Sunday, 31 August 2014

Autumn White Wagtail.

Like any other birder, I don't have any problem separating Pied and White Wagtails in spring, but the two seem to cause a lot of confusion in autumn, when grey-backed juvenile Pied Wagtail confuse the issue, and there is often debate about the ID of the two species. 

Having seen and considered the identification correct of a 'few' White Wagtails with at least 100 Pied Wagtails on Cockerham Marsh on Tuesday 26 August, this is how I see the issue in a very brief and simplistic way....


Autumn/Winter White Wagtail. Copy Permitted. 

In late August/early September, migrant White Wagtails (WW) are always in newly moulted, clean and fresh winter plumage, comparatively, local Pied Wagtails (PW) still look scruffy and often dishevelled. As far as the young birds are concerned, in late August/early September, it's a case of comparing first-winter WW with PW that still retain a significant amount of their weak and fluffy juvenile body plumage. Such birds have black breast patches, whereas first-winter WW have already acquired a neat narrow crescent-shaped necklace across the lower throat/upper breast, adults have a noticeably thicker breast band.

PW are a darker sootier grey on the upperparts, adult males being largely black above, but the important feature of autumn PW is its extensive dark sooty-grey flanks....they always do have, WW have white flanks....they always do have.


Autumn WW look clean, neat and immaculate, they are pale grey above, with white flanks and a neat and contrasting black necklace across the lower throat/upper breast. August/September PW, on the other hand, are rather scruffy as a result of their active moult. They retain significant amounts of black on the breast, they are a dark smoky-grey above and they have extensive smoky-grey breast sides and flanks.


I'll be looking for more White Wagtails to continue my learning in the coming weeks, but it looks like I may be virtually on my own in recording them, indeed one reference I read recently claimed that....'very few White Wagtails have ever been seen in autumn in north Lancashire'. I just don't understand this claim which makes it sound like the birds I saw weren't White Wagtail after all....well I don't buy that!  

Thanks to Jan Larsson for the excellent Black Tern header. 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Birding By Halves.

I got just one hour in at Heysham on Wednesday having no motor, it being in hospital for a health check. In a half dozen scans on Red Nab I found 3 Mediterranean Gull on the incoming tide, all first winter birds.

Common Tern. Brian Rafferty.

Yesterday my birding was in two halves, the first half took place at Conder Green - well there's a surprise - where I saw 3 Common Tern and included two fish delivered to young out of view, but one of which I eventually saw and appeared to be the largest of the two seen so far which will hopefully fledge the early part of next week. Also on Conder Pool, a Greenshank, 7 Little Grebe seen again, as was a Great-crested Grebe and 3 Wigeon, Swallow and the odd House Martin were insecting and drinking over the pool. In the creeks, 5 Common Sandpiper, a Spotted Redshank, and 2 Snipe....


Grey Wagtail. Brian Rafferty.

....A Grey Wagtail was upstream from the A588. Thanks to BR for the Common Tern and Grey Wagtail images....End of the first half.

Just after my arrival at Glasson Dock, the forecast rains came with vengeance and I had to sit it out for in excess of an hour by which time I threw in the towel and pointed the motor towards Lancaster. But as I approached Conder Green I spotted a chink of blue through my rear view mirror and decided to do a 'U' turn and headed to Cockersands where soon after the weather came good with wall to wall sun and I started the second half.


Little Stint Jan Larsson

I shot off to Plover Scar for the high tide to find the place dire with barely 40 waders to view, Redshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, and Turnstone, but hey....what's the 'odd one out' scuttling around the stones, it's a smart and aptly named C.minuta Little Stint, a juvenile to give the day a buzz. Thanks to Jan for the excellent image.

Eleven Wheatear seen included five on Plover Scar, 3 Eider were off here, and a Whimbrel seen in flight, 12 Golden Plover flew by off the headland, and c.30 Meadow Pipit indicated a bit of movement along the shore. Six Tree Sparrow and c.20 Goldfinch were in the bushes by the cover crop field on Slack Lane.

Black Tern.

I'm reliably informed of a juvenile Black Tern on Conder Pool Tern Island  this morning at 11.10am. 

All birding is excellent birding, and definitely better than no birding at all! 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Briefly Birding!

Another day to squeeze in what little time I could on the birding front yesterday

I spun a coin and heads came up for Conder Pool, I spun another and Cockersands came up heads, and spun again and Bank End came up....well there's a surprise!

Migrant Hawker. Pete Woodruff.

I'll deal first with the terrible photograph I took of the Migrant Hawker I saw at Cockersands. Butterflies noted were, 2 Red Admiral and a 'few' Small Tortoiseshell.


Greenshank Antonio Puigg  

The big surprise at Cockersands was a Greenshank on Plover Scar which held little more than 260 waders at high tide with estimates of, 150 Oystercatcher, 50 Redshank, 45 Dunlin, 15 Turnstone, and 2 Ringed Plover. I saw at least 6 Wheatear difficult to be accurate with mobile birds back and forth. At Bank End at least 100 Pied Wagtail with a few obvious White Wagtail seen.

I moved no further than Conder Pool at Conder Green to note an increase in the number of 7 Little Grebe, a Great-crested Grebe, and a single Common Sandpiper.

The Conder Common Terns.


Common Tern. Martin Jump.

Yesterday I saw two young Common Tern on Tern Island, one decidedly a bigger bird than it's sibling, and was the one fed by an adult with a fish on one occasion.


Common Tern. Martin Jump. 

This is what I'm hoping to see soon at Conder Green, though not too sure about the smaller one, but I reckon the other will have fledged by this time next week.

Thanks to Antonio for the Greenshank, and to MJ for the Common Terns.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Better Late Than Never.

Time on the computer has taken a bit of a knock of late, but 'better late than never' here's my Fridays birding for what it's worth, ending with a link to Mrs Parkinson!

Starting with a re-run of legging it to Bank End from Crook Farm on a nice sunny day. I continued the legwork from Bank End Farm to the far end of the road running parallel with Cockerham Marsh to note a flock of at least 120 Linnet fly past me with a few other small groups on the marsh, also noted, probably up to 50 Pied Wagtail, 2 Wheatear one of which was a juvenile, and a Greenshank was in the Cocker channel.


Great-crested Grebe. David Cookson.

Plover Scar at high tide was a little quiet to be honest, with no more than 30 Ringed Plover and a similar number of Dunlin present, 4 Whimbrel and 2 Wheatear were also on the scar. Five Wigeon off here were a reminder that winter is around the corner with many a thousand on their way to the UK, 2 Eider and a Great-crested Grebe also noted. A Cormorant was hauled out on Long Tongue with c.120 Oystercatcher and had a green ring left leg impossible to read, with a metal ring on the right.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, a smart adult Mediterranean Gull was reward enough for another quiet looking area of the River Lune. At Conder Green, 5 Little Grebe, 2 Great-crested Grebe, and 2 Snipe were on Conder Pool. A Greenshank was in the creeks, and a Kingfisher was unintentionally flushed from the bank-side of the River Conder upstream from the A588.


Little Egret. David Cookson.

The question these days isn't will I see a Little Egret today, more like....how many will I see. I found 7 Little Egret on Friday, three at Bank End, three at Glasson Dock, and one at Conder Green. It would be interesting to see any estimates to date of Little Egrets to be found following the coast from Knott End to Leighton Moss at Silverdale....my estimate would be in excess of 200 at least.

Thanks to David Cookson for the images of the Grebe and the Egret, they are excellent and much appreciated.

The Lighthouse Keeper.

Here's the link to Mrs Parkinson who was the keeper of Cockersands Lighthouse around 1948. See her walk across Plover Scar to climb the ladder up the lighthouse to clean the reflectors and replenish the fuel. I think this video is brilliant....watch it on full screen and it's even more brilliant. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Read All About It!


The Ferry. Pete Woodruff.

I regularly see the 2.15pm ferry from Cockersands leaving Heysham Harbour, often with the brilliant backdrop of Lakeland mountains on a clear day.

Yellow Wagtail Martin Jump

I know I could have driven to Bank End, but what about the rarity I might have found en route from Crook Farm, in any case the walk was a healthy one, and the reward at the end of it was a brilliant adult Yellow Wagtail, though I could have missed it hadn't the second of 2 Wheatear I saw caught my eye to find when I looked back the YW close by where the Wheatear had landed, also seen in the Cocker channel were 8 Goosander obviously a well grown family group. A Little Egret was on Cockerham Marsh, and a Sparrowhawk was over as I walked back. I checked the horse paddock at Bank Houses for any more YW's to no avail, but a Sedge Warbler gave good views in the brambles here.


Mediterranean Gull. Pete Woodruff. 

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, an adult Mediterranean Gull, with estimates of waders in view, 150 Curlew, 95 Golden Plover, 35 Dunlin, up to 50 Greylag, and 2 Little EgretAt Conder Green, 3 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank, 4 Common Sandpiper, 5 Little Grebe, and a Great-crested Grebe.

The Conder Common Tern.  

Both adult Common Tern breeding on the appropriately christened 'Tern Island' gave a clear indication of protecting young when they went into the air together to give calls of aggression to a Buzzard drifting NE over Conder Pool. Someone's going to see the young in the coming few days, and fledged in two weeks at the latest.

Post Edit.

I recieved the following message from a Fylde birder which reads....Definitely at least one chick, about half grown, seen at 11.20am....This is excellent news for Conder Pool.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tuesday 19 August.

Green Sandpiper Antonio Puigg 


A look in on the Aldcliffe flood was rewarded by a Green Sandpiper which allowed me excellent views with the bushes as cover from the top path.

A decent day weatherwise and I had decided to tread the excellent coastal path which follows the River Lune to Glasson Dock with little result, though I took note of a mix of at least 500 Canada/Greylag Geese on Colloway Marsh, probably at a ratio of 300/200, also 3 Little Egret. Opposite Nansbuck Cottage a large number of Swallow were to and fro over the River Lune, and I watched them as far downstream as Waterloo Cottage and beyond.

At Conder Green, 7 Common Sandpiper, and a Little Egret were in the creeks, and a Sparrowhawk flew through. On Conder Pool I saw one of the Common Tern, 4 Little Grebe, and 2 Great-crested Grebe.

Not the most exciting birding event I ever experienced, but an excellent walk just the same.


Greenfinch Warren Baker 

Two Greenfinch came to our garden feeders on Monday, a MEGA record for the location.

Bird Disturbance.

In relation to dog exercising, bird disturbance on the coast has become a huge problem, no less so than in the Cockersands area where yesterday (Wednesday) I observed six professional handlers all at one time - in the business of minding other peoples animals - with 24 dogs most off the leash between Plover Scar and the Cocker Estuary down to the Caravan Park. Add to this four quad bikes racing up and down the shore, again along the length from the Caravan Park to Plover Scar....We really have to try to do something about this problem.  

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Moth Has It.

I was beginning to feel desperate at Cockersands on Monday, although I spent three hours in the area, waders were virtually non existent, and birds on the circuit were few and far between.


Wheatear. Geoff Gradwall. 

But it was good to see the Wheatear on the shingle along the headland, c.30 Goldfinch were in Bank Houses horse paddock again, and a sift through the Black-headed Gulls in a recently grass-cut field revealed one of those brilliant adult Mediterranean Gulls you can come across now and again....more often than now and again if you're at Heysham Harbour!


Hummingbird Hawk-moth. Pete Woodruff.

But the moth got the 'Gold Award' for me, as I walked from Cockersand to Bank End, when I saw ahead of me a moth in flight showing orange hindwings, it settled on the wall to allow me the picture of a Hummingbird Hawk-moth M.stellatarum. Not a particularly striking moth which unfortunately also has a damaged outer right wing, but no less a beautiful creature and an excellent find....The walk to and at Bank End was otherwise a fruitless affair.


Lapwing Noushka Dufort

Conder Pool had me seeing one Common Tern briefly in the air before returning to the island, with nothing to indicate anything precise about the state of the game. Also on Conder Pool, 5 Little Grebe, 2 Great-crested Grebe, and to make me feel like my birding had meaning I counted 30 Lapwing. In the creeks 2 Greenshank, a Grey Wagtail, and a Little Egret.

Thanks for the Wheatear Geoff, and for the Lapwings Noushka....Excellent.

The Conder Common Terns.

One of my Fylde birder contacts was in touch Tuesday to tell me of fish being brought in every 15 minutes over a one hour period, with one adult staying at the nest site....the best evidence of young to date.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Nothing Ventured....Nothing Gained.

I ventured again on Friday, but gained nothing too exceptional.

Kingfisher. Howard Stockdale.

But I was overdue a Kingfisher at Conder Green and one obligingly came on to the pool outlet briefly before flying off. Both Common Tern were seen on Conder Pool, 3 Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, and a Little Egret. In the creeks, Spotted Redshank, 2 Common Sandpiper, and the solitary Black-tailed Godwit looking lonely though splendid in its summer plumage.

On the Lune estuary, an adult Mediterranean Gull wasn't Thursdays green ringed bird, c.150 Golden Plover seen again, with c.500 Lapwing/Redshank appearing to be a pretty even mix, a 'few' Dunlin. Four Little Egret included two on Colloway Marsh.

The Lighthouse Off Plover Scar. Pete Woodruff.

Birding at Cockersands doesn't just afford a good variety of common birds, it offers - and has an excellent history of - the scarce and rare, it also has superb scenery in all directions.


Turnstone. Howard Stockdale

Plover Scar held a lower number of waders than on Thursday with little more than 100 birds by the time I left 30 minutes prior to high tide, with a single Sanderling, an estimated 75 Dunlin, 25 Ringed Plover, 10 Turnstone, 2 Whimbrel, and Whimbrel heard in flight. Two Little Egret were off Crook Farm.

Thanks to Howard for the brilliant Kingfisher and Turnstone, to see how brilliant 'clik the pik'. Also thanks to Warren for the excellent header image of the stunning little Whinchat, I'm hoping to see one on passage anytime soon. 

The Conder Common Terns.

A Fylde birder contacted me yesterday with news that he had observed the best evidence to date to suggest young being fed in the nest. With two lengthy sessions of watching them both adult birds were seen in the air together, one carrying fish to the nest, and the other going away presumably for more.... nothing 100% but looking good.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Conder Lake!....

....and some other places I visited yesterday.

The recent high tides have turned Conder Pool into a 'hopeless for waders' lake once again, and it was almost deserted by Monday/Tuesday standards when hundreds of 'em were present, yesterday just 3 Little Grebe, a Great-crested Grebe, and barely anything else to save it from a blank. In the creeks, 3 Common Sandpiper, a Spotted Redshank, and Greenshank. The House Martins at one of the locations at Conder Green remain active, but I was distracted by some building activities at another to check out the situation there but must take a closer look next time.

On the Lune Estuary, an adult Mediterranean Gull was my first post-breeding bird at Glasson Dock, and was ringed on the left leg but too distant to read, c.400 Redshank were the only notable waders, 6 Goosander were of note, as was a single Ringed Plover, and a Little Egret.


 Sanderling Martin Jump 

At Cockersands, an hours sift through the high tide waders which kept on coming and going on Plover Scar was rewarded by 4 Sanderling, with 2 Whimbrel, estimates of 450 Dunlin, up to 90 Ringed Plover, and a solitary Knot.

Yellow Wagtail Warren Baker  

A wander on the circuit was also rewarded by a juvenile Yellow Wagtail, with c.30 Goldfinch in Bank Houses horse paddock. A 'large' female Sparrowhawk was twice seen rocketing through the area, first across a field, and then worryingly across the horse paddock. At least 40 Tree Sparrow were seen again along Slack Lane by the cover crop field.

The Conder Common Tern. 

I'm puzzled by the Common Terns on Conder Pool, though we can't expect to see any young with the vegetation so high, the female seems to sit tight with no activity indicating young being fed in the nest and no sign of the male bird today in two visits here. But the female came off the nest three times, once to bathe, once to attack the Lesser Black-backed Gull on the water, and a third time it came off and flew around whilst a Mute Swan walked by the nest....Difficult to know precisely what's going on here.

Thanks to Martin and Warren for the posts 'clik the pik' material. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Lets Celebrate!

I celebrated the 'Inglorious Twelfth' on Tuesday by shooting off to Conder Green/Cockersands again....its a drug I'm hooked on and not looking for a cure.

Juvenile Sandwich Tern Arkive  

Conder Pool was lively again as the tide came racing in to displace good numbers of waders off the estuary. I was greeted by the sight of a juvenile Sandwich Ternanother first for the pool on the appropriate recently christened 'Tern Island', the bird eventually flew off to go SE along the canal and out of view. Meanwhile a Common Tern sits tight on the nest waiting for its mate to return with the next meal.

By the time I left, the wader number on the pool had reached in excess of eight hundred, broken down to c.450 Redshank, 300 Lapwing, 55 Dunlin, 4 Common Sandpiper, singles of Black-tailed GodwitSpotted Redshank, and Greenshank. Also of note, 5 Little Grebe included a juvenile, and a Great-crested Grebe, 3 Swift over were the only ones of the day.

At Cockersands, I found the 'Bird of the Day' in a stunning juvenile Yellow Wagtail in the Bank Houses horse paddock, it was accompanied by around 12 Pied Wagtail with up to 40 Tree Sparrow in the bushes. Further down the lane I had good views of a Sedge Warbler, and along the way, 8 Linnet and 6 Greenfinch.

Waders were taking refuge from the tide and wind again in the abbey field as on Monday and showed as c.220 Dunlin and up to 100 Ringed Plover. When I got to Plover Scar 1.5 hour later it was reasonably obvious by the number present that they had returned to the scar, with 4 Whimbrel, 3 Turnstone, and a Little Egret. A Peregrine Falcon flew leisurely overhead disturbing all in the process. 




Sandwich Tern. Paul Foster.
Thanks to Paul Foster for the two added photographs of Sandwich Terns - an adult in flight, and the breeding colony - from his visit to the Farne Isles earlier in the summer....Excellent.


Lush.JPG

They have shops all around the UK including one in Penny Street Lancaster. The company supports the fight against the slaughter of our Hen Harriers and I think we should support them in return where and when we can....I've added Lush to my sidebar.