Saturday, May 30, 2020

Martin Morning

Our Sand Martins (smarties) give us headaches every year. Last year all of their nests were high up the quarry face and out of reach for catching purposes. This proved even more frustrating when regular visits showed peak counts of 250-300 individual and 100 or more active nest holes. 

This year, and along with Swallows and House Martins, the Sand Martins arrived late. This year they chose a different part of the quarry face in which to nest and where the number of active tunnels seemed closer to 60 with the numbers of martins no greater than 130. 

But, this year’s face has a sheer rather than a sloping profile of loose grand and gravel, so on weighing up the possibilities, we considered it might be possible to catch a few.  Chris kindly offered to help out by way of placing some heavy anchorage on the quarry floor with which to secure a single mist net at both ends. 

Off we went for an early start when the sun would not light up a mist net. As it was, our net was many feet below the lowest tunnels but in the shade of the quarry face. We had a decent catch of 30 Sand Martins and 1 House Sparrow, the latter very unexpected. 

Sand Martin 

Sand Martin colony 

The martins divided as 20 adult males and 10 adult females. This told us that a good number of females were sat tight in the nest holes and that, as yet, there are no fledged youngsters. 

Field Sheet

Sand Martin

Other birds seen this morning – 18 Greylag Goose, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Mistle Thrush. 


Mistle Thrush

Linking today with Eileen's Saturday Blogspot and Anni's Blogging.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Catching Up

We have now lost two months of ringing with a corresponding loss of two months of data collection. Bird ringers confined to barracks have not caught other ringers’ birds and ringers have been unable to catch birds previously ringed by others. 

Many ringed birds are recovered via Joe Public when they report their finding of a ringed bird via the address inscribed on each ring, but with so many people stuck at home it was inevitable that incoming information would be much less. 

Bird Rings - Size E and Size F 

Although ringing is no longer all about the where and when of bird movements, it is always interesting and thought provoking to receive a BTO notification about a bird ringed weeks, months or years before. Even better perhaps is to catch a bird wearing an unfamiliar ring number with a foreign ring, the ultimate prize for many bird ringers. 

The emphasis of bird ringing is the generation of information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing. Ringing data make a major contribution to the study of population changes and to the understanding of species declines. 

Bird populations are determined by the number of fledglings raised and the survival of both juveniles and adults. 

On Monday, and after a weekend of gale force winds, we had a chance to remedy the recent data loss with an overdue visit to Oakenclough. There was a promise of a 5 mph and early morning sunshine for the meet with Andy at 0600. 

At this time of year we don’t expect huge catches because migration is over and birds have settled down in one spot to breed. It will be mid to late June before the catch rate improves. Therefore our catch of just eight birds came as no surprise and accompanied with the ringer’s refrain – “Well if you don’t go, you don’t know”. 

Our eight birds generated a little new data by way of  4 Blackcap (2 male, 2 female ) 2 male Willow Warbler, 1 juvenile Robin and 1 juvenile Wren. 




Recapture Willow Warbler KCE788, an adult male was ringed here at Oakenclough on 24th July 2019 when it was undertaking its main moult period prior to heading back to Africa. It was in breeding condition again today where it was caught and then released in exactly the same area. 

Willow Warbler 


This was a quiet morning and other than the birds caught there was little to see; except for 2 Swallow, 4 Willow Warbler, 4 Chaffinch, 2 Goldfinch, 40 Greylag , 2 Oystercatcher and 2 Lapwing. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

On The Road Again

Recent mornings saw overcast skies, cold winds and very little sunshine. Such mornings are not ideal for a visit to the Pennine hills with a camera itching to click. I pencilled in Wednesday for an early start and then watched as the forecasts did their best to thwart the plan. 

There was a thirty minute drive before the first stone walls above Garstang where waders, wagtails and pipits wait for townies to slow, or stop and stare. They quickly drive on, not knowing the names of common British birds while clueless as to the dramas that unfold behind them. 

In April and throughout May begins a potent mix of territorial song and single-minded ownership of a stretch of wall, fence, hedgerow and a patch of ground.  By late May and into June begins the frantic warnings to vulnerable young and the loud scolding of intruders - man, beast or bird. 


It would be interesting to see how birds react to a car and wound down window following eight weeks when Joe Public was locked out from their heritage. While the shutdown continued gamekeepers were given a free pass for the “essential work” of supplying Red Grouse for the shooting season of 12th August.

During this time the RSPB were flooded with reports of birds of prey being killed in the uplands - a pure coincidence perhaps?  The Guardian.

Red Grouse

For those who wish to continue reading, I will post the same link at the bottom of this page together with a link to Raptor Rescue with the question - "Why has grouse shooting not been banned for this year?"  

But now back to the job in hand and a favourite stretch of road where the farmer had been busy catching moles. 


I saw upland waders in their regular spots - Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew, Snipe and Oystercatcher but probably less Oystercatchers and Lapwings than in recent years. 2020 has been an exceptionally dry spring, one that has not been beneficial to birds that probe wet areas for food. On the other hand there seemed good numbers of Snipe this morning, and decent counts of both Curlew and Redshank, three species that favour soft ground.  And, I was surprised to see one or two roadside puddles perhaps as a result of a drop or two of heavier rain on Tuesday. 




There was a Redshank that survived a winter or two despite the handicap of sheep wool entwined around each ankle. 


Meadow Pipit 

Pied Wagtail 

I saw plenty of Meadow Pipits, not too many Pied Wagtails, but 20 or more Grey Wagtails along the various watercourses up here. Both Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails have yet to show many youngsters, but the early breeding Grey wags have had a good year. This was a dry spring and zero disturbance from the annual day trippers who like to splash sticks and stones into the many streams. 

Grey Wagtail habitat, picnic spot

Grey Wagtail 

The streams held a couple of pairs of Common Sandpiper, a single Grey Heron and a small colony of 30 or more Sand Martins in the low riverbank banks of Cam Brow. Unfortunately this is another spot favoured by the sticks and stones brigade of picnicking tourists, now with no work but beginning to return to Bowland on sunny days. 

It’s difficult not to hear Cuckoos but virtually impossible to see them up here in Bowland. I guess I heard six male Cuckoos this morning, one or two fairly close, but saw not a one. Maybe this is a sign that the fortunes of the Common Cuckoo are on the up? 

At Marshaw the House Martin colony at Tower Lodge was frantic with birds rushing in and out of the eaves and eager to make up for lost time of their late arrival. Hard to say how many with the eaves in near darkness but six or eight nests looked likely. 

Other birds seen but not photographed today included 6 Blackcap, 2 Redstart, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Pied Flycatcher, 2 Lesser Redpoll,  8/10 Willow Warbler, 4 Mistle Thrush and piles of Blackbirds.  Those links below.

More soon. Stay Tuned.

Linking today to Anni's Blog and Eileen's Blogspot. Pay them a visit for more weekend birds.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Stay Alert Birding

There’s good news. Ringers in England may go ringing again subject to following the constraints which apply to the public as a whole. It’s bad luck for ringers who live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, whose devolved governments have taken a tougher line on releasing folk from house arrest. 

Andy tells me that via cameras in each box, the Kestrels of 2019 have five eggs while the Barn Owls are in situ but yet to lay any eggs. Mid-June should see more progress with both species and a then a spot of ringing when the youngsters are big enough. 

Barn Owl 2019

 Kestrels 2019

I was due to meet Andy later for a foray to a private site that has ringing possibilities. But first came a trip to Conder Green with the heated seat switched firmly “on” and the cabin heater to “max” when the dash said “-3°C” and I saw the layer of ice on the windscreen. 

A quick check of Conder Green’s pool and creeks revealed a few changes but nothing extraordinary. Both Avocet pairs appeared to be on eggs, one of the females is shown in the picture below sitting in her depression in the ground while her mate feeds closely by. There were still two pairs of Common Tern finding food here on the pool or out on the near estuary and where the tiny fish soon become presents to sitting a mate. 



Common Tern

A pair of Great Crested Grebe put in a brief appearance before they flew off in the direction of Glasson Dock where the species breeds in most years dependent upon disturbance and suitable water levels. A pair of Canada Goose have success by way of 4 tiny goslings. 

In the creek Godwits continue to fluctuate with today 44 Bar-tailed Godwit and 4 Black-tailed Godwit. There was a single Greenshank and a lone Dunlin. Four Swift was my highest count of the year so far on this the fourteenth of May. 

That completed the lightning visit to Conder Green because I was due to meet Andy at a local farm. The farmer, let’s call him Tom, Dick or Harry, emailed last week to ask if I would spend time on his little piece of heaven and make an inventory of the birds seen so as to help with his green credentials. “No more than two people”, he stressed. 

 “OK Boss”, I replied. 

 “I will take a look once lockdown is ended.” 

Now by mid-May we hoped to find active Skylark nests on his land and better still, ring a few youngsters before the season ends. Initially, and somewhat rarer than finding Skylarks were 2 pairs of Corn Bunting. 

It was pretty hard work as the males were very mobile around a number of song posts both fence and bush. It’s likely that females were sat on eggs or even tiny young but Corn Bunting nests are notoriously difficult to locate. It’s probably 20 years ago that I last ringed nestling Corn Buntings so it would be nice to reacquaint with them when they have become so very scarce. 

Corn Bunting 

Corn Bunting 

Skylarks were fairly thin on the ground with at least 5 singing but little sign of activity at ground or fence post level. We’ll take another look soon when there may be more action if the larks are late or failed on first attempts. 

There’s a small copse and a few nice stands of phragmites reed where we found 6 singing Reed Warbler, 4 singing Reed Bunting and 2 Sedge Warbler. In the copse that surrounds a tiny pool we discovered Little Grebe, Grey Heron, 4 Tufted Duck, an overhead Buzzard and a patrolling Kestrel. 

Reed Warbler 

Sedge Warbler

Reed Bunting

We were surprised by a small flock of Linnets that numbered 12-15, a little late in spring for Linnets to be in company rather than paired up for breeding. In other areas we found 3 Pied Wagtail, 3 Little Egret, 4 Tufted Duck and 8 Stock Dove. While not spectacular, and local birding rarely is, we found a good variety of birds and I guess more visits are on the card for the coming weeks. 

Back home in the garden there are Greenfinches feeding chicks. Trouble is, the nest is high in a conifer where I would need a ladder and sky hooks to reach.  Probably better to stay safe at ground level?  

Back soon with more from Another Bird Blog where the messages remain much the same – Enjoy All Birds, Stay Alert, Stay Safe, and Control Your Urge to Watch the BBC, C4, ITV or Sky. 

You know it makes sense.

Linking this post to Viewing Nature with Eileen and Anni in Texas.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Early Closing Wednesday News

On Wednesday morning the windscreen wipers dragged across the screen and the dash warned of 3°C and a chance of ice. I set off regardless for my morning walk because that frosty start would mean sun and lots of it. 

Flushed with Monday’s success in finding the Grey Partridge, I went back and hoped for better pictures by waiting until the sun lifted and gave bright sunshine. With good reason the Grey Partridge is a wary bird, its population at rock bottom and falling into the abyss. 

Grey Partridge 

Grey Partridge

 Check out the table below. As a nation we should be thoroughly ashamed. 

Grey Partridge - courtesy of BTO

Alongside the field were single males of both Reed Bunting and Blackbird and also 2 Stock Doves. The suspicious doves flew off, the wary partridge remained for now. 

There was a Kestrel taking the morning air near Conder Green so I stopped to look at the hawk and then took a peek on the pool and the creeks. 


The godwits had changed their ratios from Monday with the majority now Bar-tailed Godwits at 24 but Black-tailed Godwits at 18.  We had gained a Spotted Redshank and 6 Dunlin however it appeared that some of Monday's excitable Avocets had departed with their number down to six. 

There’s an elusive Little-ringed Plover, first you see it, then you don’t, but almost certainly there’s a female too, sat on eggs out of sight of prying eyes and cameras. 


Shelduck numbered 10-15, the difficulty of a count augmented by some flying to and from the marsh in territorial disputes. Just 4 Tufted Duck plus the now established pair of Canada Geese. Common Tern two pairs again, one pair on the pontoon and one pair on the near island. Four Little Egret. 

There was a single Meadow Pipit in display on the marsh, the first there for a few years; and there was a smattering of Swallows but no House Martins over the marsh and the dwellings opposite. 

Around Jeremy Lane were upwards of 15 Sedge Warblers in song with an increase to 7 or 8 Common Whitethroat and the usual Tree Sparrows and Blackcaps at the nest boxes there. 

Sedge Warbler

Common Whitethroat

A couple of days ago I took pics of a tiny Lapwing chick, one of two identical fluff balls. There were other chicks in nearby fields and from their size hatched at similar times. Now I found just one chick of those original ones, the remainder having walked across fields with parents, lost to predators or the weather. It’s not unexpected but still something of a mystery why and how few survive to adulthood. 

Lapwing chick 

A female proved very watchful and kept the chick at a safe distance from my car but presented fine opportunities for a picture. The shorter than male crest and the maternal behaviour told me that this was the female parent of the now lone chick. 




Now I’m no expert on mammals but this Jill appears to be pregnant; and Jack was nowhere to be seen. 

Brown Hare 

Wiki - Brown Hare “The female nests in a depression on the surface of the ground rather than in a burrow and the young are active as soon as they are born. Litters may consist of three or four young and a female can bear three litters a year, with hares living for up to twelve years. The breeding season lasts from January to August. A male hare is called a jack, a female is a jill.”  


And now, courtesy of Not The BBC. 

Boris with his team of Londoncentric Professor Pantsdowns say some easing of the lockdown might come as early as next Monday. Well Boris, I have news for you. The people, slowly but surely, are already in the process of easing out of house arrest. 

It’s the usual method. Leak snippets of information to gauge the reaction and then pull back if there’s a backlash from mainstream media. 

“Government's roadmap to ease Covid-19 restrictions will be set out in 5 phases. These phases will be on 3 week review process, the current phases would commence on the following dates:" 
  • Phase 1 - 18th May 
  • Phase 2 - 8th June 
  • Phase 3 - 29th June 
  • Phase 4 - 20th July 
  • Phase 5 - 10th August 
"If coronavirus cases begin to increase, we will revert to the restrictions set out in the previous stage." 

🔮 PHASE 1 🔮 Phase 1 of the roadmap will lift the following restrictions: 
🔸 Construction workers, landscape gardeners and other outdoor workers may return to work 
🔸 Garden centres, repair shops and hardware stores may reopen 
🔸 Fitness & sport activities (non-contact) in small groups (max of 4 people) may resume (golf included) 
🔸 People may meet up with friends and family in small groups outdoors (size of a "small group" is defined as up to 4 people) 
🔸 The majority of regular health services will resume 
🔸 Outdoor public amenities and tourism sites may reopen (beaches & mountain walks) *NOTE - social distancing guidelines will remain in operation for all 

🔮 PHASE 2 🔮 Etc, etc. Phase 2 of the roadmap will lift the following restrictions: Etc, etc.

No mention of birders there, but please remember folks. You read it here first on Another Bird Blog.


Monday, May 4, 2020

Finding The Rares

May 3rd with once again a zero count of House Martins over the weekend, not even a fly by as often happens when early arrivals stop off and examine last year’s breeding sites under the neighbours’ eaves. The lack of martins is very noticeable because Sue and I have spent so much time in the garden recently without seeing and hearing the twittering arrival of House Martins. 

There was nothing for it but to check this out elsewhere on Monday to see if martins had arrived at other regular spots, even though there isn’t much information around during these stay at home times. After all, House Martins are not seen in too many gardens. 

I set out for my Monday stroll from one of my long-time workout spots at Cockerham. But first a spot of stood-still birding with lots to see on Conder Pool where most birds are now paired up but still a number of migrants. 

There are a decent number of pictures today so please “click the pics” for a closer look. 

The Avocets were both active and noisy with 5 pairs for sure and maybe an extra one or two individuals. Some are clearly sat on eggs while one pair spent time on the marsh clattering loudly as the tide rose to their feet. They were precisely where a pair bred last year, as if these two were weighing up the tidal rise and fall. 



Four pairs of Oystercatcher appeared to be on eggs with probably one pair of Redshank and 3 pair of Shelduck. Otherwise wildfowl – a pair of Canada Goose, a single drake Gadwall and 8 Tufted Duck. 

 Shelduck- female, male

There was no sign of recent Spotted Redshank or Little Ringed Plover today but 76 or more Black-tailed Godwit came in many shades from grey/brown to the dark brick red of the Icelandic race. A little distant but you get the picture. 

Black-tailed Godwit 

Bang on cue Common Terns are back on site, four today, where as usual they compete with the Black-headed Gulls for the likeliest spots. 

Common Tern 

Two Yellow Wagtails stayed but briefly where at one point they shared the outflow wall with a White Wagtail and a Pied Wagtail. Apologies for the poor picture; it’s an attractive but small bird some 35 yards away. A single Grey Heron and five Little Egrets seen - one or two of the latter in full summer adult plumage. 

Yellow Wagtail 

Little Egret 

I wasn’t seeing any House Martins and just 15/20 Swallows fed briefly before they too flew off into the distance. Zero Swifts too, but as one might expect, lots of Sand Martins (100+) at the quarry half-a-mile away. 

Other small birds arrived as 1 Wheatear, 1 Blackcap and 2 Whitethroat only, the early Wheatears now mainly moved on inland. Seemingly Whitethroats have yet to arrive in any numbers. 

Along Jeremy Lane I found a few Swallows hanging around the usual farms, waiting to be let in the buildings, and where yet again the Swallow numbers are severely depleted. 



It was soon after taking a picture of an obliging Pheasant that I found what may prove to be the rarity of the month - a pair of Grey Partridge. 


 Grey Partridge

A little distant I know but a good find. 

If only the WhatsApp Rare Bird Forum was up and running I could post it on there, together with a zero count of House Martins. 

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