Friday, May 24, 2019

Almost Smartie Time

A week after our return from holiday and the necessary catch-ups completed it was time to check out a few local places. 

I started at Cockerham Quarry where the Sand Martin colony should be well underway. It was - many dozens of holes and a hive of activity as 140 or more Sand Martins flew back and forth to their excavations. The martins were still collecting dried grasses from the quarry floor for lining their chambers situated mostly at the very top of the quarry face. I saw no early fledglings, just adults. 

Sand Martin 

The quarry face is unstable and the entrance holes very high which puts it into the realms of a mountaineering expedition rather than a modest mist netting session. We plan another visit in early/mid June and when there are youngsters about and when the increase in overall numbers may present catching opportunities at lower levels. 

There were a few Sand Martins over the water at Conder Green, just a flap and a glide from the quarry. A few Swallows too, but sadly, no sign of Swifts. Each year sees a decline in Swallows and Swifts all around us but the success of the nearby Sand Martin colony has increased their numbers in the local area. 

Waders and wildfowl now consist of those either likely too or in the actual process of breeding, and counts of 10 Oystercatcher, 6 Redshank, 4 Avocet, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 10 Tufted Duck and 6 Shelduck. The 4 Little Egrets are not nesting but a pair or two of Common Tern seemed to be among the six individuals that I saw argue and display over the islands and nesting platforms. 

Shelduck - male 

 Shelduck - female

Avocets have at least two feeding methods. In clear water, they feed by sight by picking prey from the surface of water or mud. In poor visibility and when locating prey from within the sediments, they forage by touch, sweeping the long, up-curved bill from side to side through water or loose sediment to locate hidden prey. In deeper water they swim readily and buoyantly, up-ending like a duck to reach food below the surface. 




Passerines along the hedgerow were not many - 3 Goldfinch, plus singing singles of Common Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and Blackcap. Just today saw the first juvenile Goldfinches appear in my back garden, fluttering their wings and begging to be fed by accompanying adults. 

Along Jeremy Lane I found the only Reed Warbler of the morning, singing from the roadside ditch but with none in the usual spots in the dense reeds of Conder Green. As ever, it is not necessarily the species and/or numbers seen. It is those birds that are absent which provide clues about the ups but mostly downs of bird populations. 

Further exploration of the lanes produced good numbers of Sedge Warbler, twelve or more singing along the ditches of Moss Lane, Jeremy Lane and Cockersands. In contrast, Common Whitethroats were few and far between with just three songsters along the same circuit, although I did happen upon a Lesser Whitethroat. 

As the name suggests, this warbler is smaller than its cousin the Common Whitethroat. It has dark cheek feathers which contrast with the pale throat and can give it a 'masked' look. Lesser Whitethroats can be skulking and hard to see, often only noticed when they give their very distinctive harsh, rattling song. In contrast, the song of a Common Whitethroat is fast, scratchy and scolding, often delivered from a conspicuous song post for all to see and hear. Today it was a blossoming hawthorn bush.

Lesser Whitethroat 

Common Whitethroat 

Common Whitethroat 

I saw good numbers of Lapwings, Brown Hares and Stock Doves in the cut meadows near Cockersands where I chanced upon a young Lapwing. Just the right size for a "D" ring - the first and probably last of the year. 

 Brown Hare


Lapwing chick

Back soon with more news and views.

In the meantime, linking with Wild Bird WednesdayAnni's Birding  and Eileen's Saturday Post.


David M. Gascoigne, said...

Hi Phil: It is really good news that the Sand Martin colony is doing so well and I hope that your banding operation later in the year will be successful. This is a species that is in serious decline here, and remediation techniques have met with indifferent success.

Екатерина Балагурова said...

Great photos!!

italiafinlandia said...

Thanks for the info and the shots.
The Shelduck and Avocet are very pretty!

Adam Jones said...

I've enjoyed watching and listening to the Lesser Whitethroats this year. Typically difficult to see as you say, and I'm very jealous of that shot you've got of one. It's excellent!

Anu said...

Hello Phil.
Wonderful photos. Schelduck is one of my favorite birds.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil

Beautiful collection of birds and wonderful sightings. The Lapwing and chick are my favorites. The Shelduck has lovely colors, gorgeous duck. Thanks for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend.

sandyland said...

wow you make me feel //i'm there

Wally Jones said...

The cycles of nature help provide a sense of stability in an increasingly unstable world. Your laudable efforts to catalog the status of our avian populations is important for the birds, those who might manage their habitat, researchers, historians and, I daresay, to you, in a very personal way.

Not to mention the pure entertainment value it offers us, your dear readers!

Spring has apparently sprung in your part of (if I may be so bold) Great Britain. Thank you for sharing the beauty of so many birds I wish I could see in person.

We're in the midst of a heatwave in sub-tropical Florida and young birds are begging for food everywhere we go. Hopefully, we'll get a few to pose before they turn into obnoxious teenagers. (Is that redundant?)

Hope your weekend is half as good as ours!

Anni said...

Wow! A real treasure you found. All are absolutely spectacular Phil. The chick melts my heart. And the reflections of those shelducks are incredible.

Thanks for stopping by I'd Rather B Birding this weekend, and sharing your birds!

Sharon said...

It's great that the Sandmartins are doing well, although it is sad that you haven't seen/heard Swifts around. We have plenty of Swallows where we are in Ireland, but the sightings of Swifts are so few.
Love the Lapwing chick - such a cutie :)

Stewart M said...

Great set of pictures - I remember fishing on the Bristol Avon as a kid and having Sand Martins nesting in the bank opposite where I was fishing. I wonder if there are still there.

cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne.

Fun60 said...

Shelducks and lapwings are a couple of my favourites. Great set of photos.

mick said...

Very interesting bird observations and of course great photos. I especially liked the avocet photos which showed the different feeding options so well. The little bird on the hawthorn flower is especially beautiful.

Lydia C. Lee said...

That hare is gorgeous. So striking.

Angie said...

Phil - the Shelduck reflections are so perfect - could be a painting! And the shots of the Common Whitethroat on the hawthorn could grace the pages of a nature book - gorgeous setting for the bird! Thanks for always sharing not only your pictures but also your observations.

Lowcarb team member said...

Another great collection here for us to enjoy - and I did, thank you.

The Shelduck has such amazing colours and markings and the reflections in the photographs were so nice too.

Hope you are settling back into the routine of being home again after your lovely break to Menorca.

All the best Jan

Stuart Price said...

I saw a Lesser Whitethroat the last time I was back in the UK in early summer. A great enigmatic little bird..........

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