Ups And Downs

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I followed up yesterday’s Yellowhammer sighting by going back for pictures on a quiet and sunny Sunday morning. Yellowhammers tend to be late breeders and it’s not unusual to see and hear them in full song in the latter half of the summer. I saw nothing of the female today, just the male sending out his song acrosss the landscape. His mate is obviously sat on a second brood of eggs not too far away from the various song posts. YellowhammerYellowhammer YellowhammerThe Yellowhammer is in poor shape in this part of Lancashire, part of a national and European decline caused by decreased survival rates and agricultural intensification. I can’t do better than quote from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) website and include their graph that really says it all. “Yellowhammer abundance began to decline on farmland in the m...
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Saturday 22nd July

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What a rotten week it’s been. Rain most days, often windy and nothing like summer. Saturday promised slightly better so I set off on the usual trail over the moss and in the general direction of Conder Green. I hit upon a young Kestrel and then a singing Yellowhammer, the latter not quite as rare as hen’s teeth but certainly getting that way. It took me a while to locate from where the male proclaimed his “little bit of bread and no cheese” until I spotted him 30ft up a roadside post. YellowhammerSeems there was a Cattle Egret at Conder Green during the week, a one-day wonder on Thursday that a good number of people saw but perhaps not enough to ensure the species figures on everyone’s British List. Just as well I saw one there on April 2nd, part of  a small invasion of the species to the UK. But the Cattle Eg...
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A Little Bit Of Blackpool

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Tuesday meant a ringing trip to Marton Mere, Blackpool. This Lancashire seaside resort is famous for many things, including a 1937 George Formby song "With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock", a ditty banned by BBC radio of the day for having suggestive lyrics. Nowadays, anything goes in trendy but traditional Blackpool. Two miles from the world famous Blackpool Tower, the Pleasure Beach, the honky-tonk Promenade and alleged debauchery of Blackpool nightlife is Marton Mere. The mere is a water body believed to occupy a kettle-hole formed during the last glaciation over 14,000 years ago, and is thus one of only two remaining water bodies in Lancashire of natural origin, the other being Hawes Water at Silverdale, also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Marton Mere is now local nature reserve, a tranquil refuge on Bl...

More Smarties

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A catch of Sand Martins was the major objective for today. I’d been to the colony in the week and noted lots of martins around with upwards of 450 flying around at any one time. I was due to meet Andy at the quarry at 0630 but first I spent 45 minutes at Conder Green. A pair of Oystercatchers had hung around the near island all spring and summer without much luck. They probably lost the first brood of eggs/young to predators but today, quite late in the season, their perseverance paid off when they appeared with a single newly fledged chick of one or two days old. Oystercatcher Two Kingfishers flew past at their usual breakneck speed but within ten minutes or so one of them (or perhaps a third?) appeared on the parapet of the outflow. The Kingfisher spent five minutes doing not a lot before it flew across to the far side of the...
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Early Birding

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Most people would settle for seeing a Barn Owl. I saw four this morning, all different birds as they were at widely spaced localities. While Barn Owls can breed in any month of the year they do mostly favour the summer months around here. All four were headed back to farm buildings and I watched two of them carry food through open ended barns and into the darkness beyond. I have no doubt that there are a number of young Barn Owls soon to emerge into the Fylde countryside. Needless to say, I am not about to divulge the whereabouts of breeding sites of an owl that has Special Legal Protection under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act.  At this time of year only those people with the necessary paperwork should be anywhere near a Barn Owl.   Barn OwlSoon after first light I stopped at Braides Farm to see a very young Kestrel sa...
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Mere Ringing and LBJs

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This morning I went along to Andy’s local patch and joined him for a ringing session. Marton Mere is a mere (lake) and Local Nature Reserve in Blackpool, Lancashire. It is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (1979) and supports various habitats such as open water, reed beds and grassland as well as pockets of woodland and scrub. The area provides home to a good variety of birds both resident and migratory. Over the years the mere and its surrounds has turned up a good number of rare birds including American Bittern, Whiskered Tern, Short-billed Dowitcher, Hoopoe, Barred Warbler, Little Bittern, Wryneck and Savi’s Warbler.  In doing so the mere attracts good numbers of bird watchers and twitchers hoping to see the current or next rarity.Marton Mere - geograph.org.ukOur focus this morning was on catching resident...

That Foxy Feeling

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I was due to meet Andy at 0630 for a go at catching Sand Martins. But first there was an hour or so in which to take a look at Conder Green. I heard the first Greenshank of the autumn and then saw it fly across the pool towards the east side. As usual two Avocets were on the far side and out of sight but I guessed they had a youngster in tow when all hell broke loose as they and other birds took to the air in protest at something or other. A gang of Oystercatchers joined in the melee as did Shelducks, Lapwings,  a single Black-tailed Godwit, a couple of Redshanks, two Little Egrets and also the two Common Terns from the floating island. Three Common Sandpipers dashed across the water as for safety one of them stood alongside a Common Tern on the floating pontoon. Four Tufted Duck panicked across the pool as the single Little...
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Goldfinch Day

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What a frustrating week! Here in North West England we’ve had at least three and a half days of windy and rain-filled days. Now on Friday and with the promise of better weather for weekend, the morning was still cloudy, grey and breezy from the north - not the best for birding or photos. All week I watched the garden fill with Goldfinches, and where like many British gardens, the highly successful Goldfinch is a common and often numerous visitor. Other species qwe see are typical suburban companions - Blackbird, Dunnock, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Starling, Magpie and Wren. This week we’ve had a couple of visits from a Great-spotted Woodpecker, but mainly it’s Goldfinch galore. So this morning and with our south facing garden sheltered from the breeze I deci...
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Sunday Circuit

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The week has been mixed - more of our very special English summer and the longest days when wind and rain battle for supremacy and winner takes all. It’s hard to say which came out on top this week but let’s just say that my suntan didn’t improve and birding was left on hold for a day or two. Sunday morning dawned dull and cloudy but I was determined to have a go so set off on the usual circuit. A Barn Owl hunted over Stalmine moss but then dived into the farmyard as the car got closer. Never mind, I saw another one later on the way back home and in broad daylight hunting next to the busy main road. Barn OwlI guess most Barn Owls have mouths to feed at the moment and are spending more time in hunting, even in the daylight. Just three weeks ago Andy and I had a brood of four Barn Owls at an ideal stage to ring but had to cal...
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Golden Times

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There are more pictures from the hill country today. Birding is more than a little quiet and the weather so perfect that I took to the upland roads with camera at the ready. Noticeable today was the reduction in numbers of waders with many already gone for the coast, mainly Lapwings, Redshanks and Curlews but to a lesser extent Oystercatchers. In fact I struggled to get pictures of Curlew and Redshank and managed just one Lapwing. Despite that a number of Snipe continued to both sing and display and to show themselves on dry stone walls and fences. Lapwing Curlew Like me, the Oystercatcher below was searching the skies for the Golden Plover singing unseen. I didn’t see the plover but the unmistakeable melody rung out loud and clear across the open fell. OystercatcherMaybe the Oystercatcher didn’t recognise the song...
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