Underground And Overground.

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
We’ve had a few dreary mornings and I’d waited days for a bright, clear morning to drive into the hills with camera at the ready. Tuesday looked promising so I was up early and then drove north and east with fingers crossed as I left the coast behind. This was probably the last chance of the year as upland birds have already started their return journeys to coastal locations. "Click the pics" for close-ups. 

To The Coast 

There are not many Lapwing around now and I was counting ones and twos only, with little sign of late breeders. In my experience, Lapwings tend to give up rather than try again if their early breeding fails with small flocks appearing as early as mid-June. I found a good number of Curlew, some with large “running” chicks but also a good sized one learning the ropes of calling from a drystone wall. 

Lapwing 

Curlew 

Curlew 

There were still good numbers of Oystercatchers but all seemed to be adults lounging around and content to watch the world go by. Even Snipe proved elusive today with plenty of “chipping” from the fields where they have youngsters in tow but none posing along the lines of fence or wall; but I did find one close to a roadside pool that took off as soon as a vehicle came by. 

Oystercatcher 

Oystercatcher

Snipe 

Tower Lodge is a gateway to the country estate beyond but it is no longer inhabited by employees that safeguard the gentry and the grouse. 

Tower Lodge - Bowland 

A farmer had been trapping moles quite recently. 

Moles 

This part of Lancashire is meat rearing country; beef and sheep. Sheep that eat dirt from molehills can die from listeriosis, while winter feed for dairy cattle can become foul-tasting or toxic if contaminated by soil bacteria. So there’s a long tradition of mole trapping - showing the moles who’s boss and proving to neighbours that your farming is “reet”. 

The word “mole” is thought to derive from the old English word mouldwarp, which literally means earth-thrower. The animals’ forelimbs are large, pink and practically hairless, and, apart from an extra digit, have the appearance of a doll’s hands. So prized were moles’ hands that farmers once kept them in silk bags as talismans for good luck and to ward off toothache, epilepsy and scrofula. 

Mole 

Moles dig their tunnel systems to catch earthworms, shoving the excavated earth out of vertical passageways to produce molehills. In a 1976 study, researchers counted 7,380 molehills on a single hectare of English pasture, estimating their total weight to be 64,500kg. 

Mole Hill 

Mole control became a national policy in 1566, when a bitter cold period known as the Little Ice Age threatened England’s food supply. Queen Elizabeth passed “An Acte for the Preservation of Grayne”, which would remain in force for the next three centuries. The law prescribed bounties paid for the destruction of a long and dubious list of agricultural vermin, including everything from hedgehogs to kingfishers. Some parishes paid out a half-penny per mole, others appointed mole-catchers with contracts lasting up to 21 years. In addition to their salaries, mole-catchers sold the silky mole skins, which were prized for the tailoring of waistcoats. 

In the early 20th century worms dipped in strychnine became the preferred method for controlling moles on farms. Because strychnine doesn't break down in animal tissue, it can also work through the food chain when a bird of prey or even a domestic dog consumes a poisoned mouse or mole. 

In 1963, when the House of Commons debated a bill to ban the poison, David Renton, the minister of state for the Home Office, testified that moles “strangely enough” failed to show “the same symptoms of pain” as other animals. In the end the law banned strychnine for mice and rats, but exempted moles because no ready substitute existed. 

In the following decades, British farmers purchased more than 50kg of strychnine each year – enough, in theory to kill half a billion moles. The poison was eventually phased out with new pesticide regulations in 2006. 

Summer moves on with as Swallows and Grey Wagtails feed young plus countless Meadow Pipits both young and old along the walls and fences. While there are insects Meadow Pipits tend to stay around but come late August/early September there is a mass movement of the species south and west. 

Swallows 

Swallows 

Meadow Pipit 

Grey Wagtail 

Other birds today: Redshank, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Red Grouse, Pied Wagtail, Tawny Owl, Common Sandpiper, Pied Flycatcher, Lesser Redpoll.



Sleepy Time North

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
There’s not a lot to report from this morning’s birding sortie but then it is sleepy mid-June. 

The regular Barn Owl flew over someone’s garden and past their lounge window. That’s a pretty good bird for anyone’s garden list. 

Barn Owl

I stopped at Gulf Lane to inspect the bird seed cover crop and where pretty soon we’ll be catching more Linnets, a few Goldfinch and one or two other species. There’s been a tremendous surge of growth in the six or seven weeks since the farmer sowed the field during which there’s been zero rain with lots of sunny days. At the end of July we’ll cut a 100 ft ride for single panel nets through the crop and away we go with Linnet catching through until March. 

Bird Seed Cover Crop 

I saw six or eight Goldfinch and a couple of Linnets along the edge of the dried up ditch plus a singing Whitethroat. The Oystercatchers bred successfully here but then moved their young across the fields and towards the shore 200 yards away. 

Goldfinch 

Whitethroat 

Nearby and at the roadside Buzzard nest, one of the adults tried to hide but didn’t fly off so there’s a good chance there are one or two nestlings ready for fledging. Close by, a Kestrel and a singing Yellowhammer. Yellowhammers breed rather late around here so it’s not unusual to have them singing way into August. 

Buzzard

Yellowhammer

At Conder Green it’s “as you were” with the breeding birds; 2 pairs of Common Tern, 5 or more pairs of Oystercatcher and 1 pair of Avocets. Goodness knows what the Tufted Ducks are up to with as far as I know a zero count of ducklings from 10-20 paired adults that have been around all year.

A number of the Oystercatchers were busy with their “piping” rituals. At some unknown prompt the birds suddenly decided to display with up to six or seven taking part but three captured in the picture below.  The ritual is a way of defending pairs’ territories and consists of the Oystercatchers bowing their heads up and down with their beaks facing the ground while making long, high-pitched piping sounds. The shrill piping sounds are often directed to their neighbours. Sometimes they chase their neighbours or intruders away, piping loudly as they go.  Note the bowed heads and open bills.

Oystercatchers 

Noticeable today was an increase in Redshanks as inland and upland birds return to the coast. I counted 60 Redshanks this morning as well as 4 Black-tailed Godwits. Strange as it may seem the somnolence of summer breeding for passerines occurs at the same time as wading birds begin to migrate. By mid June many northern waders have finished their breeding with the adult birds the first the first to feel the southerly urge. 

The few passerines in the immediate area were noted as 3 Whitethroat, 4 Reed Bunting, 4 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Blackcap, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Tree Sparrow. 

It’s sad to say that 9 Swift flying around the pool and the hedgerows was my best UK count of the year. 

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

Missed The Pink

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
I found myself looking at Starlings this morning. Yes, those noisy, mucky pests that carry the very appropriate Latin title of Sturnus vulgaris. For readers not up to speed with the latest rarity news, there has been an influx of Rose-coloured Starlings into Western Europe and the UK from the pink ones’ normal area of easternmost Europe and southern Asia.  In those parts the species inhabits steppe and open agricultural land but when they turn up here in the UK they might be found in almost any habitat that resembles their original.  

An adult Rosy Starling looks nothing like our Common Starling but for the next few weeks it’s a good idea to check out any post-breeding Starling flocks as the juveniles of each species have a closer likeness.

All of a sudden there are a lot of Starlings around this week with flocks here and there and 90% of them fresh juveniles. 

Rose-coloured Starling 

Common Starling 

Good and bad news from Conder Green. A mink scurried along the water’s edge, glistening black from its dip in the creek before it disappeared into the grass. This was my first sighting here of this non-native terrorist, the originals of which were escapees from fur farms and those released by misguided Disney-heads. 

Mink - Pdreijnders CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Unsurprisingly the watery creeks held little apart from a handful of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Shelduck, plus singles of Curlew, Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Fortunately the story on the pool was much better with proved breeding from a number of birds and a "maybe" from a single Little Ringed Plover that is unlikely to be alone.  On the nearest island an Oystercatcher had three chicks, vying for the limited space with four fresh out-of-the-egg Redshank chicks.  Play “Spot the Chick” in the picture below. 

Redshanks 

Otherwise - a pair of Avocet in the throes of egg sitting, 18 Tufted Duck and at least 4 more pairs of Oystercatcher with more small young.

There are still two pairs of Common Tern, one pair with chicks, all of them joined briefly today by two other Common Terns that flew in from the estuary. After a few very noisy but brief skirmishes the would-be interlopers flew back from whence they arrived out to the River Lune.

I completed a circuit of the lanes from Conder Green via Jeremy, Moss etc. to estimate the passerines hiding in the ditches and hedgerows with singing counts of 12 Tree Sparrow, 8 Sedge Warbler, 6 Whitethroat, 3 Reed Warbler, 5 Reed Bunting, 4 Pied Wagtail, 2 Willow Warbler and 2 Blackcap

Tree Sparrow 

Pied Wagtail

I drove back via the moss roads to find more juvenile Starlings, a day flying Barn Owl, 4 Buzzards and a single Yellowhammer belting it out from on high. A Yellowhammer is quite a find nowadays, almost rarer than a Rosy Starling.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Yellowhammer

That’s all for now folks. Another Bird Blog is back soon with more colourful bird tales.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday and  Anni's Saturday Blog.


P.S. 

Kelly - Community Manager @ Google 31 May 

Hi everyone. We are aware that there is an issue where users are not receiving email notifications for comments. We're currently tweaking our emailing system, but we expect it to be working again soon. Thank you for your patience - we appreciate it! 

Kelly - Blogger Community Manager

Wader Snaps

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
This is the quiet period when migration takes a breather as the birds settle down to breed. I took time out with the camera today with the intention of snapping a few waders in the hills a thirty minute drive from home.  Don't forget - click the pics.

Snipe intrigue me. Dumpy, squat  little waders that like to hide away in marshy places and rarely make it easy for the camera. In the breeding season the males keep an eye open for trouble along fences or dry stone walls and where with a stealthy approach there’s a chance of a picture or two. I took loads of pictures of one obliging Snipe. 

Snipe 

Snipe 

Snipe

For a minute or more the Snipe took a walk along the fence towards an on-guard Oystercatcher. The Oystercatcher had chicks but Snipe are generally a week or more behind the oyks. 

Oystercatcher 

Oystercatcher chick 

Snipe

Oystercatcher and Snipe

Snipe 

Snipe

Up here in the hills Oystercatchers breed in the fields, amongst scattered trees, and also along the beds of stony streams. 

Oystercatcher 

Oystercatcher chick 

I didn't see too many Redshanks today but one of a pair, I think the male, proved pretty obliging. He sounded a warning from a roadside post to the female just yards away on a nest in the rushy field. 

Redshank 

Lapwings weren’t too numerous and the ones I saw were adults or well grown youngsters so I suspect that the Lapwings are more or less done for this year. 

Lapwing 

Lapwing 

Curlews are the difficult ones. They are very wary of approaching cars where even slowing makes them very prone to fly off. Unlike the other waders up here, Curlews rarely sit on walls and even less so on fence posts. 

Curlew

Bowland, Lancashire

Other species seen but not photographed today – 2 Cuckoo, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Pied Flycatcher, several Siskin, 4+ Lesser Redpoll, Mistle Thrush (many), Red Grouse, Grey Wagtail, Sand Martin, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Blackcap. 

Four plus hours - No raptors!

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday.

Book Review – Birds of Prey by Brian K Wheeler

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
New books arrive thick and fast. Up for consideration today are two books released together as companion field guides to North American raptors - Birds of Prey of the West & Birds of Prey of the East. The two are due for publication any day but for the benefit of readers of this blog, I managed to get my hands on a copy of each hot off the Princeton press. 

Birds of Prey of The West - Princeton Press 

Birds of Prey of the East - Princeton Press

After the run of photographic field guides and PC & IPhone apps of recent years I felt somewhat relieved to see that the art of the classic field guide is not lost but alive and well in these two volumes from Brian K Wheeler. 

A glance at the author’s unbeatable CV gives a clue as to the expertise displayed in these two superb books. 

“Brian K. Wheeler has been studying, painting, and photographing birds of prey throughout the United States and Canada for more than fifty years. He is the illustrator of Hawks of North America (Peterson Field Guides), the co-author and photographer of A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors, and the author and photographer of Raptors of Eastern North America and Raptors of Western North America. His photographs have appeared in many other books and in many bird magazines.” 

In the author’s own words. “The journey began when I was seven years old, when I earnestly started drawing birds and mammals, first on old canvas pieces, then on cardboard, and then on white watercolor paper with transparent watercolor paint. Later, I used the thicker opaque watercolor medium called gouache." 

"My first watercolor paintings of wildlife date back to age 12, and I sold my first painting when I was fourteen. Painting wildlife and especially birds was my passion, and I drew or painted every day. By my early twenties, I concentrated mainly on birds. My late teens and twenties were spent learning bird anatomy. I spent much time with waterfowl hunters and preparing road and window killed specimens for museums.” 

Both books are lavishly illustrated with really stunning, lifelike paintings which depict an enormous range of variations of age, sex, colour, and plumage. Princeton claims that the two books “feature a significant amount of plumage data that has never been published before”. I have no reason to doubt that given the dazzling number of plates and the variety contained therein. 

The painted figures illustrate plumage and species comparisons in a classic field-guide layout with each species shown in the same posture and from the same viewpoint, which further assists comparisons. 

 Red-tailed Hawk - Birds of Prey of The East

Bald Eagle - Birds of Prey of the East

Facing pages of text include quick-reference identification points and brief natural history accounts that incorporate the latest information. There are rather few bird photographs in either volume but where included they are of the best quality to illustrate a particular point, e.g, the authors explanation of the difficulties in re-establishing the Aplomado Falcon in the wild. 

Snail Kite - Birds of Prey of the East  

Swainson's Hawk- Birds of Prey of the West

Range maps appear exceptionally detailed and accurate and much larger than those in other guides, often full page as shown below. The maps also show up-to-date distribution information for each species and include the location of cities for more accurate reference points for the reader. 

Turkey Vulture - Birds of Prey of The East

Turkey Vulture - Birds of Prey of the West

This highly detailed information is further enhanced by discussion & analysis of sub-species, plumage variations, morphs, proposed splits & joins and the intermixing or interbreeding of species. For instance the Red-tailed Hawk in its many and various forms is treated to a fifty-five page essay in each volume. Similarly, eleven pages of the Eastern volume are allocated to describing the Peregrine Falcon in all its types. 

Peregrine Falcon - Birds of Prey of The West 

Birds of Prey of The East

Something rather new and extremely useful in this type of classic field guide is the inclusion of colour habitat photographs and brief explanatory notes next to the maps. A location is all very well but for the author to show the reader the actual habitat to explore is a beyond handy indeed. 

"Wyoming. Note excrement whitewash below aerie left of pine tree in the foreground midway on cliff face”! My exclamation. 

Zone-tailed Hawk - Birds of Prey of the West 

Despite the author’s scholarly approach and experience the guides never lapse into jargon or become overly scientific; they remain accessible and highly readable throughout. These are mighty books for raptor enthusiasts who take their birds of prey seriously. They represent a new standard for bird field guides. They go beyond the definition of a guide and reach into the realms of dissertation, systematic study and detailed exploration. 

I really cannot praise these two volumes enough. Both are “must-haves” for the serious raptor aficionado. 

Available now at Princeton Press and Princeton Press at $27.95 or £22.00 for each volume.

Linking today to Anni's Texas Bird Blog.

Result!

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
A Linnet 

Readers who follow this blog may have read about the Linnet project at Pilling/Cockerham. Over two winters we have caught and ringed over 500 Linnets hoping to find out more about Linnets that spend the winter on local farmland and coastal marshes of The Fylde of North Lancashire. 

We have suspected that many originate from Scotland with previous evidence of a summer nestling from Shetland recaptured at our one ringing site in winter. Now comes news of another Linnet and its connection to Scotland. 

We ringed Linnet S348682 as a juvenile/first year female on 2 December 2016. In the both the following weeks nor the next winter did we recapture her. Fast forward to 27 April 2018 when S348682 was recaptured by another ringer at Clachtoll, Lochinver, Highland, Scotland, a distance of 496km and an elapsed time of 511 days from the ringing date. By now the ringer had aged and sexed the Linnet as an adult female with the spring date suggestive of a possible breeding locality. 

Linnet - Cockerham to Lochinver

Linnet

Clachtoll is a coastal fishing and crofting village, situated on the Bay of Clachtoll, on the north western edge of Scotland. Almost certainly the Linnet had returned in April 2018 to the actual locality in which it was born or somewhere close.

Results like this motivate us to continue with the Linnet project for 2018/19. Such returns make all those cold morning starts and freezing fingers worthwhile. 


A Sand Martin 

Readers may recall that just last week on 23 May Andy and I suspected we caught a rather old Sand Martin. The martin bore a ring beginning with the letter “D”. So I punched in D350512 into Demography Online and hey presto, a few days later came a result. 

Sand Martin D350512 was ringed as a juvenile at Icklesham, East Sussex on 2 September 2103, four and half years, or to be exact, 1724 days prior to our recapture at the Cockerham nesting colony. Here we were able to sex it as a male. 

Sand Martin  

Sand Martin - Sussex to Lancashire

The comparatively short journey between Sussex and Lancashire is dwarfed by the yearly journeys of Sand Martins. D30512 has already flown several times between Africa and England and vice versa.

I make it ten journeys of about 2,500 miles each time, by road or as the crow flies. You do the maths.

Lancashire to Sahel

Millions of Sand Martins spend the Northern winter in the belt of hot and dry land immediately south of the Sahara known as the Sahel. Here they depend on areas of water in river flood plains and when rainfall is high, more martins survive. But in times of drought the Sand Martin population drops quickly. 

In the late 1960s, numbers in the British Isles fell by around 70% as a result of drought in the Sahel. Recent wetter winters have allowed numbers to recover but the species is very dependent upon climate and its effect, both here and in Africa.

An aside. Are other bloggers having problems with comments not appearing in their designated email accounts? It seems it's a Google problem but I wish they would fix it soon.

So apologies in advance if I am a little tardy with replies. I am having to go into the blog comments via Google + rather than read them in the everyday email account.        

Back On Patch

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
There was a stiff north-easterly wind as I set off over the moss roads. It had been three weeks without birding the local patch so I was keen to see what had taken place in this “silent spring”. Via the Internet I’d read local blogs and bird club pages where all agreed that a number of species were down or even missing – Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and Reed Warblers; the same names kept cropping up on the list of absentees. 

Until this morning I’d not seen a Swift in the UK, just several thousand in Menorca over a week ago. It was almost 1030 this morning before I saw my first 2 UK Swifts of the year, both heading purposefully into the wind and out over Morecambe Bay. 

The early start gave a number of Whitethroats, both singing but also skulking as they do. Maybe they are just trying to catch up with the days they lost on the way here? But less than a dozen Whitethroats for almost four hours of birding in suitable habitat represents a poor show. 

Whitethroat 

At least the recent dry days gave farmers a chance to catch up and for now the flash floods are gone.  Many a field is ploughed & seeded or stripped bare by the first cut of silage. 

Rawcliffe Moss, Lancashire 

The moss roads produced an interesting mix. I checked out the Buzzard nest of some weeks ago where the foliage now almost completely hides the nest. The two adults were very close by but silent and I’m pretty sure there are small young up there in the tree tops. 

Buzzard Nest 

Buzzard 

Close by was a singing Lesser Whitethroat, a Kestrel and on nearby fields, 6 Stock Dove. There was a Curlew displaying too, an upland breeding species that nests in very low numbers here on the coast.  
An hour or two around the Cockerham, Conder Green and Cockersands area proved to be inconclusive. I saw lots of Sand Martins at Cockerham but Swallows and House Martins were noticeable by their low numbers, even absent from regular spots along Moss Lane. 

In this part of Lancashire our Swallows have suffered a series of poor, short summers of rain, cool temperatures and the loss of many traditional nesting sites. The cumulative effect of these changes is that two or three broods have not been possible in a season and there are less young available to fly to Africa in the autumn. The additional pressures of the Swallows’ long and hazardous migration mean that the numbers of Swallows returning to breed in our Northern summer declines each year. Swallows are stuck in a vicious circle from which they struggle to escape. 

I managed to see and hear about six Sedge Warblers, plus a handful of Whitethroat but not a single Reed Warbler in the phragmites ditches alongside the lanes. I'm hoping the lack of visuals of both Reed and Sedge Warblers is down to a late start and the females laying low while on eggs. 

Sedge Warbler  

Brown Hares have done well this year where perhaps the farmers’ reluctance to enter their fields in the wet spring helped hares progress. Skylarks may have benefited in a similar way and it was a very visible but not necessarily vocal species this morning with a good number seen along Jeremy and Moss lanes. Skylarks too are mostly at egg stage in late May and I didn't see any carrying food today.
  
Brown Hare

Skylark 

Along Moss Lane I saw two broods of young Lapwings, adults with three good sized chicks and then adults with but a single youngster. Sadly I also saw the beginnings of a post-breeding season gathering of 15-18 adults whereby both failed or non-breeders join together in a loose flock to compare notes and discuss what they might do different next time. 

Lapwing 

There’s good news from Conder Green where a second pair of Common Terns have claimed the island spot vacated by the Avocets of early May that upped sticks and went elsewhere. The other pair  of terns still claim the man-made pontoon.

Common Tern 

Also here – 5 pairs of Oystercatcher, 3 pairs of Tufted Duck and 2 pairs of Redshank.



Book Review – Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
When I arrived back home after two weeks in Menorca, there was a parcel waiting. It was a review copy of Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands, freshly out as the newest addition to the highly successful WILDGuides titles. The author John Bowler is a conservation officer on the island of Tiree in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. He is the author of a number of field guides, including Wildlife of Seychelles (Princeton WILDGuides). 

Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands - Princeton Press

Macaronesia

So how does the new book stack up? Firstly, the clue is in the title. Potential buyers should note that this new volume is a more than a bird guide. It is a “wildlife guide” and therefore includes a guide to not just birds but also mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and dragonflies. 

The book covers the key wildlife sites to visit on each of the islands of Macaronesia and provides an overview of each island’s geography, climate, habitat types and current conservation efforts. As in previous volumes Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands follows the now well established WILDGuides formula of an illustrated but mostly photographic field guide, a highly successful and addictive recipe of guides that cover a wide range of animals, birds and insects across an equally diverse range of countries and continents. 

There is quite a lot of information to fit into the 244 pages, especially so when in comparison to Birds of the Atlantic Islands by Tony Clarke (2006), the current favourite bird guide to the islands. This has 365 pages for birds only, although admittedly it covers both the Cape Verde Islands and the Azores in addition to Madeira and the Canaries. A note for buyers, potential or actual - Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands does not cover Cape Verde Islands or the Azores. 

Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands begins with a useful and highly readable thirty page Introduction that includes a section on Main Wildlife Sites. This will prove invaluable to first time visitors and those on a short holiday visit to any of the islands as a pointer to sites that might suit their particular interest, be it birds, animal or insects. 

“Birds” are at Pages 31 to 139 with the remainder of the 244 pages devoted to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and dragonflies. The birds covered amount to 163 species which causes no major problems but it does mean that rare migrant birds that birders might encounter or species they specifically look for are not shown; Yellow-browed Warbler or Little Bunting spring to mind, as does the certainty of finding a North American vagrants or two. To the casual visitor this will not matter too much. Die-hard birders are in any case more aware of the possibilities of finding rare birds in such a geographical location and will almost certainly be able to name unexpected species they encounter. 

A minor niggle. There are no scientific names alongside common English names next to the images and to find this information the reader must refer to the List of Species at the back of the book where they are listed in an unhelpful scientific alpha order. 

The species accounts are very concise and well written throughout with the adjacent photographic images of very high and often impressive quality. Space requirements dictated by 244 pages inevitably mean that the many plumage, age and in-flight differentials of birds do not always feature in photographs, although this is covered in the text to some extent. In contrast, and to one whose knowledge of insects is cursory, the images of butterflies and dragonflies appear to show a number of variations of both colour and type to suit the average enthusiast. 

 Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

 Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

The section on mammals, reptiles and amphibians, which of course includes sea mammals, the cetaceans, is equally well documented with some excellent photographs. This is as it should be since the waters in this part of the Atlantic Ocean are some of the best in Europe in which to see whales, porpoises and dolphins. 

If you are a birdwatcher only you may have decided you do not need this book over and above Tony Clarke's Birds of the Atlantic Islands already on your bookshelf. That might be an unwise decision because I do not know of any birder who in the course of their birding, especially outside of their immediate local patch, who does not come across an unfamiliar animal or insect and immediately wish to put a name to it or find out more. This single book allows you to do that in one slim volume.  

So all in all the guide is a well balanced mix aimed at the enthusiastic regular visitor to the area but also a useful introduction for those making a first trip to these all year round islands. For those people this is a must-have book for any trip to the region covered as it fills the gap for an affordable, portable, accessible, accurate all-encompassing wildlife guide to Madeira and the Canary Islands. 

Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

I can definitely recommend this guide to readers of Another Bird Blog. I rather wish it had been in my suitcase when I visited both Lanzarote and Fuerteventura in recent years. If only I’d been able to identify the whale that sailed slowly past Puerto Calero or to sort out those Fuerteventura butterflies. 

At a little over 200 pages this book is succinct, highly portable and inexpensive. It has the added advantage of not catering for bird obsessives alone, something we should applaud. 

The book is available at Princeton Press for  a bargain basement price of £20 or $24.95. 





A Packet Of Smarties

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
I met up with Andy for our first Sand Martin ringing session of 2018. Like me, Andy had been on holiday, me in Menorca, and he in Turkey. Birders and ringers are ultra-competitive and as we swapped tales of sunny days his Eleonora’s Falcon was pretty good but I reckon I smashed him with 5 Golden Orioles, a European Roller and a Red-footed Falcon. 

There was no such exotica today. It was back to the bread and butter of Cockerham, the piping of Oystercatchers and the steady buzz of Sand Martins all around us as we waited to catch. Last year was very poor for our catches here as the so-called summer kept thwarting our planned visits. 

This year the colony is more tightly packed and so far at least, the weather is much better. We counted 200+ Sand Martins in attendance with most of the occupied nests in the softer strata layer of the quarry face with at least 75 holes in use. 

Sand Martin colony 

Sand Martin

We caught 68 Sand Martins. The catch was made up of 63 new birds, 3 returns from previous years (all from June 2015) and one bearing a quite old ring. The ring series beginning D350 told us that this bird had been ringed a number of years ago as our own series beginning “Z”, finished last year. We are now on the newer series of rings with a three letter prefix and four numbers. 

We also caught a male bearing a Paris Museum ring - “Click the pic” below. After these records are entered on the BTO database Demography Online, we will find in due course find out where both the French ringed and British ringed D350512 Sand Martins visited during their extensive travels. 

Paris, French Museum bird ring 

Sand Martin 

On the way home I checked out the Oystercatcher nest mentioned here on the blog on May 3rd, the day before I set off to Menorca.  I really didn’t expect to see the Oyk still sat after the attentions of the local crows. But there she was large as life, with a little vegetation cover, and now hopefully just a day or two until those chicks hatch. 

Oystercatcher 

Stay tuned. there's more birding soon from Another Bird Blog.

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Oop,oop,oop.

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
We saw lots of Hoopoes during our two week expedition to Menorca. Hang on, let me rephrase that a little. We heard many a Hoopoe; probably several dozen. We saw less - five or six individuals on a typical day.

"Click the pics" to see Hoopoe action.

Hoopoe 

The Hoopoe’s “oop,oop,oop,oop” call carries many a mile over the quiet landscape of Menorca. But this mainly shy bird often calls from the cover of a copse, a dry stone wall or the corner of a distant building. For an apparently highly visible bird with a funky hairdo the Hoopoe can be difficult to spot. Its striking but basically sandy-brown plumage blends well with the dry landscape while the black & white wing pattern and the bird’s erratic butterfly flight allows the bird to dissolve into the dappled light of a Menorca day. 

Hoopoe 

The Hoopoe is very common in Menorca where it occupies a wide variety of habitats: vineyards, gardens, parks, woodland and agricultural situations. In fact anywhere that will hold a dark cavity in which they can raise a family. 

The stink from a Hoopoe nest is legendary. The female secretes a substance of foul odour from the uropygial gland. This liquid smells like rotten meat. Due to the unpleasant smell, most predators stay away from the nest. On the other hand, insects, the Hoopoe's food, will be attracted but may find themselves to be the next Hoopoe meal. 

I didn’t test out the smelly nest theory when I found a nesting pair during the first week of our holiday as it was a hands and knees job. The nest site was an inch or two from the ground with the danger of rubbing my nose into soil and debris from the unkempt surroundings. 

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe 

Initially I thought that the adults were feeding only tiny young as they carried quite small morsels of food into the lump of pre-cast concrete with a handy cavity. Mostly the adults took items through the hole and left quickly, but on occasions the slightly smaller female stayed in to brood the chick(s). One food item seemed to be favoured, a small, red spherical creature that appeared to be a spider or bug. On other occasions it was definitely spiders of one sort or another. 

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe 

May 18th was our flight home day. So on the late afternoon of the 17th I left Sue packing and drove for a last look and check of the Hoopoe’s nest. I was glad I did because after a while and soon after the female departed the nest, a younger head appeared at the hole. 

The youngster peered out into the world it would soon inhabit. Passing cars, footsteps, sounds of laughter & joy from a nearby villa and swimming pool. The click of a camera from the window of a Fiat Panda didn't phase the youngster as it waited patiently for mum to return.

Hoopoe chick

Wow. That’s some gape; pure white, unmissable in the darkened depths of a nest when the adult arrives with a pile of grubs to share. Maybe there was only one youngster after all? We'll never know but my guess would be that the young Hoopoe was big enough to fly away on 18th May at much the same time as we flew back to Manchester Airport. 

In the UK the Hoopoe is uncommon enough to be an attraction for twitchers. I guess it’s those jazzy looks, the wish to see that slow fanning in and out of the headdress or to hear that mellow “oop, oop, oop”? 

Bird ringers will testify that in the hand the Hoopoe is something of a disappointment. Beneath that colourful finery lays a rather scrawny skeleton that seems in desperate need of a good meal. But I must admit a Hoopoe does make for a nice ringing “tick” and a good enough photograph.

Linking today to Anni's Blog and World Bird Wednesday.