Thursday, February 4, 2016

Birding Home And Away

After arriving back from holiday late on Sunday it’s been hard to find the time or even the motivation to go birding. But om Wednesday morning I dug my hat, gloves and birding jacket out of the car boot in the sure knowledge that the feel of a Lancashire winter at 5⁰ is in stark contrast to two weeks of Lanzarote’s wall-to-wall sunshine and 23⁰. 

Wednesday was my turn on the Oakenclough rota. It was time to top the feeders and check the numbers of birds feeding there in case the weather should relent and allow a ringing session - a week from now looks a possibility after yet another stormy weekend ahead! 

Andy topped up last Saturday and reported decent numbers of Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Coal Tits, concentrated as usual in the least windy spots. Three feeders were barely touched, another three close to empty. So it was a minimal top-up in the more exposed feeders and a heftier dollop of nyger in the others. There was nothing in the way of extra species apart from at least two Mistle Thrushes in full voice. 

Goldfinch

Mistle Thrush

That was the extent of my birding, so for this post I’m including a few pictures from the Lanzarote of late January. 

Lanzarote had enjoyed the driest, warmest November, December and January on record with virtually nil rainfall and endless sunny days. This historic and glorious weather continued during our two week stay with barely a cloud to be seen. We took many coastal walks in the immediate area venturing out in the hire car on just three or four days. 

Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

The dryness of the landscape can be seen in the picture above but few walkers ventured from obvious paths to look for birds like Berthelot’s Pipit, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Trumpeter Finch, Desert Grey Shrike or Linnet. A number of Berthelot’s were feeding young but judging by the large numbers of larks around in groups and even small flocks, their breeding season was more advanced. The larks hugged the ground so much in their cryptic brown plumage that it was almost impossible to get close before one exploded into the sky and took many more along. On one walk 40 or more Lesser Short- toed Larks took to the air upon spotting my approach.

Berthelot's Pipit

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Berthelot's Pipit

Desert Grey Shrike- Lanius elegans koenigi

Trumpeter Finch

From the coastal paths could be seen Sandwich Tern, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper. On a couple of days and very close to the hotel we found a party of three Hoopoes. In parts of the Mediterranean I’m used to Hoopoes being very approachable but this trio proved hard to close. 

Hoopoes

Hoopoe

Fortunately the dry and dust of the coastal paths would often lead to a watering hole or two for thirsty travellers like ourselves. 

 Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

There’s more home or away birding soon on Another Bird Blog. Don’t miss it.

Linking today with Anni's Blog and  Eileen's Saturday.

Monday, February 1, 2016

In Recovery Mode

“Welcome to Manchester” crackled the pilot over the intercom without a hint of irony. “The temperature outside is ten degrees and it is raining quite hard. Be careful as you step onto the air-bridge as it is wet and slippery”. 

After two weeks in the endless sunshine of Lanzarote we arrived home with a soggy reminder of why we felt the need for a change from the UK winter of 2015/16. Speeding though the darkness of Sunday evening the roadside pastures glistened wet and deep. Nothing much had changed. 

After a day or two of domestic catch up and readjustment I’ll be ready for a spot of birding, but in the meantime came news of a couple of recaptures/recoveries. 

While I was busy sunning in Spain, and despite the poor weather here, Andy braved a couple of ringing sessions at Oakenclough. It was the ringing site which provided an interesting Goldcrest movement of last autumn and when the migration of Goldcrests was particularly noticeable. During August, September and October of 2015 we caught 73 Goldcrests at the site. 

We ringed HDN315 a juvenile male on 9th September whereupon it was recaptured 41 days later on 20th October by other ringers at Rollesby, Gt Yarmouth, close to the Notfolk coastline. This is a distance of 319kms. Autumn movements of British Goldcrests show a distinct northwest to southeast axis, the likely origins of the birds being the extensive conifer forests of Scotland and Northern England and the southerly destination of the birds generally unknown. Small numbers of Goldcrests are proven to have crossed to the near continent where they winter. Perhaps our Goldcrest was on its way to France or Belgium to escape the British winter? 

Goldcrest - Oakenclough to Norfolk

Goldcrest

During the summer of 2015 we made four visits to a Sand Martin colony at Cockerham where we ringed 169 Sand Martins and one or two other bits and pieces. 

Sand Martin number Z470329,a male in breeding condition on 30 June 2015 was subsequently recaptured by French ringers on 30th July, exactly a month later at Roseliere, Chenac-Saint-Seurin-d'Uzet, Charente-Maritime, France. 

Sand Martin

 Sand Martin - Cockerham to Roseliere, Chenac-Saint-Seurin-d'Uzet,

This is a distance of 949 km and at 172deg, almost exactly due south from Cockerham. Sand Martins are some of our earliest arriving migrants during March and April and are often gone from the UK by August, especially so during 2015 when a poor breeding season meant that this Sand Martin colony dispersed early with little noticeable breeding success. By late July our Sand Martin Z470329 had further to travel before reaching its wintering quarters of North Africa. 

There should be more local news soon and maybe some birds and views from Lanzarote. In the meantime Another Bird Blog may have to take a little sundowner this evening to help the recovery along by pretending that summer is heading this way. 

Lanzarote - January 2016

Yellow-legged Gull - Lanzarote

Log in soon. Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Birding In The Sun

Sue and I are in Lanzarote, Spain. Until we return home here are more photos of Lanzarote together with some of the birds met along the way. 

At any time of year near perfect weather is more or less guaranteed in the Canary Islands. It gets windy sometimes and storms aren’t totally unknown, but at the moment it’s sun every day and temperatures hovering between 21- 23C. Whenever we go the attire is nearly always shorts and a tee shirt with a light jacket as backup for the cool of morning or evening. 

All over the island of Lanzarote is the influence of the visionary artist, architect and environmentalist César Manrique who saved Lanzarote from the effects of rampant tourist development. His unusual creations emphasise the unique landscapes and geology of the island and are a major attraction to travellers. 
 
Fondación César Manrique - Near Tahiche, Lanzarote. 

Agave attenuata - Lanzarote

Lanzarote is rain-free for 95% of the year producing a near desert like environment in many places. It’s a landscape attractive to three speciality birds of the island, Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser and Stone Curlew but none of them are easy to find in the type of terrain they inhabit.

Houbara Bustard

Stone Curlew 

Beware! - Bustards about

Watermelon - Lanzarote

Berthelot’s Pipits are fairly common if sometimes difficult to pick out against the often grey, volcanic landscape. They are known to run around the feet of the tourists where there’s often a morsel or two of food, preferably the local queso tierno (tender cheese). Just occasionally I have seen Berthelot’s Pipits in the grounds of the hotel, once whilst lazing on a sunbed as the pipit walked along a nearby path. They also occur in nearby residential areas in amongst unfinished roads or housing developments, as do Desert Grey Shrikes, Linnets, Spanish Sparrows and Collared Doves.

Berthelot's Pipit

A favourite drive is to head south along the coast to the village of El Golfo where we stop for a coffee or a snack followed by a walk along the headland where Yellow-legged Gulls abound but Lesser Black-backed Gulls are more common at migration time. There’s usually a Little Egret to be found amongst the rocks, together with small numbers of Common Sandpiper, Turnstone or Whimbrel.

El Golfo - Lanzarote

Yellow-legged Gull

Little Egret

Whimbrel

Turnstone

Thank you everyone for continuing to visit Another Bird Blog in my absence. If you leave a comment I promise to get back to you as soon as possible via the hotel WiFi. Failing that I will return your message as soon as possible when back in England.



Friday, January 22, 2016

Canary Time

Regular readers may not be surprised to hear that Sue and I have escaped the wet and wind of Lancashire to take the winter sunshine of Lanzarote, the northernmost of the Canary Islands, Spain. Don't forget to click on the pictures below for a better view of Lanzarote and its birds.

The Canary Islands

After four hours from Manchester Airport followed by a 10 kilometres drive from Arrecife Airport we’re quickly ensconced in our hotel close to Puerto Calero on the South-West coast of Lanzarote. 

The upmarket marina just 500 yards away at Peurto Calero is a great place to unwind, ogle the fabulous (and expensive) boats and boutiques while soaking up a bit of the luxury atmosphere that permeates the whole place. A few hours sat in one of the cafes or restaurants makes for a great place to relax away from the winter gloom of Lancashire. 

The Marina, Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

There aren’t too many birds in the immediate area but by including a walk over the headland to Playa Quemada and a slightly different route on the return journey the first couple of days produce a useful number of species. We clocked up Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Desert Grey Shrike, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Spanish Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Sandpiper, Berthelot’s Pipit, Little Egret, Kestrel, Linnet and Trumpeter Finch. It’s a sunshine list not to be sniffed at. 

Common Sandpiper
  
Little Egret

Desert Grey Shrike

The Lanzarote Desert Grey Shrike is a bird of open country but also something of a garden bird where it can be found on boundary walls, roofs and often singing from TV aerials. 

Desert Grey Shrike

Spanish Sparrow

Berthelot's Pipit
  
Playa Quemada

Turnstone

We're usually back from our walks for the afternoon when we grab some well earned sunshine.

Hotel Costa Calero, Lanzarote

Although we have a hire car the general idea is to gently relax and explore slowly rather than spend two weeks dashing about the island. 

There are several spots in the south and west of the island just a short drive away from base camp. Another day a route takes us through the tranquil town of Yaiza and then towards the salt lagoons, Salinas de Janubio. 

Yaiza

A trek around the salt pans of Janubio and the adjacent shore sees a good selection of waders and one or two wildfowl species including Black-necked Grebe, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Grey Plover and Little Stint. Just yards from the shore, the salt pans can often be quite windswept making for a challenge in photographing the very active Black-winged Stilts and the good number of other waders which use the locality. 

Black-winged Stilt

Overlooking the salt pans the mirador (viewpoint) café is usually a good spot to see Berthelot’s Pipit, Trumpeter Finch and Spanish Sparrow while sat sampling the local apple pie.

 The Mirador - Janubio, Lanzarote

Trumpeter Finch

Apple Pie- Lanzarote Style

That’s all for now but there’s more from Lanzarote very soon, so stay tuned. 



Friday, January 15, 2016

Whistler In The Wind

There was snow this morning. Looking north over Morecambe Bay it was obvious the Lakeland hills had taken a hit. Down here on the Fylde coast I was thankful the white stuff had barely coated the roads. 

There's Snow In Them Thar Hills

I stopped off at Cockerham’s weedy field to see that the recent Linnet flock still numbers circa 120, and although there was no sign of Stonechats, there were 2 Reed Buntings. 

Linnet

There was a Kestrel near the farm buildings with four wildfowler’s cars parked up, the occupants already ensconced out on the marsh but the geese flying high above the guns and out of range. Many geese must have circled and then dropped back near the sea wall because less than a mile away at Sand Villa/Braides were upwards of 1500 geese feeding in fields immediately behind the embankment. 

Pink-footed Geese

At Braides Farm the extensive flood held several hundred each of Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Starlings and alongside the seaward path a Buzzard on the distant fence. 

Buzzard

It had been many weeks of rain and bluster since my last visit to Conder Green where by all accounts the pool would be full to overflowing. So it was, with the almost submerged islands and the broad sweep of deep water holding 38 Wigeon, 6 Little Grebe, 35 Lapwing, 3 Snipe, a single Goldeneye and 30 or more Teal. Many more Teal were in the nearby creeks to give a respectable total nearer to 140 of our smallest dabbling duck. There was no sign of the recently reported and wintering Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper, hidden from view today in the meandering creeks. 

Teal

A few bits and pieces enlivened the railway bridge walk. Namely - 2 Pied Wagtail, a single Rock Pipit, a singing Greenfinch accompanied by a second bird, a Reed Bunting and 8+ Chaffinch around the car park/café. How strange it seems that the once abundant Greenfinch is now so scarce that a sighting of a single one should be both noted and applauded.
 
Greenfinch

I parked up at Glasson Dock with a count of 1 Grey Heron, 15 Tufted Duck, 8 Cormorant and 15 Goldeneye, 13 males and 2 females. A couple of the Goldeneye whistled overhead and out to the Lune estuary. The whistling sound of a Goldeneye’s wings in flight is quite unique and the reason why North American shooters in particular call the species “The Whistler”. 

Male Goldeneyes

Now here’s a question for all the bird experts lurking out in blogosphere. And let’s face it there are lots ready to pounce, as anyone who sweats blood and tears to produce a regular blog while inviting comments will testify. 

Why do male Goldeneyes cruise mob handed around our winter waters? OK, by looking carefully you may find a dowdy looking female sailing on the far edge of the eye-catching black & white jamborees, but the general impression is that guys rule and don’t they know it. In fact the reason for the mostly all-male gatherings involves that old fashioned word “courtship”. (Readers below the age of forty might wish to consult a dictionary). 

Goldeneyes indulge in communal courtship where gangs of males with one or two females in attendance are a precurser to the male Goldeneyes’ elaborate displays designed to snare a willing member of the opposite sex. These presentations include much throwing, shaking and stretching of the head and neck together with over-egged wing fluttering. As we near the end of winter the elaborate but highly ritualised displays should begin any day now. 



Log in to Another Bird Blog soon for more news, views and pictures of tuneful birds.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday Blog.
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