Friday, 19 January 2018

Another Field Day.

The field waders at Cockersand were reduced in number yesterday, but still a few hundred birds in all fifteen fields I checked there, including 420 Black-tailed Godwit which never fail to impress me, similar number of Curlew and uncounted Redshank, Dunlin, and Turnstone, with Golden Plover reaching four figures still in their favoured field viewed off Slack Lane, and of 3 Grey Plover seen, one was also unusually in a field, and 2 Snipe flushed out of the ditches.

Red-throated Diver off Plover Scar 18 January. John Whittle.

The bird of the day with Mega status at Cockersands, was the Red-throated Diver off Plover Scar around the high tide, excellent views though difficult to keep up to as it was diving constantly.

Up to 225 Oystercatcher were the only waders on Plover Scar at near high tide, and notably odd, not a single one of them made a move when a Sparrowhawk came on the scene over the scar, to cruise out across the estuary in the direction of Sunderland Point, 25 Eider and 2 Great-crested Grebe were off here. The Cockerham Sands female Stonechat was playing hard to find and I had to search half way to Bank End towards the east end of the Caravan Park, before finding it on and around the marsh minus any sign of it's mate the 1st winter male, nor did I find the male at the lighthouse end yesterday.

Other notes on the return route, 2 Tree Sparrow were at Bank Houses, in and around the fields, 7 Stock Dove, 7 Reed Bunting, 5 Skylark, and I watched at least 30 Meadow Pipit drop into a field, 3 Knot were seen on the shore as the tide dropped off by Crook Farm.

I had no intention of attempting to count again, but claim the swan herd - the nearest of which could be seen close by off Moss Lane, and the farthest down at Bank End - still stands at around 250 Whooper Swan. On Jeremy Lane, 4 Bewick's Swan were with 92 Whooper Swan.

The canal basin at Glasson Dock produced the 2 Pochard drake again, with a drake Goosander, and of the new peak count of 21 Goldeneye, sixteen were on here, the other five on the Lune Estuary. A quick check of Conder Pool on the way back to Lancaster, 62 Mallard, 25 Curlew, 20 Wigeon, and 12 Redshank.

The Barn Owl.

Brian Rafferty has been recently seeing Barn Owl again, in particular at Cockersand. 

Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty.

I had an interesting conversation with a farmer yesterday, in which he volunteered some info about a successful breeding season last year, in which five young were successfully fledged.

I'm grateful to John Whittle for forwarding me his image of the Red-throated Diver as promised, nice one and thanks again John. Also another big Thank You to Brian, for his excellent Barn Owl image, one of many he achieved recently in our area Here  

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Be Amazed!

The amazing and complex European Stonechat.

A recent post by Noushka showing images of the Stonechat feeding on a frozen lake in Spain has prompted me to look back on Birds2blog to find Brian Rafferty's discovery at Brockholes 8 years ago in January 2010, when he documented with remarkable images, the same behaviour of Stonechats feeding opportunistically in order to survive the severe weather conditions we were having in the UK during the winters of 2009/10 -2010/11.

I did research following this discover of the remarkable feeding behaviour of the Stonechat in harsh weather conditions, to find it not quite as unique as at first thought....'Stonechat taking food from water'....C.J.Hodgson British Birds 1978. However, no one could ever have claimed they would one day see the picture of a Stonechat diving into a hole on a frozen lake, and in this regard I still maintain the particular image above that Brian Rafferty achieved at Brockholes in January 2010 - along with several others he took - is unique.

Stonechats in the UK have been seen to hover over water and to pick up prey items off the surface, they will exploit a wide range of invertebrate species, and in the extreme a male observed in southern Israel was seen to take and eat a Scorpion estimated at up to 17mm, it was seen to throw the prey against a stone, retrieved and thrown again, then struck with the bill, and eventually eaten except for the claw. 

An African Stonechat was seen to dive and secure a 3cm Green-headed Bream, take the fish to a perch, and swallow it whole. On the other hand, there is evidence in a study which found parent birds avoided some insects such as Ladybirds, and revealed that none were brought back to young despite being available in huge number.

Image credits are to Noushka 1000-Pattes (top) and Brian Rafferty Stonechats-on-ice

Armchair Birding.

On Saturday, 3 Buzzard were seen as a social group over Bowerham, soaring together from our patio window. I found this interesting, although they do occasionally gather together both during and outside the breeding season, group soaring also occurs by birds from nearby territories.

With KT on Sunday, in addition to the female Stonechat seen, we had excellent views of the long stay Chough, which we saw come up off the shingle below Heysham Head, to come down into the sheep field north of Half Moon Bay, it then became quite mobile, including back down on to the beach, and around the rock's below the head again. 

The Chough is an often fearless, approachable, and highly vocal bird....

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Birding Till Dusk....Again.

Anchors Aweigh. Pete Woodruff.

Yes, birding until dusk at Cockersand again, and saw the FRI LAKE with pilot ahead approaching the lighthouse, sailing out of the Lune Estuary and into the Irish Sea during one of the west coasts famous sunsets. Meanwhile, I was watching the male Stonechat still foraging on the tide wrack near Crook Cottage in the half light of dusk.

Merlin. Cockersand 11 December. Pete Woodruff.

Also of note earlier, a male Merlin was on the old stone gate post opposite the first kissing gate near Lighthouse Cottage, also a Kestrel here was one of two seen, the second at Bank Houses. Up to 50 Twite were in the rough field by Bank House Cottage, and I found only the male Stonechat opposite the caravan park, with no sign of the female. Five Stock Dove were in a field from where I saw 3 Reed Bunting together, and c.1,500 Golden Plover were in the field they've  favoured in recent weeks off Slack Lane.

With the exception of a good number of Lapwing and Redshank, I saw nothing near three figure counts of any other waders on the Lune Estuary at Glasson, but noted 14 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Snipe, 4 Goldeneye, 3 Goosander drake, a Great Crested Grebeand the lone Whooper Swan still on the south end of Colloway MarshOn the Canal Basin, 2 Pochard drake were the 'mega' birds of the day, with 45 Tufted Duck.

At Conder Green, of 3 Little Grebe seen, one was on Conder Pool, with two in the creeks. Also on the pool, 32 Wigeon, and the same count of 32 Curlew, with a Dunnock by the viewing platform, a Greenshank was seen off the bridge down the channel.

Thanks to Richard O'Meara for the Reed Bunting header.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Birding Till Dusk!

Low counts from the Lune Estuary at Glasson on Monday, 550 Wigeon, 350 Dunlin, 105 Curlew, 55 Golden Plover, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Goldeneye, a Great-crested Grebe, and the lone Whooper Swan seen again. A few noisy and flighty Redshank were on Conder Pool, with a Little Grebe and 46 Mallard. In the creeks, a low count of 80 Teal, I saw a Rock Pipit drop on to the marsh, as did a Sparrowhawk from the coastal path where I saw 4 Fieldfare.

Eider. Pete Woodruff.

There was some 'extra' interest at Cockersand for me in the there hours there, not least because I increased my estimate to 4,550 Wigeon today, with 550 already seen of Crook Farm, before finding last Friday's at least 4,000 off the length of the headland again. Just as interesting was the 8 Shoveler amongst the Wigeon, with 32 Eider in the mix, 4 Great-crested Grebe was also a notable count anywhere for me these days.

Waders in the fields included 1,500 Golden Plover, 750 Curlew, 255 Black-tailed Godwit, and uncounted Dunlin here and there. I made no attempt at the ratio of a flock of up to 40 Twite/Linnet with at least one Skylark all flighty over the field behind Bank House Cottage.

Tree Sparrow. Noushka @ 1000-Pattes

Two Tree Sparrow were in a bush toward Crook Cottage where I had found a good count of 22 in the garden on 22 December, Mrs G at the cottage was well pleased with that when I told her she was one of very few people who could claim Tree Sparrow in their garden. Snipe shot up out of a ditch ahead of me by the gate into a field north of the Caravan Park, where I found up to 1,550 Pink-footed Geese

I see no sign of any less in number of the Whooper Swan herd still distant and strung out to Bank End, 6 Bewick's Swan were still in the field by Clarkson's Farm, and 25 Fieldfare were seen along Moss Lane.

Birding till dusk....Brilliant, and good for the soul.

Thanks to Noushka for the Tree Sparrow.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Find One Get Two Three!


On the marsh in front of Lighthouse Cottage at Cockersand yesterday, it was good to see the 11 December 1st winter male Stonechat again. I saw this bird again twice 15/18 December, but if this really was the same bird again yesterday, it's been very successful in avoiding me despite three visits since 18 December. I also had excellent views yesterday of the 1st winter male and female Stonechat at Cockerham Sand. So three Stonechat again, and four in two days....In my book that's excellent.

Stonechat Female. Half Moon Bay 7 December. Pete Woodruff.

And on the same theme, having collected a tasty morsel, the female Stonechat at Half Moon Bay also showed well on Sunday, having tolerated a few hundred dogs and a few more hundred people since it's arrival here, it was accompanied by a Rock Pipit at one stage.

Barn Owls.

Also yesterday, as I arrived back at the Lighthouse Cottage about 4.00pm, a Barn Owl was quartering the field behind the cottage. A local who I saw minutes later, told me the bird has been around all year, and hunts all over the place, and with the home range of a Barn Owl extending up to 4km outside the breeding season, this Lighthouse Cottage bird, the Cockerham Sand bird reported, and my two records on Moss Lane, could well all be the same bird.

Interesting, that around the same time in early January 2016, a similar situation with the Barn Owl was happening in this same area See Here ....The harsh weather seems to be building up the same picture again in January 2018.

Thanks to AC for his contribution to this post.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

After The Rewind....Fast Forward.

Fast forward into 2018, but not that fast, with my first day's birding on Friday.

Stock taking on Conder Pool was a little mundane, yet again more like Conder Lake since the current high tides. I noted 105 Mallard, 6 Teal, 2 Shelduck, a drake Goosander, 25 Black-headed Gull, and 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 3 Little Grebe were seen in the creeks.

On the canal basin at Glasson, a scarce if not rare drake Pochard took the prize by a mile, but the basin did contribute to 15 Goldeneye being my best count this winter, with nine on here, and six on the Lune Estuary where everything had already been driven off by the incoming 10.07 tide, but I noted a lone Whooper Swan and a 'pale' Pink-footed Goose on the south end of Colloway Marsh.


Wigeon. Martin Jump.

On a mainly sunny day with calm conditions and clear visibility, on the sea from the Lighthouse at Cockersand, along the headland, into the Cocker Estuary, and out toward Lane Ends as far as the eye could see until it wasn't possible to tell what the dots on the sea were, I saw an impressive conservative estimate of at least 9,000 wildfowl, with up to 4,000 Wigeon off the length of the headland in dense rafts, with 20 Eider off Plover Scar.

A bit of interesting if odd movement, with c.350 Pink-footed Geese over south, soon followed by 75 south, then 55 north, with presumably the same returning 10 minutes later going south. Waders in the fields here were in lower numbers than of late, but noted were 175 Curlew, 65 Turnstone and 120 Dunlin. Two separate finch flocks 10/40 in bouncing flight appeared to be all Linnet, also a small group of 10 Pied Wagtail, 6 Skylark, 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Greenfinch, and a Song Thrush

The Whooper Swan herd are again settled down towards Bank End, and from the distance appear to be still in the same number, and on Moss Lane at Clarkson's Farm, 6 Bewick's Swan remain since first reported 27 December.

The Barn Owl. 
As I drove along Moss Lane at dusk, a Barn Owl was hunting a ditch a half mile away from my last sighting of one over the lane on 30 November. My two sightings, three other reports, and recent conversations I've had with farmers and residents, lead me to know there are currently up to five Barn Owl locations in the Thurnham/Cockersand area. 

Thanks to Martin for the Wigeon, and to Brian for the Pink-footed Geese header.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Rewind.

I've been perusing through my 2017 records, and pulled out some random finds and seen, and included my breeding records of the Stonechat which sadly doesn't make such good reading. In fact the records don't even mention Clougha, which - rightly or wrongly - I have abandoned as our once local stronghold in the same way the Stonechat has. I also visited Barbondale three times and found not a single Stonechat there. The Dalton Cragg record (*) credited to Bryan Yorke.

Eight Stonechat breeding records - 20 young - in 2017....Disastrous.

17 May Hareden, a pair and 2 young.
19 June White Greet, a female and 2 young.
03 July Foulshaw, a male and 4 young.
12 July Birk Bank, a pair and 2 young, a male, and a female. Four visits May - August.
12 July Harrisend, 2 male, a female, and a young.
17 July Hawthornthwaite, a male, two female, and 7 young. 
14 Sept Dalton Cragg, a pair and 2 young *
15 Sept Hawthornthwaite, a pair and one young. Five visits May - Sept.

Five December Lowland Stonechats.

10 Dec Heysham Half Moon Bay, 1st winter male and female.
11 Dec Crook Cottage Cockersand, 1st winter male.
22 Dec Off Caravan Park Cockerham Sands, 1st winter male and female.

Other notable birds found in 2017, and (*not my credit.

20 Jan Conder Pool, Great White Egret. *
27 Jan Pilling, Red-breasted Goose and 10 White-fronted Geese. *
27 Jan Knott End, Black Redstart. *
03 Feb Conder Channel, Conder Green, Little Stint. 
17 Feb Moss Lane, 22 Bewick's Swan.
17 Feb Lune Estuary, Glasson, 46 Goldeneye peak count.
24 Feb Cockerham Marsh, 2 Shorelark. * (Andrew Cornall)
27 Feb Plover Scar, Snow Bunting
06 Mar Jeremy Lane, 6 Stonechat.
23 Mar Deep Cutting Lancaster Canal, 2 Little Owl. *
24 Mar Cockersand, Lapland Bunting.
10 Mar Conder Pool. 2 Avocet.
08 May Conder Pool, 2 Common Tern.
25 May Barbondale, 11 Pied Flycatcher.
25 May River Lune Bull Beck, 6 Little Ringed Plover including 3 chicks.
31 May Sykes Farm Bowland, 15 House Martin nests.
31 May Langden Brook, pair Ring Ouzel.
14 Jun Tower Lodge area, 6 Spotted Flycatcher.
19 Jun White Greet, 3 Stonechat, Bloe Greet 3 Stonechat.
12 July Birk Bank Bog, 3 Keeled Skimmer.
04 Aug Conder Pool, drake Scaup.
26 Sep Lune Estuary Glasson, 18 Ruff.
06 Oct Cockersand, 14 Ruff.
23 Oct Cockersand, adult male Stonechat.
02 Nov Crimbles, 2 Ruff on flood.

A decent selection of records, and if my birding this year is anything like as good as the last was, I'll be well happy.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Chat Finale.

Grey Heron Conder Pool. Pete Woodruff.

Grey Heron and 16 Mallard were the only birds present on Conder Pool on Thursday, and noted on the circuit, a Grey Wagtail in the creeks, and a male Sparrowhawk seen flap-flap-gliding across the marsh. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson, with the exception of several hundred Lapwing, there was no other three figure counts of Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Wigeon, Common Gull, or Black-headed Gull, but 8 Goldeneye were my best count to date here this winter, and a drake Goosander was noted.

At Cockersand, I estimate the 245 Whooper Swan still in fields here, and in other fields checked, probably in excess of 2,500 waders of which were 1,750 Golden Plover, 250 Curlew, with good numbers of Lapwing, Redshank and Dunlin. Finches seen, up to 40 Twite in a mix with a few Linnet in the rough field behind Bank House Cottage, with 12 Goldfinch and 3 Greenfinch seen. I saw a total of 9 Brown Hare, eight of which were together in the same field not 50 metres apart.

Chat Finale....

My last birding day in 2017 on Thursday ended nicely for me with the 1st winter male Stonechat seen again off the Caravan Park, though no sign of the female seen with this male on 22 December. Hopefully the New Year will start with a Stonechat, that would be good enough for me if it did.


Friday, 29 December 2017

Birdwatching Walks In Bowland!!


Ian had wanted to join me on Wednesday, not a birder but interested in what we might see and any questions he might have about them. So on my suggestion we went into Bowland and did the Langden Brook walk, from my point of view an opportunity to see if any Stonechat might be wintering up there. 

But on arrival at the car park, although not a soul in sight, with the type and number of vehicles parked up, it was blatantly obvious to me that a shoot was taking place up the valley. By the time we reached the pump house 10 minutes later, at least 30 shitheads were taking a slurp between shoots....I put on a pair of blinkers, looked ahead to avoid eye contact and save myself from becoming embroiled in abuse and violent disorder, and off we went on our walk.

All this triggered me to remember how outdated a book published in 2005 had become. On this walk, the book suggests lingering an hour or two at Langden Castle - nothing more than a barn with a pretentious-sounding name - to enjoy raptor watching....Now there's a joke, unintended, but a joke all the same, and although the book isn't pointing at the month of December when it makes the claim for enjoying a raptor watch, the time of year doesn't matter anymore in Bowland, the opportunity to see Merlin, Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, and - wait for it - Hen Harrier, from this or any other watchpoint, simply doesn't exist anymore, and in the 5 hours Ian and I spent in Bowland today, we saw not a single raptor.

The birds seen on this particular walk in this stunning part of Bowland amounted to nine birds in 2.5 hours. In order of seeing, a Grey Heron, a Red Grouse, a Cormorant, and 5 Carrion Crow, all in flight, and a Mallard on Langden Brook....Depressing.

On the west side of Hawthornthwaite Fell, it was excellent to find 2 Stonechat, my seventh in 17 days since the two at Heysham on 10 December, makes good reading in my records, also here, a minimum of 40 Red Grouse including two flights of 15/8.


Peregrine Falcon trapped in a Pole Trap banned in the UK for over a century.

Make no mistake about it, this kind of wildlife crime has a link to the people I have highlighted in this post. 

My New Year wish is that the killing of protected birds of prey on Red Grouse moors is soon brought to an won't be....and that those responsible be brought to justice in the courts....they won't be.

So let's try to get all Driven Grouse Shooting banned - the RSPB won't - as I see it it's the only other road we can go down, our only other option.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Final Scuttle.

I managed a final scuttle around the Lune Estuary last Friday before Christmas took it's hold, but I've been unable to find the time to get anywhere near my computer since. 

Stonechat. Ana Minguez.

The day had the best ending in my book that I could have hoped for when I found 2 Stonechat on the tide wrack on the edge of the marsh opposite the entrance to the Caravan Park at Cockerham Sands, they were a 1st winter male and female, also interesting here was a lone Twite which had latched on to 14 Goldfinch and moved around and fed with them. 

The down side of the visit to Cockersand was that I had no sign of the male Stonechat that had been around and seen three times since 11 December between the Lighthouse and Crook Cottage's, but I did see 22 Tree Sparrow at Crook Cottage.

Quite a spectacle was the sight of at least 900 Black-tailed Godwit which zoomed out of the fog to create a whoosh as they flew low over my head and out to sea before a U-turn back to land briefly on the headland. On Plover Scar, 45 Turnstone, with up to 550 Wigeon off here. In the field north of Bank Houses where I saw a Kestrel, 10 Stock Dove and 2 Skylark, a Dunnock in the hedgerow. There are probably still c.250 Whooper Swan over three fields down to Bank End, and a Merlin seen was concealing itself in a bush from Slack Lane.

It was pretty hopeless looking over Conder Pool through the fog, but when I returned an hour later it had lifted enough to reveal 115 wildfowl including 3 Goldeneye, otherwise predominantly Mallard, with Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, and 2 Shelduck. A Greenshank was with Redshank, also a drake Goosander and a Snipe seen. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock, I just managed to pick Goldeneye drake out of the gloom.

I'm grateful to Ana@Naturanafotos for the 'Spanish' Stonechat images sent to me in a Christmas e-mail, including at the head of this post, the portrait of a brilliant male.