Monday, April 27, 2020

A Gentle Stroll - Stop And Stare.

We count ourselves fortunate that we live in Stalmine, a village less than a mile from the partly tidal River Wyre. A walk along country lanes leads directly to the Wyre salt marshes with paths that head south inland to Eccleston or north to the mouth of the estuary where the village of Knott End looks across to the once prosperous fishing port of Fleetwood. 

River Wyre, Lancashire 

There is little of the fishing industry left in Fleetwood. Fish now comes overland by truck and van where it is gobbled up by large wholesalers rather than fish landing by local trawlers that in turn provide jobs to town folk. Perhaps in 2021 when Britain regains its rightful fishing waters we may see a revival in the fortunes, finances and lost skills of the many coastal towns like Fleetwood. 

Fleetwood from Knott End 

After a number of weeks with little birding I headed towards the river, where I hoped to avoid crowds and vigilantes who might report me on social media for stopping occasionally and not walking briskly. I strolled alongside hedgerows, trees and farmland where I knew there would be birds to watch. For goodness sake, what is a walk without a stop and a stare? 

Just down the lane I found my first young Blackbird of the year as it scuttled noisily along neighbours’ fences. And it sat there until a male Blackbird came along to investigate the clicking of the camera. The youngster was so recently out of the nest it still had the remains of the egg tooth. The egg tooth is a small, sharp, protuberance used by youngsters to break or tear through the egg's surface during hatching. 



Buzzards are common over our house as they nest most years less than half-a-mile away. Without fail their circling flights above attract Buzzards from surrounding areas both from their calls and through their phenomenal eyesight. It’s not uncommon to have seven, eight or nine Buzzards overhead whereby if their calls don’t make me look up, the calls of the tormenting gulls surely will. This morning was three, yesterday seven. There was a Sparrowhawk too when a Starling gave the game away with a warning call as the hawk circled once or twice then flew off towards another copse. 



Dunnocks, Wrens and Blackbirds were everywhere but just a single Whitethroat along lanes lined on both sides by trees and hedgerows, an ideal habitat for the usually noisy summer migrant. I’m hoping it’s just the northerly winds of the last few days that have held up the Whitethroats rather than a wholesale loss on their perilous journey. 

At New House there are always House Martins where seven or eight pairs nest every year without fail. As yet no martins and passing Swallows have been few with just six or eight today. Willow Warblers too are strangely missing, a species that often sings from local gardens on first arrival until they find their preferred place along the lanes. There was a singing Chiffchaff in the same spot by the old damson trees and where I’ve heard one in past years but rarely follow up as the season progresses. 

Compensation came with an obliging Sedge Warbler alongside a reedy ditch. It sang from inside the tree, at the very top and from down in the ditch as I followed it up, down and around about. This proved a morning of Sedge Warblers and a count of seven along the way. 

 Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler 

Further down the lane are gorse bushes and fields that once grew crops of vegetables but now grow grass. There’s no winter stubble with now zero counts of Yellowhammers or Tree Sparrows and very few Chaffinches but there are a few Lapwings that scrape a living on marginal land before the first cuts of silage. There was another Lapwing sat on eggs and the one below acting very much like the concerned parent. 


At the river I surveyed the undulating marsh that has dozens if not hundreds of tidal channels, ditches that are both deep and dangerous to the unwary or inexperienced. The bund allows a glimpse in some of the closer channels where I found several Redshank, a Greenshank, several Curlew, two Whimbrel and a Reed Bunting. 

Burrows Marsh, River Wyre 

The Whimbrel flew quickly away with their characteristic and unmistakable call of seven rapid whistles. Why the Whimbrel always gives seven calls but not five, six, eight or nine is not entirely clear but is a unique call that once learnt is never forgotten. 


I retraced my steps back home with a Kestrel, Buzzards still above but no new Whitethroats. 

Back soon with more stop and stare. And there’s rain in the forecast, following an April that may be the driest on record.  There’s a novelty. 


Rhodesia said...

Wow, you did well and all so close to home. Our 1km radius brings forth very little of interest though I did see a young Stonechat the other day! Even the bugs are elsewhere mostly, sigh. I heard one of the Owls at the weekend but no sightings at all. Keep well, Diane

Stevenson Que said...

Nice to be back on your blog my friend Phil! I am so amazed with the beauty of the fishing port you shared to us and I really hope it can revive the fishing industry on your town. These birds are amazing as usual especially seeing that buzzard and sparrowhawk in flight! But of course, my favorite is the bird that your blog has introduced me to, that cute lapwing! I now notice the spectrum of rainbow colors on its wingside. Beautiful!

Please stay safe my friend and sending you wishes of an awesome new week ahead of us! Glad to hear you will have rain soon, would really love that here as well :)


Mike Attwood said...

You are lucky to get that much freedom Phil, I'm stuck in my garden so I get what comes to me. We have an air polution problem in our village from lorries and aircraft and since the lockdown and the reduced polution the place is comming to life again so the future looks good. In the meantime I have my night animals which tend to keep me up half the night. Stay safe. Mike.

Photo Cache said...

Birds are so beautiful especially when they spread their winds and soaring through the skies.

Worth a Thousand Words

Wally Jones said...

Good on you for getting out to stop and stare a bit!

You found some nice birds at which to stare, too. Any day which includes a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk is a good day. The Sedge Warbler may be plain looking but is really handsome. I found its song online and the burbling clear notes were really cheerful.

I'm going to have to locate a Whimbrel and count its calls. (Gini does the actual counting as I am mathematically challenged.)

All is good here. So far, our forays into some remote locales have been without incident. However, as you point out, we know the torch and pitchfork crowd is looking for us ---

Have a great day! We are.

Angie said...

Phil - so glad to hear you have been able to get out and about! Surely, as long as you are keeping your distance, there's no problem with stopping to look at birds!?!

Today, I saw a Black-necked Stilt at a nearby lake. Looking on the Audubon App, it says it is an uncommon migrant in this area. I think it is more akin to your marshes than our alpine lakes! Stay well, my friend!

Lowcarb team member said...

What a lovely post this is Phil, beautiful photographs.
As well as the beautiful birds I liked the scene showing Fleetwood from Knotts End …
I'm so pleased you took time to stop and stare :)

All the best Jan

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