Early rain delayed my birding start until the skies held a patch or two of blue.
I drove around Jeremy Lane, Cockerham thinking I might see the local Barn Owls but had to make do with a Buzzard that frequents a dead tree a field away. The Buzzard is yet another species which seems somewhat scarce lately, in direct contrast to recent years when the population spiked noticeably upwards. Maybe it’s just a natural cycle rather than anything untoward, a scenario that is always a possibility in this part of sporting Lancashire where long-standing ideas about Buzzards and the need to “control” them persist.
There are still lots of fields of lush grass as the farmers wait for a dry spell in which to cut and dry their crop. Despite this I managed to find several Brown Hares and even a large flock of 300 + Curlews hiding in a slightly less rampant crop.
Along a stretch of roadside ditch Sedge Warblers were feeding young and even a Reed Bunting in song, but less than 30 Swallows on the whole circuit. I noted a few Linnets and Goldfinches about today with perhaps the beginnings of small flocks feeding on the plentiful seed heads at this time of year.
Along Moss Lane I found myself driving behind a Weasel in the throes of dragging a dead vole along the road. I slowed the car to halt to take a closer look, hoping the Weasel might stop but it tugged its prey into the roadside vegetation and was lost to view.
The weasel (Mustela nivalis) is a fearless little killer easily confused with the larger and more frequently seen Stoat (Mustela erminea). A Weasel is about the size of a large mouse and reminds me of a skinny squirrel whereas a Stoat is closer to the size and bulk of a brown rat. A Weasel is about 15-25cm whereas a Stoat is 15-30cm.
The lean, fast and vicious Weasel preys on small mammals like mice and voles. Stoats can manage rabbits and rats. Both kill by biting into the base of their prey's skulls. Both species are light brown with pale underside but the Stoat has an obvious black tip to its tail that the noticeably smaller Weasel lacks. This is often the only distinguishing feature gained from the normally brief views given by either species where size is difficult to judge.
Over the years I’ve managed to get a few pictures of Stoats but never a Weasel. It’s possible to just see the black tip of the Stoat’s tail but otherwise this animal is remarkably similar to a plainer Weasel.
At Conder Pool there was a Little Stint but briefly before it flew off calling, over and beyond where the Avocets hang out. There’s a number of puddles and pools out of sight and behind the islands close to the canal where birds can feed undetected and undisturbed for many a long hour,. Quite unlike the roadside view point where vehicles lumber noisily past and birders poke their heads into view.
Clearly visible Lapwings numbered some 170+, from the calls more hidden from view. Also 30+ Redshank, 8 Oystercatcher, 2 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpiper, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Goosander.
For a week or more there have been two Avocets, one adult and the single juvenile now nearing fledging. Like many other wader species, one of the pair has already left to fly south before the other, leaving the remaining adult to care for the youngster. In many wader species it is the male which remains with the chick and the female which leaves. In this case, because both male and female Avocets are pretty much identical, so it is impossible to say with certainty which one is left, but more than likely it is the male.
It’s also interesting that the average breeding success of Avocet pairs is just 1.1 young, so our local pair managed to more or less hit the notional average having lost at least two youngsters in the early stages.
Here’s Charlie from the BBC with tomorrow's weather.
Things are looking pretty grim up North again. But log in soon to see where Another Bird Blog has been on Thursday.
Linking today to Run A Round Ranch.
Linking today to Run A Round Ranch.