Thursday, September 29, 2022

Return Leg

We’re back from Skiathos - eventually. More of that little saga later. Two weeks of unbridled sunshine left us browned off in the normal way with a healthy outdoor tan from our favourite holiday destination. 

As ever and due to unrelenting sunshine, clear skies and temperatures in the high twenties the birding was pretty poor. Nonetheless most would be happy with seeing raptors like Eleanora’s Falcon, Hobbies and Buzzards. Daily sightings of Spotted Flycatchers, wagtails, Whinchats, Sardinian Warblers and the ubiquitous Red-backed Shrike added to the feeling that a day spent in the beautiful countryside of Skiathos was equal to if not far better than a day of burning on Koukounaries beach. 

I returned with very few new bird photos but lots of scenes of Skiathos, the most photogenic of destinations. I am now catching up with two weeks post, business, news, and household jobs like gardening. And there are two new bird books to unpack and then review here on the blog. 

In the meantime here is a selection of photos from Skiathos September 2022. Sorry there aren’t too many birdy pics but I’m sure that regular readers will know how I like to take holiday snaps too. 

Enjoy the pics and don't forget to click for a better view.

Woodchat Shrike

Sardinian Warbler

Goats at Aselinos

Agia Paraskevi


Morning Flight

A Spot of Rain

Milos Taverna

Bus Stop 

Dry Dock Time

Loading Up

Spotted Flycatcher

Grey Heron

Little Egret

Shop Window

Net Repairs

Windswept Tree


The Bourtzi


Red-backed Shrike


Skiathos Carob Tree

Waiting for The Ferry

Boat Repairs


The Bells

Hee Haw

Mini Sub

The Bourtzi

Plane Watchers

Skiathos Rainbow

Day Trip?


Sunny Skiathos

And now for a rant about TUI, our flight provider. 

We arrived in plenty of time for our 1345 flight back to Manchester on Wednesday. We learnt that the flight was over two hours late in setting off from Manchester after early morning fog. Fair enough but this “ferry flight”, empty and solely to take a plane load of people back to Manchester then took one and a half hours to turn around. 


Worse was to come when the pilot announced to already grumpy passengers that our journey to Manchester needed for a “splash of fuel” that would entail a refuelling stop at Dusseldorf, a German hub of TUI where fuel is probably cheaper than topping up in Greece. A sceptic might say, “follow the money rather than TUI's customer service”.  

The “splash of fuel”  added two hours to the flight time and we eventually arrived at our front door over six hours later than anticipated. The joys of travel. This unexpected addition to our holiday rather took the gloss off our wonderful time in Greece. 

Back soon with local birds, ringing, birding and a couple of new book reviews. 

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


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Last Gasp

Tuesday would be the last opportunity for getting out before jetting off to Greece on Wednesday. Sue reminded me that packing suitcases is a little like cooking - too many packers spoils the baggage - or words to that effect. So I took the advice, left her filling suitcases and bags via the well-thumbed aide memoire then set off to meet Will out Pilling way for 0630. 

Regular readers will know that recent ringing has been slow in numbers and that birding has proved more electrifying in the way of raptors like Peregrines, Marsh Harriers and Sparrowhawks. There’s nothing quite like a dashing falcon or a marauding hawk to enliven a morning of netting tedium that consists of two birds an hour. 

Even the recent Spotted Flycatcher was having none of our wicked ways when it spent two hours and more watching the clumsy efforts without trying out the mist nets. 

Spotted Flycatcher
Today’s escapee was Stonechat, a single bird that arrived unseen along a distant fence and then flew to the seed plot and perched up within a yard or two of the single panel nets before doing the proverbial vanishing act.  


Villain of the piece was a female Sparrowhawk which appeared on the scene looking for a meal of Linnet but then scattered not only the Linnet flock but also the Stonechat. The Sparrowhawk easily snatched a Linnet and treated us to superb views but we didn’t see the Stonechat again. 

After a couple of weeks of low numbers Linnets were this morning suddenly back in quantity with a couple of large flocks amounting to 150-180 individuals. We caught five Linnets along with two more Robins and possibly our last Reed Warbler of the year. 


Reed Warbler
It seems we are not the only ones to note the reappearance of Linnets with a gang of 220 seen at Hilbre Island, Merseyside on Sunday. 

These movements signify the start of the true autumn migration of Linnets from the top of Scotland, many of which spend their winter in the relative balminess of North West England warmed by the Gulf Stream. Small differences in temperatures may seem bearable to us but to a small seed eating bird like a Linnet spells of Scottish cold, ice and snow are life and death. 

Only briefly did a Marsh Harrier treat us to stunning views when it circled around behind our ringing office where it attracted the attention of assorted crows. The morning sun lit the harrier’s crown and turned it like magic into a pot of yellow butter. 

Marsh Harrier
There was a Peregrine again. Brief views as the bird dashed right to left across our viewpoint and in pursuit of some unknown prey not too far away. 

That’s it folks. The packing is packed. There's an early taxi heading this way. See you in Greece. 

I may have Wi-Fi some of the time so if there’s no response to comments and queries, apologies in advance. I’ll be along eventually. 

Friday, September 9, 2022

Balmy Army

The week has been warm but breezy and showery with few chances for meaningful birding so there isn’t a lot of bird news. A couple of visits out Pilling Way produced poor catches with just eight to show for several hours in the field. 

After a very cold dry spring and a dry, warm, occasionally hot summer, there's a dearth of small birds this year which seems especially so here in our little corner of North West England. Only now in September am I beginning to see more normal numbers of insects. It could be that the unusual but not unknown weather and food availability factors, coupled with the ongoing decline of a number of especially farmland bird species is more evident this year to those who spend time outdoors with eyes and ears open. 

Citizen Scientists and bird ringers in particular have a vital part to play in feeding their thoughts and observations into systems of data collection. Incomplete and short-timescale data sets are increasingly being used to fit the false narrative of anthropogenic climate change. 

With Will unavailable and Andy packing for his holiday the Friday Barmy Army was me alone. The early morning arrival disturbed the local Buzzard that promptly flew down the field to continue its ground hog watch a safe distance from me, the potential predator. Sometimes I just want to shout out to Buzzards and many other species - “Hey, don’t worry. I mean no harm I just want a photo”. But of course their experience and inbuilt suspicion of the human race tells them otherwise. 

The week produced two birds new to the site,  Treecreeper and a Spotted Flycatcher, the first we captured, the second admired from a distance when it stayed out of net range. 

Spotted Flycatcher
Meadow Pipits are now on their way south after what appeared to be a reasonable breeding season; when I journeyed into the Bowland Hills during the summer I saw good numbers of roadside pipits scatter ahead of oncoming vehicles. We are still a week away from Meadow Pipit peak migration but I will not be here to see the numbers passing through. I will be in Greece where I may see Red-throated Pipits or the occasional Richard's Pipit. 

Meadow Pipit
Red-throated Pipit

And of course September mornings of half-light inevitably start with the plaintive song of autumn Robins, a species which is highly migratory across Europe and into Africa. How often do we hear our neighbours say that “their” Robin is “back in the garden”? In fact a Robin, or more correctly a European Robin,  has a very short life span of two or three years so the Robin in an average suburban garden is most likely to change on a regular basis. 
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula

No visit would be a complete without a couple of Linnets. And although the post breeding dispersal seems over for now the regular 30/40 continue to give us new birds and zero recaptures. Once again, if only more ringers south of Lancashire would catch Linnets we might be able to add to existing knowledge. 


That’s me done for a day or two. Back soon with news, views and photos from here, there and everywhere. 

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

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