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.


eileeninmd said...


What a great variety of sightings. I love the Barn owl.. The Grey partridge and Golden Plover are pretty. Great photos! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Debbie said...

lot's of action now!!! the egret was a favorite and the barn owl looks so small in it's photographs!!

really nice captures of the partridge, i have never seen one!!

all of my winter birds have left the area!!

carol l mckenna said...

Always a wonderful series of photos of our feathered friends!

Happy Times to you,
A ShutterBug Explores,
aka (A Creative Harbor)

Carol Henstra said...

Beautiful photos. I am really liking the Barn Owl as well.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The owls are so beautiful! You always get such amazing photos of them too. If I EVER see will probably be hidden in a tree trunk! Of course I look for them sighting yet! Enjoy your weekend! Stay warm!

Adam Jones said...

Yes Phil, this country is run by buffoons that don't listen. I saw my first Swallow and Willow Warbler of the year yesterday. Just need this weather to warm up a little. Great to see the Golden Plover in all its splendour.

sandyland said...

all favorites in one place

Betty Crow said...

Great selection of birds. I enjoyed seeing the barn owl and especially the egret. Beautiful in-flight shot.

Anu said...

Hello Phil. Wonderful serie of birds. I saw yesterday golden plover first time this year.

Bob Bushell said...

Fantastic selection of birds, my favourite Golden Plover, beautiful.

Anni said...

I am here to send you my thanks for linking in with us at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend. They're ALL absolutely stunning Phil! From the in flight egret, the partridge, the plover, oystercatcher, swallow, and owl!! Amazing photos.

Rhodesia said...

I will never understand why anyone would want to shoot beautiful birds of any kind. Also sad that introduced birds take over from the native birds, in fact, sad that any introduced species removes the native species as in the grey and red squirrel. Thank goodness we still have the red squirrel here at present. Lovely set of photos and although I like them all, the Barn Owl will always be my favourite. Have a good week Diane

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I really hate the whole idea of bird hunting and especially can’t believe it is OK to shoot the golden plover. Sometimes I wonder if there will be anything at all in nature for our great grandchildren to enjoy. .... every time I read your posts I think I I should write about the number of birds I see on our walks (especially this time of year). Sometimes Im so disappointed not to get get decent pictures that I forget to just be happy to see and hear them.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Hello Phil: Last day in Panama - we leave for home this evening. Your comments about the swallows got me thinking of our own Barn Swallows. We have seen hundreds heading north, and since the last radio tracking data we received showed birds on the Panama/Colombia border I couldn't help but muse that perhaps a couple of them might be SpruceHaven birds heading home.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Your photography is always so amazing!

NCSue said...

Gorgeous bird photos. Thanks for visiting us at

Fun60 said...

As always terrific photos. I am surprised that more birds are not protected.

mick said...

The Barn Owl is especially beautiful - I don't remember seeing one ever - anywhere. It seems insane to me to shoot Golden Plover!

Angie said...

Phil - thanks for the picture of the Grey Partridge. For all my time in the UK, I was not familiar with it. I always appreciate the barn owl photos, and your description of the behavior of the plovers was entertaining. Hope birding gets better for you as the weather improves (?).

Lady Fi said...

Gorgeous shots! That egret photo is amazing.

Lowcarb team member said...

I felt sure I'd commented on this post … but it seems I didn't!

Wonderful sightings and photographs.
Love the Great White Egret
Amazing to see the Grey Partridge
Nice to see the Red-legged Partridge
Who doesn't love seeing a barn owl
The wonderful colour beak of the Oystercatcher
The swallow looks so fluffy sitting there trying to keep warm
Like the Golden Plover

Great post Phil.

All the best Jan

Sandra Nachlinger said...

I just discovered your lovely photos and interesting descriptions. I'll be participating in Our World Tuesday more often!
My blog post features a hike in the “Issaquah Alps,” Washington State, USA.

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