Monday, 13 September 2010

Old Records....again!

Towards Raven Castle. Peter Guy.

But first another excellent B/W photograph which PG has kindly sent me today. I know this area intimately and with passion, and if you know the top of the Cross of Greet area to look east then so do you. Nothing new to say anymore about brilliant pictures like this Peter except a sincere thank you.

Old records make fascinating reading although the ornithological history of Lancashire doesn't extend much - if any - further back than the 19th century. I'm lucky to hold in my library a copy of 'The Birds of Lancashire' by Clifford Oakes (1953) who - soon after the publication of the book - became the first chairman of the then newly formed East Lanc's Ornithologists Club (ELOC) in 1955.

For the sake of it we'll take a look at the first and last species to come under Oakes's 'microscope' in his book which was - amazing considering I decided to post the photograph above - the Raven which he begins by referring to it as a scarce and local resident and a bird described by a predecessor called F.S.Mitchell as 'exceedingly rare' in his book of the same title published in 1885, Mitchell went on to prophesy its extinction in 'a question of a few years'. Oakes goes on to say, despite persecution and exploitation by egg-collectors, the bird still breeds on the northern hills and occasionally wanders as far south as the Bowland Fells in autumn and winter, whilst singe birds have appeared at rare intervals in the coastal districts of the Ribble Estuary. He goes on to mention a pair found breeding in the Cartmel Valley in 1910, this being the only record of breeding outside the traditional haunts during the present  20th century. The account of the Raven ends by recording that it used to nest in Wyresdale and in the Clivinger Gorge near Burnley over 100 years ago. Localities bearing such names as Raven Crag, Raven Clough, Raven Holme, and Raven Winder are frequently to be found on the Ordnance Survey maps of the eastern and northern hills giving indication of the wider distribution of the species in former days.

Today the Raven is referred to as a scarce breeding bird in Lancashire, but a species who's rise continues unabated with records from all corners of the county. If you search thoroughly through recent records you'll find them like a pair breeding on pylons at Heysham and Penwortham, breeding in Silverdale and the Lune Valley, and a bird seen displaying in Liverpool in 2008.

And the last in Oakes book is the Quail which in 1953 he described as 'formerly common and widespread' now a scarce and irregular summer visitor to south Lancashire, and very rare north of the River Ribble. Oakes only gives a brief account of this species but one note is of interest when he says....'there has been a gradual decrease since the advent of the 'mowing machine' and there is abundant proof of many which are killed at harvest time'....

Well Mr Oakes if you're ever offered a chance to return to earth I'd suggest refusing the offer as you're almost certain to die afresh with shock within minutes of your arrival here to witness the results of the 'mowing machine' in the 21st century.

And finally....

Waders. Phil Slade.

I love this photograph of the Ruff with two Spotted Redshanks, a perfect example of the birds to be currently found  at Conder Green with the latter probably set to winter here again....Thanks for this Phil, it means a lot to me being taken where it was, and what it illustrates.




Richard Shilling said...

Hi Pete, despite us all knowing and understanding that you'd rather be birding, your blog is still an interesting read. I am still trying to get a positive ID of a Raven round here. I'd best keep trying!

I've had a chest infection myself the last couple of weeks (as it seems have many others) and it sure does take the wind out of your sails (or leaves out of your trees as someone said was more apt for me), so get well soon, and when you do get out in this lovely summer-end weather, you can turn around and say "I'd rather be blogging!"


Pete Woodruff said...

Hey Richard good as ever to hear from you and yes the chest infection wasn't welcome but that's cleared up in the main but now look at the ******* weather.

KT said it's not 'the end of the world' but like hell it sure is looking that way. It's a week tomorrow since I got out, if that's not the end I don't know what is. Cor, I do go on!

If the Raven calls it 'croaks' from the bottom of it's boots, if it's not calling the best pointer is it's wedge shaped tail.

Thanks for looking in Richard.

Pete Woodruff said...

And by the way, the Raven is bigger than the Buzzard and that's got to be a useful pointer Richard.

Warren Baker said...

The mowing machine, plus the ''infernal'' combustion engine, I hate 'em! I'd rather live in 1750 :-)

Pete Woodruff said...

I reckon the birds did too in 1750.

Keep the comments coming, they are much appreciated Warren.