Saturday, December 24, 2022

The End

Well that’s it, the end of the ringing year. The weather forecast is so bad that it’s highly unlikely we can manage a ringing session until 2023. 

At least here in the UK we are not suffering from the violent and extreme weather occurring across North America, conditions causing severe disruption and deaths at a time of year that is for celebration. 

It mostly happens that we in North West England receive the tail end of North American weather via Atlantic weather systems and already our own forecasters are predicting New Year snow and ice for us. 

This morning I made my usual trip out Pilling Way to drop supplementary Christmas Fayre for our feathered friends. This will pay dividends soon by way of preventing the premature deaths of birds unable to find their customary food in snow and ice. 

Just two days after the Winter Solstice a Cetti’s Warbler sang out from the edge of the reedy scrub, the exact same spot of November after which all appeared to go quiet. I rather hoped the Cetti’s had looked in his diary and thought this was the time to strike up the band. 

Perhaps not as the extra daylight is not too noticeable just yet but the sound of the Cetti’s and then another sighting of the now confirmed wintering Marsh Harrier gave me positive vibes for the weeks ahead. There's little doubt that both species could breed in this area with sympathetic ownership and management of certain tracts of land.

Cetti's Warbler

Marsh Harrier

I saw no birds on or around the plot prepped for whoosh netting but where many tiny footprints told a different story. Our time will come as the weather turns colder when perhaps even the Linnets may return. The normally dependable Linnets are not around at the moment and it could be that many have gone even further south during the freeze of early and mid-December. 

In the absence of other news here’s a few paragraphs about the very same feeding station from 13 January earlier this year, a clue as to what may be around two weeks into a new year when winter  subsides and spring is around the corner.  And how time flies! 

January 13th 2022. 

In most UK winters the Brambling is a difficult one to find but a bird to prize. These cousins of the ubiquitous Chaffinch live north and east of here on the borders of Finland & Russia, venturing this far west in irregular numbers and unpredictable years. 

At the feeding station I‘ve listened for the nasal wheeze, watched the feeders and the ground beneath for weeks while studying the hedgerow for a flash of white rump amongst the Chaffinches. And then on Wednesday, joy of joys, at last a Brambling, crouching amongst half a dozen Chaffinches, an orange-tinged one, reward for the seed drops and the interminable car washing after the tortuous muddy farm track.


The finches scattered for no reason when I saw that the Brambling, now in a nearby tree, was male, perhaps even an adult but not for definite until and if we catch the star. (We did).   

A couple of Reed Buntings, 3 Greenfinch, three or more Blackbirds and 20 or so Linnets completed the count as I scattered more seed in the base of the hedgerow where even the Sparrowhawk’s long legs won’t reach.  




I saw Brown Hares on the move too, three together in the first of their Mad March ways. 

I left the Pilling farm and drove to Cockerham where at weekend Andy and I had prepared the seed plot for our now annual whoosh netting of Linnets and the sometime bonus of Skylarks and Stonechats. 

Happy Christmas and a Bird-Filled New Year everyone. Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

As Cold As Ice

Everyone is talking about the UK's cold weather. I am no exception. I have been marooned indoors  in minus temperatures and icy roads for a week, a now unusual but not unknown sequence of the natural cycles of weather. This is a real old fashioned British winter; when postmen trudged through six feet of snow, milk bottles froze solid to the doorstep and trains came to a halt in snowdrifts, not because of rail strikers.

I have been trapped in our north facing away from major roads cul-de-sac where the sun don't shine and gritters never venture.


With plans for ringing and birding literally "on ice" and when standing around invited hypothermia I managed a couple of trips out Pilling way and then Knott End on Sea Ice.

At Pilling where I went to top up the supplementary seed - quick and rough counts of 30 Shelduck, 40 Teal, 50 Mallard, 180 Wigeon, 45 Lapwing, 40 Curlew and 15 or so Redshank. 

Of the small birds I found 10 or more Skylarks and 5 Meadow Pipits braving the elements but nothing else save for Blackbirds, Robins, Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Dunnocks and a few Blue Tits. All were busy inspecting and devouring our offerings of millet, rape seed, niger and Luxury Picnic Mix. Moorhens, forced off the frozen water, joined in the feast.


Blue Tit
On a good bright morning I reckoned to have better luck with the tide and waders at Knott End where the ice and semblance of snow covered the beach, foreshore, walkways and the jetty. It didn’t take long to find a good but not especially numerous selection of waders either roosting or feeding, but I was careful not to disturb them nor venture too far onto the treacherous icy surfaces.

Ringed Plover

Knot, Turnstone

Grey Plover, Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstone, Knot





For the record my counts were 30 Turnstone, 1 Grey Plover, 48 Redshank, 22 Knot, 14 Ringed Plover and 3 Oystercatcher.

A few Shelduck in amongst the ice floes sailed past the end of the jetty, as they looked for food at the tide edges.


Also along the foreshore were the now annual visitors, approximately 45 Twite and a single Rock Pipit.


I’d spent an hour or more taking pictures and I was pretty much frozen to the core so headed home for a hot drink and a sit down next to a radiator.

It looks like the two week cold snap will end today with a return to the more normal wet and windy for Christmas.

Here's  wishing a Happy Christmas and a Successful 2023 to the many readers of Another Bird Blog.

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Down To Zero

“Crisp” might be the best description of the start to Wednesday's birding.  At -3º a layer of white frost covered everything in sight at 0730. The several forecasts all agreed, sunshine by midday. This was another day for five or more layers of gear. 

There was a good start to the morning with a ghostly Barn Owl along the farm track and then a Great Egret that left the roost with 15/20 Little Egrets. 

Barn Owl

The three of us set about our usual routine as we tick-boxed the extra work we now carry out as precautions against HPA1 avian flu - disinfection of all of equipment: nets, bags, pliers, weighing scales and clothing. 

The chances of us handling a small passerine with avian flu seem quite remote, especially since the prevalence of HPAI in asymptomatic birds is currently unknown. However, while minimising the risk of transmission should diseased birds be encountered, our continued ringing activities carried out with suitable precautions provide a net benefit in terms of data collection and spotting anything untoward.

As we erected nets we flushed a couple of Snipe from nearby wet areas. This Snipe rush continued through the morning as 20 or more Snipe arrived in ones, twos and threes to feed in areas of grass that remained unfrozen from the overnight temperatures. 

The Snipes' arrival coincided with the incoming tide out in Morecambe Bay where the secretive Snipe are common but mostly unseen feeding in salt marsh ditches and pools. The ones we saw had arrived to roost where they would likely stay until the tide receded and darkness fell. 


Not surprisingly the ringing was off to a slow start with just a couple of birds every now and again. We finished with 14 birds of 7 species: 4 Chaffinch, 3 Linnet, 2 Robin, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Wren, 1 Reed Bunting,1 Greenfinch, 1 Blackbird. 

Reed Bunting


In addition to the earlier Barn Owl and white egrets more to look at arrived in the form of a 'cream top' Marsh Harrier, a Buzzard, and good numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing & Whooper Swans. 


When I went yesterday to drop supplementary seed I counted approximately 400 Whooper Swans out Cockerham way. 

Whooper Swans

Stay tuned folks. There's more to come and we are due to get real snow. We'll see.

Linking this week to Eileen's blog and Anni in Texas.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Tuesday and Saturday

On Tuesday I wore five on top, three below for the expedition. And don’t forget the gloves, scarf, woolly hat and the head torch for lighting the way. The dashboard read “5º - Possible Ice” but it was the misty almost foggy start that made me drive slowly towards our site at Pilling where staying on the move became the order of the day.

Any mist was supposed to clear and leave a cheery morning but the sun never arrived and neither did the birds. Eight birds was all we could muster, Robin 2, both recaptures, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Chaffinch, 2 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Meadow Pipit.


The dank cold mist kept Linnets away and none were caught - most unusual here. We know there are Linnet flocks scattered around the area and that until really cold weather arrives they are yet to join up into their hundreds. A pair of Stonechats and a Cetti’s Warbler hang around come what may. We didn’t. Another day, another try.

On Saturday morning we tried again when I met Will over at Pilling at 0730. It was another five layer morning with a frost that nipped at unprotected fingers. We hoped the lack of mist might produce better luck than that of Tuesday and at least there was sun and a fine dry morning.

We caught more birds this time -19 of 4 species, 12 Long-tailed Tit, 5 Linnet, 1 Chaffinch and 1 Wren.


Long-tailed Tit


In the meantime came news of a Lesser Redpoll APV0726 caught at another of our sites, Barnacre near Garstang. 

APV0726 had been ringed at Gosforth Cumbria on 31 May 2022. The age then was coded “3J”, in other words, a fresh juvenile and one that probably, but not certainly originated close to Gosforth, Cumbria. It is possible that APV0726 had already travelled down the west coast from Scotland where the species is extremely common.

Lesser Redpoll - 3J

Lesser Redpoll - Gosforth to Barnacre

We recaptured APV0726 -180 days from Gosforth, and now at Barnacre on the morning of 27 November 2022 and now aged it without the J as a code 3, i.e. a first winter bird with no obvious indications as to its sex.

This recovery represents a typical autumnal movement of young Lesser Redpolls in a south easterly direction to winter in Central and Southern England. Some of those birds continue their journey and cross the English Channel to Belgium, The Netherlands and France.

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

Back soon with more news, views and photos.

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