BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE UPLANDS OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND

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

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Dotterel.


Dotterel. Mike Watson

Sad isn't it....if you go back in time to around 90 years ago you would find in the 1920's the numbers of Dotterel were beginning to show signs of a slight recovery from the days even further back in time when annual slaughters of the species were taking place in areas like Pilling and Winmarleigh when - according to Mitchell - 'hundreds' were being shot each year. It is interesting that the same F.S.Mitchell reported very few records from the fells, adding to this remark that they no longer appear on Pendle Hill. 

Thankfully today quite the reverse is the case and Pendle Hill plays host on an annual basis to this familiar and amazingly tame spring migrant which shows a remarkable fidelity to its staging areas, sometimes even to the very same field. Ward Stone is another example of an annual - or near annual - area where Dotterel can be found and in fact breeding was reported here in 1983.  

By the end of the 1990's the estimate of breeding Dotterel in Great Britain was put at 630 incubating males, which incidentally represents the sex role reversal of this species of bird where the female takes little if any part in the incubation of the clutch, and rarely if ever assisting in brood-care though she is known to maybe rejoin the family once well grown. The breeding range is largely confined to the summits of our highest and most remote hills most of which are in the Scottish Highlands, though small outposts are also know for example in Cumbria. Some estimates in N.Europe are of 17,000 pairs in Norway, 5,000 in Sweden, and 2,000 in Finland.

Dotterel. Brian Rafferty

As someone who constantly claims to have a passion for birds and birding, I'm pretty well ashamed to confess to never having got off my backside to go and see the Dotterel during the spring passage, always seeming to be 'doing some other birding' at the time. This spring appears to have been a good one with birds seen on Fairsnape Fell, Pendle Hill, and currently birds still on Champion Moor as I write....so whats my excuse this time!  

Thanks to Mike for his photograph of the Dotterel on Champion Moor, and to Brian for his on Fairsnape Fell. Please use the links to visit their websites.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Rewards of Barbondale....


....and other locations.

Black-crowned Night Heron. Kah Wai  

But first a good compositional photograph of the Night Heron at Kinta Nature Park in Malaysia with many thanks to Kah Wai.

It was a good day weather-wise for me to make a visit to Barbondale, and if you relish the aesthetics of the places you visit to do your birdwatching then Barbondale is a must, I spent an excellent six hours there today and was rewarded handsomely.

Fingers crossed for more, but today I found 4 Pied Flycatcher, three of them males two singing, but beware, one of them is a 1st summer bird strongly resembling a female. Also of note here today, at least 10 Redstart, and 12 Wheatear, I heard only 2 Tree Pipit, and found a nice surprise in 2 Lesser Redpoll, noted barely a double number of Willow Warbler, found just 4 Great Tit and 2 Blue Tit though Barbondale never seems to be 'tit' country according to my records, 2 Reed Bunting, at least 15 Meadow Pipit, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Linnet, 2 Dipper, a Kestrel, 2 Buzzard, and a Raven. I struggled to find a solitary Grey Wagtail today, a bird I'm not seeing anywhere these days. It goes with saying I found no Stonechats in six hours spent searching here today, collectively the sixth upland location I've visited recently void of the species this year.

Common Sandpiper. David Cookson

I had some choices now and eventually decided to walk down the River Wenning from Hornby to find at least 35 Whimbrel at the confluence, also the inevitable - uncounted - but no more than 50 Sand Martins with 3 Common Sandpiper, a Goosander, 2 Redshank, a Song Thrush, and singing Skylark. I was running out of time now but still had choices, this time I called in on Rigg Lane to hear the very bird I'd hoped for the Cuckoo on Birk Bank, I noted 'some' Green Hairstreak and heard a Chiffchaff. Thanks for the excellent CS pic DC.

Some National interest....The Barolo Little Shearwater is apparently still on Lundy, and three more Vagrant Emperor Dragonflies have been seen in Dorset, Pembrokeshire, and off the coast on Skomer Island. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Butterfly Diversion.


Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Brimstone. Steven Cheshire

On Monday I found 5 Brimstone butterflies which - believe it or not - is an all time record for me, not being a butterfly hunter the only ones I see are those encountered on my birding days and the Brimstone has always been a species which has escaped me, though I do have some quite good butterfly records over the years, like the 100+ number of Painted Lady from the Allan Hide path a Leighton Moss a few years ago now, the other memorable count of this species was made during the mega influx in 2009 when I counted 149 on Clougha/Birk Bank on 30 May, another two excellent records  - void of searching my records - were both of the Clouded Yellow seen in numbers in the mid-teens in different years at Cockersands and along the coastal path from Fluke Hall towards Cockers Dyke. In Britain, any bright yellow butterfly seen in early spring is likely to be the male the Brimstone butterfly, the female may catch you off guard and think it's a 'white'....one did me for a moment on Monday. It is a common belief that the Brimstone was once known as the 'butter-coloured fly' a description which gave rise to the word 'butterfly'.

Red Admiral. Linda

A brilliant photograph of the Red Admiral showing to excellent effect the pattern of this beautiful butterfly's under-wing. The Red Admiral at rest is unmistakable, with its red and black wings outspread, it is a strong migrant and may appear anywhere in Europe, it moves north in the spring from its breeding grounds in the south, but few - if any - survive the northern winter.

Green Hairstreak. Linda   

The Green Hairstreak is the butterfly I usually find on my upland birding days during April-June in places like Clougha and Birk Bank though it occurs in a wide range of habitats, if this creature lands on the greenery of any of its many suitable food-plants it is then perfectly camouflaged and easily overlooked.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!....but thanks for the photographs to fill the gap Steven/Linda. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Leggin' it again!


I adopted Plan B today as Plan A was put off for a later date 'cos I didn't particularly like the look of the weather for today which - by mid-afternoon - was more reminiscent of early March than almost early May.


I put in a few miles of legwork today, giving Aldcliffe - Stodday three hours and noting, 5 Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap, a Garden Warbler, a Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, c.15 Blackbirds, 11 Goldfinch, 7 Greenfinch, 3 Linnet, 2 House Martin, and 9 Eider on the River Lune, a Sedge Warbler surprised me a little in that I don't recall the species seen here before. I saw a Lapwing with one chick and crossed my fingers Mr Farmer will have no cause to enter the field for a while with his machinery, 2 Little Ringed Plover were on the flood, and if they're still on Freeman's Pools I couldn't find them but did find the litter mentioned by Aldclifffe regular GMc in his post HERE, the notice above doesn't seem to register with some....well it won't will it!

Swallow at Cockersands. Pete Woodruff. 

On Conder Pool a Little Ringed Plover put in an appearance and a now almost completely black Spotted Redshank also showed with 6 Redshank. The effort of a circuit of Cockersands was rewarded by a Wheatear, 7 Linnet, at least 6 Tree Sparrows around the Bank Houses paddock is a species I can't get to grips with re numbers here recently, 3 White Wagtail - should that read 'alba' - a singing Skylark and Sedge Warbler, a Lapwing this time had four chicks, and 17 Golden Plover flighting around appeared to be of the Northern race.
   
Dandelion. Pete Woodruff.

On Sunday I saw my first House Martin along the canal behind Haverbreaks, and on Monday my first 2 Swift were over Bowerham. Just the dandelion....but the beauty is in the colour.

MEGA NEWS. 

A Little Shearwater is on Lundy, Devon, apparently present c.1 week....must do some reading up on this one.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Around the moss!


Short-toed Lark. Fylde Bird Club

I almost went to see this bird - Lancashires first - today, present at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park, in the end I'm proud to say I gave in to my selfish ways by making a compromise with KT to do a wander around Leighton Moss where nothing unexpected was seen but notables included good views of five Marsh Harriers, at least 3 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, a pair of Bullfinch, good views of the sub-adult Mediterranean Gull from Lillians Hide, and 5 Brimstone on the round.

The good thing about Leighton Moss is, that if - whilst keeping your eyes fully focused on the birds - you keep your ears fully focused on some of the things said in the hides you can learn quite a lot, most of which I'd categorise as 'rubbish'. However, I did learn a couple of interesting things on the rounds today whilst having to rely on what I heard to be fact, but first and foremost I must insist on announcing that I do not condone or subscribe to noisy chatter in hides, more to the point I oppose any unnecessary talk at all in hides. But according to what I heard in the first conversation, one of the Leighton Moss female Marsh Harriers carries an antenna - I assume - as an aid to some tracking device fitted to the bird....Mmmmm! Later in the day another conversation overheard claimed that the Warton Crag Peregrine Falcons have had their nest predated by Ravens which it appears resulted in all the eggs taken....Mmmmm! nature, though the result is the same I'd much sooner the Ravens than some moron down a rope to the nest.

Hopefully some more interesting birding to come!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Out of Africa.


Three Vagrant Emperor Dragonflies have been seen at Denge Marsh in Kent today.

Anax ephippiger, macho..Massive migration wave in Portugal.
Male Vagrant Emperor . Albano Soares

The Vagrant Emperor (VE) is a well known migrant which occurs mainly in Africa and south-west Asia, it wanders to and fro to breed after rains, in some years migrations span across Europe and it is the only dragonfly ever recorded in Iceland, they can - after an invasion - reproduce in Central Europe and probably breeds in the Mediterranean basin.

Following three confirmed sightings in the UK last October, five have reached southwest England again this month, with one in Plymouth, Devon, another in Penryn, Cornwall, and three today in Kent . After the weather turned mild in the UK following the severe December we experienced, a VE was found in January in Pembrokeshire, followed by one in Cornwall in February. The appearance of the VE during our winter months instantly attracts attention simply because none of our native dragonflies are seen as flying adults then.

I've seen reports that large numbers of VE have been found in North Africa and the Middle East last winter and this presumably reflects a good breeding season further south in the preceding months. Some recent sightings of VE have included many thousands in southern Israel in March, such numbers are only rarely seen. In April very large numbers were reported moving northwards through Portugal with large numbers also seen in southern and central Spain. The southerly winds which have made for the excellent April weather in the UK have been the leading factor behind this movement. Sounds like keeping a beady eye out is a good idea.

On the subject of a warm spring, an early emergence of some resident dragon/damselflies has been observed and a Large Red Damselfly was seen in Cornwall at the end of March and a further eleven species have been reported on the wing in recent days.

But wait a minute this is supposed to be a bird/birding blog and is called Birds2blog, so to end with....

Coal Tit. Phillip Tomkinson 

This is a brilliant photograph of my favourite of the family, the Coal Tit with my thanks to PT.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Earlier than usual.


Nuthatch. Brian Rafferty

Yesterday was a little earlier than usual but I thought as the weather was holding good I'd give a look in on Holme Wood from Grisedale Bridge and down the Grisedale Valley. Last year on 11 May I found a male Pied Flycatcher in the wood, but - although this part of the wood is ideal for any number of woodland birds - I found it pretty quiet this time and didn't see/hear the Garden Warbler I expected to....as for the Wood Warbler, I didn't really expect but certainly lived in hope but to no avail.

Treecreeper. Phillip Tomkinson

In the two hours here I recorded just 13 species being, at least 18 Willow Warbler, 6 Chaffinch, 4 Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Pied Wagtail, a Nuthatch, surprisingly only one Robin, Coal Tit, and Wren, and much less surprising just one Grey Wagtail which was on the dam, a drake Mallard was the only bird on the reservoir, and a Buzzard overhead. I watched a Treecreeper collecting nesting material to return to the nest site several times.

Common Sandpiper. John Bateman

Against my better judgement I then headed for the Tower Lodge area but first called at Marshaw....OK so far, and was rewarded by 3 Common Sandpiper back on territory with some disagreement and eventual display between the three which I found interesting. But the observations I hoped for between Marshaw and Trough Bridge were dashed when I discovered in excess of twenty cars fully ladened with c.100 humans of all ages dotted throughout the area, all having rejected the call of Blackpool and putting paid to Grey Wagtails, Dippers, and Common Sandpipers having any chance to breed on the stream - which runs the entire length of Trough Bridge to Marshaw - with this kind of disturbance however innocent and unintentional it is.


An initial look at this photograph may have you wondering what it's all about, but if you look closely the rope is blue and is the kind of human fun the birds really cannot deal with, this particular type of 'Tarzan' rope is numerous in the Trough of Bowland in particular around the Tower Lodge area and the one illustrated here is actually above a Grey Wagtail nest site from where I watched a pair taking food to young last year....not this year I fear!

Thanks to BR/PT/JB for the photographs.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Normal Service....


....will be resumed tomorrow, but thats not guaranteed I can tell you. I also found another two excellent photographs to enhance the blog, the first of which is the Chiffchaff.

Chiffchaff. Warren Baker  

OK, I know no one will be remotely interested in what I've been up to the past couple of days, in any case 'whats this got to do with birds'.... But I must draw attention to a shop I visited in London on Monday and which I have decided - for my own reasons - not to name on Birds2blog but in which I was pretty shocked at discovering just two items on sale in this place before I made a rapid exit to escape the obscenities I found there. The first price-tag I looked at was attached to a 'small' silk scarf and was £450, now I'm probably loosing my ability to keep in touch with reality here but....do people really want to pay this much for a small scarf, well it seems some do, and one or two inside this shop obviously could, but bearing in mind the passion for birds my interests don't end with them but carry on through all wildlife and accompanying conservation and persecution issues and there was worse to come. Peering into an elaborate glass case I was horrified to see a handbag made from the skin of a Python priced at £2,100....I refuse to say more or make any other political comments on this matter and end my soapbox piece there.

I watched an unfortunate Kestrel in the lofty heights at Euston Station concourse today having obviously strayed in through some gap somewhere maybe never to find its way back out again, I drew a policeman's attention to the unfortunate creature but he was preoccupied and on the look out for other types of strays I'm afraid. 

And pic No 2....


Hopefully birding tomorrow....Thanks for the photographs WB/DC, much appreciated.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Things ain't....


....what they used to be.

In a hours time as I write I'll be aboard a train going to the capital for a couple of days which means I'm off the 'birding road' until Thursday at the earliest. OK, now I know this isn't life changing news for anyone out there other than me, more to the point who else cares, in this regard I'm not the happiest birder in the world I can tell you but....thats the way it is, birding and Birds2blog is no more for a few days and I'm now going to shut up. 

ARKive video - Spotted flycatcher hunting moth

On a brighter note when I return I'm looking forward to finding some of these little beauties, and I know several places where I will....when I do I'll let you know.

Pied Flycatcher. Mike Watson.

I also know a few places where I can find the Pied Flycatcher and I look forward to seeing my first this year soon. Mike Watson found this one singing in the Hodder Valley on 16 April, a day earlier than the mean date of arrival in Lancashire....nice one Mike, and many thanks for the photograph.

And finally....

Redstart Male
Redstart. Brian Rafferty

Probably the most colourful migrant I'll see this summer the brilliant male Redstart, hope you do too. Thanks for the photograph BR.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING....but if I'm not by Thursday the Easter weekend follows and by then depression will have really taken a hold. Total confidence will only come on Tuesday 26 April and that's eight days away....doesn't bear thinking about. 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The tale of the TMB!


Another interesting diversion from birds.

Emerging Tawny Mining Bee.

With KT having reported seeing a 'large' number of bees over a friends lawn she had visited the other day I had to go and investigate and soon discovered that KT had witnessed the recent emergence of a colony of Tawny Mining Bee (TMB) like the one in the photograph above leaving her nest.

Female Tawny Mining Bee.

The female TMB with her rich orange-red coat is unlikely to be mistaken for any other bee, she is a common visitor to currant and gooseberry flowers in April-June and frequently nests in the garden lawn where she throws up little volcano shaped mounds around her nest entrance which I found at this location soon after their emergence.

On the other hand....

Cuckoo Bee.

The 60 second video below is quite good and shows the Cuckoo Bee (CB) waiting for the TMB to wander off before entering it's nest to perform it's evil deed. You can initially just see the CB at the bottom of the frame.


The CB gets its name because - like their avian namesake - they are social parasites, they lay their eggs in the nests of various bumble-bees, which then rear the 'Cuckoo' grubs as their own, when the Cuckoo larva hatches they eat the host pollon ball and larva. There are six British species which - like the avian Cuckoo - sticks to a particular host species normally resembling it quite closely. A quite amazing characteristic of the female CB is the fact that it wakens from hibernation when the host nests are already well established making its parasitic behaviour much easier.         

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Friday Round.


Well here's a little beauty to brighten up and start any blog post the female Wheatear, usually everyone's first migrant.....I luv um!

Wheatear. Brian Rafferty

With JB/BT we got off to a good start by finding the Little Ringed Plover pair on Freeman's Pools which eventually gave us the evidence that they intend breeding here again this year by mating, great stuff, but these two will need all the luck they can get to overcome all manner of predation and disturbance natural or otherwise....here's hoping. Also of note a fine summer plumage Little Grebe and Willow Warbler in song. Along the path to Aldcliffe at least 2 Blackcap males and a female, and a 'few' Goldfinch in the area.

At Conder Green, 2 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, and Common Sandpiper. On the Lune Estuary 52 Black-tailed Godwit, c.300 Redshank, and a pair of Goosander to note. At Cockersands, the c.350 Bar-tailed Godwit which I saw on Tuesday were seen distant beyond Crook Farm, also c.80 Black-tailed Godwit with a similar number of 80 Redshank, 12 Eider off Plover Scar, about 6 Tree Sparrow were around Bank Houses, off Moss Lane the 2 Whooper Swans still here, and a good count of 80 Linnet were accompanied by a single female Brambling, a Peregrine Falcon over put several Lapwing into panic mode.

Off Gulf Lane the Little Owl was duly on view, and the farmers enemy in a newly sown field were at least 200 Wood Pigeon. On Pilling Marsh, c.600 Pink-footed Geese still around, and at Fluke Hall a Lesser Whitethroat skulked in the hedgerow. From Braides 2 Whooper Swans were with 42 Mute Swans.

And....

Kestrel. Phil Slade

The female Kestrel, another little beauty to end any blog post on....With photography well excecuted as always by BR/PS.   

Thursday, 14 April 2011

As I See It....


Having now done surveys of five former Stonechat strongholds in the LDBWS recording area in the past seven days including today's zero result, I now find the status of the species reversed by more than 10 years. From a personal point of view this is a great disappointment if only for the fact it would be pointless in putting any further effort into these areas for the rest of the year in pursuit of a bird no longer present, though I still have a few more locations to check....I'll labour my depressive state no further!


So there I was, having arrived on Rigg Lane this morning just in time for this grim heavy and damp mist - as viewed through the windscreen - which threatened me to abandon the idea of going up Clougha today, but wait....it's clearing, so off I went with determination to look primarily for Stonechats which to be honest as it turned out five hours later, I'd have had as good a chance of finding them in Sainsbury's car park.

By the time I got three quarters of the way up Clougha....


This had descended upon me and I was surrounded by it for a good hour until I was on the decent. OK so now you're thinking....well wait a minute, how does this fella reach the conclusion there's no Stonechats in conditions like this....trust me I know what I'm doing and I know what I'm talking about.

I heard the trusted song of at least 18 Willow Warblers, probably the most vocal bird on the planet, 3 Wheatears, saw 4 Buzzards which soared together, only 5 Red Grouse seen today, a solitary Raven, 10 Meadow Pipits a poor show for five hours, and noted singles of Robin and Wren. As I walked back along Rigg Lane to the motor 2 White Wagtails seen....an amazing 500 at Hoylake, Wirral on Saturday 9 April.

And by the way....


No more Morecambe 'bashing' if you don't mind please, quite a bit of effort has gone into making the place a little more presentable over the past few years and I reckon the promenade is as good as any other promenade in the country, it even has a little beach now and lots of people were taking advantage of some nice spring like weather there last Sunday as you can see in my pic above....Long Live Morecambe!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Not much to show....

....for my efforts today, but....

Skylark. David Cookson

I heard 3 Skylarks at Cockersands today including one singing its heart out off the headland in a bloody cold stiff westerly, also noted here on a circuit - much reduced in enthusiasm due to the aforementioned westerly and not producing very much - 10 Eider, a Wheatear, male Reed Bunting, a drake Pintail was the 'surprise of the day' in the ditch running between fields seen from the road past Bank Houses, what this bird was doing there is beyond me, 12 Brown Hares included four out on Plover Scar, and 2 Whooper Swans still with Mute Swans from Moss Lane.

On the almost deserted Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, c.350 Bar-tailed Godwit, and 3 Eider of note. On Conder Pool just one Little Ringed Plover on view whilst I was there, 2 Spotted Redshank will soon have completed their transformation to black, a Common Sandpiper, and 2 Sand Martin over. 

On a circuit of Aldcliffe, a Little Ringed Plover was on the flood whilst Freeman's Pools was virtually void of birds and no LRP's found. A Roe Deer was out on the marsh but soon realised inland provided better cover when it saw someone with a dog approaching, 2 Swallow over, and I noted an Orange Tip and 6 Small Tortoiseshell. I observed a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff in the space of a few minutes and was able to take note of one significant behavioural trait of the Chiffchaff which is the habit of downward tail-dipping while feeding, the Willow Warbler doesn't do any tail-dipping when feeding but usually with one dip after alighting. The Chiffchaff also bore a metal ring....no benefit to me or anyone else unless/until the bird is netted or found dead by somebody who realises that birds have rings on their legs for a reason!     

And finally....

Cormorant. Cliff Raby

I think we've all seen the Cormorant tussling with something it caught, often with something you feel it can't possibly swallow but always seems to eventually. I watched one recently for up to ten minutes with a flat fish measuring at least 15cm at it's widest point, I thought it would never succeeded in disposing of this catch....but did.

Thanks for the photographs DC/CR, much appreciated.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Another Disaster.


Northern Rockhopper Penguin. Copyright Angel Wanless.

If you thought the UK didn't have Penguins you'd be wrong. Nightingale Island is part of the Tristan da Cunha UK Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic, the island holds nearly half the world population of the Northern Rockhopper Penguin (NRP) which is currently involved in what could well turn out to be a twin environmental disaster.


The cargo vessel above has  recently been wrecked on this island causing serious pollution from the vessels 1,500 tonnes of fuel oil which has leaked out into the sea and surrounded Nightingale Island posing a major hazard to tens of thousands of pairs of the island's NRP, thousands have already come ashore. To bring about the 'twin' disaster is, if the vessel happens to be harbouring rats which get ashore to gain a foothold their impact could be the birth of a double disaster. 


All this is seen as a truly terrible situation, and one which conservationists appear to be able to do little about, it is impossible to comprehend how on earth a modern and fully laden cargo vessel could sail straight into an island, the consequences of which are already heading towards a disaster for wildlife not least of all one of the already most threatened species of penguin the globally endangered NRP. Nightingale Island and the adjacent Middle Island hold millions of nesting seabirds and the two together have 200,000 penguins which are heavily impacted by this leaking oil.

This shipwreck appears to be a consequence of human carelessness and ineptitude and you have to wonder....shouldn't the owners of this ship be made responsible for the payment of compensation for the impact of this disaster to both wildlife and the island as a whole.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!....

Hopefully tomorrow.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Hitting the Headlines.


This is certainly worth viewing.


I did a bit of digging into my records again today and found some of interest hitting the headlines from the past which I either found or observed, but first....

Ringed Plover. Cliff Raby

A brilliant photograph of the Ringed Plover coming in to land....great stuff.

1996.

Ferruginous Duck. Skerton Weir 23 April.
Wood Warbler. Gibson Wood 1 May. *
Dotterel. (13) Ward Stone 6 May.
Wood Sandpiper. Conder Green 5 August.
Painted Lady. Path to Eric Morecambe Hide at Leighton Moss 11 August. A three figure number in excess of 100.
Black-winged Pratincole. Carnforth Marsh 25 August.
Little Stint. (70) Eric Morecambe Complex 21 September. 130 here during Sept 24-28, an all time record.
Black Brant. Pilling Marsh 21 December. **

1997.  

American Wigeon. Heysham Harbour 25 January.
Rough-legged Buzzard. Whitendale 12 April.***
Glossy Ibis. (2) Pilling Marsh 23 April.
Sanderling. (10,000) Ainsdale Beach 24 May.****
Crossbill. (30) Langden Brook 28 June.
Lesser Yellowlegs. Eric Morecambe Complex 18 October 1995 and 13 September 1997.*****
Crossbill. (50) Helsington Barrows.

* The Wood Warbler returned to Gibson Wood for five consecutive years, but not since to my knowledge.

** The Black Brant - Eastern Siberian/North American - on Pilling Marsh from 17 December 1996 until 22 February 1997 at least, is the only Lancashire record for the species.

*** This - or another - Rough-legged Buzzard at Whitendale was observed on several occasions by many birders here between February 1996 until March 1998 at least, albeit with long periods of absence. 

**** I think it may be some time - if ever - before I see the amazing sight of 10,000 Sanderling on Ainsdale Beach - or anywhere else - again.

***** The Lesser Yellowlegs were both found on the Eric Morecambe Pool at Leighton Moss and is my best 'double' to date. 

And finally....

Red Kite. Chris Raby

Another of CR's brilliant photographs, this one of the Red Kite....Appreciate these Chris.

Friday, 8 April 2011

LRP on CP at last!


Little Ringed Plover. Phil Slade

Two Little Ringed Plovers finally submitted themselves to me today having been in hiding on Conder Pool since 28 March when I was kindly informed of their arrival here, they showed today along with the 'Conder Green Trio' the Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, and Common Sandpiper.

I had the good company of JB today and we decided to start with a visit to Aldcliffe where we found a pair of Little Ringed Plover on the island on Freeman's Pools with 3 Gadwall of note on here. I also heard my first Chiffchaff whilst in this area, and as we returned to Aldcliffe a male Wheatear was seen.

At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary I noted distantly c.450 Redshank, 355 Bar-tailed Godwit, and 70 Black-Tailed Godwit virtually all of which were now in their stunning breeding plumage, 2 Goosander also of note here. At Cockersands, 16 Eider and 8 Wigeon were off Plover Scar, and a pair of Grey Partridge in one of Abbey Farm fields, seen sadly as one of the many farmland birds hard to come by these days, a singing Skylark was a nice reminder of the  time of year. Coming away from Cockersands it was something of a surprise to find 2 Whooper Swan immatures with Mute Swans in a field off Moss Lane, perhaps these are the two seen regularly with an adult bird on Jeremy Lane for many a week but no adult to be seen today. 

From here on the birds became rather scarce but off the A588 at Sand Villa, another 7 Whooper Swans seen with 55 Mute Swans, and on Pilling Marsh - though you get the feeling they've all departed - c.550 Pink-footed Geese were still on here this afternoon. Returning to Lancaster via Gulf Lane the 2 Little Owls seen. I couldn't help but think whilst these two birds glared at us staring at them, they were probably having thoughts of....Oh no not those two idiots again!! 

Brown Hare. Phillip Tomkinson  

JB counted the 14 Brown Hares and Swallows seen on the day and his usual comprehensive records of them and all the other birds I omit on a regular basis are HERE

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Seven miles....seven hours.

And a couple more of those excellent 'mug shots' from PS the first of which is.....

Lesser Redpoll. Phil Slade

With regard to the weather it wasn't as good a day as I had hoped for for a visit to the hills, it was cloudy at times and in exposed places a stiff cold breeze, but I wanted to check out the early in the season Stonechat status in some of the Forest of Bowland uplands. It took me over five hours to find just one - apparently - lonely female. Given the majority of eggs for first clutches of Stonechat are at least starting to be laid in the second week of April I found no evidence to encourage anything other than at best a poor season, even Harrisend - where I found two pairs on 24 March - drew a blank. Seven miles and seven hours legwork to find a potential disaster in the making...not happy! 

On Harrisend it was good to soon hear the bubbling call of the Curlew one of the most evocative sounds of the upland summer, I also heard and had good views of one of my first 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Ravens gave an excellent ariel display, these birds appear to get a great deal of satisfaction out of their sky dancing antics which seems to represent nothing more than having fun, a Buzzard, Kestrel, 3 Red Grouse, and although I had no intention of counting them I noted at least 40 Meadow Pipits

On Hawthornthwaite from the Scorton Road access I noted 6 Sand Martins in the area, these birds are seen here every summer on every visit and some nest holes were found last year but no evidence of usage, 3 White Wagtails seen, c.20 Meadow Pipits, a Buzzard, and what I eventually identified as a female Merlin gave excellent views of some aerobatics including a couple of stoops and at one point climbing high to appear to be not much larger than a Swift....an amazing creature. Some activity noted around the small c.10 nests colony at Cam Brow. 

From the Hawthornthwaite track at Marshaw, another White Wagtail a 'classic' one this time, 3 Red Grouse, a Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 12 Meadow Pipits, and....alleluia....a female Stonechat distant and very easily could have been missed.

In a couple of weeks things will be looking up, and the area between Marshaw and beyond Trough Bridge is excellent for some of our summer visitors not least of all the Spotted Flycatcher - I counted eleven in the area one day in 2009 - and Redstart....plus the unexpected!

And finally the second of the 'mug shots' with many thanks to PS....

Wheatear. Phil Slade  

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Pied Flycatcher.




Can't wait until these little beauties return to their favoured haunts again this summer some of which I know well. Here are a few notes of interest about this species including a little bit of history.

Pied Flycatcher. Male
Male Pied Flycatcher. Brian Rafferty

The status of the Pied Flycatcher (PF) in Lancashire is that of an uncommon breeding bird, and is one that readily takes to the nest box, 54 pairs in the Lune Valley were recorded having done so in 2009. In the same year the earliest ever spring record in the county of Lancashire was that of a male found at Bowland Wild Boar Park, Chipping on 10 April 2009, the average first date being 17 April.

In South Lancashire in 1939 the first nest of a PF was found near Hoghton, it was built on a rocky ledge in a quarry and contained a clutch of four eggs, the result of this amazing record was a successful one. Prior to this discovery a nest had been found containing four eggs in a tree stump below Halton Hall near Lancaster overlooking the River Lune in May 1895, at the time this record appeared to be the most recent one of breeding outside The Lakes until the discovery of the next one at Hoghton in 1939. 

Female Pied Flycatcher
Female Pied Flycatcher. Brian Rafferty

The breeding territories of PF are soon abandoned after the young are out of the nest and family parties are notoriously difficult to detect as they feed and move about in the upper leaf canopy, although I myself was fortunate enough to find young being fed in this situation after following a pair a couple of years ago from their arrival right up to realising the young had fledged, this and another pair both used natural nest holes during the breeding season in 2010 at Abbeystead.

Worthy of a mention is the quite remarkable record of the movement of a PF ringed in the nest in the Lune Valley, North Lancashire in 1990, this bird was found the following year nesting in Germany.

Thanks for the brilliant photographs of two equally brilliant birds BR, one - or both - may well have been on Birds2blog before but....what the hell!!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Marsh Harrier.


Marsh Harrier. Gary Jones

Well we've had a post with this title before, and we've had this photograph before with which I 'played about with' at the time and asked Gary if it was OK to publish to which he agreed....Thanks for this again GJ hope you like seeing it once more on Birds2blog.

There are currently a couple of interesting things for me about the Marsh Harrier, firstly there are five - possibly six - at Leighton Moss, and secondly I was reminded about this interesting account just a few days ago, and which I thought would nicely fill a gap in my birding.

In 1942 it was discovered that a male Marsh Harrier (MH) was making food passes to two females in Norfolk which was subsequently claimed to be the first record of a polygamous male MH. On the subject of polygamy amongst 'harriers' evidence was gathered of the same trait in the Montague's Harrier which had nested in Norfolk for the first time since the floods of 1938, in this case the male was observed mating with two females both of which went on to build nests within 275m of each other.

The MH account goes on to find a disaster taking place when - during some hot summer weather - some children playing in a shallow dyke close to the nests were the innocent means of providing evidence of the MH's tendency to desert, one of the nests was in fact deserted and three chicks perished. The second nest wasn't entirely abandoned but from the day of the disturbance onwards neither of the parent birds fed or brooded the young. From here on an amazing story of human fostering unfolded when two members of a team already studying these birds took on the role of tearing the food to pieces to feed the chicks, though in the end only one bird from the initial five survived. It was truly amazing that throughout this human intervention both adult birds would drop an abundance of food down to the nest and occasionally actually land at the nest but never once made any attempt to feed the young.

This whole affair of the young MH being fed by human hands had a very rewarding conclusion when at 45 days old it took its first flight of a few metres, then three weeks later was observed flying strongly, at this point this bird was regarded to be - in all probability - the only MH chick in the British Isles to have attained adolescence in the breeding season of 1942.

Footnote's.

An analysis of food mainly dropped - but sometimes brought - to the nest by these two adult MH's over a 28 day period in June/July amounted to 71 birds of 7 species, and 35 mammals which consisted of, 15 Rabbits, 7 Field Voles, 7 Leverets, 5 Water Voles, and a young Rat.

It's rewarding to see my Flag Counter registering my 500th US visitor, the only problem being there are two new ones since my visit to Birds2blog yesterday, so I have to welcome two at once being one from Illinios and one from Kentucky....Great stuff!

Birds....they fascinate me in a thousand ways.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Lady of the Loch.


As usual 'other things' have taken over from my birding life again this weekend - unfortunately - but here's a Birds2blog gap filler that should interest. Its an up date on what is thought to be the oldest breeding female Osprey ever recorded in the UK. There is also a book which is featured on the same page which I'd bet is an excellent read, both of which you can catch up with HERE


Then if you really want to descend into the gloom of reality then you should find out why it's still legal to import ivory and Rhino horn into the UK. Not enjoyable reading....but this is the real world and some of it is HERE

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING....

But I won't until Monday and if the weather people have got it right I probably won't be birding then either.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Never a dull moment!


Ringed Plover. Geoff Gradwell

With no related pics of today's birding - other than they are birds - I decided to showcase a couple of GG's photographs.

My birding never sinks to 'dull' but now and again has a tendency to lean in that direction, but this is not with regard to the company I keep but with the birds I/we sometimes encounter, or more to the point don't encounter. Today was the Friday outing with JB/BT and....yes you guessed it we went directly to Aldcliffe where 4 White Wagtails stood out from the 2 Pied Wagtails on the flood, with 2 Meadow Pipits and 2 Reed Bunting also to note. Down at Freeman's Pools I could only find one Little Ringed Plover perfectly camouflaged on the shingle island, with a drake Gadwall and 2 Goldeneye to note, 2 Roe Deer also put in an appearance along the perimeter of the pool, and 2 Long-tailed Tits seen.

Viewing the marsh at high tide from the picnic area at Conder Green, c.200 Bar-tailed Godwit, at least 400 Redshank, a single Goldeneye on the River Lune, with 4 Red-breasted Merganser, a single Goosander, and I could see no more than 8 Wigeon here today. On Conder Pool, in truth I found nothing more than a Greenshank of note.

From Bodie Hill, 15 Eider seen. On Jeremy Lane 2 Whooper Swans - an adult and two immature - are still hanging on here. On the somewhat brief visit to Cockersands I recorded c.40 Golden Plover on the shingle at the Caravan Park end. Turning in to Crimbles Lane 2 Buzzard were together, and on Pilling Marsh a Little Egret, c.300 Pink-footed Geese was something of a pointless count as I saw several movements of birds already counted which came down to disappear below the seaward end of the marsh no doubt to join countless others already there out of view....And a good time was had by all!

And finally, well almost....

Great-spotted Woodpecker. Geoff Gradwell    

The thing I like about photographs like this one of the Great-spotted Woodpecker, is that the bird is seen in its natural environment and not like it was taken in a museum in a glass case....Thanks for these GG.

And finally....

Quite amazing that I 'stumbled upon' the following note which appears to confirm my claim in yesterdays post about the association between the Dartford Warbler and the Stonechat. Quote....On two occasions in November 1976 a Dartford Warbler (DW) was observed in company with a male Stonechat in a field of Red Clover overgrown with Sow-Thistles. The DW spent much time foraging amongst the thistles, if the Stonechat moved off while it was feeding the DW would perch on a thistle head, call and look around, apparently trying to locate the Stonechat. Once it had succeeded to do so the DW would fly directly to it and the two would perch conspicuously side by side on adjacent thistle heads, the DW would then resume feeding close to the Stonechat....unquote.

I personally think there is more to this account than meets the eye and reckon this skulking Dartford Warbler was using the vigilant Stonechat - which always has good views from its feeding perches, which is a wary bird and noisy when alarmed - as a look-out.

Birds fascinate me in a thousand ways!