Source Another Bird Blog

Golden Times

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
There are more pictures from the hill country today. Birding is more than a little quiet and the weather so perfect that I took to the upland roads with camera at the ready. 

Noticeable today was the reduction in numbers of waders with many already gone for the coast, mainly Lapwings, Redshanks and Curlews but to a lesser extent Oystercatchers. In fact I struggled to get pictures of Curlew and Redshank and managed just one Lapwing. Despite that a number of Snipe continued to both sing and display and to show themselves on dry stone walls and fences. 

Lapwing
 
Curlew

Like me, the Oystercatcher below was searching the skies for the Golden Plover singing unseen. I didn’t see the plover but the unmistakeable melody rung out loud and clear across the open fell. 

Oystercatcher

Maybe the Oystercatcher didn’t recognise the song as the Golden Plover is now extremely rare in Bowland. Amazingly, and to the eternal shame of the United Kingdom, the Golden Plover is still classed as legitimate “quarry” for shooting from September 1st to January 31st except in the Isle of Man where it has full protection. 

Golden Plover -courtesy of luontoportti.com

There are still lots of wagtails around, both Pied and Grey varieties, and of course many dozens of Meadow Pipits which now include fresh juveniles. 

Pied Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

I did see a Cuckoo today as it dashed over the tree tops “cuckooing” as it went and then calling continuously on a circuit of the hillside and back to the start. 

It’s amazing what Photoshop can do. One minute there’s a barbed wire fence; the next minute the fence has gone! 

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Oystercatchers

There are a couple of things to notice in these Snipe pictures, things that aren’t too apparent with the often poor views of this secretive species; the upper part of a bill has a subtle node end and is also marginally longer than the lower half of the bill. Note also the very long toes, an adaptation for wading birds which spreads the bird's weight over a large surface area and thus facilitates walking on soft surfaces where such species both breed and feed. The marsh loving Snipe is a prime example. 

Common Snipe

Snipe 

Wader foot

Apart from the everyday hazards faced by all birds the upland environment presents a particular danger to waders which breed in amongst the sheep - wool. The loose wool that lies on the ground is a special hazard to chicks that can quickly accumulate large amounts of the tough wool around their feet and legs. It sometimes leads to the loss of toes or feet and can also cause entanglement in fences or other everyday objects.  The bottom Oystercatcher has several strands of sheep wool around both legs and may haave lost part of a toe.

Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher

There's more sun tomorrow and then the weather is going downhill once more. Oh well, never mind there's always something to do and it's been good to see so much sun.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.
 




Source Another Bird Blog

Martin Morning

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
2016 was a year without ringing at the Cockerham Sand Martin colony because the martins’ nest holes were too high up the quarry face for us to catch them. It’s the same this year with the birds mostly out of reach of the mist nets. But with so many being around Andy and I decided we’d experiment with catching some down at ground level today. 

We met up at 0700 and set to with a single mist net in the base of the quarry where the martins had been feeding and flying through on their way to and from the quarry face. We had only partial success with a catch of 9 birds, 4 adults and 5 fresh juveniles. 

We reckoned on something like 200 individuals milling around the colony and upwards of 60 occupied nest holes, even though counting those is subject to interpretation. 

Sand Martin

There are Sand Martins in my picture below taken from 50 yards or more; a closer approach sees the martins into the air en masse. For readers who have never witnessed a Sand Martin colony the photo which gives some idea of the density of holes and nests, bearing in mind that not every hole is occupied. 

Sand Martin colony

Sand Martins - Nabu of Germany

Also on site - 1 Grey Heron, 4 Oystercatcher, 1 Kestrel. 

We’ll have another go at the “smarties” in a week or so when the weather permits. 

Before I met up with Andy I’d spent an hour a mile away at Conder Green to catch up with recent changes. The Avocets are down to two pairs now and I saw only one youngster. It’s tempting to think that the adults spend so much time chasing off other birds that they somehow or other neglect their own young. 

There are still at least 4 pairs of Oystercatchers but only one of those pair with 2 well grown young as other adults sit it out. Otherwise, 8 now summering Black-tailed Godwits, 6 Tufted Duck, 15 Redshank, 6 Shelduck, 2 Common Tern, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Little Egret. 

Common Tern

In the passerine department - 3 Reed Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting 2 Whitethroat and 2 Pied Wagtail. And in “miscellaneous” – 1 Stock Dove, 4 Swift, 4 Swallow, 12 House Martin.


Source Another Bird Blog

Mainly Pics

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
I took lots of pictures up in Bowland this morning, almost 400 and easily packed onto half of an SD card. I know there are some who refuse to abandon the traditional 35mm film photography, but give me digital photography, computers and Photoshop any old day. 

It was a morning of waders again with a number of Snipe on show, plus Redshanks and Oystercatchers with young. I even managed a picture of the very shy Red Grouse. Other highlights of the morning included two Ring Ouzel and at least one Cuckoo, but all too distant to photograph.

Click the pics for a closer look.

Redshank

Redshank

Oystercatcher
 
Red Grouse

Snipe seemed especially active this morning whereby I saw 8/10 individuals in poses, behaviour or voice that suggested they now have young.


Snipe

Snipe

Snipe

Snipe

Bowland, Lancashire

A barely fledged Redshank  had quickly learnt about using dry stone walls as a parent looks on.

Redshank chick

Redshank

Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail

Bowland, Lancashire

Lapwing

War Memorial, Bowland

That's all for today. Come back soon for more birding. photographs or ringing with Another Bird Blog. 




Source Another Bird Blog

Back Already?

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Spring is barely over but already it seems that a few waders have left their breeding haunts. First back this morning at Conder Green – a Common Sandpiper. It’s a species which breeds up in the hills 15/20miles away and not in lowland Fylde. I heard it call as it flew behind and then over my head as it lost height, flicked over the pool, landed on the near island and then bobbed along looking for a meal. I glanced at the date on my watch. Bang on time, perhaps one or two days early for the annual excitement of spotting returning waders, the spick-and-span youngsters or the adults showing copious amounts of their summer plumage. 

Common Sandpiper

It made me look at the local waders on show and not far behind the frontrunners - Oystercatchers with half grown young, 3 Pairs of Avocets with 3 youngsters on show, noisy complaining Redshanks, and a gang of Lapwings young and old. 

I counted 20+ Redshanks without actually seeing any youngsters but the behaviour of adults told me that chicks were not too far away. Around here we’re sort of celebrating the Avocet success of recent years but as I watched their aggressive behaviour in chasing off godwits, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Shelduck I wondered what the future holds here for other species now that the Avocets will return each year. 

Avocet

Oystercatchers

Rather oddly, there are still 40 or more Black-tailed Godwits here that have been around for several weeks and who chose in recent days not to go north with many of their compatriots. I did note today that most of those left are second-summer rather than fully adult birds, a fact which explains their reluctance or lack of urgency to leave. The feeding here is very good. I watched the godwits take endless numbers of worms from the mud and then walk down to the water’s edge to dip and clean their prey before swallowing them whole. 

Black-tailed Godwits

On the pool also: 15 Shelduck, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron and 8 Tufted Duck. I watched as a male Tufted Duck slowly reassured the female that all was well to go back to her island nest. She climbed up the grassy bank, slipped through a tunnel of vegetation and was gone. The male floated off to join his mates. Tufted Duck incubation is up to 28 days so she can’t be far off leading her chicks into their brave new world; I hope they do better than last year’s brood of 10-12 which vanished in double quick time. 

Near the bridge and main road were at least 3 singing Reed Warblers, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Whitethroat and 2 Song Thrush. A Kestrel overhead hovered, hunted low and then flew off carrying food. 

Kestrel

 Back soon folks. Stay tuned. 



Source Another Bird Blog

That Redshank

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Two days of stormy weather have left me indoors. And then tomorrow the forecast is for rain all day and more over the weekend. Is it really June? 

On Saturday last I posted a photograph of a colour ringed Redshank that I saw on a journey through the Forest of Bowland on 4th June, http://anotherbirdblog.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/saturday-sport.html

I followed the sighting up through the Internet and discovered more information via the Farlington Ringing Group. The group of ringers operate on the south coast of England. See below for the full set of information on the Redshank. It shows how effective colour ringing can be in tracking individual birds.

Redshank DD51107

Ringed as an adult in September 2009, Redshank DD51107 is now at least 9 years old and has been re-sighted in the Chichester area of the Sussex coast between August and March in every intervening year. It was noted there in February 2017 and probably moved up to Bowland in March or April where it began its breeding cycle.

Redshank - Chichester to Lancashire

When I saw the bird on 4th June it was clearly on territory from the behaviour displayed – using a line of fence posts which acted as lookout to spot and to warn of predators. 

Redshank
 
The Redshanks that breed in inland and upland parts of the UK are known to move to the coast for winter where studies show that the species is very site faithful from one winter to the next, as perfectly detailed in the chart above. Almost certainly this Redshank is equally true to its summertime home in Bowland. 

If I get up the in the next week or two I shall look out for it but even as early as July it may have left on its journey to the south of England. 

Redshank

But then all Redshanks don't wear such obvious bling.




Source Another Bird Blog

That Redshank

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Two days of stormy weather have left me indoors. And then tomorrow the forecast is for rain all day and more over the weekend. Is it really June? 

On Saturday last I posted a photograph of a colour ringed Redshank that I saw on a journey through the Forest of Bowland on 4th June, http://anotherbirdblog.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/saturday-sport.html

I followed the sighting up through the Internet and discovered more information via the Farlington Ringing Group. The group of ringers operate on the south coast of England. See below for the full set of information on the Redshank. It shows how effective colour ringing can be in tracking individual birds.

Redshank DD51107

Ringed as an adult in September 2009, Redshank DD51107 is now at least 9 years old and has been re-sighted in the Chichester area of the Sussex coast between August and March in every intervening year. It was noted there in February 2017 and probably moved up to Bowland in March or April where it began its breeding cycle.

Redshank - Chichester to Lancashire

When I saw the bird on 4th June it was clearly on territory from the behaviour displayed – using a line of fence posts which acted as lookout to spot and to warn of predators. 

Redshank
 
The Redshanks that breed in inland and upland parts of the UK are known to move to the coast for winter where studies show that the species is very site faithful from one winter to the next, as perfectly detailed in the chart above. Almost certainly this Redshank is equally true to its summertime home in Bowland. 

If I get up the in the next week or two I shall look out for it but even as early as July it may have left on its journey to the south of England. 

Redshank

But then all Redshanks don't wear such obvious bling.




Source Another Bird Blog

Saturday Sport

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Saturday morning began bright and clear with a forecast of no rain. It looked spot on for birding in the hills. 

I set off over the flat roads of my local patch all the time driving north and east, a direction that took me into the hills above Garstang where our common waders breed. Hopefully I would be able to practice a bit more with the new Sigma lens. The Canon 400mm lens has gone for repair and it will be three weeks or more before I hear the news, good or bad. 

There are lots of pictures today and not much text. Highlights today were 2 Cuckoos calling from the fell sides, dozens of Meadow Pipits with a few feeding young, a colour ringed Redshank, and then a Curlew chick to ring.  Read on and don’t forget to “click the pics”. 

The journey to Garstang and beyond takes me firstly over the flat moss roads of Out Rawcliffe and then another 5/10 miles to the edge of the Bowland Hills. Soon after sunrise the silence broke to the sounds of Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Curlews, Lapwings and Snipe. Pipits and wagtails were everywhere as a Reed Bunting or two made for a little variety. 

Rawcliffe Moss, Lancashire

Bowland road, Lancashire

In the roadside trees Willow Warblers sang softly while Siskins pinged, Lesser Redpolls chattered and Chaffinches cheeped. Mistle Thrush proved plentiful if shy with small family parties almost everywhere I stopped. 

Dry stone walls and fence posts are ideal places from which to display and take a look at what the neighbours are up to. They’re also handy for the advance spotting of predators and folk with lenses poking from car windows. 

Oystercatcher

Meadow Pipit

Bowland road, Lancashire

Three or four Snipe “drummed through the sky and called from vantage points but none came close enough for a decent photo. I’m fairly impressed with the Sigma lens but with it being a both zoom and a bulkier item than the Canon it does take a second or two more to get into position.  The lens has very good "bokeh", (the quality of out-of-focus or “blurry” parts of the image), as can be seen here. With birds there’s rarely a moment to lose before deciding on the best way to shoot and hoping the bird doesn’t fly off. The long reach of the Sigma 600mm is nice to have but it probably makes me try for pictures that I would not have attempted with the Canon's fixed 400mm.

Snipe

Oystercatcher

Snipe

Oystercatcher

Meadow Pipit
 
There’s a lot of background “noise” in the picture below but it was shot in bright sun at eighty yards or so. There’s a different Redshank below that, one colour ringed on the right leg. Through the colour combinations I will find out where and when this bird was first ringed but it seems unlikely it was ringed up here in the hills. The coastline of the UK seems a better bet. 

Redshank

Redshank

 
Redshank

Bowland road, Lancashire

Pied Wagtail

From nowhere two Curlew chicks suddenly ran across the road ahead, a guiding adult overhead. They made for the longer grass on the other side of the road. I intercepted one chick as the other vanished as if by magic. There’s no point in looking for wader chicks in dense, long grass so I quickly ringed the one I had, placed it in the grass and let the adult call it away to safety. "Never go out without a box of rings and pliers" is the motto.

Curlew chick
 
Bowland, Lancashire

Meadow Pipit

Lapwing 

 
Lapwing

 Bowland, Lancashire

That's all for today folks. Hope you enjoyed the trip through the hills.

Source Another Bird Blog

Into June

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Yes, regular reader, I know Wednesday was perfect for birding and photography but I was busy with half-term duties. Today was the first opportunity to get out and about and although weather-wise this morning wasn’t the best, it was dry and warm for the first birding of June. 

The set-aside at Cockerham is coming on a treat with lots of oil-seed rape in the mix giving the field a bright yellow glow. I stopped off to check out the couple of pairs of Skylarks close by. 

Set-aside field - June 2017

Skylark

Skylark

As before, Gulf Lane is still off limits for ringing due to the latest ringing ban caused following the latest avian flu. But that doesn’t stop us getting details of a recovery from our ringing of over 200 Linnets during the winter. 

This time it wasn’t a Linnet but a Reed Bunting that popped into the in-tray. Andy and I ringed Z860844 a first autumn female Reed Bunting on 12 October 2016, one of only two Reed Buntings caught from September 2016 to March 2017 at Gulf Lane where Linnets were the main target. There is a wet ditch running alongside the plot of set-aside and to see and/or hear a Reed Bunting or two is pretty regular. 

Reed Bunting
 
The BTO details tell us that Z860844 was recaptured by another ringer on 10 May 2017 at Little Crosthwaite, near Keswick, Cumbria, UK, 81 km NNW of Gulf Lane. Unfortunately the recapture information didn’t tell us if the female was in breeding condition or in a potential breeding locality on 10 May even though the date would suggest it should be. 

Reed Bunting - Cockerham to Keswick, Cumbria

At Conder Green the roadside Oystercatchers have gone from the now empty nest. We will never know for sure what happened but maybe the pair will learn from their mistake in laying eggs so close to a very busy spot. It’s not just eggs that disappear as the pair of Avocets that a day or two had two youngsters now gone missing to ground or avian predators. 

I saw eight Avocets this morning of which two pair appears to be nesting and the other four birds being only possibilities as it is now into June. Also, they spent a lot of time flying between the pool and the creeks rather than sorting out any domestic arrangements.

The remaining Oystercatchers are doing okay with 7 or 8 pairs in attendance and one of those pairs still with two growing youngsters. Otherwise – 65 Black-tailed Godwit, 14 Shelduck, 8 Tufted Duck, 2 Common tern, 4 Little Egret, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Kestrel. 

A circuit of Jeremy Lane and Moss Lane was a little quiet perhaps due to the cooler, cloudier morning; but I did count 10 Skylark, 7 Sedge Warbler, 6 Whitethroat, 6 Tree Sparrow, 4 Reed Bunting 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Reed Warbler at least two broods of recently fledged Pied Wagtails. 

Pied Wagtail

If anyone saw the Autumn Watch programme on TV the other evening they may have wondered why the BBC found it so hard to show us Brown Hares? They are all at Cockerham BBC! 

Brown Hare

Brown Hares

Nothing doing tomorrow as my car is due a main service, but back to normal Saturday on Another Bird Blog. 




Source Another Bird Blog

Slowly Does It

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
As I drove slowly along Head Dyke Lane I heard a singing Chiffchaff and then saw a Kestrel watching over a field from an overhead line. At Gulf Lane the sitting Oystercatcher raised her head above the crop to see what the stopped vehicle was up to. She sounded a warning but the rapidly growing crop has already outpaced any tiny youngsters and I couldn’t see them. A pair of Skylarks circled and then dropped into the same area of the field and I made a mental note of the spot for another day. 

All I saw from the Braides Farm gateway was a single Roe Deer, 400 yards from me but just a few yards from the sea wall with not a tree in sight; a strange beginning to my journey of Cockerham to Conder Green. 

Roe Deer

There are still 3 pair of Avocets at Conder Pool and one pair have two youngsters that scurried along the water’s edge at their parents’ behest. 

Avocets

Meanwhile the Oystercatchers with the roadside nest still play chicken with each car that passes by. It’s a weird routine they have; I watched them do the same thing over and over. The female stays on the nest for passing vehicles but if one slows or stops she walks off the nest, crosses the road to the edge of the creek, calls, and then waits until the male joins her. There’s a crow continually trying to rob the nest so one of the Oystercatchers is tasked with chasing off the villain. When all returns to normal, cars and crows, the female crosses the road again and sits back on the nest. If the “oyks” pull this one off they deserve a medal for perseverance. 

A second pair of Oystercatchers that nested to the left of the screen now has two tiny youngsters, with at a guess still three to five other pairs yet to hatch their young. 

Oystercatcher
 
Oystercatcher chick

Black-tailed Godwit numbered 120+ again feeding in the creek or the very far side of the pool. It’s late in May for so many lingering godwits when by rights they should be well north of here, especially since a good number are in adult-like plumage. Of course each day could see different birds passing through but who’s to know for sure? They are a colourful and welcome addition to the usual year round waders and I imagine a few non-breeders may actually spend the summer here. 

Black-tailed Godwits

On the pool and close by – 1 Little Grebe, 6 Tufted Duck, 8 Shelduck, 10 Redshank, 2 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 4 Whitethroat, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Reed Warbler. 

Shelduck - male

 Shelduck - female

There was another Reed Warbler on the Jeremy Lane circuit where the roadside ditches are in great shape with their mix of bramble, nettle, scattered hawthorn bushes and fine stands of phragmites reed. 

On the leisurely circuit up to Cockersands and back I counted 10+ singing Sedge Warber, 8 Whitethroat, 8+ Skylark, 4 Reed Bunting and 1 Blackcap as i stopped here and there to take a closer look. 

Sedge Warbler

 
 Sedge Warbler

In the fields nearest to Cockersands where Lapwings and Skylarks were ploughed out by spring farming I noted at least three Lapwings sat in new nests. After the recent drought the earthis now almost bare and very dry. Let’s hope the Lapwings have better luck this time. 

Lapwing

For weeks I’ve tried to get half decent pictures of a Brown Hare.  Today the roadside growth partly hid the car as it slowly edged along the road allowing me to stop and turn off the engine. When soon another, taller vehicle came along the hare dashed off across the field into the distance. 

Brown Hare

Brown Hare

Those long and powerful hind legs allow a Brown Hare to run at up to 35mph - pretty useful if you don’t fancy being “jugged” or roasted.  On the other hand we all know the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, the best-known of Aesop's Fables where the hare loses a race through being over confident of its speed. 

Maybe there’s a lesson for some birders?  Slow down, you will both see and learn more by travelling at a nice steady pace, stopping and starting where necessary, instead of dashing around like a headless chicken and seeing bugger all.

Linking today to Anni's birding.



Source Another Bird Blog

Shooting Times

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
After the mishap in Menorca my Canon lens has gone to the lens doctor for a thorough examination. It may or may not come back, and it could be three to four weeks before the decision. I chanced upon a possible replacement, a Sigma, a lens which by all accounts performs quite well. 

So I waited for a sunny day to test out the substitute, and when this morning dawned bright I took off for the hills of Bowland with fingers crossed. 

Lapwings and Curlews were in good numbers but I struggled to see and photograph both Oystercatchers and Redshanks. Maybe another week will see more activity as young emerge from the mostly distant nests I could see and hear but not picture. The Lapwing I photographed had young, perhaps obvious from the demeanour of the adult as it frantically warned the youngsters in the field to run and hide. It’s unusual to see a Lapwing on a wall. 

Lapwing

Lapwing

I slowed the car hoping to photograph a Snipe calling from a roadside post. The road was a little too narrow and the Snipe flew off into the rushy field. I made a mental note of the spot for another day. A pair of Curlew had two youngsters on a date I thought rather early. Against the light and into the bright cotton grass came a couple of pictures. 

Curlew
 

Curlew

I saw lots of Meadow Pipits but none appeared to have youngsters just yet. Catching them on a roadside post or a wall with a beak full of food makes for the best chance of a picture but none would perform today. Likewise the Pied and Grey Wagtails; the former outnumbered the latter by 10/1 on my journey, the Pied seen almost everywhere, the Greys mostly at Marshaw stream. 

Meadow Pipit

It was near Marshaw and Tower Lodge I saw and heard good numbers of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Also, a pair of Stonechat feeding young out of the nest and several pairs of Mistle Thrush, one of them feeding a just fledged youngster. 

I had an unusual one today – a Red Grouse chick. As I tried to photograph a pair of adults I saw two youngsters scrambling up the roadside bank trying to reach their parents. 

Red Grouse chick

Red Grouse

The Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica, also known as the moorcock, moorfowl or moorbird is a bird of heather moorland with a range restricted to areas of blanket bog and upland shrub heath. It is a subspecies of the Willow Grouse Lagopus lagopus lagopus, whose range extends across the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia and North America. The Red Grouse differs by not developing white plumage during winter and having a diet almost exclusively of heather. 

Since the mid-1800s, upland areas of heather have been managed to produce grouse for shooting. Grouse shooting has been one of the major land uses of upland ground and an important source of income for many estates. 

The Red Grouse population is declining, perhaps linked to diseases, the loss of heather moorland largely due to over-grazing by sheep, and conversion to forestry. Numbers have declined seriously in Scotland and grouse are now only present in very low numbers in Wales. 

The Red Grouse is considered a game bird and is shot in large numbers during the shooting season which traditionally starts on August 12, known as the Glorious Twelfth. There is a keen competition among some London restaurants to serve freshly killed grouse on August 12, with birds being flown from the moors and cooked within hours. 

Many moors are managed to increase the density of grouse. Areas of heather are subjected to controlled burning; this allows fresh young shoots to regenerate, which are favoured by the grouse. Extensive predator control is a feature of grouse moor management: foxes, stoats and crows are usually heavily controlled on grouse moors. The extent to which it occurs on grouse moors is of course hotly contested between conservation groups and shooting interests. The subject generates a lot of media attention in relation to grouse moors and shooting with one bird of prey in particular, the Hen Harrier, a major source of dispute. 

I didn’t see a single raptor this morning, no Kestrels or Buzzards, not a Sparrowhawk nor a Goshawk, and certainly no Hen Harriers. Just a coincidence I’m sure. 

Standby for more shooting from Another Bird Blog – camera only.