Sunday, April 20, 2014

Plan B

Plan A was to be a coastal walk soon after dawn to seek out more Wheatears and anything else lurking unfound by Spring birders. A bitingly cold north easterly wind soon put paid to that idea whereby I found myself in the car heading north with the heater and heated seat at “max”, but as usual the window turned down. It is somewhat mystifying but occasionally I see people apparently bird watching, sitting in their car with the windows up and the radio booming away; I wonder how they ever locate birds? 

Plan B found me at Conder Green for a look on the pool and the roadside creeks, with hopefully a few Spring migrants. The 2 Spotted Redshanks have wintered here. Now they are in the process of acquiring their summery black plumage it will be interesting to see when exactly they head off to Scandinavia/Asia to breed. 

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank

There was a lot of long range birding today with over 200 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the distant side of the pool for a while before flying off to the estuary. Not long after a similar number came back to the pool only to then do exactly the same by returning to the area of the River Lune. Mostly the godwits were in brick-red plumage with a small number of obvious second year birds and yet other intermediates. One fed in the creek for a while, distant as ever. One Grey Heron in the creeks also, with c15 Redshank and 1 Curlew. 

Black-tailed Godwit

The pool is pretty sparse for birds now, still suffering from excessive water levels caused by the wet, windy and tide-filled winter. As a diving species Tufted Ducks appear to like it, with 26 counted today as opposed to dabbling Wigeon with just a singleton noted. 

Tufted Duck

8 Oystercatchers are in residence seemingly paired up and waiting for good sized stretches of stones, pebbles and suchlike where their eggs can remain undetected. Not much chance of that on a favoured Oystercatcher island which is normally several times bigger than at present and so rather restricts their choice of a nest site. 


A “few” Swallows and Sand Martins headed north with other visible migration restricted to one or two Lesser Redpoll overhead. Singing Reed Bunting and Greenfinch along the hedgerow. 

A pit stop at Braides Farm gave 26 Golden Plover, 8 Linnet and 4 Swallows heading east. 

Finally it was Fluke Hall where the wind had not abated so I concentrated effort on the woodland. The male Kestrel was in the same location as normal and then I found out why. He dropped from the fence post to all of two yards away and then came back up with a good sized mammal. After taking a portion of the food for himself he flew off to the nearby nest box to present the animal to the female, the latter presumably now on eggs. It’s a big prey item for a smallish Kestrel and another long distance picture - 400mm x 1.4 converter. 


The woodland and hedgerow produced 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 20+ Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Blackcap, 2 Willow Warbler, 1Chiffchaff, and the arrival of one singing Whitethroat fresh from Africa. 


In the field nearest the sea wall there’s a build-up of spring Linnets and a few Meadow pipits, about 100+ Linnets and 4/5 pipits today, flushed in all directions by a marauding Sparrowhawk. 

So Plan B didn’t turn out too bad after all. Tune in soon to see what’s scheduled next for Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hoopoe? What Hoopoe?

The Hoopoe excavating some unfortunate person’s lawn about 10 miles away decided my birding destination should be in the opposite direction this morning. If there’s one Hoopoe, there just might be another around the area or something equally exotic, but no one will ever find anything unless they go birding. 


Fluke Hall gardens have the look and feel of Hoopoe Land but alas there were none of the floppy fliers to be seen, just scolding Blackbirds and a post-dawn Jay directing me to a Tawny Owl instead. The owl was deep in the trees, a half view and half a picture was all I managed this time. 

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

The owl flew to a private spot near the hall where it usually hangs out. I know that because the local birds often find the hidden owl and noisily tell the whole neighbourhood including visiting bird watchers. They should recognise the signs that point to a concealed owl. 

There seemed to be very few birds on the move this morning despite or perhaps because of the clear, frosty start. Later there would be a couple of flighty redpolls at Lane Ends, but here nothing. 

Never mind, there was a good selection of local birds with today the turn of Mistle Thrushes to be feeding youngsters. An adult bill packed with tiny items told of small young but I lost the adult as it dipped through the trees and then up again. There was a Grey Heron on the pool, a couple of Shelduck, the usual gaggle of Mallards and Moorhens, and in the tree tops 2 Buzzards calling to each other. Later on and as the sun warmed the air both Buzzards circled high over the trees. 


The Kestrel pair sat along a fence line, two posts keeping the two apart; handsome birds but as adults hard to approach for a portrait. 


In song amongst the trees and hedgerows were 3 Blackcap, 3 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Song Thrush and 1 Greenfinch plus uncounted commoners like Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Robin and Blackbird. One Great-spotted Woodpecker was actually drumming this morning, not very loud, more like a regular “tap-tap-tap” in the absence of competing males in the area. “Odds and Sods” comprised a single Swallow, 1 Little Egret and I male Reed Bunting on a regular stretch of territory. 

There were 3 Wheatears at Lane Ends, 2 males and a female, all of which had the appearance of “Greenland” types. When I eventually caught the female, wing 97mm and low weight of 22gms, biometrics which placed it in the overlap zone, I decided that due to her male companions she was almost certainly a “Northern” Northern Wheatear. 

Northern Wheatear

 Northern Wheatear

I heard Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff in song here too, the trilling Little Grebe and there was a flying visit from the Damside male Kestrel. 

The wildfowlers’ pools and sea wall were uneventful with regular counts of 300 Pink-footed Goose, 90 Shelduck, 65 Redshank, 4 Teal, 8 Linnet and 6 Skylark. 

Well in four hours I didn’t see a Hoopoe, nothing exotic, untoward or even unexpected but I did enjoy a great morning of bird watching. 


There’s more unexciting bird watching soon from Another Bird Blog. Log in if you dare.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Different Days, Different Birds

On Tuesday we spent a day at Blackpool Zoo with our two granddaughters. Today I took a well-earned rest and spent a good three hours birding the usual spots. 

Zoos, you either love or hate them and I hadn’t been to a zoo for many years. At ages 8 and almost 3 respectively, Olivia and Isabella loved it, spending the first 30 minutes running around wildly as they discovered new animals to look at. Eventually the pace slowed as the girls began to take an interest in the “exhibits”. 

They were both impressed with the Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens fulgens an animal which in the wild “feeds mainly on bamboo” to then spend most of the day asleep or escaping from Snow Leopards. In the picture the panda is eating a rabbit. Cue Granddad, two cuddly toy Red Pandas from the Zoo Shop. 

Red Panda

We all rather liked the Ring-tailed Lemurs a species closely related to Homo sapiens; both species often practice Yoga in their spare time. 

Ring-tailed Lemur

In between finding Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Swallows along the pathways and over areas of water, Granddad was quite taken with the White Pelicans, one of the few bird species confiding enough to be photographed. There’s a good number of free flying Barnacle Geese wandering close to passing Joe Public, not a trait exhibited from the occasional Barnacle Goose spotted at Pilling. 

White Pelican

White Pelican

Yellow-naped Parrot

Barnacle Goose

A good day was had by all, but now for today’s lack of pictures from Pilling. 

The morning started rather well at Fluke Hall with plenty of redpolls arriving from the west before feeding in the tree tops as they worked their way east. Seventeen birds went into the notebook as the common Lesser Redpoll even though an uncommon Common Redpoll was seen just across Morecambe Bay yesterday. I wouldn’t dare separate the two species on call but I once found an Arctic Redpoll in Wales by hearing it call and then following to where it landed. The joy of “vis migging” is occasionally palpable. 

Confused? It’s a quirk of birding for redpoll species UK style - Common Redpolls are actually quite scarce in the UK, Lesser Redpolls are widespread and numerous in Spring and Autumn, while an Arctic Redpoll is almost unobtainable. 

In today’s rarity stakes were 3 Song Thrush, probably convertible to 2 pairs as one pair were busy collecting food for youngsters and a third bird sang loudly from some distance away. In the same area a pair of Mistle Thrush, 4 Tree Sparrow and the now resident Kestrel. Below is a quite shocking picture but proof that Song Thrush does exist and is breeding hereabouts. 

 Song Thrush

The air was quite still at first allowing not only the redpolls but the songs of 3 Willow Warbler, 3 Blackcap and 1 Chiffchaff. The wind was to pick up noticeably quite soon and put a stop to visible movement. 

At Lane Ends the southerly wind had become quite strong as I walked the sea wall. Two Wheatears was the highlight even though getting a picture of a probable “Greenland” female proved difficult as the wind shook the camera. Neither bird was near the normal catching area.


Also at Lane Ends - a Swallow flying east, 1 Buzzard heading inland, 2 Little Egrets leaving the confines of the pool for the outer marsh and a Kestrel returning to its Damside nest box.

Singing in the plantation were singletons of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. 

There’s more from Another Bird Blog on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, and…..

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Sheltered Life

I couldn’t get out until lunch time where despite the sunshine, cold and strong north-westerly winds were still doing their best to ruin any birding, so I spent a couple of hours looking in slightly less windy spots. 

In singing mode at Fluke Hall were 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, a couple or more Chaffinches and likewise Goldfinches. Blackcap is always the first of the Sylvias to arrive with Whitethroat due any day, although most Spring migrants appear to be late now. I haven’t seen a Wheatear since 5th April despite being out birding along the coast most days. 

It’s difficult to ever get a picture of a Blackcap because they move so fast through the trees and undergrowth, singing as they go; one obliged today. 


Still 2 Kestrels here at Fluke as well as another pair in the Damside area. A single House Martin flew over the sea wall seemingly heading into the strong wind and across Morecambe Bay. 

On Hi-Fly ploughed fields, several Lapwings, 6+ Skylark and 4 Stock Dove picking through the soil, but presumably no nests after three days of disturbance and ploughing. 

The exposed sea wall accentuates any blustery effect but I braved it for a walk to Pilling Water and back with very little to show - 2 Little Egret, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 45 Redshank, 450 Pink-footed Geese and just 2 Skylarks. Sheltering in the creeks of wildfowlers’ pools - 5 Shoveler, 2 Teal and 4 Shelduck. 


At Lane Ends plantation were more sounds and sights of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. Little Grebe and Little Egret in the vicinity of the water, and 2 Swallows flying quickly east. 


I’m sure the wind will both drop and change to a lovely warm southerly direction at some time. If so be sure that Another Bird Blog will be there to tell everyone all about it.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quiet Again

A bright, sunny start but with still the nagging northerly that’s holding up a flood of birds just south of here. There was a hint of finches on the move this morning, nothing too obvious just a few Lesser Redpolls flying over, Siskins high in the trees and a Brambling, the latter a good find for April. 

I’d started at Fluke Hall, checked the sea wall for Wheatears and pipits of which there were none but noted small numbers of both Linnets and Goldfinches moving along the hedgerow and the sea wall. There seemed to be little genuinely “on the move” as distinct from local birds, so I then quietly searched the woodland and woodland edge as far as the “Keep Out” signs allowed, hoping for maybe a Ring Ouzel - just Blackbirds of course. 


Bramblings have such a distinctive, nasal, wheezy call that if one or more is about there is no denying it. Likewise Lesser Redpolls and Siskins, two members of the finch family which have also have highly characteristic and unmistakeable calls. All three species were moving through the tree tops but I managed to see a Lesser Redpoll only. Into the notebook went “one” of each although later at Lane Ends there would be 3 Lesser Redpolls and 2 Siskin to add to the resident Chaffinches. 


Also here at Fluke Hall, a resident Pied Wagtail, singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Kestrels at the box and 1 Little Egret on the marsh. 

The maize fields which have proved a magnet for many birds during the winter have now dried to such an extent that they have been ploughed in preparation for planting with the result that the few birds which remain consist of several pairs of Shelduck and Lapwings. 

Lane Ends produced the aforesaid Lesser Redpolls and Siskins, 2 Jays, singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, 2 Little Egret and 2 Little Grebe. 

At Pilling Water - a Grey Heron, the Green Sandpiper, 15 Redshank, 1 Little Egret and on the marsh still 450+ Pink-footed Geese. Otherwise the birding was extremely quiet and unproductive and a change of wind direction would help bring in more migrants. 

 Grey Heron

There are more birds and birding from Another Bird Blog very soon. Call in again for a full of activity time.

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking A Break

Migration seems to have come to a stop up here on this part of the North West coast. I was out this morning doing my usual circuit with nothing much to report on yet another cool, cloudy and quite windy morning. 

Still a good number of very vocal Golden Plovers at Braides Farm, over 250 again today. Occasionally some take a fly around, and had the sun been in evidence this morning I may have gotten a better picture of their synchronised but distant fly-past. 
Golden Plovers

Up at Conder Green the overwintering Spotted Redshanks are beginning to acquire their summer plumage, more than can be said for yours truly kitted out in almost full winter garb again. On the pool - 28 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Oystercatcher, 15 Redshank, 1 Little Egret and 9 Tufted Duck. 

Black-tailed Godwit

Signs of Spring at Glasson Dock comprised 4 Swallows hawking the water and 2 Chiffchaffs singing from roadside trees. 

At Pilling on the flood and behind the sea wall I found 600 Pink-footed Goose, 1 Green Sandpiper, 255 Redshank, 8 Shoveler, 10 Teal 1 Dunlin, 15 Skylark, 1 Pied Wagtail and 4 Linnet. I couldn’t find any Wheatears today, my traps made redundant as the mealworms took a well-earned break. At Lane Ends, 3 Little Egret, Chiffchaff, 2 Little Grebe and 2 Reed Bunting. 

There seems to be a few bits and pieces in the garden back home with in the last week several Goldfinches, a number of Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff, a Lesser Redpoll, local Starlings, and that major rarity a Song Thrush. I did a little ringing and photographing of Goldfinches in between Granddad duties.







Visit Another Bird Blog soon for more news and views.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

More Of The Same

I was back home by 1030 this morning, rained off. Prior to the rain a couple of cool but cloudy hours at Pilling allowed a return walk along the sea wall before I retreated back home to blog. 

A Barn Swallow greeted me at Lane Ends, my second of the year but the only one I saw on this overcast and quite breezy morning. There was a Chiffchaff in song, a Reed Bunting too plus a Long-tailed Tit working its way through the trees. Four Little Egrets decorated the pool margins again as a Little Grebe trilled unseen from the mostly hidden pool. 


Towards Pilling Water I disturbed a Sparrowhawk from the base of the sea wall, a big female which glided out to the marsh where it disappeared into a ditch and out of sight. If the hawk was hanging about in a wait for passerines there weren’t many; 4 Skylark, 1 White Wagtail, a couple of overflying Linnet and a single Wheatear melting into the rocks. The Wheatear looked fairly bright but I wasn’t sure if it was a “Greenland” type like those of Thursday

After a while the Wheatear succumbed to a mealworm even though the tiny things barely wriggled in the cold morning wind. This second year male Wheatear turned out to be a typical Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, and at 95mm wing and 23.1 grams, not approaching anything like the weight or measurements of Thursday’s “Greenland” beast. There is an overlap at this time of the year when different races of Wheatears pass through North West England but heading to a variety of destinations. 

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear- Oeananthe oenanthe

The Green Sandpiper was still at the wildfowler’s pools, flying off to hide in the ditches at my approach. Still 15/20 Teal and several partly obscured Shovelers. There was a Stock Dove on the marsh briefly, and overhead a local Buzzard. 

Spots of rain began and in the absence of much doing I made my way back to Lane Ends and thence to Braides Farm where lazy birders can bird from a car. Here were lots of Golden Plovers, 350 and more, distant on the muddy field. 

There are no Lapwing flocks now, just patrolling males and every so often a partial and motionless head, a female Lapwing sat tight on a probable full clutch of eggs. I noted several Oystercatchers feeding but didn’t spot any sat tight just yet; normally their nests are a week or two later than Lapwings. There were several Skylarks in song despite the gloomy morning. 


It was a slightly disappointing morning with frustrating weather resulting in little visible migration but nice to connect with another Wheatear. 

More soon from Another Bird Blog, linking today to Camera Critters and Anni's Birding Blog.

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