Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Quality Not Quantity

Another early breakfast. Then at 0525 a drive towards Oakenclough, a 35 minute journey and ETA 0600 for a meet with Andy. 

Half a mile from home came the welcome distraction of a flypast Barn Owl. A white van ahead had slowed down and alerted me to a Barn Owl heading my way alongside but below the raised road. There was time for a few clicks of the shutter before continuing east and into the rising sun. Doesn't everyone drive with a camera on the passenger seat just in case? 

Barn Owl
Andy was already there as I pulled in at 6.02 with the excuse of "Barn Owl" the reason for the poor timekeeping. 

Over the fence 15 yards away a Garden Warbler was in full song, a good omen for what lay ahead. We enjoyed a quiet ringing session of quality rather than a quantity of birds with the sum totals of 3 Garden Warbler, 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Goldfinch and 2 Lesser Redpoll. 

It was during 2020 we noticed increased numbers of Garden Warblers here at Oakenclough, a site  where the species has not bred for at least ten years. But now the plantation is revitalised by a clearance of rhododendron and restocking with native trees, we are confident Garden Warblers will return. Our three today consisted of one male, one female and one yet indeterminate. 

Garden Warbler

Willow Warbler

While there's a good population of Willow Warblers here we think that Lesser Redpolls breed close by if not in the plantation in which we ring.  Similarity to Garden Warblers, the redpolls bred here in the not too distant past and they too may return as the planting matures and thickens.    

Lesser Redpoll
Our birding was unremarkable in the clear and cool morning but we notched up several Swallows, 15 Sand Martin, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Buzzard, 1 Siskin, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 12+ Willow Warblers,. In nearby fields were several Oystercatchers and Lapwings plus a good number of Greylag families.

Friday, May 7, 2021

A Tale Of Two Halves.

Wednesday morning produced yet another icy start at Oakenclough. After a few dire days of catches and thinking along the lines of that old upbeat Howard Jones song, we imagined that “Things could only get better”. 

How wrong we were as we failed to even reach double figures. Just 5 birds caught and once again, virtually zero visible migration of note in the bright blue skies above. Throughout four hours we noted three or four Swallows heading north. Luckily the four (2 x 2) Siskins overhead drew our attention by their distinctive piercing flight calls or may have missed them too. 

Our catch - 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Blackcap, 1 Wren and 1 Willow Warbler. 

The second year male Blackcap was the first to be caught this year when normally we might expect to be in double figures by early May. 


Lesser Redpoll
The single Willow Warbler was a recapture from the week before, so new birds numbered four. In the plantation ten or twelve Willow Warblers sang from their now established location without us catching any females. From this, and the lack of chasing around, we deduced that female Willow Warblers had yet to arrive to our site. This is a natural enough lag in timing for Willow Warblers and many other species, accentuated in 2021 by the icy spring. 

Although by 1030 temperatures had climbed to the dizzying heights of 11 degrees, we knew to call it a day. 


Friday dawned bright but slightly breezy with the decision not to go ringing already made. I headed off Pilling way for a spot of birding alone. 

Swallows were more obvious with a number of them seen to fly north and quickly out of sight. In my two plus hours I counted more than 20, a vast improvement on recent days. But still no Swifts or House Martins, the latter still absent from their breeding eaves in our semi rural location and now two weeks behind schedule. 

I searched a stretch of land I'd not done in weeks and found 3 Lapwings sitting while their mates chased off gulls and crows that showed too much interest in the very obvious nesting pairs. In the same area were two or more pairs of Skylarks, a single Wheatear, a male Pied Wagtail and ten to twelve Linnets. 

Pied Wagtail


In wetter areas came 11 Little Egret, 2 Great Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Tufted Duck, 4 Shelduck, 5 Mute Swan, plus both Canada Geese and Greylags with youngsters in tow. Also, 6 Reed Warbler, 4 Sedge Warbler, 8 Oystercatcher, 6 Redshank. 

Sedge Warbler 

Back home today we sat with a coffee and watched a male Sparrowhawk sat on a neighbour's garden wall. After a while the hawk dropped to within inches of the ground, accelerated like a rocket and crossed into another garden.


That's all for now folks. The forecast for Saturday is rain and wind so it looks like a day doing nothing but chores. Don't go away, see you soon.

Linking this weekend to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Mayday, Mayday.

Saturday morning. The First of May began bright and cold again. I waited an hour or two until the sun burnt off the frost and then drove north, hoping for a quiet walk in the warming sun and fresh air. 

They came along the private track, four adults and two dogs against the skyline. Urbanites on their May Day weekend. The egret saw them coming and flew off with loud protests. 

Hunkered down in the car and concentrating through the viewfinder, I'd not seen the intruders headed my way. Thankfully the townies took the other direction and left me in peace. Such are the joys of trying to bird now that lockdown is all but over when the countryside become a free for all again. 

Great Egret
I disturbed a Buzzard from the fence line but it made no sound as it slipped away perhaps thinking I'd not seen it in the exact same place for a couple of weeks. The local Carrion Crows gave the Buzzard a noisy send off . 

Carrion Crow and Buzzard

Along the track two pairs of Redshanks showed all the signs of having nests nearby. Oystercatchers too, piping and wary.  And a Lapwing called to youngsters to get their heads down - “Mayday, mayday”, and then circled and flapped to make sure the danger had passed. The young Lapwing were in the longer grass of a ditch, safe enough and hidden from a ringer's view. 

The sun came from the wrong direction. Overexpose the only way to get some sort of picture. 

The Wheatear on the other side of the sun made for easier viewing even though it kept a safe distance.

The ditches also held 3 Little Egrets and a Grey Heron. On and in the reed fringed edges of nearby pools came 2 Pied Wagtail, 4 Sedge Warbler and the snapping song of 4 Reed Warblers. A couple of Swallows whizzed by; so good to see a few at last. No House Martins seen but the farm hand reported seeing House Martins and a Whitethroat on Friday. 

Pied Wagtail
On the water - 4 Greylags with young, 2 Canada Geese with young, 2 Shelduck, 4 Moorhen, and then 2 Coot with their early brood. 


And now on Sunday morning we have a hailstorm. No kidding!  Help.


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