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Another Bird Blog

Bird Watching, Bird Ringing, Photography

Updated: 2017-11-25T04:09:28.807+00:00


After The Deluge


We’ve had a lot of rain. On Thursday we had a month’s average rainfall in less than a day. Fifteen miles from here the River Conder burst its banks just south of Lancaster and flooded the village of Galgate. The story made the national TV news. When I set off birding this morning I ran into still partially flooded roads that criss-crossed acres of waterlogged fields. Three miles south of Lancaster and on the other side of the River Lune the fields surrounding Cockersands Abbey (circa 1184) were some of the worst. That’s the tiny ancient abbey in the centre of the picture with Mute Swans installed on the flood. Slack Lane, Cockersands  Cockersands AbbeyAs might be expected the floods held lots of birds looking for food washed from the ditches, dykes and already saturated ground following historic summer rain. Too many to count and scattered far and wide were Starlings, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Curlews, Redshanks, Mallards, and a couple of Grey Herons. A stop and look found 40 Meadow Pipit, 14 Goldfinch, 8 Tree Sparrow, 4 Greenfinch, 3 Chaffinch, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2 Reed Bunting and 2 Skylark. The Golden Plovers spooked at nothing and then wheeled around, twisting and turning in unison before they settled again among Lapwings, Redshanks and paddling Starlings. The morning sun lit up the plovers' pale bellies against the shower filled sky. CurlewMeadow PipitMeadow PipitGrey HeronGolden PloverThe herd of Whooper Swans picked a well-drained field in which to spend their days. They are more scattered across the field but still in excess of 400 individuals and ever wary to passing cars that slow or stop for photographs. The now well-trodden field grows muddier by the day but the swans’ method of feeding leaves them looking less than white. Whooper Swans  After the Deluge I called at our Linnet field, waded along the net ride and dropped seed into the nearby vegetation. With a little luck the 140+ Linnets will stay around and we’ll get a ringing session when it stops raining and our seed stops washing into the adjacent ditch. LinnetBack home I was greeted by a calling Nuthatch, one of the few birds in the garden just lately. NuthatchEven the Goldfinches have mostly deserted us after weeks and weeks of cascading water. [...]

Stone Me


Next week’s weather looked dire. Sunday might be the only opportunity to get some ringing done. So with a promised 3mph I drove up to Gulf Lane and an early start. No Andy today. And he had the single panel nets in his car except for a brand new Ecotone that languished in my boot. I put up the one net but it was shiny and pristine, straight out of the packet from Poland and by now the rising sun lit up the mesh. Mist nets are better when the new shine has worn off and they take on a greyer tone that merges into backdrop of the customary British weather. Anyway that’s my excuse for catching just 4 Linnets in a couple of hours. And I think the number of Linnets around at 180-200 suggests that this consistent count of recent weeks holds regular birds and few newcomers. But that miserly four equates to 251 new Linnets for the year of which 194 are from this autumn/ winter. And still not a single recapture. The Linnet below is a rather smart adult female. LinnetAll was not lost as I caught a Stonechat, almost certainly the quite distinctive male resident here for the last couple of weeks. I racked my brains to think of the last time I ringed a Stonechat in Lancashire so looked it up on the database - 1993. That timescale is indicative of both the species’ scarcity around here and also its liking for open habitats where ringers are not terribly active. The Stonechat “took the Micky” for a while and at one point perched up on one of the 4ft high bamboos that held the net and from where it could certainly see the mesh stretching to the other end. Ten minutes later it was lying in the net alongside a Linnet. In this part of coastal Lancashire the Stonechat is a scarce, partially migrant breeding bird, mainly on the edge of the Bowland hills but occasionally along the coastal strip. In many a spring it is a slightly more numerous and early passage migrant during February to April. Likewise, a migrant in autumn when odd birds may linger into December and beyond or even spend the winter if the weather stays mild enough. After 25 years I needed to consult “Svensson” to if possible age this obvious male. Through a combination of factors, bill, alula, tail wear and shape, plus the amount of black on the head, mantle and throat, I considered it an adult. "Svensson"Stonechat in SvenssonStonechatStonechatLots of other birds around this morning, mainly in flight by way of many hundreds of field-grazing Lapwing, Golden Plover and Curlew. Others – Sparrowhawk, Whooper Swans and Little Egrets.Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday. [...]

Mix And Match


Today’s forecast was a little over the top windy for ringing at our exposed sites so I indulged in a few hours birding, camera at the ready. It turned out to be a day of mixed fortunes with both sunny and cloudy periods, showers, and even a spot or two of sunshine. At the end, a few photos to share. The drive across Stalmine Moss found three Kestrels, a hunting pair and then at the junction of Lancaster road a third one in flight. I slowed to scan the fields where a Barn Owl might be seen but none emerged from the post dawn light, just three chattering Fieldfares. The thrushes carried on south but I would see a number of others soon. I stopped at Gulf Lane to count the Linnets and drop food. Still 130+ Linnets, plus a number of Tree Sparrows at the farm 50 yards away. We don’t include the sparrows in our counts as they do not visit our seed even though it is a very short flight for them. I guess there must be lots of natural around at the moment and no need for them to sign in to our free food bank. Further around Gulf Lane were another 40 or so Tree Sparrows. They fed in a roadside stubble field and when spooked by a passing vehicle flew up to a handy tree or hedgerow until the danger passed. Tree SparrowFollowing this very wet summer and autumn herds of Whooper Swans, small and large, are scattered across many areas of Pilling, Cockerham, Cockersands and Eagland at the moment. There are so many swans that if on a morning flight the lot were to try and feed in one field they might struggle to do so; even more when both Whoopers and the many dozens of Mute Swans seem not to mind sharing their largesse of abandoned crops. So it was that out on Moss Edge I watched a herd of 20 Mutes and 30 Whoopers as they fed untroubled in yet another morass of mud and corn stubble. I even managed to single out a family group for a picture. What fine animals they are and aren’t we so very honoured to welcome them to our local landscape each winter? Two Little Egrets fed in the adjacent grass and looked slightly out of place, somewhat exotic in comparison to the Icelandic swans.Whooper Swan Whooper SwanLittle EgretThe hawthorn berry crop was poor this year. Following the October/November invasion of Fieldfares, Blackbirds and other thrushes this already low food resource is now almost gone. On Moss Edge the hawthorns are pretty much depleted and it was noticeable that a flock of approximately 130 Fieldfares searched both the ground and the hedgerows for something to eat. In normal years the hedgerows provide bird food for a few more weeks. Fieldfare Fieldfare I stopped at Conder Pool more out of habit than expectation. Old Faithful really struggles to provide any birds at the moment so I was not surprised with the regular counts of 190 Teal, 14 Wigeon and about 30 each of Lapwing, Redshank and Curlew. The customary 3 Little Grebe, 1 Goosander and 2 Little Egret. I found nothing of note on the circuit of Moss Lane/Jeremy Lane with none of the thrushes of late except for a Mistle Thrush into the light. Mistle Thrush  It was time for a coffee near the Lune. As luck would have it a flock of Linnets flew by and some landed on the nearby fence. Even better there was a single and perhaps one or two more Twite plus a curious Wren. WrenLinnetTwite Linnet  Twite The Twite Linaria flavirostris and the Linnet Linaria cannabina are similar in looks but are two separate and quite distinct species. The genus name Linaria is the Latin for a linen-weaver, from linum, "flax" and flavirostris means yellow-billed; cannabina comes from the Latin for hemp. The Linnet is a mostly farmland bird at all seasons of the year but one that can be found at higher elevation on moorland edge in the summer and autumn. In contrast the Twite sometimes known as “mountain linnet” favours treeless moorland for breeding and frequents lowland and mainly coastal haunts in winter only. It is in the winter when both species are more likely to seen using th[...]

More Linnets Please


Just yesterday I entered some recent counts of Linnets at Gulf Lane into the BTO’s Bird Track. The system flagged up that the counts were of an “unusually high number”. Well BTO it’s good to hear that, especially as discovering more about winter Linnets is the objective of our project here. BirdTrack - BTOThroughout September and October spot counts here varied between 50 and 100 Linnets during a period of poor and mostly wet and windy weather. In the last week and into November and with more settled weather there have been nearer 200 birds at any one time. Wednesday 15th and at last a morning of less than 5 mph winds. I met Andy at 0715 and ten minutes later the single panel nets stood ready for the Linnets as they arrived from roosts ready for their first feed of the day. Parties arriving varied between 3 and 30 individuals until our best counts of the morning realised 135 Linnets at any one time, a reduction from the most recent count of 200 on 11th November. Past catches tend to equate to approximately 10% of the spot count, just as today with 13 caught. This brought our running total to 190 Linnets for this autumn period. Today’s catch comprised 1 adult male and 12 first winters, 4 female and 8 male. In addition we caught a single Wren. One of today’s Linnets came in at a healthy 85mm wing and 19 grams, another two at 84mm and 19.4 and 19 grams, leading us to again speculate that such individuals originate from Scotland. LinnetMore time, more captures and more recaptures of Linnets ringed elsewhere may help us to prove the theory. All we need is more ringers catching and ringing spring, summer, autumn and winter Linnets.  For the benefit of ourselves, the farmer and his Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme we record all bird species using the site on each and every visit. Today the list was restricted to Linnets, a Sparrowhawk and the aforementioned Wren. Fly overs today were Whooper Swan, Lapwing, Skylark, Kestrel, Buzzard, Meadow Pipit and Pink-footed Goose. Geese flew off the marsh and inland throughout our four hour stay. We were reliably informed that recent counts have been in the region of 40,000 Pink-footed Geese!Pink-footed GeeseSeems like we have enough pinkies for a while. But if anyone would like to send more Linnets our way, we'll do our best to accommodate them.[...]

Bright And Breezy


The forecast said bright and breezy and it was spot-on for birding if not for ringing at our exposed sites. I travelled over the moss roads where I hoped for a Barn Owl or two; but no luck this morning, just a pair of Buzzards leaving their overnight roost.At Gulf Lane the Linnet flock has increased to 200+ birds but no sign of the Stonechat from earlier in the week. With luck we’ll get a crack at catching more Linnets this coming week. Lapwings and Curlews filled the wet fields alongside the A588 with several hundred of each before I even reached Braides Farm.Here at the farm were 500+ Lapwing and similar numbers of Curlew, and on the flood itself, 80+ Black-tailed Godwit. A mile away I stopped on the rise of Bank End Lane and viewed the fields below. Here were several hundreds more of both Lapwing and Curlew, dozens of Redshank, and once again a large number of Black-tailed Godwit, 130 or more.The area around Chris the farmer’s midden/slurry pond is holding a good number of insects as well as small birds, mainly pipits and wagtails, but also a few Tree Sparrows and Reed Buntings. After a while the count came to 120 Meadow Pipit, 8 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 4 Tree Sparrow, 2 Reed Bunting and a good number of Starlings.Pied WagtailGrey WagtailGrey WagtailMeadow PipitMeadow Pipit  Pied WagtailStarlingThere is a huge southerly migration of Meadow Pipits during August to October, a movement involving birds from Scotland, Scandinavia and Iceland, after which the UK wintering population is quite small. No one is quite sure of the origins of any wintering birds and their numbers can vary enormously according to the severity of the winter. While the weather is mild at the moment whereby there is plenty of insect food, cold and especially frosty weather will see the birds quickly depart south and west.Meadow PipitConder Pool is pretty much off the boil for now although the cold northerly appeared to have increased the Teal count to 230 together with the first Wigeon (15) for some weeks. Otherwise - approximately 30 each of Lapwing, 30 Redshank and Curlew, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Goosander, 2 Little Egret and 1 Kestrel. Two Ravens flew over heading inland and in a north easterly direction.There is such a spectacle of noise and activity that it is hard not to drive up Moss Lane where the Whooper Swans have made their winter home. With 450+ Whoopers and a few dozen Mutes there’s enough action to satisfy most observers, the only problem being to isolate a single photo subject  or small group from the multitude packed into the field.Whooper Swan  Just along Slack Lane there was quite a lot of activity around the now redundant set aside field and hedgerow with more Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Linnets, and even half-a-dozen Greenfinch. It’s not so many years ago that most birders, me included, didn’t bother to record the overly common Greenfinch in their notebooks. Look at it now – a sharp population decline, a now scarce sight and a rare visitor to many a garden.Greenfinch - BTOGreenfinchOn the way back up Moss Lane and around Jeremy Lane were hundreds of very mobile Fieldfares. They tried to feed in the roadside hedgerows but fled as each vehicle whooshed by. My estimate of 3/400 is just that. There could have been lots more but they weren’t in the mood for stopping.FieldfaresFieldfareA successful morning then!  I really should get out more often.Linking today to World Bird Wednesday. [...]

Today’s The Day


One day a week for ringing. That’s all we get at the moment. One day without rain, wind or both. This week was Wednesday with a cold, clear and frosty start at Oakenclough where I met Andy at 0630. We were later joined by our old mate Will, now too busy with work to do a great deal of ringing. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. The morning followed a similar pattern to our latest visits here, a post-dawn burst of thrushes and then little else to keep feet and fingers warm. We are now past the peak of Redwing migration and while Fieldfares are often a week or two after the passage of Redwings, this autumn’s Fieldfare migration has seemed a little thin over here on the west coast. Blackbirds were more in evidence today with “continental” types caught, up to 20 seen in total, plus a single Song Thrush. Otherwise, and in the very clear skies there was a thin passage of Chaffinches overhead with at least two definite Bramblings, their nasal calls singling them out for special attention. The peak numbers came about 0715 with a largish mixed flock of about 200 Redwing/Fieldfare at 30/70% respectively and which hurried through towards the west before we had time to scrutinise the flock more closely. Afterwards any newly arrived thrushes consisted of small groups or even singles of Fieldfares, Redwings or Blackbirds. In all we caught 18 birds: 5 Blackbird, 2 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 4 Coal Tit, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Lesser Redpoll and 1 Goldcrest. FieldfareRedwingFieldfareRedwing  Lesser RedpollThe route back home took me across Pilling/Rawcliffe Moss where 8+ Buzzards circled above a wood, 40 Fieldfares along a hedgerow and a single hovering Kestrel close by. At Cockerham, Gulf Lane I stopped to count the Linnets and to leave their rape/millet mix which they are yet to exploit. Here were 145 Linnet, 4 Stock Dove and 1 Stonechat. With luck this will be our next day and location of ringing – next Monday looks OK at the moment but these pencilled in days have a habit of changing. If the Met Office can’t predict more than 24 hours ahead what chance do we have?Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Blog. [...]

Saturday’s Schedule


Saturday began dull and cloudy but the forecast was pretty accurate. The sky brightened a little but not enough to get decent photographs. I set off in the direction of Cockerham where I stopped in the gateway of Braides Farm and looked on the flood about 300 yards away. The flood is distant but always worth a look with the risk that small birds go missing amongst the puddled, rough grass landscape. I counted 480 Curlew, 10 Black-tailed Godwit and a single Kestrel but I’m sure more bits and pieces were hidden. Conder Green proved productive. In the wader stakes I noted 15 Curlew, 15 Redshank, 14 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Snipe, 4 Lapwing and the single and still wintering Common Sandpiper. The light was far from ideal and required ISO1000, a setting which proved barely enough. RedshankCommon SandpiperDown on the mud was a single Grey Wagtail and also 4 Meadow Pipits. The incoming tide made it easier to count the Teal now flushed out of their hiding places in the marsh and I counted 170/180. There was a single Grey Heron, 2 Little Egrets, 3 Little Grebe and 9 Goosanders. The latter included 3 stunning looking males, even if they were on the far side of the pool.  Meadow PipitLittle EgretTealI drove around Jeremy Lane and up to Cockersands where I hoped to find and photograph Fieldfares, a species which in some winters appears in large numbers along the hawthorn hedges. But very few Fieldfares today with the best I saw about 50 very mobile birds in two flocks in roadside that flew quickly south and out of sight at the approach of vehicles. I had to make do with a House Sparrow dining on rather old blackberries. House SparrowNear to Cockersands I found 190 or more Whooper Swans, a number partly hidden as the field dropped down and away from view. As I watched a number of parties flew off noisily towards Cockerham but a hour or so later and when visiting Thursday’s location of almost 500 Whoopers at Cockerham I saw not a one. Clearly this winter’s swans will be very mobile with a selection of places in which to delight their admirers. Whooper Swans Whooper Swans Whooper SwanI stopped at Gulf Lane and counted the Linnets at 130+.  Their natural food is still a plentiful mystery where they drop to the bottom of the vegetation, feed on or close to the ground and appear to ignore our line of rape seed.  Six Stock Doves dropped in to feed but they won’t stay around if the ringers or shooters appear and then open their car doors. Linnets  More birds soon. It’s Saturday evening and I’m due a glass of plonk.In the meantime, linking to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday and  Anni's Blog.[...]

Linnets And Swan Lake


It had been more than six weeks ago on 23rd September that we managed a ringing session at Linnet Project 2017/18. Six weeks of wind and rain which limited our visits to spot count days only with not a single visit for ringing purposes during October. At this site we need a dry morning and ideally, a wind of 5mph or less. At last the forecast was tolerable for this morning so I met Andy at 0715 and we set a couple of single panels through what is left of the wildflower/bird seed field after its autumn battering.  At the moment the finch flock is Linnets only and numbers about 130 at any one time so we were not too disappointed with a catch of 14 Linnets - two adult males, and the remaining 12 made up of 7 first year males and 5 first year females. This bumped up the Linnet ringing total here to 177 during the autumn of 2017. Linnet - maleLinnet - femaleLinnetDuring July to September the post-breeding finch flock here numbered up to 250 birds, 50% of which were Goldfinch targeting a large crop of sow thistle. The sow thistle has now gone and so have the Goldfinch. It was during this period that we ringed nine Goldfinches. One of these Goldfinches, S800188 ringed here on 26th August was found dead 40 kms away in Darwen, Blackburn on 29th October. The Goldfinch had collided with a glass window and picked up dead by the householder. Collisions with glass account for a large number of small bird deaths. Highlight of the morning’s birding was the many thousands of Pink-footed Geese leaving their salt marsh roost just hundreds of yards away and over the nearby sea bund. We made no attempt to count the often very distant geese but they were in tens of thousands. We also noted good numbers of Whooper Swans flying overhead and later spoke to a wildfowler who said that other shooters had reported approximately 700 Whoopers in recent days. After our ringing I drove around to where the swans had dropped, a corn field left unharvested after it flooded badly during recent rains, a field which now resembles a shallow lake. It was here I counted 470 Whooper Swans, 15 to 20 Mute Swans together with many hundreds of large gulls, Starlings and Jackdaws. There is another herd of swans along at Sand Villa and Braides Farm so the shooters’ count of 700 swans is more than feasible. Swan Lake - Cockerham Whooper Swans  Whooper Swans In the same area as the swans were 15+ Skylark, similar numbers of Tree Sparrows and a single Grey Wagtail. Starlings  Tree SparrowStay on board. There's more birding, ringing and photos to come soon on Another Bird Blog.Linking today to Eileen's Blog. [...]

First of November


Our first ringing session of the month took place at Oakenclough, Near Garstang. The morning was dry and cloudy with a 10mph southerly, a direction that leaves our nets partly sheltered. I met Andy at 0630 and Bryan joined us soon after. The morning followed the same pattern as the last two occasions here. There was a dawn arrival of thrushes from the south east and quickly leaving in a westerly that lasted in all about 40 minutes. This was followed once again by a slow morning of odds and ends of thrushes, a lack of finches and just 26 birds ringed. Totals captured: 9 Redwing, 3 Fieldfare, 4 Goldcrest, 3 Goldfinch, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Blackbird, 1 Chaffinch. In all we counted approximately 80 Redwings, 40 Fieldfares and 5/6 Blackbirds. As described above, finches were dominated by approximately 40 each of Chaffinch and Goldfinch, a couple of Greenfinch, but big fat zeros for both Redpoll and Siskin. RedwingsOne of the first year Redwings caught was in the process of renewing its outer tail feathers, perhaps slightly unusual since it is probably in the middle of a long migration journey. Note the different shapes of the two generations of feathers. Redwing  Fieldfare FieldfareWe have ringed approximately 60 Goldcrests here this autumn with a handful or more new ones on each occasion. GoldcrestFor a large and colourful bird, Fieldfares are very shy and can be quite hard to spot in an autumn hedgerow. There are five Fieldfares in the picture below, taken on the way home on the drive across Pilling Moss.  Fieldfares Despite or perhaps because of the recent low catches of redpolls, we received another recovery of a Lesser Redpoll via the BTO. This is the second recent one from a batch of juvenile birds we ringed at Oakenclough in August, and one that demonstrates how Lesser Redpolls, especially first years, migrate south-east in autumn. Lesser RedpollWe ringed Lesser Redpoll S800343 on 30th August 2017 with biometrics of Wing 69.0 mm, Weight: 10.1 grams at 0800 hours. The same bird was recaptured in Leicestershire near Ashby-de-la-Zouche on 26th October 2017 at 1200 hours with biometrics of Wing 68.0 mm. Weight: 9.7 g. Duration: 57 days. Distance: 154 km. Direction: 150deg (SSE) Lesser Redpoll - Oakenclough to Ashby-de-la-ZoucheStay tuned. There's a 5mph forcast for Thursday with more ringing on the cards. [...]

Lazing On A Sunday Afternooon


This year no two days are ever the same. Saturday was a day of dark clouds and drizzle in the air. Today just the opposite - bright and sunny. I set off over the moss roads where in the half-light of dawn I saw two Barn Owls and a Kestrel, but with the light pretty poor for pictures. The first Barn Owl flew rapidly alongside the road and towards a regular hangout 100 yards away, an open barn at the rear of an empty house, a quiet location where the owl could rest undisturbed for an hour or two. Half-a-mile away I watched a second Barn Owl hunt a rough grass field that held a water-filled ditch and where there would surely be voles, rats and mice. The owl’s method seemed erratic and fast. It flew here, there and everywhere, dived into the grass occasionally and then restarted its frantic flight, but with none of the slow quartering or watch and wait meant to typify a Barn Owl hunt. After a while this one too flew across the road ahead of me and into some farm buildings seemingly without its breakfast but ready for a rest from all that nervous activity. Barn OwlI joined up with the main road the A588 or Death Row as it is otherwise known, and north towards Pilling and Cockerham. A huge illuminated sign informed me that average speed calculators were now in force for the next two miles. All this cost of hundreds of thousands, possibly a million quid, just as a deterrent to lunatics who insist on using this road on four wheels or two as their personal race track. Mind you, if this works it’s a good thing for birders who like to drive at normal speeds and if the road is not too busy, stop and view the fields alongside the sea wall. As luck would have it, tens of thousands of Pink-footed Geese had just left their roost and flew directly overhead my passing car and then headed inland. There were small parties of Whooper Swans too more or less flying parallel to the coast. Some landed quite quickly in the fields of Sand Villa, an area which they seem to be making their winter home along with a number of Mute Swans, Curlews, Lapwings, Starlings, a Grey Heron and a small number of Golden Plover.  Other Whoopers flew off towards Moss Edge, an area of fields they wintered in several years ago with up to 450 individuals plus several Bewick's Swans.Whooper Swan and Mute SwanI stopped at Gulf Lane to check out and feed the Linnets. It was 23rd September, and due to constant wind and rain that we were last able to ring at this rather exposed site. This left our ringing total here stuck for five weeks on 163 Linnet and 9 Goldfinch. I suspect the bad weather has been a major factor in limiting the number of Linnets to a fairly constant 60 birds during count visits only during October. There was an improvement in numbers today with a count of approximately 100 Linnets, 2 Wrens, 1 Kestrel and a totally unexpected first for the site - a Goldcrest. The ‘crest was moving along the roadside vegetation that borders the field. Promised colder weather should see larger counts of Linnets and hopefully a chance to continue with the Linnet ringing project. Linnets LinnetsA stop at Braides Farm revealed more Whoopers and Mutes, uncountable as they partly or mostly hid in the ditch behind the sea wall. Also, approximately 400 Lapwings, a Kestrel and a Mistle Thrush. At Conder Green I found the wintering Common Sandpiper in the creeks along with 180 Teal, 30+ Redshank, 6 Little Grebe, several Curlew, 1 Goosander and 1 Kingfisher. At Jeremy Lane and down towards Cockersands were a dozen or more newly arrived but flighty Fieldfares, Blackbirds and even a Song Thrush, all searching this year’s rather thin crop of hawthorn berries. Song Thrush FieldfareThere wasn’t a lot doing along Slack Lane, a Kestrel, 15/20 mobile Linnets near the cottage and 2 Reed Buntings al[...]

Have Another Go


After yesterday’s slightly underwhelming and fairly unproductive ringing session Andy and I decided we would have another go today. We met up at 0700 for the last time before the clocks revert to winter time settings, and for ringers, a return to earlier alarm bells for a week or two. With clear skies and a promise of sunshine the weather this morning was decidedly better in terms of comfort for us ringers if not necessarily more suited to visible migration. We were correct. After a very early thrush rush the little migration there was came to a complete halt. We caught 22 birds, thrushes named first to illustrate how the morning changed from a promising thrush rush to a titfest - 6 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Blackbird, 1 Robin, 1 Goldfinch, 6 Coal Tit, 4 Blue Tit, 1 Wren, 1 Dunnock. The post-dawn arrival of thrushes comprised of about 45 Redwings, 15 Fieldfare, 4 Mistle Thrush, 4 Blackbirds and the single Song Thrush above. Otherwise, and in the clear skies, 100+ Woodpigeon flew south west and 15/20 Chaffinch flew directly over without stopping off. A couple of Sparrowhawks, male and female, targeting thrushes enlivened proceedings but we caught none today.Once again we failed to catch any Lesser Redpolls or Chaffinches, the single Goldfinch a recapture from recent days and again a complete absence of Siskins. We discussed whether Storm Ophelia and Hurricane Brian which hit the North West in quick succession had caused finches to head south and west somewhat earlier than normal. We then then countered that argument with the fact that during the storms the overall day and night temperatures remained balmy. Time will tell whether the fall in finch captures remains low or recovers to our usual levels when colder weather arrives. DunnockRedwing Song Thrush  Like many ringers we no longer catch Song Thrushes in good numbers since the species’ decline during the last 30/40 years. Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos - British Trust for OrnithologyFor many people the shy but once familiar Song Thrush is regarded as a garden bird only, and not one associated with migration. In actual fact the partially migratory Song Thrush breeds in most of Europe and across the Ukraine and Russia almost to Lake Baikal, cold regions which must be abandoned in winter. The species extends to 75°N in Norway and about 60°N in Siberia, and Song Thrushes from those regions winter around the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. Some British Song Thrushes leave their breeding areas for Ireland, France or Iberia for the winter, although many undertake little seasonal movement unless prompted by severe weather. The migration of birds from Europe can sometimes be evident across Britain in autumn, and is known to involve birds from as far east as Finland. However it is rarely possible to distinguish this from movements of local birds. Occasional continental individuals are reported in the UK in winter but it is clear that a high proportion of them continue further south, to at least France or Iberia. Vagrant Song Thrushes have been recorded far from their normal ranges, in places such as Greenland, West Africa and various Atlantic islands. Meanwhile, the Lesser Redpolls we caught here this year continue on their journeys south as shown below by the unremarkable but instructive information. Lesser RedpollA juvenile Lesser Redpoll S800301 ringed here at Oakenclough on 25th August 2017. Biometrics: Wing: 72.0 mm. Weight: 9.6 g. Time: 08:00:00hrs, was recaptured 181 degrees due south on 26th October 2017 at Billinge Hill, near Billinge, Merseyside. Biometrics: Wing: 71.0 mm. Weight: 10.5 g. Time: 09:00:00hrs. Duration: 62 days Distance: 47 km Direction: 181deg (S) Lesser Redpoll - Oakenclough to BillingeStand by for more bi[...]

Wood You Believe It?


Things didn’t go quite as planned this morning. The forecast for Oakenclough was reasonable - 7mph, cloudy with a chance of rain, but up beyond Garstang I drove through fog and mizzzle, a ringer’s enemies. Within minutes of meeting Andy up at the ringing site a heavy mist had closed in and enveloped the plantation. After a forty minute drive we don’t give in that easily so we set the nets and waited for birds to arrive. The fog proved slow to clear with little in the way of passerine migration as reflected in our catch of just 21 birds, albeit with a few interesting highlights. Birds ringed: 4 Goldcrest, 3 Redwing, 3 Blackbird, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Dunnock, 2 Great Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Wren and 1 Sparrowhawk. The Sparrowhawk was a first year male of quite small proportions. SparrowhawkDespite the lack of large scale migration there was a mid-morning influx of 12-15 Blackbirds, including two obvious “continental” types, identified by their all dark bills and scalloped breast feathers. Continental BlackbirdThere was distinct lack of finches this morning. I cannot remember the last occasion we caught zero Goldfinch or Lesser Redpoll at this site. We made do with a couple of Chaffinches, the only finch seen and heard this morning, the one below a fine looking adult male. Chaffinch  ChaffinchTwo out of the three Redwings were caught pre-dawn and were probably roosting nearby. The third appeared in the nets after a mid-morning arrival of circa 30 Redwings, the only flock we saw.  RedwingThe one migration feature of the morning was a very obvious movement of Woodpigeons on a North-East to South-West heading, with a count of 1200 including five flocks of 130+ and one that numbered a high-flying 300 individuals. Every year sees discussion around the migration spectacle of Woodpigeons but it is unclear where these birds are coming from or going to. They seem to appear along the east coast and the Pennines, but aren’t seen coming in off the sea. They travel south and upon reaching the south coast head west as far as Dorset. Once here they seem to disappear. At present there are two schools of thought. The post-breeding numbers of this species in autumn in Britain are truly huge and the pigeons’ movements may be British birds heading south and west for the relatively mild conditions that this part of the UK offers, although there doesn’t seem to be a large influx of Woodpigeons into Devon and Cornwall during November. Alternatively they may be British birds that are heading south and on to France and Spain to spend the winter in southern oak woods.  On occasions in autumn, good numbers have been seen flying south, high over the Channel Islands. WoodpigeonsWhatever the reason, there’s no doubt it is a thought provoking sight. The much maligned and mostly ignored Wood Pigeon is a subject worthy of study by birders. Woodpigeon Otherwise birds - 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail.Linking this post with  Anni's Birding Blog.[...]

A Gamekeeper From Bleasdale


Readers of Another Bird Blog will remember that I am a frequent summer visitor to the beautiful part of Lancashire known as Bowland.The same readers may also know that the bird ringing site of Oakenclough mentioned frequently on this blog is bordered by the shooting estate of Bleasdale highlighted below.  As I turn into the track to our ringing site, immediately opposite is a gated track that heads alongside Harris End Fell and into the secret world of the Bleasdale estate.  Bowland, Lancashire I am grateful to for the following. “28th September 2017 was a landmark day in Bowland’s dark history of ongoing raptor killing, when Mr James Hartley a 34 year old gamekeeper from the Bleasdale estate appeared in the dock at Preston Magistrates Court facing nine charges relating to the alleged killing of two Peregrine Falcons in April 2016 on the estate where he was employed. Each one the nine charges read out by the clerk are listed below: 1) Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally killed a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a Peregrine Falcon, contrary to sections 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. 2) Disturb the nesting site of a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally or recklessly disturbed a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a Peregrine Falcon, while it was in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young, contrary to sections 1(5)(a) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. 3) Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally killed a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a Peregrine Falcon, contrary to sections 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. 4) Set trap/gin/snare etc to cause injury to wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, set in position a trap which was of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild bird coming in to contact with it, contrary to sections 5(1)(a) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act. 5) Take a Schedule 1 wild bird. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, intentionally took a wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a Peregrine Falcon, contrary to sections 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. 6) Possess live / dead Schedule 1 wild bird or its parts. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, had in your possession or control a dead wild bird included in Schedule 1 to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, namely a Peregrine Falcon, contrary to sections 1(2)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act. 7) Possess an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15-17. On 13 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, for the purpose of committing an offence, namely killing a Schedule 1 wild bird, namely a Peregrine Falcon, under section 1(1)(a), 1(4) and 21(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, had in your possession a firearm which was capable of being used for committing the offence, contrary to section 18(2) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. 8) Possess an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15-17. On 12 April 2016 and 27 April 2016 at Bleasdale in the county of Lancashire, for the purpos[...]

Thrush Rush


There was no post-Ophelia rush of Redwings on Wednesday with just a single one caught out of the less than 40 birds on the move. Andy and I met up again on Thursday where we hoped to improve on our previous catch and also to witness something in the way of visible migration. October is generally one of the better months to do so, weather permitting. Visible migration "vis-mig" is the observation of bird migration during daylight hours, a bird watching principle pioneered by Dutch ornithologists in the 1940's. At suitable locations and at the appropriate times of the year it is possible to detect bird migration as birds follow their favoured habitats and routes to reach their destinations. Under certain conditions at Oakenclough, near Barnacre on the edge of the Pennines and looking north to distant Morecambe Bay about 12 miles away, we sometimes see migration in action. This is especially so in the autumn when birds on migration south pass to the west of us as they keep the coast in sight, and/or they fly to the east by following the Pennine escarpment. Many times they simply pass directly overhead and,  if we are lucky, a number of birds decide to rest up and feed in the woodland plantation that is our ringing site. Location of Oakenclough ringing siteThursday proved to be one such occasion, a morning to witness visible migration on a large scale. The highlight of our five plus hours, and taking opportunities between spells of ringing birds, we counted a prolonged passage of some 2,350+ Redwings and hundreds of finches - 250+ Chaffinches, 40+ Goldfinches, 40+ Lesser Redpolls and 2+ Bramblings. The first Redwings arrived from all directions north soon after dawn with a continuous arrival until we left soon after midday. Parties and flocks numbered anywhere between 5 and 130 birds, some of which fed on site for a while before they carried on south and out of sight. Our count of 2,350 Redwings can be considered a minimum within our narrow corridor of observation and when birds flew north to south on a broad east to west front Mixed in with the large number of Redwings were a handful of larger thrushes and which from a distance in the grey, cloudy morning we assumed were Fieldfares. Further into the morning and when we actually caught two Mistle Thrush, most unusual in itself and in the absence of any definite Fieldfares, we decided that our earlier sightings were Mistle Thrushes migrating with the Redwing flocks. So now well into October I have yet to see a definite Fieldfare, and they too are a little late to appear in numbers. Finch arrivals started later in the morning with groups and small flocks of between 4 and 40 birds. A single Chaffinch proved to be the only one caught out of the several hundred on the move as none of the flocks stopped off to feed. We had better luck with Lesser Redpolls and added another eight to our recent catches of the species. In all we caught 50 of the birds that stopped off in the plantation - 23 Redwing, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Goldfinch, 5 Goldcrest, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Blue Tit and singles of Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Chaffinch and Great Tit. RedwingLesser RedpollRedwingMistle Thrush Mistle Thrush Chaffinch Other birds seen – 4 Pied Wagtail, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard.  Hurricane Brian Seems there’s another hurricane on the way - a Storm Bomb named Brian. Don’t you just love the British weather?Linking today to [...]

Goodbye Ophelia. Hello Birds.


Thank goodness. Hurricane Ophelia passed over us without doing too much damage apart from destroying any chance of birding or ringing. Hopefully, and as the wind subsided throughout Tuesday night, it opened up a window of opportunity for migration to take place. I met with Andy at 0645 on Wednesday morning at Oakenclough where the trees barely moved in the still of post-dawn. We set up shop and hoped for a good catch of birds to ring and where with a little time between the processing of birds we might observe “vis-mig”, visible migration. The Ringing Point It’s in the half-light that we mostly catch Redwings but we caught just the one this morning. And then within an hour of dawn that small arrival of Redwings stopped completely and we caught no more. Of the forty or so Redwings that arrived in fives and tens most did so from the east and then left very quickly and headed off west towards the coast. Redwing Redwing The hoped for vis-mig continued to be very slow with movement comprised of the early Redwings and groups of Woodpigeons totalling 90+ flying strongly south and quite high in the clear skies. It was almost 10am before finches appeared in the shape and sounds of Lesser Redpolls, Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Even then the large number of 120+ Goldfinches comprised of probably local feeding flocks as distinct from true migrants. Small numbers of Lesser Redpoll arrived and also Chaffinches but not in the numbers we hoped for. And where are the Siskins this year? Mostly our birds arrived unseen in the form of Goldcrests, an unexpected Reed Bunting and a rather nice first year Blackcap. We made up our total of 38 birds with the usual Blue Tits, Great Tits and local Goldfinch. Total - 38 new birds of 9 species with nil recaptures from previous occasions. 11 Goldcrest, 7 Lesser Redpoll, 8 Goldfinch, 4 Great Tit, 4 Blue Tit, singles of Blackcap, Reed Bunting, Dunnock and Redwing. DunnockBlackcapLesser Redpoll  Goldfinch Other birds seen this morning 2 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 4+ Pied Wagtail, 4+ Bullfinch, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker.Stay tuned. We may try again tomorrow if the weather holds.[...]

First Redwings


Tuesday 10th October. There was a chance of Redwings this morning after a good number were seen in the UK in the last few days, mainly on the east coast. I’d seen a handful of Redwings over the house early on Monday so hoped that Tuesday might be suitable for ringing up at Oakenclough with an opportunity to catch our first Redwings of the autumn. The forecast of an early 15 mph wind, cloud and showers was rather marginal but after some deliberation we decided to go for it on the basis that on a westerly the nets are fairly sheltered, and also on the expectation this might be the only suitable day of the week. I met up with Andy at 0645 when it was still quite dark and very soon after dawn we caught the first couple of Redwings and then a few more as the morning continued. We finished at 11.30 with a good mix of 12 species and 51 birds in total which included eight Redwings. Species and numbers: 16 Goldfinch, 12 Goldcrest, 8 Redwing, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Great Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Blackbird, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Reed Bunting. Redwing - first autumn/winterRedwingWe aged and sexed the Reed Bunting as a first autumn/winter male. Reed Bunting The single Blackcap proved to be an adult female. Blackcap Our catch of Lesser Redpolls was smaller than recent weeks and almost certainly due to the bluster and short, sharp, showers. Below is an adult male. Lesser Redpoll  The morning’s visible migration was not especially eventful but even as the wind dropped with clearing skies about 10am, any arrival or movement of birds was hardly noticeable. The highlight was the 90+ Redwings we counted in singles, small parties, or the biggest one of 30+ birds which arrived without any obvious directional movement during the cloudy and showery period. Otherwise our biggest counts came from the number of Goldfinches about in small parties that totalled over 100 individuals. The Goldfinches we caught came mostly from our feeders that are designed to catch mainly Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. Others noted this morning: 2 Jays, the first seen or heard here for many months. Also, 8 Pied Wagtail, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Raven, 1 + Bullfinch.Linking this post to Anni's Birding, Eileen's Saturday and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday. [...]

Out For The Count


Sunday morning and there was time for a gentle run around the block before rain arrived about 10 o’clock. I was early enough to check Lane Ends where Little Egrets were beginning to leave their tree roost. Second one out was a Great White Egret, followed by 32 Little Egrets and then four or more Little Egrets still sat in the trees when I left 20 minutes later. Scattered across the marsh was a count of several thousand Pink-footed Goose, perhaps up to 9/10,000 and 29 Whooper Swans. Also, two male Sparrowhawks flew in and out of the trees in a rather strange way and I got the impression that they were not adversaries but perhaps siblings of the family that bred here this year. Just up the road at Gulf Lane I dropped seed at the Linnet project. There have been 100+ Linnets for a couple of weeks now but we’ve not been able to ring there due to constant wind across the open field. Patience is the name of the game and we know we will get a go eventually, preferably when numbers have built to 200+. There was a Barn Owl this morning on the distant fence and also a Kestrel, both birds showing a particular interest in one patch of ground. Three Swallows flew quickly through heading south-east. Barn OwlConder Pool was rather quiet again with few birds to set the pulse racing. A Common Sandpiper is still around, perhaps destined to be this year’s wintering one. Also, 40 Lapwing and 8 Snipe but a handful only of both Curlew and Redshank.  Apologies for the poor shots, the light was poor. Curlew RedshankIn the wildfowl stakes - 84 Teal, 12 Little Grebe, 2 Wigeon, 1 Cormorant and 1 Goosander. It was spitting with rain when I checked the flood at Pilling/Rawcliffe where I found 40 grounded Meadow Pipit, 18 Pied Wagtail, 40 Linnet, a Grey Heron and a single Buzzard. The rain didn’t last long and by now and back home I found more to do. All week there’s been waves of Goldfinch coming through so I set a single net in the garden for a few hours. I ended up with a catch of 2 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 1 Dunnock and 16 Goldfinch, a bonus for the day’s birding. All but one of the Goldfinches proved to be juvenile/first autumn birds. I could not sex a couple of them as even now in early October they had yet to attain sufficient head colour to determine male or female.  Is breeding well into September part of the secret of the Goldfinch’s success of recent tears? Goldfinch GoldfinchDunnockAnd now own up, who thought that the Robin in their back garden was always the same one? Robin  More birds soon with Another Bird Blog.[...]

Into The Moonlight


At last, a morning without a howling wind and rain with a chance to do some ringing. I met Andy at Oakenclough at 0645, just before dawn in the light of a full moon. Full MoonNets were up in double quick time in readiness for whatever arrived on site. After more than a week of poor weather where little migration took place we hoped for an interesting and productive morning. As predicted there was a light wind and sun from the off. After 5 hours we were pleased enough with our steady but unspectaular catch of 35 new birds and five recaptures making up the total of 41 birds. Lesser Redpoll topped the score sheet for the first time ever here with finches outnumbered by tits, although our five recaptures were Blue, Great and Coal Tit from recent times. Totals caught: 9 Lesser Redpoll, 9 Great Tit, 6 Coal Tit, 5 Blue Tit, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Meadow Pipit, 3 Goldcrest, 1 Chaffinch. We catch fewer Meadow Pipits than Tree Pipits here in the hills so we made a special effort today to even up the score. Meadow PipitThis is the last year that we separate Lesser Redpoll and Common (Mealy) Redpoll because from January the two species are “lumped” together as one (again); and not before time in my humble opinion. At this time of the year most of our redpolls are left unsexed as they show very little if any redness in their body plumage, especially so if they are birds of the year, Lesser RedpollBelow is a first winter male Chaffinch. Easy enough to age via tertial colour, tail wear and colour contrast in the primaries, even in the field for those birders so inclined to show their prowess in  the often erroneous world of competitive birding.  Chaffinch Goldfinch In the clear skies the visible migration this morning was far from spectacular with small groups of Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch as the main constituents but noticeably few Chaffinches, hence the single one caught. Otherwise we noted 6-8 Swallows, a number of on-high Meadow Pipits, 5 Pied Wagtail and 1 Grey Wagtail but quite a number of birds too high to identify with any certainty. It was 10.30 before Buzzards took to the warming air whereupon we counted 6 or more in the sky together with one Kestrel.Linking today to  Anni's Birding and Eileen's Blog. [...]

This And That - Sunday October 1st


A run around the block on Saturday before the rains came didn’t produce too much in the way of birds. Sunday and it's still raining. I checked out the Linnet flock at Gulf Lane in the hope of a ringing session soon but a glance at the weather for the coming week doesn’t hold out much hope. While I was away in Greece Andy added another 25 Linnets and a handful of Goldfinch to the totals. Looking today most of the Goldfinch seemed to have moved on with the flock of 100+ birds almost exclusively Linnet. October is the peak migration time for Linnets so we expect the flock to increase again soon and also that those birds will include Linnets from further afield. Of course in Greece I’d missed the mid-September first arrivals of Pink-footed Geese to Lancashire but rather made up for it with many skeins flying off the marsh and over my head towards an inland destination. I’d counted more than 1700 in dozens of flocks before the movement died off and I too moved on. Pink-footed GeeseThere was a Wheatear on the gateposts at Braides Farm with approximately 90 Lapwing and 100 Curlew scattered across the long grassy fields. WheatearA good find on a flooded field at Pilling/Rawcliffe Moss was a single Ruff feeding amongst a flock of 95 Lapwing but little else with a Saturday shoot with its accompanying noise and disturbance about to begin. Ruff So in the absence of local news, and not much prospect for the coming week against the tail ends of two hurricanes, here’s more from Greece, 14-28 September 2017. A friendly horse - Platanias, Skiathos  Alonisos, Skiathos The Yellow-legged Gulls of Skiathos are quite unlike our large UK gulls in exploiting the process of rubbish disposal and the British love of feeding birds. The Yellow-legged Gulls of Skiathos rarely come ashore but spend their time feeding offshore and sitting on the mostly flat sea, apart from on windy days. It was along the shore here at Alonisos that we had super views of an Eleonora's Falcon as one dashed left to right and quickly out of sight after being chased off by a Kestrel. Yellow-legged Gulls, Alonisos, SkiathosI didn’t get any new birds this year but had a butterfly “tick” by way of a White Admiral Limenitis arthemis, a woodland species that we found along the margins of an olive grove near Alonisos. It took me a while to find this on Google because perhaps naturally enough, I searched for “black butterfly”. Doh! Seemingly, this species occurs in the UK and is increasing. White AdmiralWe saw many, many Swallowtails this year, probably hundreds - a very beautiful butterfly that we also see during May in Menorca. “Papilio demoleus is an aggressive and very common butterfly. It is perhaps the most widely distributed swallowtail in the world.” – Wiki. Swallowtail Below is yet another Red-backed Shrike and then a Whinchat. We saw very few Whinchats this year due to the lack of migrant birds as a whole. Also, not a single Wheatear and very few Yellow Wagtails. Red-backed ShrikeRed-backed ShrikeWhinchatI knew that Spotted Flycatchers occasionally eat fruit but never witnessed it until this year in Skiathos. In the dry summer of Greece blackberries aren’t nearly as plump as those from a UK hedgerow but clearly good enough for a Spotted Flycatcher. Spotted FlycatcherSpotted FlycatcherSpotted FlycatcherSkiathosThe Boat Yard, Skiathos Stay tuned for more news, views and photos soon.Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesdasy. [...]

Home From Skiathos


Sue and I are back from Greece and as usual, up to our ears in catch-up with friends and family. Until I get up and running with birding I put together a few pictures of the last two weeks in Skiathos. Please "click the pics" for better views. Two weeks of late September wall-to-wall sunshine, temperatures in the thirties and not a cloud in the deep blue Skiathos sky. I found myself feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the almost total lack of birdlife during what should be a period of peak migration. Yes, we saw House Sparrows, Collared Doves, swallows, and hundreds of the ubiquitous Hooded Crow and Yellow-legged Gull but had to search hard to find the limited number of migrants hiding from the burning midday sun. Nr Ligaries, SkiathosAgia Paraskevi, SkiathosThe Bourtzi, Skiathos TownThe Bourtzi, Skiathos TownSkiathos TownThe ferry - Skopelos to Skiathos and vice versa  Where to go - Skiathos Town Coffee Time - Skiathos TownI have experienced this strange sensation before on Skiathos and also on islands such as Menorca, Lanzarote, and closer to home on Bardsey Island and North Ronaldsay. Such times reinforce the understanding of the effect of the weather on bird migration during spring and autumn when theoretically there should be migrant birds at every turn but when ideal holiday weather makes for poor birding. A drop or two of overnight rain or preferably one of the famous Skiathos thunderstorms would have made for interesting mornings but it was not to be. It was in the relative cool of the hills and the monastery gardens that we found Spotted Flycatchers together with small numbers of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. Up here close to the pine forests we saw Honey Buzzards circling and small numbers of Bee Eaters and swallows, both Common and Red-rumped. Church at Evangelistria To the Monastery Spotted Flycatcher  Willow Warbler Red-backed ShrikeRed-rumped SwallowHooded CrowUnlike our own farmland Barn Swallow the Red-rumped Swallow is a bird of the open hilly country of southern Europe and Asia where they build quarter-sphere nests with a tunnel entrance lined with mud collected in their beaks. They normally nest under cliff overhangs in their mountain homes, but will readily adapt to buildings and bridges. Red-rumped SwallowIt doesn’t matter where you go in Skiathos. There’s always a Red-backed Shrike to enliven proceedings and inevitably one that lacks any red in the plumage but displays the autumn russets of a juvenile or female.The Red-backed Shrike is a very common bird in all of Greece and the Greek Islands, and a bird well known to Aristotle, the original Greek birder. The Latin/scientific name of the Red-backed Shrike is Lanius collurio, the genus name, Lanius derived from the Latin word for "butcher" and the specific collurio is from Ancient Greek “kollurion”. Red-backed ShrikeRed-backed ShrikeIn the pine forests there are fire crews on permanent watch to ensure that help quickly reaches any conflagration. A few years ago forest fires in mainland Greece spread by strong winds across the waters of the Aegean to the islands of Skiathos and Skopelos where they devastated huge swathes of forest and claimed many lives. Only now have the forests recovered. Fire Crew - Skiathos Our forest dwelling JimnySpotted FlycatcherFrom the forested Kanapitsa peninsula of Skiathos it is possible to see the church of Agios Ioannis Kastri out towards the neighbouring island of Skopelos and where scene[...]

Home from Home


Sorry there’s no recent news. Sue and I are in Skiathos, Greece for a few days. Back soon but in the meantime there are pictures from recent years in Skiathos. Enjoy, and don’t forget to “click the pics” of Skiathos and its birds.  Skiathos - centre rightRed-backed Shrike Hooded Crow Hoopoe Yellow WagtailSkiathos TownSkiathos TownSkiathos TownKechriaIsabelline Wheatear Whinchat Little EgretYellow Wagtail To The Beach Alonisos -Skiathos Skiathos - Kastro Skiathos Woodchat Shrike Eleonora's Falcon Red-backed Shrike European ShagKoziakis - Skiathos TownView towards Skiathos TownLet's finish with a video of Skiathos. It features the headland of Kastro where the Eleonora's Falcons spend the summer months . Enjoy.    allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="250" src="" width="425"> Back soon. [...]

A Smelly Old Business


How do birds navigate over long distances? This complex question has been the subject of debate and controversy among scientists for decades, with Earth's magnetic field and the birds’ own sense of smell among the factors said to play a part.It’s a subject discussed previously on Another Bird Blog but here's an interesting update by way of scientific experiments on an island I know very well.In new investigations researchers closely followed the movements and behaviour of 32 Scopoli's Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea off the coast of Menorca. Scopoli's Shearwaters breed across the Mediterranean on Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera, Cabrera, Conillera and Dragonera. The majority of the population of Scopoli's Shearwater spend the non-breeding season in the Atlantic, including areas off the west coast of Africa and east coast of Brazil. They return to the Mediterranean in spring where they breed on rocky coasts and offshore islands, often close to or alongside Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus.  Hence, I see both species of shearwater when I visit Menorca in early May each year and when both are clearly visible from the shore, numbers varying with the daily weather conditions. Scopoli's Shearwater  - Daniele Occhiatto Baearic Shearwater -Marcabrera [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons MenorcaNow, researchers from the universities of Oxford, Barcelona and Pisa have shown in a new experiment that the sense of smell (olfaction) is almost certainly a key factor in long-distance oceanic navigation, eliminating previous misgivings about this hypothesis. For the experiment the birds were split into three groups: one made temporarily anosmic (unable to smell) through nasal irrigation with zinc sulphate; another carrying small magnets; and a control group. Miniature GPS loggers were attached to the birds as they nested and incubated eggs in crevices and caves on the rocky Menorcan coast. But rather than being displaced, they were then tracked as they engaged in natural foraging trips. Study leader Oliver Padget, a doctoral candidate in Oxford University's Department of Zoology, said: "Navigation over the ocean is probably the extreme challenge for birds, given the long distances covered, the changing environment, and the lack of stable landmarks. Previous experiments have focused on the physical displacement of birds, combined with some form of sensory manipulation such as magnetic or olfactory deprivation. Evidence from these experiments has suggested that removing a bird's sense of smell impairs homing, whereas disruption of the magnetic sense has yielded inconclusive results" "However, critics have questioned whether birds would behave in the same way had they not been artificially displaced, as well as arguing that rather than affecting a bird's ability to navigate, sensory deprivation may in fact impair a related function, such as its motivation to return home or its ability to forage. Our new study eliminates these objections, meaning it will be very difficult in future to argue that olfaction is not involved in long-distance oceanic navigation in birds." All birds went out on foraging trips as normal, gained weight through successful foraging, and returned to exchange incubation periods with their partners. Thus, removing a bird's sense of smell does not appear to impair either its motivation to return home or its ability to forage effectively. However, although the anosmic birds made successful trips to the Catalan co[...]

Change Of Plan


The forecast for Wednesday was decidedly “dodgy” but with it being the best for several days ahead, we decided to chance a ringing session up at Barnacre. The problem was when I got up at 0530 and looked out of the window the trees were wafting around so I sent Andy a text and said I’d go birding instead. I was early so stopped at Pilling Lane Ends to count the Little Egrets at the roost. Thirty-five was my total but I suspect many were hidden from view in this so called “amenity area” that is now just a neglected wilderness. At Braides Farm - 80+ Curlews and a roosting Buzzard. At Conder green Once again Lapwings proved the most numerous bird with at least 240 scattered around the site, on the island, the grassland and in the tidal creeks. Other waders were few and far between with just handfuls of Curlew, Redshank, and a single Common Sandpiper. Fishing the pool was a single Goosander, 4 Cormorant and 4 Little Egret. Two Little Grebe have moved to the creeks where I also found 8 Teal. LapwingLittle Egret It was on a circuit of Jeremy Lane that I stopped to look through a flock of 600-800 Black-headed Gulls. Almost on cue I found an adult Mediterranean Gull I had hoped to see. There have been lots of “med gulls” sighted along the coast in recent weeks and the best way to find one by searching through flocks of Black-headed Gulls. While it’s nice to see one, the “med gull” is no longer a rarity. Mediterranean Gull - adult winter by M. Jackson, Mull Birds The Mediterranean Gull is the most recent addition to the species of seabirds breeding in the UK. By 2010, there were over 600-700 nesting pairs, mostly on the south and south-east coasts of England. The range of the Mediterranean Gull expanded markedly over the last 50 years. A westward expansion started in Hungary, where it was breeding regularly by 1953, then into Germany and Belgium during the 1960s and the Netherlands by 1970. Range expansion also occurred in an eastward direction during the 1970s and 1980s. The first breeding occurrence in Britain was in 1968, at Needs Ore Point (Hampshire). Thereafter, a pair bred at Dungeness (Kent), in 1979, increasing to two pairs by 1985. A site in north Kent was colonised in 1983, which later became established as one of the major colonies in England. Also during this period, a handful of other breeding attempts were made, including pairings with Black-headed Gulls.  I wasn’t finding much around Jeremy Lane until I stopped to watch a Kestrel hovering over the footpath at Cockersands. There was a Marsh Harrier again, this one hunting the fields behind the old abbey, seen off in turn by Carrion Crows and Lapwings. After a while the harrier did a disappearing act, something they are good at for such a large bird. Marsh Harrier and LapwingsI stopped at Gulf Lane where I dropped seed at the Linnet field and did a spot count for the week of about 100 finches - 50/50 Linnet/Goldfinch again. The weather forecast for the week ahead, wind above 15mph every day, will put paid to plans to ring any time soon. A couple of Stock Doves have found our food drop. Stock DoveI was on the way to Knott End to grab some shopping but stopped along the promenade to watch the incoming tide. Recent days have seen good numbers of Sandwich Terns roosting on the sands at high tide, migrant terns that feed in Morecambe Bay while passing through the area on their way south to winter off West A[...]

Some You Win


The weatherman kindly told us that Thursday 31st August was the Meteorological End of Summer. I tried to recall more than a handful of summery days during of May, June, July and August that resembled summer but I quickly gave up. Friday 1st September. I took a flying visit to Conder Green where a distant Kingfisher proved the only bird of note as it dived into the now shallow water from the top of the marker post. Otherwise there was the usual fare – An increase to 17 Teal, 9 Little Grebe, 80 Lapwing, 5 Snipe, 1 Goosander and 1 Common Sandpiper. The female Tufted Duck is reduced to just three youngsters now. A few pairs of Tufted Ducks have bred on the pool for the last three years but always struggle to get more than one or two youngsters up to full size. KingfisherTufted DuckI was on the way to Gulf Lane to unload a bucket of rape seed into our net ride in preparation for a ringing session on Saturday. The seed is back-up to the natural food that the 300+ Linnets and Goldfinch now target because those large numbers of birds will soon make a large dent in natural food availability. Saturday 2nd September dawned misty but bright with the promise of sun and little wind for our ringing. I met up with Andy at 0630 just as the sun rose over to the East. Pilling sunriseLooking West at PillingUnfortunately the Linnets didn’t perform as well as have come to expect and we ended up with a meagre catch of just five birds, a total quite unlike our catches to date this autumn.  Howver, all is not lost as those five bring us to 150 newly ringed Linnets so far this autumn.LinnetThe composition of the flock has changed considerably this week with now something like 50/50 Linnet/Goldfinch and just 200 birds in total this morning. Given the natural abundance of food at this time of year, both on site here and in the local area, the birds have many choices of where to feed. Additionally, the preferred feeding patch on site is some way from our single 80ft cut through the crop. We have seen a Sparrowhawk on at least three recent spot visits which leads us to think the hawk is a very regular visitor and may be deterring the finches from their usual habits. As Sparrowhawks are liable to do, once they find a reliable source of food, they come back time and time again. The hawk made two visits today, once trying to snatch a Linnet in the air and then later, moving along the fence line from where it could wait to pounce. The hawk flew off when I walked along the road towards its lookout post. Sparrowhawk  Some you win, some you lose and it won't stop us trying again soon.We may not have had the biggest catch of the year but it was certainly good to be out in the sun for a change. Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.[...]

Never The Same


The alarm clock buzzed at 0520. I was due to meet Andy and Bryan at 0630 for another ringing session near Oakenclough. The weather forecast of a 2mph wind with no rain proved to be accurate and we enjoyed an eventful morning of both ringing and birding. Three pairs of eyes and ears proved extremely useful during the usual lulls in ringing. After an initial round of Great Tits, Coal Tits, a Blue Tit and just a single Willow Warbler it seemed as if the session might be below par for this always productive site. But within an hour the species changed when visible migration began, and after five hours we had caught 51 birds of 10 species. While no two ringing sessions are ever the same it was finches top of the leader board again with yet more Goldfinch and Lesser Redpoll. We had handfuls of both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff together with another Tree Pipit. Totals - 14 Goldfinch, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Willow Warbler, 5 Goldcrest, 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Chaffinch, 4 Coal Tit, 3 Great Tit, 1 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Blue Tit and 1 Tree Pipit. Willow WarblerLong-tailed Tit   The Ringing OfficeLesser Redpoll Tree PipitBirding proved very interesting and began with our second Osprey of the week. This one followed a similar route to the one on Friday last by flying North to South alongside Harris End Fell before disappearing from view. Seven Grey Herons appeared together from the south, circled for a while before they lost height and dropped to the north and towards the fisheries near Scorton. Other raptors seen – 2 Sparrowhawk,1 Kestrel and 9 Buzzard. The Buzzards appeared late in the morning as a “kettle” of 7 plus 2. Three Ravens added to the action on high. We noted a steady stream of high-flying hirundines with Swallows to the fore. 60+ Goldfinch and 30+ Chaffinch dominated the arriving finches where Lesser Redpolls seemed less vocal than normal. We were a little surprised to catch nine redpolls when so few seemed to be around. An initial count of 5 or 6 Mistle Thrushes turned into a massive 29 when two parties that arrived unseen at the North West corner of the site took to the sky flying east. As the thrushes spread out we counted a flock of 22 and then a gang of 7, all heading the same way. It’s often in September that people mistakenly report Fieldfares arriving early in the UK, when in fact Fieldfares do not really arrive here from Scandinavia until late September/October. What those observers have actually seen is a far less common but not unknown flock of Mistle Thrushes. Just last week a local birder, Bryan Yorke saw over 80 Mistle Thrushes in the hills north of Lancaster. Mistle Thrush Seems like our largest UK thrush has enjoyed a good breeding season! Other birds noted in the plantation – a single Nuthatch and 2 or more Bullfinch.Linking today to Eileen's Saturday. [...]