BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE UPLANDS OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND

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PLOVER SCAR & COCKERSAND LIGHTHOUSE. PETE WOODRUFF.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Big Dip!


I set off this morning in good 'birding' spirits with the intention of stepping outside my kind of birding, to spend the day looking for 'other peoples birds' with Glasson Dock, and Arnside the priorities, and a look in on the Eric Morecambe Complex at Leighton Moss to see if I could prove the 'regulars' simply weren't doing the job right. It all ended about seven hours later with a massive - in twitching jargon - 'dip', but I wouldn't have it any other way, I would'nt  be remotely interested in birds if they were always there to order....would you?

I was on the job at Glasson Dock and spent a full 2.5 hours watching the tide come in and push the birds ever closer until the mud was eventually covered and I left minus the Lesser Yellowlegs despite grilling c.200 Redshank coming and going - and others - until I was blue in the face just managing in between to log three adult Mediterranean Gulls, take note of c.650 Golden Plover and 45 Bar-tailed Godwit

Forty minutes later I'm in the Eric Morecambe hide to take note of 14 species including at least 500 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Greenshank, 2 Spotted Redshank, a Ruff, and not very common on the complex, a single Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, not everyone realises these are two of  'one or two' species of wader not all that regular/common on here. A solitary Pink-footed Goose was of note.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Brian Rafferty

Now I'm about to join some seasoned birders already in place when I arrive at Arnside as the tide ebbed, but despite allowing myself about one hour here I/we found no sign of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, nor....

Pectoral Sandpiper. Dave Appleton.

....any Pectoral Sandpipers and had to leave by 3.30pm only to see the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, two Pectoral Sandpipers, three Little Stints, and a Yellowlegs species reported there later....Oh Dear!!

Marsh Tit. Mike Watson

Three Little Egret were on the marsh, and a Marsh Tit was nice in the wooded area behind were I was stood on the embankment at Arnside, a very localised breeder in our area and mainly restricted to the Lune Valley, Silverdale/Arnside, and south-east Cumbria.

The sting in the tail....

The Lesser Yellowlegs was reported on the Lune Estuary, Glasson Dock at 6.10pm....Oh Dear again!! 

I met a nice couple in the Eric Morecambe hide today, but despite seeing them at Leighton Moss on and off for c.150 years I still don't know their name, but they know who they are and I know they look in on Birds2blog on a daily basis which I much appreciate.....good to have seen you again today 'nice couple'.

Thanks to BR/DA/MW for the photographs which are much appreciated. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Yesterday....

....all my troubles seemed so far away. Well they didn't really, but we'll leave that one there if you don't mind.

Common Lizard. Marc Heath

No appropriate 'birdie pics' again so a couple of non-birdies with thanks to Marc for the Common Lizard.

It was good to get out yesterday with JB and to work around the tide. We first did a trespass into Fylde territory where the tide had beaten us to it and was lapping against the sea-wall. But I did a wander NE along the esplanade and beyond to find 2 Mediterranean Gulls both of which were adult.

Pilling Marsh was almost under water though the just under 10m tide left some of it exposed. I thought a 'brush up' of counting skills might be useful and estimated 2,500 Pink-footed Geese, 1,000 Shelduck, 330 Curlew, 40 Lapwing, 30 Golden Plover, and 25 Redshank, all represented rather low figures in the wader category, 800 Teal and 35 Pintail. Two Peregrine Falcon put on a brief show of ariel skill, 7 Little Egret were together as were 7 Wheatear. Yesterdays 5 Whoooper Swans were in the field still with the Mute Swans opposite Sand Villa off the A588. A visit to Bank End to see just about everything in silhouette with a blinding sun in your face, produced 2 Little Egret and 3 Goosander of note. 

A visit to the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock didn't produce 'The American' but I note it was reported at 4.38pm after we had left, and again at 6.15, as I write there is no mention of the bird so far today Wednesday. I noted a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull and up to 650 Golden Plover. At Conder Green the number has now increased to 7 Little Grebe on Conder Pool where the bonus bird was another adult Mediterranean Gull with c.100 Black-headed Gulls, a Greenshank and 3 Goosander were in the creeks.

And finally....

Norwegian Maple Autumn Fire Wheel. Richard Shilling. 

A long overdue - on Birds2blog - Landart creation by the man who certainly can do it. If you don't already know about this artist can I tell you....what you see in the picture above is natural, nothing in any of his work is transported in his pocket to any of his chosen locations and is made up entirely of natural materials....the mind boggles at such creativity. Thanks Richard brilliant as ever.

Monday, 26 September 2011

And finally!



The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock in all its glory in glorious technicolour, and with a North American bird re-found here again this afternoon, it was my final trick of the day on my way back to Lancaster having had an excellent days birding. But this bird frustrated me for a while as I had briefly seen a wader with - and looking a little like - the Redshanks though definitely was not one. It decided to take to flight but thankfully just did a 'half moon' to return to the mud-bank behind one or two Redshanks, but it gave itself up eventually to be revealed as a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs, the bird showed well between the two white boats in the picture above and was still doing so when I left at 4.45pm. Other notes made here and the rest of the best today without too much waffle....Three adult Mediterranean Gull, a Ruff, Spotted Redshank, up to 750 Golden Plover, the Black-tailed Godwits and Bar-tailed Godwits didn't reach double figures, and a Little Egret seen. 

But the day had started at Fluke Hall where I found a Curlew Sandpiper roosting on an exposed mound of marsh at high tide with 120 Dunlin, 4 Sanderling, and a single Grey Plover. Walking west along the sea wall I saw 7 Wheatear, 2 Tree Sparrow, and 2 Little Egret. At Cockers Dyke I found another Curlew Sandpiper, noted 2 Ruff, 11 Golden Plover and a Little Egret.

On Pilling Marsh with the tide still high, a Barnacle Goose was with c.2,000 Pink-footed Geese as it had been last Friday, and I made estimates off the car park of at least 800 Teal, 200 Pintail, a 'few' Wigeon, 5 Red-breasted Merganser, and 6 Great-crested Grebe. On Backsands Lane a Jay was on the fence post. And pulling in opposite Sand Villa to check the twelve 'swans' in a field, I found 5 Whooper Swans with the Mute Swans.

At Cockersands, an adult Mediterranean Gull was in a field being cut with 'a few hundred' Black-headed Gulls. Off Plover Scar I counted up to 30 Eider, 9 Wigeon, and 5 Red-breasted Merganser. Wader estimates noted, 70 Ringed Plover, 50 Dunlin, and 8 Turnstone. The strangest sight of the entire day was that of 2 Teal roosting on Plover Scar....this is definitely a new one on me!

Please Note.

My e-mail system appears to be ill and I'm not receiving all the messages I expect to. Until my 'wizard' has the time to visit me I'm afraid you may have to continue thinking I'm ignoring you....I most certainly am not.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Lesser Yellowlegs.


At around 5.00pm yesterday the RBA pager alerted me to a bird which definitely made my eyes light up. I sent a text to a man I know well to enquire if the bird was 'his' - knowing all the time what the answer was going to be - to be told at precisely 5.04pm that 'yes it was'....I was on my way to Glasson Dock to have the bird pointed out to me immediately, though in the hour I spent there the views could never have been regarded as brilliant - in fact it eventually went out of view and has never been seen since - but I was looking at a bird which has become familiar to me, my fifth Lesser Yellowlegs, also noted on the visit were 3 Spotted Redshank.

Lesser Yellowlegs.Dave Appleton.

The Lesser Yellowlegs (LY) breeds in eastern Alaska and across much of Canada, some winter in southern USA and Central America, but the majority winter in the West Indies and South America. The species is an annual vagrant to Britain the most of which are juveniles which occur - as all mine have done - in September and October. The LY used to be a major rarity and the first Lancashire record didn't come until 1965 at Freckleton Sewage Farm. On a personal level my five LY's are....

   18 October 1995 Eric Morecambe complex Leighton Moss.
   13 September 1997 Eric Morecambe complex Leighton Moss.
* 18 October 1997 Banks Marsh
   12 September 2002 Eagland Hill, Fylde.
   24 September 2011 Lune Estuary, Glasson Dock.

* A bird was seen at Banks Marsh in October 1997 and was joined by a second one in December, but thats another story and an interesting one too....perhaps some other time.

Greater Yellowlegs. Dave Appleton.

For comparison the Greater Yellowlegs is in my opinion reminiscent of the Greenshank especially given poor views in poor light. The Lesser Yellowlegs is much more reminiscent of the juvenile Redshank given the same poor viewing circumstances. However, it is a slimmer more elegant bird than the Redshank, its longer neck and attenuated look are good pointers to ID, but its main features are its long ochre-yellow legs. But the ID of both LY and GY are examples of the kind of skills I personally admire and I have respect for the many birders I know with the ability to know what they're looking at, take it from me, only earlier this week a reported LY turned out to be a juvenile Redshank.

I'm grateful to Dave Appleton me to use his excellent images of both these birds.  

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Friday Jaunt.


I recently saw - on Birds2blog - my Fridays birding with JB/BT described as 'The Friday Jaunt'. Looking up the true definition of 'jaunt' I discover its a....'short journey for pleasure'....So I accept that this is as good a description as any other of what I experience each and every Friday with the said two birding friends of mine. As always JB's records will be far more comprehensive than mine that follow and are HERE

Climbing
Pink-footed Geese. Brian Rafferty

Another sign of the approaching winter was the sight of at least 2,000 Pink-footed Geese on Pilling Marsh this afternoon with which I found a single Barnacle Goose. The frustration of this welcome sight was that I saw at least three neck collars which were too distant to have any chance of reading. A Little Egret also seen here.

Barnacle Geese. Dave Appleton

But we had started about five hours earlier at Freeman's Pools where 6 Little Grebe were counted along with the exceptional number of 11 Grey Heron on the island all standing like hunched sentinels, a Greenshank was on Aldcliffe Marsh. Moving no further than the viewing platform at Conder Green I noted 'the' Common Sandpiper, a Spotted Redshank, and 5 Little Grebe.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock I thought the thing I should do first and foremost is to note the birds absent or in low number the most significant of which is the virtual total absence of Dunlin both here and at Cockersands, Curlew were no more than 40, the Redshank no more than 50. On the plus of note, at least 5,000 Lapwing, c.350 Golden Plover, and a Spotted Redshank.

Greenshank. Dave Appleton
   
At Cockersands where I walked the headland to meet BT/JB at the caravan park about twenty minutes later. No waders apparent which - given time - would have meant a search over Plover Scar to find any, I noted a Wheatear, a Little Egret, and a Sparrowhawk, with c.15 Greenfinch seen again as yesterday. A detour round Gulf Lane produced another Sparrowhawk 'gliding' at speed below a hedge.

So now we're back at the start of the post at Pilling Marsh to discover the aforementioned 'geese' and - unknown to JB and I - this was the termination point and we were on our way back to Lancaster....the 'short journey for pleasure' was over!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

On the hunt.


My target bird for today was a Baltimore Oriole at Conder Green, but it turned out to be just wishful thinking and it had already turned up a 'few' miles away on the Scillies.

Blue-naped Chlorophonia. Colin Bushell.

There are some amazing birds turning up here and there in the UK at the moment, but none anywhere near us up here 'int north and certainly not this colourful creature above....amazing, and what about the name.

Some 'hunting' in the area produced nothing significant, but I was urged on as ever by not knowing whats next.

Conder Green seems to have gone into deserted mode and despite a determined circuit I found just c.30 Goldfinch over the marsh, 5 Little Grebe and 2 Wigeon were on Conder Pool....this is becoming a little too repetitive for my liking, even the LG numbers have ceased to increase, but the Common Sandpiper showed and looks set to become the wintering bird here though still time for it to decide otherwise.

On the Lune Estuary, an adult Mediterranean Gull, distant Spotted Redshank, 18 Black-tailed Godwit, c.350 Golden Plover, and even the Lapwing number had dramatically collapsed since 5,000 on Tuesday to a mere 650 today, also 2 Little Egret seen.

The struggle continued at Cockersands where I thought I'd better do some counts to earn myself some credit and noted, c.500 Lapwing, 300 Redshank, 80 Ringed Plover, 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, no more than 6 Dunlin and none at Glasson Dock posed the question....where are they, 4 Wheatear, 15 Greenfinch, and at least 30 Meadow Pipit south.

And another 'Brazilian Beauty'....

Green-headed Tanager. Colin Bushell.

The Green-headed Tanager makes a couple of colourful little gems entered into CB's records book from his latest trip to Brazil. Thanks for these Colin, much appreciated....colour you could eat, and there are more HERE 

MEGA NEWS.

The latest from a long line of aforementioned amazing birds turning up here and there in the UK is a....Sandhill Crane in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

If at first you don't succeed!


After yesterdays miserable attempt at some birding - rain stopped play - I thought I'd better have another go at doing the rounds again today, a much better one than yesterday which reminds me, I must try to be a little more selective with the choice of wording in my posts as people are taking me too serious when I use words like 'depressing' 'gloom' and 'shouldn't I be doing something better with my life'....all a bit tongue in cheek if you ask me.

I just gave Conder Green a quick look over as I wanted to get a bit further down the road today, Conder Pool held just 5 Little Grebe and 2 Wigeon. At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary 3 Mediterranean Gull were all adult, wader numbers of note were 5,000 Lapwing and 550 Golden Plover at least, 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, c.25 Black-tailed Godwit, and a distant Spotted Redshank

Wigeon. Dave Appleton. 

Pintail. Dave Appleton.

At Cockersands, a stark reminder of the time of year when I found at least 500 Wigeon off Plover Scar with 40 Pintail and 7 Eider, also of note 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Little Egret, and 3 Wheatear. Thanks to Dave Appleton for the wildfowl images.

Ringed Plover. Brian Rafferty.

From Gulf Lane 3 Ringed Plover juveniles were alone in a flooded field at Cockerham Moss Edge. Thanks to Brian Rafferty for the excellent Rossall Point juvenile. At Fluke Hall I noted a Wheatear, Dunnock, and 2 Little Egret, a Peregrine Falcon flew above c.30 Lapwing in flight ignoring them and continued east, a Red Admiral was the only butterfly seen. A healthy walk from Fluke Hall to Cockers Dyke was well rewarded when I found 3 adult Mediterranean Gull present.

And finally....

Curlew/Snipe. Cliff Raby.

An excellent opportunistic photograph of a Curlew overshadowing the Snipe which was achieved from the Eric Morecambe Hide at Leighton Moss. Thanks to Cliff Raby for this, a much appreciated and perfect illustration/comparison of the two waders involved.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Washout....

....a couple of gloomy pics, and a stunning one of a bird.


The gloomy pics are both of the early autumn weather we're 'enjoying' in our area, this one was taken by me on Sunday 11 September when the gale wasn't quite as strong as it was the following two days. 


This one I took today at Cockersands early afternoon by which time I'd reached the 'shouldn't I be doing something more useful with my life' mode, this was a washout and I buggered off home. The view is of what you can see - through the mist and drizzle - of Sunderland Point from the Cockersands lighthouse. 

I'd started off in good spirits - which didn't last very long - at Conder Green where the only birds to find their way into the book were, 5 Little Grebe and 'the' 2 Wigeon on Conder Pool, with 35 Teal in the creeks. The circuit proved pretty worthless but at least 80 Goldfinch were of note and perhaps pointed towards the chance of c.300 as in September 2009, and c.200 in 2010.

At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary where today there was no chance of me becoming a dedicated counter for anybody. Something put panic into probably 9,000 birds, but despite a thorough grilling when they settled down again I noted just 3 Black-tailed Godwit, and the Golden Plovers didn't reach three figures here today. 

The day was illuminated by the sighting of an immature male Marsh Harrier which I saw from Moss Lane giving excellent views quartering the fields. From the lighthouse soon before the weather turned positively grim, some birding from the car produced 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, c.650 Redshank, 70 Dunlin and similar Ringed Plover....Repent the end is nigh!

And finally....

Grey Phalarope. Brian Rafferty  

You don't get the opportunity very often - if ever - to photograph at close range a bird like the Grey Phalarope was at Lytham St Anne's recently, but BR took full advantage of the situation to achieve a stunning image of this juvenile bird....Thanks for this once more Brian.

Scilly Update.

A Red-eyed Vireo was found at St Mary's here today. One of the commonest birds of deciduous woodlands of North America, it winters in South America, south to Argentina, and is the commonest North American passerine to reach Britain. 

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Scilly Goodies!


At least three 'goodies' have already turned up on the Scillies - are you going this year? - and I found videos of all three which are good, in particular the first which is an excellent one of the singing Northern Waterthrush. But if you've not the time or interest in all three I'd go for the Black And White Warbler an excellent film of this little beauty, though I'm both puzzled and disappointed at not being able to hear this bird singing it's head off even though there is a bird heard in the background....try it and see/hear for yourself.

The Northern Waterthrush breeds from Alaska across Canada to Nova Scotia, it winters from Florida, Cuba and Mexico south to Ecuador, Peru and northern Brazil....In any event, this bird is lost and had no intention of finding itself on the Scilly Isles where the first record of the species for Britain was found in September 1958 at St Agnes. 



Another North American bird, the Black-And-White Warbler winters south to northern South America. It is - as the video reveals - a quite simply unmistakable bird the first British record of which was of a bird found at Scalloway, Mainland Shetland in October 1936, this bird was dead, the first live bird found was at St Mary's, Isles of Scilly 40 years later in September 1975.

           

Yet another North American bird, the Solitary Sandpiper is one of the rarest North American waders in Britain, it breeds in the coniferous forest belt of northern North America and winters mostly in South America. The first British record of this species is of a bird some time prior to 1870 at Strathclyde, Lanarkshire. 


I'm off to the Scillies....are you cumin!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Sabine's Gull.


Juvenile Sabine's Gull. Copy Permitted.

The Sabine's Gull (SG) has a fragmented but circumpolar breeding range in subarctic regions and the high Arctic, it winters off the Pacific coast of South America and in the South Atlantic off southern Africa. 

A scare passage migrant to our area in Lancashire, a SG has spent 6 days at Heysham Harbour until last seen on Wednesday 14 September and 'entertained' all comers during its stay....including me. Unlike the one in the photograph above the Heysham bird was an adult which thankfully - to birders with an expertise to match mine - could be picked out from the attendant 'terns/gulls' at the power station outfalls even without the aid of optics on your nose-end such are its easy ID characteristics.

The numbers of SG seen in Britain are - to a large extent - dependant on the incidence of westerly gales in September. In recent years there have been two particularly large influxes, a severe gale in September 1983 produced in excess of 100 individuals in Cornwall, while a 'hurricane' in October 1987 produced c.250 of which up to 100 were seen inland mainly in south east England.

The first record for a SG in Britain is of a bird at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire in 1839. But in Ireland there is a record of an immature bird found in Belfast Bay, Antrim in September 1822. Oakes claimed the first Lancashire record of SG to have been a bird at Morecambe in October 1893. A more modern first county record is of a bird at Blackpool in September 1950.

With the popularity of sea-watching growing, by the 1970's sightings were becoming more frequent. In 1980 passage began in August, and in the period up to mid-October 9 singles were recorded from Heysham south to Liverpool, and in 1987 covering a similar span 15 birds included at least 6 at Heysham in September which constitutes the county's largest day-count. Most SG's seen in Lancashire are 'one day only' birds, but a few hang around for longer as this latest Heysham bird has shown, but this one didn't do so for as long as one there in 1988 which stayed for 15 days.

The Sabine's Gull I saw last Monday gave me the enjoyment and fascination I knew it would - if only I could find it - when I arrived at the harbour. Find it I did and went on to have excellent views of what I'd refer to as a brilliant creature which added perfectly to my still growing passion for the birds.

Try these for size! 

392+ Sabine's Gulls Bridges of Ross, Co. Clare
12 Buff-breasted Sandpipers Tacumshin, Co. Wexford

And....The 'Scilly Season' is under way with, Solitary Sandpiper and a Black and White Warbler already found.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Not a lot....


....to write home about!

But with BT, an autumn upland visit on a brilliant day weather-wise was an absolute must. However, as is often the case - especially so late in the year - there was nothing much to write home about, nor very much to write in my book, but it's essential to keep on plugging away in these areas on the principal....you never know what you're gonna discover whilst learning to accommodate nowt! 

Having no appropriate photographs associated with today's birding, I was unable to resist....

Grey Phalarope. David Cookson.

These images of the Grey Phalarope currently on Fairhaven Lake at St Annes. Thanks for these DC....brilliant is the word, and much appreciated.

A decision to go at least so far up the Hawthornthwaite track on the west side was a good decision if only to find a pair of Stonechat here. Not too surprised at that though, because although I'd found none up here on two visits - 27 January/7 April - I found 5 on 24 June, and found 9 six days later on 30 June, being a pair with 5 young, and a male and female, a pair found on 9 August were probably these two today. Also noted, 9 Red Grouse, at least 40 Meadow Pipit, and a Buzzard. Butterflies were, 3 Red Admiral, 2 Small Copper, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, and a Peacock.

A saunter up the track from Tower Lodge was a different story than that up the same track two weeks ago on 1 September when amongst other observations were 5 Spotted Flycatcher still here. Today produced 6 Coal Tit, 3 Goldcrest, a Nuthatch, a Robin, and a Blue Tit. On our way out of Lancaster we had called at Blea Tarn Reservoir to note, a Little Grebe, 2 Great-crested Grebe, at least 100 Lapwing, c.60 Mallard, 2 Cormorant, and 3 Linnet.

And finally....      

Greenshank. Phillip Tomkinson. 

Another brilliant image, this of the Greenshank and their reflections. Many thanks for this, and much appreciated PT 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Regua Project.


'For each hundred trees of time long gone, only five remain to bear witness and to accuse the centuries-old, relentless executioner. Only five, no more: the ghost of the proud primeval forest'....Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

Regua is hepling to protect one of the last stands of tropical rainforests in the severely depleted Atlantic Rainforest which needs as much help as it can get. Please take a look at the website below. 



And take a look at the video below showing one of many of the rich array and variation of birds to be found in the Atlantic Rainforest Mata Atlantica the Green-headed Tanager.



You can keep up to date on the travels - and see the pictures of some of the brilliant birds - of Colin Bushell who is currently leading a truly successful trip in this amazing area in Brazil HERE

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Sitting it out!

In brief....

It was a bit difficult today, for starters it was late when I got out birding, the tide was only a couple of hours from high and the waders 'disappeared', and there's a 'howler' still blowing, which reminds me....I was given some interesting statistics today when someone who had measured the wind speed yesterday, told me it had gusted several times at 65mph at Cockersands.

Gannet. David Cookson.

So I decided the best bet was to sit it out in the motor at Cockersands and put it to the sea-watching test, and see what  - if anything - happens. Well, I never really expected it to be the best sea watching location in the land but at least there was a little action and I ended up with 7 Gannets in two hours, including three lingering close in, three on the sea also close in, and a distant individual, also a Great Skua flying out of the bay. Also noted from the motor - not my kind of birding - during the watch, a Whimbrel, 2 Eider, and a Great-crested Grebe.  

With a few minutes to spare on the way home, I called in at Conder Green to see 2 Spotted Redshank both adults, and 2 Greenshank. On Conder Pool 5 Little Grebe, and 2 Wigeon drakes.

And being that seabirds are the topic....

Kittiwake. David Cookson.

Here's another of DC's excellent photographs, this of the Kittiwakes obviously not seeing eye to eye. If it's brilliant photographs you're after....they're all HERE 

Monday, 12 September 2011

The SG Has It!


Dusting it off and donning my twitchers hat I set off for Heysham Harbour to target a 'gull' and arrived at the power station outfalls to find - to my amazement - I was the only one on duty, well its 9.30am not 5.30am I thought to myself, but there I was....alone!

Sabine's Gull. Mike Watson.

It felt and sounded like a gale to me, whether or not it officially was I have no idea, but lets say it was blowing a howler. Making the best of views I had at the outfall through a telescope on the verge of a nervous breakdown I picked up an adult Little Gull, uncounted adult and juvenile Arctic Terns, and at least one Common Tern, but wait a minute, this isn't a bad start but....wheres the 'target bird'. OK, now I move on to the next outfall where there are more birds feeding - or at least looking for something to feed on  - and here it came into the scope and gave me excellent and often close views, a pretty smart bird this adult Sabine's Gull.

From here I walked cautiously - I'm in danger of being blown into the sea here you know - to the harbour wall to spend just a while looking out to sea to no avail, but noting at least 90 Turnstones taking shelter on the old wooden jetty. I retreated even more cautiously back along the sea wall to find a wind blow Wheatear opposite the caravan park. 

Sabine's Gull. Mike Watson.

My own personal opinion of the photograph of the Sabine's Gull above, is that it has the whole atmosphere of what I saw at Heysham Harbour today and not just a picture of a bird in an empty sky, this shot shows the bird passing the old wooden jetty which is slowly crumbling into the sea. A brilliant image with my thanks to Mike Watson for allowing it on Birds2blog. 

The day from here on turned out to be a little on the dull and unproductive side. At Conder Green I saw a Common Sandpiper on Conder Pool which brings me another day closer to suggesting this bird is going to be this years wintering individual at Conder Green. Also on the pool, 5 Little Grebe, and the two site faithful Wigeons, a Grey Plover was in the channel below the railway bridge, and c.70 Swallows were hawking over the marsh. On Glasson Marsh from Bodie Hill 2 Little Egret.

Apart from the fact it was now high tide at Cockersands, the wind made it almost impossible to scan the only land above water at what remained of Plover Scar, but I managed to pick out a Whimbrel, c.25 Turnstone, and a 'few' Ringed Plover, a single Eider was off here, and at least 20 Greenfinch were in what I insist on calling the 'setaside' by Lighthouse Cottage. 

And finally....

Lesser Yellowlegs/Pectoral Sandpipers. Colin Bushell.

Well, if this had been taken at Hesketh Out Marsh you'd have to call CB a little on the greedy side at finding these three together, but these are on the coast east of Rio de Janeiro and you can see more exciting stuff like this HERE....Thanks for this Colin, keep 'em cumin!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Delayed Action....


I did get out on Friday with BT but I've had some computer problems to deal with, the consequences of which has been that the post has been delayed. The computer is obviously feeling much better now though I must say I've received no e-mails in the past few days so still problems for my 'wizard' to attend to....But first a couple of birds which turned up on the Marine Lake at Fleetwood last week.

Manx Shearwater. Phil Slade  

Most surprising of the two has to be the Manx Shearwater which appears to be in good health if the photograph is anything to go by and I have no knowledge of it being otherwise.

Red-throated Diver. David Cookson

But not all that much less surprising this summer plumage Red-throated Diver which sadly is no more, though I have it on good authority that the bird appeared ill on its arrival on the lake. Thanks to PS/DC for the images, as ever much appreciated.

I was with BT on Friday and we first went to Knott End where the Sandwich Tern numbers don't appear to have exceeded the c.230 seen her earlier in the migration period on the early date of 29 July, today I found only two. Also of note were 2 Curlew Sandpiper juveniles, 2 Mediterranean Gull both of which were adult, and some uncounted - not much use to the recorders - SanderlingGrey Plover, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, and Dunlin.

I then decided to walk from Knott End to Fluke Hall to meet BT there a couple of hours later. At Cockers Dyke another adult Mediterranean Gull found, and noted 2 Bar-headed Geese over going west, c.3,200 Knot, c.50 Grey Plover some of which retained stunning summer plumage, and estimates of 250 Lapwing, 120 Sanderling, 100 Golden Plover, and similar Dunlin. Between the two locations I counted with caution at least 12 Wheatear which have the habit of flying in both directions causing duplicate counts by passing you in flight more than once, and a single Red Admiral seen. Calling in at Pilling Lane Ends gave us 3 Wheatear and a Little Egret.

I have to record....in all honesty the visit to Cockersands - being a location full of 'western promise' and occasionally excellent results - was too brief and pointless. Sorry BT no offence, but this place needs two hours absolute minimum, preferably three. The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock and Conder Green were also not visited today....So, some 'birding' mistakes made today in my opinion.    

And finally....

Yellow-headed Caracara. Colin Bushell

One of the many bird species CB will no doubt encounter on his current trip to Regua in Brazil. You can keep up to date with him HERE

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Curlew Sandpiper.


It's always good to find a Curlew Sandpiper (CS) and having seen one or two this autumn I was as always fascinated to think of the distance this bird had already flown to reach places like Glasson Dock - which is where I found my first this year - and the further distance it has to travel to reach its wintering grounds. 

Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper. Brian Rafferty 

Time will tell, but there appears to be an influx in the making this autumn with CS's seen around the country and sometimes in decent flocks. These influxes are related to population peaks and/or weather conditions encountered by the birds on migration between the distant parts of the high Arctic tundra of Siberia and wintering grounds mainly in Africa. The CS in spring is invariably seen in small numbers, I personally have never seen one at this time of the year, but the image above is of an adult seen by BR at Marshide 6 June and if this individual was intent on breeding it had a long flight ahead of it.

The adult male CS leaves the breeding grounds immediately after mating - no dedication to your partner there then - and most have commenced migration by mid-July, the female raises the young alone leaving the breeding grounds when they are independent, she then leaves to migrate mainly in early August to begin arriving in Britain by mainly late August with stragglers sometimes into October and even November.

In excess of 2,000 CS have been ringed in the Britain but only a mere fraction of no more than 40 have ever been recovered, but estimated figures of CS passing through the Sivash Gulf, Ukraine in autumn can reach a staggering 140,000. In years of large influxes flocks of up to 500 CS's have been recorded in Britain, the kind of numbers I'd be rubbing my eyes with if I came across them at Glasson Dock. My personal best count was one misty afternoon at Leighton Moss some years ago when I watched 12 come down on to the Allen Pool. Some other numbers I would like to have seen were those of 65 in September 1969, and 30 in September 1972, both recorded at Conder Green.

And finally....

Little Stint. David Cookson 

Here's another little gem to be on the look out for in the coming days/weeks. Many thanks to  BR/DC for the usual excellent images to brighten up Birds2blog. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Gone with the wind!


And some showers to dodge....

River Conder. Pete Woodruff.

When I rounded the corner by the Stork Hotel at 11 o'clock this morning I was more than a little surprised to find I thought I'd read the tide table wrong but no, this was the River Conder in spate the likes of which I've personally never quite seen before. The shot above of the river going under the A588 road bridge shows how it would look at the height of a c.8m tide, yet that had been nearly five hours earlier at just after 6.00am.

I never expected to find any birds in the creeks with this volume of water racing down, but my second surprise of the morning came just a few minutes after the first when  I found 5 Greenshank and 2 Spotted Redshank all feeding on the edge of this torrent of water. Also noted was a single Bar-tailed Godwit, on Conder Pool the number has increased to 5 Little Grebe on here, a Common Sandpiper had me wondering when to start thinking this may be this years wintering individual, and 3 Wigeon, c.40 Goldfinch were over by the old railway bridge.

Spot the Spotted. Pete Woodruff.

The Lune Estuary also gave the impression of high tide and amazed me at the volume of water racing down past Glasson Dock to the sea around the corner. Here the birds were very thin and no sign of the previously reported Curlew Sandpipers, but I noted on what little mud was above water c.350 Redshank, c.20 Dunlin, and 2 Goosander were distant dots. A return here two hours later gave me 2 Spotted Redshank one of which is in the pic above - it's the one in the centre behind the Lapwing - but I couldn't help thinking these could be the two earlier birds seen at Conder Green.

Juvenile Knot. Brian Rafferty  

At Cockersands where one or two gusts of wind were almost of blow you over force, through a very shaky telescope I eventually found 2 Curlew Sandpiper in company with c.65 Ringed Plover, 40 Dunlin, 6 Turnstone, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, and a juvenile Knot.

Mega News. Courtesy of RBA. 

Yelkouan Shearwater. Copyright  Dave Appleton 

Some recent 'Mega Birds' in the UK have been, a Yelkouan Shearwater past Cley, Norfolk 29 Aug, a Fea's Petrel past Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire 31 August, a Black-browed Albatross past Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, 1 September, and a Madeiran Petrel past Pendeen Watch, Cornwall 6 September....wonder where all these four birds are now.

Thanks to Dave Appleton for the brilliant photograph of the Yelkouan Shearwater.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Rare and Scarce.


Ruff. Phil Slade 

The status of many of the bird species in our area of Lancashire are recorded as rare or scarce, for example in the 2009 LDBWS Annual Report, of 121 species recorded 29 were 'rare' and 45 'scarce'....I've done a few notes on three of them, being in the Red/Amber/Green list respectively.

Counting 14 Ruff of Hillam Lane in a field by Norbreck Farm on Thursday 25 August was an all time best record for me, though the bird - which is a rare breeder in Lancashire - is a fairly common passage migrant and winter visitor, its a species you don't get many chances of seeing in such a number, but is a particular favourite wader of mine and I'm always pleased to find one or two around this time of the year and maybe during the winter period.

The Ribble Marshes and Marshside are the two best places to find Ruff at a lek, but in 2009 no lek was found anywhere within these areas and the year was regarded as an uneventful one with low numbers recorded and a decline in Lancashire reflecting the national trend which led to the Ruff being Red Listed as a Species of European Conservation Concern.

Purple Sandpiper. David Cookson 

The Purple Sandpiper is definitely a rare bird in winter in our recording area and is in the Amber List. I don't recall anywhere you'll see this species anywhere other than at Heysham, or the Stone Jetty area in Morecambe. In 2009 the Purple Sandpiper wasn't seen anywhere in Lancashire or on the Fylde coast more than four in number. Three pairs bred in the UK in 2003 and after a gap of six years two pairs were confirmed to have bred at a site in the Highlands of Scotland in 2009.

Little Ringed Plover. Simon Hawtin   

On the other hand, another favourite wader of mine - how many favourites do I have you might ask - is the Little Ringed Plover (LRP), not least of all because of its annual arrival on the Conder Pool, though proof of breeding year on year is another matter. The LRP has the welcomed distinction of being quite the opposite to the Ruff and better than the Purple Sandpiper in that it is a Green Listed Species, the number of confirmed and probable breeding pairs reached 600 in 2009 which included 21 pairs in Lancashire and North Merseyside even though its status is that of a scarce breeder of which the pair on Conder Pool successfully reared two young which were seen here until 21 August 2009....quite a different story to that of the LRP on Conder Pool in 2011 I may tell you. My personal best record of the LRP is that of an amazing 16 at Halforth on 11 July 2006 and an observation I'm not likely to forget in a hurry.

Thanks to PS/DC/SH for the much appreciated and excellent images.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Missing the Migrants.


On the JB/BT day yesterday (Friday) we missed the migrants - Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stint - on the Lune Estuary, but thanks to a very reliable and obliging contact at least I knew they were there and where.


With no appropriate pics again for today's post I thought I'd put up a couple of my miserable attempts at photographic skills with two 'Coming Soon' shots of the Pink-footed Geese.

And....


The Whooper Swans....both species will be in an area near you soon, even in maybe 5-6 weeks time.

Yes you guessed it, we started at Freeman's Pools where I noted up to 6 Little Grebe, as always JB will have comprehensively noted much more both here and elsewhere HERE. Conder Green - including Conder Pool - was a depressing deserted place today and we soon moved on to Glasson Dock where I left the finer details to JB but noted myself,  3 adult Mediterranean Gulls and c.110 Golden Plover. From Bodie Hill 2 Little Egret seen.

What turned out to be at the minimum 2,500 birds in a field off Moss Lane were estimated as 900 Black-headed Gull, 950 Lapwing, and 600 Golden Plover. At Cockersands on Plover Scar I made notes of 980 Oystercatcher, 55 Ringed Plover, 55 Dunlin, and 4 Turnstone, 21 Eider were off here, c.20 Goldfinch were seen near Bank Houses, and a Sparrowhawk dashed through, at least 22 Small Tortoiseshell were on nettles in pristine freshly emerged condition, with a Common Blue noted.

The routine tour along Gulf Lane produced a solitary Grey Partridge, and at Pilling Lane Ends where the 10m + tide was at its height there was little inspiration save a Little Egret, 5 Great-crested Grebe and 3 Red-breasted Merganser, a solitary Wall Brown and 2 Speckled Wood rounded the session off.

Note. 

On Thursday at Glasson Dock I observed an Oystercatcher with a bill deformity in that it was the same size and shape as that of a Curlew. I had thought at the time this creature was unable to preen in order to keep its plumage in good healthy condition, were the Curlew has the advantage of a long neck. However, the Oystercatcher definitely appeared generally uncomfortable about the predicament it was permanently in for life and I felt its chances of survival was limited....An amazing sight if unpleasant for the unfortunate bird.