Thursday, July 23, 2020

Branching Out?

Wednesday proved somewhat disappointing when a visit to the 180 strong Sand Martin colony resulted in a catch of just one juvenile. Our previous visit of 24 June saw a reasonable catch of twenty-three -24 June, but visits here are very unpredictable. 

The difficulty is in tempting the martins into a less than ideally placed net just too far away from the quarry face in both the vertical and horizontal planes. This will now be the final visit of 2020 but with luck the martins may choose a different part of the cliff face in 2021, one that makes the monitoring of them easier. 

Sand Martin - juvenile 

However, all was not lost. The hour and more we spent waiting for the martins to cooperate led to a few other sightings - Hobby, Kestrel, Common Tern, 2 Buzzard, 4 Oystercatcher, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Swallow, 12 Linnet, 2 Pied Wagtail, and over 120 Curlews flying to nearby pasture.  

We caught the first Linnet of the autumn period prior to restarting Project Linnet for 2020/2021.

Linnet - juvenile/first year male

Upon going to a nearby copse to investigate cries of “feed me, feed me”, flapping at the foot of a tree stood a young Buzzard of suitable age for a “G” ring. It may have been a Buzzard “branchie”, a young bird still fed by parents but one which leaves the nest, climbs onto outer branches of the tree, only to be then blown or fall to the floor before it is able to actually fly. 



The word “branchie” is an old name applied to other species, very often young Rooks who quickly explore the surroundings of their treetop nests where they nest in large colonies. The term is the probable origin of the ancient verse, “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie”. Young Rook meat is said to be very savoury with a similar taste to Wood Pigeon meat. 

In Olde Englande a visit to a large Rook colony after a spell of strong winds might easily yield a catch of two dozen black birds for a tasty pie.  

Rookery - by John Petrov 

If the forecast is correct Friday morning will see us in the near Pennines at Oakenclough again. Not so much the hills alive to The Sound of Music as the sight and sounds of birds we hope.

Linking this post to Eileen's Saturday Blog and Anni in Texas.


Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Although you sis not catch your martins you were able to catch a number of other interesting birds. I hope the young Buzzard will be OK Phil.

Elkes Lebensglück said...

the young buzzard will hopefully find its way! You found a few more birds there. It was interesting again, thanks for this report!
Greetings Elke

eileeninmd said...


Beautiful capture of the Sand Martin's wings, the Linnet and the cool looking Buzzard. Good luck with your next banding, I hope the hills are alive with many birds. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day,wishing you a happy weekend!

Mae Travels said...

Your very close-up photos of birds always amaze me. I wonder what that buzzard was eating -- looks like blood on his face. The claw photo is really dramatic.

be well... mae at

Anu said...

Hello. I admire all of you who can determine the age of a bird.
In your photo, juvenile Sand martins feather tips look fresh and light.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Lowcarb team member said...

I hope the young buzzard will be ok.

I do like that painting by John Petrov.

All the best Jan

Angie said...

Boy, Phil, I would not want to be caught in the talons of that Buzzard! Thanks for explaining the origin of the blackbird pie verse, although I am having difficulty imagining blackbirds as tasty!

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