BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE UPLANDS OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND

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ALDCLIFFE MARSH HIGH TIDE. PETE WOODRUFF.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Crossbills and a 'chat'.


Crossbills. Brian Rafferty. 


Something of a coincidence, BR has had a day in Bowland this week and not only found Crossbills, but also took full advantage of doing so by achieving excellent photographs of the birds. This follows yesterdays post which referred to the 'unusual' bird at Helsington Barrows in February 1997 having been suggested through a photograph as being a possible 'xanthachroistic' male Crossbill by a reliable ornithologist whose knowledge on such matters I respect. I went on to claim never having found the meaning of the word, I should add including it not being in the Oxford Concise English Dictionary. In the comment section GG offered me an explanation which I intend looking into, thanks GG, meanwhile, I remain confused. Thanks to BR for the photographs.


Stonechat. Antonio Puigg.  

This is a photograph of an African Stonechat saxicola torquata which I found on Antonio's website. Having already been in touch with Antonio Puigg he agreed to allow this image on Birds2blog....Many thanks Antonio.


I don't usually allow Birds2blog to become too scientific as I feel much of it is beyond the interest of the average birder, and when I start to try and read about subjects like 'A Molecular Phylogeny of Stonechats', 'Sequence and Taxonomy', together with DNA samples, etc, etc, its time to give up, but by way of a change this is a interesting picture of a species I'm not acquainted with though the differences to the ones I am are subtle. To go deeper into confusion, as I see it there are 14 subspecies of the African Stonechat saxicola torquata and to try to study illustrations of the varying amounts of chestnut on the breast of males of the various subspecies - which is the main distinguishing criteria - may well be generally understandable but some of the subtleties would be beyond me in the field let alone in an illustration....I think I should leave it there, don't you!!  


And finally....


Siskin David Cookson


Spot the difference between DC's Siskin, and....

Serin. Antonio Puigg.

AP's Serin....not a lot! 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sorting out and looking back.



Six photographs to follow, non of which are competition quality but are essential to the post which relates to sorting out my records/photographs. All the photographs were taken by my old friend and mentor John Leedal, and the poor quality is down to how I have had to deal with them to get them on to Birds2blog. They are chosen at random to illustrate a hint of some quality birding JL and I experienced over many years.


I can't recall how many in total, perhaps they are all in this image which contains 8 Spotted Redshank on the Eric Morecambe complex at Leighton Moss on 10 October 1996. I'm not aware of the best ever count of this species here, but I certainly hadn't seen this number here before and not since. I appreciate you have to take my word that these birds are what I claim them to be as its not all that obvious in the picture....I assure you they are Spotted Redshanks.


Another 'goodie' on the Eric Morecambe pools was this Long-billed Dowitcher on 6 October 1998.


I remember all these bird observations in this post vividly - photographs have an amazing ability to give lasting memory recall - especially this one of the male Crossbill at Helsington Barrows in Cumbria on 28 February 1997. With no time to search my records for accuracy, this bird was one of a good number at this location which JL and I visited about five times during their stay of at least six weeks, to find an unusual male in that it was referred to - from a photograph - as ' a possible xanthachroistic male' in the Annual Birdline North West Report. We were intrigued by this bird which showed particularly yellow feathering around the underparts with a few hints of red, the mantle, back and upper wings were coloured as a female. If JL ever gave me a copy of the photograph of this 'odd' bird it appears to have been lost, if so, most unfortunate.


I clearly recall saying to JL, how unfortunate it was that the best shot he got of this bird had to have the empty can in the frame. This Marsh Sandpiper was at Seaforth in Liverpool on a date I cannot recall, but I'd say probably around 15 years ago in 1997.

    
The Snow Bunting was at Cockersands on 6 November 1999....


....and the Great Grey Shrike was at Marton Mere, Blackpool on 8 March 1998....Halcyon days, and theres more on the way for me too with just a couple more corners to turn yet!


Xanthachroistic....never did get my head round that one....anyone please!!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Pipits & Cuckoos.


Water Pipit. Copy Permitted.

Water Pipit. Copy Permitted.

The Water Pipits found on Conder Pool on Sunday 1 April are still being seen there today. The Water Pipit in Britain is known to use the same area for feeding over several weeks, it is also known to frequent the same areas each winter. That said Conder Green has never come into the reckoning before and this is a first record here for the species.

The two Water Pipits in the photographs above are the same two I saw on my 'pipit twitch' on Tuesday 3 April and show the difference in plumage detail which I mentioned at the time with the bottom bird in summer/near summer plumage.


As for the Cuckoos, there is some concern over three of the remaining four of the original five satellite tagged last summer in that there has been no transmission from Lyster since 1 April when he was in Ivory Coast, no news from Martin who was last heard from at Lorca in southern Spain, a poor signal was received from Kasper who is in the uplands of Algeria, and Chris is still in Italy where its assumed he will need to fuel up for several days for the last part of his journey from Italy  to Norfolk. It looks like Chris is going to be the first one 'home'....lets hope the other three follow him safely back.


Recovery Slip 1930.


A lot has been learnt about the Cuckoo since this project was launched, little was know about the birds once they left these shores for Africa prior to this project and the only UK-ringed Cuckoo ever found in Africa was 82 years ago in 1930. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Flycatchers are coming too.


Pied Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher. Brian Rafferty.

I note with much interest a Pied Flycatcher having been found at Barbondale today, an early record for our area where you would expect to see the species in maybe a weeks time especially if the weather stays anything like it is at the moment, maybe a couple of days earlier  in more favourable conditions, but 11 April is definitely an 'early bird' SEE HERE


My intentions are to visit Barbondale before the month is out, probably sometime in the last week of April, by then my hopes are pinned on finding a few more than one Pied Flycatcher. I also have hopes in finding more Stonechats here than was the case last year when - despite five visits - I found not a single bird in keeping with other places. 

BR's photograph of the Pied Flycatcher above is interesting in that, noting plumage detail it obviously isn't a mature bird but a first summer male.

One on a post
Spotted Flycatcher. Brian Rafferty.


I soon hope to be on the trail of the other 'flycatcher' the Spotted Flycatcher, but this bird isn't expected to appear in my records until maybe up to a month later than the Pied Flycatcher in early May. Amongst the many places I can find the Spotted Flycatcher I'll have a keen eye in the Marshaw/Tower Lodge/Trough Bridge area in Bowland to see if 2012 can uphold its record of being the best place to find the highest number of the species in the LDBWS recording area. I'm also reminded of finding my first record of breeding Pied Flycatcher in this area in 2011 including young being fed on 16 June, so this summer looks more exciting than ever for me. 


And talking of Barbondale and Bowland....


Dipper. David Cookson.

....here's another bird - the Dipper - I'll be seeing plenty of at both these locations.

Kestrel. David Cookson.

And yet another one, the KestrelThanks to BR for the excellent photographs of the 'flycatchers', and to DC for the Dipper and the Kestrel. 


On Sunday evening last I watched a Peregrine Falcon on and around the spire of St Peters Cathedral in Lancaster. I made an error made in my last post 'The Cuckoos are coming' when I claimed I hadn't seen a Cuckoo in 2011 until 2 June, in fact I heard one on Birk Bank on 28 April. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Cuckoos are coming.



I'm quite confident my man in Kent Warren Baker won't mind my using his header pic of the Cuckoo for the introduction to my post for today. I'm also quite confident if he does he'll tell me so and it will be removed. 

I cant wait - this year especially - to hear my first Cuckoo, last year it came very late but was a delight to have heard one on 2 June from Harrisend. By 'especially this year' its going to mean that much more having learnt a lot about the Cuckoo through its migration back to Africa via an intriguing project by the BTO who satellite tagged five Cuckoos last summer the results of which have been an insight into the strategy of this seriously declining species through its migratory journey to Africa....and now they're coming back.

If you haven't been keeping up to date with these amazing birds I can tell you that Chris is now in north-western Italy near the town of Sarzana, Martin is in Lorca southern Spain, Kasper is still in Algeria in the north-west Atlas Mountains, and Lyster -  who appears to be the cause of some concern having made no transmission since 1 April - was last heard of in Ivory Coast, Clement unfortunately is no more having last transmitted on 25 February in Cameroon and - as a result of his satellite tag giving a low body temperature reading - was eventually pronounced dead.


I can recommend some very interesting reading regarding what these five Cuckoos did since leaving these shores last summer, and what they have been up to since including the start of their return migration to the UK....The BTO website is HERE


And finally....


Stonechat.Martin Jump. 

Martin got a photograph of the only female Stonechat on Clougha this year according to my observations on Monday 26 March....


Meadow Pipit. Martin Jump.

....he also got an excellent one of the Meadow Pipit on Clougha too. 

Thanks for the photographs Martin, and for the info prior to my visit regarding the only pair of Stonechats we both found on our respective visits here. Please try to support all us 'little bloggers' HERE

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The end is nigh....



....but still not here just yet. Regarding my enforced retirement from birding the end is certainly nigh but not quite there yet but getting nearer by the week, day even.


For several years I've been keeping a record on 'Bird Behaviour and other oddities' which has drawn up quite a few interesting results. It's hard to decide the most interesting of these records but one or two come to mind which are stranger than most. I think a good example would have to be the Bar-tailed Godwit seen at Rossall Point on the Fylde Coast, this bird was in full summer plumage on 9 December 1995. The Bar-tailed Godwit at Rossall Point is in itself something of a record as it's a species rarely see at the location. 

Another record in the book was that of a Cuckoo which I observed at Barbondale on 14 June 1997 at close range through a telescope, the bird called repeatedly over a long period without opening its bill, this was a revelation to me, but it transpired this was a known fact and an interesting reply to the article - which was the subject in the 'Notes' section in British Birds - was from a correspondent who had spent several years in Pakistan, who had observed Common Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, and Lesser Cuckoo in the Himalayan foothills, the observations made here were that 'all three species did in fact call without opening the bill' but goes on to add ' while the gular pouch, or throat, ballooned out visibly with each call'....fascinating stuff. 

Another fascinating record was that of a female Ruddy Duck at Leighton Moss on 10 October 1998 which had four recently hatched chicks in her company....a late breeder or what!

On the subject of the Ruddy Duck (RD), it was in disbelief that I read the estimated RD population in the UK stood at 4,400 birds when a cull of this duck was called for to save the White-headed Duck (WHD) from extinction at the hands of the RD which was found guilty of hybridisation with the WHD in Spain. It now transpires that a total of almost 7,500 RD's have been killed, not to the credit of the 'counters' on that one then. I personally find it hard to believe the RSPB and WWT supported this cull in the first place - but we'll leave that one hanging there shall we - perhaps even worse is that the government have now put up almost a quarter of a million pounds - to follow on from the £5m already sunk into this appalling exercise - to 'dispose' of the remaining 100 RD's....in these austere times I think this is called getting your spending priorities in order.


So, time for the pics....


Avocet. Cliff Raby.  

We've not seen many CR images on Birds2blog for while and the one of the Avocets is an excellent example followed by....

Red Kite. Cliff Raby.      

Another excellent example of the Red Kite. You can find many more photographs HERE thanks for these Cliff.


Short-eared Owl. Brian Rafferty.

A bit of an altercation going on here between BR's brilliant image of the two Short-eared Owls.

Great-crested Grebe. Brian Rafferty.

And the Great-crested Grebe has just found it's next meal in this pic. Please take a look at BR's website, thanks for these Brian.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Water Twitchit!



With an hour to spare before I had to be back in Lancaster, and being kept up to date on 'whats about' I decided to engage in a bit of a twitch and headed off to Conder Green where the Water Pipits are still hanging about having been found on Conder Pool on Sunday. With news that two had been seen again this afternoon and with my subscriptions to Conder Green fully paid up....I was off.

It wasn't too long before a Water Pipit obliged not too distant and gave me some prolonged views before it disappeared, but a little later a second bird appeared and was distinctly different from the first in that this bird was developing its summer plumage and was beginning to look pale pink across the breast with virtually no streaking below, the first bird I saw had some streaking persisting on its breast and flanks. The Water Pipit I first picked up attracted my attention by the pale supercilium and was easily identifiable when compared to a Meadow Pipit which was close by, a quite different bird altogether it being browner and more stripy.

British Water Pipits - which are thought to originate from the mountain chains of southern Europe - aren't an easy bird to come by in our area, in the LDBWS Annual Report of 2010 the bird never got a mention, though an elusive single bird can often be seen around this time of year at Leighton Moss, the Water Pipit is otherwise referred to as scarce.

Also noted on Conder Pool during this welcome hour long 'twitch', 2 Spotted Redshank one of which was becoming decidedly black compared to the other which was less advanced but turning patchy dark on its underparts, a Common Sandpiper, and a male Reed Bunting.

And finally....



Here's another look at the stunning Red-winged Blackbird, this time an excellent video of the bird in song, with some other gems to choose from if you wish at the end of the film.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Nine for the price of one!



I've come up with another one of those lame excuses for a post on Birds2blog, but I can tell you this bloody nonsense of no birding and skeleton like blogging is all coming to an end in the coming weeks and whatever normality is to a birder I'm looking forward to it, theres a lot to do....watch this space.

I just had an enjoyable telephone conversation with a  birder I know well, and received an  enjoyable e-mail form a wildlife photographer I know in Seattle, Washington, USA. Both the conversation and the e-mail have resulted in photographs for the blog.

Water Pipit. Copy Permitted. 

In the first photograph we get nine Water Pipits for the price of one in this excellent montage. Conder Green has gained even more popularity since Water Pipits were found on Conder Pool on Sunday creating another first for this great little location. But what generated just as much interest for me was that 2 Little Ringed Plover were also discovered there on the same day, quite amazing really as they have arrived on this pool on or around the same date for the past three if not four years.

Red-winged Blackbird Tim Kuhn

In the second photograph - the result of the e-mail conversation - we have a stunning Red-winged Blackbird, and by the way, if you missed Tim's 'Snowy Owl' on Birds2blog treat yourself....Its Here.  


The range of the Red-winged Blackbird stretches from southern Alaska to the Yucatan Peninsula   in the south, to the western coast of California and Canada to the east coast of the continent. Claims have been made that it is the most abundant and well studied bird in North America, the male is all black with a red shoulder and yellow wing bar. Unfortunately  it carries with it the tag of being an agricultural pest in some areas and it has been know for the birds to have been the subject of attempts to control numbers by the use of pesticides a practice which is illegal. 


The bird has quite an impressive song too....