Sunday, November 29, 2020

A Family Visit

What to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon? 

OK.  I own up Boris. I broke the lockdown rules, snuck onto an aircraft at Manchester Airport and paid a visit to old friends, the Family Hoopoe who live in Menorca, the Balearics, Spain. 

The Hoopoe is a firm favourite with birders, toggers and even Joe Public who normally hates birds but will break off from his DIY or walking the dog to look at a Hoopoe. 

For a good few years a pair of Hoopoes nested in the very same spot along a quiet roadside of Menorca. All photos were taken in the month of May from a car window while the 28 degrees sun beat down. The family became good friends of mine and no Hoopoes were harmed in the taking of these pictures. 

The below is a compilation of visits over three seasons. Click the pics for close-ups of the family fun. 

Enjoy the family visit while you can folks. The Government is just following orders and expects you to do the same.


Back soon from my trip to Spain. There's local news and views in a day or two from Another Bird Blog.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Nature Calls

Three a.m. and nature called. Later life has so many advantages but one or two drawbacks. With the alarm set for 0520 thoughts turned to the ringing session ahead and I knew that sleep would not return. At 0500 I switched the alarm off but took great care not to wake Sleeping Beauty. 

Closer to destination Oakenclough interminable Long Lane rose to 700 above sea level as the black morning turned suddenly to gloomy hill mist and low cloud. Not exactly what the ringer ordered; Andy and I had missed another two and a half weeks of ringing due to unremitting wind and rain sweeping in from The Atlantic. 

Our last visit had been on  6 November 2020.  Nevertheless it felt good to be out again and where if the ringing was quiet, we could for sure put the world to rights via a cup of coffee, a natter and a few choice words. 

The mist cleared, reappeared and then cleared again with barely a hint of the promised sun. What a strange sort of morning with few birds on the move save for a couple of flocks of Redwings, separate groups of fifteen and a forty, plus a few stragglers. Otherwise, 15-20 Chaffinch, a Kestrel gliding through the mist and the usual suspects at George’s bird feeders 30 yards away. 

Just 10 birds caught - 3 Goldfinch, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit and 2 Redwing. You can bet things are pretty quiet when a ringer posts a Blue Tit. 

Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Redwing - Turdus iliacus
Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus

Unlike recent weeks the weather looks fairly settled for a day or two so there may be chance to get some ringing and/or birding in. For tomorrow we have planned a visit to the Linnet catching site of recent years at Gulf Lane, Cockerham. We hope to clear an area of the now defunct crop to instead establish a whoosh netting area and bait it with a rape seed, niger and millet mix. 

So far this autumn and winter there is no sign of a Linnet flock and despite a number of drop-in visits, the site has very few birds. Regular readers of this blog will know of our successes in previous years by  establishing that many of the wintering Linnets in our local area originate from Scotland. Our total is 741 Linnet captures from 2016 to 2020. 

Linnets - Carduelis cannabina

Colder temperatures in January, February and March 2021 may see an influx of such individuals again and open up the possibility of catching other species like Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Skylark and Stonechat. 

We don’t succumb so easily to quiet days; they are part and parcel of a day in the great outdoors. What would we do otherwise? Watch daytime TV for a daily dose of brainwashing? 

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni's Birding.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Power Down

It's raining - again. An hour of typing then I have to down tools. At 0930 the electricity will be switched off for fifty homes until 1430 for “essential maintenance”.  Get accustomed to it folks. When Princess Nut Nuts gets her way with Boris wind farms will stretch 200 miles along the west coast and beyond until they encircle us. 

Then along comes one of those prolonged winter high pressure systems that sits over Britain with zero wind for a week or more and there will be no electricity for us plebs. Unless of  course we build ten Hinckley Point reactors in the next ten years, starting next week. Meanwhile, be warned, “Smart Meters” are a smart way for providers to switch off your lights too. 

The week has seen no opportunity for ringing as rain and wind again hold sway over the coming weekend. But we did receive another Lesser Redpoll recovery involving our site at Oakenclough. Ring number ALJ4399 a fresh juvenile Lesser Redpoll ringed at Oakenclough on 12 August 2020 was recaptured by other ringers at Whixall & Fenn's Mosses, Shropshire on 29 September 2020. 

This is another quite typical autumn movement of Lesser Redpolls which shows a migratory pattern but yet again does not tell us the place of birth nor the bird’s final destination. 

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll - Oakenclough to Shropshire

On Thursday morning I finally caught up with the elusive Long-tailed Duck at Conder Green. For a week or two the self-same bird had played hide and seek with WhatsApp twitchers by not always being on the anticipated plate. 

No need to panic. Although Long-tailed Ducks are pretty scarce, partly due to their status as an ocean-going duck with a diet of mussels, cockles, clams, crabs, and small fish, when one does appear on inland water it will often stay around for weeks. Here on Conder Pool this one may not find much shellfish hence it has probably been flying between the pool and the Lune Estuary 100 yards away. 

It had been years since I’d even seen a long-tail but the sleek lines and tiny round head were pretty unmistakable, easy to locate at the far end of Conder Pool where it ducked and dived many times. 

Long-tailed Duck
Other wildfowl and waders consisted of the regular 6 Little Grebe, 2 Little Egret, 90 Teal, 32 Wigeon 18 Tufted Duck, 12 Redshank and 8 Curlew. Passerines were few and far between with a single Meadow Pipit on the outflow looking slightly out of place. 

Both Moss Lane and Jeremy Lane held a few birds on the now established flash floods. Mixed, flighty and distant for the most part were hundreds of Dunlin, Golden Plover, Redshank, Lapwing and Curlew. 

There are still very few Fieldfares around with a dozen or so very flighty ones hiding in what's left of the hawthorn berries. A couple of Grey Wagtails flitted around the edge of one especially muddy patch. 

Grey Wagtail

At one point there was a Curlew in the road ahead that simply carried on walking rather than flying off as Curlews always do. I climbed from the car and found the Curlew quite easy to pick up from the roadside. Although it seemed lively enough and sported a muddy bill that showed it had been probing for food, it felt bony, thin and light in weight. I put the Curlew over a nearby fence and wished it well as it trotted off through the grassy field.


At 4 pm and just as it began to go dark the lights returned. The leccy is back on so I hit the PC for the pictures. 

Not having the electricity on tap for a while is a little like birding - great when it’s around but you don’t half miss it when it’s unavailable. 

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


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Still the weather stops me from birding so I'm hitting the memory trail from the warmer, drier days of Lanzarote and January 2015.

Remember to click the pics for bigger and better views of Lanzarote, Canary Islands.

We drove north and west heading for the coast at Famara hoping to find Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser, Stone Curlew and other bits & bobs along the way. After breakfast we said goodbye to the hotel’s Collared Doves and Spanish Sparrows, the two species which dominate the grounds and where the few Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs stay mostly hidden amongst the greenery. Passing Kestrels may take a brief look at what’s on offer. 

Collared Dove


The male Spanish Sparrow is a rather handsome chap who inevitably bears the brunt of camera clicks while the less photogenic females look on. 

Spanish Sparrow

Spanish Sparrow

We took the road via La Geria, the wine growing area with its traditional methods of cultivation. Single vines are planted in pits 4–5 m wide and 2–3 m deep, with small stone walls around each pit. This agricultural technique is designed to harvest rainfall and overnight dew and to protect the plants from prevailing winds. The vineyards are part of the World Heritage Site as well as other sites on the island. This landscape is pretty much devoid of birds although the ubiquitous Berthelot’s Pipit or a patrolling Kestrel are often encountered. 


La Geria, Lanzarote

Berthelot's Pipit

We passed through farmland near the centre of the island Teguise and drove north towards the spectacular cliffs of Famara, stopping or diverting the Corsa across rough tracks to look for speciality birds of Lanzarote. Near Teguise a Stone Curlew flew across the road and landed in an uncultivated patch of land near to a half-grown chick - a nice find indeed. The chick crouched in an attempt to become invisible while the adult walked off and tried to distract me from its offspring.

Stone Curlew

Stone Curlew

Stone Curlew chick

Johnny Cash fans will know of the Boy Named Sue. In Lanzarote there is also a place named Soo, not far away from the Riscos de Famara and it’s a good area in which to look for Houbara Bustards. With just a small population in the Canary Islands, this species is mainly found in mainland North Africa west of the Nile and in the western part of the Sahara desert region in Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. 

A Town Named Soo, Lanzarote

Houbara Bustard

Near Famara, Lanzarote

Looking for bustards, Lanzarote

As you might expect from a species historically hunted in large numbers the Houbara Bustard is very shy and will either hide or run from a vehicle. The cryptic plumage gives a bird the chance of escaping detection. 

Houbara Bustard

Houbara Bustard

We stopped at the windy Wild West town of Famara to survey the rugged cliffs and sandy dunes where we found Yellow-legged Gulls and a single Little Egret along the rocky shore near the jetty. We followed up with a light lunch before hitting the road back south taking detours along the many dusty trails in search of more birds. 

Little Egret

Sand dunes at Famara, Lanzarote

Lanzarote lunch

The Desert Grey Shrike was a lucky find, the bird diving into a grey, thorny bush that upon inspection held a newly built, lined nest ready for eggs, and which from the female’s behaviour were the eggs surely imminent. I took a number of shots and left the bird to her domestic duties. 

Desert Grey Shrike

Desert Grey Shrike

It had been a great day of exploration and discovery but time to head back to Peurto Calero and a well-earned rest. 

The LZ2 road Lanzarote, 2015

There’s more news, views and photos soon from Another Bird Blog. 

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