Jokes”. I heard that one or two readers took umbrage as they failed to appreciate the jest. Many birders take their pastime far too seriously. 

Enough of the jokes, the weather has turned cold again with arctic winds bringing cold mornings when we should be bathed in April sunshine. Just the other day there was a 15 car pile-up when a mini-blizzard of snow and hail hit the M55 near Kirkham, Preston. 

It was cold and misty on Saturday when Andy and I met up to a reasonable enough forecast that promised a morning’s ringing around the targeting of spring arriving Meadow Pipits. Mist hung around for more than 3 hours and only cleared when a biting northerly sprung up. We caught less than 10 birds with the highlight being 4 Meadow Pipits, 1 Reed Bunting and 1 Greenfinch, the latter now something of a rarity in our mist nets. 

Meadow Pipit


It’s always interesting to catch a Reed Bunting or two. Except in autumn when all juveniles look alike, it is rare that two same sex Reed Buntings are similarly attired. The timing and extent of their moults can vary so much that an individual can look completely different to the next bird caught at the very same time. The handsome male below is a second calendar year – born 2018. 

Reed Bunting 

If a Greenfinch is now an occasional treat a real rarity appeared by way of not one, but two Long-eared Owls roosting in the lee of the wind in amongst the lower branches of nearby trees. 

There has been one owl and sometimes two for some weeks now, but into April time for Long-eared Owls suggests a breeding pair with a nearby nest containing eggs or small young.  Suitable evenings soon will see us listening out for the “squeaky gate” calls of owlets at a number of likely trees that have old crow’s nests. 

Long-eared Owls 

In this part of Lancashire the Long-eared Owl is very scarce, perhaps even rare, a species that goes unnoticed because of its highly nocturnal habits. They are more commonly seen in winter when individuals may congregate in daytime roosts which are probably comprised of wholly migratory owls from Northern Europe rather than the mainly sedentary British population. 

The owls’ night-time habits do not lend them to easy survey during spring and summer with most bird watchers experience of the species confined to seeing them in winter roosts. These owl gatherings inevitably lead to the birds’ location becoming common knowledge through digital media followed by daily and merciless targeting by twitchers and toggers. Eventually the owls abandon even these traditional sites and seek out quieter less well known spots to spend their daylight hours. 

Hence our location is secret but highly unlikely to be the only Long-eared Owls around should any enquiring bird watcher decide to look for their own owl some rather than await a message on Whatsapp or Birdchase.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday.

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