Monday, 15 December 2008


....well almost.

I had to remind myself it is mid December and having spent the customary 4 hours once a month - for a 'few' years - on Clougha/Birk Bank I recorded a first in having not seen a solitary Stonechat, though I did see one on Rigg Lane along with c.200 Fieldfare. I noted 18 Red Grouse in the 4 hours on here with the usual cautionary count for this bird. On the way down from Clougha I noticed a good number of corvids in a field of the farm which accommodated the Hooded Crow recently. Thinking if they were still there later I would call in at the farm to ask permission to view the field (it was behind the farm not the field it had been in initially) but more than an hour later the field was void of birds so the idea was abandoned.

It was really hard putting aside the time of year and the coldest 'beginning' to a winter for 30 years, because not seeing a single Stonechat today seemed to bear out the evidence that these birds do make cold weather movements though I must say no ringing recoveries have ever proved this, but my records for example 2000 - 2007 are - with the exception of 2001 when I made no visit - 3/x/3/4/4/6/7/8 which indicates the numbers were on the rise year on year until we reach this cold start to the winter of 2008/9.

But the good news regarding the Stonechat continues. Figures show that in almost 15 years the species has increased in numbers by almost four-fold representing one of the biggest increases by any species, and warmer weather is allowing the Stonechat to expand their range and successfully so. Unfortunately another one of my 'favourites' the Spotted Flycatcher, appears to be at the other end of the spectrum and has decreased by almost 60% in 15 years. The BTO have rightly called this decline 'shocking' and continuing research hopes to find the apparently complex causes.

The picture's are of sculpture's which I spotted last time I was on the top of Birk Bank and which I admired for their clever construction......but who the artist is I have no idea.
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Colin Bushell said...

Hi Peter,

Another thought provoking post. I'm enjoying reading your comments as you "dig deep" into your Lancs birding experience. I for one, find these blogs very informative indeed. Keep up the good work!


PS. I'm having trouble finding wintering Stonechats on the Ribble this winter .....

Pete Marsh said...

Yes, it is a very entertaining site covering a wide range of interesting topics. However, the style and substance is rather like a tabloid newspaper and grandiose personal opinions about Stonechats and cold-weather movements are just that, and not peer-reviewed informative statements. I was a bit slow to see what this blog was about and pulled Pete up over his rendition of a phone call he made to myself re-Twite. This misjudged the nature of the blog - it is not about scientific accuracy at all, but an entertaining personal account of birding in north Lancs.

Anonymous said...

He Pete
Cheer's for the comment on the Snipe pic. I will tell people about the blog to help you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete
Cheers for the comment.I'll tell people about your blog.

Pete Woodruff said...

Thanks for your comments again Colin. Whilst I appreciate my 'thanks' are becoming rather repetitive I intend to continue to use them because its important for me to do so.

Thanks also to 'Anonymous'.

Pete Marsh appears to be using a blunt knife this time making some appreciated comments. However, if you have a desire to challenge the scientific inaccuracies Pete please feel free.

Mike Watson said...

Common Stonechats would appear to be thin on the ground this winter in Bowland from the ad hoc sightings Mark Varley and I have made. Only one yesterday, on Champion. Should make a more concerted search to see if numbers really are down following the bad weather. Three Short-eared Owls there yesterday were surprising after the snow. Keep up the blog Pete, some interesting stuff. Merry Christmas! BR Mike

Pete Woodruff said...

Thanks for contribution Mike. A good and interesting idea to keep an eye on the Stonechat story regarding whether or not they make these cold weather movements. Obviously some do as I'm seeing one or two on the coast but i've also seen them on Clougha (for example) in a blizzard. Take it from me the move isn't 'automatic' and i've been convinced for some time now that 'some' stay to pay the price but a few years now since we had anything so severe.

Thanks again Mike please do let me know of any interesting developments on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I found out who the artist working on Clougha is. More of their work can be seen at or


Pete Woodruff said...

Thanks for this info which I have just found you posted Richard. I'll take a look at the blogspot you mention soon.