BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY THE THE FOREST OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND...................................................................................................BOWLAND VIEW MARTIN JUMP

Sunday, 17 January 2021

The Chats Have It....Again!

Thanks to Martin Jump for the excellent and appropriate header image for this post about the Stonechat. It is the view looking NE from Hawthornthwaite Fell to the eastern edge below Ward's Stone, with Mallowdale Fell taking centre stage.

I was in touch with John Callion regarding the 'Ward's Stone Chat', to ask if he had any wintering records for Cumbria that might dispel my claim that this was the highest altitude bird in our area if not England. If John didn't have the answer to this question, nobody else would....

'Many of the Stonechats that breed in the high fells tend to nest in the steep angular valleys that,  after the autumn and the onset of the low arc of the sun, become sunless and unsuitable for survival during the winter.

There are however some of the wider and shallow valleys that offer 'full sun' during the winter and retain territorial birds; to my knowledge they include the upper Mosedale valley near Skiddaw House, and upper Borrowdale at Dock Tarn. Both of these sites are around 400m asl, so not as high as the one you have in Bowland. There may be others, perhaps higher, but l have no knowledge of them, so l think it's fairly safe for you to suggest your bird is likely to be the highest that we have information for?' John Callion.

Map Courtesy of Simon Hawtin

During the summer, keen fell runner Simon had seen two Stonechat (Green) in the same area as the January Ward's Stone bird (Red), one of which may well have been a female to the male, thereby making an excellent 420m wintering pair. Perhaps if Simon can find a pair in the shadow of Ward's Stone on Tarnbrook Fell during this winter, we can then put an end to conjecture.

Stonechat Male. D.G.M'cGrath

Since 1 January, to date I've noted 35 Stonechats, recorded at 18 locations and mainly found on the FBC website, including an excellent 6 Stonechat at Lytham Moss 3 January. You just don't usually see six Stonechat at any one time in winter, and certainly not lowland/coastal birds. Thanks to Dave for this little beauty he found at Marton Mere. 

Wood Mouse.

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I've previously paid little or no attention to the Wood Mouse - sometimes referred to as Long Tailed Field Mouse - and had no idea it was probably the most common mammal in the UK.

From the B+W File.

Brown Hare in the long grass at Cockersand....Well, being I took the photograph, where else!

Sunday, 10 January 2021

The Ward's Stone Chat.

Ward's Stone is the highest peak in the Forest of Bowland, the trig point stands at 560m. An interesting fact about Ward's Stone, is that another 50m would make it a mountain to join the only other two in Lancashire, Green Hill at 628m, and Cragareth at 627m.

Last Wednesday saw the report of a male Stonechat on Ward's Stone on 6 January.

But checking the grid reference given in the report, I found the sighting of the Stonechat had been at around 420m which gives the record to be on Tarnbrook Fell and not quite the high altitude record as at first thought. However, I have noted this to be the highest altitude of a wintering Stonechat recorded to date in England this winter....ever in my little black book.

I never went any higher than 400m during my years of observations of the Stonechat on Clougha Pike where I found Stonechat breeding at that altitude, but never recorded a wintering bird. 

Of note, the highest altitude record for breeding Stonechat in the UK stands at 590m in Cumbria in 1996....(J.Callion) Stonechats. A Guide to the Genus Saxicola. Christopher Helm 2002.


I was sorry to hear Peter Cook had died on 5 January. 

Unknown to me at the time, his love for the Stonechat started at an early age, he had developed an interest in birds at the age of 12. Peter was watching Stonechats, and found some nesting on Heysham Barrows, but went on to write in an article for the LDBWS Annual Report, that he was disappointed they were no longer a regular breeding bird in coastal areas in the area, including Heysham.

Peter took on the role of Secretary for the LDBWS in 2012, where he remained until his death. The Society and birders will miss his presence, and I would like to add my personal sadness at the news of Peter Cook's passing.

From the B+W File

I managed to stalk this Sparrowhawk down to 50m at Cockersand in September 2015.

Thanks to Ana Minguez for the delightful Penduline Tit header....Couldn't resist it.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Confined To Barracks!

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We had a Song Thrush yesterday, a mega in the garden with Nectar Points equal to a White's Thrush on the Scillies as far as I'm concerned, but....

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....it beat the snow which came down today.

I haven't been to Cockersand in a while now, but I met this disgruntled up and coming birder one day last autumn, he had a good old whinge about being told Cockersand was the best place to find a Yellow-browed Warbler and was a bit miffed he hadn't done after several days on the hunt, I could tell he wasn't happy....so I told him he'd been mislead and should make haste to the Heysham/Sunderland area where YBW finders abound!! 

A day without a smile is a day in your life wasted.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

The First Bit!

Made my first venture out on Sunday, into the pandemic wracked world of 2021. A walk in pleasant sun along the promenade with KT, from Sandylands to Half Moon Bay and return, to have two enjoyable birding experiences along the way.

At least 2,000 Knot had assembled on the beach by the Sunny Slopes groyne.

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It was an absolute delight watching these birds, the pleasure only dampened by someone with a large black unleashed mutt, both charging across the beach to the groyne to disturb every bird in sight. What annoyed me most about this unacceptable behaviour, was the fact his attitude was that it was always his intention to set the mutt off ahead of him to put the birds to flight and ruin everyone's enjoyment of the spectacle being observed by a small group of people.


If you have already read this post, you will see that I have edited it to remove some unacceptable language used in my account of this appalling act of disturbance of birds in Morecambe Bay.  

But I found a little relaxation at Half Moon Bay, with a view of the Lakeland mountains across Morecambe Bay.

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On the return leg I found a Black-headed Gull in an inland field off the promenade. 

Black-headed Gull Heysham 3 January 2021. Pete Woodruff.

The bird was ringed A690 in Germany in March 2013, it had been previously seen six times at Heysham.

11.08.2018 GB - Lancashire, Heysham 54 2 N -2 55 E Farbring abgelesen Marsh, P.
31.12.2019 GB - Lancashire, Heysham 54 2 N -2 55 E Farbring abgelesen MCClelland, G.
29.01.2020 GB - Lancashire, Heysham 54 2 N -2 55 E Farbring abgelesen Downham, M.
05.02.2020 GB - Lancashire, Heysham 54 2 N -2 55 E Farbring abgelesen Downham, M.
12.02.2020 GB - Lancashire, Heysham 54 2 N -2 55 E Farbring abgelesen Downham, M.
12.11.2020 GB - Lancashire, Heysham 54 2 N -2 55 E Farbring abgelesen Downham, M.
03.01.2021 GB - Lancashire, Heysham 54 2 N -2 55 E Farbring abgelesen Woodruff, P.

I'm grateful for the help of Sönke Martens with historic details for this bird. 

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Last Chance Saloon.

Today was a complete disaster for me, when the last chance for birding in 2020 was thwarted for more reasons than one. But here are some bits and pieces to fill the page....

I found a file buried beneath a mountain of other files, it contained a good number of black and white images that I submitted over a couple of years, to a photographic website appropriately named 'The World In Black & White'.

So I decided to feature one or two in some forthcoming posts on B2B. The first is in the header, not all that original in it's title I must confess. The pictures are only loosely connected with birds and birding, some not connected at all perhaps.

The occasional Wren visited our garden yesterday. I happened to be looking through the kitchen window when it appeared, and having my camera to hand managed a bit of footage of the delightful little creature offering us a moment of pleasure.

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I'm thinking of taking up a bit of birdwatching as a pastime next year. Meanwhile, to all B2B enthusiasts....

Conder Green. Pete Woodruff. View Full Screen 


Thursday, 24 December 2020

Tier 3....The Great Escape.


It was a full house at the car park on Rigg Lane on Tuesday. One family group told me they were just glad to be out of the house for a while. For me it was much the same, but with the added pleasure of finding 4 Stonechat at Birk Bank today, by coincidence the same count as my visit here on 16 October, though not necessarily being the same birds again.

Along the way I saw 8 Red Grouse, but this image is more to highlight the limestone structure than the bird, it's alcoves and why it stands alone puzzles me. The only other birds encountered, 2 Goldcrest and a Robin. A Buzzard gave me an excellent photo opportunity had I stopped the car, it was perched on a fencepost  as I drove approaching Quernmore.

The Silver Birch trees made attractive silhouette patterns in the late afternoon light....

....and spending a few minutes on the boardwalk around the bog gave the pleasure of reminding me of summer months, when I found the Keeled Skimmer at Birk Bank for my fourth year.

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Thanks to Howard Stockdale for sending me an appropriate seasonal image of the Sanderling, one of my most favourite waders for a Christmas header.

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Sunday, 20 December 2020

Birding Unplugged....

....well badly fractured anyway!

I had to taxi a family member to Dolphinholme on Tuesday, to be picked up again in three hours to return to Lancaster. The perfect opportunity for me to go a few miles up the road for a couple of hours to Hawthornthwaite, to prove that I had missed the Stonechats wintering here on my last visit 10 November.

The trip wasn't the success I had hoped for as I had made the effort to make a video of the visit, but when I got the sequences on my computer, I found the wind had drowned out most of the commentary, and three of the sequences ended up in the bin. However, I salvaged the three remaining sequences, and made a little sense of them.

Three species are mentioned in the footage, a pair of Stonechat, a Merlin, and a Hen Harrier. Two species not recorded, 12 Red Grouse, and a Wren.

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I note a Common Sandpiper reported at Conder Green Friday 18 December (LDBWS). This is the first Common Sandpiper to be recorded at Conder Green in winter since the last sighting of a long wintering bird of the species on 11 October 2019. Another wintering Common Sandpiper was found at Skerton Weir 25 November, was probably the same individual seen two days later from Carlisle Bridge 27 November.

An ID puzzle was these eight footprints found in the mud on the bank of the River Lune in Lancaster. I more or less immediately thought Otter, but me thinks too small....Perhaps Stoat?

A Little Success.

It was great to hear about the success of breeding Little Tern at Blakeney Point off the coast of Norfolk, where the terns had their most successful season in 2020, fledging in excess of 200 chicks, and being the best result for more than 25 years.

Little Tern. Martin Jump.

The Little Tern is one of the UK's rarest seabirds, and has been in serious decline nationally for up to 40 years since the 1980's, it's status in the country stands at less than 2,000 pairs, with up to 155 pairs nesting at Blakeney Point this year. 

This wonderful good news story is believed in part, to be the result of fewer homo sapiens visiting this location earlier in the breeding season during the first national lockdown, due to the terrible pandemic which is currently a world-wide scourge. Another contribution is that the Little Tern chose to nest at the far end of the point this year, further away from the mainland, with fewer visitors deciding not to go to the trouble of walking the distance. Added to this, is the fact that the birds nested in a tight group, with fewer predator's affecting the terns this year too, seeming to add credence to the strategy of 'safety in numbers'.

As a rapidly declining species, what a sight it must have been to see so many of these tiny seabirds fledging the nest as creatures still very much at risk in a year that has - and still is - a challenge to us all. 

Thanks to Martin Jump for his image of the Little Tern that made a brief appearance at Preston Dock in July 2018.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Diversion Ahead!

So there's going to have to be some diversions on B2B, 'cos I ain't getting out as much as I can and would like to. Monday's visit to Heysham was on a brilliant day weather-wise, wall to wall sunshine and a flat calm sea, but didn't bear much fruit. 

Great Tit. Martin Jump.

But I was thankful for small mercies, with a wander along the seawall and foreshore to Ocean Edge salt marsh. Bird of the day in my book was a Song Thrush, not seen daily by any means, and a bird the conservation status of which is in the Red. Other birds to note, DunnockWren, and Great Tit.

Peregrine Falcon showed perched high on the power station, which prompts a word of caution to birders tempted to poke a camera through the fence at anything within the grounds....DON'T!

Robin. Pete Woodruff.

By the time I got back to the car I'd seen 6 Robin, including this one that kept returning to see me by the car as I drank my coffee and biscuits.

The sunset at Heysham was stunning, as seen by the children's play area off Knowleys Road, creating a scene of peace and tranquility.

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Gold & Green.

A treat recently in our urban garden, was one of our regular Goldfinch feeding opposite a Greenfinch which is at best scarce and irregular. 

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Thanks to Martin for helping to salvage B2B with his header and Great Tit image.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

B2B Episode 2247.

Though the weather wasn't all that pleasant on Tuesday, having scrounged a lift to Galgate, I did have a enjoyable ramble along the canal from Galgate back to Lancaster, about 4 mile in as many hours at a snails pace.

Treecreeper. Martin Jump.

Along the way, it was a toss up for bird of the day, between the small mouse-like Treecreeperwith it's long miniature Curlew-like decurved bill, and doing what it does best as the tree-trunk and branch-climbing passerine, and the Goldcrest seen. Best in number was the count of at least 22 Blackbird, with 5 Robin seen, a Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, and ChaffinchA Buzzard flew treetop height over the canal, and a Cormorant over south.

December 2019 Notes.

I've noted the Little Grebe have failed to return to winter on Conder Pool in anything like the numbers of previous years. I think the best count to date has been 8 Little Grebe, which compares to a personal peak count of 22 last year on Conder Pool 18 December.

Also failing to return to Conder Green this winter is a Common Sandpiper, one of which wintered for 11 consecutive years until last recorded here in 2018. But I've not seen a wintering Common Sandpiper, nor seen any reports from here since my last sighting on 11 October 2019.

Until 1,000 had been reported at Cockersand yesterday Saturday 5 December, the Golden Plover had so far been absent in number from the Lune Estuary to date, counts had only been at around 500. My last combined peak count was of c.3,350 Golden Plover at Glasson/Cockersand on 16 December 2019, probably representing the entire Lune Estuary population at the time. A notable comment on the LDBWS sightings page from one regular Lune Estuary birder last Sunday 29 October....'Didn't see a single Golden Plover'.

Fieldfare. Richard Pegler.

Another two interesting December records from 2019, was of at least 1,000 Fieldfare seen in the Conder Green/Cockersand area on 16 December. The following day, Fieldfare with Redwing were in view for the length of the walk Aldcliffe to Glasson on 17 December, amounting to 1,200 individuals by the time I got to Glasson Dock. Also seen on the walk 92 Blackbird...Impressive stuff. 

Video Issue.

The recent 'Videos won't play on B2B' issue has been fixed. I'd like to publicly thank Blogger for resolving this problem.

Thanks to Brian, Martin and Richard for some excellent images.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Bleak In Bowland!

Definitely bleak in Bowland, and not much pen and paper used - non actually - in my latest trip there on Friday. In fact I was almost in despair when I realised I hadn't even taken the little black book out of my pocket for the entire 5 hours....I'm convinced this was a first in my 150 years of birding.

But the visit served it's purpose well, and I now know that Harrisend probably has two wintering pairs of Stonechat. With my 'now you see me, now you don't' theory, a pair seen, and a lone male with which I failed to locate it's mate. Otherwise, 8 Red Grouse seen/heard, and a Cormorant flew over the fell purposefully east....can't imagine what that was all about.

Red Grouse. Pete Woodruff.

After my last two visits to Hawthornthwaite on 15 Oct/10 Nov, I found no Stonechat here again on Friday, but noted up to 10 Red Grouse.

Small Blue.

This signage still stands erected at Fenham Carr in Williamson Park and I took a pik of it again last week, it's been featured on B2B before. It is sheer nonsense and you wonder who commissioned it to illustrate the wildlife to be found in the park. It shows a Small Blue butterfly - top right of centre - which is not to be found anywhere near Williamson Park which couldn't grow the butterfly's food plant of Kidney Vetch if it tried.

Small Blue © Dave Miller

The nearest Small Blue colonies are more likely to be found on the Cumbrian coast around Whitehaven and Maryport.

Tern Attack.

I was quite pleased with the result of this video of the Common Tern attack on an Oystercatcher on Conder Pool in 2019. 

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It's been nominated for an Oscar for musical score!!  😋

Note....If the video doesn't work first time, hopefully it might on your next visit to the page.