Monday, 31 August 2020

Wryneck, George's Lane, Horwich

My experience with wryneck is that they either show incredibly well or are incredibly skulking.... fortunately todays bird in George's lane on the flanks of Rivington Pike chose the former.

From visiting this place many times I knew that I could park close to the kennels now turned cafe, but instead I opted to park at the start of George's lane and walk the mile and a half to where the bird had been seen. It was a nice day and I felt like a walk and really there is no point in rushing to see a wryneck. If it wants to show itself it will be there right in front of you, if it doesn't then no amount of dashing around will make it appear. In anycase I'd already seen three wrynecks in the north west following birds in St Helens (1996), Seaforth (1997) and Fairhaven Lake (2015), and I don't really keep a Manchester list, so no real pressure, just enjoy the day and hopefully the bird will perform.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Osprey passage south

Back to the Cumbrian coast for 7.30am today and hopes of some visible migration were given a big boost by two ospreys heading south in the first hour. One of them hung around for a bit fishing the channel before disappearing south. Also today, an adult female and juvenile wheater, several swallows and house martins, a family party of Sandwich terns and around 180 ringed plover.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Little Whimbrel, Blakeney 1985: Connecting the past with the present.

Little whimbrel, Blakeney harbour, Norfolk
24th August 1985 © David Cottridge.
In late August 1985 my dad and I set out for Norfolk for a long weekend birding. It was one of our favourite birding places and late August was a favourite time of year because it gave us the opportunity to see a few early autumn migrants whilst at the same time many of the summer birds would still be around. We booked into the White Horse Inn at Blakeney for the nights of 24th & 25th August. My dad must have been keen to go because 24th August was his wedding anniversary though that didn't really register too much with me at the time!

Back in 1985 the North Norfolk coast and in particular Cley-next-the-sea was still the epicenter of mainland birding in the UK. Bird information services were still in their infancy and Nancy's cafe was at the height of it's powers and nearby Walsey Hill was also an important source of information. In the mid 1980's it sometimes seemed that I spent every weekend with my mates in the autumn in this area and it turned into a really good social event. Sometimes we'd sleep in the car, sometimes a tent, other times in a B&B, very occasionally a hotel.

This was different though, this was with my dad and I expected the pace to be a bit more relaxed. Dad was a keen birder, he had been since at least his early twenties, but he didn't really do twitches and he was what I would call a selective birder, he didn't like seeing birds out of what he considered to be their proper context and for him the overall experience was everything not just seeing the bird. So for example he turned down the opportunity to come with me to see a juvenile great northern diver in the midlands because he wanted his first great northern to be a summer plumage bird in the Scottish Highlands. He did however love the North Norfolk coast, though the irony was not lost on him that many of the migrants we saw such as 1st winter barred warblers and ortolans were just the east coast equivalent of a juvenile great northern in the midlands, but this was different because the North Norfolk coast was meant to be full of migrants, that's what it was all about, that's what he wanted to experience and so in that respect they weren't out of context.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Leucistic starling in the garden

Imagine this, you watch the small starling flock at the end of the garden every day for weeks hoping for a rose-coloured starling in an invasion year, and you get to know every bird individually, then suddenly a leucistic starling turns up out of the blue and after you recover from the shock you wonder, is it leucistic common or might it be leucistic rose-coloured? It's common the bill shape is wrong for rose-coloured. Cracking bird though. A dead cert for the Pennington Flash starling roost I would have thought.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Bearded Vulture at Crowden, Woodhead Pass

The bearded vulture currently in the Peak District has relocated to Crowden at Woodhead Pass so today I decided to call in for another look. Woodhead Pass is a bit easier to get to for me than where it was previously near Ladybower Reservoir, but it's still a pain, mainly because of the traffic around Mottram. It was worth it though because on the ground at least I had far better views today than last time, and it wasn't so windy so I was able to use the full magnification of the telescope. Also today, four ring ouzels from the Pennine Way.

When I arrived it was sitting on a cliff in some woods on the side of Hey Moss less than half a mile from Crowden Outdoor Education Centre and  I watched it there for about 30 minutes at a distance of about 200m. Then it flew north and I thought that was the last we were going to see of it for a while, but it circled round and amazingly landed on the lower slopes of Bareholme Moss just about 150m away from us. It remained here for about another 20 minutes before flying north again up the valley for about a mile or so and was lost to view. I had a walk around the valley looking for ring ouzels and whatever else I might find and continued to see the vulture, but always distantly and in flight.
All of the photos of the vulture in this post were taken on my phone at a distance of between 150 - 200m. It only has to move about 2.5 miles further north to enter Greater Manchester and become a potential north west tick so this might not be my last encounter with the bird.

One last Bearded Vulture photo (for now)

I accidentally deleted this photo but when I "re-discovered" it I felt it deserved a post of its own. It was taken today at Crowden in Derbyshire on the side of Bareholme Moss. The bird flew and landed here, right behind us at a distance of about 150m. The photo was taken in poor light on my phone and through the telescope on a magnification of 50x. I also zoomed in a little using the digital zoom on the phone and finally before I posted it here I cropped it quite a bit, so it's anybody's guess as to what the magnification really is on this photo. Personally I think this is a great photo considering that it was taken on my phone!

Monday, 3 August 2020

"Whispering Bat" a new addition to the garden list

I was delighted to record brown long-eared bat over the garden two nights ago. This is one of the very few occasions that I have managed to actually get one to register on the bat detector. Brown long-eared bats belong to the Plecotus group of bats which are often referred to as the whispering bats because their echo location is so quiet. 

Bats evolved echo location in order to allow them to catch flying insects at night, but some moths countered this by evolving ways of hearing the bats echo locating. This gives the moth an advantage because it is forewarned. Brown long-eared bats have evolved huge "ears" which are actually more like satellite dishes which allow the bat to echo locate much more quietly and therefore evade the moths early warning system. Because they echo locate so quietly they are rarely picked up by bat detectors, in fact I believe that they have to come within 3-5m in order to register.

By coincidence the following night I recorded another bat which the detector also identified as brown long-eared but although the frequency might be in the range you can clearly see that it has the hockey stick shaped call associated with pipistrelle sp. and it is in fact the social call of a pipistrelle sp.

Brown long-eared is at least the 5th species of bat I have recorded in the garden this year, the others being common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, noctule and whiskered. I'm also still getting regular recordings of what the detector thinks are Nathusius's pipistrelle and Leisler's bat but they've so far not been clear cut recordings and until I get a classic I won't be counting either of those species.

Brown long-eared bats will also glean insects off the foliage of trees at night, in particular butterflies and moths. This is a technique of hovering around leaves and picking off insects, which means that day flying insects such as butterflies are as vulnerable as nocturnal insects. The bats then often carry their prey to a night time roost which can be a cave or tree, or often an old building, where they remove the wings and eat the more edible parts, leaving the wings scattered all over the floor below. I came across just such a roost in Derbyshire in 2016.

Photo: Small tortoiseshell wings at a 
Brown long-eared bat roost.

Popular Posts