Friday, 6 May 2016

A Hike Up The Pike.

Male Stonechat. David Cookson @ Flickr

An excellent day and an excellent time for me to be off up Clougha Pike for the first time since 8 September last year. 

Female Stonechat Martin Jump

Yesterday I spent 3.5 hours on Clougha and found not a single Stonechat, but the good news is that I found two pair of Stonechat on Birk Bank, these are the first to be found on Birk Bank in 6 years when a pair were seen at the far end on 27 April 2010 at the end of the first of two harsh winters which had a catastrophic effect on British wintering Stonechats.

In the 5.5 hours spent on Clougha, then Birk Bank, I made notes on all the 18 bird species I saw, including 4 Wheatear, 7 Willow Warbler, a singing male Blackcap, a Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, 6 Wren, a Blue Tit, and a Chaffinch. I noted just 2 Red Grouse as an unusually low count, being at least six less than I would have expected in early may here, at least 20 Meadow Pipit, and saw just two raptors, a Buzzard and Kestrel

I watched my first 5 Swift giving an excellent arial display which appeared to represent nothing more than the sheer enjoyment these birds were having in flying like rockets, twisting and turning, climbing and diving at random and in sync....brilliant. 

For the second time recently - Ring Ouzel 20 April - I find myself downgrading the chat - that's terrible - to claim the Cuckoo as 'Bird of the Day'. This bird called five times during my 5.5 hours here, always sounding it was in the Birk Bank area, but I found the bird eventually at the top end of Cragg Wood atop a tall tree with a passerine - probably a Meadow Pipit - perched by it's side as it called repeatedly.

Cuckoo Marc Heath  

The Cuckoo took off, flew west, and disappeared out of view below the ridge above me, but it called for the fifth time a half hour later above Birk Bank as I walked the lower path.


After surviving the challenges of his 4,500 mile migration from the Congo basin back to England, the Cuckoo Vigilamus is lost. The last location received from his tag showed that he was back on the north Yorkshire Moors where he was originally tagged, but the tag temperature suggests that he succumbed to the near-arctic conditions there last week....This is bad news. 

Thanks to Martin/David/Marc for the brilliant images.  

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Spring Is In The Air.

Well it wasn't where I was yesterday, and although the sun had put in an appearance it certainly wasn't in the air at Cockersands and neither was the Swift, but I did get a first on the day.

Whitethroat. Warren Baker @ Pittswoodpatch

It's the never knowing what's next that spurs us on in birding, and as I walked the circuit at Cockersands yesterday, a bird I hadn't seen ahead took off from a hedge top, it soon dropped down on to a fence post to reveal it was a Whinchat to the east of Abbey Farm. I also saw my first Whitethroat here, it was singing in the bush nearest the Lighthouse Cottage on the private road to Crook Farm. a few House Martin went through north whilst I was here today, one or two resident Tree Sparrow and a pair of nest building Linnet were around Bank Houses, also a Reed Bunting and another Lapwing seen with two young were my third success to hatching and out of the nest at Cockersands. Thanks for the Whitethroat Warren.

The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock was virtually deserted, but 9 Eider noted, with a Whimbrel in almost the same place it/one had been last Friday. Two Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Goosander, and the summering female Wigeon were all of note on Conder Pool, where I've had no sign of the female Mallard and 10 ducklings since I found them here on 21 April, 2 Whimbrel were over the pool, and in the creeks, a Greenshank and 5 Common Sandpiper which included two down the Conder channel from the old railway bridge.

Cormorant Siesta. Conder Pool. Pete Woodruff. 

The Conder Green House Martins. 

House Martins were not surprisingly nest building at a property in Conder Green yesterday, I approached the owner/s to see if they were aware of this and had good reason to ask if they were prepared to accommodate these breeding birds. Our conversation was in confidence and I'm not prepared to detail it on a blog on the internet, but I was made confident the House Martins would be OK this year. I once called on a property elsewhere in this area on the same subject, on that ocassion they told me they would be doing all they could to deter the House Martins from nesting on their property, 'they make a mess and are a nuisance'....nice one!! 

Monday, 2 May 2016

One To Three.

I managed just one hour each at three locations on Friday, Conder/Glasson/Cockersands. 

The first hour was at Conder Green where the star birds all put in an appearance for me plus the bonus of 3 Greenshank with the Spotted Redshank and 5 Common Sandpiper seen. Also of note, 2 Black-tailed Godwit were in stunning summer plumage, 2 Goosander, and 2 Little Egret, the surprise being a female Wigeon, though a glance at my records showed at least one drake spent last summer here. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock, up to 150 Sand Martin were hawking here with a few Swallow also seen.

Black-tailed Godwit. Lune Estuary Glasson. 29 April. Pete Woodruff.

Common Sandpiper/Black-tailed Godwit. Pete Woodruff.

On the Lune Estuary, 31 Black-tailed Godwit in variable stages of plumage were eventually joined by a Common Sandpiper....

Whimbrel. Pete Woodruff.

....and a Whimbrel which dropped in obligingly close, but remained half hidden behind a large stone for the duration of my short stay here, 14 Eider were counted but possibly more hidden by the mud-bank upstream below Colloway Marsh.

I just needed the time to check Plover Scar as the tide came in, to find at least 400 Dunlin and 50 Ringed Plover, with a 'few' uncounted Turnstone present. As I drove along Slack Lane, I pulled in to note c.200 waders in a field, seen as a pretty even mix of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, judging by the number of the latter I have no reason to connect these birds with the ones on Plover Scar earlier. The remaining 2 Whooper Swan appear to have no intention of leaving the area just yet.

Two pair of Ringed Plover today were behaving like they might nest on the shingle on the inner edge of Plover Scar, a pity they don't know that would be a bad idea, as a classic example the last time I visited, a photographer with a second mortgage camera and two mutts were out on the scar.

I'm grateful to DH for the excellent header image of the Wood Warbler he found at Stodday on 23 April. At best an uncommon bird in our area, which appears to be heading inexorably towards extinction in the county of Lancashire and beyond. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Turned Out Nice Again!

In terms of the weather Wednesday was a day of two halves, the first half I spent a good time sat in the motor rain/snow watching, by the time I got to Cockersands the second half was an absolute delight .

I took this shot of the snow which took me by surprise when I set eyes on the Bowland Fells from Glasson Dock. I took it through the telescope, it's a resounding failure photographically, but when I got it on the computer I found I'd stopped a raptor in flight at least 4 miles away from Glasson as the crow flies. There's almost nothing to go on, but it's not a Buzzard as I see it, it has flat wings and zoomed in takes on a blurred reddish appearance....kite/harrier?

Spotted Redshank. Pete Woodruff.  

I also took another shot of our friend the Conder Green Spotted Redshank, another of my moderate attempts at photography and a bit repetitive too, not all black yet including it's legs, but with the birds fine white speckling showing now, it becomes clearer why the bird is so called.

Also seen in the creeks, 2 Greenshank, 'the' lone Black-tailed Godwit, and 5 Common Sandpiper, which - if 2015 is anything to go by - I reckon will have departed here by the end of next week, when the last in my book were four seen on 1 May, with the first returning bird seen under seven weeks later on 18 June, 2 House Martin were lingering. 

On the canal basin at Glasson Dock, up to 60 Sand Martin were hawking. The Lune Estuary notes amounted to, 14 Eider, and 5 Red-breasted Merganser which in itself was at least a decent count of the species here.

Cockersands Lighthouse 27 April. Pete Woodruff.

By the time I got to Cockersands it was a complete turn around with the weather, with brilliant sunshine and not a breath of wind, it was a delight to be on Plover Scar with up to 650 waders to scan through with which here could have been anything....but wasn't. I broke them down to estimates of 300 Dunlin, 250 Ringed Plover, 50 Knot, 40 Turnstone, and 4 Whimbrel.

I got no further than Plover Scar at Cockersands today, but from the motor driving away, I saw my first Lapwing pair with two chicks in a field off Slack Lane....I called out Good Luck to them as I drove by!! 


In Sunday's post 'Up And Down Birding Again', you may have noticed I referred to a Mallard female as having 10 goslings stringing along....Mmmmm....Not a senior moment at my young age surely, but they were ducklings....were'nt they!! 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Whingeing, Birding, And A Plover.

Here's the whinge....

Yesterday was more like late February than late April, and the hail shower which turned up around mid-day completely brought down my enthusiasm for Cockersands, so I went to seek shelter for a while at Aldcliffe. If there was any migrants at Conder/Glasson there was no way I was going to find them on song, and I sure found no silent one's either, though at Aldcliffe around mid-afternoon the sun put in an appearance the transformation of which was amazing, with numerous birds bursting into song....End of whinge.

Here's the birding.... 

On Conder Pool, the one day appearance of the Little Ringed Plover on 14 April, the stay on here of the Gadwall pair since 8 April, and the lone Little Grebe, all seem to have departed, leaving just the in residence Oystercatchers, a few Tufted Duck, Redshank, and Shelduck. The two birds of most interest was the return of a Great-crested Grebe at best uncommon on the pool, and a Coot, not sure I ever saw one before on Conder Pool. In the creeks, 5 Common Sandpiper, and a Greenshank.

The Lune Estuary, at least 20 Eider is my best ever count on this section of the estuary, 15 Dunlin were at the Conder mouth, and a Peregrine Falcon on Colloway Marsh was being dived bombed by 4 Carrion Crow until it flew off, my first House Martin was over with Swallows. Now the hail stones have arrived....I'm off.

At Aldcliffe, 4 Little Ringed Plover were on the flood with display seen between a pair which took off and went on to the Wildfowler's Pool where I found them ten minutes later, 2 Gadwall drakes were the only birds noted on here. I had to witness the transformation to believe it when the sun came out, what had been a complete silence now burst out into the song of 5 Robin, 3 Chiffchaff, a Lesser Whitethroat, and a Song Thrush, all within a few metres of hedgerow, 10 minutes later the sun had disappeared again....End of birding.

Here's the plover.... 

Kentish Plover Jan Larsson 

Yesterday a male Kentish Plover was found ESE of Manchester on Audenshaw Reservoir, the bird showed well all day and remains there again today. Fond memories came flooding back to me when I saw this news, of the bird I found on Plover Scar at Cockersands, 5 years ago next Tuesday on 3 May 2011....BE THERE!!

Thanks to Jan for the much appreciated KP at Ottenby Bird Observatory  

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Up And Down Birding Again.

Whinchat Brian Rafferty

Having met SP at the lighthouse cottage on Thursday and set off towards Plover Scar around high tide, we had gone through the kissing gate when to the left in bushes there was a Whinchat with Linnets....I didn't see my first Whinchat in 2015 until 3 May. Thanks to BR for the excellent image. 

Plover Scar was pretty quiet and with waders hunkered down amongst the stones, some were difficult to find, but barely a double figure of Dunlin and Ringed Plover present, with a single Grey Plover standing out well. Also at Cockersands, 8 Wheatear, five of which were on the Cockersand Abbey ruins. The rest of the circuit was rather grim, with lots of Lapwing sitting quietly in some of the fields, a single Skylark, and the 2 Whooper Swan still hanging on here.

As I drove along Jeremy Lane en route to Glasson Dock, in excess of 450 Lesser Black-backed Gull were of note in a freshly slurried field. On the Lune Estuary, a Common Sandpiper was on the mud feeding with Redshank, and the only other note made was of 3 Eider hauled out by the Conder mouth.

Three moderate quality images below courtesy of yours truly!!  

Spotted Redshank. Conder Green 21 April.

High tide at Conder Green, the Spotted Redshank was showing it's transformation to black breeding plumage to good effect....

Greenshank/Common Sandpiper. Conder Green 21 April.

....and a Greenshank was with one of the 2 Common Sandpiper seen here today.  

Lesser Black-backed Gull. Conder Pool 21 April. 

This brute of a resident currently on Conder Pool with it's mate, was eyeing up a female Mallard which had it's ten goslings stringing along....dangerous neighbours, dangerous times! 

Bryan Yorke is first past the post with his Cuckoo seen on Dalton Crags yesterday morning Here  

Thanks to SP for the excellent header image of the Temminck's Stint found on Conder Pool 28 May 2013. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Shirt Sleeves In Bowland!

Nice wall to wall sunshine on Wednesday, I was off to Bowland and in shirt sleeves by noon.

But I was on my way to another disappointment on the west side of Hawthornthwaite Fell, though a slight improvement on the east side was to follow. I decided to do a count on the six hours spent here and arrived at 38 species which I'd say wasn't too bad for me on and around the Bowland uplands.

Ring Ouzel. Ana Minguez @ Naturanafotos 

The prize of the day managed to downgrade the chat for me this time, when I saw a silent black bird flying away from me on Hawthornthwaite's west side, to land a distance off and turn front on to reveal a blazing white crescent, a belting male Ring Ouzel, an excellent unexpected bird for me on this fell....entered in capital letters in the little black book. 

Also seen, a male Stonechat, almost certainly the same lone bird I found here on 31 March, 8 Sand Martin were on circuits of the banks at the bottom end of Catshaw Greave, I saw 3 Red Grouse, at least 11 Meadow Pipit, and a hovering Kestrel was one of only two raptors seen today, a Peacock butterfly was recorded.

Driving from here to Marshaw, 3 Wheatear were close together on a roadside wall, and from Marshaw I had a couple of hours on the east side of Hawthornthwaite to find 3 Stonechat which were seen as a pair and a lone male, 14 Meadow Pipit counted, 6 Red Grouse, a Snipe flushed out of a ditch, 2 singing Wren, 2 Curlew, and 2 Willow Warbler were in the trees by the shooting lodge, a Small Tortoiseshell and 2 Peacock seen. When I got back to the road at Marshaw 2 Mistle Thrush were seen. 

A couple of hours in the Tower Lodge area had a Grey Wagtail on the Marshaw Wyre, anything else seen was up the track from Tower Lodge, 7 Chaffinch, 2 Blackbird, a Goldcrest, Jay, a Treecreeper, Dunnock, and a Mistle Thrush, a Buzzard was seen distant soaring over Winfold Fell, and another Small Tortoiseshell seen.      

Many thanks to Ana for the excellent image of the brilliant 'Spanish' Ring Ouzel.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A Pleasant Sunny Day....

....for pleasant sunny birding.

I called in twice at Conder Green on Tuesday, and got no further than the viewing platform on both occasions, the first visit was at high tide when a Greenshank was with 24 Redshank roosting on the marsh, and on the second visit six hours later, I found 5 Common Sandpiper, three in the creeks and two on Conder Pool which was quiet and held 6 Tufted Duck, a pair of Canada Geese and a few summer resident Oystercatcher

I watched a Lesser Black-backed Gull make a Gannet style dive on Conder Pool to completely submerge itself and surface with a large crab in it's bill, take it to land, and with the help of it's equally handsome and brutish mate, thrash the unfortunate creature to pieces and eat the lot - claws and all - in under 10 seconds. 

Black-tailed Godwit. Pete Woodruff.

It's a pity my pic of the c.350 Black-tailed Godwit on the Lune Estuary is a botched job as the birds were stunning to see in their breeding plumage ready for the off to Iceland anytime soon. Little else to note here other than 4 Eider drake, and 2 Red-breasted Merganser.

At Cockersands, 3 Wheatear, 2 Skylark, a Reed Bunting, and a Sparrowhawk. I saw 4 Linnet, but had noted a decent flock of around 50 small birds come up out of a field with c.250 Golden Plover which were almost certainly Linnet. At least 400 waders were feeding between Plover Scar and Long Tongue as the tide dropped, noted as c.350 Dunlin and 50 Ringed Plover, 4 Whimbrel were my first of the year, and 8 Eider were off the scar.

A Barn Owl was seen from the headland around the Bank Houses area, which I've not seen here since 9 March, c.40 Swallow in ones and twos, with a single Sand Martin were over and all north, and 2 Whooper Swan are the left overs from a peak count of at least 400 in the area on Thursday 3 March. I saw up to 10 Small Tortoiseshell on the day.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Thursday Part 2.

Ridiculously belated news, but here goes....

I think the Aldcliffe bug has bitten me as I made my second visit there this month last Thursday when I went following three hours on the Lune Estuary. I had an hour there, going along the top path from Aldcliffe Hall Lane to the Wildfowlers Pool, to return via the bottom path.

Willow Warbler Richard Pegler 

I found my first Willow Warbler here, with 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Reed Bunting, and 4 Goldfinch noted. On the flood I found 6 Little Ringed Plover, with the Greenshank seen on the marsh again. On the Wildfowlers Pool 5 Gadwall included some in flight chasing between two drake and a female. Thanks for the Willow Warbler Richard, albeit a little out of context on a Scillies beach.

Snipe. Pete Woodruff.

Four Snipe out in the open seemed unconcerned about the busy cycle way and footpath which runs parallel the full length now that some serious hedge-laying has been completed. 

The Garden Siskin.

At least one pair of Siskin - two males together one day - are visiting our garden at the moment several times per day, with five birds being the peak count on Sunday 13 March. I've also had phone calls to tell me of numbers of Siskin in gardens at Bailrigg, Brookhouse, Halton, and seen many reports on websites, all indicating an influx of these attractive finches. Phil Woollen had ringed 51 Siskin in his garden on the Wirral by mid-January. At locations in Lancashire many of the reports of Siskin at garden feeders are in excess in number of many of the counts of birds on passage made during this period in the county in 2015.

Siskin. Mike Atkinson.

Mike Atkinson got in touch to tell me of at least 30 Siskin over the past two days in his Lancaster garden just around the corner from us. Thanks to Mike for his excellent image of one of the males in his garden.

Most commonly know as a late winter early spring visitor to gardens, many of the Siskin are of native origin, though birds from continental Europe also visit and pass through Britain in large but varying numbers. It's interesting to note, during the winters of 1994/95 and 19978/98, a survey showed that almost 40% of participating gardens recorded Siskin. High numbers of garden Siskin feeding on supplement foods are influenced by poor cone crops, especially in the early morning, or on wet and overcast days, as the Siskin is unable to feed on unopened cones.

Of interest is the fastest recorded movement of a Siskin which went from Shropshire to the Highland Region of Scotland in three days at an average of 118 miles per day.

Siskin. Pete Woodruff. 

I made an attempt to photograph this female Siskin in our garden, but it stuck it's head into the feeder as the shutter fired....Still, I suppose it would have made a 'name the bird' shot in a quiz.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Birding By Halves.

Better late than never....I'm putting last Thursdays birds on Birdsblog in two halves as I'm struggling with time at the moment. So here are the results of a Lune Estuary sortie which started in fine style, even though it proved me wrong....again!

A quote from Wednesday's post....'I have a distinct feeling it's not going to happen in 2016'....I was talking about the likelyhood of a Little Ringed Plover on Conder Pool this late spring, but my prediction was about to be proved wrong. 

I was hanging on to the hope of finding a LRP again this year, and looking excactly in the area where the birds had always been found in previous years there it was, Little Ringed Plover Conder Pool had delivered again

I'd noted the pool was quiet, but it was good to see the Gadwall pair still on here, though never seen out in the open yet, always lurking somewhere behind the islands, also 'the' lone Black-tailed Godwit here. I don't understand this bird, always alone and surely the same individual seen here numerous times throughout this year and last.

In the creeks, Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, and 2 Common Sandpiper, with a few Redshank one of which was displaying. Legging it to Glasson Dock from Conder Green, 2 Great Tit, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, and House Sparrow....Not a migrant in sight and still waiting for my first Willow Warbler.

Black-tailed Godwit. Pete Woodruff.

On the Lune Estuary, c.350 Back-tailed Godwit, the photograph clearly illustrating the difficulty of counting birds on these stoney islands at low tide, there are at least fifty in the picture above. A 'few' Bar-tailed Godwit seen, 16 Eider is by far my best ever count on this section of the estuary where at best they are irregular, 4 Red-breasted Merganser seen recently were here still. During my 3 hour visit to the Lune Estuary maybe 8 Swallow went over heading north.

Black-tailed Godwit. Pete Woodruff.

Some of the Black-tailed Godwit were feeding close in, I did my best to capture the stunning breeding plumage most of these birds are acquiring. Hopefully the second half of Thursdays birding to follow when I can get to the computer.   

I'm grateful for some images Mike Atkinson sent me, including the excellent female Siskin header.