No Snow, More Linnets

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
While the UK crashes to a halt after a few inches of snow, here in coastal and balmy Lancashire we escaped the white powdery stuff and made do with just a few frosty nights and days. It was the same this morning with a -3°C start but dry and wind-free for our ringing session in the wild bird seed mix at Cockerham. Andy and I were joined today by Seumus. After the ringing session all three of us were due to visit a farmland and woodland site in Cockerham where the owners had asked if we were interested in carrying out a bird ringing programme. The minus temperatures and frozen ground of this week may have already caused some Linnets to move off in search of ice-free feeding spots because our maximum spot count today was of less than a hundred Linnets. This compares with recent counts of 330 on 2 December and 140 on 10 December. ...

Snippets

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Sorry, there’s no local news today.  Instead a couple of snippets for those interested in protecting birds of prey followed by a cautionary tale about a twitch that never was. Raptor Persecution Positive news from Scotland on protection of birds of prey as the Scottish National Party (SNP) very recently adopted the policy of supporting the licensing of shooting estates. On Saturday 2nd December at the National Council in Perth, SNP activists voted in support of a resolution calling for the licensing of shooting estates to be introduced in Scotland. This made it party policy to support licensing for driven grouse estates and adds weight to the campaign for the licensing of all shooting estates in Scotland. The Scottish Government recently set up an expert group to consider issues around grouse moors, including licensing...
Continue Reading » Snippets...

An Egret Or Two

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Stumbling across rare birds, scarce birds or “good” birds is often just that, an accident; being in the right place at the right time. That’s what happened this morning when driving through Cockerham where a sideways glance made the car screech to a halt. There it was, a Cattle Egret feeding on the grass verge, almost under a hedgerow and not searching the ground under cattle hooves as it’s supposed to do. Mind you, and this is partially the secret of the Cattle Egrets’ success, its ability to survive and thrive in a whole set of different environments. I’ve seen Cattle Egrets in the Lanzarote desert, amongst Egyptian gardens, stalking the Plains of Africa, nesting in Menorcan conifer trees and now plodding through the wet fields of a Lancashire winter. At least the egret is just scarce nowadays rather than a “mega...
Continue Reading » An Egret Or Two...

Linnet Project 200 Up

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
I almost turned around and went back to bed when the drizzle wet the windscreen. But then close to Pilling village the drizzle suddenly stopped and the sky looked lighter. I carried on to Cockerham and Gulf Lane where I hoped to add more Linnets to the year’s total. No Andy today. He’s with Sandra sunning himself in Mexico so I was alone. It’s rather a shame we have no trainees at the moment to help with the load and for them to learn more about birds through ringing. But to become a bird ringer involves a time commitment, self-discipline and a willingness to sometimes forego the attraction of twitching or having a lie-in. Ringing also demands a responsible, sometimes discreet approach towards the often private places where ringing takes place so as to safeguard the birds and to respect the wishes of the property owners who gran...

Plovers Galore

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Ask any birder their least favourite time of the year and November is bound to feature highly. Autumnal contact calls and mornings of migrants on the move becomes a thing of the dim but not distant past, to be replaced by thoughts of where to spend the mostly grey, murky mornings that November brings. Damnation to those dark mornings where a sprint from the starting blocks rarely beats a doggie walker to an early stroll, or where midday sun quickly becomes 2:30 pm, faded light, and a trail of bouncy finches headed to a rapidly approaching roost. With sunrise timed at 8:06 am it was just 0750 plus two when I set off in the usual directions. “Plus two” was the time it took to clear the windscreen of frost.  Now there’s a novelty but with the bonus of clear skies and promised sunshine. A single shooters’ car stood a...
Continue Reading » Plovers Galore...

Speciation in Forty Years

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
There’s fascinating and exciting stuff for students of evolution and migration from Science Daily of 23rd November 2017.  “A study of Darwin's finches that live on the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, has revealed direct genetic evidence that new species can arise in just two generations. The arrival 36 years ago of a strange bird to a remote island in the Galapagos archipelago has provided direct genetic evidence of a novel way in which new species arise. Researchers from Princeton University and Uppsala University in Sweden report that the newcomer belonging to one species mated with a member of another species resident on the island, giving rise to a new species that today consists of roughly 30 individuals. The study comes from work conducted on Darwin's finches, which live on the Galapagos Islands in the ...

Down And Down

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
No apologies today for returning to a recurrent theme of Another Bird Blog. From a recent article in The Guardian newspaper.The latest official figures show that birds on the UK’s farmland have seen numbers decline by almost a tenth in five years. Farmland bird populations have declined by 56% since 1970, largely due to agricultural changes including the loss of mixed farming, a switch to autumn sowing of crops, a reduction in hay meadows and the stripping out of hedgerows. While the majority of the decline happened during the late 1970s and 1980s as farming practices changed rapidly, there was a 9% decline between 2010 and 2015, the statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show. The latest figures have prompted renewed calls for an overhaul of farming as the UK leaves the EU and its system ...
Continue Reading » Down And Down...

After The Deluge

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
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...
Continue Reading » After The Deluge...

Stone Me

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
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...
Continue Reading » Stone Me...

Mix And Match

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
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 no...
Continue Reading » Mix And Match...