Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Swallows On The Move

There’s was a fair old wind blowing for the past couple of days with conditions which didn’t inspire me to do much birding. This morning was better, sunny and even flat calm for about an hour until the easterly breeze sprung up again but by then I was back home for granddad duties 

Swallows were the feature of the morning with more than 400 feeding around the yacht basin at Glasson Dock and then a steady passage of them heading east along the shore at Pilling between 0930 and 1100. Bird counting enthusiasts should try counting the number of Swallows along the rails of the boat in the second picture below. Answers on a postcard to…… 


Swallows at Glasson



Wagtails were the other feature of the morning with a combined count of 45+ “alba” wagtails at Glasson and Conder Green. At this time of year when Continental and Icelandic White Wagtails join in with native Pied Wagtails it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the two in the field, especially when most of those seen are juveniles in various stages of post juvenile moult. Seemingly there are bird watchers who can do the business with ease but to do so is a time consuming exercise without any guarantee of real success. Perhaps it’s time to lump the two together especially since the “species” are known to interbreed. 

A Pied Wagtail at Conder Green had to make way for a Kingfisher which arrived to take up the usual position on the sluice wall. The light was better than a few days ago but the Kingfisher stayed for one pose and for a few seconds only 

Pied Wagtail


Two Common Terns fished the pool and the marsh returning on several occasions with fish for their youngster(s). The usual waders and wildfowl were about the usual areas of pool and creek with counts today of 45+ Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Wigeon, 2 Cormorant, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe, etc, etc. 

Black-headed Gull

There was an increase to 13 Teal today plus the unusual sighting here of 6 Stock Dove arriving to feed on the weedy margins of the pools where a flock of 35+ Goldfinch spent some time too. 

I stopped at Braides Farm where for fifteen minutes a steady stream of Swallows flew left to right, west to east and I continued on to Pilling. 

I found 3 Buzzards at Fluke Hall a group which appear to be a family of 2 adults, at least one in moult, and a juvenile of the year. All of our UK raptors are secretive when breeding, the still persecuted Buzzard most definitely having to conform to that rule; but unless I’m mistaken the often overlooked but discreet Buzzards of Fluke Hall have bred again this summer. 


Along the sea wall 2 Greenshank, 3 Wheatear, 20+ Goldfinch, 1 Skylark, 3 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron. 

By now the Swallow movement had abated somewhat and Granddad was needed back home. 

There's more soon from Another Bird Blog. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bank Holiday Blues

There’s a little part time birding and a few pictures from Saturday morning, it’s all I could manage, and if I’m honest Bank Holiday Weekend birding fills me with dread. 

It rained overnight and into the morning, so much so that my trip to Knott End for a spot of soft-core birding was delayed until 0815. The sun was breaking through, rain clouds headed south up The River Wyre and ahead of a hint of northerly, a recipe which often leaves a glorious morning light to fill the estuary. 

Not for the first time I paused to survey the scene, clicked the shutter button and thanked my lucky stars that I live in such a beautiful part of the UK. I walked in the direction of the dark clouds safe in the knowledge that the morning would remain fine and that I would see a good selection of commonplace birds.

Double click your LH mouse for a slide show of Wyre, Lancashire and just a few of the county's common birds. 

The River Wyre looking North West

The River Wyre looking South East

From the car park I’d noted masses of Oystercatchers on the mussel beds at the mouth of estuary, the rocky islands just beginning to flood and the Oystercatchers to leave. It’s quite a spectacle to see and hear hundreds of oyks “kleep-kleeping” to their up-river roost, not en-masse just a steady stream of tens and twenties until an hour later you’ve counted 450+ and there’s still some left on the shore. Redshanks and Curlews were on the move too, flying up river in their small exclusive groups which never mix with the numerous and noisy gangs of Oystercatchers. 90+ Redshank and 42 Curlew went in the notebook. 


I didn’t find many birds up here but the antics of the weekend golfers make for alternative entertainment. And to be fair they often send a fairway feeding wagtail in my direction as they did today, plus an autumn Meadow Pipit. Half a dozen Goldfinch, a few Dunnocks and Robins in the willow/hawthorn stretch and then it was time to head back down river where the incoming tide would fill the shore. 

At the ferry jetty I noted 2 Pied Wagtail, on the tideline 2 Grey Heron and a Little Egret, a good number of small and scattered waders which the tide should concentrate, and the screeches of Sandwich Terns. 

Sandwich Tern

There was a good selection of waders with a few more northerly species making a “welcome” comeback. A question - why do birders wish the seasons and their lives away to see birds that they are only too familiar with? 

I mustered 6 Turnstone, 68 Dunlin, 27 Ringed Plover, 6 Grey Plover, 7 Sanderling and 17 Sandwich Tern 



There was horse rider on the beach who decided to drive her mount fast along the tideline. She stopped to scan her mobile phone before charging off again and so scattering the birds to the far horizons and sending me back home. Yes, this part of Lancashire is rather special, mostly. 

The River Wyre, Lancashire

There’s more birding soon on Another Bird Blog if you decide to return, Bank Holiday or not.

Linking today to Our World Tuesday and Stewart's World Bird Wedesday .

Friday, August 22, 2014

In The Bag

Not a bad morning. A spot of birding, another Wheatear in the bag and I even nailed the reluctant Kingfisher.

The forecast was for a sunny day so I headed for Conder and Glasson but as the windscreen wipers drew back and forth I wondered if I’d made the right decision. The rain was quite steady at Conder Green where an initial look into the creek revealed the usual wader suspects and their by now consistent numbers - 2 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 5 Common Sandpiper, 4 Snipe, 28 Redshank, 4 Curlew. 

The Lapwings seemed flighty this morning, not just those around the pool but the ones hidden from view near the canal. Their regular eruptions into the air before settling back down allowed a count of more than 150. Herons and wildfowl remain the same with 2 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron, 5 Little Grebe, 2 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Wigeon. 

A Cormorant dropped in to feed, those are raindrops in the photo, the ISO at 800, and both I and the camera were getting wet. Time to head off to Glasson and bird via the car until the rain stopped. 


Seven Pied Wagtails and 2 Grey Wagtails near the Glasson car park with a Grey Heron on the far jetty and about 60 Swallows feeding over the water. 

I took a few rain spotted pictures of the resident but far from tame Tufted Ducks, their wary eyes watching my every move. I rather admire our commonplace and largely ignored UK Tufted Duck, a duck of town and city parks with ornamental lakes and ponds. But the Tufty is also a highly migratory beast whereby their numbers increase in the UK in winter as birds move here to escape the cold winters of Iceland and northern Europe. The numbers at Glasson Dock will swell from the present 15/20 to nearer 80/90 during the winter months. 

Tufted Duck

The sky was brightening a little so I made my way back to Conder Green. 

Looking North from Conder Green

At the pool a Kingfisher was surveying the scenery and fishing the waters. Don't forget to "click the pics" for close-up views of the Kingfisher.









There's nothing much to add to the earlier numbers of birds except that both Common Terns took their share of the tiny fish on offer and then returned to their nest on the island where they fed the hidden from view youngsters.

There was time for Pilling Marsh where I found Buzzard, Kestrel, Greenshank, 7 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron and 5 Wheatears. One Wheatear, a juvenile of 96mm and 25.1 grams, succumbed to the temptation of a meal worm. 

Pilling Marsh


Wheatear - juvenile

  Log in soon fior more news, views and pictures with Another Bird Blog.

Linking this post to Anni's Blog, Eileen's Saturday and Weekend Reflections.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One Of These Days

Conder Green was pretty good this morning by way of an excellent selection of waders which included another Wood Sandpiper to follow the one I found here on August 7th, the day after one at Pilling on 6th August. Three Wood Sandpipers is a mighty big August count in this neck of the woods. 

I started at Lane Ends, Pilling with a look for the Little Egret roost which breaks up soon after dawn as the birds head off in all directions from the tall trees on the island. The egrets were there with some already leaving the roost but none daring to fly over the car as it headed into the car park. There was a count of 23 and less than thirty seconds later a big zero as the egrets flew mainly west and north. Later I was to walk to Pilling Water where I counted just 2 Little Egret! 

Little Egret

Conder Green looked and felt pretty bleak this morning, hat and coat for me, an autumnal nip in the air and apparently not much doing on the birding front. Thankfully and with the usual perseverance both the temperature and the birding picked up somewhat. 

There’s a Kingfisher here which isn’t too obliging as it flies off at the first hint of a human being. Today it appeared at the edge of the nearest island, flew to the sluice gate, took a look around and then promptly flew off over the pool towards the canal - its behavioural pattern of late. One of these days….. 


At the back of the pool below the dividing bank was the head of a sandpiper, clearly a Green or a Wood, and when it came into full view the scope confirmed it as a Wood Sandpiper. It fed around the margins for 10 or 15 minutes, even surviving the close appearance of three loudly calling Greenshank before it flew off in a south easterly direction. I did get a shot of sorts of the 3 Greenshank but the smaller sandpiper was even more distant and partially hidden too. One of these days…. 


Five Little Grebe and 7 Teal continues their respective autumnal build-up, unlike the 2 Wigeon which have been resident all summer. Just 1 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 1 Cormorant this morning. There were a good number of wagtails about the margins of the pool and the islands with a count of 12+ Pied Wagtails, a few distant and hidden ones becoming “albas”. 

The tide was on the run and moving a number of birds around the creek with an impressive party of 7 Goosander fishing the slight bore of the incoming tide. In the wader stakes I saw 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Snipe, 6 Common Sandpiper, 4 Curlew, 24 Redshank, 2 Dunlin and 2 Oystercatcher. 

The Common Terns are now busy feeding their unseen but clearly hungry young with both parents arriving with food in quick succession. One of the adults made several trips to the marsh just beyond the railway bridge, returning to the island with small fish and then mercilessly chasing off a nearby Black-headed Gull; all the signs of good parenting. 

Glasson Dock was pretty uneventful unless you count the usual early morning gathering of 130 Swallows. Otherwise - 1 Swift, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtail, 6 Pied Wagtail. As usual a few Swallows sat along the fence rail of the dock gates, a quick launch point towards the many insects feeding over the water.

Barn Swallow

There was time for a look at Pilling where there might be new Wheatears to catch. No such luck as when I found three together none were interested in my meal worms and then I spotted a ring on the right leg of one - a bird I ringed on Monday. Birds are quick learners. 


 Just another day on Another Bird Blog. There will be more soon if you log in and look.

Linking today to Theresa's Texas Ranch.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August Wheat

The weekend was very windy with almost northerly gales at times and frequent bouts of rain. So I waited until Monday lunch time before a spot of birding along the sea wall at Pilling, perhaps not the best choice as the tide was out and it was still windy. There are very few birds to report except that I did catch my first two Wheatears of this autumn. 

Buzzards were at Fluke Hall again, two feeding in the potato field where they pick through the recently harvested earth and the remaining crop for earthworms and such like. I’d hardly set foot along the sea wall before the Buzzards saw me coming and headed off out of sight. Later there was another Buzzard at Pilling Water which flew towards Fluke Hall, so possibly number three. 

The Buzzards gave way to a Kestrel which hovered above the sea wall for a while until it too flew to the south of the woodland, and later a definite second Kestrel, this one flying back towards Damside. 


Along Pilling Water, 2 Grey Heron, and out on the marsh 3 Little Egret. Passerines were few and far in the still strong wind with a smattering of Linnets maybe 20 in total, 7 Goldfinch, 1 Pied Wagtail, and 20+ Tree Sparrows at Fluke Hall. 

At Piling Water were 3 Wheatears, an adult and 2 juveniles, the juveniles sticking together but the adult some way off. Of two birds caught one was an adult female still in post-breeding moult, the other was one of the two juveniles. The adult had a wing length of 93mm and a weight of 24.1 grams so a nominate Oenanthe oenanthe. The noticeable bulkier juvenile weighed 28.9 grams with a wing chord of 99mm, and therefore a possible leucorhoa “Greenland“ type. 


Wheatear - adult post-breeding moult

Wheatear - adult female

Wheatear - juvenile

Wheatear - juvenile

Wheatear - juvenile

 There more of August very soon with Another Bird Blog. In the meantime I'm linging to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It’s Wagtime

There seemed to be wagtails everywhere I went this morning, mainly the black & white variety, but also the grey one and even the scarce yellow variety. There was an early autumn Merlin too. 

I started off at Glasson Dock where the Swallow numbers have been tied to the ups and downs of the weather. After the rain and wind of early week and a few blankish Swallow days there was an increase to circa130 on this fine but not entirely sunny morning. There were about 10 House Martins in with the Swallows, all feeding around the moored boats as usual. Also feeding over the water was a single Common Tern, the one I noted as flying back towards Conder Green again and also arriving at the island with fishy food some twenty minutes later. 

Around the moored boats and along the towpath I counted 8 Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail and 1 Grey Heron with 70+ House Sparrows and a flock of 30 Goldfinch near the bowling green. 

Grey Wagtail

After a series of high tides there’s lots of water in Conder Pool now, the muddy margins all but swamped just as the water level was looking ideal to attract autumn waders. A Kingfisher showed by flying to the sluice wall and then back along the edge of the pool on two occasions but was so reluctant to stay around that I didn’t get a single picture. 

Also on the water were 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Wigeon and 1 Cormorant. Also the previously mentioned 2 Common Terns at the island which have clearly nested this time to become the first pair for a number of years in the Lancaster area. 

Apart from 110 Lapwings roosting on the islands the remaining waders were in the roadside creeks, 4 Curlew, 1 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Snipe and 1 Black-tailed Godwit, with wildfowl at 1 Shelduck, 2 Teal and 5 Goosander. 


Another 4 Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail on the road to the car park with House Martins much in in evidence near the existing nests and supplemented today by presumed migrants to give a count in excess of 40 excitable birds. 

On the way to Cockersands there were a good number of Swallows and Swifts feeding over the fields. With car window down as ever my attention was diverted to a group of Swallows harassing a slightly larger bird, a male Merlin. The Merlin was flying in that peculiar way they do sometimes by mimicking the Swallows’ flight jizz , a hunting technique which allows it to get close to its prey. I couldn’t stop the car on the single track road but noted the Merlin carrying on towards the coast and then lost it. 

I found 18 or more Pied Wagtails in the horse paddock at Cockersands, together with a single Yellow Wagtail. With the numbers around of late there is no doubt that Pied Wagtails have enjoyed a productive breeding season with even now in August youngsters in in quite juvenile plumage. Conversely the Yellow Wagtail is now so scarce in this part of Lancashire that it has become a “twitch” bird, a species which bird watchers make a beeline to see. 

It’s the only Yellow Wagtail I’ve seen in the UK this year although I do see them in Menorca each year as they pass through the island on their way to Northern Europe. By coincidence or perhaps by a Yellow Wagtail’s preference the Yellow Wagtails in Menorca are generally feeding almost under horses hooves, just as the one today did. Seems like horse manure is good for attracting Yellow Wagtails as well as growing rhubarb.

I took a couple of poor and distant pictures from the car for fear of sending the bird flying off and incurring the wrath of the inevitable weekend twitchers. 

Yellow Wagtail
 Yellow Wagtail

Good numbers of Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches here with 45+ of each. A Pied Wagtail and Tree Sparrow were more obliging by coming closer to the car. 

Tree Sparrow

Pied Wagtail

Pied Wagtail

 Please log in soon for more wagtime with Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Camera Critters and  Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


School holidays mean babysitting, and then thanks to Bertha no birding when I was marooned indoors for a couple of days. In between I managed to catch a number of still very juvenile Goldfinches, two Chaffinches, a Collared Dove and even a couple of Spadgers, House Sparrows, a species which normally does a rapid disappearing act when a net is in sight. 

Collared Dove

 Chaffinch - juvenile male

Chaffinch - juvenile female

juvenile Goldfinch

I’ve seen lots of House Sparrows this summer, more than for many years. I’m wondering if anyone else has noticed the same? I’m certain that the many sunny days, lack of rain and generally settled weather of June and July has meant that following a series of disastrous years our old friend the spadger has enjoyed a good breeding season at last. 

House Sparrow - juvenile

Spadger is one of many dialect names for our House Sparrow, terms which also include sparr, sparrer, spadger, spadgick, spug and spuggy, mainly in northern England or spur and sprig, mainly in Scotland. I’ll bet there are others I’ve not mentioned, particularly in other parts of the world and if so I’m certain blog readers will let me know. 

House Sparrows have lived alongside humans since the Stone Age, and although I’m not quite of that period older readers like me will remember how the House Sparrow was once a hugely successful species. It was a bird so prosperous that its numbers and prevalence often characterised it as a pest, especially to the farming community who’s ripening corn crops became a major object of attention to hordes of House Sparrows. 

From Wiki - The House Sparrow has also often been kept as a pet as well as being a food item and a symbol of lust and sexual potency, as well as of commonness and vulgarity. From around 1560 to at least the nineteenth century in northern Europe, earthenware "sparrow pots" were hung from eaves to attract nesting birds so that the young could be readily harvested. Wild birds were trapped in nets in large numbers, and sparrow pie was a traditional dish and because of the association of sparrows with lechery, to have aphrodisiac properties. In the early part of the twentieth century, “sparrow clubs” culled many millions of birds and eggs in an attempt to control numbers of this perceived pest, but with only a localised impact on numbers. 

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s House Sparrows were rather taken for granted by birdwatchers and other guardians of the countryside - a commonplace bird that could be safely left to its own devices. I remember how in the 1980s the British Trust for Ornithology advised bird ringers that ringing House Sparrows in large numbers was not necessary and probably a waste of resources, so ringers like me simply released House Sparrows as a by-product of a catch without ringing or recording any data on them. 

 House Sparrow

Then in in the late 1990s there was a sudden realisation that the House Sparrow had lost 70% of its population in just 20 to 30 years. The population fell from about 13 million pairs in the whole of the UK in the 1970s to nearer 5.5 million pairs in 2008. Even now no one is entirely sure why that happened as it did and why their numbers remain stuck below 6 million pairs, but the culprits named in similar bird declines are mentioned, plus a few new ones linked to the often urbanised existence of the House Sparrow. 

It is thought that in contrast to when House Sparrows nested in the thatched roofs of old or the leaky, draughty old buildings of the early twentieth century, our modern buildings have fewer holes and crevices where the birds can nest. The current fashion for the tidy hedges of farm and garden may be a factor too as House Sparrows nest not just in buildings but in dense and unkempt hedgerows. 

Domesticated cats take their toll of birds of many species, the House Sparrow on the lawn being a regular target for a well fed moggy. Other research mentions that relatively recent addition to garden birds the Collared Dove as a possible cause of the House Sparrow’s decline because the dove competes for and often wins a bigger share of the same food types on offer; seeing how Collared Doves spend so much time in my own garden I can see why that could be true. 

Many House Sparrows live in close proximity to vehicle exhaust emissions of Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a chemical in unleaded petrol which is thought to be affecting the abundance of insects that House Sparrows feed to their young. There’s also the now familiar reason implicated in the decline of many bird species, the fact that autumn sown cereal crops leave little stubble for finches, buntings and sparrows to forage in or spilt grain to eat. 

I’m rather hoping that our local House Sparrows can repeat this year’s breeding success because the garden wouldn’t be the same without the chirping of a gang of cheeky and characterful House Sparrows. 

And when you see them close-up they are actually rather handsome birds aren’t they? 

House Sparrow
With a better forecast it's back to birding tomorrow on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni's blog.

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