Friday, July 31, 2015

The Quarry Birds

I met up with Andy this morning for our third ringing session of the season at the Cockerham quarry where there is a colony of Sand Martins. We were joined today by Kim, the latest recruit to the ringing group. 

After catching more than 160 Sand Martins on the first two visits of 2015 we perhaps didn’t expect a huge catch today but were more than satisfied with 34 birds - 31 Sand Martin, 2 Linnet and 1 House Martin. The catch of Sand Martins comprised of 12 new ones, 18 recaptures and 1 previously ringed elsewhere, most likely at a Sand Martin colony near Whittington in the Lune valley some 25 miles north of Cockerham. 

Of today’s 31 Sand Martins just 3 proved to be juveniles with 28 adults - 20 females and 8 males. 

Sand Martin - juvenile

A flock of 30+ Linnets were around the rough grass areas at the foot of the quarry and two found a net that was placed to catch Sand Martins. Another bycatch proved to be a juvenile House Martin which had joined in the feeding flock of Sand Martins. 

Our once abundant Linnet is now quite scarce in this part of Lancashire. The days of catching dozens are long gone as small flocks become the norm and to see just one or two in the hand becomes something of an occasion.

Linnet - juvenile

Birding was quiet apart from the aforementioned Linnets plus 2 Pied Wagtails and several Tree Sparrows. Two Whimbrel flew west about 0900 hours. 

From a different quarry today came the exciting news that two pairs of European Bee Eaters are breeding at Lower Gelt, near Brampton, Cumbria some 80 miles to the north and east of our Cockerham quarry. The RSPB - “Up to six adult Bee Eaters - two breeding pairs and two 'helpers' have been present on site since mid-June. The young are believed to have hatched and with the actions of egg collectors now not a problem, news has been released.” 

Bee Eater

I wonder if those Bee Eaters passed over Cockerham on their way north in spring and maybe gave a thought to setting up home in Lancashire instead? I’m certain that they would have been looked after although our Sand Martin ringing would have been curtailed in the light of a Schedule 1 species breeding amongst the Sand Martins.

We can but dream.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Quiet Day

There wasn’t much doing at Fluke Hall. A flock of 25+ Linnets indicated at least some partial local breeding success, the group being near enough the most I’ve seen all year. The woodland seemed devoid of anything out of the ordinary with just Blackbirds, Wrens, Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches, and the usual mix of Blue and Great Tit. No warblers again and this is a very strange and apparently unproductive year for many of our “little brown jobs”. 

Although there was a stiff breeze from the North West I decided to walk the sea wall so as to check the ditches, the shore and a couple of other spots which occasionally produce a bird or two. Two Whimbrel were feeding along the shore but quickly departed south with their customary rippling whistles when they spotted yours truly coming along. Near the end of the 19th century hunting on the Whimbrel migration routes took a heavy toll on numbers and although the population has since recovered, they retain their fear of man.

These migrant Whimbrels are done with breeding now and heading back to the coast of Africa where they spend the winter. 

Whimbrel

There was a Green Sandpiper along the ditch plus a couple of Little Egrets and just 2 Lapwings on a muddy stretch. 

Driving past Gulf Lane I spotted a distant Buzzard on a fence post but the road too busy to stop. When I pulled into the gateway at Braides Farm there was another Buzzard on a yet another distant post. Buzzards live in a nearby wood where the farmer doesn’t mind me taking a look occasionally as long as I don’t damage his fences. A young Buzzard was calling for food from high in the trees as the adults circled above and protested about me being around. I took a few shots and departed the trees before heading for the stillness of a Glasson Dock morning. 

Buzzard

Buzzard

Three Tufted Ducks have made it back to the deep waters of Glasson. They are young birds, their appearance a  sign of more tufties to follow in the months ahead when their numbers build to 40 or 50 or maybe 70 or 80 in a colder but unfreezing winter when they can dive for food. A handful of Coots, a few Moorhen and a family party of 9 Mute Swans completed the waterbirds. 

Glasson Dock

Tufted Duck

Three Pied Wagtails commuted between the bowling green and the towpath while across the water a lone Grey Heron stalked along the old jetty as it watched the water below for signs of a meal. Swifts have mainly departed these shores and it’s just ones and twos I see now especially here at Glasson which has tall old buildings where Swifts can enter. A handful of Swallows lined the rails of the lock gates but I think and hope that the adults are on with a second brood on the ledges below. 

Grey Heron

juvenile Swallow

A walk along the canal towpath produced little more than a solitary Blackcap, a Song Thrush, and several Tree Sparrows. But my birding pass had expired with not even enough time for Conder Green. 

Not to worry, there’s always tomorrow or another day on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Weekend Reflections and Theresa's Run A Round Ranch .

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gulls Are Ace

Following my recent post about "Seagulls", I am delighted to learn that there are others who do not despise our UK gulls. On the contrary, there are many discriminating people who positively like gulls and value their unique beauty and characterful ways. 

From “The Scotsman” 27the July 2015. 

"Scottish gulls are getting a positive public relations campaign waged on their behalf. A group of poets, photographers and artists have teamed up in an effort to salvage the reputation of the brass necked birds. They have created a booklet titled White Wings of Delight, which will raise money for RSPB Scotland when it goes on sale next month. 

The booklet features a collection of works with the running theme of “the grace of a delightful bird like a seagull” - an animal that has inspired countless artists and poets for generations. The move by the creative network, based in and around Aberdeen, comes after a string of horror headlines featuring Herring Gulls.

Herring Gull

Gulls have been getting a bad rap in recent weeks due to a series of incidents, including a dog being pecked to death, a starling being swallowed whole, and Aberdeen Football Club being plagued by the nesting nuisances. 

Granite City (Aberdeen) residents regularly complain about bold birds nicking food and dive-bombing built-up areas for scraps. Two ‘Robops’ - robotic birds of prey - were unleashed further north in the fishing port of Fraserburgh in 2003 when the booming gull population caused a spate of problems. But Aberdeenshire Council was forced to bin the project after the local gulls got used to the flapping fibreglass falcons - and started sitting next to them. The local authority has spent nearly £200,000 in the last five years trying to combat the pests. Hawk patrols and nest removal work has cost the council a total of £197,979.70 since 2010.  

What’s new - public bodies wasting the taxpayers' money? - Phil 

Aberdeen-based publisher Keith Murray helped develop the booklet, which was the brainchild of fellow poet Elizabeth Reinach. Mr Murray said: “Elizabeth came up with the idea because we both love gulls. Both of us have been told to ‘stop feeding the birds, they are flying rats etc’. But when you consider all the horrors that are happening in the world at the moment you have to wonder why people dislike gulls. There should be respect for all forms of life.” 

“So I gathered about 20 poems from different poets, all with a positive look at gulls. Some of my poet friends were quite honest and said that they didn’t like gulls but more replied with super poems.” 

Mr Murray and Ms Reinach previously raised nearly £3,000 for a guide dog charity with a similar book. The writers even enlisted the help of politician David Blunkett, who wrote a foreword for the collection entitled Guiding Lights, to help raise money for the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association. They hope to have similar success with their gull-orientated booklet. 

Herring Gull

Mr Murray added: “We want to raise money for the RSPB but also to bring attention to the fact that gulls aren’t a creature to be hated. I’ve been feeding a gull who comes to my window, who I have named Sinbad, for 15 years now and around the back window I have another one called Warren. “I like to feed them at night, they come up to my window every morning at 1am like little white ghosts, and you can look into their eyes and see they’re truly beautiful, and there’s a character to each one of them.” 

White Wings of Delight is expected to be published around the middle of August. It will be available from Books and Beans cafe, the Maritime Museum and directly from Mr Murray by sending a cheque or postal order for £6 (or more) to Keith Murray Advertising, 46 Portal Crescent, Aberdeen, AB24 2SP."  

A tale of hope and inspiration in this awful world. Three cheers for gulls!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Early Bird Birding

It looked like early birding only when the weather forecast promised rain by lunch time. For once the experts were spot on and the rain arrived at 1130 after a half decent morning of a bright but gradually clouding over sky.

I waited at a regular Barn Owl spot in the hope one would come along. One appeared on cue but was up and over the hedgerow, across the road, and out of sight over another field within seconds. 

Barn Owl

It’s worth repeating that Barn Owls are having a poor year with reports from many parts of the UK of starving broods caused by a shortage of their regular prey of voles. A pair of Barn Owls with three or four chicks need something like the equivalent of 1500-2000 voles over a 12 week period before the youngsters fledge, not counting the additional voles required to feed themselves. 

According to a study in 2013 the natural cycles in vole populations across Europe are fading away with climate change the likely reason. Until recently vole populations have fluctuated enormously on a three to four year cycle. A peak year, known as an outbreak, provides a bonanza for predators like owls, foxes, weasels and kestrels. But after a crash only a few voles per hectare may be left to rebuild the population. 

These long-established cycles have diminished across Europe over the last couple of decades with the years of population outbreaks no longer as marked. This change in one group of species at the bottom of the food chain is bad news for a diverse range of predators like the Barn Owl which relies on these years of plenty to keep its population at sustainable levels. 

There was little new at Conder Green except for a Greenshank in the creek and a single Snipe hiding amongst the rocks of one island. 

Snipe

Otherwise it was “as before” with 3 Common Sandpipers, 2 Dunlin, 50+ Redshank, 30+ Lapwings and 20 Oystercatchers. On, around and over the pool - 2 Little Egret, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Wigeon and 5 Cormorant. There are still Swifts about with a count of 12+ today and the birds feeding as ever on the swarms of early morning midges which emerge from the hawthorn hedgerow. 

A walk of the “railway circuit” found a Kestrel using a distant boat mast as a lookout point. A few small birds appeared by way of a family party of 6 Linnets, then 4 Greenfinch, 4 Meadow Pipit, 8 Goldfinch and 2 Reed Bunting. 

Kestrel

Two flocks of House Sparrows numbered some 40+ birds. I’m not sure if it is the paucity of other species this year which is making House Sparrows appear more numerous or if the spodger is experiencing a real revival of fortune.

On the other hand House Sparrow nests are less likely to take a battering from our inclement weather than the nests of species like Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat which build open nests in often fragile vegetation close to or on the ground. Cold northerly winds have been a feature of Spring and Summer of 2015 with our Lancashire rainfall for July looking to be on course as the wettest on record. 

House Sparrow

With the cloud building and rain on the horizon I made time for a walk at Fluke Hall. A Whitethroat sang a partial song and a couple of Tree Sparrows busied themselves around nest boxes but in the wood all was quiet.

Fluke Hall - Pilling, Lancashire

A walk along the sea wall salvaged a few Linnets, a Green Sandpiper, a female Sparrowhawk, a Grey Heron and a couple of Skylarks. One of the Skylarks was still in song and perhaps waiting for a spell of warm weather to have another go this year. 

Skylark

Grey Heron

When the weather improves I’ll be having another go too, so log in soon for news and views from Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Stock Taking

The days have flown since Andy and I did any ringing at Oakenclough. The centres of attention in late May and early June were Pied Flycatchers in nest boxes together with sussing out the few pairs of Willow Warblers nesting in the clumps of heather and bilberry. Today we returned to the hills to do a little management of the netting area of the plantation and once that was done, attempt a little ringing. 

A catch of just 8 birds may have confirmed our worst fears about the breeding success of many species in this soggy, windswept year with a catch of just 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Dunnock, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Great Tit and 1 Blue Tit. 

Willow Warbler

 Chiffchaff

Despite the low catch there did seem to be good numbers of Goldfinches around including the first real flock of summer when 18/20 flew over without landing near the nets and a total of 40+ on site throughout the morning. In recent years our UK Goldfinch seems able to both survive and prosper whatever the weather. Otherwise and in the finch department we noted 15+ Lesser Redpoll as flyovers plus a handful of Siskins on the move.

Also “round and about” - 20+ Swallow, 15+ Chaffinch, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2+ Nuthatch, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Tawny Owl, 1 Jay, 1 Grey Wagtail.

At home and in the garden this week a couple of normally very shy Stock Dove (Columba oenas) have been regular visitors around the feeders left out for the local House Sparrows. The Stock Doves are often in the company of one or two Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus), their close relative. Although Wood Pigeons are now very common garden birds the Stock Dove is a rare garden visitor in this area. It is not the first time I have seen Stock Doves in the garden, they are becoming more regular, and I am wondering if this is the next species to exploit the British pastime of feeding birds?

It’s perhaps easy to overlook the Stock Dove, dismiss it as a lost racing pigeon or a even feral urban pigeon but the species is a very distinctive blue-grey with a pinkish breast and an iridescent green patch on the side of the neck. There is no white patch on the neck, like on an adult Wood Pigeon, and it is darker than the Wood Pigeon. One of the better differentiating features is their black eyes. The bill is yellowish and the legs are pink. They have a black tipped tail and two small black wing-bars on each wing which are less distinct than the wing-bars on a Rock Dove.

Stock Dove

House Sparrows may have bucked the poor breeding trend this year as I am seeing good numbers of them in a number of places I visit or pass by. There are reasonable numbers of Goldfinch coming to the Niger feeders, including good numbers of juveniles, but as yet there is lots of natural food to be found, so no need to visit garden feeders in huge numbers.

Goldfinch
 
There’s more birding this weekend, so catch up with the news at Another Bird Blog very soon.

Today the blog is linking to Anni's Birding and  Eileen's Saturday.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No Seagulls Today

It’s 0930, raining steadily and I’m blogging when I should be out birding. Luckily I managed a few hours birding before the rains arrived while postponing a ringing session with Andy until the weekend. 

At Braides there was no Buzzard today but 3 Grey Herons instead, the herons lining the banks of the River Cocker where a couple of Meadow Pipits buzzed around. 

At Conder Green the resident Robin greeted me from the fence rail as I scanned the pool and creeks for other birds. A dozen and more Swifts hawked over the hedgerow with just a few Swallows and Sand Martins in evidence. The Sand Martins here are surely from the quarry a mile or two away where I called on the way back to witness a huge amount of activity at the nesting holes. 

Robin

Meanwhile back at Conder the Tufted Ducks now have 4 youngsters, an expected reduction from the 13 or 14 newly hatched chicks of a week ago. Singles of Little Grebe and Wigeon with 8+ Shelduck, 3 Grey Heron and 3 Little Egret. In the creeks good numbers of 60+ Redshank and 40+ Lapwing, 6 Common Sandpiper but one only of Dunlin. 

A Kestrel flew across the marsh towards the railway bridge where I found 4 Linnet, 4 Pied Wagtail, 2 Reed Bunting and a fly-over Common Tern. Glasson Dock had more Swifts and Swallows, a couple only of the former but 30+ Swallows so maybe a hint of a roost forming amongst the boats or reed fringes of the yacht basin in coming weeks. 

Along the towpath - 4 Pied Wagtails, 3 Reed Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting, 6 Tree Sparrow, a Blackcap in partial song and a Song Thrush in full voice. 

Song Thrush

Black-headed Gull

I see that “seagulls” are on the receiving end of some stick in the press and on the TV just recently, with even the Prime Minister taking the opportunity to have a go. Pity he has nothing more worldly urgent to worry about but also that his lackeys didn’t give him the advice that the UK is home to several species of gull, most of which cause no problem to voters; the urban bandit in question is not a “seagull” but the Herring Gull. 

I get quite irritated when people use the lazy, blanket term “seagull” to describe a particular species of gull when it is often quite obvious that they have not taken the time and trouble to find out that there are at least 55 species of gull in the world and all of them identifiable as being different to the next. 

Herring Gull

Yes, Herring Gulls can be a bit naughty but their sometimes unacceptable behaviour is mostly of our own making. Who can blame a gull for becoming accustomed to helping themselves when a smorgasbord of delights is laid out before them each day and night? The remains of Saturday night’s takeaways litter city, town and village streets while bin-bags lie unprotected and landfill sites are left uncovered. All of this makes for easier pickings than fishing the open seas as Herring Gulls did with huge success before the human race changed the rules of engagement. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Log in soon for more news and views from Another Bird Blog. But definitely no seagulls.

Linking today to Theresa's Ranch and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday .



Friday, July 17, 2015

Solely Birding

Thursday.The early birding at Cockerham, Conder and Glasson had more than a little of a déjà vu feel. 

There was no Barn Owl but the early morning Kestrel sat alongside Head Dyke Lane where regular as clockwork it can be found atop one of just a few roadside poles. Birds are such creatures of habit - much like birders really. Needless to say there was a Buzzard at Braides Farm, custodian as usual of the regular fence line which crosses the farm. The Buzzard often faces directly into the early morning sunrise taking the chill off those overnight feathers. That's the sea wall directly behind the Buzzard.

Buzzard

Maybe I was later than usual but there were wagons parked at Conder Green with drivers out of cabs generating noise and disturbance therefore no birds around. I made a quick exit for Glasson Dock where the early light and reflections can often be more spectacular than the birding. 

Glasson Dock

There are few Swallows around Glasson Marina this year. Last year many thousands roosted amongst the boats and yachts moored in the marina, this year so far just handfuls of Swallows feeding along with similar numbers of Sand Martins. If anything there appeared to be less Swallows than Swifts with a dozen or more of the latter. 

Swallow

One of the adult Common Terns from Conder Green was on its regular fishing circuit; around the yacht basin favouring the south end, up and over the lock gates and then around the dock a couple of times. Then it’s back over the lock followed by a circuit of the basin again, by which time it has usually caught a fish of suitable proportions for the youngsters back home. Later, all three recently fledged but not yet independent youngsters were lined up on the island at Conder Pool waiting for their meal. I can’t say that I have seen either of the adults fishing Conder Pool itself even though there may be suitable prey items as testified by the regular appearance of both Kingfisher and on Thursday the return of a single Little Grebe. 

Common Tern

Back at Conder Green and suitably quieter after the wagons and bodies moved on - 5 Little Egret, 7 Common Sandpiper, 4 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 3 Greenfinch. 

There wasn’t much else doing so I paid a visit to our Sand Martin colony at Cockerham where I’m free to wander around the dairy farm while birding courtesy of Chris the farmer. Roughly 90+ Sand Martins were in evidence with a number of youngsters visible at nest holes as adults returned with food. The next visit for ringing purposes is due in early August, a visit scheduled to fit BTO recommendations for ringing at Sand Martin colonies. 

Sand Martin

On Friday Jamie at Knott End promised me a Dover Sole fresh from the Wyre Estuary so I left him skinning the fish and went for a walk up river where the tide was surging up the channel. 

Wyre Estuary - Fleetwood (left) Knott End (right) 

The Wyre Rose - Fleetwood to Knott End Ferry

There was a Grey Heron along the tideline with many Oystercatchers flying to their roost upriver. In the car park a pair of Pied Wagtails collected food and then flew with beaks crammed full before dropping to the rocks below and out of sight. So that’s where they nest. 

Pied Wagtail

As I walked up river I’d counted 300+ Oystercatchers when a couple of them broke ranks to see off a Peregrine which floated above me. But too late, my camera was bagged and an elementary mistake. 

Upriver and then alongside the golf course I noted a Kestrel, a couple each of Goldfinch and Linnet plus a wheezing Greenfinch. 

All this fresh air sure gives a birder a healthy appetite. Grilled Sole for supper - count me in. 

 Dover Sole

There's more fishy tales soon from Another Bird Blog.

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

Related Posts with Thumbnails