Saturday, October 29, 2022

An Interesting Redpoll - Well Aren’t They All?

There’s no birding or bird ringing for a day or two with both rain and wind preventing activities. 

However, there came an interesting if slightly puzzling recovery of Lesser Redpoll AJD6136. 

Lesser Redpoll
We caught and ringed redpoll AJD6136 at Oakenclough on the morning of 1st October 2018. The  morning produced a catch of 6 Lesser Redpolls, 4 Goldfinch, singles of Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit, plus a couple of Great and Blue titmice; a typical if not over large mix of early October local and migrant species. 

At this time of year many Lesser Redpolls from Northern England and Scotland are on their way south to winter in France and the hotspot of Belgium, the latter a country with a special attraction to the species. A Belgian winter landscape holds a redpoll's preferred seeds in abundance and the ambient temperatures are certainly preferable to those of Scotland.

Lesser Redpoll from BTO Migration Atlas

“Most recovery data of Lesser Redpolls comes via North and North West European ringing regions. Most populations follow on average a North to South or North West to West/South East axis, with recoveries as far as N Kazakhstan, up to China. There are two recoveries at more than 4000 km, mostly less than 2000 km.”  BTO.

Only this week did we learn that the same Lesser Redpoll AJD6136 was recaptured by Belgian ringers 44 days later at Maubray, Hainaut, Belgium on 18th October 2018. Yes, that’s right; it took four years for the information to reach us that AJD6136 was recaptured in the centre of the Belgium hotspot pictured above. 

Lesser Redpoll AJD6136 - Lancashire to Belgium
A likely but only partial explanation for the four year delay is that the Belgian end of the recovery noted the ring as AJO6136 rather than AJD6136, transposing the letter “D” as “O”. 

This simple error would cause confusion plus double checking and detective work in both the BTO UK and Bruxelles, Belgium end of operations with an exchange of emails and phone calls until the true number could be confirmed. The number AJO6136, if it existed and in circulation, would probably refer to a different species, perhaps one that was highly unlikely to be found in Belgium in the month of November. 

All’s well that ends well but the lesson is that once a ringed migratory bird is released it is unlikely to be caught again so the utmost care should be taken with ring numbers and sequences that are not recognised. 

Our own procedure, after first identifying the species and realising that the bird has an unfamiliar ring, is that the ring number, letters, plus country code if applicable, are read and double checked by two people.  One can never be quite sure where that bird was ringed!

European Bee-eater

I just double checked the weather forecasts for the week ahead again. It’s not good news for anyone who likes to be out and about. 

Keep watching for a window of opportunity and news, views and photographs here on Another Bird Blog. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Another Week Goes By

The week ahead didn’t promise much in the way of weather suitable for ringing birds. Tuesday looked the best possibility, a brief lull in the showery westerlies at best. Once again the Internet and TV weather forecasts became compulsive viewing, and far better than the BBC's "News". 

It was touch and go until 0700 when I met up with Will and Andy at the ringing site to zero rain and a touch of breeze that spelt "just about". 

It quickly became apparent that the plan to catch more Linnets would be thwarted by the now stiff breeze that scurried across the seed plot. However, other slightly sheltered nets, plus the standalone whoosh net might produce a bird or two. 

Early sounds of Redwings and Blackbirds were followed by a good mix of 24 birds caught - 12 Greenfinch, 6 Meadow Pipit, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Blackbird, 1 Redwing, 1 Wren, 1 Dunnock, 1 Goldfinch. 


Meadow Pipit


Just yesterday we received news of Meadow Pipit ALP8836 ringed here on 9 September 2022. Sixteen days later on 25 September the same bird was caught by another ringer at Buckfastleigh, Devon. 

A glance at the map below will show that the pipit had travelled virtually due south (190 degrees) and was probably on its way across the English Channel, on to France and eventual destination North Africa, the wintering haunt of many British Meadow Pipits. 

Pilling to Buckfastleigh, Devon

Birding provided more interest in the shapes and sounds of 70 or more Linnets that we couldn't catch, more Greenfinches, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. Two Stonechats played hide and seek in amongst the seed plot while the now resident Cetti's Warbler seems to have regular spots where it breaks into song.

It may have been the Marsh Harrier we saw or more likely, a dashing and unseen Peregrine that set many hundreds of Lapwing, Golden Plovers, Starlings and Black-headed Gulls into a melee of wings and sounds overhead and looking for safety to the west.       

Nothing much bothers the Little Egrets or the lonesome Grey Herons, they seem to have all the time in the world to continue their stalking through the water courses in search of a meal.  

Grey Heron

Well, what do you know? The weather forecasts say nothing until weekend at least. Another week goes by but we don't give in that easily.

Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog for news, views and photos, local or otherwise.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Whopper Morning

Tuesday had been pencilled in for days. 

This time the forecasts didn’t let us down. There was zero wind and clear dark skies when I met up with Will and Andy at 0700 hours. The starts get later and the mornings darker as we approach the Autumn Equinox and its ritual of changing the clocks. 

As the sky lightened we put mist nets up and saw a Barn Owl hunting the scrubby grass where we parked our three cars. Was this a good omen? Time would tell. 

Barn Owl 
Almost six hour later the tired gang of three counted up the catch - 78 birds of 10 species, for us, a whopper of a catch that far exceeded recent efforts. 

The mix of species was good with 35 Greenfinch, 23 Linnet, 5 Long-tailed Tit, 7 Meadow Pipit, 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush. 1 Wren, 1 Great Tit. 

Two of the Greenfinch bore almost consecutive rings beginning ‘ZY’ that were not our own. Previous experience has shown that our autumn and spring Greenfinch don’t travel far, and that the origins of these two will likely prove to be the top of Morecambe Bay. It is interesting that the two were almost certainly ringed and now recaptured on the same dates, i.e. still travelling together. 

At this time of year it's not unusual to see a steady stream of Greenfinches on the move if you know where to look and how to catch them. Fortunately the species seems to have now recovered from its drastic fall in numbers during the 1970s and 1980s due to trichomonosis. 



Long-tailed Tit


Meadow Pipit

Reed Bunting

With the ringing being fairly busy our sighting were restricted to mainly overhead Skylarks and Meadow Pipits - 75 and 30 respectively, a chasing Merlin, and the now seemingly resident Cetti’s Warbler in random snatches of song. 

After our session today it looks as if the weather will turn against us now. Make hay while the sun shines everyone. 

Linking at the weekend to Anni in Texas and Viewing Nature with Eileen.


Friday, October 14, 2022

Two For One

It’s not often our west coast weather allows two consecutive days of ringing, and hardly ever three days in a week. But this week, and after pushing our luck through marginal forecasts we managed Monday, Thursday and Friday – amazing! 

So after the last post, here’s the summary for Thursday and Friday rolled into one as the mornings were similar or the same in location, weather conditions, species and numbers. 

Our consecutive mornings of Thursday and Friday realised a total of 42 birds - 25 Linnet, 3 Greenfinch, 2 Redwing, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Dunnock, 1 Wren, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 1 Great Tit, 1 Blue Tit. 

We caught our first Redwings of the autumn, together with migratory Song Thrush and Blackbird. 

Song Thrush


The Skylark theme of Monday continued throughout the mornings of Thursday and Friday with many more Skylarks passing over in their north to south path to take our count for the three mornings to several hundred individuals. This has been a phenomenal and most unusual occurrence to take place over this essentially narrow corridor of coastal Lancashire known as Fylde. We simply cannot be sure of the Skylarks’ start points, but almost certainly Scotland. 

Although a good number of the Skylarks showed a high level of interest in a recording of their songs and calls we had no luck with tempting any into a whoosh net catching area. Instead of Skylarks we caught a couple of Pied Wagtails with the whoosh net, both birds first year males. 

Pied Wagtail

Thursday and Friday saw another 25 Linnets ringed with zero recaptures from this or any other year. A good number of the latest Linnets are of Scottish origins. We know this because Linnets from Scotland invariably have the very blackish streaked heads not seen in typical cannabina forms of English Linnets. Alongside that we are also seeing slightly longer winged males of 83, 84 and 85mm. 

"Scottish" Linnet
The odds and ends of sightings/birds from Thursday or Friday seem insignificant when laid alongside the Skylark migration of the week.  

Thursday - 28 Whooper Swan, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 5 Reed Bunting, 20 Swallow, 80+ Skylarks. 

Friday - 4 Blackbird, Stonechat, Cetti’s Warbler, Swallow, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush, 30+ Long-tailed Tit, 140+ Skylark. 

We rather hoped to catch the Cetti’s Warbler singing from first light and periodically throughout the morning.  However, both male and female Cetti’s are known to sing so we can only assume that Friday’s bird was the same one as caught on Monday last, a female, a few days later and already adept at avoiding bird ringers' mist nets.  

Let’s keep an eye on the weather again! It’s looking like the weekend days will be spent at home with a pencil mark in the diary for Monday/Tuesday. 

Keep in touch my friends. 

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Twenty Ten Vision.

Hurricane Ian dropped a number of rare birds all over Britain and Ireland but it seems that not many came to this part of Lancashire - unless anyone knows different? 

After the wind and rain of last week and this Monday there appeared to be window of opportunity on Tuesday so I met up with Andy and Will for a spot of ringing. 

The morning calm of 0630 hinted that thrushes in the shape of Redwings might be on the cards. But came there none, not even a Blackbird, and certainly not a Song Thrush, as rare as anything that Ian might bring. 

We peered through the semi-dark and saw that a roost held seven or eight Little Egrets and bigger than the others, a single Great Egret. Before too long they all went their separate ways, croaking their good byes as they went to leave us setting mist nets alone. 

Great Egret

Little Egret

A quiet session ensued with an unlucky-for-sum 13 birds caught whereby the morning flight of Linnets saved us from an even more embarrassing total - 8 Linnet, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Robin, 1 Great Tit, 1 Chaffinch and 1 Grey Wagtail. Damn, I forgot to alter the focus point. And it’s not too often we catch a Grey Wag. 

Grey Wagtail


The Linnets arrived in quite small groups of 5-15 and a morning total of 100+ in the niggling and increasing breeze of 5-10 and then 15 mph, all interspersed with bouts of drizzle. 

Maybe it was the cloud and mizzle with odd breaks in the grey that brought the many Skylarks pouring over from North and North East and heading relentlessly South? Most were very high, a height impossible to guesstimate other than some were in acute hearing range only and visible to 20/10 vision or better. When we packed in at a relatively early 1030 we estimated 90 and more Skylarks had passed our watch point. 


There was just the one raptor today, a single Sparrowhawk that shot across the field towards the seed crop hoping to catch something unawares. We saw Reed Buntings, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Meadow Pipits but not in any great numbers. It just wasn’t our day. 

Better luck next time. Thursday is looking a possible. Excuse me I have a phone call to make. 


Friday, October 7, 2022

In the Footsteps of Audubon

Here as promised is a review of a book due for release on November 1st 2022 - In the Footsteps of Audubon by Denis Clavreul. This is a Princeton publication. 

Denis Clavreul is a French watercolourist, wildlife artist, and biologist whose celebrated works have been exhibited around the world. He is the author and illustrator of many books, including Dreaming of Africa and Pour une Loire vivante (That the Loire may live). 

John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) is held in such high regard as a naturalist/ornithologist/painter and author that he is known simply by the surname of Audubon. 

Everyone knows of Audubon, not least me. Audubon’s stunning, stylistic, painstakingly detailed and dramatic drawings became a major inspiration in my early days of discovering birds. 

Audubon’s own journey began in France over two hundred years ago with his childhood in France and an early affinity for birds and natural history in its many forms. In 1803 his father obtained a false passport so that Jean-Jacques Audubon could go to the United States to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic Wars. At eighteen years old Jean-Jacques boarded a ship and changed his name to the anglicised form John James Audubon. 

As a young man Audubon travelled the Americas where he learned the crafts that would eventually make him famous. The book traces one such journey via Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Louisiana, Las Floridas (Florida), Labrador, Missouri and to the end of the journey in New York City. In those days the population of the young United States was around five million people. There were no paved roads, no automobiles, no electric lights, no cameras or binoculars, and no widely available books about birds. 

Throughout the journey the young Audubon practiced and perfected his artistic skills and became a self-taught ornithologist of repute. His pictorial record - The Birds of America, 1827 and 1838, stands as a colossal achievement in American art that will never be bettered. 

Birds of America

“In the Footsteps” follows the same route that Audubon took through the States of America with a chapter devoted to each leg of a journey some 200 years before. 

Two hundred and fifty of Clavreul’s deceptively modest, often impressionistic sketches and watercolours of birds, animals, people, plants and landscapes appear throughout the pages where they mingle with revealing selections from Audubon’s journals and a number of his paintings e.g. the simply stunning Great Egret, the Crested Caracaras or the Gannets. 

 “The weather was fine; all around me was as fresh and blooming as if it had just issued from the bosom of Nature. Although well moccasined, I moved slowly along attracted by the brilliancy of the flowers, and the gambols of the fawns along their dams, to all appearance as thoughtless of danger as I felt myself.” 

Audubon’s words make a knowing and comfortable juxtaposition of words and images that fit with Clavreul’s easy, relaxed style of descriptive writing. I felt that my journey through America and Audubon’s past was made all the better by being in the company of an agreeable, knowledgeable and sympathetic companion. 

Along the journey there are people who live with nature, many of them passionately engaged in preserving it. We encounter bird banders in Louisiana, devoted birders in Central Park, Florida & Quebec and ranchers in Missouri; just a few of the locations where Clavreul’s delightful sketches and paintings bring words and history to life. We see the natural world as Audubon saw it but with eyes and ideas of today. 

“The Night Hawks were skimming over and around me, attracted by the buzzing wings of beetles which form their food, and the distant howling of wolves gave me some hope that I should soon arrive at the skirts of some woodlands.” 

I must mention that the book is translated from the original French into English. The translator Martha Le Cars deserves a special mention for the sensitive, seamless and highly readable result. 

In the Footsteps of Audubon, a book in landscape format, will probably not appeal to the average birder. However, I am certain it is one that will find a home with students of bird and natural history art, travellers, writers, and indeed anyone who simply loves books for the joy they bring in these troubled times. 

I thoroughly recommend it as one that would make a thoughtful gift for a young aspiring writer or artist, someone in the mould of young John James perhaps? 

This is a book that I quickly grew to love and one I would like to keep but with bulging bookshelves I am stuck for space. However I have a better, more useful idea. I will donate this delightful book to my granddaughter’s school though their art department, where I hope it will become a tool for talk, discussion and projects, perhaps even an inspiration to one or more budding artists or writers. 

$39.95 / £30.00 
ISBN: 9780691237688 
Published: Nov 1, 2022 
Copyright: 2022 
Pages: 256 
Size: 11.75 x 9.5 in. 
Illustrations: 272 colour 

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Monday, Monday

The tail end of Hurricane Ian assured us that Monday would be the only morning for a spot of ringing. I was on the school run so met Andy and Will out Pilling way two hours after their start time of 0630. The weather forecast predicted the wind to steadily increase throughout the morning from a lowly 5 mph right through to 15mph, the latter a speed that would curtail the session early.

The boys had started well with Blackbirds, a rare Song Thrush,  several Linnets and a new bird for the site in the shape of a tiny female Cetti’s Warbler. 

The Cetti’s Warbler is a species still on the increase in this the Fylde plain. Further expansion may be difficult as potential sites get swallowed up by the creation of new build at the expense of green land as homo sapiens escape inland towns and cities for a healthier environment. 

Cetti's Warbler

There was a strange looking male Blackbird that exhibited pale emarginations to much of its underside plumage, the like and extent of which I’d not seen before. 

We continued in the same vein, interspersed with sightings of dashing Merlin, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk all looking for a slice of the action. Perhaps they were drawn in by the small flocks of Linnets that arrived, along with a Stonechat, several Meadow Pipits or the steady stream of Skylarks flying from North to South West. 

By 1100 the wind became too strong and we packed in after 29 Birds caught - 1 Goldfinch, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Robin, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Cetti's Warbler, 2 Blackbird, 2 Wren, 18 Linnet. 

We noted good numbers of Linnets around, c150-200, and would probably have caught more but for the increasing wind speed and a billowing net. 

There were darker headed and longer winged Linnets, signs of Scottish birds leaving the highlands and islands in readiness to escape the first frosts and to spend winter in the relative warmth of the Irish Sea gulf stream. 

Great-spotted Woodpecker

There’s more soon on Another Bird Blog with a trip across North America. Don’t miss it. 


Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Bird Name Book

It’s been raining and Hurricane Ian whacked us with his tail now he’s done with Florida. Fortunately there is a Plan B, a book review. 

I was on holiday in Skiathos when the postman left me two books and a dilemma. Which book to review first? The Bird Name Book – “a marvellously illustrated A-to-Z compendium of bird names from around the globe”, or, In the Footsteps of Audubon – “an artist’s uniquely personal journey across Audubon’s America”. 

I browsed both and then quickly opted for The Bird Name Book, an alphabetical reference on the origins and meanings of common group bird names, from “accentor” through to “zeledonia.” 

The Bird Name Book -  Princeton Press

The author of The Bird Name Book is Susan Myers a senior birding and nature guide at WINGS Birding Tours and the author of a number of books, including several field guides based upon her travels in South East Asia. 

The Bird Name Book -  Princeton Press

This book promised to engage me in the history of bird names, the how, why, when, where and how those names came about, together with the people and places that feature in familiar but also unfamiliar bird names from around the globe. 

The Introduction explains the origin of  scientific or generic names through the use of nine Latin “nyms”. Eponym (person or persons), morphonym (the morphological characteristics), toponym (the place), taxonym (other taxa), autochthonym (from other languages), bionym (habitat or environment), ergonym (behaviour), phagonym (diet) and phononym (vocal). 

Birders are reminded that Latin remains the language most widely used in the West for scholarly and scientific purposes. With that basic knowledge of the toponym, bionym and ergonym most birders will already know the common name and the whereabouts of Troglodytes troglodytes

It quickly became clear that The Bird Name Book is a superbly researched anthology, a delightful treasure trove of insightful entries. The Namers chapter beginning at Page 12 proved a particular and fascinating joy where a number of names familiar to birders crop up over and over eg. Bewick, Bonaparte, Blyth, Gould, Hume and Jordon. Lesser known ornithologists also feature - Androvandi (1522) who in 1547 opened the first natural history museum to the public, and Mark Catesby (1683-1749), now recognised as one of the first people to describe bird migration. 

The Bird Name Book -  Princeton Press

In view of the many important historical, sometimes antique references throughout this section and the following pages it was disappointing then that the author chose in Author’s Note to emphasise her modern day stance - “nearly all the people involved in the naming of birds are or were privileged, white or male”. This I felt to be unnecessary, crass, and wholly disrespectful to the families & descendants of early forerunners to ornithology discovery. These pioneers should be admired for a legacy that remains valid and indispensable for past, present and future ornithology.  

Heading back into positive territory The Bird Name Book contains many outstanding photos by the author e.g. Ural Owls in Japan, Lapland Longspur in USA, and Crested Pigeon in Australia, just a few of my favourites from the very many beautiful bird portraits. 

The Bird Name Book -  Princeton Press

The historic prints reproduced in fine detail are equally stunning in the form of watercolours like the 1885 Alpine Accentor, Gould’s Fiery-tailed Awlbill of 1849, the Tchagras from Le Vaillant’s Oiseaux d’Afrique of 1799, or again, Gould’s stupendous Kookaburras of 1840. The information I have is that the book contains 200 colour photographs but I suspect that the illustrations alone and their associated four pages of reference notes must account for a similar number. 

The Bird Name Book -  Princeton Press

The main body of the book in pages 23-386 goes on to describe the etymological history of every common group bird name found in standardised English. Myers interlinks the stories behind the bird names with quotes from publications dating back to the 1400s, revealing the shared evolution of language and our relationships with birds, and cementing the names in the history of ornithological discovery. 

The book's detailed and occasionally lengthy descriptions, a whole page for hummingbirds and cockatoos, is brain food for birders eager to discover every last detail about their obsession. In The Bird Name Book they will find much to delight, absorb , excite, inspire and motivate them. 

The Bird Name Book -  Princeton Press

The combination of superb photographs and historic illustrations makes for a highly readable and desirable book. With so much detailed information it’s a book to keep at hand for later referral and further reading when necessary rather than one to read in a single session. 

As ever from Princeton this is a book produced to the highest standards of presentation and fit & finish, one which I highly recommend to readers of Another Bird Blog and to birders everywhere. 

Due for publication in mid to late October it’s time to get your order in folks. 

Price: $39.95 / £30.00 
ISBN: 9780691235691 
Published: Oct 25, 2022 
Copyright: 2022 
Pages: 416 
Size: 6.13 x 9.25 in. 
Illustrations: 200 colour photos.


Related Posts with Thumbnails