Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Once More With Feeling.

Whooper Swan. Pete Woodruff.

It was a pleasant sight on Monday to find 9 Whooper Swan in a field off Moss Lane at Cockersands, these were seen as 6 adult and 3 juvenile, it was also good to find at least 60 Fieldfare in a hedgerow by Abbey Farm. Also of note, 22 Greenfinch were in the small cover crop on Slack Lane, a Song Thrush always nice to see, with 4 Blackbird and a Wren noted, c.600 Wigeon were off Plover Scar in the low water channel.

At Conder Green, 3 Goosander and 15 Wigeon were on Conder Pool, with a Spotted Redshank and Snipe in the creeks. On the trodden footpath along the edge of the marsh below the picnic area c.40 Goldfinch were seed feeding with a Grey Wagtail looking a little out of context with them. I walked the length of the coastal path from Conder Green to Glasson Dock noting an obvious influx with at least 20 Blackbird seen, also 4 Great Tit, 4 Robin, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Wren, a Song Thrush and Dunnock.

Goldeneye Jan Larsson @ Vingspann  

A bit of a search produced 13 Goldeneye which had returned to the Lune Estuary at Glasson, with 3 seen from Bodie Hill, 2 seen from the bowling green, and 8 on the canal basin. Wader numbers from the bowling green were quite low and no more than 4 Black-tailed Godwit were seen, a drake Red-breasted Merganser and up to 200 Common Gull noted. A distant Merlin was on Colloway Marsh surveying the landscape. 

Little Grebe.

I saw 10 Little Grebe on Monday, 7 were on Conder Pool, 2 in the creeks, and a single on the Lune Estuary. These grebes make this movement every winter, having assembled late autumn/early winter and spent time on Conder Pool, they tend to move on to the creeks and the River Lune, I'm not sure why they do this.

Mute Swan.

The Mute Swan were absent from the river at Glasson Dock again on Monday, though 16 were on Jeremy Lane, and 5 were on the marsh at Conder Green, they were the only ones I saw whilst in the area 5 hours, during which time I had noted 50 bird species.

Stonechat Warren Baker @ Pittswood Birds  

I was grateful to AC and NMM for passing on to me the two Stonechat they saw at Wrampool over the weekend, now added to my records.

Thanks to Jan and Warren for their images, much appreciated.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Lost And Found!

The Mute Swans are always to be found on the River Lune at Glasson, they are particularly attracted to and take advantage of the grain swept off the quayside as spillage from the unloading of ships, peak counts of these birds can be towards 200 on occasions. 

Mute Swan. Gary Jones @ Portraits Of Nature

In my last post I made a note that the Lune Estuary Mute Swans had disappeared en mass, with not a single bird seen on the River Lune at Glasson Dock on my last visit there Thursday last week, nor on Jeremy Lane and Moss Lane to Cockersands where they can usually be found when some of them leave others behind on the estuary, though in the case of Jeremy Lane, I'm aware of someone on a quad bike intentionally driving the swans off the fields, it's beyond me why anyone would find it necessary to do this. 

I was grateful to Jean Roberts and Andrew Cornall who got in touch to tell me they had both independently seen a large number of Mute Swans in fields off Hillam Lane at Cockerham, it's reasonable to assume these are the Glasson birds. Andrew had counted 78 Mute Swans on Hillam Lane on Thursday, he had also noted two dead Mute Swans here which brought back memories for me of the twelve found in close proximity and all about the same time around the Glasson/Cockersands area early in the year in February. This was a puzzling and worrying affair which I reported to DEFRA, I was involved in collecting the dead birds, and followed up the autopsy results, all of which concluded with my not being convinced - for one reason or other - that I'd been told the whole story about why twelve Mute Swans had been found dead, all in a small area, and all in a short period of time.

At the time these dead birds were being found, I was made aware of a message sent out by the police on 18 February which read....'Observations are requested for a silver Subaru car possibly linked to wildlife crime'.

Thanks to Gary for the Mute Swan, and to Marc for the Great Skua header....Brilliant photographs of brilliant birds.

Friday, 20 November 2015

....But The Mute Swans Are Missing.

On Monday's visit the Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper put in an appearance, and I noted 120 Mallard on Conder Pool, but with all the birds washed out of the creeks yesterday at Conder Green I had to look down the Conder channel from the iron bridge to find a Ruff with 32 Redshank, on Conder Pool the count was 12 Little Grebe.

On the Lune Estuary from Bodie Hill, at least 5,000 Lapwing, 2,500 Wigeon, 800 Golden Plover, and 200 Dunlin. A curious little mixed gaggle of geese together on Colloway Marsh was of 4 Greylag, 2 Pink-footed Geese, a Canada Goose, and 2 'farmyard whites'. 

Having seen 32 Black-tailed Godwit off Crook Farm, in relation to the weather, the Cockersands visit was déjà vu of Monday's experience and I submitted to defeat.


Goldeneye. Howard Stockdale.

There's no sign of any Goldeneye yet on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock where they are always to be found by early November, though I saw two last year on 29 October, then four here by 4 November. 

I've also noticed recently, the Mute Swans are missing from the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock where monthly peak counts can reach up to 100 birds, with not a single one seen yesterday, and none to be found along Jeremy Lane, Lower Thurnham, and Moss Lane towards Cockersands which is where they are usually to be seen when they switch locations from the estuary.

A Garden First.

We had another garden first yesterday when KT sent a text to tell me of a Jay on the feeders....nice one.

Thanks to Howard and Martin for their respective excellent pictures.

The definition of success is to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Looking Back.

Yesterday I made some attempt, getting an hour in the Conder Green area, then spent two hours sat in a car watching squall after squall at Cockersands whilst staring out to sea to see if any wind blown strays were in the area, before throwing in the towel and going home to do an interesting back date search through my records to compare some bygone November birds.

Grey Phalarope. Martin Lofgren @ Wild Bird Gallery  


I was surprised to find it was 10 years ago since I found the Grey Phalarope at Heysham on 5 Nov, the bird was between the old wooden jetty and number one outfall, a juvenile Arctic Tern and 2 adult Little Gull were also present. On 17 Nov 15  Stonechat and 13 Wren were both good counts at Clougha/Birk Bank, not sure when - if ever - we will get these numbers of Stonechat back up here again in summer let alone 15 in November.


On 9 Nov 12 Brambling were at Tower Lodge, not an easy bird to locate recently, and a Hen Harrier was on Hawthornthwaite Fell on 13 Nov, a sighting which gives the feeling today of something like a miracle has happened.


Three Jack Snipe were at Conder Green 16 Nov, and 3 Scaup there throughout November on Conder Pool.


Three Short-eared Owl were at Bradshaw Lane 12 Nov. A widespread arrival had me see 19 Waxwing at Levens 14 Nov, a Long-tailed Duck was at Conder Green 18 Nov, this bird was present here for around a week, a Snow Bunting was at Jubilee Tower 24 Nov, and 2 Cattle Egret at Milnthorpe 15 Nov.


Slavonian Grebe Jan Larsson 

On 3 Nov I got my share of the Slavonian Grebe on Pine Lake for almost two months, 4 Snow Geese were on the Eric Morecambe complex 3 Nov, they were regarded as the same birds on Aldcliffe Marsh which I saw myself there on 27 Nov, and I found a Black Redstart at Cockersands 9 Nov, the bird was on the roof tops at Bank Houses.


In the Tower Lodge area in Bowland I found up to 80 Brambling on 10 Nov, and on 19 Nov I saw 20 Waxwing at Silverdale. 


On Fluke Hall Lane I saw 3 Curlew Sandpiper on the late date of 13 Nov, on the same day I saw another Curlew Sandpiper at Cockers Dyke, with 95 Twite also a good count here. 


A Snow Bunting was on Plover Scar at Cockersands 10 Nov, and 150 Twite were at Cockers Dyke.


In the middle of the month this year, I've had no sign of anything like this quality of November birds, but I'm keeping the faith's hoping!

Many thanks to Martin and Jan for their images of the brilliant phalarope and grebe.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

And The Winner Is....

The best reward of my visit to Cockersands on Thursday was the Short-eared Owl which I saw briefly over the marsh opposite the entrance to the caravan park before it dropped on to the marsh to disappear into the long grass.

Golden Plover Jan Larsson

I also saw at least 755 Golden Plover on my visit, an estimated 300 Golden Plover were with up to 600 Curlew in fields south of the caravan park, 400 Golden Plover were in flight over the Cocker channel, and another 55 Golden Plover were with 22 Black-tailed Godwit off Crook Farm, 25 Black-tailed Godwit were with Curlew and Lapwing in an Abbey Farm field, and at high tide, c.150 Turnstone, 200 Oystercatcher, and 2 Ringed Plover were on Plover Scar.

Two of the star birds of Conder Green were showing in the creeks, being the Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper, along with Tuesdays 3 Goosander and c.150 Teal noted, 11 Little Grebe were the days count on Conder Pool.

The Short-eared Owl.

Short-eared Owl Gary Jones

There's been an influx of SEO's into our area which still appears to be ongoing, and I've seen numerous reports of these birds into Lancashire and North Merseyside, with 23 individuals at 4 locations alone since 1 November.

The Short-eared Owl (SEO) breeds largely on the heather moors of our upland areas rich in small mammals, with populations of voles fluctuating which regulate the breeding success of the owls. Some sizeable proportion of our SEO is migratory, they move south and west in winter, with ringing recoveries as far as W France and Iberia, with single birds recorded in Malta and Russia. 

As is currently the case, large numbers of SEO's come to Britain for the winter, and they are seen regularly along the east coast in autumn, many of which are from Fennoscandia.

Thanks to Jan and Gary for the post images, and to Chris for the Pintail in flight header, excellent photography and much appreciated as always.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Making The Most Of It!

Snow Bunting Jan Larsson

Twelve months to the day - 10 November 2014 - I found a Snow Bunting on Plover Scar at Cockersands. Yesterday at Cockersands birding was nothing more than dire, and a Snow Bunting on the anniversary would have helped pull my day out of the mire.

Over the lighthouse cottage c.50 Black-tailed Godwit flew south, two hours later as I returned towards the cottage, it had to be the same fifty birds flew back north. There was a howler blowing along the headland, with nothing more than c.400 Oystercatcher on Plover Scar at high tide, 3 Greenfinch were at the Caravan Park....

Stoat. Phillip Tomkinson @ Wildsnaps

and a Stoat on the circuit was complete with a mouse between it's teeth.

Now a lake once again, Conder Pool held 3 Goosander, and 9 Little Grebe was my best of three attempts to count. The Common Sandpiper, 7 Black-tailed Godwit and c.65 Teal were of note in the creeks.

Weather and birds this was grim, I just had to make the most of it, but I would'nt have birding any other way....

Not what you will see
But rather what you might
The element of surprise
Never fails to delight

Thanks to Jan and Phillip for their excellent images....the Stoat exactly as I saw mine yesterday with it's victim firmly in it's jaws.   

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Breath Of Bowland.

Back for a breath of Bowland on Wednesday, the day was cloudy and a little dull at times, but calm and mild made it pleasant enough.

I had decided to give Hawthornthwaite Fell a little time, and was rewarded by finding a pair of Stonechat, primarily the reason I went up there. Reasonably obvious this was the pair I saw twice this year, on 23 June, and 4 September when they had a young bird accompanying them, the only pair I found on here this year. Also of note here, 13 Red Grouse, and 16 Meadow Pipit chasing off a Kestrel.

I estimated at least 100 Fieldfare in the Cam Brow/Fellside Farm area on my way to spend three hours between Marshaw and Tower Lodge, where I noted just 14 birds of 9 species. I've done notes before on Birds2blog about the scarcity of common birds in an area like - and as good as - this so won't repeat myself again this time.

Dipper David Cookson

Two Dipper were seen flying down the Marshaw Wyre, one in pursuit of the other, a Grey Wagtail was on here too, as was a Grey Heron quietly staring into the water for a meal. Up the track from Tower Lodge, a Great-spotted Woodpecker, and a Jay, a single Blue Tit, Coal Tit, and Great Tit were the only three I saw.

Goldcrest David Cookson

I had an excellent count of 6 Goldcrest flitting through the branches above Tower Lodge. 

A quick look over Blea Tarn Reservoir above Lancaster had me find 2 Pochard drakes, with Mallard and Tufted Duck present.

The Meadow Pipit.

Many of the Meadow Pipits from Britain winter in Iberia, birds from Iceland and Scandinavia also pass through Britain in the autumn, but I was taken by surprise when I saw 16 Meadow Pipit chasing a kestrel above Hawthornthwaite Fell today. Passage of the Meadow Pipit is usually over by mid-October, and any birds I see by November are regarded as wintering birds, very few of which remain in the uplands during the winter months, so what were these birds doing here on Wednesday. I was in touch with Bryan Yorke who himself has noted what he has referred to as late passage Meadow Pipits and is wondering what is going on, he was still recording them on Thursday when 111 went over his visible migration watch-point on Hutton Roof. I was grateful to Bryan for passing on to me his record of a pair of Stonechat on Dalton Crags, hopefully set to winter there.


Fly Agaric. Pete Woodruff.

I found this aged fungi Amanita muscaria at the base of a Pine at Marshaw. The Fly Agaric is poisonous and contains small amounts of muscarine which causes sweat-induced poisoning that may be severe in some cases, though rarely fatal it's definitely not a good idea to eat this fungi.

Thanks to DC for the much appreciated and excellent Dipper and Goldcrest, and to PT for the Fieldfare header. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Wading In.

In the main a waders day on Tuesday which started at Conder Green where I found the wintering Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper, they were down the Conder channel along with the staying Ruff which was with Redshank. Twelve Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Goosander were in the creeks, with 13 Little Grebe being the ever variable count on Conder Pool.

Viewing the Lune Estuary from the bowling green at Glasson Dock was pretty difficult, with no decent daylight and the bulk of waders choosing to be distant and beyond the Conder mouth as the tide came in, but I did pick out at least 60 Snipe in the gloom camouflaged amongst the weed covered stones, also seen was an adult Spotted Redshank hoovering up along the tideline, there was otherwise little of note and Golden Plover were few.

Buzzard. Pete Woodruff.

As I made my way along Slack Lane at Cockersands, the now resident Buzzard first seen on 12 October, was on a fence post, but the big surprise was of 36 Pink-footed Geese in an Abbey Farm stubble field. A Wheatear still at Cockersands, represents my first ever November bird and is heading towards the latest date of one at Pilling Lane Ends on 10 November last year. A count of 25 Twite was double that of the ones I found here last Friday.

Grey Plover Brian Rafferty

The tide on Tuesday was 8.00m, a useful height in that it pushes any waders in the area up close without displacing them off the shore. Today a good count of 16 Grey Plover were on and around Long Tongue, with c.250 Golden Plover, and singles of Ringed Plover, Snipe, and a Knot with a lame leg. Up to 100 Turnstone were hard work for accuracy,  and spread along the length of the shingle below the headland. At least 900 Wigeon were also straddled along the length from Plover Scar to the Cocker channel.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Birders Murky Tale.

Overflowing with enthusiasm to do some birding yesterday set off to the Lune Estuary at Conder Green in brilliant sunshine. Within a mile of leaving home the fog started to thicken, and by the time I arrived at Conder Green....pea soup.

To wait and see if the fog would lift I set off to walk the coastal path to Glasson Dock, noting c.50 Goldfinch flighty over the marsh, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Wren, 2 Blue Tit, and a Great Tit. By the time I got back to Conder Green the fog had lifted enough to be able count 15 Little Grebe and 19 Teal on Conder Pool. In the creeks, through the murk I could see the Spotted Redshank, a Common Sandpiper, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, and a Snipe.

By now the fog was thick as ever again, I gave in and decided to drive back to Lancaster to find the sun blazing down again and headed to where I should have headed in the first place....towards Bowland. Given the time of day I decided to look in on Birk Bank and walked the lower path, over Ottergear Bridge, down to Cragg Cottage, on to Littledale Road, and back along Rigg Lane.

The Track To Clougha. Pete Woodruff.

I had a conversation with a guy I met at the start of the Clougha track, and whilst stood talking I reckon by now the temperature was probably 18c. The circuit took two hours, during which time I saw just 35 birds of 8 species, 25 of which were Wood Pigeon overhead going south. Also seen, 2 Blackbird, and singles of Chaffinch, Great Tit, Mistle Thrush, Buzzard, and 2 Kestrel.

Birk Bank Fog. Pete Woodruff.

By 3.30pm it was back to square one and the fog had caught up with me again and little chance of seeing anything else, but the best bird of the day called to attract my attention to it, if it hadn't I'd never have seen it in the murk, in any case there was the bonus of 2 Green Woodpecker.

Hardly cutting edge birding today, but always good to be out there doing it.

Green Woodpecker Antonio Puigg 

Thanks to Antonio for the Green Woodpecker, excellent and appreciated as always. Don't forget to 'clik the pik' to get value for your money!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Back To Life!

I managed to get to Cockersands for the high tide on Friday, had a few rewards, and at least a little more life there than of late.


Best was 12 Twite, one of which was a ringed bird. I would probably have lingered with these birds anyway to get the full enjoyment of finding them, but try reading rings on these finches is usually hampered by long vegetation to get to grips with colours and worse still any numbers they may have. However, I persisted for 20 minutes and finally got the reading, a Heysham bird appropriately reported.


The photographs are a clear indication of the difficulties of ring reading on Twite.

Two Wheatear appear to be reluctant to move on from Cockersands, and were on the abbey ruins along with 2 Linnet. On the shingle at the caravan park end, 2 Rock Pipit seen, also 25 Greenfinch was a decent count. Skylark were in the air over a stubble field, probably many a dozen in it too, and the recent Buzzard seen 12 and 16 October was again surveying the terrain from a fence post. Off Crook Farm, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, and 25 Curlew were with at least 250 Lapwing

Looking To Cockersands Lighthouse. 

Out to sea, the area was looking its best as I left at dusk....All today's 'clik the pik' are your's truly.

Thanks to Dan Haywood for the header of the brilliant Yellow-browed Warbler he found locally on Thursday by Snuff Mill, Stodday.