BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE UPLANDS OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND

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ISLAND MERE LEIGHTON MOSS RSPB. PETE WOODRUFF.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Closing Down....

....with no sale I'm afraid....nothing to sell anyway!

This is going to be brief.

Having many visitors to Birds2blog which have built up over nearly three years - and lots of them on a daily basis - I reckon its only fair to make a blogging announcement that I'm 'closing down'. More to the point and a much more seriously drastic move on my part is that I'm taking a step out of birding altogether for a while....probably a long while.  The world wide web is by far too big a place to offer reasons, in any case it's all very personal and I'm not sharing any anyway. 

OK....now I realise nobody's life is going to be changed by all this, I'm just another birder who decided to have a go at keeping a blog and....surprise....surprise, I nearly made it to the three year birthday, who'da thought.

Nobody has got into and enjoyed birding more than me, the list of achievements is by far too long to put up here, but I did find one or two of my own 'goodies' along the way, got involved with a nest box scheme which is attracting Pied Flycatchers to an area where they were absent, but the list goes on. On the subject of PF's I found a 'first' breeding site this very year in the Trough of Bowland and eventually observed an adult feeding one of the young, not an easy event to catch up with I can assure you, I also established over a year or two that the Spotted Flycatcher is to be found in greater number in the same area of the Trough of Bowland than anywhere else in the LDBWS recording area....like I said the list is just too long to go on.

I also made very good friends with some very good birders who know how and where to look for birds, and have the knowledge to ID what they found when they did so, I maintained a respect and admired these people who know what real birding is about and who subscribed greatly to my learning curve.

A pity really as I have a library full of brilliant images of birds, collected from people who have kindly given me the permission and privilege of posting their work on Birds2blog for the pleasure of us all to see. I was going to put a couple of final ones in this post but decided that it would have looked like favouritism directed to just one of the many brilliant birder/photographers I've come to know over the years....so no pics.

I could go on, but I did say this was 'going to be brief'....I'D SOONER BE BIRDING !

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Friday Sortie.


Sparrowhawk. Warren Baker

With JB/BT yesterday we saw 3 Sparrowhawks with one over the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock being mobbed by a couple of Black-headed Gulls, one on Gulf Lane gliding below a hedge-line above a ditch, and another being mobbed by c.50 Meadow Pipits over Broadfleet, Pilling.

The day started by standing at the gate overlooking Aldcliffe Marsh, a Greenshank seen, Little Egret, and c.600 'geese' were estimated as 350 Canada Geese and 250 Greylag. At Conder Green stood on the old railway bridge I observed a personal first regarding numbers when a wisp of 35 Snipe flew off the marsh before soon returning back on to the banks of the River Lune. Seven Goosander were noted on the River Conder, and on Conder Pool 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 7 Little Grebe, and 32 Tufted Duck probably displaced from the canal basin at Glasson Dock. On the Lune Estuary I noted a Spotted Redshank, estimates of up to 5,000 Lapwing, 2,500 Golden Plover, 250 Redshank, 300 Curlew, and 150 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Off Bodie Hill another c.2,500 Lapwing, c.250 Golden Plover, and a Little Egret, 450 Wigeon were on the river. Driving not much more than a half mile from Bodie Hill to Jeremy Lane up to 20 Magpies were of note in this short distance. At Cockersands where I walked the headland from the lighthouse to the caravan park to meet up again with JB/BT, 5 Wheatear were seen and 22 Eider were off the abbey.  

Little Owls. Marc Heath

A detour along Gulf Lane gave us 2 Golden Plover looking quite lost stood in the centre of a large field of short grass, but we failed to find the resident Little Owls here. The photograph above of the two in Kent is my kind of picture in that it illustrates the birds in their natural surroundings....great stuff Marc.

Little Owl. Mike Watson

In this photograph the Little Owl shows how adept it is at catching insects like this unfortunate cricket....another great picture Mike.

On Pilling Marsh - from where we had seen large numbers flying inland as we drove towards here - I estimated at least 2,000 Pink-footed Geese still on the marsh when we arrived, 3 Little Egret were also seen. At Fluke Hall another Little Egret and a Wheatear seen.  

And finally....



I want to share these two photographs with you. They were taken yesterday on the shore at Fluke Hall and are two more of my - maybe soon to become famous - 'Human Remains' pictures illustrating the kind of people with who we have no choice but to share this fragile planet of ours.

Thanks to WB for the Sparrowhawk, and to MH/MW for the Little Owl photographs. As with all photographs on Birds2blog....EXCELLENT.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Doing it again!

A re-run of Tuesday, plus a trip 'down the road'....and a couple of  'Cookies Feeders'.

Swallows. David Cookson.

The first of which is a brilliant photograph of the young Swallow being fed by the parent bird and reminder that I saw a late one this afternoon at Cockersands. The second 'feeder pic' bears no relationship to today's birding but is another DC picture with the brilliant tag.

Great-spotted Woodpecker. David Cookson. 

The young GSW being fed by the parent bird, with thanks to DC for these two photographs. If it's excellent photographs you're after there's loads of 'em HERE   

I first checked out Conder Pool this morning but could only find 6 Little Grebe and nothing else of note. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, a Curlew Sandpiper was distant by the Conder Estuary, 3 Spotted Redshank, an adult and 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull, 4 Goosander and 8 Snipe were of note, and an increase in numbers of estimated 2,500 Golden Plover, and 150 Bar-tailed Godwit. From Jeremy Lane, a lengthy sift through another field full of several hundred Black-headed Gulls - and a farmer in a tractor pulling a slurry tank - were accompanied by 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls.

At Cockersands a Dark-bellied Brent Goose was off Plover Scar - which itself was disappointingly void of birds - was initially in the company of 9 Eider but took off to fly south, a Rock Pipit also soon took off west and high out to sea before doing a u-turn to fly high inland north east. Also of note, 4 Wheatear, a 'few' uncounted Tree Sparrow, just 8 Linnet in the set -aside with a single Greenfinch, and a lone Swallow heading south.

On Pilling Marsh c.4,500 Pink-footed Geese were accompanied by at least 7 Barnacle Geese, frustratingly distant with PFG with neck collars seen. A smart little female/juvenile Merlin moved from place to place on the marsh showing its characteristic threatening glare and bobbing head. At Fluke Hall I saw 2 Wheatear, 3 Little Egret, and another 30 Pink-footed Geese joined several hundred others flying inland off the marsh. On the day I counted 14 Red Admiral with probably at least the same number seen but unidentified at a distance.

And finally....











Yesterday this adult pale morph Pomerine Skua was 'hanging around' at Fleetwood Golf Course before being relocated on Cleveleys Beach. By all accounts it was an approachable individual on the beach. I have been given permission by the author to post these photograhs.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Moth Migration.


Crimson Speckled. Copyright John Wilson.

Following a recent spell of September warm weather, hundreds of rare moths have turned up in the UK resulting in the best migration for years, the largest influx of all has been that of the Flame Brocade which have flocked here in greater numbers than any for the past 130 years and experts believe it has now formed a colony at a site in the south of England. This moth is normally found in France and Spain, and there are usually only single figures each autumn in the UK but the discovery of the brilliant purplish-brown moth that has a distinct white wing flash has led to the suspicion that a colony is a possibility. The moth was resident in Sussex for at least 50 years from about the mid-19th century but then became a scarce migrant but has been making attempts to re-colonise probably as a result of more favourable weather conditions through climate change.

Vestal. Copyright Helen Bantock.  

Other moths drawn by the late summer weather have been the Death's-head Hawk-moth the largest moth to appear in Britain and has a wing span of 12 to 13cm, which has a skull like pattern on the thorax and has been seen in Dorset and Devon.  The beautiful Crimson Speckled pictured at the top, and the delicate Vestal moth above have also been seen in good numbers on the southwest and southeast coast and also in Gwynedd, both of these are normally found in the Mediterranean. The extremely rare tropical species Spoladea recurvalis has been recorded in the south, on the Isle of Man, in Ireland, and very close to 'home' in Cumbria.

Despite these excellent records from afar, it has been a relatively poor year for some of our rare native moth species, having struggled as a result of the record breaking dry spring.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Early Birds....


....well, early'ish, with one or two other interesting birds found. And a couple of excellent photographs if its plumage detail you're after.

Turnstone. Brian Rafferty.

One of my favourite waders the Turnstone showing some excellent plumage detail. At Cockersand today I counted with great difficulty amongst the stones on Plover Scar - try it sometime - at least 40 Turnstones. I was pushed for time today and noted nothing else of any significance on the scar other than a solitary Grey Plover with 13 Eider off here, but I did note 4 Wheatear along the headland which should be thinking of reading the script by now.

The circuit at Cockersands was rewarded by c.450 Wigeon at the caravan park end with 32 Pink-footed Geese over going south. From the road I counted at least 45 Tree Sparrow minus one taken out by a Sparrowhawk....no garden bird atrocities being committed by this female then. In a field containing an estimate of 3,500 Black-headed Gulls, an adult Mediterranean Gull, a Ruff, a solitary Black-tailed Godwit, and c.120 Curlew. Forty 'finches' in the set-aside were predominantly Linnet with only about 4 Greenfinch.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, a Curlew Sandpiper, 4 Spotted Redshank, and an adult Mediterranean Gull. I had little time left for any waders assessments but reckon c.650 Golden Plover are still present here. Three Goldeneye on Conder Pool surprised me being a little early in my records, though I'm sure not the earliest ever in the recording area, I counted 8 Little Grebe again on the pool today.

Dunlin. Brian Rafferty.

The Dunlin image also shows some good plumage detail, useful for the study of. With many thanks for todays photographs to Brian Rafferty 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Red-backed Shrike.


Red-backed Shrike. Marc Heath.

The Red-backed Shrike (RBS) once extinct in the UK has bred for the second year in succession on Dartmoor in Devon. Sadly there is a negative side to these brilliant events in that a 24 hour watch was needed to be set up to guard against egg thieves which still roam around the world. But hey....two breeding successes this year of these 'butcher' birds fledged a total of seven young and a hope now exists that the RBS will recolonise parts of the country once again.  

Red-backed Shrike. Marc Heath.

The RBS earned the tag of  'butcher bird' because of their habit of impaling some of their prey on thorns and wire fences as a larder for later eating. They are a small bird - not much bigger than a Bullfinch - and are accomplished hunters prone to catching small birds as well as small insects, lizard, mice, and vole. They winter in east Africa to move north to breed in Europe. The UK population declined in the 1930's, and it last bred in Devon in 1970, it was eventually lost as a breeder in this country in the 1990's. Egg collecting - illegal since the 1950's - played its part in accelerating that decline and remains a real threat to this day obviously including these breeding records in Devon, hence the massive 24 hour protection they needed and were given by the volunteers on Dartmoor....a big up to all volunteers in Devon regarding the RBS's in 2010 and 2011.

By the early 1950's Clifford Oakes recorded the RBS as 'formerly a regular nester', in fact to read Mitchell's earlier accounts of the species is like something out of another world, there appears no doubt that the species was quite numerous in the first half of the 19th century and beyond. Mitchell goes on to record ample evidence that it was a regular breeder and quotes Knott End - which is a few miles from my home in Lancaster - amongst other locations where it bred regularly. However, by the closing years of the 19th century the breeding sites had been forsaken and the species had become almost extinct even as a passage bird. Over a period of almost 30 years since 1909 Oakes mentioned only two records of the RBS in Lancashire, the last was of a bird reported near Chat Moss - now in Greater Manchester - in July 1938.

On a personal level the only RBS I ever caught up with was a 1st winter bird at/around Rossall School on the Fylde which I saw on Thursday 18 September 2008.

Thanks to 'Reculver Birder' Marc Heath for the excellent photographs of the juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Herne Bay in Kent recently.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Round the bay and back for tea!


Curlews. Pete Woodruff.

With JB/BT the visit to Aldcliffe paid off today with the reward of an adult Mediterranean Gull seen below Heaton Marsh at a location known by the 'Aldcliffe Brigade' as Gull Bank. Also noted here as viewed from the gate at Railway Crossing Lane was a - unsurprising these days - Little Egret, and estimates of 600 Lapwing and 220 Greylag. If its greater detail and more birds you're after, then JB has them as always on the LDBWS website HERE

At Conder Green the creeks were illuminated today with the presence of 2 Spotted Redshank and 'the' Common Sandpiper, 8 Little Grebe were on Conder Pool - looks more like a lake at the moment - and I noted 4 Swallows battling the wind south, 3 Red Admiral can't have felt anything like healthy today either.

At Glasson Dock an adult Mediterranean Gull wasn't all that easy at the distance, waders of note were c.650 Golden Plover, 220 Redshank, 160 Bar-tailed Godwit was a build up on recent numbers, 30 Dunlin, the Knot went uncounted when the entire bird population of the estuary birds went into the air en masse, and c.80 Pink-footed Geese went over south. On Gulf Lane the Little Owl was in its tree today following several visits void of seeing it.    

Brutus and friends. Pete Woodruff. 

From the A588 opposite Sand Villa 6 Whooper Swans were with a 'few' Mute Swans, and c.320 Curlew were at rest in a field off Backsands Lane where I took two of my 'classic photographs' of Brutus and his mates above, and the Curlews at the top of the page.

Barnacle Geese. Colin Bushell  

On Pilling Marsh by something of a coincidence I found the same number of 7 Barnacle Geese as CB had photographed on the Solway recently, they were with c.550 Pink-footed Geese, also noted was a Little Egret and a Peregrine Falcon. Three Swallows were flying around the Golden Ball in Pilling.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Sandhill Crane.


This post is in particular favour of visitors from the USA - of which I've currently had 728 - from where this bird 'possibly' originates though proof cannot ever be one hundred percent, but if it does then this is an epic journey for such a large bird and a remarkable achievement if it really has crossed the Atlantic.

Sandhill Crane. Mike Watson.

A Sandhill Crane is currently at Boyton Marshes in Suffolk. This same bird was first seen at Loch of Strathbeg in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 22 September and stayed there for four days, it was then seen in in flight over Northhumberland, North Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire, Norfolk, finally arriving in Suffolk on Sunday 2 October where it still remains.

 The Sandhill Crane (SC) breeds from north-east Siberia across North America and south into the prairies and the western Great Lakes. It winters in the southern USA and Mexico. The first Irish record of a SC is of a bird shot in Co Cork in 1905 and was the first to be reported from the Western Palearctic, but because it was thought to have escaped captivity wasn't admitted on to the Irish List until 1961, the combined British and Irish List added the bird 10 years later in 1971.

The first record for Britain was of a SC in 1981 Shetland, Fair Isle. But another 10 years later in 1991 was of a SC with a remarkable tale attached to it. This bird flew in off the sea near Sumburgh, Shetland in September and fed on potatoes nearby until it left 10 days later. It turned up in the Netherlands the following day having flown a little in excess of 500 miles, it left the Netherlands location 2 days later never to be seen again. 

Sandhill Crane. Mike Watson.

Thanks to Mike Watson who recently made the journey to Suffolk to see this Sandhill Crane and came home with an enjoyable account of his experience and some excellent images of the bird which I recommend you take a look at HERE  



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

....and another sting in the tail!


Common Sandpiper. David Cookson  

It was good that JB could get out with me today and making a start at Conder Green we soon found the Common Sandpiper in the creeks, surely now going to winter here. Conder Pool will now have be renamed Conder Lake which is what it now resembles until the level drops to create some edges to become more attractive to the birds. I'm going to become the self appointed management of this place if someone doesn't make a move before me by the start of 2012. I could only count 6 Little Grebe today along with 6 Teal, otherwise Conder Green is generally quiet of late.

On the Lune Estuary the green ringed adult Mediterranean Gull seen for the third time today but still not in range to take any readings. Also noted from an unimpressive wader presence, estimates of 2,000 Lapwing, 120 Redshank, a poor show of  just 25 Golden Plover, and 14 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Little Stint. Dave Appleton 

At Cockersands from the lighthouse car park, 2 Little Stint, 3 Grey Plover, c.30 Dunlin, 4 Turnstone, and c.120 Redshank, 13 Greenfinch were around the set-aside field which apparently isn't a set-aside field at all. On Hillam Lane a single Whooper Swan was with c.30 Mute Swans, and on Pilling Marsh a Barnacle Goose was again with c.2,000 Pink-footed Geese with 5 Little Egret noted.

Grey Plover. John Bateman.

The sting in the tail....

The Lesser Yellowlegs - present in the area for its tenth day - apparently put in a brief appearence in the creeks at Conder Green at 2.20pm today....well thats not on is it! 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Out....but nowt about!


Well on the face of it the title will sound just about as silly as it possibly could do, as we're currently surrounded by 'goodies' some of them 'Americans'. But I turned my nose up at 'em to give the rounds - Conder Green/Glasson Dock/Cockersands - a bit of a bashing to no avail....but no complaints.

Razorbill. Peter Guy.

I met PG at Glasson Dock this morning where I gave the Lune Estuary a pretty good grilling for almost two hours to find 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls, and noted c.250 Golden Plover as quite a reduction in number as of late, a remarkably small reeve Ruff, up to 40 Bar-tailed Godwit, and at least 6 Swallows south. Other waders here were rather unremarkable today. The juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs apparently showed at 2.00pm about two hours after I left....of course! 

Conder Green has been pretty quiet of late and today was no exception, but Conder Pool has seen an increase with 8 Little Grebe seen today, with the 2 Wigeon summer residents. The circuit was worth the effort if only to find the Common Sandpiper in the creeks. 

I gave Cockersands a pretty good shot from the lighthouse down to Bank End where you need to know - if you don't already - the sun glares into your face, the birds are all silhouettes, and just about the only ID you can achieve is that they vary in size. I saw 5 Wheatear along the length, and noted roosting on Plover Scar at high tide estimates of 650 Oystercatcher, 55 Ringed Plover, 40 Turnstone, 10 Dunlin, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, and a solitary Grey Plover - an uncommon bird here - was off the car park at the lighthouse.

Not the most exciting days birding of my life, but you've just got to get out there....do it....and be rewarded by degrees whilst not dwelling too much on finding the likes of Siberian Rubythroats and Audouin's Gulls. 

And finally....

The Fylde Coast. Peter Guy.

I'm always up for showcasing excellent photography - birds or not - and this is a dramatic one of the Fylde Coast at Blackpool, looks perfect for a sea-watching session to me. Thanks for the images PG much appreciated, and good to see you again today.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Monarch Butterfly.


'Sweet freedom whispered in my ear....you're a butterfly....and butterflies are free to fly, fly away, high away bye bye'....Someone Saved My Life Tonight. Elton John/Bernie Taupin 1975.

Monarch. Kenneth Dwain Harrelson.

In the past few weeks many rare vagrants from North America have been arriving in the UK mainly as a result of the hurricane season. But by way of a diversion from birds on Birds2blog, a rare butterfly from the other side of the Atlantic has been found on the south coast. The Monarch butterfly is a spectacular creature and was discovered in Dorset on Thursday 29 September, nobody will ever know whether this was the result of the late summer weather we are currently experiencing in the UK, or whether it is the result of the winds from America.

The majority of Monarch butterflies are to be found in North America, but small populations survive in Southern Spain and the Canary Islands. They migrate a truly amazing 3,000 and winter in the Mexican mountains. The last good Monarch year was in 1999 when 'scores' turned up in the UK, this butterfly is regarded as one of the natural wonders of the world, and I wouldn't dispute that. 

Gatekeeper. Steven Cheshire

As a result of the coldest summer for 18 years UK butterflies have suffered badly and the Common Blue ranks as the top loser in the worlds biggest count in 2011, but the Gatekeeper came out as the winner with 52,368 seen in this survey, and an interesting set of figures revealed that three times as many Small Tortoiseshell were recorded in Scotland than in England, though numbers generally stabilised this year after a recent severe decline. Another good result was that of the Red Admiral which enjoyed an excellent summer with numbers up by 98%.

Parts of the UK had a record breaking warm dry spring, but these conditions gave way to chilly temperatures and prolonged spells of rain, and the summer of 2011 became the coldest since 1993 resulting in butterflies being unable to feed, fly, find mates, or lay eggs throughout the bad weather.   

Painted Lady. Steven Cheshire

I saw the record of a Painted Lady butterfly on the LDBWS website recently and reckon this takes the total in our recording area in 2011 to nothing much more than can be counted on one hand and includes just one individual which I  found at Cockersands on Thursday 7 July.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!