Wedding Free Zone

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
I'm back from Menorca with a few photos and tales to tell. Click the pics for more sunny days from the Gem of The Mediterranean, 4th – 18th May 2018. This was our fourteenth visit to this the most beautiful and carefree of the Balearic Islands. 

People have in the past said to me “Are you going to Minorca or Menorca?”, but the two words “Minorca” and “Menorca” are interchangeable. Menorca is the preferred local name, Minorca the English version. Menorca has its own language, Menorquín, which is a dialect of Catalan, but Spanish is widely spoken. 

We picked up the hire car at the airport thanks to our friends at Momple,  a local family business since 1974 and highly recommended in preference to the bigger names of car hire. A small car is ideal for sometimes narrow and twisty roads Menorcan roads. We noted more than one hire car with bent wing mirrors or recent dents.

Within ten minutes and minimal paperwork over, we headed for our destination of two weeks, the beach side resort of Sant Tomas. From Sant Tomas it’s a ten minute drive to the major road of the island, the Me-1. From there the fish-bone layout roads lead to authentic and unspoilt inland towns and to touristy coastal resorts north & south plus the major cities of Mahon or Ciutadella at each end of the island. 

Menorca

Panda 

It rained all of the day we landed. Ready for a rest after our 2am start we remained optimistic for the next and following days. Sunny skies arrived soon and stayed until the end. Witness the following photographs.

There are bits and pieces around the hotel. Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Hoopoe, the two local gulls Yellow-legged & Audouin’s, plus shearwaters in mostly distant view. On most evenings one or two Scops Owls put on brief shows as they came to feed on beetles and moths. Sadly, the local Woodpigeons have become as bold as our own British ones and rather to the expense of the local Turtle Doves that have now become harder to find in Sant Tomas and the local countryside.

Audouin's Gull

Turtle Dove

Spotted Flycatcher 

Blackbird 

Woodpigeon

Hoopoe 

When the sun came out the local lizards warmed up too. On our travels this year we spotted albeit briefly, a Fox Vulpes vulpes, the same species as our UK one but the one we saw of a very sandy shade almost like the colour of a golden retriever.

Italian Wall Lizard 

It’s one of our favourite runs. Towards Es Mercadal with stops here & there along “Dusty Road” at Tirant and the swooping run to Cavelleria and back followed by lunch at Fornells village. We stopped to rescue a Hermann's from traffic.

 "Dusty Road", Tirant

Hermann's Tortoise

May flowers 

May flowers 

Playa Fornells from Tirant

Bar at Tirant

To Cavelleria

Cavelleria

Red Kites, Kestrels and Booted Eagles line this route with the occasional Egyptian Vulture. We fell lucky on a couple of days with singles of both Red-footed Falcon and European Roller on the roadside wires. The kites and eagles appear to never, ever land, not for the car bound photographer and certainly not for the brightly clad cyclist or walker.

Red Kite 

Booted Eagle 

Egyptian Vulture 

European Roller 

European Roller

Red-footed Falcon 

 Red-footed Falcon

Tawny Pipits seemed harder to find this year, as did both Thekla, Short-toed Lark and even the normally plentiful Stonechat. I fear that Menorcan farmland birds may be in similar decline to our own UK ones. In contrast, Corn Buntings appeared as ubiquitous as ever.

Tawny Pipit

Corn Bunting 

Stonechat 

Fornells 

Fornells

Fornells 

Fornells 

Fornells

Stay tuned. There's more to come from Menorca soon, a book review, plus back to local birding when time allows.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Blogspot.



Guess Where

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Regular readers will know where Sue and I are this week. That’s right - Sunny Menorca, our annual treat after the British winter. The winter just gone was the worst for many a year so we are really ready for this respite. 

First and foremost this is a holiday of rest & relaxation with a few birds thrown in for good measure.  Sue tells me a holiday should not include blogging so I scheduled this post before we left to include pictures from recent years.

Apologies if some seem familiar but sit back at your PC, “click the pics” and enjoy some of that the Mediterranean sunshine as we take in a few birds and landscapes of glorious Menorca. 

Menorcan Panda 

Bee Eater 

Donkey Love 

Red-footed Falcon 

Egyptian Vulture 

Lobsters 

Es Grau Nature Reserve 

Sardinian Warbler 

Hoopoe 

Es Mignorn 

Alaior

Hoopoe

Egyptian Vultures

View from El Toro, Menorca

Scop's Owl 

Purple Heron 

Tawny Pipit 

Black-winged Stilt 

Turtle Dove 

Es Grau, Menorca 

Hermann's Tortoise 

Squacco Heron 

Es Mercadal, Menorca 

Bee Eater 

Woodchat Shrike 

Spotted Flycatcher 

Fornells Village, Menorca 

A hot day in Menorca 

Back soon. Don't start birding without me.


If At First You Don’t Succeed

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
For once there was no early morning Barn Owl. I motored past a couple of sentinel Kestrels but no ghostly owls crossed my path. I guess the owls must be sat tight on eggs by now, early May. 

The morning was to be pretty quiet for new migrants but there was evidence that the recent cold weather had not held up some birds’ urge to procreate. 

I soon found myself at Gulf Lane where Richard the farmer has tilled and then seeded the set-aside field, the scene of our winter Linnet project. A pair of Oystercatchers moved in pretty smartish with the female already sat on eggs and the male on sentry duty just yards away. The sitting female is highly visible in the bare field and already the focus of attention for marauding crows with their eyes on the eggs. Hopefully the seed will sprout and grow quickly to give some element of cover and camouflage to both the female and the eggs. The incubation period for the eggs will be between 25-30 days; it’s a long time to keep those determined crows at bay. 

Oystercatcher 

Oystercatcher 

Carrion Crow

There were 6 Stock Doves and a handful of Woodpigeons picking over the ground as well as four of our Linnet friends. 

At Conder Green the high water level dictates the presence of five pairs of Oystercatcher as the sole representatives of wading species with no sign of the several Avocets that in recent weeks took a passing interest. There are signs that Tufted Duck and even Shelducks will breed again with three pairs of the former and two or more pairs of Shelduck. 

Along the hedgerow here was at least one each of Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Reed Bunting. 

I’m still not seeing many Swallows although it was good to note about 10/12 of their House Martin cousins at Conder Green. The martins were in their usual place at the houses and the café that overlook the muddy creeks of the River Conder. Having arrived only in the last day or two they were already collecting mud for their homes on the sides of the buildings. A Goldfinch came to see what all the fuss was about and perhaps thought the martins collected food rather than mud. 

House Martin  

House Martin 

Goldfinch 

The Jeremy/Moss/Slack lanes circuit proved quiet with little out of the ordinary. It does seem that the two species most lacking in numbers this year are two small warblers, the Whitetroat and the Sedge Warbler. These are just two of the many bird species that winter in the Sahel region, the south side of the Sahara Desert shown in orange on the map. 

It is here that birds and people literally live on the edge and  where both rely on the same natural resources of trees, water and land. It’s a landscape that is often plunged into a prolonged drought and subject to other threats such as expansion and intensification of arable & livestock agriculture, and the cutting of trees for fuel. 

If such species can survive the Sahel winter they must then embark on the long and perilous journey to and from Northern Europe. No wonder then that so many do not make it back to the UK. 

The African/Palearctic Bird Migration System

Sedge Warbler 

Whitethroat 

Along Moss Lane was a Lapwing with four tiny youngsters, so small that that they probably hatched just today. There are good numbers of Lapwings on eggs that may get the benefit of the late spring as farmers delay their usual ploughing due to several still saturated fields. The same goes for Skylarks with good numbers displaying and chasing over the rough grass where hopefully the young can soon hide from the crows. 

Lapwing & chick 

The Tree Sparrows were noisy at Cockersands where loud “chip,chip” calls gave away their nesting intentions, not to mention one or two locations. Along the shore - a few Goldfinch and singles of Pied Wagtail and Whimbrel but it was time to head home and pack for warmer days. 

Tree Sparrow 

Tree Sparrow 

Back home a pair of Collared Doves aren't having as much luck. They spent all of Wednesday building a nest in the apple tree. Today the sticks were all over the grass and I suspect the doves need a bit more practice at building a home. It's bit like birding; repetition and training makes for a better job.

Log in soon for some summer sunshine and colourful birds with Another Bird Blog. 




Local Rarity

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
A Barn Owl floated across Stalmine Moss but that wasn't the reason to stop. I’d heard a local rarity singing from the same spot where I saw a couple of the creatures in deepest winter. It was a Corn Bunting, that once abundant bird of local farmland but now a very occasional sight. 

Corn Bunting 

Counts of Corn Buntings are now desperately low. There are hardly any local breeding records and pitifully low numbers in wintertime when we might expect a few to feed on farmland stubble. Therein lies the problem. 

Not too many moons ago the Fylde was a summer arable landscape of growing vegetables followed by views of autumn and winter stubble, fields of waste and weed seeds left from the harvest that kept myriads of buntings and finches alive through the winter.  Those same fields are now grass and silage for sheep and cows, meat the only food that most people eat since abandoning live vegetables. Big Mac and the like have a lot to answer for. 

I read an article recently that suggested cooking skills may die out completely in the next two generations because we Brits are losing interest. Although we declare ourselves too busy to cook from scratch, opting instead for takeaways and factory food, we have plenty of time to watch TV.  The national obsession with cookery shows and watching other people prepare food on TV does not prompt us to actually cook anything other than microwaved ready meals or beans on toast. A home-made steak and kidney pie is now as rare as hens-teeth in Kentucky Fried Britain.

I digress. Back to the birds. There was a scratchy singing Whitethroat too, one of 8/10 seen this morning; so at last they have arrived. Likewise a few more Swallows scattered around farms, 30+ in total but still very few House Martins, the latter still in single figures. 

I stopped briefly at Braides, the scene of much frenzy last weekend with birders desperate to add a few Yellow Wagtails to their yearly list. How many Yellow Wagtails went unseen in other similar locations is anyone’s guess. Today a couple of Linnets, a pair of Kestrel, one Grey Heron, several Swallows, and unusually for here 4 Rooks. The Rook is a more handsome and beneficial bird than the ubiquitous and villainous Common Crow. 

Rook

I called at Conder Green where the water level is still too high for many species but the four to five pairs of Oystercatcher are not so choosy so remain on territory. There was a single Common Tern on the nesting island, the first tern back in 2018 as far as I know. I noted the bird wore a very shiny ring on the right leg but far too distant to read the inscription. Also, a single lingering usually winter only Goldeneye, 6 Tufted Duck, 6 Teal, 2 Pied Wagtail and a Kestrel. Along the hedgerow - a singing Whitethroat. Nearer to Glasson singles of Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler.  

Common Tern

The circuit of Jeremy, Moss and Slack Lanes threw up a good selection of migrant birds in the shape and sound of 4 Wheatear, 4 Whitethroat (all males), 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail and 1 Whinchat. 

Whinchat

It was good to count 12/15 Skylark although a flock of 110 Linnets is suggestive of the still below average temperatures. Heartening also to see upwards of 15 Lapwings sat on eggs but impossible to predict how many will survive the plough of the coming weeks. 

Not everything is late this spring as proven by the Blackbird with a beak full of giant worms for the family meal. Good to see that the Blackbirds at least survive on a diet of fresh food. 

Blackbird 

Please login soon to Another Bird Blog. Can’t promise rarities but there’s always a picture or two!

Linking this post to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.




Poor Old Oyk

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
There came something of a surprise with a recent email from the BTO. 

The message concerned an Oystercatcher found dead by a member of the public at our ringing site near Oakenclough on 18th April 2018. The bombshell was the fact that our Oystercatcher had died at the grand old age of 22 years, 7990 days after being ringed at the same place on 2nd June 1996. 

This is a site where a number of pairs Oystercatchers breed every year, an inland and upland location with a reservoir where the Oystercatchers nest on the rocky shores dependent upon water levels but also in adjacent fields. Even my memory of ringing occasions doesn't stretch back 22 years so I looked up the original ringing data on our Fylde Ringing Group database and there it was. Ring number FR86494, ringed as a chick, one of two youngsters on 2 June 1996. 

IPMR data

I searched my memory bank recalled the day as an occasion when three of us (Gary, Bob and me) called in at Oakenclough to ring a nest of three Yellowhammer chicks and 5 Willow Warbler chicks found a week or so earlier. 

As we motored out of the site at the entrance we spotted a pair adult Oystercatchers with two chicks so stopped to complete a successful excursion with a little bonus. Sadly, the Yellowhammers were the last ones ringed at the site as it became very overgrown with rhododendron resulting in the area becoming unsuitable for a number of species. 

Oystercatcher chick

Oystercatcher 

Although 22 years is a good age, it’s not quite the longevity record for Oystercatchers. The oldest known Oystercatcher was ringed as a chick in 1970 and later found in 2010, on the same beach in Cumbria, not too many miles from Lancashire. At that time, it was already 40 years, one month and 2 days old. 

Despite the known longevity of the species Oystercatchers are a vulnerable and Amber-listed in the UK.  From the BTO - Breeding Bird Surveys since 1994, which include birds in a broader range of locations and habitats, show strong increase in England but a significant, moderate decline in Scotland. The increase in nest failure rates during the 27-day egg stage probably results from the spread of the species into less favourable habitats, where nest losses through predation or trampling may be more likely. There has been widespread moderate decline across Europe since 1980. 

There is a moral to this story. It is that where possible, everyone should always look at dead birds and examine the legs as there may be a ring, British Museum/BTO or a foreign scheme. High quality metal rings are designed to be long lasting so that the inscription does not easily wear and may be legible for the lifespan of the bird and longer. The information resulting from finding and reporting a ringed bird, dead or alive is very valuable to science.

British Museum bird ring

Linking today to Eileens' Blog.


Change Of Scene

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
With a forecast of a good sunny morning I decided to have a drive up to the hills to see how things were going in this belated spring. With luck I’d have three hours of birding before the parades of wannabe Bradley Wiggins’ showed up in their day-glow clothing and very loud voices that scare the birds away.

It’s a forty minute drive and a bridge over the northbound M6 before I hit the beginnings of the Trough of Bowland.

"Click the Pics" for a closer look. 

Bowland, Lancashire 

Bowland 

The quiet of early morning was broken mostly by the sounds of displaying Curlew and Lapwing. To lesser extent were the calls of Oystercatcher, Redshank and Snipe, all in the throes of establishing their breeding territories but the last three tend to be later breeders. 

Redshank 

Oystercatcher 

Snipe 

I lost count of the Mistle Thrush seen and/or heard. From every bit of suitable woodland or copse came their loud, fluty song. 

Mistle Thrush 

If Meadow Pipits have been rather thin on the coast they were around in large numbers this morning flitting around on every stretch of fence or dry stone wall for miles. Again, I lost count, or rather made no attempt at a total as they were just everywhere.

Pied Wagtails were numerous but not nearly so many as pipits. I found a couple of pairs of Grey Wagtail along Marshaw and Tower Lodge streams. It was at Tower Lodge that I both saw and heard Siskins, Lesser Redpolls and a single male Redstart. 


Meadow Pipit 

Meadow Pipit 

Pied Wagtail 

I saw at least 4 Wheatears on the journey. They seemed very mobile and were probably migrants. 

Wheatear 

Not so the Red-legged Partridge, in loud song from a dry stone wall. Our Red-legged Partridge is not native to Britain but instead are feral or left overs from autumn shoots of released birds. Altogether it is an attractive bird that is able to hack it in the English countryside, unlike our native Grey Partridge which has become a rare sight in modern Lancashire. 

Red-legged Partridge 

Bowland, Lancashire

And while we are on the subject of Bowland, here’s an udate on the case against Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper James Hartley. Previous post here.  Mr Hartley faced 9 charges as follows:
  1. Disturbing the nesting site of a Schedule 1 wild bird (13/04/2016) 
  2. Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird (13/04/2016) 
  3. Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird (14/04/2016) 
  4. Setting trap / gin / snare etc. to cause injury to a wild bird (between 13-14/04/2016) 
  5. Taking a Schedule 1 wild bird (14/04/2016) 
  6. Possessing a live / dead Schedule 1 wild bird or its parts (14/04/2016) 
  7. Possessing an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15 to 17 (13/04/2016) 
  8. Possessing an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15 to 17 (between 12/04/2016 – 27/04/2016) 
  9. Causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal – Animal Welfare Act 2006 (between 14/04/2016 – 15/04/2016) 
The case collapsed last week after District Judge Goodwin ruled the RSPB video evidence inadmissible at a hearing at Preston Magistrates Court on 28 March 2018. 

The only bird of prey I saw while driving through Bowland on Saturday was a single Kestrel. The killing goes on.

Log in soon to see more birds on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday with Stewart.

Missing In Action

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
A rather grey morning left me waiting for the promised lunchtime sun before I hit the trail. Although the light was still not good, sun was on the way with our bit of the “heatwave”. 

Those midday Barn Owls showed again, this time an obvious pair since they hunted the same fields. They weren't quite in tandem with one of them much more active than the other which sat in the adjacent hedgerow for a good hour. I was still on ISO1200. 

Barn Owl 

Barn Owls 

Barn Owl 

I checked out the recent Buzzard location to find both birds on show but partly hidden in the nest, seemingly doing a little housekeeping. Nearby was a Kestrel and also a male Sparrowhawk sat in the depths of the cover with its bright orange breast a dead give-away. 

Some migrant species are rather slow in arriving this year. The long journey from Africa takes its toll when birds hit rough weather. I was out all afternoon and saw just 6 Swallows, four of them in one location at Cockerham; otherwise just two singles near farms. Other species that should be around seem to be either lacking or here in very small numbers; Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats are conspicuous by their absence and we might expect a few Reed Warblers by now, but I've yet to hear that not unpleasant rasping and repetitive “song”. 

Swallow 

At Gulf Lane the farmer has rough ploughed our erstwhile Linnet catching field in readiness for the new crop of bird seed mix in late April/early May. The turned soil has pulled in a few birds looking for an easy meal. Two Wheatears, a Skylark and a Pied Wagtail searched over the ground and a Kestrel hovered briefly overhead. 

Wheatear 

I looked at Fluke Hall where Whitethroats can always be found but none today just 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler and 3 Blackcap. Two Buzzards noted and also an odd number of Jays for April as three of them chased through the tree tops. “Two’s company, three’s a crowd” goes the saying. 

On the seaward side a single Wheatear with a few Lapwings on territory in the fields. Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrows along the hedgerows.

Chaffinch 

The cattle at Braides Farm have puddled a patch of ground that’s proved attractive to a procession of wagtails this week. Today I noted at least 8 Pied Wagtail, 4 White Wagtail and 2 Yellow Wagtail although all were very mobile, flying as far as the sea wall 200 yards away. There was also a Wheatear, a handful of Linnets and several Skylarks in song. 

Yellow Wagtails are the Cattle Egrets of the wagtail world.  More often than not the Yellow Wagtail can be found sharing fields with sheep or cattle where the animals' hooves and the constant grazing disturb plenty of insects.   

Yellow Wagtail 

It looks like we may get our summer in Lancashire tomorrow. If so stand by for more news soon from Another Bird Blog.

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


Early Pipit Late Owl

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
A 6 am start beckoned and I met Andy at Oakenclough in near perfect conditions - a light southerly, and compared to recent weeks, a temperature that felt quite agreeable. 

Once again newly in birds were rather limited so we struggled to reach double figures with just 10 birds ringed but the emphasis on quality rather than quantity: 5 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Goldfinch and 1 Tree Pipit. 

In most years April 1st is around the normal date for the arrival of the first Willow Warblers so the two males caught today are approximately ten days “late”. Maybe they picked a good time to arrive with predicted temperatures of up to 64°F and fine days for next week. In so many recent years Willow Warblers have arrived into cool and wet weather that continued throughout May and had a detrimental effect upon their breeding success. 

Willow Warbler 

Lesser Redpoll 

Today’s Tree Pipit, our first of the year, was aged as a second year bird (born in 2017). April 14th is bang on the expected date of the first Tree Pipits arriving from Africa. 

Tree Pipit 

A Tree Pipit resembles the slightly smaller Meadow Pipit. Both are at first glance unexceptional looking LBJs, streaked brown above and with black markings on a white belly and buff breast below. 

The Tree Pipit is distinguished from the slightly smaller Meadow Pipit by its heavier bill, stronger more yellowish, heavier streaking and greater contrast with the white belly. The former also has pink legs rather than the flesh-coloured legs of Meadow Pipit. As the name suggests, Tree Pipits spend more time in trees than ground dwelling Meadow Pipits.  Tree Pipits breed across most of Europe and temperate western and central Asia. It is a long-distance migrant and spends our winter in Africa and southern Asia. 

The song flight is unmistakable. The bird rises a short distance up from a tree, and then parachutes down on stiff wings, the loud song becoming more drawn out towards the end.  It is many years since I heard the song here at Oakenclough where it used to breed in the open woodland and scrub of the late 70’s and early 80’s.  The habitat is still suitable now but unless the Tree Pipit regains its former population level it is unlikely to return. 

The Tree Pipit's flight and contact call is a buzzing "dzzz" sound, heard mostly during migration. It’s a high-frequency call that becomes harder to hear for us older generation birders. Luckily we can catch them, take a closer look and confirm that the label of “Little Brown Job” is far from the truth. 

The morning proved quiet in the way of birding except for the usual five or six Buzzards in the air as the morning warmed. Two Red-breasted Mergansers “over” and a smattering of redpolls proved to be as good as it got with little sign of visible migration. "Otherwise" local birds included a handful of Chaffinches, 1 Jay and 2 Mistle Thrush. 

The journey home was quite interesting by way of a Barn Owl hunting across farmland at 11.20am. Many Barn Owls are sat on eggs by now, a scenario that requires the non-sitting bird to spend extra hours in search of food. 

Barn Owl

Nearby I noted a single Kestrel and also a pair of Buzzards at a nest. The female was clearly visible in the huge pile of sticks close to the top of a tall, uncropped hawthorn hedgerow. Let's hope the conspicuous nest will not become a target for vandals and/or those who would harm the mostly harmless Buzzard.

Buzzards 

Log in soon for more birds from Another Bird Blog. In the meantime, linking to World Bird Wednesday and Anni's Birding.

Out At Last

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
What with half-term, car service & MOT and pretty poor weather, I’d been out of birding action for a week. 

Thursday morning and as is often the case I wasn’t sure where to go on my local patch while allowing sufficient time to spend at each. There’s nothing more annoying than birding at one place and seeing not very much to then hear later of birds seen in the same spot soon after. It’s a form of Sod’s Law that applies to birders and probably other obsessives. 

Through Pilling village was the first Chiffchaff singing from an annual location but as I drove past I spotted a hunting Barn Owl ahead. The owl was on a fast, large circuit that took it over fields, behind tall hedgerows and through farmyards so I quickly lost sight. 

Barn Owl 

I drove up to Conder Pool, the first time for a couple of weeks. Very evident here was that the water level here is tremendously high after the autumn and winter rains with very little in way of margins for waders. I counted 8 Shelduck, 6 Tufted Duck, 22 Teal, 2 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron and a good number of Mute Swans. There was a single Kestrel knocking around. Waders consisted of 2 Avocet and 8 Oystercatchers. 

Two Avocets have taken up territory on one of the far islands in exactly the same spot as last year. 

Avocet 

Having bred successfully both adults and offspring Avocets are faithful to a site in subsequent years. And with an average life span of 10-15 years there’s a more than a reasonable chance that either or even both of these birds were here last year. But more’s the pity as Avocets are not the friendliest towards other species. 

It’s not like me to be controversial but I'm far from certain we should be encouraging too many Avocets on Conder Pool, a piece of real estate that for many years was home to more common species. I would much rather see several pairs of species that co-exist rather than pairs of aggressive Avocets that allow no other birds on “their” patch. 

Surely several pairs of declining Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and maybe one or two Little Ringed Plover would be preferable? There now, naughty me, I've gone and upset the whole of the RSPB and the band of birders who judge a species by rarity value rather than taking a holistic view. 

A tour of the Jeremy Lane and Cockersands found a good selection of species but little in the way of migrants. Even the many hares I saw appeared lethargic, mainly sitting around and uninterested in the fact that it was April 12th and their mating season. 

Brown Hare 

There was a huge Peregrine hunting the marsh where it made several passes but caught nothing. Lapwings are mostly all paired up now with much dashing display, frantic calling and chasing off the crows so I suspect some are on eggs. Not so the Golden Plover, wintering birds only with a loose flock of 180+ birds, but many resplendent in their black& gold summer plumage. It is mostly impossible to get close to this species and as I've mentioned here before, to the UK’s eternal shame that this species is allowed to be shot by hunters. 

Golden Plover 

On the fields here – 40+ off passage Meadow Pipits searching the soggy fields, 8-10 Skylark and 20+ Linnet still flocking. 30+ Sand Martins at our ringing quarry looks promising and where with luck we’ll begin ringing after the first fledglings are on the wing. 

Meadow Pipit 

I was out birding all morning but still didn't see or hear many migrants. A handful of Swallows and two singing Chiffchaffs was the sum total of my summer birds. 

We’re promised warmer weather soon. Not soon enough where migration so far has consisted of a small flurry of early birds while everyone waits for the big fall that hardly ever takes place. 

Saturday looks promising for ringing with a light southerly of 5 mph and no rain. Believe it when we see it!

Linking today to Eileen's Blog.



Boring? Never.

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
I’d met up with Andy for another ringing session at Oakenclough and where surely we would find a few fresh migrants on this the Fifth of April? The wind was in the North-West and at 0630 and 0.5° it wasn't especially warm. 

A glance at the weather map portrayed a stream of warm air partly headed our way from Iberia with maybe an outside chance of a few new birds although few migrants had yet reached the North West. 

Thursday 5th April 

Our catch was on-par for recent weeks. In other words not so good with just 12 birds caught and still zero warblers - 3 Siskin, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Great Tit, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Dunnock. 

Siskin 

Lesser Redpoll 

We don’t catch many Dunnocks at Oakenclough but today’s bird proved to be a female in early breeding condition.

Dunnock

The name Dunnock comes from the old English words dunnakos/dunoke or donek, meaning ‘little brown one'. Dun = dingy brown, dark-coloured. Ock = diminutive. Its scientific name Prunella modularis translates as ‘little brown singer'.

It has other English and Irish names such as the wren's brother, mother-in-law, field sparrow, black wren, grey robin and hedge warbler. In Scotland one of its common names is blue-dykie - more of that later.

The Dunnock is the persona non grata of the bird world - mostly uninteresting to birders, ignored, unloved and unwanted; especially so when out it pops from the hedgerow where a rare LBJ is rumoured to be. The Dunnock deserves few mentions on bird blogs, barely a frame on You Tube and never a photo on Bird Guides’ Best. And wait in vain for a pager message or urgent tweet about the dismal, drab and dowdy Dunnock.

A Dunnock spends its days lurking mostly unseen in dark corners of suburban gardens or feeding surreptitiously under bird feeders when the glamorous birds have left the feast.  Its song is unhurried and unremarkable; a warble which to the inexperienced or hard-of-hearing can be confused with the Wren, Robin or Common Whitethroat but one which lacks the Wren's intensity, the Robin's sweetness or the scratchy tones of the Whitethroat.

But fear not dear reader. The lacklustre Dunnock does have a trick or two up its feathered trouser legs, as many a ringer will relate. The identical male and female Dunnock are to all intents and purposes monomorphic - identical when even simple biometrics prove unhelpful in separating one sex from the other. Until that is the breeding season when the male displays its most obvious attributes that go toward the legendary sex life of the dreary old Dunnock. Multiple mating systems including monogamy, polyandry and polygyny - you name it, they do it.

You see, there’s more to a boring Dunnock than meets the unwelcoming eye. I do think that Mr Dunnock would agree.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday,  Anni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday.