Tuesday, January 25, 2022


Tuesday morning and there’s still no ringing while Avian Flu is around but there’s no harm in looking and planning for better days. 

At 0815 Andy picked me in up in his flash-black Mercedes for a 30 mile trip up to Dunsop Bridge, a village surrounded on all sides by the rolling hills of the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The title ‘Forest’ refers to long established Royal hunting rights, and not as we interpret it today, as a large expanse of woodland. Nearby is Salter Fell Track, a pass along which the Lancashire Witches are believed to have been taken to their trial and later hanging at Lancaster Castle in 1612. 

Dunsop Bridge lies at the confluence of the River Dunsop and the River Hodder before the Hodder flows south to join the River Ribble outside Clitheroe. This is a peaceful, beautiful and mostly undisturbed part of Lancashire where the landscape, environment and ecosystems combine to support a varied bird, insect and animal population. 

Not least of the influential ecosystems are the renowned rainfalls and where on 8 August 1967, Dunsop Valley entered the UK Weather Records with the highest 90 minute total rainfall of 117 mm/4.6 inches. 

We have newly acquired permission to catch and ring House Martins at a long-established colony location during the spring and summer of 2022. Our trip today a reconnoitre, a lay of the land to establish the method, equipment and timings needed for our eventual visits once the martins arrive from Africa during April & May to start their colony reconstruction. 

House Martins
The morning was misty and dank with poor visibility as we drove the private track alongside a meandering stream to our destination, a light industrial/office building, ideally situated and of perfect height and seclusion for nesting House Martins. 

House Martin eaves
Dunsop Valley

We measured eighteen paces for a 40 foot net and twenty six paces for a 60ft across the grass immediately in front of the building where the west facing brickwork would allow a morning session away from glaring sun. Perfect. 

After chatting to the guys who work there we said our “see you soon” and headed back to the village and eventually the A6 road towards Cockerham and our out of action ringing station. 

Dunsop Bridge
As usual the Cockerham feeding station was busy with a steady turnover of birds visiting our seed drop spots - counts of 240+ Linnet, 20+Chaffinch, 15 Blackbird, 6 Reed Bunting, 4 Greenfinch and a couple of Moorhen. Moorhens are not averse to using feeding stations in the wintertime where they quite happily hoover up bird seed. There was the customary Sparrowhawk hanging around but giving just glimpses as it kept mostly out of sight of us and the birds it would target.


We still await an email from DEFRA/APHA and/or the BTO to let us know when the Avian Flu 10Km control zone is revoked so that we ring birds again.  

We’ve missed out on catching a couple of hundred birds and all the data that would provide during December/January; and now eight weeks later and almost February, there's no end in sight. 

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


Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil,:=) Lovely captures of the birds, and how exciting that you now have permission to ring the House Martins during the spring and summer months. It looks like the ideal place, very picturesque. I love that sign, The PuddleDucks Tea Room.:=)

Mike Attwood said...

Hello Phil, I think Sonjia has said it all for me. Perhaps when you have finished with the birds you can send them down to me where they will most welcome.
Take care.

Wally Jones said...

For many of us, birding is fun, else we wouldn't do it. When we can engage in our "fun" in a beautiful location such as the Forest of Bowland, well, that is simply icing on our cake!

Here's hoping for a successful ringing of House Martins this year!

I know I am more dense than the average bloke, but I don't fully understand the prohibition of ringing and how that relates to the potential spread of the avian flu. Is the concern for netted birds passing the bug among themselves due to proximity? Or is the worry for bird to human contact?

All remains well here at Rebel Alliance HQ. Our neighboring county is a premier strawberry growing region and we have been gorging on the sweet red fruit since Christmas. A sack of fresh berries makes a morning of birding even better!

Phil Slade said...

Hi Wally.
You are correct regarding Avian Flu. The virus seems to mostly affect large birds with most cases identified in wild ducks, geese and swans where the virus is transmitted through faeces when birds congregate together. Where there are free range livestock e.g. birds, ducks, chickens, turkeys, and pheasants outdoors there is a risk that they might be joined by infected wild birds (mallards esp) attracted in by the feeding possibilities.
Similarly goes the theory, when ringers catch those species in duck traps or under cannon nets infected bird may spread the virus to previously healthy birds whilst being held in close proximity prior to processing.
The BTO ban all ringing so as to encompass all possibilities while there is a risk, even though that risk might be very small in the case of our singly kept Linnets going on to infect or later become infected by the larger species.

I am in the process of trying to obtain an exemption for our Linnet project but not convinced I will be granted one. Dealing with the authorities on such matters is like grappling with treacle.

Angie said...

Phil - so glad you have gained permission to ring House Martins! Your description of the Forest is so appealing; I am delighted to tell you we will be heading back to the UK in April!

Rain said...

That's really a shame that the Avian Flu is still rampant...those House Martins are beautiful, I love their white bellies! :)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil

Great news, you will be able to ring the House Martins, they are cute birds. It is sad to hear the avian flu is still around! I have heard of our famous Salem witches, I did not know about the Lancashire Witch trials. Dunsop Bridge and the valley sounds like a lovely spot. I like the name Puddleducks for the Tea room. Great captures of the Moorhen, Greenfinch and the Chaffinch. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend.

Villrose said...

Lovely House Martins!

Mae Travels said...

Too bad the avian flu is affecting so many species. The emergence of new diseases, and rapid spread of old ones, is concerning: not just to humans! Avian disease has almost extinguished several endemics in Hawaii, for example, because of the warming of the high altitude areas where they live.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I hope you are able to get the exemption and get back to what you need to do. Glad you could get out and see some birds and share them with all of us. The Martins are pretty and it's nice to see where they nest too. Enjoy your weekend!

RedPat said...

I hope the flu situation improves soon.
I have a mug with a bit of the story of the witches.

Shiju Sugunan said...

Hope things will be better soon and you won’t be restricted from doing what you love. You saw some lovely birds.

Linda said...

I was just reading today that the Asian bird flu has been found in USA. Wildlife officials are warning hunters, plus consumers are warned to cook poultry and even eggs thoroughly.

Anni said...

First, it's a lockdown for the Corona virus, now the bird flu continues with not much chance of petering off!! You did manage to photograph some lovelies, but I know how anxious you and Andy are!
It's always a pleasure visiting from your link shared. Thanks. And happy birding *and soon, banding!

Rhodesia said...

Hope that you get back to ringing very soon. Health problems are causing lots of upsets!!! If it is no one thing it is another. Still lots of COVID around here!!! Take care and keep safe, Diane

Glenda Cates said...

Nice car to be picked up in and to go for a ride in. I did enjoy seeing the Birds this morning. I wish you a wonderful day.

Veronica Lee said...

Such a shame that the Avian Flu is still rampant. Great news though that you will be able to ring the House Martins.

Happy Wednesday, Phil.

Lowcarb team member said...

Lovely birds in your photographs.
I wouldn't mind a cuppa at Puddleducks Tea room.

All the best Jan

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