Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Better Day With No Buzzards.

After almost two weeks of unseasonable wind and rain there was just a chance the weather might ease slightly and allow a spot of ringing.  The dark of Tuesday night and into early Wednesday saw more pouring rain and then en route to Oakenclough the car splashed through fresh pools of water to confirm that August 2019 is the wettest ever recorded; and another week to go! 

I met up with Andy to 100% murk and to cool, threatening cloud but we reassured ourselves that the pourcast for the morning was 5/10 mph wind plus the chance of a fleeting shower only. 

And so it was but the overnight downpours had done us no favours with a poor catch of just 14 birds and minimal obvious migration: 5 Willow Warbler, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Goldcrest and one each of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Great Tit and Chaffinch. 

Today’s five new Willow Warblers, all first year/juveniles, increased our total here to 74 for the year, a much higher figure than normal and almost certainly due to a good productivity during the settled weather of June and July. 


Willow Warbler 


There was little in the way of other birds, the cool, damp start had done for that. We saw a small movement of Swallows heading south in parties of 5-10, in total about 60 individuals. Otherwise, a flock of 20/30 Goldfinch, 2 or more great-spotted Woodpeckers and a single Nuthatch. 

On the way home via Pilling and Rawcliffe Moss there was a flock of 80/90 Swallows on overhead wires, the most I have seen all year. This is a sure sign that Swallows are preparing to migrate. They flew about restlessly, and gathered on telegraph wires. 

Most Swallows leave the UK during September, with early broods of youngsters being the first to go. A few stragglers may hang around into October.  


The return journey to Africa takes about six weeks. Swallows from different parts of Europe fly to different destinations. Our UK Swallows end up in the very south. They travel down through western France and eastern Spain into Morocco, before crossing the Sahara Desert and the Congo rain forest – finally reaching South Africa and Namibia. 

Swallows migrate during daylight, flying quite low and covering about 320 km (200 miles) each day. At night they roost in huge flocks in reed-beds at traditional stopover spots. Since Swallows feed entirely on flying insects, they don’t need to fatten up before leaving, but can snap up their food along the way. Nonetheless, many die of starvation. If they survive, they can live for up to eleven or twelve years but such an age is very exceptional with most surviving less than four years. 

It is very sad that this much-loved species, and like so many others, is in such a downward population spiral. 


As a further aside, I’m not seeing many Buzzards this year. Normally by late summer and on the regular 15 mile journey from Oakenclough to home at Stalmine via Garstang, Nateby, Skitham, Rawcliffe and Pilling, stopping now and again, there would be 10-15 in the air. This morning - none. 

This lack of Common Buzzards has troubled me all year. 


Unfortunately, in this part of quiet countryside where the rearing of non-native game birds followed by the winter shooting of the same in the name of “sport” is very widespread, the Common Buzzard, both innocent and occasionally guilty, is now very much an Avian non grata. 

I’m not accusing anyone, just to note that all of a sudden, Buzzards have become very scarce. Bird watchers - be on the alert, and if necessary report to the authorities any suspicions you have.

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot.


David M. Gascoigne, said...

My word, Phil, you have certainly had your challenges with bad weather this year, and given your passion it affects everything else you do. Here, after a slow start to summer, it has really been quite glorious; today being no exception, sunny with a high temperature of around 25 degrees. Perfect! We will be opening our nets this weekend for the start of our fall banding and we are hoping for a good season with new and exciting discoveries.

italiafinlandia said...

Thanks for the info about Swallows. Lovely birds and jolly flyers.
Here in north Italy in this moment they are so nice to see...

Helma said...

Hello Phil,
these fitisses are really beautiful. Nice and sharp and you can count the feathers. The buzzard is nicely photographed in flight! Top.

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Great to hear of the Willow Warbler increase not not so much good news for the Buzzard Phil. I hope you have a great weekend.

eileeninmd said...


I love your sweet Blackcap, Willow Waber and the Chiffchaff. Nice sighting of the swallows, they will be on their south soon. It is sad to hear about the Buzzards, I do not like hunting for sport. It seems the birds have enough to deal and then there is the hunting. Thank you for linking up! Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend.

Sami said...

Great info about the swallows, I had no idea they could fly such huge distances every when they migrated.
Sad about the hunting for birds though :(

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I sure have had to wait on the weather a lot this summer. Love seeing the Swallows. We have some here but when I see them in flight, I can't get good photos. Love that last photo! What a fine specimen! Enjoy your weekend. Hope the sun shines!

Jenn Jilks said...

It's too bad about the weather. We need rain, here in Ontario...
I love this "can snap up their food along the way. " It would make the journey easier. So sad their population is in decline.

Lowcarb team member said...

I especially enjoyed seeing the Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.
Not that I have anything against swallows and Buzzards!

All the best Jan

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