Friday, February 26, 2021


That's correct friends. This is a Blog One Get One Free offering to rival Tesco's Finest. Two posts in one at no extra cost to yourselves, even though no one has yet bought me a coffee (see RH column). 

I ran out of time to update the blog from Thursday's ringing session at Gulf Lane and because Andy and I arranged to go again on Friday, I combined the two days into one post. The direct comparison between the two mornings of similar weather conditions and each morning's birds is I hope, quite interesting. 

Thursday morning saw a a slow arrival of Linnets in ones, twos and fives until a couple of maximum counts of about forty birds. After Tuesday's catch of 14, another catch of 14 on Thursday saw no recaptures nor a single recapture from this or any other winter, a recapture rate of lots of noughts, very close to zero. 

It meant that Thursday's 14 Linnets were all new to us - 2 adult male, 2 adult female, 4 first winter female and 6 first winter male. 

Male Linnets have begun to sport some colourful if patchy colouration where their old feathers wear to reveal the ruby red that attracts a female to their patch.  

Male Linnet - February

We failed to catch either of the 2 Stonechats that appeared around 0730 and spent the rest of the morning parading along the fence line without showing more than a modicum of interest in the catching zone. 

Likewise the three or more Skylark overhead and two Reed Bunting that frequented the patch of bramble that lines the ditch. We now have the Skylark territories mapped in our heads, areas that are familiar to us and obviously to the birds. These fairly small areas are the same as last year and the one before that and the one before that .......
A male Sparrowhawk visited twice, drawn in by the sight of the small Linnet flock. For a while it sat on a fence post 50 yards away before it sped off across the field. It returned an hour so later where it made an unsuccessful pass at a small group of Linnets before it again examined the scene from a post some forty yards away.  If only that 600mm lens had a little more reach. 




Friday began with  another early of toast, blackberry jam and a large mug of brown tea. Just the job for the promised zero temperatures at the meeting point with Andy at Gulf Lane. Cold it was at minus 2 degrees but with a promise of warm sun once the frost cleared. 

Pretty quickly it became apparent that fewer Linnets were arriving to feed. Clear overnight weather may have led to a departure north and our best count of 20+, reflected in the catch of just 2 Linnets. 

We kept our options open and caught a few of the other species around - In addition to the two Linnets we caught 2 male Reed Buntings, a female Skylark and a first winter female Stonechat. So although we added little to our total of wintering Linnets, we enjoyed seeing other species that aren't caught too often. 

There was just the one Stonechat around this morning. The last two weeks has seen a strong migration of Stonechats at local birding sites. We suspect that the closely aligned male and female of Thursday departed overnight to be replaced by the single female we caught. 

The single Skylark caught was a female, the deciders a wing length of 101 mm and a hint of the start of a brood patch ready for the spring and summer. We counted at least five Skylarks this morning. There was both chasing and singing as the larks sort out their respective territories. 


Reed Bunting
There's more news soon from Another Bird Blog. And special offers! 

Stay tuned.

Linking Saturday to Anni in Texas and Eileen's Saturday Blogspot.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Miss And Hit

Time's running out to catch the Linnets at Cockerham where the latest food drops show 35 to 45 birds max and where finding a break in the weather for a ringing session becomes a precise art. Very soon the Linnets will be winging their way North to Scotland; hopefully a few more will carry our rings and data gathered throughout will help the conservation of this Red Listed Species, Linaria cannabina

But the weather forecasts continue their torment where both ITV and BBC predictions for Tuesday morning were miserable doom laden affairs of wind and rain sweeping across the screen from left to right. These “forecasters” must be on a hundred grand a year to read out dodgy predictions gathered via satellites, balloons, radar and computer programmes that cost millions if not billions of £s. Maybe a look out of the nearest window every few hours might result in a more accurate result? 

Internet charts for Tuesday seemed to show a stiff wind yes, but no rain until midday. By midday any ringing session would be over by which time we'd be home and dry in every sense. I arranged to meet Andy at our private site of Gulf Lane at 0730. 

OK, it was a little breezy as the wind played a part in limiting our catch, but not a single drop of rain fell in four hours. 

We finished with 15 birds, 14 Linnets and 1 Chaffinch – the Chaffinch an adult male, the Linnets split as follows: 6 first winter males, 6 first winter females, 2 adult males. 

Other birds in and around the seed crop this morning - 4 Skylark, 2 Blackbird, 2 Mallard, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Chaffinch, 3 Stock Dove, 1 Little Egret  

Stock Dove

P.S. 1400 hrs still no rain.  1600 hours and it's raining, eight hours later than the prediction.

Don't miss Another Bird Blog on Thursday when there should be more news. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

One Fine Day

Hi Folks.

I'm Linking this post to Rain's Thursday Art Date and her theme this week of “Comedies”. Rain's Thursday Art Date

Knowing how twitchers are ultra determined and always up for a laugh a story in “The Sun” of 16 February 2020 gave me a smile. 

“Twitchers fined for Covid breach after flocking to seaside town to catch glimpse of rare bird”

The twitchers were collared when residents became fed up with the dozens of bird-watchers who crammed into an alley from morning to night for more than a week to see the Northern Mockingbird, a common North American bird. 

Tempers flared as one irate local threatened to smash up their cameras. Cops were called at the weekend and fined five twitchers who broke lockdown rules by travelling from outside the area. 

One bird-watcher said: “I saw photographers crammed into an alleyway for hours behind people’s houses hoping to catch a glimpse of the bird. It was crazy and as if Covid didn’t exist.” 

Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird has been spotted in Britain only twice previously - the most recent in Essex in 1988. But when bird-lover Chris Biddle reported seeing one in his garden in Exmouth, Devon, about 100 enthusiasts swooped from as far as Perth in Scotland, Norfolk and Kent to see it. 

But locals became increasingly anxious. A bird-watcher told The Sun: “At one point, a furious resident came round and threatened to smash everybody’s cameras if they didn’t leave. "I think he was worried about people spreading the virus.” 

However, Chris Gair, 75, a local resident let dozens of twitchers into her garden to grab a picture and raised £520 in donations for the NHS. She said: “They were a bit cheeky. Some of them had travelled very far.” 

Devon and Cornwall Police later confirmed: “Fines were issued to five people for breaches of Covid regulations.”  

Chuckles The Cat

You can read the full story in Britain's most popular newspaper.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Hard Luck Story

Andy and I had no luck with catching Linnets today. A couple of times we had two and three Linnets in the catching zone but being greedy guys we chose not to release the net but to wait for a bigger catch of five or six or more. This proved a mistake, more so when the 30/40 Linnets that had been around for a couple of hours moved on elsewhere. 

We made do with the intermittent birding which other than the usual frustration with the Linnets' shyness, proved very entertaining. A Barn Owl played “chicken” with local traffic a couple of times when it flew across the road in the face of incoming vehicles. Luckily, the probable local drivers slowed down once they saw the regular owl fence hopping ahead of their vehicle. 

Barn Owl
There's a pair of Stonechat which stick close together on their tour of fenceposts that line the ditch. They searched the rank grass and moved through the hedgerow alongside the field ditch where a couple of Little Egrets occasionally showed. Along the hedge were a female Reed Bunting and a single Wren. Let's hope the Stonechats stay to nest once they successfully negotiate and remaining cold weather. 

Barn Owl
We watched the owl dive into the grass on at least three occasions hoping to see it rise carrying a meal and although we didn't see any catch it's unlikely it would go long without a kill.  

Skylarks have been noticeable for a week or more and today we had one within inches of being in the catch zone of the whoosh net. Quite suddenly a Merlin was attracted in by the activity of the Linnet flock and Skylarks overhead as it shot like a low bullet through the area, out over the ditch and across the nearby field towards the sea wall 250 yards away. 

The Merlin is pretty scarce nowadays but a super sight of any bird watching trip and guaranteed to inject excitement into the most mundane of days. 
Merlin by @Greg Lavaty

Almost certainly we will catch a Skylark or two in the coming weeks. 

Barn Owl

Definitely a few Linnets, and maybe a Stonechat, but we don't expect to see a Merlin or a Barn Owl in our whoosh net any time soon. 

Good News friends and supporters. From anywhere in the world you can now buy me a coffee for those cold, wet days birding in England.

Just click on the yellow sidebar widget.  Thanks in anticipation!

Linking today with Eileen's Saturday Blog and Anni in Texas.


Friday, February 12, 2021

Glass Half Full

Trying to stay positive is the key. When all around is doom and gloom my glass is half full. Spring is not far away. The sun will shine, rain will stop and birds shall sing. Despite the virus, birds will arrive from Africa, my pliers well oiled and camera batteries fully charged in readiness for oodles of photos.

Good news from Greece where we are due to travel on 5 May and where the Greek authorities are even now preparing a welcome for tourists from late April.  Even here in moribund Great Britain our government appear to realise that their yo-yo restrictions and lockdowns are disproportionate to any remaining threat, and that they must allow society to open up very soon.

Meanwhile, an archive from warm and sunny Lanzarote 18th January to 1st February 2015. 

It was fairly blowy on the day Sue and I set off south to the working salt pans, Salinas de Janubio and the little lunch-stop village of El Golfo. It is often breezy, more likely windy in the Canary Islands which lie in the Atlantic Ocean some 100 kms off the coast of Africa. During the times of the Spanish Empire the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons on their way to the Americas because of the prevailing winds from the northeast. There is compensation for the breezes in the islands’ subtropical climate with long warm summers and moderately warm winters. 

The Canary Islands

Not far from our base of Puerto Calero and just off the LZ2 we stopped off to look for Lesser Short-toed Lark and perhaps more Houbara Bustards in a location they are reputed to use. No luck with the bustards however we did see Lesser Short-toed Lark, Berthelot’s Pipit and Kestrel, as well as finding a good crop of huge watermelons and strawberries growing in a seemingly inhospitable but well irrigated place. 

The Lesser Short-toed Lark is a bird of dry open country which is fairly common in Lanzarote and breeds in Spain, North Africa and eastwards across the semi-deserts of central Asia to Mongolia and China. It prefers even drier and barer soils than its close relative the (Greater) Short-toed Lark. As far as I know the Short-toed Lark is but a scarce passage visitor to the Canaries, and a species I am familiar with in the Mediterranean. 

Update 2020. A recent paper has proposed that Lesser Short-toed Lark is better treated as two distinct species, with the position subsequently adopted by the IOC World Bird List. The species that occurs here in the Canaries is now known as Mediterranean Short-toed Lark. Distribution - southern Europe, Canary Islands, North Africa and Iberia through the Levant to western Iraq.

Mediterranean, (Lesser) Short-toed Lark

Watermelon, Lanzarote

From a high approach road the salt pans down at sea level often appear tranquil enough. There can be a different story at ground level where the wind whips the water into a frenzy of white as a display of how the salt pans create their valuable product by deposition of salt. The Greenshanks are wading through the salty froth of the water seen in the first photo below, 800 yards away.

Salinas de Janubio



Berthelot's Pipit

Black-winged Stilt

Black-winged Stilt


What with the wind and lack of cover to approach birds, this is a difficult place in which to birdwatch and take photographs. Unfortunately I didn’t manage any pictures of the also-present Whimbrel, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper or Black-necked Grebe but it was good to see so many species in this one place.

A short drive away from Janubio is the famed Green Lagoon, something of a tourist hot-spot and a destination for crowded buses. It is easy to see why and to join in the endless photography which takes place. 

The Green Lagoon, Lanzarote

The beach itself is of pebbles and the cliffs behind the lagoon equally dramatic, having been wind eroded into fantastic shapes over the course of the centuries. The scenery is further enhanced by the large finger of rock which sits just off the beach and causes the sea to crash around it. The landscape here is so wild filmmakers used it as the backdrop for Raquel Welch wearing her animal skin bikini in the classic movie One Million Years B.C. 

El Golfo, Lanzarote

The weathered cliffs extend all the way along the walkway which goes in the opposite direction to the village of El Golfo, revealing different bands of rock smoothed and shaped by the forces of nature. 

Just along from the Green Lagoon is the village of El Golfo which has possibly the highest concentration of fish restaurants on the island. The morning’s catch is gutted and cleaned on the beach to a watchful audience of many dozens of Yellow-legged Gulls and the inevitable Common Sandpiper scurrying through the rocky pools. 

El Golfo, Lanzarote

Yellow-legged Gull and chef. 

Common Sandpiper

We stopped off in the pretty town of Yaiza before heading back to the Hotel Costa Calero and a pre-dinner glass of Cava. 

Yaiza, Lanzarote
Hotel Costa Calero

Another successful day of exploration in Lanzarote. Previous posts about our holiday to Lanzarote can be found at "A birding-day Lanzarote style" and at Birding Lanzarote.

More birds soon from Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni in Texas,  Rain's Garden  and Eileen's Saturday Blog.


Friday, February 5, 2021


Friday Morning wasn't the finest of late but cloud was high and dry above roads still wet and puddled by weeks of rain.  I was desperate for fresh air and to escape from confinement. 

While there's still no bird ringing, I decided to drive to a couple of local spots for a walk, a circuit or two while not breaking the rules. 

I nipped into our field at Gulf Lane so as to retrieve the dummy poles left at the Linnet catching spot. Richard will soon be be looking to prepare the ground for this year's crop of bird seed and cover crop. 

This proved to be a lucky move when a Great Egret flew from the field ditch, over the traffic of the A588 and then into the ditches behind the sea wall. Without fail there's usually a Little Egret or two in the ditch but not today. 

Great Egret
Great Egrets are following in the footsteps of Little Egrets by making their homes in Great Britain. Perhaps they are colonising more slowly than their smaller cousins did in the 1970,80s and beyond but they are definitely on their welcome way. 

Although I didn't see any Linnets there was a Stonechat and a pair of Skylarks larking about overhead. Spring has sprung in the last few days with the usual suspects in song at home and many other places – Greenfinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin, and Wren to name just a few. For now the Stonechat seems not to have a partner and it may soon be on its way elsewhere. 

At Conder Green I parked up and walked the circuit that takes in the road to Glasson Dock, the path to the estuary, along the footbridge to the The Stork Pub and then back to Conder Pool. 

January 2020 - “Shock and sadness in aftermath of Stork Inn Conder Green pub fire”. 

The Stork - Conder Green
The pub, which dates back to the 1660s is now almost back to its old self except for the double blow of being forced to close again by the virus and yet more lockdowns. 

My counts came to 145 Teal, 70 Wigeon, 6 Goosander, 1 Goldeneye, 2 Little Grebe, 15 Redshank, 10 Curlew, 44 Oystercatcher, 22 Lapwing. 1 Kestrel and 1 Cormorant. Evident today was how many Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gulls have set out their stalls for the coming season. In just a week I expect to see the first Avocets back from their wintering in South West England and to then start the annual battle for nest sites with the Oystercatchers. 

I poured a coffee from the flask and then parked at Jeremy Lane/Moss Lane for a walk along the quiet lanes, trying best not to disturb the wild swans now scattered into three or four parties of 310 Whooper Swan, 6 Bewick's Swan, 1 Black Swan, 2 Greylag, several hundred Curlew and a couple of hundred flighty Golden Plover. 

A winter visitor, the well-travelled Bewick's Swan is the smallest of our wild swans. It has more black on its yellow-and-black bill than the more numerous and highly vocal Whoopers. 

Bewick's Swan

Whooper Swan
Other bits and pieces spotted here during my escape from captivity – 15 Tree Sparrow, 20/25 Meadow Pipit, lots of Blackbirds and a single Stonechat.

 Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blogspot and Anni in Texas.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Banned And Baffled

Being banned from bird ringing other than in one's own garden is frustrating and annoying. More so when the authorities continue to allow both shooting and fishing to take place in the countryside. We are hopeful that we may be able to recommence our vital conservation work soon. 

In the meantime. A couple of recoveries of ringed birds remind us of previous ringing sessions. 

We caught and ringed Lesser Redpoll Y596566 at Oakenclough way back on 4 February 2015 as a first winter female. It certainly looked like a female and also measured at 72mm wing.  Below is the picture from that day, easily retrieved from the blog because it was the only redpoll caught. 

Lesser Redpoll - Y596566
“There was a slight frost with both clear skies and the radio forecast promising a sunny day ahead.  Our four hours proved to be rather slow in both activity and numbers caught whereby we speculated that birds had moved from this high ground location to more urban locations a mile or three away where the temperatures would be more to their liking. 

We caught just 25 birds, 21 new ones and 4 recaptures. New birds: 8 Blue Tit, 6 Great Tit, 3 Chaffinch and singles each of Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Coal Tit and Robin. Recaptures: 2 Chaffinch and 1 each of Robin and Coal Tit.“ 

Fast forward to 26 January 2021, 5.98 years later and Y596566, the single Lesser Redpoll of 4 February 2015 was recaptured by Durham Dales Ringing Group at Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear, some 126 kms from Oakenclough. 

Lesser Redpoll - Oakenclough to Tyne and Wear 
By now and with the now mature bird, Durham Dales ringers were able to more accurately age this bird as an adult male rather than the female we supposed 5 years earlier. 

Such is the danger and associated pitfalls of trying to age and sex first winter Lesser Redpolls where it is wrong to commit a bird's age to a database unless 99% positive. Hopefully we ringers learn from our mistakes. Unless of course it was a simple data input error of “F” instead of “M”! That's our excuse and we're sticking to it. 


Although we have been unable to continue with our wintering Project Linnet because of the virus yet another Linnet recovery has come to light. 

This one again involves the island of North Ronaldsay, Northern Isles and an old friend, a male Linnet carrying Ring Number AJD6518. We caught AJD6518 for the first time at Gulf Lane Pilling Marsh on 26 November 2018. The same bird has now been recaptured on three separate occasions at Holland House, North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory - 7 May 2019, 28 June 2019 and the latest one on May 2020. 

Linnet - North Ronaldsay to Pilling 

Where this individual has been during the winter of 2020 is anyone guess but we rather hope it came back to Lancashire again, even though we were unable to prove the likelihood when bird ringing became verboten. 

After this latest information about Linnets' status on North Ronaldsay I made contact with George Gay who has the privilege of a working life on this outpost of bird migration. 

George - “The Linnets on the island leave over the winter and usually return sometime in March in dribs and drabs.  Holland is not only a roost site but their main breeding site on the island. Since 1987 we have ringed just over 7000 Linnets here but they haven't bred until fairly recently and have largely replaced Twite as a breeder on the island. 

Holland is the main site but birds do breed elsewhere on the island with Ancum Willows probably being the next most likely spot to find breeding birds. They've been on a steady increase since the late 90's to early 2000's and now roost flocks can easily reach 300-400 birds post breeding.” 


The information above mirrors the summaries of the Linnets' status in both the BTO Migration Atlas 2002 and the BTO Bird Atlas of 2013, both of which tell of the Linnets' colonisation of the Northern Isles of Scotland during its simultaneous decline as an English farmland species. 

Two other records also show our now regular Lancashire/Northern Isles connections. 

Ring number AYD5167 was ringed as a post breeding individual at Holland House, North Ronaldsay on 8 September 2018, a rather large juvenile male of wing length 84mm. We recaptured the same bird at Gulf Lane, Pilling, Lancashire on 24 December 2018. Here is a clear case of juvenile dispersal/migration. 

The above correspond to yet another Linnet that spent time at our winter set aside of Gulf Lane. Z722984 was ringed as a nestling of 6 siblings at Scousburgh, Shetland, 14 June 2016 and later recaptured at Gulf Lane, Pilling on 24 October 2016 - A juvenile heading south-west to spend the winter in England. This is more support for the idea about the origins of many Linnets that flock to spend the winter in the area of Pilling and Cockerham, the same birds that then depart in March to head north to Scotland. 


The value of bird seed and cover crops in many English locations becomes apparent as does the need for constant monitoring to spot changes taking place in the countryside.  


Come on Boris, Natural England and BTO, give us our ringing back. We much prefer it to shooting or fishing. Don't you?


Back home in the garden 2020/2021 has proved a peculiar winter with almost zero bird activity apart from the occasional Goldfinch and Blackbird. 


Perhaps the continuous unsettled weather has caused birds to move elsewhere to seek food. The grass is squelchy through the endless rain with no opportunity for it to dry out. Days of sunshine are rare with the chances of catching a few birds remote. 

Stay tuned friends. We may be banned but we haven't given up hope of a return to ringing soon.

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