BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE UPLANDS OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND

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PLOVER SCAR & COCKERSAND LIGHTHOUSE. PETE WOODRUFF.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Back With A Vengeance.

The swans are back with a vengeance at Cockersand, I've seen some distant in the area since 13 October, but yesterday the number had increased dramatically and I put in some effort to get nearer to them via a public path, I was able to count up to 340 Whooper Swan. These birds are here much earlier than last winter when they didn't arrive in such number until mid-January, with a peak on 3 March when I recorded up to 400 in this same area.

Another excellent count at Cockersand was of up to 120 Snipe in the air and over the Abbey Farm fields. Until I saw c.200 Snipe on a flood at Crimbles Lane on 30 August, and a similar number on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock on 31 October, these kind of numbers of Snipe were firsts for me, but there was Snipe in and coming up out of just about every field I looked at today at Cockersand.  

Also at Cockersand I had only my second decent count on the Lune Estuary this winter so far, when 352 Black-tailed Godwit were off Crook Farm, this follows my first count of 295 at Glasson Dock on 10 October. Also off Crook Farm, 550 Golden Plover and a single Bar-tailed Godwit.

Along the headland, 4 Pied Wagtail, and in the ditch 14 Teal and 4 Wigeon noted. In and around Bank Houses horse paddock, 9 Blackbird, 6 Greenfinch, 2 Dunnock, 2 Robin, and 2 Linnet.

On Conder Pool, 25 Lapwing, 20 Teal, 12 Wigeon, 8 Black-headed Gull3 Snipe, a single Curlew and Shelduck. Of the 11 Little Grebe seen, 2 on the pool, 2 in the creeks, and 7 in the Conder channel downstream from the iron bridge. Also in the creeks, the Common Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank.

From the coastal path to Glasson Dock, 2 Song Thrush were excellent, 2 Blackbird, three Great Tit, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Robin and a Chaffinch. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, 4 Red-breasted Merganser were all drakes, a lone Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit were all the rewards I gained from a visit at high tide, not recommended, and....where are all the Bar-tailed Godwit? 

Waxwing Paul Foster

The Waxwing are here....but they aint in Lancaster!

Nice one Paul, brilliant photograph, brilliant birds....Many Thanks.

Monday, 28 November 2016

There's Gold In Them Thar Hills.

A brilliant day on Saturday, and nothing was going to stop me from another visit to Birk Bank, and how pleased I ended up being about that, there was more gold to be found as I soon found out as I levelled up on the climb to the top of Birk Bank and found my first of 6 Stonechat, seen as three pairs bringing the total to seven wintering pairs in my last two days in Bowland. Fourteen Stonechat on winter territory does'nt sound like the record book is bursting at the seems with the species, until you look at the recent history book that is....This is looking good. 

Jack Snipe Marc Heath

Not many yards on after finding the first pair of Stonechat, a Jack Snipe waited until I almost stood on it before being flushed from it's secluded, well-vegetated soggy place, startling me and characteristically flying off silent, low and straight, and soon dropping back into cover. 

Also heading up to and on Birk Bank, 20 Red Grouse, 8 Long-tailed Tit, 5 Wren, 3 Blackbird, 3 Robin, 2 Goldcrest, single Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, and Buzzardthe only raptor of the four hours

Also as seen on my last visit here, a large flock of at least 250 Fieldfare were marauding between Rigg Lane and Birk Bank every time they came into view. Has this mass of winter thrushes really stayed in this area since I saw them here four weeks ago in October.    

Redwing Jan Larsson

I saw just one Redwing in a tree off Rigg Lane, where soon after a Green Woodpecker gave itself away with several strange 'half a yaffle' calls before being seen flying off.

All worthy of being called another good day in my book.

Thanks once again to Marc and Jan for their excellent images to add some sparkle and interest into Birds2blog.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Big Day....Follows Big Dip.

Hen Harrier Simon Hawtin

On Thursday I had the good fortune to witness the unexpected, one of the features of birding that keeps us all pressing on, though if I'm going to be honest this is one of the last places on earth I wanted to see a ringtail Hen Harrier

A perfect days birding for me, well it would be perfect wouldn't it 'cos I found 5 Stonechat on the west side of Hawthornthwaite, they were seen as 3 male and 2 female, I suspect three pairs wintering on here at the moment, though if there are, the third female escaped me....I'll be back to check this out early next year. Also on the fell, at least 17 Red Grouse, and a Kestrel perched in a tree at Cam Brow as I drove away from here.



Stonechat Martin Jump  

On the east side of Hawthornthwaite I found another pair of Stonechat wintering up here, with 6 Red Grouse, and a Wren seen, 4 Mistle Thrush were together at Marshaw.

I was running out of time and daylight, but before I did, a wander up the track by the plantation behind Tower Lodge proved fruitful, with a flock of at least 18 Long-tailed Tit accompanied by 8 Goldcrest, 2 Nuthatch, a Treecreeper, and a Coal Tit.

A rewarding visit to Bowland in my book, if I can get 7 Stonechat and a Hen Harrier as a massive bonus on the same day, that's good enough for me....A Big Day.

Thanks for the image of the Hen Harrier Simon, also thanks for the Stonechats Martin, and to Warren for the Brambling header....More excellent photographs.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Big Dip!

I got out and dusted off my twitching gear yesterday to eventually get off my arse to go see a Desert Wheatear, in and around the area since last Saturday when it was first found at Fairhaven Lake, Lytham St Annes. 

The decider for me to go was a pager message claiming the bird still there yesterday morning, but 20 minutes down the M6 and unknown to me with the pager in my pocket, the message was that the earlier one was erroneous. I spent a couple of hours parading along the beach, eventually alone with not another birder in sight, in pursuit of a bird which had clearly done a runner. 


Reed Bunting. Starr Hill. Pete Woodruff.

I had to settle for 4 Reed Bunting, one of which I got one of my half decent shots, and several Pied Wagtail, to leave here and call in at Fluke Hall on the way back to Lancaster.


Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Fluke Hall.  Pete Woodruff.

When I got out of the car at Fluke Hall, from the sea-wall a Pale Bellied Brent Goose was on the saltmarsh and was the only quality bird of the day. A saunter along the coastal path to Cockers Dyke had me seeing relatively few gulls, a good number of Dunlin feeding with fewer Redshank, 10 Goldfinch, a Little Egret, and a Wren disappearing down into the sea defence boulders.


 Juvenile Gannet. Cockersand. Pete Woodruff.

Yesterday I found this recently deceased juvenile Gannet on the shingle at Cockersand.


Although I've seen nothing official about the ID of the Fair Isle Siberian Stonechat present 16-30th October, the claim is that is has been proven as maurus on DNA evidence.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Stock Taking.

After a week out of birding, the plan was to do a decent stock take of the estuary birds today, but it soon went pear shaped when my enthusiasm waned, all down to getting a bit damp trailing around in the rain against my better judgement, cold with it too. I saw nothing unexpected, and didn't see many of the expected.

But I did note a modest 40 species in five soggy hours, and probably saw in excess of 10,000 birds on the trip, mainly waders, Redshank, Lapwing, Curlew, and Golden Plover, with Black-headed Gull well into four figures in the flooded fields around Cockersand, including a mix of 3,000 Lapwing and Golden Plover in the air when a Peregrine Falcon arrived on the scene, the bird eventually bombed overhead....magic. At least 50 Whooper Swan remain distant and inaccessible around Thursland Hill, a single Black-tailed Godwit was on Cockerham Sands. 

Sixteen Blackbird were seen as an interesting twelve together at Glasson Dock, and four at Cockersand. On the Lune Estuary, 25 Snipe, a 'few' Golden Plover, and a drake Goosander were to note, otherwise wader numbers were low. On Conder Pool, c.120 Mallard, 18 Wigeon, 12 Redshank roosting, 7 Little Grebe, and 2 Goosander. The River Conder was in spate with little in the creeks, but the Spotted Redshank seen with c.60 Teal. A small group of House Sparrows were accompanied by 2 Tree Sparrows, I don't recall ever seeing Tree Sparrows at Conder Green before, 4 Little Egret seen on the day. 

The also ran's as seen, and making up the forty....

Curlew
Carrion Crow
L.B.B.Gull
Starling
Cormorant
Common Gull
Canada Geese
Coot
Tufted Duck
Dunlin
Blue Tit 
Robin
Wren
Wood Pigeon
Mute Swan 
Magpie
Oystercatcher
Starling
Great Tit
Greenfinch
Linnet 
Grey Heron

WOT NO PIK'S.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Siberian Stonechat

Wirral birder Phil Woollen touched down on Fair Isle on 13 October for a birding trip with mates, and in no time at all they were watching a female Pine Bunting, the first of many a 'goodie' they saw during the trip. 

Hopes had been high that the week would produce a mega rarity, and sure enough on day four they received a message to say a Siberian Stonechat had been found, the claim being that it was a possible Stejnegers.

Being the Saxicola person that I am - somewhere between mad keen and a fanatic - my eyes lit up when I saw Phil's account and photographs of the bird on his blog. I contacted Phil and asked if I could copy some of his images onto Birds2blog, thankfully he agreed.
Possible Stejnegers Stonechat. Phil Woollen.


There are six subspecies of Siberian Stonechat over central and eastern Eurasia, east through Siberia to China and Japan, south to northern India, Pakistan and northern Indonesia.

The most distinct characteristic attributed to the Siberian Stonechat to allow them to be identified from the two races of European Stonechat, is the tone and extent of colour on the rump which, compared to the western races, is that they are always pale rufous-buff and totally unmarked, this is clearly illustrated in Phil Woollen's excellent in flight image above, the rump patch is also considerably larger than is seen in the two western races. In autumn and winter, the overall colour of Siberian Stonechat is also paler than that of the European Stonechat. 

Confusion sets in when, S.m Stejneger is very similar in plumage detail and size to S.m maura, so much so that many vagrants that arrive in western Europe in autumn are not specifically identified, and are recorded as S.m Maura/S.m Stejneger, as it is often impossible to separate them racially in the field. 

It's also interesting, that female and juvenile Siberian Stonechats both resemble female and juvenile Whinchat in face and body pattern, in this regard Phil's top image above clearly illustrates the resemblance....but then you see the rump!

The bird that Phil connected with was eventually caught/ringed and a feather sent for DNA analysis....It would be interesting to see what the result of this will be.

Thanks to Phil Woolen for the images including my new header, excellent and much appreciated Phil.   

St Peter's Ravens.


St Peter's Cathedral. Boyd Harris.

This is the same view of St Peter's Cathedral in Lancaster which I had as I walked up East Road on Wednesday. I saw 3 Raven around the cross on the steeple, one bird was perched on the very tip of the cross, whilst the other two were diving at the perched bird....Quite a spectacle.

Garden Birds.


Blackcap Simon Hawtin

KT reports a male Blackcap in our garden in my absence on Friday morning, an excellent sighting.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

I'nt Birdin Grate!

It was a decent day yesterday, some welcome sun and mild. It was no matter that Pilling Lane Ends produced nothing species or numbers out of the ordinary on a high tide of 10.39m at 11.18am.


Pintail. Martin Lofgren @ Wild Bird Gallery

None of the wildfowl numbers were particularly high, but it was good to see a number of Pintail with the Wigeon and Teal, 4 Great-crested Grebe and a drake Red-breasted Merganser were noted. At least 4 Rock Pipit were from a few sightings over an hour, Skylark seen, and several Snipe coming up off of the marsh as the tide raced in. A Merlin made a spectacle as it rocketed through, and a Peregrine Falcon was on a distant post. 


Twite. Pete Woodruff.

At Fluke Hall, 14 Twite with Tree Sparrow, with Skylark and Meadow Pipit seen, and a single GreenfinchOn the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, c.250 Golden Plover, c.200 Wigeon continue to be in low numbers on this section of the estuary so far this early winter, and 2 Great-crested Grebe noted again.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The News At Ten....

....well 9.15 actually.

A friend rang on Friday morning to say he'd like a spell of birding with me sometime, I told him I was actually about to set off, and if he wished he could join me.


Goosander. Jan Larsson. 

Thirty minutes later we were looking over Conder Pool to find 11 Goosanderan increase of one to last weeks all time best count of ten. Also on the pool, up to 150 Black-headed Gull and 21 Redshank noted, and of the 10 Little Grebe seen, three were in the creeks where the Spotted Redshank reigns, also the lone Black-tailed Godwit and another Goosander was seen, 12 Snipe were in flight over the marsh seen from the coastal path. An estimated 300 Dunlin and 95 Golden Plover were on the Lune Estuary, with 14 Snipe counted possibly of the twelve seen from the coastal path earlier.

I decided we'd go south down the A588 on a 'geese and swan' run, but we had to wait until leaving the area for home to eventually see a few hundred Pink-footed Geese honking their way overhead as vanguard to the Pilling Marsh overnight roost. But we did find 53 Whooper Swan, they were seen as 25 on Fluke Hall Lane, 13 in a field at Fluke Hall, 11 on Pilling Marsh, and 4 on Pilling Sands where several hundred Dunlin were scattered along the sands and feeding. Also on the sands, 2 Ruff  were probably of the four seen here on my visit last Wednesday 2 November, a Buzzard over was a notably dark individual.

In a damp field at Fluke Hall, a few pipit's flew up and away ahead of us, but at least 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark, and 3 Pied Wagtail seen, in the hedgerow, 4 Blackbird3 Dunnockand a Robin

I think Mike enjoyed the experience of a little birding on the Lune Estuary, said he was impressed with the two Ruff, telling me they were a first for him. I enjoyed seeing the Ruff again too....I always do.   

Thanks to Jan Larsson for the header and post images....Much appreciated Jan.

Friday, 11 November 2016

A Mooch Through The Park.

Autumn Leaves. Pete Woodruff.

A carpet of fallen autumn leaves make a colourful array in Williamson's Park where I went yesterday to see what birdlife I could find. A couple of hours mooch in the park, and an hour in Lancaster Cemetery produced 12 species, the two best counts being 24 Blackbird and 13 Magpie.

Williamson's Park. 

During the visit a few small birds rocketed into the trees to be lost forever, but I saw at least 16 Blackbird6 Magpie6 Robin, 3 Coal Tit, a Blue Tit, Great Tit, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch, and Goldcrest.

Lancaster Cemetery.

A Kestrel in flight with prey in it's talons, 11 Long-tailed Tit flew in procession across the gap between trees, 8 Blackbird, 7 Magpie, 2 Jay and 2 Blue Tit

Thursday, 10 November 2016

A Little Subdued!

The number was well down on the Lune Estuary with just 35 Snipe seen as the tide came in, and everything else was down too to be honest, with 4 Goosander and a drake Red-breasted Merganser my only other notes.

It was all a little subdued at Conder Green too, with 10 Little Grebe, seen as six on Conder Pool and four in the creeks, where the virtually predictable Spotted Redshank and lone Black-tailed Godwit were seen, 5 Snipe were on the stoney area seen from the A588.

On a less intense than usual circuit at Cockersand, 8 Snipe, a single Grey Plover, and 3 Stock Dove. Around the cover crops, 6 Greenfinch and 2 Linnet, with 4 Blackbird, 2 Tree Sparrow and a solitary Fieldfare around Bank House horse paddock, up to 300 Golden Plover scattered over two fields with Lapwing, Redshank and Curlew. On the shoreline on the Cocker Estuary, 21 Black-tailed Godwit.

The Lighthouse Job! 


Cockersand Lighthouse. Pete Woodruff.

I took this shot of the lighthouse over a month ago on 4 October, all the stonework down to the base has been dismantled and is now on Plover Scar in the picture below. Interestingly, the tower crane erected here at Cockersand, is the same one used for the refurbishment of Blackpool Tower.


Plover Scar cluttered with the stones from the damaged lighthouse, removed one by one, laid out, numbered, and with arrows pointing the direction. I reckon it's job done regarding the dismantling of these stones down the base of the lighthouse, which as I see it is sound. Looks like the next step is to replace the stones and restore this brilliant 170 year old light of the Lune Estuary to it's former glory.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Vikings Are Coming!

The Vikings have arrived at a site near you, has your name been added to the Hall of Fame yet! 


Camera's at the ready....Thanks Simon.

There is almost a mystical unpredictability about the movements of the Waxwing, with it's combination of beautiful plumage, confiding nature, and inextricable association with berries and human habitations, makes it a bird few people ever tire of seeing. 

A Winter Atlas once suggested winter invasions into Britain were believed to occur every 10 years, this was based on large invasions in 1937, 1946, and 1957, so in that regard the suggestion made sense, but these invasions have recently become more regular with five occurring in the 1990's alone.

There's some interesting data re Waxwings ringed in Britain showing the nomadic nature of the species in winter, of two birds ringed in Norfolk September 1974, one was recovered in Sweden the following December, whilst the other was east of Moscow in October 3 years later in 1977. A bird ringed in Poland was recovered 5,500 km away the following winter in eastern Siberia showing the extreme distances the Waxing is capable of travelling.

The origins of Waxwings visiting Britain remains uncertain, this coupled with the variable timing, numbers involved and onward movement during these invasions leaves it worthy of further study....The Migration Atlas.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Keeping Up The Pressure.

On Friday, determined as ever to keep up the birding pressure - particularly on the Lune Estuary - I found myself checking out Conder Green on the usual 'you never know' principal, to find in the creeks, the faithful Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper - I never tire of these you know - along with 'the' Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Snipe, and three of the 7 Little Grebe seen, the other four on Conder Pool where an all time best count was made of 10 Goosander.

Goldeneye on the Lune Estuary.


Goldeneye. Jan Larsson @ Vingspann

My first 4 Goldeneye of the winter were on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock where the only substantial counts of Goldeneye in the county of Lancashire were made last winter, my peak count being 56 on 26 January which were actually on the canal basin....Thanks to Jan Larsson for the photographs. 

Forty two Snipe and another lone Black-tailed Godwit were my only other notes on the Lune Estuary today, and off Bodie Hill, at least 1,000 Golden Plover were on Glasson Marsh.

The landward end of Plover Scar now holds just about all the stonework being dismantled from the lighthouse to the base, presumably reassembling is the next move. On the seaward end, c.450 Oystercatcher and 45 Turnstone. In the ditch north of Bank Houses, 60 Wigeon were grazing and 5 Teal seen as 31 October.

I saw a huge mixed mass of disturbed birds come up out of a field to the north of Bank End Farm including up to 2,000 Golden Plover and a large number of Lapwing

The Robin.


Robin. Peter Rhind.

On Saturday last I saw the report of a Robin sat on six eggs. The bird clearly as confused about the mild weather as we are, the Robin breeds from early March, though rarely, their nests can be found in any month of the year. Thanks for your excellent image of a Robin at Cockers Dyke Peter.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Time & Tide.


I'm pretty good at getting it wrong with my visits to the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, whilst I always know the tide times, I screw it up and arrive too late to find only a few waders hanging on to what little mud is left exposed. I managed another success in this regard on Wednesday, but I did have time to count 103 Snipe before they were pushed onto the marsh. These are amazing numbers of Snipe on the Lune Estuary at the moment, and I saw a report of 363 here on Sunday 30 October, surely an all time record.

At Conder Green, the faithful Spotted Redshank was in the creeks with the lone Black-tailed Godwit and up to 120 Teal, of the 14 Snipe seen here two were on Conder Pool, which is where six of the 8 Little Grebe were. Ten Long-tailed Tit were working their way through the bushes alongside the pool, with 2 Dunnock seen. 

On a run down the A588 to Pilling Lane Ends, 16 Whooper Swan were drifting on the incoming tide including two juvenile. Also notable from here, at least 1,500 Shelduck and 120 Pintailalthough I'm not aquainted with the kind of figures this area can produce these seem high counts. Four Red-breasted Merganser were also noted, with c.150 Pink-footed Geese dropping onto the marsh.



As I got onto the embankment at Fluke Hall I found 4 Ruff close in on the tideline, and a walk along the coastal path as the tide dropped, waders were thinly scattered and feeding along Pilling Marsh to Cockers Dyke, predominantly Dunlin and Redshank, with 3 Sanderling, 3 Grey Plover, 3 Golden Plover, a Sparrowhawk zipped through Cockers Dyke.

Thanks to Brian/Noushka for the Snipe/Ruff images in the post, and to Antonio for the Firecrest header image....I appreciate the permission to use these very much.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Pleasant Day, Pleasant Wander.


A pleasant day and a pleasant wander on Tuesday for a couple of hours of 'freedom to roam' in the afternoon, and yes please, we'll have another of those excellent chat photographs in the post to celebrate finding a smart male Stonechat as I walked along the embankment at Aldcliffe Marsh....brilliant bird, brilliant photograph, thanks Ana.

Freeman's Pools held an impressive up to 200 Wigeon and a Little Grebe to note. The circuit produced no other surprises and the flood was deserted, but 5 Robin, 2 Blackbird, 2 Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, and Chaffinch were all noted. Sixteen Greylag came down into a field, I saw only my second single Redwing, a Snipe and a Little Grebe were on the Wildfowlers Pool.

Common Darter 1 November. Pete Woodruff.


This Common Darter was on a fence at Freeman's Pools, one of the last dragonflies to be encountered in autumn, flying into November as this one was.


As I was leaving Aldcliffe at 4.40pm, three sources of energy were on display on the skyline....I know which one I prefer. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Little Stint....Big Lift.

Eider. Pete Woodruff.

This drake Eider squat alone on Plover Scar at high tide yesterday, is the first I've seen for over three months anywhere on the Lune Estuary between Glasson Dock and Bank End when I saw seven off Plover Scar on 22 July

It was more of the same - hard work - at Cockersand, with 57 waders on Plover Scar at high tide, 45 Turnstone, 8 Oystercatcher, and 4 Redshank. In a ditch to the north of Bank House Cottage, which the farmer succeeded in draining last year, but which - to the benefit of the wildfowl - is slowly flooding again, 5 Teal and 17 Wigeon grazing close by have pitched up there. Otherwise, 3 Robin and 2 Meadow Pipit were the only other birds I could muster.

The swans were around Thursland Hill again, even more difficult yesterday with poor visibility, but I reckon at least 12 Whooper Swan are with 72 Mute Swan as last Friday. Off Crook Farm, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit and a single Black-tailed Godwit noted, and as I drove away from here along Moss Lane, 2 Fieldfare and a single Redwing seen.

On the Lune Estuary, a Little Stint gave the day a big lift, it was with c.250 Dunlin and fewer Redshankat least 2,000 Lapwing, with Great-crested Grebe still around, and at least 200 Snipe here equalled the same amazing number in the flooded field at Crimbles on 31 August. 

At Conder Green, a Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper were on show again with 'the' lone Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Little Grebe were seen as six on Conder Pool and two in the creeks.

There's a good time coming....honest!