BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE UPLANDS OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND

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CLOUGHA PIKE UNTIL RECENT YEARS THE BOWLAND STRONGHOLD FOR THE STONECHAT. PETE WOODRUFF.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

American Wigeon.

Drake American Wigeon thanks to Paul Baker. 

A drake American Wigeon was found at Cockersands yesterday and I'm grateful to the caller/finder to my mobile to alert me of this, a clear case of 'not necessarily what you know but who you know'. The bird has had no mention today which makes me feel a little better as I've had no opportunity to visit Cockersands since last Tuesday and in all probability won't do so until Monday and no guarantee to that either.

The American Wigeon is one of the most frequently recorded Nearctic ducks in Britain today, it breeds across North America and moves in winter to the Atlantic coasts, the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. Its first known mention in this country was in the winter of 1837/8 when a bird was purchased from a market in London, the second record was 57 years later in 1895 and was again a purchase from a game stall on a market in Leeds. As with lots of vagrant wildfowl recorded in the UK some will have been escapes, but there have been ringing recoveries including three from New Brunswick in Canada.

A red-head Smew recently and found again today on Freeman's Pools was a very welcome bird following the species absence from the area since 2005 when a red-head was at Hawes Water in Silverdale, but gone are the days when a drake returned each winter for something like a decade to the then Dockacres/Pine lake area. A maximum count of 109 across the UK in February 2008 was lower than the previous 5 year average probably due to the trend of milder winters and a shift in distribution towards the NE of the wintering range. 

The link to SIGN THE PETITION on the BirdLife Malta website is now in the left hand sidebar on Birds2blog and I'm sincerely hoping each and every visitor is going to sign to help make a difference to this tragic situation which is in breach of the EU Directive. I'm desperately trying very hard to steer clear of any controversial comments/opinions I make on this blog in keeping with a policy I have so far maintained in this regard, but whether or not I succeed remains to be seen.    
  

Friday, 29 January 2010

Penultimate '09 Snippet's.


Thanks to Stephen Gidley for the excellent Kestrel image which the sharp eyed ones amongst you will have noticed was posted on Birds2blog earlier in the week but turned out to be  an error on that occasion, and for those not sharp eyed enough to have noticed....well I needn't have said a word!

Some more 'snippet's' from my 2009 birding record's....

SEPTEMBER.

4th    A Wood Sandpiper had been at Conder Green and I caught up with the bird today.
9th    About twelve Sand Martins were still around River Winds at Conder Green.
10th  Two Whitethroat were at Harrisend, and a Whinchat as an excellent find off the Hawthornthwaite track from Marshaw. 
12th  A Whinchat was another excellent find on Newby Moor, N York's. And yet another two Whinchat were at Barbondale.
14th   Three Green Sandpiper at Aldcliffe. 
15th   Nine Wheatear were on Clougha.
17th   Adult Mediterranean Gulls at Glasson Dock and Cockersands.
18th   Spotted Flycatcher still behind Tower Lodge on the edge of the plantation.
21st   Adult Mediterranean Gull at Cockersands.
22nd  Tawny Owl from Lower Hide path at Leighton Moss. 
24th   Three Jay at Conder Green were unusual.
25th   Black Darters seen in 'good number' at Foulshaw Moss.

OCTOBER.

1st     Three Whooper Swans at Braides were my first this winter.
5th     A Guillemot on the River Lune at Glasson Dock was unusual.
8th     Nine Barnacle Geese on Pilling Marsh.
12th   Circa 40 Redwing and 20 Fieldfare were my first of the winter over the Clougha track.
13th   A juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher was at Cockersands.
16th   A Ruff frequented Conder Green around this date.
22nd  A drake Scaup was off Plover scar a Cockersands. 
26th   A Whooper Swan on the River Lune at Glasson Dock, also two adult Mediterranean Gulls. A juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was at Cockersands.



Thanks to Paul Baker for this excellent image of the Shoveler, well they're all excellent on Birds2blog with the exception of any that are mine.

As I said on the blog in yesterdays post I am currently adding a link to Birdlife Malta at the end of my posts in the hope every visitor to Birds2blog will SIGN THE PETITION on the website, please find out for yourself why....and be prepared to be shocked.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Mission Accomplished....

....but not with any success for the reason I undertook it.


Stonechat thanks to Brian Rafferty.

Well it had to be a Stonechat pic today and Stonechat pic's don't come any better than this one....and that's official.

Despite four hours searching the routine areas on Clougha and Birk Bank - including the customary four diversion's from the main track's - I found not a solitary Stonechat for the second time this week. With Harrisend/Clougha/and Birk Bank combined these records represent no more than three- possibly four- occasions this has happened here in more than 12 years coverage since the Stonechat started an upturn in its status. Perhaps not conclusive evidence to claim the species has gone from here but certainly looking like this is the case. I have more to do yet with other places I need to visit to establish whether or not we've lost them in our area until the breeder's arrive back on territory.

Well at least I doubled the number of species seen here today compared with Harrisend on Monday with six species (33 birds)  in my book being....4 Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, a Peregrine Falcon gave an excellent ariel display including two stoops at goodness knows how many mph, 6 Ravens together also gave me a show of ariel dance which is a delight to watch, 18 Red Grouse, and I flushed a Woodcock almost from under my feet.

For the time being I intend to put a link at the foot of all my posts on Birds2blog which I implore everyone who visits the blog to sign. You will see the link is to the Birdlife Malta website and if you click on 'Sign the Petition' you will be adding your name to hopefully at least help put a stop to the endless slaughter which takes place on this island annually by an estimated 12,000 mindless hunter's. As the Flag Counter on this blog indicates there are 'one or two' visitors here on a daily basis and I believe we can make quite a mark on this petition if we really try. Please pass the message on to family, friends, and relations.



Wednesday, 27 January 2010

In the picture!





I can think of a hundred ways to fill the gap on a birding blog but I reckon one of the the best way's is to flag up some more images from three of my contributors to Birds2blog starting with an excellent one of the amazing Bare-throated Bellbird  taken by intrepid globetrotter/birder Colin Bushell on his trip to Brazil in 2008.



This image of the Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike was taken by another intrepid globetrotter/birder Mike Watson on his trip to Bahrain in 2009. Mike refers to this bird in his diary as 'lovely' to which I readily agree.

 

And last - but definitely not least - the Barn Owl is one from the archives of Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer blog. Brian won't have to mind my noting on Birds2blog that he holds the distinction of having achieved two first record photographic images in my opinion, those of a Hobby at Leighton Moss during the summer in 2009, and that of the recent Stonechats feeding through an ice-hole as a unique act of cold weather survival as previously reported both on Brian's blog and on here.

Thanks again Colin/Mike/Brian, this blog would have been virtually void of picture's had it not been for your allowing me access to your photograph's. I'll try to showcase some more of my photo contributor's next time, and please remember they can all be linked to via my sidebar.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Back on the Road.

It was good for me to pick John up this morning for a day on the patch for the first time in an unbelievable four month's plus a day or two. I'm sure JB would feel a little more than good about this and we had a most enjoyable day....as always.



But first - and with a good start to the post - my thanks go once again to Mike Watson for the image of the female Black-throated Thrush which has been/is still present west of Whitby at Newholm in North Yorkshire. Please visit Mike's website here http://mikewatsonsdiary.blogspot.com/ to read the latest account of his trip to see  this excellent record.

And now for today....At Conder Green the first bird's we saw were 2 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank, and better still a male Stonechat which represents another survivor of the ice-age the result of which I'm reading some pretty disturbing reports of mortality rates. Also noted here, on Conder Pool 7 Snipe, 9 Wigeon, and just one Little Grebe which is the sole returning one to the pool which held 12 on one count in December before the freeze. At Glasson Dock on the canal basin I noted a Goldeneye and 3 Pochard drake's which poses the question....why are the Pochard on the basin at GD virtually (99%) always drake's?

On the Lune Estuary I noted - not as comprehensive as JB - at least 1,150 Bar-tailed Godwit, c.550 Knot, just 6 Goldeneye, and 4 Little Grebe, a Merlin was distant on Colloway Marsh. From Bodie Hill, 16 Goldeneye, 140 Black-tailed Godwit, and a Little Egret was on the marsh. From Jeremy Lane 6 Whooper Swans and spread over about six fields in the area at least 300 Mute Swans were the highest count I ever made.

At Cockersands I would express myself as 'delighted' to find another ice-age survivor in the male Stonechat here again having failed to do so on the last two visits, though otherwise quiet here I noted c.55 Dunlin, just 3 Eider, 2 Goldeneye, a Song Thrush, and a Little Egret in a ditch here again. A drive to Pilling Marsh resulted in a bit of a non-event with just c.350 Pink-footed Geese and 3 Little Egrets of note.

                                    
 Thanks to John Bateman.

I can only hope the sign's of today were....its business as usual John!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Harrisend....

....deadend actually as the 2.5 hour visit here produced the handsome total of four bird species which included an unfortunate Carrion Crow which I presumed had a broken wing though the evidence didn't appear all that obvious but it's left one did seem to fold oddly but wasn't dragging on the ground, in any event the bird couldn't fly away from me and just kept hopping ahead all the time.

I set off for Harrisend this morning with much apprehension, realistically thinking I would find the Stonechats had deserted the area, but realistic thinking isn't good enough to achieve accurate records and I needed to gather the evidence so....onward christian soldiers. The result was that my thinking was in fact accurate enough and I found not a single Stonechat for only the second time in something like 12 years visiting Harrisend in just about every month of every year. I now need to cover as many known Stonechat area's in the coming week's before the returning bird's arrive to try to establish some sort of documentation of just how much the recent ice-age appears to have affected this upland bird.

The record's I gathered today makes it difficult for them to qualify for a birding blog but were....a Coal Tit which surprised me somewhat and seemed a little out of context feeding on a moorland gorse bush, 7 Red Grouse, and 6 Greylag went over NE, a Brown Hare was noted which brings me to comment that I have seen very few this year so far in the Cockersands area where they are usually numerous and have always been so in recent years representing the best area I know for seeing the creature.



The image of an adult Caspian Gull above is posted with my thanks to Mike Watson who captured this bird on the coastline of Muharraq during his 2009 birding tour of Bahrain.  I've noticed a good number of Caspian Gulls reported in the UK recently presumably as observers have become more familiar with the species....not including me I hasten to add. It is only just over 14 years ago that the first record of a Caspian Gull in GB was accepted, and it was more than 2 years later before the first record in Ireland. If you're anything remotely like me with 'gulls' and ever hope to ID one of these birds I'd suggest a long study of this photograph as a good idea to be in with a chance of success if it's an adult you happen to find.

                                      

I'm not sure you're likely to see one of these handsome brutes in the UK soon, this is the Steppe Gull which is another of MW's Bahrain 2009 record's. Thanks for allowing on to Birds2blog these two excellent images of these two equally excellent birds Mike.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

A Couple of Beauties.



Brian Rafferty has achieved this superb image of the Goldcrest, not the easiest of birds to get a good picture of as it has a very energetic behaviour as it flits about the branches in search of food.

A quiet amazing creature, it is the smallest bird in the UK and indeed the whole of Europe and weighs just six and a half grams as an adult, they are quite capable of maintaining their population despite cold winters....but as cold as this one has recently been in the UK is doubtful and remains to be seen to what extent. You wouldn't take such a tiny bird to be one which can migrate and although UK birds are only regarded as 'wanderer's' ringing recoveries have shown the species to undertake regular movements from countries around the Baltic and the North Sea into Britain for the winter. One such truly amazing individual reached here from Russia and several from Poland have also been recorded, a fact which really does need to be pondered over in order to get to grips with such an achievement in terms of human thinking.  Another amazing fact about the Goldcrest is that the female regularly starts a second clutch of eggs before the first brood of nestlings have fledged, as a result of such a breeding effort twenty chicks in a season are not unknown and is essential for the survival of the population given the losses during winter weather like the recent UK experience.

                                             

Another of BR's images is this one of the Jay, not a very popular bird amongst some as they are prone to taking eggs and young from the nests of other birds during the breeding season in order to feed their own young, they will also take carrion and road casualties particularly when the road runs through woodland.

Traits of the 'crow' family as a whole are an incredible ability to learn and have a great memory and the Jay is no exception to this family trait and is one of the reasons for their success. The Jay is a well known hoarder of acorns and a single bird - believe it or not - can hoard as many as 2,000 lots of which can be retrieved when food becomes scarce, any that are missed in the retrieval strategy helps to disperse the acorns to new areas.

Thanks to BR for helping me to 'fill the gap' once again, please visit his website which you can link from the sidebar on the left.

Friday, 22 January 2010

First time in five week's....

....out with BT that is. My thanks to Chris Batty for saving the day to start the post with an excellent image of a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull.



It's Friday and I'm with BT so we start with the customary call to Aldcliffe but curiously don't move from the gate at the bottom of Railway Crossing Lane, nothing new there then....but look I've said this before, not complaining just stating fact's. We saw up to 40 Linnet by the water treatment plant on the lane with a Mistle Thrush and about three each of Redwing and Fieldfare in the field behind. Stood by the gate no more than 80 Pink-footed Geese could be seen distant on Heaton Marsh.

When we arrived at Conder Green I suggested we tracked down yesterdays Twite and got as far as Nansbuck Cottage behind the golf club before returning empty handed as they had obviously moved on. Conder Pool was devoid of anything remotely resembling 'excitement' and 5 Snipe were all I could record and we're now 2.5 hours into our birding day and this post is already representing little more than a bird-less diary....Oh dear!

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock even the impressive count of c.3,000 on Tuesday was reduced to around 100 Bar-tailed Godwit today and I noted just 42 Goldeneye. On the canal basin there were 3 Goldeneye, and 4 Pochard drake of note. From Bodie Hill a Little Egret was on Glasson Marsh, a Mistle Thrush and just 3 Fieldfare seen. On Jeremy Lane the 5 Whooper Swans were now detached from c.200 Mute Swans which were in another field and I reckon will have become extremely unpopular with the farming community as the field in question was a crop field and if I can be excused the pun they were 'having a field day in it' feeding contentedly.

At Cockersands things were very thin at the lighthouse end with 46 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Red-breasted Merganser of note. On just the one occasion today things 'buzzed' briefly at the Caravan Park end when a Short-eared Owl appeared from around the corner from Bank End and hunted in front of the CP for a few minutes before disappearing from whence it came.

I can barely bring myself to recall the rest of the day, as we drove towards Pilling via Gulf Lane a blanket of fog began to develop and by the time we reached Pilling Lane Ends it was 'pea soup' stuff, a motor down to Fluke Hall proved futile and another drive to the feeding station on Bradsaw Lane produced 3 Grey Partridge, in itself a good record but....Oh dear again, and we're now on our way home to Lancaster.

And so ended a day which epitomised the unpredictability of birding.

                                          

And my thanks to Colin Bushell for also saving the day to end the post with an excellent image of a female Red-crested Pochard.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Did it again!

The birding walk from Skerton Bridge to Glasson Dock appears to have taken a hold on me and I decided what better than to do it again for the fourth time in recent week's...and what an excellent decision it was too.

There was nothing of any particular interest between Skerton Bridge and Marsh Point though I noted 8 Goosander but only saw 3 Goldeneye today, well down on recent number's. At Marsh Point I counted at least 110 Black-tailed Godwit and 12 Dunlin, but despite grilling several hundred 'gull's' on the river on the way down here I found no Med Gull today.



Freeman's Pools are still frozen in places with the one in the west corner still 90% ice and about 25% still in the east pool, however 2 Green Sandpiper on here were flighty and appeared to object to each others company and soon flew over the embankment and on to the River Lune where I retraced my steps to see one briefly, a few minutes later and back at the pools they were there again but still at loggerheads before flying off again - at one point quite high - and this time in a SE direction, regular 'Aldcliffe parishioners' will perhaps know where they were likely to have been heading but I certainly didn't. Thanks to Brian Rafferty for the Green Sandpiper image.

On Aldciffe Marsh the only geese remaining were c.140 Canada Geese and 44 Greylag with which the Dark-bellied Brent Goose of 29 December had made a return appearance, also on the marsh were 2 Little Egrets and 2 Meadow Pipit were noted, on the wildfowlers pool 6 Black-tailed Godwit seen. Between Aldcliffe and Conder Green I counted 13 Blackbirds but take particular note of not having seen a solitary Song Thrush despite having recorded 22 on 31 December in the same area, 2 Dunnock, a Reed Bunting, 18 Goldfinch, and a Little Egret was distant on Colloway Marsh.

At Conder Green I found 24 Twite to the north of the old railway bridge and saw a distant Merlin on the marsh. I added some mileage to the day - I think its called dedication to the cause - by wandering down Jeremy Lane to find just five of Sundays seven Whooper Swans......I reckon the other two were hiding in a 'dip' somewhere. 

 

Its rather unfortunate to end the post on a down note but I found this dead Mute Swan on Aldcliffe Marsh and couldn't help but wonder how/why it had died. I didn't suspect the 'freeze' was the cause but did note the injury on its upper throat to below the lower mandible, the bird was otherwise unmarked.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Good Going Over!



Well a reasonably good going over though a little 'thin' in places. I gave Conder Green the circuit which took me an hour......the only way to do it! Another circuit at Cockersands with some disappointments mentioned later. And an hour at Pilling Lane Ends/Fluke Hall by which time the light was fading rapidly. And I make no offer of apology for yet another one of those amazing Stonechat images from BR's recent observation's of some remarkable survival strategy. This image makes it even more difficult to believe its a Stonechat we're looking at.

At Conder Green the pool had been reclaimed from the ice today by, 9 Tufted Duck, 7 Wigeon, 42 Mallard, and 3 Goosander. In the Conder channel, a Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, 3 Little Grebe, and c.80 Teal, a Little Egret was on the marsh viewed from the rail bridge.

On the Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock, I estimated up to 2,500 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, and no more than 20 Goldeneye seen today, anything else was unimpressive and I left it for another day. On the basin I noted 2 Goldeneye. On Jeremy Lane 7 Whooper Swans which were there on Sunday when I checked but no sign of Sunday's reported Bewick's Swan.

At Cockersands waders were 'thin' on the estuary but 'thick' in the fields. On the estuary I took note of, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 35 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover a hard bird to find here most of the time, a solitary Grey Plover nothing new there, and at least 14 Turnstone but a difficult bird to count on the stony area's where it is well camouflaged to add to the fact it was bloody cold out there today. In Cockersands Farm field's from the road on the return to the lighthouse end I noted 82 Black-tailed Godwits, 55 Dunlin, and 15 Golden Plover where are they all? a detachment of 4 Pink-footed Geese, a Kestrel, and a Little Egret flew out of a ditch in front of me. In a field from Moss Lane, another 58 Black-tailed Godwit and 18 Golden Plover.

From Pilling Lane Ends I counted at least 105 Whooper Swans, and 3 Bewick's Swans though all were distant, also 3 Little Egrets. A brief visit to Fluke Hall produced another Little Egret, and a farmer who obviously had the need to go into one of his field's putting up c.850 Pink-footed Geese before I had the time to put a 'real' estimate to their number.



Black-tailed Godwit courtesy of Ian Tallon.

The day's disappointment's were, not being able to find the Cockersands male Stonechat which has been there since 28 December unless it was the lighthouse end bird in which case it's been there since 9 November, also no sign of any Eider off Plover Scar today, and void of searching my record's I don't recall the last time I saw a Grey Wagtail at Conder Green. Otherwise a good time was had by all......as ever!


Monday, 18 January 2010

Yet more......





......2009 snippets - not comprehensive - from my records for July/August which is why the image of the Spotted Flycatcher is appropriate and was taken in the Tower Lodge area in the Trough of Bowland, the pic has been on Birds2blog before but I don't care, it's one of my favourites.

JULY.

2nd  Four Little-ringed Plover curiously were an adult, a juvenile, and a young downy bird on Conder Pool, also at Conder Green, 4 Greenshank and 2 Spotted Redshank.
6th  Sixteen Common Sandpiper were at Conder Green.
7th  Five Little Gull on the Eric Morecambe Complex.
13th  Eight Wheatear Clougha/Birk Bank of which six were juvenile.
16th  Reed Warbler singing Conder Green.
18th  2nd summer Mediterranean Gull on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock.
20th  Five Spotted Flycatcher Marshaw, a pair with 3 juvenile.
27th  Eight Greenshank Conder Pool and a Ruff on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock. At least 16 Gatekeeper were at Pilling Lane Ends.

AUGUST.

13th  Two adult Mediterranean Gull on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock.
17th  A Ruff on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock.
24th  c.30 Sandwich Terns were off Fluke Hall and a Ruff was in a field with 'gulls' on Moss Lane.
25th  Nine Greenshank on Conder Pool.
27th  Five Raven on Clougha.
28th  A Spotted Flycatcher was still at the church at Abbeystead where it had been all summer.



Well by way of a change a little 'pic quiz' the answer of which is to be found in Mike Watson's Diary here......http://mikewatsonsdiary.blogspot.com/ where Mike gives an interesting account on an interesting website.

Go on have a go......nobody will ever know if you was wrong!





 


Saturday, 16 January 2010

Unique Images 2.



As far as I'm concerned the Stonechat is one of the most complex of species and I'm airing the discovery and photographing of these two birds by Brian Rafferty once more. The more I view the photograph above the more I find it difficult to believe I'm looking at a Stonechat and would never have believed I would witness an event like this.

Stonechats are opportunist feeders and will exploit a wide range of invertibrate species. OK we don't really have to go to Israel for examples of this opportunism but two males were observed in December 1993 in the Neger Desert to prey on and eat a Scorpion estimated at 17mm not including the tail. In the UK birds have been observed hovering over water and picking unidentified prey items off the surface and on one occasion actually dropping into the water. An African Stonechat in Zimbabwe was seen to dive into the water and secure a 3cm Green-headed Bream which it took back to its perch and swallowed whole. There is some evidence of parent birds avoiding some insects such as Ladybirds, a 3 hour observation revealed that none were brought to the young despite the availability of the prey in huge number.



In these two new images of Brian Raffertys observation's the food prey has now been claimed to be Common back-swimmer ruling out the initial suggestion of Great Diving Beetle though you have to view the first two images published here on Birds2blog previously to actually see the prey in the photograph.

The movements of the Stonechat is very complex and too lengthy to discuss here, but to give an insight into the complexities, the species is partially migratory with the majority remaining to winter here on or near their breeding territory, or making lengthy movements within the UK. On a note closer to the recent situation regarding the ice-age conditions, this is the cause of considerable mortality amongst the resident population and I'm due to search Clougha/Birk Bank and shall do so with much apprehension.

I don't want to go too far down this road at the moment but......the hypothesis that there exists a genetic control of partial migration states that the decision about whether a nestling will be migratory or sedentary is already decided in the egg, furthermore, even if both parents are migratory they can produce sedentary young and vice versa, and a single brood can contain both sedentary and migratory nestlings.

Ponder all this next time you see a Stonechat and be amazed......to be continued.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Plan B.



Not connected with Plan B but a good start to the post with an image of the smart male Sparrowhawk which has the interest of having been achieved through an iPhone 3GS attached to a Leica Apo Telescope and is with thanks to Katie Fuller who hails from Cambridgeshire and who's blog may interest some of the visitors to Birds2blog and is now linked via the sidebar on the left.

No car again unfortunately, a subject I'd sooner  leave out of here. So it was Plan B and my third walk in recent weeks from Skerton Bridge to Glasson Dock. In total I saw 24 Goldeneye ten of which were between Skerton Bridge and the weir upstream, 2 Little Grebe, and 3 Goosander were also up this end of the river before I had reached Carlisle Bridge. Two Snipe were flushed from the bank towards Marsh Point. I took particular note of Freeman's Pools which I would suggest will remain uninhabited for a 'few' days to come yet, and with a fresh dusting of snow from last night looks further away from thawing than ever in it's sheltered from the sun location. As always there were many 'gull's' on the River Lune but time today didn't allow me to grill them as closely as I would have liked to, however I was quite satisfied that no Med Gulls were to be found.

On Aldcliffe Marsh I estimated c.300 Canada Geese, all the 'uncounted' Greylag, Pink-footed Geese, and the four Snow Geese were in inland fields today between the flood and Aldcliffe village. Other birds of note up to Conder Green were, 25 Blackbird and 12 Song Thrush were encouraging counts the ice-age considered, 2 Dunnock, 3 Wren, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Reed Bunting, 4 Robin, and a solitary Fieldfare.

I had a half hour to spare when I arrived at Conder Green - though by 3.45 it was well on the way to nightfall - and noted a Goldeneye had found its way up the creeks nearly to the A588 road bridge, a Little Grebe was also in the creeks with 2 Black-tailed Godwit, and a Grey Plover. From the coastal path towards Glasson Dock I noted another solitary Fieldfare and a Redwing. Eight bouncy flight distant 'finches' on the walk had frustrated me and go unrecorded as probable/possible Twite.    

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Unique Images.



This post is designed to be a short one as I refuse to 'steal' from Brian Rafferty what must surely be the ornithological discovery of the millennium and beyond.

These two photograph's are surely unique records of the Stonechat waging war against the elements recently thrown at it as an act of sheer survival. I don't have the need to explain these birds are feeding on Great Diving Beetles through a hole in the ice......how did the hole get there you may ask.

                                    

I'm not prepared to go further into this amazing story of discovery as BR should have - and deserves - the pleasure of your visit to his website for you to see his explanation and further photographic evidence.

Congratulations Brian I reckon you'll hit the headlines on this one......I'm truly amazed.

You can find a link to Brian in the sidebar on the left.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Snow Geese.



No photographs of Snow Geese but this is the frozen Aldcliffe Marsh looking NW towards the Golden Ball at Snatchems in the background during the recent ice-age where four have been located since 27 February having previously been on Carnforth Marsh for a 'few' week's always in the company of Greylags - of which I counted at least 550 on 29 December on Aldcliffe Marsh - and which is precisely what they continue to do here.

There seem to be no records of any Snow Geese in GB that are unquestionably of wild origin, such confirmation can only be through the occurrence of a ringed bird. However, that any have ever occurred in Europe was confirmed by an adult observed in the Netherlands in April 1980, this bird was bearing a blue and a metal ring which transpired to have been the very combination used on male goslings by a research team in Manitoba, Canada three years earlier in 1977.

The first record of Lesser Snow Goose to be widely accepted involved two blue phase birds found in January 1946 in Co Wexford, Ireland, the were claimed by the two observers to look like Greylags with abnormal head markings, the birds were not seen again until three months later back at the same location. By the time these two birds had departed a few observers collectively agreed the likelihood was that they were of wild origin.

                                             

And I did find an image of a Snow Goose with my thanks to Paul Baker in BC Canada......thanks Paul.

A kindly offer to transport dear Kathleen to Sainsburys - not for the first time - paid of handsomely with good views of an adult Mediterranean Gull with c.60 mainly Black-headed Gulls just upstream from the Greyhound Bridge behind the store.



Monday, 11 January 2010

Dull Day......

......but some bright bird's considering the crippling weather we've been having recently and may well continue to do so if the forecaster's are still on course.


          

Thanks to Brian Rafferty for getting this post off to the best possible start with an excellent image of the smartest of all our smart passerines the male Stonechat......what else can I say BR!

A pretty miserable day weather-wise which never came daylight on the downside but on the upside - for the sake of the bird's - a thaw has set in, let's hope it continues. Well, nobody need waste their time checking Conder Pool as it's going to remain an ice rink for a few day's yet, but in the Conder creek's there was what appeared to be some quite lively bird's all things considered, feeding or bathing were, 2 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Goosander, 2 Snipe, 3 Little Grebe, male/female Wigeon, and at least 80 Teal. I also achieved a first in the creeks today with a Pink-footed Goose looking very out of context and which flew off healthily with the rest when disturbed. Also noted, singles of Song Thrush and Meadow Pipit.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock 4 Twite came down to feed on the edge of the marsh with 5 Goldfinch, the area was otherwise uncomfortably deserted but I did record c.130 Dunlin, just 12 Goldeneye, and 2 Goosander, what 'gull's' present were over by Waterloo Cottage and inconveniently distant in the poor light. On Jeremy Lane 6 Whooper Swans were with uncounted but at least 150 Mute Swans.

I don't particularly recommend the drive to Cockersands until this thaw takes hold but am extremely glad I took the risk if only to see the male Stonechat was looking quite perky despite presumably being close to frozen if not hungered to death, it was accompanied by 4 Song Thrush, 3 Blackbird, and 2 Wren, in the case of the latter two tiny creature's you really do wonder how they managed to survive this period of sub-zero temperature's, I'm convinced a lot won't have. On visits to Cockersands during this 'freeze' I have noted the tidal wrack to the NW of the Caravan Park has been a feeding ground for several species not least of which the Stonechat which has remained to feed in this area throughout. A walk along the headland - not recommended unless you lack common sense at my level - in places like standing on glass, was fruitless but at the lighthouse end 52 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Grey Plover, and c.40 Dunlin were noted. A Little Owl was in a tree by Bank Houses horse paddock, the first sighting since 7 May 2009, and c.350 Pink-footed Geese were in a field off Moss Lane by which time the light was fading and I pointed the car towards Lancaster.



And the best possible end to the post with an image of the female Stonechat......thanks again BR.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

More '09 Snippet's.

But first of all, many thanks to Simon Hawtin for allowing me to begin the post with two excellent images of the Fieldfare in his garden including the one with the bird checking out the possible dangers overhead.
















MAY.

1st. Heard a Cuckoo on Birk Bank only briefly. At Abbeystead 2 Pied Flycatcher males seen.
7th. 3 Arctic Skua were on the sea on the Lune Estuary a few mtrs upstream off Plover Scar .
11th. At Barbondale a pair and a singing male Pied Flycatcher, a Wood Warbler, pair of Whinchat, and 8 Stonechat were all to note.
12th. Spotted Flycatcher in the Tower Lodge area in the Trough of Bowland.
18th. A Fulmar lingering off the headland here and a Reed Warbler in song at Conder Green.
19th. An Arctic Tern  on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock I think was the only one I saw here all summer. A female Whinchat on Jeremy Lane.
26th Spotted Flycatcher at Abbeystead Church.
28th. At Barbondale 3 Tree Pipit was my maximum here this summer.
29th. A Woodchat Shrike was behind Tower Lodge, a Cuckoo was at Langden Beck, and a Tawny Owlet gave excellent views roosting at Stoops Bridge Abbeystead.
30th. Painted Lady day with the mass influx giving me a count of at least 150 On Clougha/Birk Bank in c.4 hours.
31st. Three 1st summer Little Gulls from the Eric M'cbe hide at Leighton Moss.

JUNE.

1st. Ten Whinchat was an excellent count in the Cross of Greet/Bloe Greet area in a summer which proved poor for Stonechat here. A Cuckoo, 2 Raven, and a stunning male Hen Harrier seen. And with gratitude to a landowner permitting me access to his private woodland I found Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, and Tawny Owl.
2nd. Tower Lodge area, a Cuckoo heard.
4th. A Pair of Pied Flycatcher at Barbondale and a pair of Whinchat.
5th. The Abbeystead Pied Flycatchers were now feeding young at a natural nest hole.
8th. At Harrisend 12 Stonechat included 5 young, 2 Redpoll were in the lone Hawthorn here. An adult Common Sandpiper was with a young bird at Marshaw where a male Hen Harrier was seen, and 5 Stonechat included 3 juveniles.
9th. Five adult Common Sandpiper were at Marshaw. In the Lowgill area Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, and a Blackcap were seen.
15th. In the Clougha/Birk Bank area 20 Stonechat, 2 Garden Warbler, and 2 Raven. Over the bog here 2 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary seen.
16th. On Conder Pool a pair of Little-ringed Plover and a young bird seen.
22nd. On Conder Pool 2 adult, a young, and a juvenile Little-ringed Plover seen today.
23rd. An adult and 2 young Little-ringed Plover seen today. The LRP's on Conder Pool confused John Bateman and I all this summer.
26th. At Aldcliffe 5 Raven were noted.
29th. An excellent count of 15 Whinchat included 4 juveniles, 5 Stonechat, and 5 Raven were also of note......

......and the year was already an excellent birding one for me.

Today 3 Song Thrush in our humble and small walled garden are unprecedented......you just don't get Song Thrush in little gardens in Bowerham Lancaster unless you have the ice-age return, talking of which the tragedy is now beginning to unfold with two Kingfisher found dead on the River Lune in Lancaster.




Friday, 8 January 2010

Another Mini Marathon.


I legged it again today - at a dawdle of course - from Skerton Bridge to Glasson Dock, four hours plus of sheer delight with wall to wall blue sky and sun but bloody cold and the longer it stays like this the harder life becomes for a good number of our birds, a Robin came within inches (no such thing these day's) of me and if I'd had anything in my hand resembling food it would have taken it from me, if you have a passion for observing the birds then surely you have a concern for their well being, I've seen bird's today showing obvious signs of a struggle......it's serious.

On the River Lune 17 Goldeneye, 9 Goosander, and several hundred 'gull's' mainly Black-headed Gull which I grilled between Skerton Bridge and Marsh Point but could find no Med amongst them. The 4 Snow Geese and 3 Barnacle Geese were with uncounted Greylags on Aldcliffe Marsh, bird's displaced and on the river were 6 Little Grebe opposite Nansbuck Cottage, they were living in the danger zone as the tide raced in bringing with it some quite large ice flows moving much faster than I could have run. At Stodday 2 Raven and a Kestrel noted, other birds noted on the route, 2 Reed Bunting, 4 Dunnock, 3 Robin, a Snipe, 2 Song Thrush were a different story to 31 December when I counted a combined total of 62 Blackbird/Song Thrush (40/22) on the same walk, 23 Blackbirds today, just 2 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, and a solitary Long-tailed Tit. Bird of the day was a lone Ringed Plover on the river bank by Nansbuck Cottage, you just don't usually get this species at all on the Lune Estuary upstream from Crook Farm......well I don't! 

A Sparrowhawk near Conder Green flew along the path ahead of me with prey in it's talon's having released an unfortunate small bird from suffering the harsh frost any longer and probably saving the poor creature from a slow death. Bad timing on my part meant I had no time to cover Conder Green, the walk obviously needs at least five hours to do this......next time!

                                   

From what  I have seen regarding the road's today I wouldn't recommend birding if it means traveling in your car anywhere at all away from the major routes. Mine will mainly be done on foot until the 'thaw' arrives which isn't going to be soon and to make matters much worse it's going to get windy.

Thanks to Brian Rafferty for the excellent pic's of the equally excellent Goldfinch......Great stuff again BR!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Landart......



Richard Shilling recently visited Ribblesdale five times in a week if I'm not mistaken and the photograph above is his creation he called Maple Ice Windows.

                                       

Richard returned to Ribblesdale the following day to photograph his sculpture this time in sunlight, the result of which is obvious compared to the previous one taken with a snow laden sky in the background.

                                      

This photograph is a longer shot of the sculpture illustrating the superb surrounding landscape and the equally superb shadow's the low sun has created.

                                      

Photographically this is my most favourite image of them all and I have come to admire and appreciate Richards photography in equal measure to his Landart. Thanks once more for helping me to brightening up Birds2blog Richard whilst the birding takes a back seat during this 'nice to look at' but pretty serious freezing condition's we are all suffering one way or another at the moment, the consequences for the birds will become more apparent as time passes until the thaw arrives.

......and a couple of sightings - both unusual - on Sunday I forgot to mention, a Raven flew NW over Morrison's Car Park in Morecambe, and a Jay was on Quarry Road in Lancaster.

I think it's time I mentioned that I have two copies of the excellent book 'The Birds of Lancashire & North Merseyside' by Steve White, Barry McCarthy, and Morris Jones. The explanation being that it was a rather unfortunate mistake that I had two delivered and paid for and despite some considerable long drawn out attempts at returning one I was in the end unsuccessful in being able to do so. If there's anyone out there who would like to offer me £30 (RRP £40) or some other reasonable offer then please let me know.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

They named it after me!


Thanks to John Bateman for this pic of the Grey Wagtail which visited his garden. Hopefully he will soon be able to take up his optics once again and accompany me in a back to normal mode......fingers crossed John.

BAIRDS SANDPIPER.

There's a Bairds Sandpiper currently SE of Dunblane in Lothian and there's a connection between Spencer Fullerton Baird and one of the founder members of the American Ornithologists' Union called Dr Elliot B Coues in that he was responsible for naming the sandpiper after Baird following his description of the bird in 1861, Coues also has a flycatcher and a Gadwall (now extinct) named after himself. Baird who became a giant in American Ornithology was also the young friend of John James Audubon was has five bird species named after him including an Audubon's Shearwater.

BEWICK'S SWAN.

Thomas Bewick was an English ornithologist who never saw America, but most natural history student's knew is works as the best known English illustrator of his generation. William Yarrell named the swan after Bewick in 1830. The same J J Audubon above also named another bird after him, the Bewick's Wren. Shortly before Bewick died he paid a final visit to Audubon and met another visitor named William Swainson thus becoming a gathering of the three greatest natural history artists of their age.

BONAPARTE'S GULL.

Prince Charles Lucian Bonaparte was a nephew of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, he died before accomplishing the publication of a complete list of the world's birds. The Bonaparte's Gull was named after him but probably not everyone will know that out of a list of ten birds named after him one of them - which we now know as the White-rumped Sandpiper - was given the name Bonaparte's Sandpiper by L J P Vieillot in 1819.

As a point of interest the Turnstone mentioned in yesterday's post bearing rings on it's right leg and photographed on Plover Scar at Cockersands, the most up to date info I have on the bird is that it appears to have been marked on Hilbre Island in August of last year.