Friday, June 23, 2023

A Good Mix

I missed a few visits in May due to a holiday in Greece but prior to that, early April had been my last visit to Oakenclough when we caught 15 birds – 6 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Dunnock, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Great Tit, 1 Siskin. 

Andy and Will filled in the gaps of May and now it was my turn to see how the breeding season was shaping, more so following the exceptionally dry and hot month of June. Would there be juveniles of the year, adults in moult or even the beginning of post-juvenile dispersal to bring new birds on the block? Time would tell. 

And talking of time, a five o’clock alarm followed by a meet with Andy at six hours past midnight seemed an ungodly hour for those of us accustomed to leisurely days on a Greek beach or breakfast in a sunny Stalmine garden. 

A slow start didn’t really pick up speed. We finished at 1100 with 20 new birds of 11 species and an interesting mix of 3 Robin, 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Siskin, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Oystercatcher. 

The Robins caught were all fresh, rusty speckled juveniles. Even at this young age Robins display the hostility so typical of adult birds that puff out their red chests when presented with a rival. In this case it is the reflection of another Robin that the young ones see in the camera lens, or pointed aggression  directed at the person taking the photograph. 

Four or five Garden Warblers could be heard in song this morning. And then later in the morning we caught two female Garden Warblers, both with well developed brood patches. We caught no males or recently fledged young suggesting that we need to revisit the site soon. 

Garden Warbler
Two Siskins were caught at the same time, an adult male together with a recently fledged juvenile. We released the two jointly and they flew off in the same direction. 



Just one Willow Warbler was something of a disappointment when three or four were in song throughout the area and that by late June there should be good numbers of juveniles around. We didn’t know of a Chiffchaff on site until we caught it. 

Willow Warbler


A juvenile Song Thrush was a welcome addition to the mix when we catch so few nowadays. 

Song Thrush

After his success in landing three Avocets this week, Andy was at it again in the shape of a young Oystercatcher along the bank of the close by reservoir. While one chick legged it into the distance its sibling ran the “wrong” way and ended up in Andy’s net. Wader ringing totals this year – Avocet 3, Oystercatcher 1, Lapwing 0. There’s something seriously amiss in those figures for North West England when Lapwings should be winning by country miles.

Log in soon for more news and views soon from Another Bird Blog. 

Linking this weekend to Eileen's Blogspot.

Thursday, June 15, 2023


Yours truly together with Andy and Will visited the Sand Martin colony on Wednesday where we caught 25 martins. Here’s a LINK  to that day for readers to catch up. 

During our 4 hours of work with the Sand Martins we noted a pair of Avocets across the more distant, quieter area of the farm that has less traffic from farm vehicles. The larger farm contains fishing lakes where anglers often occupy the wet edges of two other pools that would otherwise be attractive to Avocets and the like. The Avocets were very vocal across a wide area and engaged in aggressive bouts of chasing off passing crows and gulls. as well as surveying us from above.

It seemed fairly obvious that the adult birds had youngsters in tow and were in the process of showing their chicks the ropes while letting them explore their immediate birth area. It’s a process that birds must go through so as to prepare youngsters for when they go it alone. 
We three met up again this morning in the hope of locating and then ringing the chicks, Andy with his trusty landing net, me and Will with binos and sharp eyesight respectively.  Three heads and three sets of eyes are better than one when finding wader chicks that can run, hide, swim or submerge, often all three. 

And so it proved. As soon as we approached the pool we thought might be the one we saw three chicks almost together at the edge of the pool, chicks of the perfect size for ringing. Within a couple of minutes all three Avocet chicks were in the landing net, then quickly ringed and released to their parents close by. 


Avocet chick

Avocet chicks



Note: Avocet Recurvirostra avosettta is a specially protected species. 

All birds are protected in some form, but some species have additional protection during the breeding season as do their nests, eggs and dependent young. To disturb Avocets and other species we have a special licence in advance. 

In England and Scotland, permits for ringing and/or nest recording are issued by the BTO on behalf of the relevant Country Agency; licences for other activities are issued directly from Natural England or NatureScot. In Wales, all licences are issued directly by Natural Resources Wales but ones for ringing and/or nest recording are applied for via the BTO, British Trust for Ornithology.

Log in soon folks. You never know what might be in the news with Another Bird Blog.


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

After The Thunder

Monday evening saw thunder and lightning rolling around the area followed by late night downpours. But we stuck to the pencilled in plan and hoped everything would be on song for Tuesday 0630, a visit to the Sand Martin colony at Cockerham. 

Tuesday morning began fine, the rain and thunder long gone to leave a cool, almost idyllic morning at the colony. The 0630 start had left the birds a couple of hours or more feeding time before we intruded upon their space. 

Two previous visits of 17 April and 26 May saw a total of 32 captures, 17 females, 14 males and one indeterminate sex of the April visit. This almost mid-June visit would almost certainly result in a catch containing a percentage of youngsters and thus, together with noting brood patch progress, assessing the breeding success of the colony so far. 

The colony is concentrated in one small area of the quarry face and estimated to be 60/70 active holes, not huge by Sand Martin standards but the only Sand Martin colony for a good number of miles around and therefore a valuable and unique addition to local flora and fauna. 

Sand Martin colony
We caught 25 on this latest visit, 12 adults (9 male, 3 female), three of them recaptures from earlier in the year; and 13 juveniles of the year. 

Adult Sand Martin

Juvenile (3J) Sand Martin
We sex Sand Martins and many other species by examination of their cloacal protuberance in the case of males, and for females by her brood patch (bare belly) progress. Males of some species develop a partial brood patch that is not as extensive as that of a female, a bare region of the undersides that at the peak of incubation lacks any feathering at all. 

Almost all birds incubate their eggs: keeping them warm while the embryo develops into a chick. In order to transfer heat better from their body to the eggs, many birds develop brood patches (a.k.a. incubation patches). The bird loses feathers from the belly, and the bare skin becomes wrinkly and swollen with fluid. Brood patches are a good way to tell what breeding stage a bird is at, since usually the brood patch begins to develop during nest building, becomes very swollen with fluid during incubation, and then declines. 

Brood patch
Juvenile Sand Martins that spend a couple of weeks in their nest tunnels often emerge carrying swollen and unsightly blood sucking hippoboscid ticks that have attached their body parts through feathers and into the birds’ skin. The one pictured below had six such ticks on its head.

Sand Martin

We can remove the insect with a careful grasp of the blood-filled tick using ringers' pliers and then a slow and gentle twist & pull action that releases the parasite. 

A bonus came with the catch of a feisty second summer male Kestrel when it tried to snaffle a Sand Martin but didn't count upon a mist net across it's normal approach line. There was some evidence of predation of the colony by the amount and type of feathers on the ground immediately below the nest holes.



All in all a very successful morning. Back soon with more news and views from Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday blog.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Sunny Days

Here in coastal Lancashire we’ve had no rain for four weeks and the summer is beginning to look like an old-fashioned one but where the inevitable thunderstorms are due this evening and into Sunday. This should remind us that this is Britain and not the Sahara Desert. 

It’s similar across the country where millions of people are out enjoying the weather, despite the UK Nanny State who think that the public cannot understand a weather forecast so choose to bombard us with Health Heat Alerts to ramp up the global warming scare at every bit of sunny weather. They really do take us for fools who they can continually scare, manipulate and thus control. 

On my Pilling travels on Friday it was hard to miss the dried out landscape and the lack of rain puddles in familiar places. Birds were laying low, many feeding young and others simply hard to find. Along a track lined with reeds and vegetation I found Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler, both still in song and seemingly yet to reach the stage of collecting food for nestlings. 

The breeding year was slow to start, an April and early May of cold northerlies and late arrivals of African migrants. Even now there appears to be a shortage of Reed Buntings, House Martins, Swifts, Swallows and even Wrens. Those of us close to the action think that there could be Avian Flu in passerines and small birds. But how would we know when millions of small birds die of both natural and unnatural causes and then simply go missing never to be found? 

The Whitethroat is pictured against a green background of newly growing maize crop, the Sedge Warbler against a freshly cut and now parched field of silage. The bokeh of the Sigma lens is really good at most times.

Sedge Warbler


A couple of Lapwings inspected in turn a newly sown seed plot and then a two inch high maize crop. The Lapwings may have failed their first attempt at raising a family so may return and lay in what appears ideal and now undisturbed spots. If we get rain both crops will thrive and grow like giant beanstalks so it’s a hard decision for the Lapwings. 


Little Egrets have been thin on the ground just locally until one appeared below my slowly moving car hide. Along another ditch a Buzzard stood sentinel and then took off to circle and find the rising thermals. 

Little Egret


The cut silage field had half a dozen Curlews scratching a living on the rock hard ground. Even in the height of summer it is not difficult to find handfuls of upland waders that return quickly to the coast when their upland adventures turn sour. Soon there will be masses of both and it will be interesting to see how the inland wader season fared. Just last week Curlews gave me a hard time and something of the run-around when I tried to picture them in their other world, the uplands of the Pennine Hills.


I found a couple of Oystercatchers hanging around on gate posts where they seemed unconcerned at my being close by as if they had no young in tow.


Once the rain leaves us there's a visit to the Sand Martin colony planned mid week. We need a light easterly and not much sun that will light up our mist nets. 

Log in soon folks. And enjoy the sun. Winter will come soon enough. You know it makes sense.

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot.


Friday, June 2, 2023

Stuck For Time

I am a little stuck for time this weekend. Therefore here’s a selection of recent photos but previously unpublished on the blog. A few from the recent holiday to Skiathos, Greece and some from local visitations to the hills north of Garstang, and an obliging Grasshopper Warbler from Pilling.

The Grasshopper Warbler was seen May 2nd, the day before we set off for Manchester Airport at 2am Wednesday 3rd May. The morning was grey and windswept and not the best for pictures.

Grasshopper Warbler

Grasshopper Warbler

A few birds ringed the same day as the "gropper" - adult Reed Warbler, adult female Chaffinch and a rather nice adult male Reed Bunting. 

Reed Bunting

Reed Warbler


Here's a few from Skiathos. 3-17 May. 

Before the grey shrike came close the long range views below helped separate out Great Grey Shrike versus Lesser Grey Shrike. A Lesser Grey Shrike shows long wings (long primary extension), relatively short, rounded tail, and stubby-looking bill. It was probably 25 years since my last LGS and 5 years since a GGS. 

Lesser Grey Shrike

 A spectacular European Roller made for a brilliant hour or so until it presumably flew off north, across the Aegean Sea to Europe, perhaps mainland Greece itself. It lived up to the book descriptions of "favouring open country with scattered trees and woodland patches. Mostly seen singly or in small groups perched on prominent spots such as bare snags or wires". 

European Roller

European Roller

Skiathos has both Red-rumped Swallow and Barn Swallow as resident breeding species and also as migrants spring & autumn. Both species seemed to be at similar stages of nest building by collecting mud from tracks and rain filled puddles. 

Red-rumped Swallow

The photo below shows how a Little Owl was able to play hide and seek. If it wasn't in the mood for posing it would walk down under the corrugated roof and disappear from sight until later. 

Visitors to Skiathos always hear the nightly monotone calls of the common Scops Owl even if they hardly ever see one. Meanwhile the less vocal Little Owl, a perhaps unlikely member of the birds of Skiathos, stays out of the limelight.

Little Owl

Bringing everything up to date here are some photos in the hills near Garstang from this week.

Red-legged Partridge




Back soon with Another Bird Blog. Linking this weekend to Eileen's Blogspot.

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