Friday, June 17, 2022

Where Are The Kids?

Thursday - what a strange morning. We met at 0600 up at Oakenclough - Andy, Bryan and me - a sunny morning in mid-June when we might expect good numbers of both breeding adults and newly fledged juveniles. 

However, and against all expectations our catch of birds in four hours totalled a paltry twelve - 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Bullfinch, 2 Robin, 2 Blackcap, 1 Goldfinch, 2 Wren and 1 Dunnock. Only three of those twelve birds, the resident Robins and the single Dunnock, were juveniles of this year. 

A surprising aspect of the morning was the lack of juvenile Willow Warblers as opposed to the fifteen or so males still in full song in the planation. Spring 2022 was so cold, late and lacking in the timely arrival of both males and females that we suspect many Willow Warblers are still at the nesting/incubation stage where males sing while females attend to their nest. Alternatively there may be many nest failures but either way is bad news. 

Female Bullfinch AKN3608 was a recapture from the last visit while the male was new to us. Both were in prime breeding condition that suggested a nearby nest. 


Both Blackcaps were male but we saw no females or newly fledged young.


The two juvenile Robins were offspring of resident birds rather than summer returning warbler species. 

On the water and along the grassy banks we saw an unseasonal Whooper Swan, one that by rights should now be in Iceland. 
Whooper Swan

Quite why and how a Whooper Swan is up in the hills of Lancashire in mid-June is something of a mystery, but it could be the same one that summered in the Cockerham area 15 miles away in 2021 but then joined Greylags returning inland to breed. During the northerly winds and cold of May 2022 the Whooper probably felt quite at home. 

A single Buzzard soared around for a while before performing a display dive to distant trees. 


Buzzards are now scarce up here on the edge of Bowland where raptors must still take their chances against tech-savvy gamekeepers. In contrast to this certain and continued persecution there is informed talk of a very successful breeding season for both Hen Harriers (40+ young fledged) and Merlins on private land where the species are well watched and soundly protected. 

From nearby trees, mixed and conifer, we saw Siskin, Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker and a party of 15-20 Long-tailed Tit. Thankfully, and for the second time on the trot we retained a clean sheet for the timice family. By all accounts it would seem that they too have experienced a poor season due to a lack of caterpillar food in April and May. Our pet name for Oakenclough is "Coal Tit Central", but not on Thursday.



Others seen - 3 Grey Heron, 1 Grey Wagtail, 3 Pied Wagtail, 4 Swallow , Oystercatcher with one young. 

Back soon with more news, views and photos.

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

Monday, June 13, 2022

Owls And Kestrels

A nest box with camera is a great way of monitoring birds so as not to disturb the family unnecessarily until the time comes to ring the youngsters. The images of 31 May and then 8 June from Jamie’s camera documented the Kestrel’s progress so well that we were able to set the date for ringing the chicks as Monday 13 June. I met Andy on site at 1000 where we borrowed Steve’s ladder to investigate. 

Kestrels - 31 May

Kestrels - 8 June

We expected to find three chicks but were happy no see four young and feisty Kestrels at an ideal stage to accept their new rings. 

Kestrels - 13 June 

Ten minutes after ringing both adult Kestrels returned with animal food for the chicks. The same site has breeding Barn Owls and Kestrels together with Little Owls nearby, a variety of predators that points to a healthy population of voles, mice, rats and small birds in the adjacent and sympathetically farmed land. 

You can follow the progress of this Kestrel family on Jamie’s live nest box streams at There are birds from all over the world including Tree Sparrows, Swifts, Bluebirds plus owls and raptors alike. Be warned, the site is very addictive! 

Our visit was also timed to check the Barn Owl box that had not sent images for weeks. Andy climbed the ladder because he’s the youngest but not by much. He reported the camera lens buried in debris from many meals and their aftermath and advised the camera be cleaned and placed higher once the owls had finished. Of the four young Barn Owls just three were big enough to ring. 

Barn Owl Box
Barn Owl
Barn Owls lay 4-6 eggs but not all eggs hatch though 4 is the average as some may be infertile. Most bird species don’t start to incubate (sit on and warm) their eggs until the clutch is complete, so the eggs hatch at more or less the same time. 

Barn Owls begin incubation as soon as the first egg is laid and lay additional eggs over a period of around 8-21 days. After 31-32 days’ incubation, the eggs hatch every 2-3 days, usually in the order they were laid. This is known as “asynchronous” hatching. The age difference between the oldest and youngest nestlings can be as much as three weeks. This age variation serves to reduce the peak in food demand and spread it over a longer period. 

Today’s smallest chick will remain un-ringed because if we were to return to ring that one there is a real risk that its larger siblings might leave the box prematurely and thus be in danger in an outside world that they are not quite ready to enter. 

Back home three young Dunnocks (from 5 eggs) were old enough to be ringed and their details recorded on the BTO database, each with their personal ring number, the place of birth, their approximate age and the number of siblings in the family. 

Dunnock chicks
Back soon with more birds, news and pictures on Another Bird Blog. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Another Martin

Last week was Sand Martins, this week it’s their blue and white cousins House Martins. While it’s relatively easy to catch Sand Martins that nest in waterside tunnels or quarries, House Martins that build mud nests under the eaves of buildings present a more difficult proposition. 

That is the main reason why over the years since the early 1990s our own Fylde Ringing Group has captured just 43 House Martins but more than 1326 Sand Martins. 

The latest Birds of Conservation Concern report of late 2021 reveals that more than 1 in 4 UK species, including Swifts and House Martins, are now in serious trouble. The UK has lost over half of its House Martin population (-57%) since 1969 and the species is now “Red-listed” and in need of further and immediate study. 

On Tuesday morning an hour's drive took us to Dunsop Bridge, Bowland and a building owned by the water company United Utilities where House Martins nest under the low slung eaves just 12ft off the ground. The building sits alongside the rocky and free-running River Dunsop that hosts piles of insect food and also places where the martins can collect mud to build their homes. 
House Martin

We didn’t expect to catch many and knew that it would be adults only until late June and beyond. We estimated 10 active nests and managed to catch 9 House Martins. We’ll return later in the month and into July, August and September to see how the breeding season progressed and gather more data when we catch youngsters of the year plus more adults. 

Thanks are due to United Utilities for allowing access to their works compound and to the chaps on site who put up with us for a few hours at their place of work. We all enjoyed the sights and sounds of good numbers of Pied Wagtails, Common Sandpipers, Grey Wagtails, Swallows, Mistle Thrushes. Most of all we enjoyed seeing House Martins at close quarters.

House Martin

Mistle Thrush

By the time we drove back towards the coast the Trough of Bowland road was busy with cyclists, walkers and other vehicles. There was a roadside juvenile Curlew that posed for a photo but the sun was not in the best situation. Lots of Meadow Pipits were in evidence together with Oystercatchers, a few Lapwings, but sadly very few Redshanks. 

Meadow Pipit

Back soon with more news, views and photos. The next ringing will be those Kestrels and a look in  the Barn Owl nest box. 

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

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Martins And More

Sand Martins arrived late from North Africa this year. Cold northerlies and cool temperatures throughout April and May saw few at the Cockerham colony and those that did find their way didn’t seem to hang around long. 

The quarry faces north and the Sand Martin’s tunnels look out in the same direction whereby there is no warming sun until late in the morning. Insects might be in short supply and perhaps this site is not a favoured one when newly arrived birds are free to fly off and find a more suitable location? 

Whatever the reasons, probably a combination of many, the land owner Chris phoned me mid-May to ask “Where are my Sand Martins?” Although I was in Greece at the time I was able to reassure him that the martins would be along soon but warned of a late breeding season but one where a “proper” summer might enable the birds to catch up somewhat. 

During the last week we waited for a suitable morning which finally arrived on Saturday. I met up with Andy and Will at 0630 at the colony where we set a single net to see how the martins were doing. We estimated around 80/100 birds present of which we managed a catch of 41 new ones and 1 recapture from 2021. All of the catch were adult birds, 23 males and 19 females.

The catch included "8911708 Museum Paris", a Sand Martin bearing a French ring. Almost certainly this was ringed in the vast reed-beds of Loire Atlantique. 

Sand Martin

Field Sheet - 4 June 2022

Museum Paris 8911708

We’ll visit again at the month end and see if the Sand Martins caught up with their late start and to estimate how many young they rear. Other birds this morning - Kestrel, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Oystercatcher. 

Great Crested Grebe

Meanwhile Friend Steve has both Kestrels and Barn Owls at his home. While the Kestrel camera is working fine, the Barn Owl camera is on the blink, which means a trip up the ladder to determine where the owls are at.


Back home there’s a Dunnock in the garden sitting on five eggs that are probably quite close to hatching. 

Dunnock Nest

There's more news, views and photos soon at Another Bird Blog. 

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


Related Posts with Thumbnails