Thursday, 11 February 2016

Long Time No Birding.

A week out of birding is a long time for me, so it was good to be out again yesterday for the first time since last Wednesday, to take a closer look around the Lune Estuary. I didn't spend too much time at Conder Green and moved no further than the viewing platform at the pool, I wanted to get to Glasson Dock before the tide took over.

On Conder Pool, 6 Little Grebe, 4 Snipe, 2 Goosander, and a few Oystercatcher which were making a commotion piping loudly like spring was here. I called back to Conder Green five hours later to find the Spotted Redshank in the creeks and to have excellent views of a Barn Owl quartering the marsh.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, an impressive c.1,500 Bar-tailed Godwit with a similar number of at least 1,500 Knot. The best count this winter was of 52 Goldeneye which upgraded the count of 34 made on Tuesday 2 February, also 2 Red-breasted Merganser. A Merlin and Peregrine Falcon were hunting the area whilst I was here, and up to 1,250 Pink-footed Geese were on Colloway Marsh. A Great-crested Grebe and 22 Tufted Duck were noted on the canal basin.

From Moss Lane, 7 Bewick's Swan were in a field west of Gardners Farm at SD441543, and c.350 Whooper Swan were more obliging than of late grouped in fields south of Moss Lane, another 5 Whooper Swan were in the field and around the flood south of the Caravan Park, where at least 750 Curlew were seen again, with a single Bar-tailed Godwit, a few uncounted Redshank, 3 Little Egret and a Brown Hare. I could see up to 250 Curlew at Bank End from here roosting over the high tide.

Rock Pipit. Pete Woodruff.

Two Rock Pipit were on the tide wrack, and in and around Bank Houses horse paddock, 7 Blackbird, 6 Tree Sparrow, 2 Greenfinch, 2 Reed Bunting, a Robin, and a Sparrowhawk seen.

Turnstone. Pete Woodruff. 

On the headland, 65 Turnstone, with 2 Knot and a Dunlin had assembled here over the high tide. 

It was good to be back to see the birds of the Lune Estuary again today, with the excellent variety it has to offer, along with some impressive wader counts, and the peak of 52 Goldeneye.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Curlew.

Curlew. Brian Rafferty.

I'm lucky enough to be amongst those who have heard the bubbling call of the Curlew when I've been on the moorlands of Bowland and beyond, a call which stays with you forever once heard. In the Curlews Latin name Numenius arquataNumenius means crescent moon which is the shape of the birds distinctive downturned bill. 

During the winter months, the Curlew can be seen feeding and roosting in large groups in nearby fields and the marshlands of coastal areas, and I got a phone call on Saturday to tell me my notes had been seen on Birds2blog about the numbers of Curlew seen recently in the Cockerham Sands area, with large numbers between 500 - 800 in three visits on and around the flood in the field immediately to the south of Cockerham Sands Country Park. But an impressive count was of at least 2,000 on the mudflats by the Cocker Channel which Brian Rafferty had seen and photographed for himself. 

Curlew. Cocker Channel. 2 Feb. Brian Rafferty.

A 'clik the pik' gives a bigger and better idea of the numbers in the image above, a clear indicator of how the wintering Curlew uses esturine and farmland habitats. 

But this example of the number of birds seen in our area on the Cocker Channel belies the fact that the Curlew is one of our most seriously declining breeding birds which has shown a 46% fall across the UK since the mid-1990's - 2010. The UK holds in excess of a quarter of the European breeding population, but the decline of the species has it listed as globally near-threatened, being one of the few British species on this list, but also on the UK conservation Red List. 

One of the possible reasons listed for this decline is changes in farming practices which has reduced habitat quality....well there's a surprise! But what must also be taken into account, is the amount of disturbance humans like the Commercial Mutt Minder I saw again at Cockersands last week, a mile or more out on to the sands with a dozen mutts unleashed and running wild, disturbing numbers of wildfowl and waders wintering as they do here. This person and his hounds all add to the problems on esturine ecosystems which are under ever increasing pressure from human activities, such as agricultural intensification and developments, another example of which is mechanised cockle dredging in some areas where the Curlew has responded with declines.

The BTO are planning a ground-breaking programme for research to try to understand what conservation actions are needed to help the Curlew recover from the decline. They recently sent me a begging letter for money to fund this programme. I felt an obligation to subscribe, so coughed some up.

Thanks to Brian Rafferty for his images of the Curlews, much appreciated Brian.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Cockersands Fulmar.

A chance meeting with a stranger on Wednesday soon developed into having Cockersands proved to be still securely on the map as one of the prime locations for birds ranging from common to rare quality.

In a conversation struck up with Mike Atkinson I was told of a bird he had seen a couple of hours previous his ID of which he wasn't entirely satisfied. Having explained the circumstances surrounding his find, I asked him to give me some idea where the bird had been seen, and having asked if he would send me a copy of any photographs he had taken of the bird I was off to see what I could find.

Image. Pete Woodruff.

My luck was in and it didn't take too long to locate the bird which - from the distance of the coastal path - appeared to look like a gull squat on the beach beyond the line of shingle. I went down on to the beach, stalked ever closer and started to try my hand at getting a half decent picture which I achieved and is shown above. The bird didn't look at all lively, and had been in this position at least two hours to my knowledge, and made no attempt to move whilst I was present. 

By now I reckoned I was seeing a bird moribund, and not one I ever expected to see at Cockersands. Some factors had now come into play as far as anyone else seeing this bird in daylight today, at 4.15pm the light was fading, the bird could not get to it's feet, and needed at best to try to recover from the storm that had driven it here, I had no intention of disturbing this bird.

Blue Fulmar. Mike Atkinson.

Having looked through my images at home on the computer, I sent off a copy which was then forwarded by the first recipient to two other experienced birders, all of which brought about confirmation of what I had seen, and by now having also seen the excellent and conclusive image from Mike Atkinson, it was blatantly obvious a Blue Fulmar had found itself storm blown and beached at Cockersands in Lancashire on Wednesday 3 February 2016. 

Thanks to Mike for the Fulmar image, and to Barry for the header Little Gull off Cleveleys Promenade.  

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Latest.

Another not very original title!

Didn't look too good at one point on Tuesday, and the 50 mph westerly howler at Cockersands did nothing to make birding an enjoyable experience which was very limited particularly off the headland. The c.600 waders in the Abbey Farm field were impossible to breakdown into numbers, but up to 320 Black-tailed Godwit were good, also Golden Plover, Redshank, Dunlin, and Lapwing present. The c.250 Whooper Swan were still in groups widespread across the fields from Moss Lane through to Bank End, one group had a single Pink-footed Goose accompanying them. An excellent count of up to 2,500 Curlew were on the marsh off the Caravan Park, and in a field off Jeremy Lane, 10 Pink-footed Geese seen.

Wigeon. Pete Woodruff.

No more than c.150 Wigeon were seen from the bowling green at Glasson Dock, with numbers down this winter here I reckon, but 34 Goldeneye is my best count on the Lune Estuary this winter, also noted, 250 Redshank, 50 Dunlin, and 2 Red-breasted Merganser. On the canal basin, only one Goldeneye and the resident Great-crested Grebe of note. 

At Conder Green, 4 Goosander, 6 Little Grebe and 8 Redshank, on Conder Pool, with 15 Lapwing quietly squat on the near island. Quiet in the creeks, with a Spotted Redshank, 10 Redshank, and 4 Curlew.

The Bullfinch.

Bullfinch Geoff Gradwell  

I've had two reports sent to me about a Bullfinch in gardens recently, one from a friend, the other a relation. Both male birds, and both good records, seen in Bowerham, Lancaster, and at Brookhouse, Caton. Thanks for the excellent image Geoff.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Pochard.

Today the Pochard is on the European Red List of Vulnerable Birds, in our recording area it's status is no better than uncommon, and its decline in Lancashire shows no sign of stopping. 

Drake Pochard. Jan Larsson @ Vingspann 

My only records of the Pochard in 2015 were a drake found on Conder Pool - much to my surprise - on 6 February, and two drakes on Blea Tarn Reservoir on 4 November. My best record on the canal basin at Glasson Dock, was of four drakes on 20 January 2014 where winter Pochard could often be seen, but according to my records not since, until I found a drake recently on Monday 18 January. 

I remember making a comment a few years ago to John Bateman, that the Pochard we see in winter always seem to be biased towards the drake, and certainly were with the canal basin birds at Glasson Dock when we saw them there. 

Female Pochard. Kane Brides. 

It is well known that many wintering duck flocks exhibit considerable differences in overall sex ratio, that the male is dominant over the female, and that a greater proportion of the males are found further northThere is an ongoing national decline of the Pochard, and an assessment is being undertaken to collect ratio data which can provide useful information on the population structure of ducks.

Records like the 615 Pochard seen at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve 20 years ago in October 1995, and the 460 Pochard at Dockacres in Lancashire 10 years later in October 2005 have been consigned to the history books.

Interesting that 10 Pochard were on Fairhaven Lake, Lytham St Annes yesterday 1 February, all were drakes.

Talking of excellent past records....

Red-breasted Merganser Phil Woollen

Whilst searching through my records for the Pochard, I found one of 50 Red-breasted Merganser which I saw off Sandylands at Morecambe 24 years ago on 21 January 1992, and another of 120 Great-crested Grebe seen off the Stone Jetty also at Morecambe on 14 November 1992. An example of a peak count of the Great-crested Grebe in our recording area today was in a monthly WeBs count of 26 in November 2014. On the excellent records theme, 10 Blackbird were together in our small urban garden in Lancaster last week. 

Thanks to Jan for the drake Pochard, to Kane for the female, and to Phil for the Red-breasted Mergansers....Excellent on all counts.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Come In Mr W Your Time's Up!

Against the clock on Thursday, and no blogging time since....not a good set of circumstances for yer average birder like me!

Teal. Peter Rhind.

I'm often remiss in my reports of the birds I see, and below is no exception when I make no mention of the Teal present at Conder Green on Thursday where there are always good numbers during the winter months, my latest count was of 165 Teal here last Monday, but PR did get an excellent shot of the Teal over Conder Green....Thanks Peter. 

I only managed a brief session on Thursday and was only able to check out Conder Pool where I found a Spotted Redshank roosting with 10 Redshank. A single Snipe was still holding on to 'Tern Island' with 2 Goosander and just 3 Little Grebe seen. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock I could only find 2 Goldeneye, and noted 2 Little Grebe and a Great-crested Grebe

Black-tailed Godwit. Noushka Dufort @ 1000 Pattes

At least 500 Black-tailed Godwit was by far my best count this winter on the Lune Estuary, with a 'few' Bar-tailed Godwit. Other waders seen on the mud fast disappearing beneath the tide, 450 Redshank, 150 Curlew, 10 Dunlin, and the staying Ruff which was distant at the Conder mouth, 21 Goldeneye, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and a Great-crested Grebe were on the river, and up to 100 Pink-footed Geese had set down on Colloway Marsh.

A brief visit to Cockersands to see if anything exotic had turned up on Plover Scar at high tide....dream on, with just c.450 Oystercatcher roosting and a Great-crested Grebe off here. In an Abbey Farm field, a gathering of uncounted waders - probably 300 birds in total - included a good number of Golden Plover, Dunlin, Lapwing, and most interesting up to 60 Turnstone. The resident Buzzard was being seen off by 2 Carrion Crow, and the Moss Lane Kestrel seen again. Also off Moss Lane, Whooper Swans still appeared to be at c.300 in number on a drive by.

The Wheatear.

Wheatear Marc Heath 

If I'm going to find an early Wheatear this year it may well be within six weeks if my 2015 bird is anything to go by....Now there's a nice thought. 

Thanks to Noushka for the Black-tailed Godwits, and to Marc for the Wheatear. My thanks also to Phil Woollen for the header image of the Pallas's Warbler, a little gem found by Steve Hinde 2 January at Heswall, Cheshire.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Redshank And Co.

I had a problem when I arrived at Conder Green around 10.00am yesterday, there was a howler blowing from the west, Conder Pool looked more like the Irish Sea on a bad day, and I had no enthusiasm for going to Cockersands. Without thinking about a Plan B, I decided to go to Glasson Dock and found a nice sheltered spot to view the Lune Estuary and watch the tide racing in to push the waders off to roost elsewhere.

The birds in view on the south side were predominantly c.1,500 Redshank, a wonderful sight which offered the challenge to sift through them to find any odd ones out. Eventually I found 2 Spotted Redshank, c.150 Dunlin and 3 Black-tailed Godwit, with 6 Goldeneye and 2 Red-breasted Merganser on the river. On the canal basin, 5 Goldeneye, 2 Little Grebe, and a Great-crested Grebe.

I now had to decide what to do next, whilst I made up my mind about that I went back to Conder Green where the tide was at it's height and close to flooding the road.   

 Redshank. Conder Pool. 27 January. Pete Woodruff.

I hadn't been there a few minutes when 620 Redshank zoomed over from the Lune Estuary to seek sanctuary, they had brought a Spotted Redshank with them. It was quite a spectacle watching these birds which were initially uneasy and took to flight en-mass several times before settling down again. Whilst all this was going on, the Common Sandpiper was on the near island, 2 Snipe and 70 Curlew were also present, and 6 Little Grebe were difficult to pick out whilst bobbing up and down like corks in an ocean.

I spent some time enjoying the birds of Conder Pool, until a Sparrowhawk came on patrol to clear the pool out.... Having enjoyed the festival of Redshanks and Co, this time the decision was to call it a day.

Spotted Redshank.

Redshank. Conder Pool. 27 January. Pete Woodruff.

The Spotted Redshank on Conder Pool is in both these photographs I took yesterday, easily seen in the image above and would have been identifiable from its relations a mile away, but not quite as easy in the first centre bird.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Routine....But Good With It.

Ruff. Sharon Whitley The Rambling Artist 

A bit of routine birding yesterday, but with a couple of nice jobs thrown in, not least to find the Ruff still on the Lune Estuary, and a Grey Plover here too, not at all an every day bird the GP in these parts. Both these were with up to 400 Redshank, 25 Curlew, and 14 Dunlin, all reclaiming the mud back from the tide at 2.45pm as seen from the bowling green. Also of note, 3 Goldeneye, and 3 Red-breasted Merganser. On the canal basin, at least 450 Black-headed Gull, 7 Goldeneye, and a Great-crested Grebe noted.

Turnstone. Plover Scar. 25 January. Pete Woodruff.

At Cockersands, there was a decent count of 250 Turnstone with 2 Dunlin on Plover Scar at high tide. The Buzzard was again on the branch in it's tree, and 4 Blackbird in Bank Houses horse paddock soon disappeared when a Kestrel came on the scene. Up to 300 Whooper Swan were still stretched out along the fields off Moss Lane towards Bank End. 

The flooded field south of the Caravan Park had been deserted by the high counts of Curlew here recently, but 3 Little Egret were still here, a Snipe came up off the marsh, and c.13 finches bounced silently by in flight over the marsh were probably Twite.

I had called at Conder Green at 11.30am before the high tide, and returned on my way back to Lancaster four hours later at 3.30pm, the two visits produced, 5 Little Grebe, 4 Goosander, 165 Teal, 90 Mallard, 26 Wigeon, and a Snipe. The Common Sandpiper was again downstream from the railway bridge, with c.85 Redshank also down here.

And a good time was had by all....again!

Thanks to Sharon W for the Ruff, and Pete W for yet another Turnstone image at Cockersands....can't resist the Turnstones. 

Another Petition. 




Saturday, 23 January 2016

Birdless In Bowland....Well Nearly!

I was 4.5 hours on my feet birding in Bowland on Wednesday, a brilliant day weatherwise with not a cloud to be seen in a bright blue sky and not a breath of wind. 

I gave Hawthornthwaite just a token one hour visit to find no Stonechat but 12 Red Grouse seen. Three and a half hours between Marshaw - Tower Lodge - Trough Bridge, and on to the foot of Winfold Fell had me record 
18 birds of seven species....yes just 18 birds of seven species

I'll leave it for you to decide for yourself what you think might be happening to the birds of an area as good as this in Bowland. I have no idea myself, but I do know, there 'aint many around, not a single finch from seven of the group, with the exception of two Coal Tit no other members of the tit family seen, no winter thrush's, no dippers, no wagtails, woodpeckers, or raptors....depressing and worrying.

Mistle Thrush Antonio Puigg 

For a moment at Marshaw I was treated to a Mistle Thrush in full song so much similar to the Blackbird, it was atop a tall tree facing the blazing sun, whilst I was watching it in shadows on the ground in 3°c, the bird obviously thought it was spring. The only other birds found were, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Nuthatch, a Robin, and 5 Mallard which took to flight off the Marshaw Wyre, towards Winfold Fell I flushed a Snipe and saw 6 Red Grouse.

Drive On !

The fells and moors of Bowland today have become a glorified shooting range, with roads scarring the beauty of the wild moorlands to the tops of some of the fells like Hawthornthwaite which boasts up to 20 shooting butts, nine of which I counted myself on Thursday on the west side, and maybe has the same number on the east side, with white painted marker posts. All this roads, butts, and marker posts makes life as easy and comfortable as possible for the tweedie clad filthy rich to hide in a butt and shoot birds out the sky driven towards them by the beaters.

Mark Avery's petition to Ban Driven Grouse shooting has closed now having attracted a pitiful 33,598 signatures in six months, and although it's more or less double more than the last one, it has ended up another resounding failure, and David Cameron and his chuckle brother mates will have a good, yes chuckle over this petition which they will not now debate and will totally ignore. 

Presumably the failure of the petition is because not that many people oppose grouse shooting at all, which by the way, MA by his own admission is not to be counted with those who oppose shooting, so he doesn't mind the Red Grouse being shot, though he's a conservationist remember and so doesn't want the Hen Harrier shot....Mmmmm!!

How come the RSPB haven't made the rallying cry to their 1.2 million supporters to sign this petition. Well the RSPB have to respect the Royal Charter which prevents them from having a view on fieldsports, which means it doesn't say that shooting wild birds is wrong. So a bird conservation society as big as the RSPB isn't against killing birds, it appears they don't support MA's petition either, and certainly haven't encouraged their members to either. Just imagine, it only needed a mere 10% of RSPB membership to sign this petition and not another single person in this country needed to have bothered to sign it to guarantee a debate by the government instead of it ending up being thrown out with the rest of the Westminster garbage for the bin men to collect.

It depends where you get the figures from, but the population of Lancaster and surrounding area is c.140,000. There was a 'Song of Praise' in the results table for signatures to the petition in this area which amounted to, wait for it....101.

If I was a Hen Harrier I'd be staring in the face the end of my existence if it relied on signatures to sign a petition to protect me, I'd have a feeling that it seems the majority don't give a monkeys about me. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

LS Again.

I couldn't believe my luck on Tuesday when - having been earlier in the day - I returned to the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock at around 3.30pm for one of my return visits which often pay dividends and certainly did so today. 

Scouring through 550 Golden Plover with 25 Dunlin and 6 Knot on the far side of the River Lune from the bowling green, there it was, the Little Stint, small enough to have run between the legs of the Golden Plovers. Two minutes after I found the Little Stint a Peregrine Falcon came on the scene to reveal a few thousand waders in the air - up to 5k of them Lapwings - as far as the eye could see. Also noted on the estuary, c.220 Black-tailed Godwit and 7 Goldeneye. On the canal basin, the scarce here drake Pochard, a Great-crested Grebe, and the lone Pink-footed Goose.

But as is usually the case, I had started at Conder Green where I found the Common Sandpiper in the creeks where I saw three of 9 Little Grebe, the other six on Conder Pool where I noted 18 Curlew, 2 Snipe, and a drake Goosander

Buzzard. Gary Jones.

At Cockersands, the Buzzard was again perched on the same branch of the same tree as two previous visits here, I had no idea a Buzzard would be so site faithful right down to the same branch. An excellent count of at least 290 Whooper Swan, with 2 Bewicks Swan seen, maybe more if I'd have tried harder, but these birds were spread far and wide from Moss Lane towards Bank End. Off Crook farm, 140 Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Knot seen, and in and around Bank Houses horse paddock, 15 Blackbird and 2 Robin

As I rounded the corner at Conder Green on my way back to Lancaster, I glimpsed a Barn Owl disappearing over the Conder Pool hedgerow, but pulling into the lay-by at the pool and diving out of the car wasn't quick enough to see the bird again.


Stonechat. Gary Jones.

I am again grateful for the record of 10 Stonechat at Lytham Moss on Tuesday. Thanks to AC for passing these on to me.

Thanks to Gary Jones for the excellent Buzzard and Stonechat images.