Thursday, September 30, 2021

Trip Over

We’re back from Greece. I’m catching up with the world as Sue unpacks suitcases while being careful I hope not to drop the two bottles of ouzo packed between the sun towels. There’s a question for Mr Sunak. Why is Ouzo 12 just £9 a bottle in Skiathos and £16.50 or more in the UK? 

An offer to help with emptying the cases is met with “You will just get in the way”. Outside its raining and will do so all day. Welcome back to Britain. 

Being absent for two weeks, I decided to revisit the blogging world and post a few photographs. In Skiathos we had 14 days of glorious sunshine marred one morning by a couple of hours of dark cloud and intermittent rain before the sun reappeared as temperatures rose to their normal early thirties. The wealth of sunshine and clear nights led to little in the way of bird migration, just small numbers of the usual – shrikes, wagtails, chats, swallows, Chiffchaffs, Spotted Flycatchers and Blackcaps. 

Red-rumped Swallow

The “best” bird of the two weeks may have been a single Magpie, glimpsed one morning flying overhead. Although Hooded Crows are common and Ravens less so, other members of the crow family are very rare. In any case, birdwatching and bird recording is not a pastime of the average Skiathan resulting in a poor bird list for this unwatched island. 

Red-backed Shrike and Spotted Flycatchers dominated our mostly casual birding during trips to various beaches and viewpoints.

Red-backed Shrike
It seems that the only shrikes left in late September are juveniles of the year and perhaps females as adult males have by now all left for Africa. The shrikes are mostly wary and difficult to bring into photo range except for the occasional and innocent youngster like this one near Aselinos beach. Aselinos is located in the rugged north of the island, and while it can be wild and windswept, it is simply beautiful. 



Likewise, Spotted Flycatchers were difficult to approach until we found this very confiding one in the same location, Aselinos. 

Spotted Flycatcher


Late in the day the goatherd brings his goats down to Aselinos and corrals them for the night so that this valuable stock cannot roam and revert back to their wild ancestry.


It was here at Aselinos that after brief morning showers we found a flock of forty and more Yellow Wagtails. The same species plus occasional Grey Wagtails could be seen and heard on a numbers of days in this and other locations but only where a semblance of water could be found.

Yellow Wagtail


Spotted Flycatcher

Now follows a set of non-birdy photos from Skiathos. Click each picture to get a feel for this beautiful and friendly island. 

Skiathos Town

The Bourtzi

The Old Harbour

Skiathos Town




The Bourtzi



View to Skiathos Town



Spiti Oneiro (Dream House)

Coffee and Cake - Fresh Cafe

Ferry to Thessaloniki mainland Greece


Papadiamantis Street


Rain over Skopelos Island

Skiathos Town

I’ll be back soon with a new book review, WILDGuides Europe’s Birds. The book arrived mid-way through the holiday. 

Europe's Birds

Hopefully I can get a review out before the book arrives on general sale. 

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


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Happy Holidays

Wednesday 15 September. Sue and I had jumped through hoops and clambered over obstacles to reach this point. There was no stopping us now as the jet finally climbed into the sky over Manchester Airport to leave England behind. We were on bang on time in our Boeing 737/800, along with 137 other hopeful holidaymakers on the way to Destination Skiathos.  

Three and a half hours later we arrived on the magical isle at 1355 local time to clear blue skies and 26 degrees. We trotted down the passenger staircase to waiting buses as the air crew wished us "Happy Holidays". We were set for 2 weeks in the sun, the crew to turn the plane around in an hour, fill it with fuel and more passengers, and then head back to Manchester. It's a hard life for some. 

We negotiated a few minor Greek hoops, (or maybe it seemed that way), grabbed our cases and quickly located Magda waiting at Arrivals with a Suzuki Jeep.  In high spirits if a little cramped by suitcases and photo gear, plus Sue's suntan creams & mossie sprays, we set off for Agia Paraskevi and Hotel Ostria, a 20 minute drive via Skiathos' Ring Road and the winding coastal route. 
Ostria Hotel
Agia Paraskevi is a tiny hamlet and tourist resort on the south coast of Skiathos at the start of the Platanias Valley, an unspoilt landscape that meanders inland through dusty unkempt tracks and scented pine clad hills to eventually reach the wild rocky north of Skiathos Island. That's for another day. 

The weather is hot, dry and sunny so not too good for birding or dropping migrants. The usual species crossed our path in small numbers – Red-backed Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Little Owl, Chiffchaff and Red-rumped Swallow, Spotted Flycatcher.


Spotted Flycatcher

Red-backed Shrike


The highlight of Thursday was a a road runner, an Isabelline Wheatear at Aselinos beach. I call them road runners because of the characteristic way they run over the landscape in pursuit of prey rather than the wait and see feeding of Northern Wheatears. Unfortunately this one ran so fast that I couldn’t get a photo. 

Shopping and Skiathos Town today. Wish me luck.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Signed Off

That’s it for a while. When I finished at Cockerham today I packed the ringing gear away for a couple of weeks because Sue and I are off to Greece. There will be no ringing in Skiathos but for sure there will be a spot or two of birdwatching. 

Sunday was to be the last go at the Linnets so I started early in the half-light with zero wind and visibility across to the Lake District some 45 miles away. There was lots of noise when about 300/400 Pink-footed Geese lifted off the salt marsh and flew just half a mile away to land on farmland. We set our year calendars by the arrival of the Pink-footed Geese, always within a day or two of mid September. 

The “pinks” probably arrived from Iceland during the clear night after their 800 mile journey and then roosted out on Pilling Sands until breakfast time. I heard them later in the morning from a distance away so they found a spot safe from the guns for now until the shooters realise their wintering “sport” is back. 

Pink-footed Geese
I caught a couple of Linnets early doors but it soon became obvious that the numbers of up to 200 individuals didn’t equate to those of two days ago when the count was closer to 250 or maybe 300. 

In fact I finished today with seven new Linnets plus a single Robin. That makes 74 new Linnets (zero recaptures) caught here in this latter part of summer entering autumn, and 66 of those were juveniles/birds of the year. Such a high percentage of juveniles points to a highly productive year for this, a Red Listed species. 

I’m also sure that a number of those 74 Linnets have arrived from further afield, if not from Iceland, then certainly Scotland. 



Birding was pretty quiet too although there was the now regular Sparrowhawk targeting Linnets. Flyovers came from a single Black-tailed Godwit and two Golden Plover. Also 14 Lapwing, 8 Curlew, 4 Swallow, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel and 1 Grey Heron. 

The next post from Another Bird blog will be from Greece. Watch me fly!! 

Landing - Skiathos


No promises for bird pictures amongst the sunny Greek landscapes but I will try. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Double Jobbed

I was out ringing on Tuesday morning but an urgent phone call sent me scurrying back home with just 5 birds ringed. 

The morning began with a blanket of mist. Brightness above the grey indicated the sun would quickly break through. The yellow blob cleared the mist in no time and a look in the nearest net showed a Chiffchaff and a male Blackcap side by side. 

This excellent start continued with 3 more Linnets from a flock in the bright blue that quickly built to upwards of 150 Linnets with ten or more hangers on in the shape of Goldfinches. This was looking good. With 48 Linnets in the bag so far this autumn (42 first years and 6 adults), a half century was certain. A few other birds enlivened proceedings, the best of those being a double whammy of two Great Egrets and a male Sparrowhawk. 

And then the phone calls. The local Post Office had mislaid the packet of Euro currency ordered for our Greek holiday and I needed to retrieve paperwork from back home. After a swear word or three nets were stashed away and off I went.  Fortunately everything turned out OK when our Euros were found in the main office where an unnamed operative had stored the package for “safe keeping”. 

Fast forward to Thursday when the Doom & Gloom Forecast said “rain”, but I was not convinced so set off towards Cockerham village. At 0600 there was a light shower followed by much brighter skies and a very decent morning of zero wind. The mobile was switched to “off” and I switched on to where I left off on Tuesday. 

The Linnet flock was now more than 200 strong plus smaller groups and singles that became attached and then broke off, behaviour which makes for counting difficulties. The counting was even harder when Sparrowhawks appeared, tried to grab a Linnet and scattered the flock in several directions. Definitely two Sparrowhawks today, a female and then a noticeably smaller and more agile male, both of which came in low and fast in the element of surprise, but neither connected with a meal.


The overall number of Linnets in the area must have improved the catch with 19 new ones today. There was another Chiffchaff, this one a male with a wing length of 64mm compared to Tuesday’s 56mm female. At this time of the year wing length is the only way to sex a Chiffchaff unless a wing measurement falls half way between the two extremes when the bird becomes of unknown sex. 

Other birds today - Buzzard, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 20+ Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch, 3 Stock Dove, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Little Egret.

Back soon on Another Bird Blog. Don't go away.

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


Sunday, September 5, 2021

Flying Machines

Sunday 5 September - a fine sunny start with a gentle southerly breath of air, ideal for a little ringing and watching the world of birds go by. 

Carrion Crows get heaps of bad press, not least on Another Bird Blog. It’s a species whose population and poor reputation has outgrown any positives, and for birders especially, the species is Public Enemy Number One. 

However, for birders the black brutes do have one saving grace - their superb eyesight and intelligence combine as an early warning of raptors close by. Invariably the average Carrion Crow will spot a bird of prey before the average birder and so allow the birder to see a bird they might otherwise miss. 

That’s how it was this morning half way through a spot of ringing when noisy crows drew my attention to the arrival of an Osprey, partly hidden from view but effortlessly circling a nearby stretch of water. I have it on good authority there are no Osprey sized fish in the said water, something which the Osprey soon realised as it changed course and then headed off north east towards the River Lune. Needless to say this brief encounter with an Osprey was the highlight of an otherwise slow spot of ringing whereby an Osprey at my local patch makes for a day to remember. 


This Osprey was almost certainly on its way from Scotland to the South Coast of England, just part of a long journey ahead. 

Ospreys arrive back in the UK from late March onwards. Male Ospreys get here first and start to set up their breeding territory, near lakes where they can catch a supply of fish to eat, while waiting for a female to arrive. The pair then makes its nest in a tall tree, and by late April the female has usually laid 2–4 eggs. The young can fly about 50 days after hatching, but they depend on their parents for another month or so. 

Females start the return migration, followed by males and then young. After crossing the English Channel, they travel down through France and Spain into North Africa. Some then cross the Sahara Desert directly, while others follow the West African coastline. 

Most of our Ospreys spend the winter in West African countries such as Senegal, though Ospreys from Eastern Europe may travel as far as South Africa. Ospreys travel by day, using thermals to gain height over land. They migrate more slowly than many birds, stopping at favourite feeding sites along the way - sometimes for a week or so. Each bird travels alone and follows its own route. 

With the ringing now something of an anti-climax, I reached double figures in the course of 7 Linnet, 2 Great Tit and a Robin. 

Great Tit
To fill out today’s post here are a few pictures of mechanical flying machines from Knott End beach. This was Saturday afternoon’s Lancashire Landing charity event in aid of fallen soldiers from Lancashire’s local infantry regiment The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers - Lancashire Landing

Local fliers land on Knott End beach and allow the public to inspect and enjoy their flying machines.  

Click the pics for close-ups.

The tides of south Morecambe Bay travel great distances. From close to Knott End it is possible to cross the bay on foot to arrive at Grange Over Sands 20 miles away.  It's a walk for those experienced in navigating tides and quicksands and certainly not for a Sunday saunter. 


Back soon with more flying things. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog.

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