Saturday, December 24, 2022

The End

Well that’s it, the end of the ringing year. The weather forecast is so bad that it’s highly unlikely we can manage a ringing session until 2023. 

At least here in the UK we are not suffering from the violent and extreme weather occurring across North America, conditions causing severe disruption and deaths at a time of year that is for celebration. 

It mostly happens that we in North West England receive the tail end of North American weather via Atlantic weather systems and already our own forecasters are predicting New Year snow and ice for us. 

This morning I made my usual trip out Pilling Way to drop supplementary Christmas Fayre for our feathered friends. This will pay dividends soon by way of preventing the premature deaths of birds unable to find their customary food in snow and ice. 

Just two days after the Winter Solstice a Cetti’s Warbler sang out from the edge of the reedy scrub, the exact same spot of November after which all appeared to go quiet. I rather hoped the Cetti’s had looked in his diary and thought this was the time to strike up the band. 

Perhaps not as the extra daylight is not too noticeable just yet but the sound of the Cetti’s and then another sighting of the now confirmed wintering Marsh Harrier gave me positive vibes for the weeks ahead. There's little doubt that both species could breed in this area with sympathetic ownership and management of certain tracts of land.

Cetti's Warbler

Marsh Harrier

I saw no birds on or around the plot prepped for whoosh netting but where many tiny footprints told a different story. Our time will come as the weather turns colder when perhaps even the Linnets may return. The normally dependable Linnets are not around at the moment and it could be that many have gone even further south during the freeze of early and mid-December. 

In the absence of other news here’s a few paragraphs about the very same feeding station from 13 January earlier this year, a clue as to what may be around two weeks into a new year when winter  subsides and spring is around the corner.  And how time flies! 

January 13th 2022. 

In most UK winters the Brambling is a difficult one to find but a bird to prize. These cousins of the ubiquitous Chaffinch live north and east of here on the borders of Finland & Russia, venturing this far west in irregular numbers and unpredictable years. 

At the feeding station I‘ve listened for the nasal wheeze, watched the feeders and the ground beneath for weeks while studying the hedgerow for a flash of white rump amongst the Chaffinches. And then on Wednesday, joy of joys, at last a Brambling, crouching amongst half a dozen Chaffinches, an orange-tinged one, reward for the seed drops and the interminable car washing after the tortuous muddy farm track.


The finches scattered for no reason when I saw that the Brambling, now in a nearby tree, was male, perhaps even an adult but not for definite until and if we catch the star. (We did).   

A couple of Reed Buntings, 3 Greenfinch, three or more Blackbirds and 20 or so Linnets completed the count as I scattered more seed in the base of the hedgerow where even the Sparrowhawk’s long legs won’t reach.  




I saw Brown Hares on the move too, three together in the first of their Mad March ways. 

I left the Pilling farm and drove to Cockerham where at weekend Andy and I had prepared the seed plot for our now annual whoosh netting of Linnets and the sometime bonus of Skylarks and Stonechats. 

Happy Christmas and a Bird-Filled New Year everyone. Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

As Cold As Ice

Everyone is talking about the UK's cold weather. I am no exception. I have been marooned indoors  in minus temperatures and icy roads for a week, a now unusual but not unknown sequence of the natural cycles of weather. This is a real old fashioned British winter; when postmen trudged through six feet of snow, milk bottles froze solid to the doorstep and trains came to a halt in snowdrifts, not because of rail strikers.

I have been trapped in our north facing away from major roads cul-de-sac where the sun don't shine and gritters never venture.


With plans for ringing and birding literally "on ice" and when standing around invited hypothermia I managed a couple of trips out Pilling way and then Knott End on Sea Ice.

At Pilling where I went to top up the supplementary seed - quick and rough counts of 30 Shelduck, 40 Teal, 50 Mallard, 180 Wigeon, 45 Lapwing, 40 Curlew and 15 or so Redshank. 

Of the small birds I found 10 or more Skylarks and 5 Meadow Pipits braving the elements but nothing else save for Blackbirds, Robins, Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Dunnocks and a few Blue Tits. All were busy inspecting and devouring our offerings of millet, rape seed, niger and Luxury Picnic Mix. Moorhens, forced off the frozen water, joined in the feast.


Blue Tit
On a good bright morning I reckoned to have better luck with the tide and waders at Knott End where the ice and semblance of snow covered the beach, foreshore, walkways and the jetty. It didn’t take long to find a good but not especially numerous selection of waders either roosting or feeding, but I was careful not to disturb them nor venture too far onto the treacherous icy surfaces.

Ringed Plover

Knot, Turnstone

Grey Plover, Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstone, Knot





For the record my counts were 30 Turnstone, 1 Grey Plover, 48 Redshank, 22 Knot, 14 Ringed Plover and 3 Oystercatcher.

A few Shelduck in amongst the ice floes sailed past the end of the jetty, as they looked for food at the tide edges.


Also along the foreshore were the now annual visitors, approximately 45 Twite and a single Rock Pipit.


I’d spent an hour or more taking pictures and I was pretty much frozen to the core so headed home for a hot drink and a sit down next to a radiator.

It looks like the two week cold snap will end today with a return to the more normal wet and windy for Christmas.

Here's  wishing a Happy Christmas and a Successful 2023 to the many readers of Another Bird Blog.

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Down To Zero

“Crisp” might be the best description of the start to Wednesday's birding.  At -3º a layer of white frost covered everything in sight at 0730. The several forecasts all agreed, sunshine by midday. This was another day for five or more layers of gear. 

There was a good start to the morning with a ghostly Barn Owl along the farm track and then a Great Egret that left the roost with 15/20 Little Egrets. 

Barn Owl

The three of us set about our usual routine as we tick-boxed the extra work we now carry out as precautions against HPA1 avian flu - disinfection of all of equipment: nets, bags, pliers, weighing scales and clothing. 

The chances of us handling a small passerine with avian flu seem quite remote, especially since the prevalence of HPAI in asymptomatic birds is currently unknown. However, while minimising the risk of transmission should diseased birds be encountered, our continued ringing activities carried out with suitable precautions provide a net benefit in terms of data collection and spotting anything untoward.

As we erected nets we flushed a couple of Snipe from nearby wet areas. This Snipe rush continued through the morning as 20 or more Snipe arrived in ones, twos and threes to feed in areas of grass that remained unfrozen from the overnight temperatures. 

The Snipes' arrival coincided with the incoming tide out in Morecambe Bay where the secretive Snipe are common but mostly unseen feeding in salt marsh ditches and pools. The ones we saw had arrived to roost where they would likely stay until the tide receded and darkness fell. 


Not surprisingly the ringing was off to a slow start with just a couple of birds every now and again. We finished with 14 birds of 7 species: 4 Chaffinch, 3 Linnet, 2 Robin, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Wren, 1 Reed Bunting,1 Greenfinch, 1 Blackbird. 

Reed Bunting


In addition to the earlier Barn Owl and white egrets more to look at arrived in the form of a 'cream top' Marsh Harrier, a Buzzard, and good numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing & Whooper Swans. 


When I went yesterday to drop supplementary seed I counted approximately 400 Whooper Swans out Cockerham way. 

Whooper Swans

Stay tuned folks. There's more to come and we are due to get real snow. We'll see.

Linking this week to Eileen's blog and Anni in Texas.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Tuesday and Saturday

On Tuesday I wore five on top, three below for the expedition. And don’t forget the gloves, scarf, woolly hat and the head torch for lighting the way. The dashboard read “5º - Possible Ice” but it was the misty almost foggy start that made me drive slowly towards our site at Pilling where staying on the move became the order of the day.

Any mist was supposed to clear and leave a cheery morning but the sun never arrived and neither did the birds. Eight birds was all we could muster, Robin 2, both recaptures, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Chaffinch, 2 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Meadow Pipit.


The dank cold mist kept Linnets away and none were caught - most unusual here. We know there are Linnet flocks scattered around the area and that until really cold weather arrives they are yet to join up into their hundreds. A pair of Stonechats and a Cetti’s Warbler hang around come what may. We didn’t. Another day, another try.

On Saturday morning we tried again when I met Will over at Pilling at 0730. It was another five layer morning with a frost that nipped at unprotected fingers. We hoped the lack of mist might produce better luck than that of Tuesday and at least there was sun and a fine dry morning.

We caught more birds this time -19 of 4 species, 12 Long-tailed Tit, 5 Linnet, 1 Chaffinch and 1 Wren.


Long-tailed Tit


In the meantime came news of a Lesser Redpoll APV0726 caught at another of our sites, Barnacre near Garstang. 

APV0726 had been ringed at Gosforth Cumbria on 31 May 2022. The age then was coded “3J”, in other words, a fresh juvenile and one that probably, but not certainly originated close to Gosforth, Cumbria. It is possible that APV0726 had already travelled down the west coast from Scotland where the species is extremely common.

Lesser Redpoll - 3J

Lesser Redpoll - Gosforth to Barnacre

We recaptured APV0726 -180 days from Gosforth, and now at Barnacre on the morning of 27 November 2022 and now aged it without the J as a code 3, i.e. a first winter bird with no obvious indications as to its sex.

This recovery represents a typical autumnal movement of young Lesser Redpolls in a south easterly direction to winter in Central and Southern England. Some of those birds continue their journey and cross the English Channel to Belgium, The Netherlands and France.

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

Back soon with more news, views and photos.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Another Drowned Rat

This is a short post because there's not much news. And once again the culprit is the lack of decent weather in which to get outdoors for serious birding. 

Let’s start with a request to regular readers to take a look at a recent photographic competition. The same readers will know that The Forest of Bowland features occasionally in Another Bird Blog. 

“Hi Phil” 

“Many congratulations, your image 'Redshank' has been shortlisted in the Forest of Bowland photo competition. The prize allocation will be decided by the public and voting will run from Monday 28th November to Monday 12th December, so please feel free to share the web link (from Monday) with friends and family, we will also promote voting via social media.”

Hetty Byrne 
Sustainable Tourism Officer 

Here’s the photo and you know what to do folks. If by any chance I win a prize I’m afraid that Sue has bagged the other place for the weekend trip but if I win a hamper of Bowland Delights I will relate the gustatory sensations. 


Like the rest of the preceding days, Friday morning was wet & windy when I drove to Pilling to drop supplementary seed at our ringing site. 

On the last visit here it looked as thought the regular pair of Stonechats had left. But no, today there they were again near one of their hangouts, a line of fenceposts 50 yards from where I looked. Although they stick like glue to each other it is very difficult if not impossible to get two in the viewfinder at once. It’s inevitable that with Stonechats the more striking males become the centre of attention to someone with a camera. In contrast, the less conspicuous female has a major advantage during the breeding season. 


There was some commotion around the area of the pool with complaining crows and I immediately thought there was a raptor nearby. All I saw was a Grey Heron, a bird that crows don’t much like but one  they will tolerate. 

Grey Heron
As I fed the whoosh net area there came a sudden and heavy shower from grey clouds above. I was in danger of becoming a drowned rat for the umpteenth time this last week or two. I took refuge in the car and wound the window partly down so as to watch another net ride that we scatter with seed. 

After a while the usual species appeared – Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Reed Buntings, a Robin or two and a chattering Wren. And a Brown Rat slinking through the slippery grass towards the new seed - so that’s where much of the seed is going. 

Brown Rat

"Rats are found in nearly all areas of Earth which are inhabited by human beings. The only rat-free continent is Antarctica”. 

And then I saw the reason for the earlier hoo-hah, a Sparrowhawk. It dropped from the trees to ground level and flew along the hedgerow to then swoop up and sit in a tree. Here it became less obvious to the naked eye of any passer by but in a handy spot for a fly by of the feeding station or a dash at passing birds. 


That’s all for now folks. Keep watching the weather forecasts and stay out of the rain. 

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


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Sticky Times

The forecasts for Wednesday proved to be on the wrong side of marginal. Luckily I’d already decided to drive and top up the feeding station without taking the ringing gear. The Fiat splashed through deep puddles of the days and weeks before as I looked for a less sticky spot to park up and disembark. 

I’d made a good decision as the wind was a tad strong for any netting and this would be a day for dropping a bucketful of supplementary seed and a quick look around. 

A Cetti’s Warbler greeted me with a burst of rapid-fire song as if it was trying to attract attention but I didn’t even look from where the song came because I knew the chances of seeing the bird were close to zero. And anyway, a few seconds later it would be gone and singing fifty yards away. 

Fifteen and more visits to Spain’s Balearic Islands where the Cetti’s is both common and widespread taught me not to waste time in trying to actually see a Cetti’s but to instead enjoy its song and eccentric behaviour. While morning and evening can be best, the colour, size and the habitat a Cetti’s chooses makes for challenging birding. 

Cetti's Warbler
It’s no different here in the UK where hardly anyone sees the skulking, evasive Cetti’s Warbler, a little bird with one of the UK’s loudest and most distinctive songs. It’s thought that by hiding away and singing loudly and forcefully from different parts of its territory, a Cetti's can fool rivals into thinking there are several males present, making the interlopers less likely to stick around. This behaviour allows a male to then have two or three females in his territory and thereby increase the success of his own lineage. 

Chaffinches, Reed Buntings, Long-tailed Tits and Greenfinches criss-crossed the net ride in search of the scattered seed. I watched for a while and then dropped seed on the whoosh netting square where the cleared and flattened ground held puddles formed by the days and weeks of rain.  A couple of days of wind and sun would dry the square - if only. 

Long-tailed Tit

Reed Bunting 


It was Saturday before the wind and rain presented a real window of opportunity by way of a 5mph wind or less across a number of forecasts. It was time to have another go. I met up with Andy and Will at 0700 where the partly flooded farm track glinted in our combined headlights. There was mist which hung around until the sun burnt it off around 10am.

With a little drainage work we made the whoosh net area usable if a little muddy, dropped more seed, set the single panel net to one side of the flooded walkway and erected three nets in the woodland edge.

The morning began, the mist refused to clear, but eventually it did and the catch improved a little. We finished at 1130 with a nice and varied catch of 25 birds -  7 Chaffinch, 5 Linnet, 4 Meadow Pipit, 3 Redwing, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Wren, 1 Robin, 1 Blackbird.

Meadow Pipit

Reed Bunting





Today was one of the better Chaffinch days, yet another farmland species that is seeing a serious decline in its population. One of the males today, with a wing length of 95mm, was possibly of Northern European origin, a type we are seeing less of in recent years. Our UK Chaffinches are generally smaller, both males and females.  


A good morning was had by all and we'll be back another day on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Picking The Best

Saturday morning was going to be the best of a bad bunch of yet another week of rain blown in from the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Off the south westerly sea currents, air temperatures have been unseasonably but not uniquely warm; but that’s no use if we’re unable to get out ringing. 

During the week Will volunteered for the supplementary feeding and had a good spot count of 70 or so Linnets, a couple of Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. He saw again the Marsh Harrier that we think may have taken up temporary residence while the weather is so mild. He also saw a single Swallow, again, not unprecedented in wet and warm late autumns. 

With Andy in Pisa for Pizza the team today was me and Will for the 0630 meet at the farm. 

The breeze was too strong across the seed plot for catching Linnets so we stuck to a couple of nets in the sheltered spots. Although we knew we wouldn’t catch many birds it was just good to get out in the fresh air after being stuck indoors so much - 13 birds - 5 Reed Bunting, 2 Wren, 2 Great Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Redwing and 1 Blackbird. 

The Redwing was caught early morning as was the Blackbird, the latter an example of a ‘continental’ first year male with streaky throat, scalloped breast & belly with all dark bill. Both species were in evidence for the first hour or so with maybe 15/20 Redwings and a dozen or so Blackbirds plus a single Song Thrush on the move. 



Our supplementary seed drops are now definitely bringing more Chaffinches and Reed Buntings. Our count this morning being 15/20 Reef Buntings (5 new caught) and 15/20 Chaffinches (2 new caught). 


Reed Bunting

A pair of Stonechats has been in residence for weeks now as they both range across a defined territory, all the while sticking like glue, one to the other. They might well stay throughout the winter but the more likely scenario is that after a couple of days of cold frosty weather they will disappear when their preferred insect food becomes hard to source. 

Other birds seen/heard - one large female Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 1 Cetti’s Warbler, 15/20 Meadow Pipit, 60 Linnet, 12 Skylark, 2 Greenfinch. 

The breeze picked up to turn our nets into wind socks. We called it a day at 1030 but we’ll be back. 

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


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