Sunday, September 6, 2020

Food For Thought

Saturday was cool, blustery and showery just like the week gone by when there was no birding and no ringing. Hopefully the showers would not turn to rain and I could at least get a little birding done. 

With so few Swallows of late one could be forgiven for thinking they had all left for Africa with a cold arctic wind up their backsides. Not so, because at Conder Pool many hundreds of mainly Swallows converged on the morning hatch of insects. My approximate count was of 450 Swallows, 40 Sand Martins and 30 House Martins which swarmed along the north bank in the lee of the hedgerow, across the water and over the island’s vegetation for two hours or more. 

This feeding frenzy is a regular autumn occurrence now the waterside hedgerow is mature enough to hold large numbers of midge and mosquito type insects - little critters that we call ‘gnats’ or ‘flies’, some of which are actually mosquitoes. 

Yes, I heard them this morning and “mozzies” are definitely in Lancashire. I’ve seen, heard and then squashed enough mosquitoes in Africa, Asia and the Med to recognise the sound of their landing approach.  It was so satisfying to hear the snap of the Swallows’ bills as another enemy bit the dust a yard from my face and to watch as thousands more perished in the birds’ onslaught. 

Buoyed up by the merciless carnage I periodically turned my attention to other birds present and their less obvious need to eat at the pace of early morning hirundines, creatures who spend dark nights balancing on draughty reed stems. 

In 1981 in North Lancashire I saw my first Little Egret, a species that very quickly found a niche, swelled in numbers and is now so ubiquitous that it can be seen 365 days of the year, winter, spring, autumn and summer.  This species should by now be renamed as Common Egret, rather like Common Man - the average citizen, as distinct from the social, political or cultural elite. 

These delicate little diners eat mainly fish, with at times amphibians, small reptiles, mammals, crustaceans, molluscs, insects, spiders and worms. There were three egrets today, and as I watched they seemed to prefer the tiny fish that inhabit the pool, but mostly the prey would be swallowed in the blink of an eye before it could be named. 

Eight Little Grebes took their prey under water but when one emerged carrying a ready meal it was invariably the same minnow the egrets take. 

 “Minnow is the common name for a number of species of small freshwater fish, belonging to several genera of the family Cyprinidae.” 

Little Egret
To their credit, our local Mute Swans appear to be vegetarian. But, like many a “veggie” they occasionally, and entirely by accident, when no one is looking, have been known to sneak the odd meaty mollusc or worm. 

Mute Swan
Waders and wildfowl were of the usual variety and numbers with 40 Lapwing, 20 Redshank, 15 Curlew, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 6 Tufted Duck and 40 Teal. 

Those Curlews can be missed when they feed amongst this year’s grasses, grown tall and lush in record rains. I suspect that beneath the puddles lay soft soil containing goodies that curved, probing bills could easily find. 

Common Sandpiper

It was good to see a flock of 50/60 Goldfinches feeding in both the marsh grass and on the dandelions and thistles. Good to see because Goldfinches have been strangely absent from my own garden for weeks, not unexpected when there is much natural food about. 


That’s all for now.  I’m off to prepare a chicken tandoori with salad. There's more food for thought soon on Another Bird Blog. 


Himawan Sant said...

The preservation of wild birds is impressive ... their population is very well preserved.
Your camera shots are clear and beautiful.

EricaSta said...

I enjoyed reading. Thank you for sharing this fantastisc captures.

Have a good week.

NCSue said...

Your goldfinches are a completely different bird from ours - surprising that they both go by the same name. Your robins are different from ours as well.
Thanks for sharing at

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil

You are seeing great numbers of birds on your outings. I have not seen many swallows lately. Your birds and photos are all lovely. The Goldfinch is a favorite along with the pretty Redshank. Great report and post. Enjoy your day, wishing you a great new week!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

so many swallows - it must be a sight

Photo Cache said...

What a pretty collection.

Worth a Thousand Words

Mike Attwood said...

Hi Phil,
I have only seen 2 swallows in our village this year normally the figure is nearer 100.
I remember photographing my first egret many years ago and the local paper went mad with the news and now people walk past them on the local pond and not even notice them.
Stay safe. Mike.

The Padre said...

Waking To The Sounds Of Birds Singing, Nothing Like It - Thanx For Sharing


Veronica Lee said...

I've learnt so much about birds ever since I started visiting your blog, Phil!

Fabulous captures as always!

Lady Fi said...

Must have been a wonderful sight. Great photos!

Fun60 said...

450 swallows. Wow!

Stevenson Q said...

Oh my heart Phil! Look at these gorgeous species! My happiness when I saw that egret that reminds me just a little bit of the red crowned cranes of Hokkaido (Okay I'm not very detailed when it comes to features of them but it really did remind me a bit of it). Then that flying swan! It's so beautiful! I once saw swans on Amsterdam last year but never saw them flying. But my favorite was that goldfinch Phil, look how you manage to capture its emotion! Wow!

Wally Jones said...

Swallows are, indeed, a most welcome sight here in the land of the mosquito! It is difficult to fathom what life would be like without the birds to protect us.

Thank goodness the Mute Swan doesn't tell us about his dalliances with non-veggie dishes, since he is - well - mute on the subject.

Although I cannot argue against calling the Little Egret "Common", I'm afraid in today's age of "victimhood" and social networking and revised history creation - the "Common Man" my have slipped into endangered status while we were asleep.

Hope your cool and blustery weather improves so you can indulge in a bit of elitist ringing soon!

All is smashing around here. Good news from family, good health, good birding - what more could we ask?

Elkes Lebensglück said...

These are wonderful shots of the different bird species again!
Greetings Elke

Lowcarb team member said...

Lovely photographs, especially the flying swan.
I hope you enjoyed your Chicken Tandoori and Salad :)

All the best Jan

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