BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE UPLANDS OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND

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CLOUGHA PIKE HEATHER CLAD. FORMER LANCASHIRE STONECHAT STRONGHOLD. PETE WOODRUFF

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Morrisons....Scaup and....

Well you don't walk round Morrisons with bin's round
you're neck unless you want to be regarded as 'odd' but if you're walking/driving along the prom and don't have them round your neck then you're not a 'real' birder are you?

Off Broadway I counted at least 720 Black-tailed Godwit mid afternoon. Minutes later I was in the process of counting what I initially estimated to be in excess of 300 more at Teal Bay when a Peregrine Falcon 'bombed' through, the result of which needs no explanation. However, the combined total of BTG at Broadway/Teal Bay was - in my estimation - in excess of 1,000 birds. A drake and two female Scaup were at Scalestones Point. The two drakes above were on Conder Pool last winter. With other 'things' to attend to today the only other birding event was to fail to connect with the Booths Waxwings for the third time.
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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Cuckoo.

Not a seasonal subject but I was looking through some
British Birds backdates and came across an article I had published in the January 2002 issue relating to some behaviour I observed which at the time intrigued me and thought it might make interesting reading.

The call of the Common Cuckoo.

On 14 June 1997 at Barbondale in Cumbria I watched a male Common Cuckoo at close range through a telescope. I had excellent views of the bird which was calling continuously for several minutes before flying off. During the observation I soon realised that the call was produced nasally since the bill remained closed throughout. Further observations of another Cuckoo on 8 June 1999 in similar circumstances seemed to confirm that the species does indeed call with the bill closed.

An editorial comment at the foot of this article pointed out that BWP states that the first syllable of the familiar call of the male Cuckoo is in fact delivered with the bill open, whereas the second syllable is uttered with the bill closed.

There was some added interest in this subject when in the September 2002 issue of British Birds there was a response to my article by someone who had spent 34 years living in Pakistan, and in the outer Himalayan foothills had been able to observe Common Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, and the much less common Lesser Cuckoo. He had noted that all three species had kept their bill's closed when calling, whilst the gular pouch ballooned out visibly with each call.

The Robin.

There is absolutely no connection to this article with this pic which is the only such one of the species I ever took in far more years than I care to remember of my interest in photography.
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Friday, 28 November 2008

Spectacular....again.

With JB/BT today so JB takes good care of the records on LDBWS website. But for my records today it was good to see the Common Sandpiper still on Conder Pool which makes it increasingly likely that a gamble on the bird over wintering could be a winning one. Also on the pool was a Spotted Redshank and two Greenshank. A Little Egret was on Glasson Marsh and there was seven on Pilling Marsh with sixteen Whooper Swans. There was yet another Little Egret at Fluke Hall.

Now for the Spectacular....

Not only was there four Short-eared Owls at Bradshaw Lane Head, and not only was there a Barn Owl here too, but a Merlin put in an absolutely superb performance with a prolonged and sustained attack on a small bird thought to have been a Skylark which lasted something like five minutes, a long time if you're a small bird being chased by something as competent at aerial pursuit as this bird is. The unfortunate Skylark made all the mistakes it shouldn't have made not least of all that it climbed to quite a height several times whilst the Merlin made off and away to climb higher from its quarry only to move into 5th gear and gain a speed to frighten the living daylights out of anything it had its sights on. In the end the Merlin was lost to view a split second after the Skylark had been and it left nothing to the imagination to realise the passerine had met its maker. The whole visit here was rounded off with a fly by Sparrowhawk.
The 3+1 - or the 1+3 which ever you like - was taken at Knott End earlier in the year.
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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Med Gull and....

A good start to some good birding today with
an adult Med Gull on Conder Pool along
with the reasonably obvious by now wintering Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank, a Grey Plover 'may' have been the first seen on the pool and adds to an already impressive list for this young site. Also 3 Little Grebe and two Goldeneye.

On the canal basin at Glasson Dock a Kingfisher, Goldeneye, 5 drake Pochard, and at least 80 Tufted Duck.

On the Lune Estuary to note, c.12,000 Knot a quite impressive sight here, also c.2,500 Bar-tailed Godwit was another impressive sight, c.750 Golden Plover, 3 Goosander, and a Little Egret was below Waterloo Cottage. With uncounted Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, and Curlew there was a minimum of 20,000 waders here today, and in brilliant sunshine between 2.15 and 3.15 a sight for sore eyes as my grandma used to say.

From Bodie Hill another Little Egret, 2 Raven were on a tree trunk on the marsh, and the now resident 8 Goldeneye on the Lune.

At Cockersands c.50 Fieldfare were on Moss Lane. Noted between the lighthouse and the Caravan Park, 12 Greenfinch, 4 Reed Bunting, a Kestrel, 282 Golden Plover (no AGP) in Kellets field, 11 Turnstone, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, c.350 Dunlin, 3 Grey Plover, and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Thanks again to Pete Marsh for the call about a Little Bunting trapped, ringed, and released at Knott End, resulting in the opportunity - all day as it turns out - for me and everyone else who wished to view this bird. I forfeited this to see all the above......hows that for patchwork dedication! Records to be added to LDBWS later.
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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Run Around.

Well what do you expect if you target birds this is the penalty.

So JB and I set off for Booths car park to see Waxwings....Arrive at car park....no Waxwings. Depart for Milnthorpe to spend almost an hour having poor to moderate views of two Cattle Egrets hidden behind a hedge, an excellent LDBWS (just) record. Depart for Booths car park for second bite at the Waxwing possibility....Arrive at the car park....still no Waxwings. Depart for Jubilee Tower to see a Snow Bunting....Arrive at Jubilee Tower....no Snow Bunting. Depart for Cockersands to see another Snow Bunting....Arrive at Cockersands....no Snow Bunting. Here endeth the first lesson....what else can I say.

Apparently (RBA) the Cattle Egrets were present until 4.30 when they flew off South....to roost and where?

John has posted his usual comprehensive records for the day on the LDBWS website which - as always - have at least one or two sightings which made a day of running around a little more than is usual for us all the more interesting....it never fails.

I have no pics of the Cattle Egret so make do with a member of the family Ardeidae the Grey Heron, a quite nasty creature capable of eating a rabbit whole....'scuse me could you repeat that....a quite nasty creature capable of eating a rabbit whole.
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Monday, 24 November 2008

What Stonechats?

On an otherwise poor result checking out the current status of wintering Stonechats at three locations, following a much appreciated alert from Pete (Marsh) earlier in the day I called at Jubilee Tower to see if the Snow Bunting was still here. I must confess to thinking I was wasting my time, it being about five hours after the call, but hey......the bird is still here. I was curious to see what this bird had been doing all day long as this is a busy road so what does it do every time a vehicle passes? Well it flies about 30 metres into the moorland and returns back to where it left the road, I watched it do this eight times. By the way, the Snow Bunting above is one of 12 (I think it was) on the beach between St Annes and Starr Gate January 2003.

As for the Stonechats......well it took me 1hr 40mins to find just one distant female at Harrisend today. The most impressive sight here was at least 300 Fieldfare from the path towards Lane Head from Harrisend. I did a little better at Hawthornthwaite in that I found two Stonechats in 45mins from leaving the car. From the track to the same fell with access from Marshaw, again I found just two Stonechats here today. So, all in all a disappointment and upland birding in the winter months isn't exactly a bundle of fun but it has to be done if we are to keep tabs on the birds of the uplands and if someone has to do it then it might as well be me as I'm half way to mad anyway!
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Sunday, 23 November 2008

Little Owl

Regularly seen at Cockersands on the
roof of the now fully restored old and
derelict building opposite Bank Houses and very nice too. I got to know the man who was given planning permission on this property, he explained how limited he had been allowed to make changes to the building in his restoration plans. I spoke to him about the resident Little Owl explaining that it would be displaced by the building activities when the work got underway. I have remained to this day quite convinced this understanding person commenced his work on the property sooner than he had originally planned to avoid displacing a breeding bird later that year.

Nothing remarkable about the photograph but it was taken very early one morning in mid August 2004 in thick fog. I had returned here having briefly seen a 'lark/pipit' in the late evening before which I didn't get to grips with. I was convinced I'd 'found something' and had returned to check it out but the only bird I saw that resembled anything like what I had seen the day before, was a Skylark......the Milky Bars are on me!
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Saturday, 22 November 2008

50 years ago....well almost.

Well you won't see Plover Scar at Cockersands anything like as calm as it is in this pic on more than a few occasion in any one year I promise, there is almost always at best a breeze and at worst a howling gale and I've trundled along the headland here many a hundred times in all weathers, well you have to be pretty interested in the birds or mad to do it, and in a howling gale you're both. But the reason for this pic is that I was looking through some records I found following the privilege of having access last year to the LDBWS reports from its birth in 1959, and some of the records they contain range from quite amazing to mind boggling and I've chosen just one at random from Cockersands and one or two more from elsewhere to illustrate the changes both here and other locations in our area.

Little Tern

1981. Multiple sightings in July/August at Cockersands the max count being 11 on 2 August.
1982. Good numbers Cockersands/Pilling including 105 (yes that's one hundred and five) on 1 August
1983. A peak of 21 between Cockersands and Knott End

Whinchat

1981. Numbers on NW Bowland are down from 100 pairs in 1980 to just 35 in 1981
1983. Only 8 pair found in Bowland

Stonechat

1981. Not located in Bowland (this may be 27 years ago but I find it quite amazing)
1982. Two males Langden Valley 31 December B Townson (well Brian wouldn't be surprised if he found two here now would he)
1984. Pair bred Heysham Harbour, family party seen from late July and a pair remained into 1985

Yellowhammer

1981. Four pairs Birk Bank (I never saw a Yellowhammer here in all the years I have visited)
1984. Peak of 65 at Leighton Moss in February

Corn Bunting

1982. Common in the Cockerham area but agricultural practices/improvements may alter this (well this turned out to be one of the most accurate predictions imaginable in the world of farmland birds)
1984. Three pairs at Stodday, 7 - 10 pairs in the Overton/Sunderland area, 15 at Conder Green

To be continued......

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Friday, 21 November 2008

Coastal Tour

Today with JB/BT which relieves me of
the task of recording the sightings on
the LDBWS website and leaves John to deliver them in his excellent comprehensive manner which puts mine in the shade.

An unremarkable day but enjoyed all the same. The Pink-footed Geese continued to amaze and in the space of under twenty minutes an absolute minimum of 10,000 flew on to Pilling Marsh which made me realise that this method of counting is by far the easiest, you just have to be there when the event gets underway.

The Blackbird by the way is unrelated to today but is in fact a bird I saw in the Newby Moor area which is yet another of the now many Stonechat strongholds I know. This one is just outside our area and into North Yorkshire and is one of the hundreds of birding haunts I discovered in my ten years as a delivery driver for a car parts company, a demanding job of work but one which gelled with my birding interests in a way I could never have imagined when I first applied for the job all those years ago......WOW!

If anyone was to ever asks me what would I change in my life if could go back in time the answer from me couldn't be easier ......I would take up birding when I was ten years old if not before instead of doing a thousand other things which did me no good at all.
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Thursday, 20 November 2008

Patchwork

Pretty dull all day weather wise though I can
never bring myself to call any days
birding dull, but to be honest on a rating out of ten today would struggle to four.

The Common Sandpiper seen again on Conder Pool must bring the bird another day closer to wintering here. A Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank have both become 'expected' here. Six Little Grebe, three Goldeneye, and a Goosander were all noted on Conder Pool.

On Glasson Basin a Little Grebe, two Great-crested Grebe, two drake Pochard, and c. 45 Tufted Duck were all noted.

Noted on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock were an estimated 4,500 Lapwing,
4,000 Knot, 1,200 Bar-tailed Godwit, 220 Golden Plover (no there wasn't an AGP with them) and minimal numbers of Redshank and Dunlin, a drake and female Goosander, and eight Goldeneye which I would stand corrected on claiming these to be the highest number reported in our area. In any event the question is posed....where are all the Goldeneye?

A 'wander' down the road was rather fruitless though 3,000+ Pink-footed Geese were on Pilling Marsh, at least ten Tree Sparrow were at Fluke Hall but that's not much of a revelation. A short journey to see if six Short-eared Owls were at Bradshaw Lane Head again today resulted in a disappointing NO. A detour round Gulf Lane resulted in just a few Fieldfare with several hundred Starlings and two Mistle Thrush.

I couldn't help but think on the way home from such an exciting days birding....I wonder who I'll decide to ring first when I find the Siberian Rubythroat....Erhummmm!
Ah yes and by the way, it's been suggested to me before today to check the 'checklist' for info on any species as opposed to asking questions. Well this time I did just that, and found the Common Sandpiper at Conder Green is not about to become the first to winter in our area as the aforementioned checklist states, quote....there has been at least one winter record from the River Lune in all but the last two winter's under review....unquote.
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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Ltd....is that Limited?

No, it's the very obliging Long-tailed Duck which has been viewable for a few days now on the canal at Conder Green behind the Thurnham Mill Inn.
Talking about Conder Green the late staying Common Sandpiper isn't being reported and I've not see the bird since Wednesday 12 November when I don't think I was alone in thinking this was going to be our first ? wintering CS, perhaps it may still be lurking around somewhere.

I only see a few records of mainly individual Brambling both in our area and nationally. With JB/BT we did a 'tour' a few days ago to find no beech mast anywhere to be seen, so up to now it looks like being a poor Brambling winter. I may have seen the only one I am going to see this year when I heard a call/song I wasn't aquainted with in the picnic area at Conder Green on Tuesday 4 November, when I located the bird it was indeed a Brambling.
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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Clougha/Birk Bank Trundle

If that sounds like something of an ordeal
its not supposed to as the day was
a pleasant one with bright sunshine and no wind for a change, also my mission
was a much more enjoyable one than yesterdays at Pilling Lane Ends where
I had to spend 45 minutes staring at 20,000 plus waders and wildfowl
sorting and counting the blighters whilst trying hard to dispel thoughts of......
why do I find myself in this position and who talked me into this every month.

The highlight birds were of course the Stonechats though I only found four today, I'll give the Merlin second place, this bird silently drifted over my head from behind me. These birds never fail to excite and this is my favourite raptor. The Red Grouse appears to be making a comeback as I note higher numbers as each year passes, today I saw a minimum of seventeen. I always use the word minimum when recording this species as it moves around constantly left to right, from the back of me and from the front, so always a conservative number to avoid duplication. A Woodcock was a nice surprise, flushed from close to the path, and about twenty Fieldfare were gorging themselves on the berries beyond Ottergear Bridge.

Mission accomplished I then dusted off and donned my 'twitchers hat and coat' and pointed the car towards the Thurnham Mill Inn car park to be treated with good views of the Long-tailed Duck on the canal, an obliging first winter bird. A brief visit to Cockersands (inland) was rewarded with the Little Owl well concealed in a tree by the paddock at Bank Houses. This or another Little Owl has never been seen here since July 2007, though the now restored building in the field opposite Bank Houses always had a Little Owl perched somewhere on or around it. A Little Egret was my final bird of the day, it was in the ditch just down the road from Bank Houses and last year I recorded it regularly here.
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Monday, 17 November 2008

Wire hopper....

I don't think so. These guys - and their mates - can be found in
suitable habitat just about anywhere now, winter as well as
summer. I note recent records on the LDBWS website at both Foulshaw Moss and Dalton Crag, the latter a place I've never visited but clearly I need to now I know this bird can be encountered here whilst searching for an apparently elusive Great Grey Shrike.

The Stonechat is a very complex species and just one example of this complexity is that whilst the majority remain in the UK staying close to their breeding territory or making longer movements within the UK. The minority migrate to Southern Europe and the coastal countries of North Africa.
The complexity becomes even more so when you realise that from a brood of lets say six, three can end up in Africa, whilst the other three stay on Clougha......beat that for being a complicated species. And if you really want to develop a headache ask yourself
when and why are these decisions made by these birds.
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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Coming to bread....

Well they come to cardboard if you throw it to them, until they find out it's not edible. It's also an easy way to find the Med Gull with them....but not this time.

RECORD BREAKERS.

Today I was at Pilling Lane Ends doing a WeBS count (how/why do I find myself in these situations) and I was reminded of the astounding 30,000 Pink-footed Geese here on the marsh on Wednesday last. John Bateman and I had the advantage of someone who came to talk to us and revealed he submitted his counts North of the Ribble to WWT and confidently claimed this count as a respectably good estimate. But this story really began on Bradshaw Lane about 20 minutes earlier when in a little more than 15 minutes an estimated 12,000 flew high NW in a line stretching for probably 4 miles and in skeins of 200 - 1,000. So this mystery of 30,000 on Pilling Marsh in mid November had started here because these birds were at such a height that they were not local, so where did they come from and why were they on the move?

Pink-footed Geese have been behaving differently this year in that they have been spending many daylight hours on the marsh and I've also noted much to and fro from here. On Monday 3 November I had counted at least 12,000 here and another 2,500 crammed to almost falling over each other in a small field on Fluke Hall Lane, these birds seemed unsettled in that just about every single one of them was calling excitedly, I can honestly say I never heard anything quite deafeningly like it before....so what was that all about? I personally don't know whats going on with the 'Pinkfeets' in the Fylde this winter.

Another excellent record breaker on Tuesday 28 October was 300+ Whooper Swans in a large flooded field off Black Lane....an amazing sight. Another less impressive record was that of 45 Greenfinch at Cockersands on Wednesday 12 November, I don't remember the last time I saw such a number small though this one was, but I do recall seeing 200+ one day with my old friend John Leedal in 19goodness knows when.

Isn't birding interesting/exciting/intriguing, and everything else!
I 'fiddled' later with this post and deleted the picture by accident and at the time of writing don't know how to restore/replace it.
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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Introduction.

Hello and welcome to Birds2blog which I hope will contain at least a little something of interest and if you are reading this then it has already achieved that.

Most of the records and notes in this blog will have been the result of birding days with my good friend and birder John Bateman though 50% of my birding days are done outside the LDBWS area and lots of which are exploring the wild and wonderful uplands. Many are the times I've said how lucky we are in our area in that we can be watching the waders at places like Cockersands one minute and in something like twenty minutes later could be watching a superb male Hen Harrier in the Trough of Bowland.

I intend to continue to submit my records to the LDBWS website and I know of at least one person (John Wilson) who will be pleased to hear this as he has often commented to me how valuable all and everyones records are to the fuller picture of the birds in our area and beyond....thanks for that John.

Some of the highlights seen/found over the past couple of months by me have been the following....

Black-necked Grebe on Conder Pool 1 Sept
Honey Buzzard over Birk Bank 19 Sept
Brent Goose on Pilling Marsh 6 Oct
Med Gulls three seen Cockers Dyke 9 Oct
Common Scoter on Conder Pool 27 Oct
Ross's Goose Cockers Dyke 28 Oct
Scaup on Conder Pool 28 Oct
Whooper Swans an amazing 300+ in the Nateby area on Black Lane 28 Oct
Hooded Crow over Birk Bank 29 Oct
Pink-footed Geese an astounding c.30,000 on Pilling Marsh 12 Nov
Short-eared Owls three on Bradshaw Lane Head 12 Nov
Common Sandpiper still on Conder Pool 12 Nov
Waxwings 19 at Levens Village 14 Nov

If this blog has a link from the LDBWS website then I have a debt of thanks to Andrew McCafferty for allowing me this....Thanks Andrew. And if I clicked in all the right places then you should be able to comment on this blog which I look forward to reading, if I didn't click in all the right places then I will have to see to it that I do.

If you enjoy your birding - in whatever form and wherever you like - as much as me then you really do enjoy your birding.

Hobby

This little beauty made itself
available on a few occasions at
Leighton Moss in mid July and
although the photograph won't
stand up to close scrutiny technically it's the first one of a Hobby I was ever able to achieve with my improvised or any other photographic equipment.

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