Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pick N’ Mix

There was a sad start to the journey this morning when the car headlights picked out something motionless in the centre of the road near Pilling village. It was a Red Fox that had been hit by a vehicle. When when I looked closer there was fresh and still trickling blood. 

It’s an animal I would much rather see alive although I rarely do. Not for us the urban or even rural fox as in this part of Lancashire the Red Fox is controlled mercilessly by gamekeepers and farmers alike. I stopped to take a quick photograph or two as I was on my way to Oakenclough 10 miles away. 

Red Fox

I’d missed a couple of ringing sessions but while I was absent Andy caught more Redwings and a handful of Fieldfares. That brought our autumn Redwing total to 48 before today - 41 first year birds and 7 adults, a fairly typical ratio of ages. Although we thought this a pretty good effort, it broke no records. 

The morning forecast looked more promising than recent ones so we arranged to meet at 0600. That would give us time to have nets up to await the first arrivals of Redwings, overnight migrants or individuals that had roosted nearby. 


We caught the first Redwings in the dark and then a few more later in our catch of 39 birds and a mix of 12 species: 10 Greenfinch, 7 Redwing, 6 Blue Tit, 4 Blackbird, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Robin, 2 Coal Tit and then singles of Treecreeper, Dunnock, Great Tit, Goldcrest and Lesser Redpoll. 

At this time of year individual Redwings Turdus iliacus cannot be sexed by appearance or size. Redwings of the Icelandic race Turdus iliacus coburni can occasionally be separated out by a combination of their larger size and darker colouration. As yet all of our autumn Redwings have fitted the iliacus pattern with none exhibiting features to suggest a more thorough inspection. 

The one pictured below is an obvious first year “iliacus”, easily aged through both the fault bars in the pointy tail and the cream “notches” in the primary feather coverts. 



There was a steady trickle of Redwings until about 0900 hours by which time we had counted about 130 individuals as they arrived from a north-westerly direction. 

To catch four new Blackbirds is quite unusual for us here with all proving to be quite large, heavy at about 100 gm and long-winged (126-137 mm). We considered that three of them were recent immigrant Blackbirds. 

When British Blackbirds return to gardens in the winter, they are often joined by immigrants. Large numbers of Blackbirds migrate from Scandinavia and continental Europe to spend the winter in Britain and Ireland. Very often these individuals, especially the males are subtly different from our own resident Blackbirds, by amongst other things, their dark bills, sooty plumage and scalloped throat and breast feathers. 


There was a noticeable arrival of both Greenfinches and Chaffinches this morning as tiny parties arrived from the north-west throughout our five hour stay. We counted approximately 70 Greenfinches and 50 Chaffinches, a likely underestimate in the always overcast sky and poor visibility. 

At this time of year our Greenfinches eat large amounts of the fruit of the rose plant, rose-hip. A giveaway sign is the amount of red residue on their bills. 


Rose hips 


The morning saw a substantial movement of Wood Pigeons consisting of small parties but also two large flocks of c150 and c300 - in all about 540 individuals flying strongly from North West to South East. 


David M. Gascoigne, said...

Hello Phil: It is pretty sad to see the fox injured like that. They are quite common urban creatures here, and there seems to be no desire to hunt them down. A woman in our naturalists club had them breed under her deck and she obtained a whole series of pictures of the mother with four kits playing in her backyard. She was quite happy to have them there. As for your banding, you had a sessions with thrushes of one kind or another predominating, and I am sure that was quite agreeable. Very sorry to hear that Sue has not been in top form. Please give her our best. We hope she is fully recovered very soon. In the meantime, be sure to take good care of her.

italiafinlandia said...

What a coincidence! I was so happy to photograph a red fox today in an open field close to my home in Finland! :)
I confirm it does not happen often.
It was a beautiful sunny day - although quite cold - and I took great shots. It made my day.
So sorry for the case you describe...

Ludmiła Jabłońska said...

This is a very valuable activity - the study of migrating birds. Being in Poland, I wanted to be employed as a chef in an ornithological camp to be able to take part in these works. Good luck!

eileeninmd said...


It is sad to see the fox that way. The Redwing and Blackbird are pretty. My favorites are the Greenfinch and the Chaffinch! Great photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy weekend!

Sharon said...

Sad to see the fox and to hear they are so tightly controlled. I saw more foxes when i lived in the middle of a housing estate in town than I have since moving out to the countryside!
Thanks for the info about the differences in blackbirds, I'm going to keep an eye out for immigrant ones in our back yard now.
Have a lovely weekend!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I's very sad. We have foxes here but don't see them very often. I'm glad you saw good numbers of birds. Beautiful photos as always. Enjoy your weekend!

sandyland said...

send me some to fl

Anni said...

In my entire 70 years I've only seen one fox in the wild. So sad to see this. Your banding days seem to be prosperous. And I learned something new from you...fault bars.

Stopping by I'd Rather B Birdin this week and sharing your link is appreciated...thanks!

The Ornery Old Lady said...

Must have been a bad day for red foxes. I also saw a red fox dead on the side of Highway 287 coming out of Lafayette yesterday.

Beautiful bird photos!

Wally Jones said...

Interesting information about the blackbirds. I'm always fascinated when observing seasonal migrants how much subtle variation each species can display.

Our area will soon be inundated with fresh strawberries and my muzzle will resemble that of your Greenfinch.

A wildlife biologist recently told me that foxes in Florida are "abundant but not common", which at first seemed to me an oxymoron. But have seen their tracks often, however seldom observe an actual animal, so I'm sure he's correct.

Gini and I hope you and Sue are well and are having a great New Week!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I love foxes although I have never see one in the wild. I know Florida is supposed to have the grey fox like most of the US but I've never seen it. There is something about red fox pictures that do call to me - sorry to hear about the one on the road. Here in Florida we have armadillo with their bony shells to protect them. Unfortunately it doesn't protect them from vehicles.

Jim said...

Interesting post.

Fun60 said...

Here I am in the suburbs of London and see foxes most days and am often woken by their screaming at night. I see far more foxes wandering down the road than I do cats. Such is the life of the urban fox. I admire you getting up before dawn on these cold and miserable mornings to do such an important job.

NCSue said...

Great shots. Your posts are always interesting to me.
Thank you for joining us at

Photo Cache said...

The rose hips impress me.

Worth a Thousand Words

Dora William said...

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Dora William said...

what does it take to be a successful author ? I would say that initial reviews and marketing definitely boost your book. I used to get a few reviews and also promote my book. Hopping to be in the top 100 genre lists and see better sales this Christmas season…

Angie said...

Phil - so, so sad about the fox. I have only seen them in the wild a couple of times - once here in Montana and once in Cleveland when we had a family being raised just on the edge of our woods. During our recent time in the UK, I saw many "chaffies" - the coloring is so lovely! Enjoy the rest of your week!

Powell River Books said...

So sad about the fox. The eye of the blackbird is amazing. - Margy

Lowcarb team member said...

It is sad to see the fox like that …

Amazing photograph of the rose hips and blackbird.

All the best Jan

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