Thursday, 26 March 2015

Whooper Swan.

With little time for blogging, but good news from Wednesday on Clougha when I do.

Whooper Swans David Cookson

This is the history of only the second Whooper Swan I've had the opportunity to ring read this winter. I received the sightings history for the marked Whooper Swan BN3 which I found at Bank End on 16 March. 

This bird will be 8 years old come 8 August 2015 and before it departs Cockersands for Iceland it will have already flown an amazing almost 50,000 miles on migration, carrying as an adult a weight of around 14kg, a huge creature for such an annual undertaking.

Ringed Cygnet  Holmavatn S-Thing Iceland 8 August 2007 

Dunkirk, Near Little Downham Cambridgeshire United Kingdom 28 October 2007 

Great Dams Fen, Wardy Hill, Coveney Cambridgeshire U.K 22 January 2008  

Ringneill Bay, Srangford Lough Co. Down Northern Ireland 18 March 2008 

Ringneill Bay, Srangford Lough Co. Down Northern Ireland 18 March 2008

Beechwood Farm, Christchurch Cambridgeshire U.K 24 January 2011

Bank End, Cockerham Lancashire United Kingdom 16 March 2015

I am grateful to Kane Brides once again for this information, and to DC for the Whooper Swans image.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Swan Song.

Having been in touch with the right people at the lab and at WWT, an interesting telephone conversation yesterday regarding the outcome of post mortems on dead Mute Swans found in North Lancashire and sent for examination, wasn't conclusive as far as I'm concerned, though in making that comment no suggestion is being made that anything I was told about the results was in any way short or withheld.

Mute Swan Warren Baker  

So no final result for me in why 12 Mute Swans found over a three week period - including two last week - and all within 2 miles of each other were to be deemed as victims of starvation. 

But if you are about to suggest that I've been watching at least 400 swans - the vast majority Whooper Swans - in the area around Thurnham/Cockersands for several winter weeks now, all tugging at blades of grass all day long in the same fields, yet twelve have succumbed to starvation, then you have to consider that these twelve were probably already suffering from malnutrition for whatever reason and that towards the end of the winter period in February/March is the time when these birds are most likely to die.

Again, no suggestion is being made in bringing the subject into play, but I want to highlight this.... 

Some European countries use only non-toxic shot for all shooting, in Denmark this has been the case since 1996, but certainly hasn't in the UK. A debate has been ongoing for many years over the use of non-toxic shot, an issue which remains controversial
The shooting press try their best to make it quite clear that there is a misconception that lead poisoning of wildlife is not a problem. It's understandable that some people might underestimate the importance of lead poisoning as birds die regularly and in small numbers and are rapidly removed by predators.

The twelve birds dead through starvation in North Lancashire were not removed by predators or scavengers, and my understanding is that no Avian Flu or Lead Poisoning was found in these 12 Mute Swans....In the case of the former being the cause of death I doubt if I would have been made privy to such findings.

I don't want to make any other comment on here, but I intend trying more enquiries about the mysterious death of this number of birds of the same species in a relatively small area.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Small Fry!

Nothing to hit the headlines yesterday with just small fry seen, but I did get out birding and that's all that matters to me.

Redshank With Turnstone Roost Findlay Wilde 

Conder Pool was quite lively with waders seeking a roost over the high 10.40m tide, with an estimated 220 Redshank and 150 Dunlin on here. Also 10 Snipe and a 'few' Curlew, the resident Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper, with 2 Goldeneye and 5 Tufted Duck. A male Reed Bunting appeared in the road and began feeding on spilt grain off a passing lorry. The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock continued with an unimpressive streak and produced just 45 Black-tailed Godwit of note, with 2 Goldeneye, and a mere 8 Wigeon, seen as left overs from the wintering hundreds here.

Ringed Plover Brian Rafferty

At Cockersands the count of 185 Whooper Swan was something like 50% down on recent numbers. The Black Swan remains here, and the estimated 2,000 Golden Plover is an increase in the flock here for several days now, with a single Ringed Plover in the same field on a flooded section, c.30 Linnet were highly mobile, and up to 400 Black-tailed Godwit were off Crook Farm....Nothing small fry about them!

Migrants....still waiting and not even another Wheatear to be seen today.

Thanks for the images Findlay/Brian, much appreciated.

Anyone interested in a Music Festival!

Monday, 23 March 2015


....and out of pocket!

Thought you might like to read this until I get some time to blog about a few birds I saw today.

There was an excellent article in a local newspaper recently which had me jumping for joy on behalf of the Natural World.

Image Pete Woodruff.

This woman asked a man if he would take on the job of felling 27 trees. This whilst knowing the trees were under a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), she had sought to obtain financial gain by this terrible act of vandalism as the removal of the trees in a woodland area would open up a view to the estuary resulting in the value of her property for sale on the housing market being much higher.

But hey....this lady wasn't as bright as she might have thought she was, she ended up in court and was fined the grand sum of £15,000 plus a quid or two in costs. As for the lumberjack....well, he wasn't as bright as he thought he was either, he got lumbered with a fine of £3,000 plus a quid or two in costs.

Well as they say, it doesn't bring the trees back, but long live the TPO's....

Hope your'e still trying to sell yer 'ouse missus!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fast Forward.

I suffered a carjacking again on Friday causing some derailed plans. But back on track later meant if I carried out the plan at 1.30pm to leg it from Lancaster to Glasson Dock the time allowance would be reduced to no more than three hours. 

To note on Freeman's Pools, 6 Goldeneye, a pair of Gadwall, 3 Little Grebe, a 'few' Wigeon, a Little Egret, and at the footpath crossroads at least 50 Fieldfare. On Aldcliffe Marsh c.500 Pink-footed Geese, and the red ringed Whooper Swan seen and previously reported here. The flood at Aldcliffe was totally void of birds, with a Little Ringed Plover having been on here Thursday/Friday and again Saturday.

Chiffchaff Antonio Puigg

At this point I almost decided to abort the plan, but in the end I struck out to complete the route, though unable to do my birding full justice I heard a Chiffchaff at the cutting south of Aldcliffe where I watched a Goldcrest scurrying through the branches, saw a Raven at Stodday, a pair of Long-tailed Tit almost certainly planning on nesting, and notched up 12 Blackbird en route.

Thanks to Antonio for the Chiffchaff, and David for the Grasshopper Warbler header.

Mute Swans.

Despite three phone calls to the lab performing the autopsy's on the recent dead Mute Swans I found and retrieved from the Conder Green/Thurnham/Cockersands area, I still have no info on the cause of death, but by arrangement I'm giving them a bell again this week. 

Meanwhile, another two dead Mute Swans have to be added to the list now standing at twelve birds, as one was found on Friday in the Cockersands area, and another in the Thurnham area on Saturday. 

Certainly something of a mystery to all this, you have to wonder if all these Mute Swan deaths are connected in any way in such a short space of time and close proximity to each other.

Friday, 20 March 2015

And The Mutts Came Too!

Back on the home front again, but no sign of any movement. Having seen reports of Sand Martin, LRP, and Osprey, you get a false impression it's all systems go on the migrant front, but it ain't where I went yesterday, though I did see my first Wheatear last Saturday.

At Conder Green, the Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper both obliged yet again, a Little Grebe, 3 Goldeneye, and 5 Snipe were on Conder Pool. On the Lune estuary, 12 Eider in my book were something of a record number here, otherwise c.60 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Goldeneye, a Red-breasted Merganser and a drake Goosander were all that qualified for the black book today.

Up to 250 Whooper Swan had shifted since my last visit to Cockersands and were at the junction of Slack/Moss Lane with a good uncounted number still at Bank End, c.1,000 Golden Plover were a few down in number on recent counts, 2 Stock Dove were in the same field, with 4 Skylark seen. At least 38 Turnstone counted on Plover Scar with certainly others out of view distant, 58 Eider were off the scar.

Brown Hare. Pete Woodruff.

Six Brown Hare were all in the same field, all squat and looking quite fed up with life like the one in the terribly over-cropped picture of mine above. 

And The Mutts Came Too! 

This message is copied directly from my inbox....

The Golden Plover were roosting on the fields, a woman parked behind Lighthouse Cottage and the mutt proceeded to run around all the fields while she walked along to the back of Cockersands Abbey, talk about flabbergasted!

Two female dog walkers with 6 dogs between them, came from the direction of Plover Scar, when I was near the brick lookout, I think they were the two that do it as a business.

The two female dog walkers in this e-mail are the very same pair out at the seaward edge of Plover Scar with ten unleashed mutts when I was there on Monday, apart from disturbing c.1,500 Golden Plover, they disturbed every other bird in their path. 

More disturbance took place on Saturday 14 March when someone on a quad bike drove through 280 Whooper Swans in a field where they had been for several days, they relocated to the Cocker Channel where I was able to count them accurately. All these birds could well do without all this disturbance, in the case of the Whooper Swans, they need to build up and conserve as much energy as they possibly can in order to successfully take on the long haul to Iceland over the coming weeks hopefully to breed. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Duped By The Weather.

Yesterday started off well and looked like being the best day this year so far. Because of this I was enthused to take myself off to Bowland primarily to see if any Stonechats had taken up territory, though to be honest a little early. But no sooner had I arrived at Harrisend Fell than the sun disappeared behind the clouds never to be seen again all day....I had been duped.

However, I was soon spurred on by finding a pair of Stonechat, but the enthusiasm slowly waned as time progressed and they were to be the only two I would see all day. Also of note, at least 12 Meadow Pipit, a Buzzard and Raven over, a distant butterfly before the sun disappeared was almost certainly my first Peacock this year.

By the time I reached Hawthornthwaite Fell the day had descended into cloudy and grey, half way up the track having seen 12 Red Grouse and 2 WrenI decided to change the plan and came back down to go to Marshaw. 

Woodcock Jan Larsson 

Between Marshaw and Tower Lodge over two hours I struggled to find nine species, but I was pleased with one of them being Woodcock, I saw two birds, one behind the plantation at Marshaw, and the other over the plantation behind Tower Lodge, 2 Treecreeper seen, 3 Coal Tit, a Great Tit, Robin, Wren, Blackbird and a Mistle Thrush, the only raptor was a kestrel.  

Art on the uplands. 

Stonework. Pete Woodruff.

This is an excellent piece of artwork seen on Harrisend. I'd love to know the amount of effort - with all the material gathered from the surrounding area - and the time it took to finish this. I hope someone who knows about this will see it on Birds2blog and get in touch with me to tell me about it at 


Osprey Jan Larsson

An Osprey was over Middleton south of Heysham this Thursday morning at 9.40am, then 10 minutes later was seen NE over Torrisholme at 9.50am.

Thanks to Jan for the excellent images. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

And Again!

On Tuesday I did a re-run of Monday with little new to add, certainly no migrants to be found, and the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock was depressingly dead.

The recent residents have been joined by three relatives and there was now 5 Goldeneye on Conder Pool, also 2 Little Grebe, 2 Snipe, and the lone Back-tailed Godwit. The Spotted Redshank duly obliged in the creeks together with 18 Redshank, a drake Goosander was also in the creeks. A Grey Wagtail was upstream of the road bridge where I noted a Reed Bunting which seemed to have learned the art of fly-catching, it appeared to be taking insects in mid-air several times over the river to return to its perch on the reeds, I never observed this behaviour by a Reed Bunting before. A Buzzard was over the marsh from the picnic site and drifted inland.

Lesser Black-backed Gull. Pete Woodruff.

I couldn't resist another pic of the L.B.B.Gull on Conder Pool, a handsome brute if ever there was one, it's mate was also on the island out of camera shot, I'm keeping my eye on these two, I think they have a plan.

To be honest Cockersands was a waste of time, I caught sight of a 'few' Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail neither in double figure, 5 Pink-footed Geese were in an Abbey Farm field and took me a little by surprise, the Moss Lane Kestrel seen, and the uncounted Whooper Swans have once again spread out far and wide between Slack Lane, Moss Lane, and Bank End. 

Ringed Whooper Swan.

I managed to find a Whooper Swan marked BTY at Bank End on Monday and thanks to Kane Brides at WWT I was in receipt of the birds history the following day. 

Species: Whooper Swan
Location: Bank End, Cockerham 
Grid Ref: SD438 529
Date: 14 March 2015
Ring: Yellow Letters Black 
Right Leg BTY

This Whooper Swan was ringed as a cygnet at Helluvadstjorn, Myvatnssveit, Iceland, on 8 August 2013 and the sighting at Bank End was the first since that date.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Dull, Grey, And Nowt About.

Whooper Swans. Bank End March 16.

Well not quite that bad yesterday, but it certainly was dull and grey by mid-afternoon and as far away as ever from spring. But I can't really be saying 'nowt about' as today the 'Cockersands Swans' had congregated in the field by Bank End Farm with the exception of a few still distant birds, and I was at last able to get a better figure to put to them and came up with 350 Whooper Swan, with the Black Swan still in tow.

Whooper Swans. Bank End March 16.

Whilst looking through the herd of swans I came across a solitary Fieldfare below the trees in the background. The other decent count in the area was of the 1,500 Golden Plover still in fields here, 3 Stock Dove accompanied them. 

Other notes made at Cockersands, 28 Black-tailed Godwit were with Curlews again in a field. Small birds were, 8 Meadow Pipit, 5 Skylark, 2 Greenfinch, and 2 Reed Bunting, 33 Eider were off Plover Scar.

The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock was void of any notable waders with just 3 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit to note, just 3 Goldeneye seen, a drake Goosander, and 2 Little Egret

At Conder Green, I found the Common Sandpiper first time since 3 March, the Spotted Redshank seen, with a Grey Wagtail by the road bridge. On Conder Pool, one Little Grebe, 2 Snipe, a pair of Wigeon, 2 Goldeneye, and 5 Long-tailed Tit worked their way through the trees. The L.B.B.Gull pair squat comfortably on the island were seen off by 2 Mute Swan which decided to haul out on to the gulls territory.

Attempts at photography are courtesy of yours truly, you get a better picture of the herd of swans if you 'clik the pik'....good eh!!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Saturday Birding....Who me!

I don't do weekend birding but....As a rarity on Saturday I gave Cockersands/Bank End a couple of hours to be rewarded with my first Wheatear on the shingle below Cockersands Abbey.

One or two other notes made included up to 600 Black-tailed Godwit seen, with 550 off Crook Farm, 16 with Curlews in a field, and 30 on the Cocker Estuary, c.50 Knot were also noted here, with 1,500 Golden Plover still around the Abbey Farm fields. Off Plover Scar, 48 Eider and 2 Pintail drake seen with Wigeon.

Whooper Swans Brian Rafferty

At Bank End I got close to the swans still here and beyond, and was able to get a better estimate of at least 300 Whooper Swan accompanied by the Black Swan which gets around some having been seen over recent weeks off Jeremy Lane, Moss Lane, Slack Lane, and Bank End. A lone Whooper Swan has been on Cockerham Marsh my last two visits and is possibly injured/ill though appears quite lively, a dead Whooper Swan is on the marsh in front of Bank End Farm and badly eaten into. Thanks for the image above Brian, a must 'clik the pik' for an excellent show.

A saunter through Williamson Park yesterday proved the resident Little Grebe still on the old reservoir, first found on 18 November 2013 and again 30 October 2014. In Lancaster Cemetery, at least 20 Greenfinch, 2 Jay, 2 Nuthatch, 2 Mistle Thrush, and a Coal Tit with Great Tits and Blue Tits.

Stonechat David Cookson 

I was pleased to hear of three male Stonechat up Whitendale in Bowland yesterday, with many thanks to JW for this info, and to DC for the image, appreciated and excellent on both counts.