Wednesday, August 31, 2022

It’s An Ill Wind

Even the most enthusiastic birder needs an occasional rest day after too many bleary eyed starts so I took a few days off. Wednesday looked ok but forecasts for the rest of the week showed strengthening winds from the east so we decided on Wednesday and a less than ideal 8-12 mph. I met up with Andy and Will at the appointed 0630 and we turned our cars to face into the breeze so as to use the ringing offices of the combined hatchbacks. 

The surface of the Grizedale reservoir rippled east to west and we suspected a slow session to be on the cards whereby net rides adjacent to the private access road are open to the elements of an easterly. 

Unlike the southern counties of England we have had our share of rain with no need for hose pipe bans or panic stations following two weeks of hot weather. Here in the West, 2022 has been the most average of summers devoid of any climate catastrophes. Current water levels in the reservoir are equal to if not slightly higher than August 2018 as seen in the video below.  And any day now the pent up rains will begin, just as they always do.


Our early suspicions were confirmed with a catch of just 9 birds - 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Goldcrest and horror of horrors, two Blue Tits. 


Meadow Pipit


Willow Warbler
There was a smidgeon of obvious and visible migration with both Swallows and House Martins on the move from north to south. About 25 Swallows fed around the trees for a short time before disappearing to the south as quickly as they arrived. Meanwhile, a gang of about 50 later arriving House Martins fed on high flying insects for around an hour before they too moved west. 

Other obvious arrivals consisted of a Marsh Harrier that flew towards the west, 12/15 Pied Wagtails and 4 Grey Wagtails. Three Buzzards and 2 Ravens were more locally based, one Buzzard especially searching for a meal above the skulking and recently released Pheasant population. 

There was excitement at Marton Mere, Blackpool on Tuesday evening when a “Hobby” was seen over two and three hours and then into Wednesday morning. On Wednesday morning it was correctly identified as a Red-footed Falcon and continued to give excellent views to all and sundry. A couple of days of easterly winds are enough to frustrate us ringers but can often produce infrequent and/or unusual goodies here on the West Coast. 

Red-footed Falcon
The photo of Red-footed Falcon above is from Menorca, Spain, 2019.

The winds need to both change direction and to drop in strength for me. Here’s hoping.

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


Friday, August 26, 2022

Oh Dear, How Sad. Never Mind.

I made it to Pilling on Friday morning and met up with Will for a spot of ringing. Another quiet session saw a catch of just 9 birds - 6 Linnet, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Robin. 

The ringing was quiet but birding while sat in the warming sunshine proved immensely entertaining.  We saw two but possibly three separate Marsh Harriers, one in clear north to south migration, the other two patrolling the landscape. 

A Peregrine tried twice to catch Stock Doves and while the Peregrine failed to connect a Buzzard hung around just in case there were spoils to be had. 

A Sparrowhawk, 3 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons added to our sightings with small flights of both Wigeon and Teal in the mix. Linnet numbers are down with a low count of 50/60 made up of small parties between 3 and 8. 

The numbers are down in all respects from those of two and three weeks ago. We suspect that we have witnessed a juvenile dispersal of some magnitude and that there will now be a lull until the arrival of more Linnets when colder weather arrives.   
Sedge Warbler


Marsh Harrier

There are more birds, birding and photos to come.  Log in soon to Another Bird Blog.


Meanwhile, there’s interesting and up to date news from Another Bird Blog’s Game and Sporting Correspondent. 

As a reminder and estimates vary, approximately 32 million Pheasants, 9 million Red-legged Partridges and 2.6 million Mallards are released into the countryside annually in the UK. The birds are released to provide ‘sport’ for people who live in or travel to the countryside. The released birds are subsequently killed during highly organised shooting occasions throughout the late autumn and winter months. 

This is known as Driven Game Shooting, a form of shooting more formal than simply walking with a dog alongside the hedgerows, and is usually confined to pheasant, partridge and grouse shooting.

On the shoot day, a team of shooters, or Guns, line out at numbered pegs. Meanwhile, under the gamekeeper’s instructions, a group of beaters and their dogs move through areas of woodland or covert, flushing the game ahead of them.

The aim is to get the birds to break cover and fly high over the line of Guns to provide sporting shots. Shot game is retrieved quickly by a picker-up who sends his/her trained gundog to where the shot game falls. Because of the organisation and number of people involved in a shoot of this sort, the financial cost to the Guns is considerably higher than in the other types of shooting.

Pheasant rearing

“Pippa, her posh pals, piles of dead pheasants and partridges... and some very pukka wellies” 
Daily Mail UK

The huge demand for the millions of young gamebirds (poults) reared for shooting in the countryside needs both home grown birds and imports from Europe. The largest exporters of gamebirds to the UK are France, Poland and Spain. France is by far the largest supplier of factory-farmed pheasants to the UK shooting industry with the Eurotunnel the main supply route for these birds. 

It seems that the price of Pheasant poults in particular is suffering from the same if not higher levels of inflation than the price of Waitrose avocados. Rearing birds requires labour, food, water, transport, husbandry, heating and energy, all of it getting more expensive by the day. 

In the early part of 2022 the industry worried that the price for a single poult might reach the dizzy heights of £5. 

During 2021/2022, France saw a high level of H5N1 Avian Flu outbreaks concentrated in the Vendee and Loire Atlantique regions - some of the main suppliers of game birds and eggs to the British game keeping market – as well as in French game birds themselves. 

The wave of cases in the southwest of France led to the culling of about 4 million birds, according to Reuters. There were 975 outbreaks of avian flu in the country between late November and March 2022. During this time France also experienced restrictions of movement and lockdowns of people and services due to Covid. 

This perfect storm of circumstances has seen the price of Pheasant poults imported to the UK rocket to near £10 a bird, a price that threatens the financial viability of UK shoots where attendance at even the smallest gathering may require a payment of £1,000 or more per person per day. 

It appears that some French producers who earlier in 2022 took orders from the UK have now reneged on deals or stated that they are unable meet new orders. The result is that as the shooting season of 1st September draws near, the price of a single UK grown poult for immediate supply was very recently quoted at £12.50 by a Lancashire supplier keen to fill the gaps in supply. 

A Gun

Organiser of shoots and their Guns worry they may have to cut down on the number of shooting days this winter.

Whatever happens from here on it seems likely that at the very least there will be less shooting this winter, with a corresponding lessening impact on the environment & countryside caused by the release of many thousands of factory farmed birds. 

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


Thursday, August 25, 2022

We knew it couldn’t last. Our two week heatwave of global warming just couldn't make the grade and turned out to be the familiar autumn of wind, rain, fallen apples and russet leaves. 

Autumn apples
My notebook remained pretty much empty until Thursday of this week with a journey to Oakenclough, a few miles from Garstang Town, west of the Pennines. Our location is in sight & sound of the North to South M6 Motorway that runs from Scotland to Middle England. From our vantage point and on clear mornings we can see down to Morecambe Bay, the largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and treacherous sand in the United Kingdom. The whole area covers a total of 120 square miles. 

Morecambe Bay - Wiki
Ringing site location

We are sure that the geographical location, the proximity of the brightly lit motorway plus the north to south axis of the Pennines helps us to catch migratory birds in autumn and spring. This obvious and sometimes visible bird migration doesn’t always happen and is dependent upon weather conditions, but when it does we know within an hour of our arrival on site. 

Autumn starts are later now at 0630 but soon to shift back for the darker morns ahead. I met up with Andy, Bryan and Will to zero wind and greyish skies, a near prefect morning for ringing we thought.

Nothing much happened except for visible migration of more than 120 Swallows heading west in small groups together with several House Martins and a single Sand Martin. Invisible migration/new arrivals consisted of just 11 captures - 3 Blackcap, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Goldcrest and 1 Chaffinch.

Blackcaps have been hard to come by this year until the catch today of two males and one indeterminate, the cap still brown but potentially yet to moult to the black of a male.


Meadow Pipit

Juvenile Goldfinches cannot be sexed with any accuracy until they acquire their adult colours. However, the size of the bill on the above example suggests it is a male.  

There was a roving flock of Goldfinches this morning with approximately 80-100 in the area of the site. With luck we might have caught more but had to settle for the two juveniles. 


The weather is set fair for the next few days and maybe into next week. I'm setting the alarm clock for Friday morning and a trip to the very edge of Morecambe Bay. I'm sure we can catch more birds next time. Now where have I heard that before?

Friday, August 19, 2022

Plucking Post

There's a Sparrowhawk plucking post in a quiet corner of our garden. I realised that earlier in the week when tidying around the edges of the grass. 

Ten or more days ago I watched a Sparrowhawk carry its snatched-nearby Collared Dove into our garden and follow up on the strike. The hawk landed immediately behind the apple tree yards from a bedroom window, perhaps too close to the house for the hawk’s comfort. The hawk quickly despatched the meal, and once the dove stopped struggling the Sparrowhawk flew low across the garden to a quiet secluded corner where it could dismember its prey. 
The hawk finished its meal and left the garden after 30 minutes or so. It was when tidying the garden this week that I noticed the left over feathers from the earlier meal contained darker and fresher ones that I recognised as those of a Blackbird. So either the same or a different Sparrowhawk had returned to the exact same spot with its latest meal. 
A Quiet Corner

Plucking Post 

A “plucking post” is not necessarily a post, wooden or metal, but more simply a raised piece of ground or a tree stump used regularly by a bird of prey to dismember its prey, removing feathers and other inedible parts before eating it. The sometimes elevated nature of a post allows for a safer landing with the heavy load of the prey, as well as being a good vantage point to scan for other predators while the bird is vulnerable and involved in the relatively complex process of plucking and feeding upon its prey. 

Pellets composed of the indigestible items of the prey are often found on or around plucking posts. Plucking posts surrounded by feathers and fur may indicate that a raptor nesting site is nearby and may be mainly used during the breeding season. 

It has been suggested that faeces marks and plucking may represent a widespread method for communicating current reproduction and territory to other raptors in the same area. I do know that Sparrowhawks regularly nest a quarter of a mile away from home and that the species is frequently seen by me at least. 

I will leave the plucking post undisturbed, continue to watch for Sparrowhawks and whether one finds the quiet little corner of the garden again.  

The weather is a little windy today, as it has been most of the week. 

With luck there may be a ringing session soon. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog. 

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

Monday, August 15, 2022

Sunday Monday

Sunday morning. Even in the half-light the garden trees and bushes stood motionless against the clear sky. I grabbed a piece of toast, stuffed some fruit into a bag and set off to have a few hours out Pilling Way.

There were 50 or 60 Swallows around with possibly the remnants of an overnight roost in nearby reeds. I made a mental note to keep any eye on the possibility. The Linnet flock is always dependable and although the numbers on the move, 70/90, didn’t approach recent counts, seven more found their way into the single panel mist net in the seed plot.

That’s 30 Linnets ringed here since June, twenty nine of them juveniles of the year and just one adult. Those thirty give us a head start for the bigger numbers of later autumn and winter with better catches. We just wish that ringers nationwide would try and catch more Linnets so as to gather more data and thereby help this Red Listed farmland species.

Although the soft-focus juveniles present no problems in assigning male or female because their size, the respective plumages are different.

Linnet juvenile/first summer

Linnet male

Linnet female

The overnight clear skies and morning produced little in the way of other new birds except for singles of Robin, Wren and at last, a juvenile Reed Warbler.

Excitement came in the form of the now regular juvenile Peregrine, this time carrying small and dark prey beneath its belly, possibly a Starling.

Not to be outdone, along came a “cream top” Marsh Harrier heading purposely south towards Pilling Village and beyond in the direction of The River Wyre. It was 27 July when we recorded the first of Marsh Harrier of the autumn on the same north to south east trajectory, a route that the species seems to always follow.


Monday was a day with grandkids M and S. We drove up to Knott End village to await the tide dependent ferry for the two hundred yards journey across the Wyre where they could sample again the delights of the ancient fishing port of Fleetwood Town - 2p slot machines followed by a picnic and ice creams. The midday high tide would stay around long enough to take the return ferry in a few hours’ time. Missing the last ferry back to Knott End would entail a tortuous 18/20 miles never ending bus journey.

There are lots of pics below with little or no commentary. Click the pics for a bigger and better trip to West Lancashire.

Follow the fun starting at Knott End, crossing the River Wyre on the ferry, a walk in Fleetwood including the two penny slot machines and then take the journey back to Knott End. The morning was grey with later drizzle and rather spoiled the photos but not the fun.

LS Lowry and Knott End Café

The jetty

Knott End slipway

Here it Comes

The Excitement Builds

Cleaning tidal mud

First Arrivals - Off to Explore Knott End on Sea

Health And Safety 

Emergency Exit

Little And Large

Fleetwood Esplanade


Herring Gull

"Welcome Home" for the trawlermen

Fleetwood fish


More Slots

Even More Slots 

The Sands of South Morecambe Bay

Back on dry land

Riverside Walk - Knott End 

Riverside Walk - Knott End

Grilled Plaice with veg

What better way to finish the day with a couple of grilled Plaice fresh from those Morecambe Bay sands?

Back soon with more news vies and Lancashire treats.

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