Sunday, 9 August 2020

Bike & Bino's.

Come Friday, it will be 17 years since I found a nice little job on the Lune Estuary on 14 August 2003. It was a bike and bino's day - well there's a novelty - my car being out on hire. I decided to take the ex railway track, now the coastal path from Lancaster - Glasson Dock.

It had got to around 4.00pm when I arrived at the old iron bridge over the River Conder. No sooner had I come to a halt on the bike, when I glimpsed a distant bird over the River Lune at the edge of the salt marsh. Apart from being hampered with views directly into the sun, the bird was already appearing to be intent in doing a disappearing act, it was flying downstream and out of sight. By now the best it got was that I had seen a black Marsh Tern, but things were about to get much worse.

The down side, was that I had to return to Lancaster to keep an appointment, the up side was, after the appointment I could then collect the motor and arm myself with some optics and get myself back to the Lune Estuary and hopefully relocate the bird seen two hours earlier.

                    White-winged Black Tern 14 August 2003. Phillip Tomkinson. 

It was my lucky day, the light was more favourable and the bird was soon found much closer now and hawking for insects over the marsh. I had found two desperate hours ago, a moulting adult White-winged Black Tern.

The bird stayed in the area for 10 days, visiting Conder Pool, where it was seen bathing one day.

Conder Pool.

Avocet Conder Pool 7 August. Howard Stockdale.

It was good news when I heard via Howard Stockdale, the two Avocet had fledged at 36 days and were freely flying around, seen as the second successive breeding at Conder Pool. Thanks for the news and image Howard, much appreciated.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

The Common Terns Champion.

It's a year ago today 5 August, since I last saw Ian Pinkerton as he drove away from Conder Pool to go home to Wigan for the weekend with Yvonne. Ian asked if I would keep an eye on the Avocet family which he was hoping to see fledge soon, he made the comment that he hoped they would wait until his return to Conder Green the following weekend.

This is the last photograph Ian took of the Avocets. If I remember correctly, he was concerned that only three of the young with an adult were seen, but in fact all four fledged successfully on 11 August 2019. These are the young that a couple of weeks earlier at barely one week old, the adults took over the bank off Conder Pool, down the bank on the other side, across the busy B5290, and into the creeks....Truly amazing stuff.

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I remember the day Ian nearly exploded with excitement when I drew his attention to this adult and 3cy Mediterranean Gull arriving on Conder Pool.

But for the past 4 years Ian's main passion was with the Common Terns, though some of his last encounters with the Conder Pool birds verged on disastrous. On 22 July I received a message from Ian to say he had just watched a Black-headed Gull kill two of the young Common Tern. The gulls were breeding on the pontoon with the terns, not a compatible situation with three pairs of seabirds in such cramped conditions, war was always on the cards in these circumstances.

Though the birds looked wrecked, and the injuries looked likely to have been fatal, it transpired that thankfully Ian was wrong, and that the young had miraculously escaped with their lives.

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I made a short video when I found even more amazing three days later, these two birds had fledged and had flown onto a near island, with the injury still obvious.    

This is one of the same birds taken 12 August by Howard Stockdale. When you look at this photograph it's hard to believe barely three weeks earlier, a Black-headed Gull had made a near successful attempt to kill it. This Common Tern wasn't seen on Conder Pool again.

Ian spent hours at a time, days and weeks over the years, monitoring the terns on Conder Pool after he had given up his previous life as a golfer to become passionate about birds....'it's all your fault'....he repeatedly said to me, and I was delighted to be told that. Ian even managed to secure having a roof over the viewing platform at Conder Pool via negotiations and good efforts of the committee and birders at Fylde Bird Club.

Ian (Pinky) Pinkerton is deserving of this post which I have dedicated to his memory on this coming Monday 10 August....Conder Pool will never be the same again.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Can't Win'em All!

Limestone Pavement Gait Barrows. Pete Woodruff.

The landscape at Gait Barrows has been shaped over years, large areas of the reserve lies on Carboniferous limestone laid down millions of years ago. 

I have only ever once been to Gait Barrows, and that was probably up to 30 years ago and I know next to nothing about the place. My visit here on Friday turned out to have been little more than a recce than anything else, with little of the Flora and Fauna noted. The main purpose being to find the butterflies, perhaps Duke of Burgundy, High Brown Fritillary, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and others, but in particular the Brown Hairstreak which had been seen and photographed here in August 2015.

Brown Hairstreak back in Kent....I found this news on the internet yesterday.

The first Brown Hairstreak of the season - a good three weeks earlier than in 2019 - was seen at a location in Kent. A search of the bridleway in Keston during a brief spell of sunshine, encouraged a female into the warmth. Settled, the butterfly posed beautifully for 15 minutes or more and then was gone.

Ahhhh well....Can't Win'em All!

Brimstone on Betony. Pete Woodruff.

A Brimstone was butterfly of the day at Gait Barrows, with 15 Meadow Brown being the most abundant, Peacocka Speckled Woodand Comma. The only dragonfly seen on the day were 6 Brown Hawker. A female Blackcap was a nice alternative to the usual males being seen, and 2 Coal Tit, with a Buzzard and Sparrowhawk seen.

Scarlet Pimpernel. Pete Woodruff.

Though the Scarlet Pimpernel is known by many names including Shepherd's Weather Glass, and is widespread and common, it took my eye for its colour.

Peacock. Pete Woodruff.

This Peacock in pristine condition was on the Elecampane in the garden when I got home.

Found in Tomatoes on a vine, a product of Kent according to the package. I reckon a moth spinning a cocoon? 

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Little Brown Job!

I had two e-mails over the weekend, one included an image of a wader. I was amazed at how time flies when I discovered it was 6 years ago since I found a Wood Sandpiper on Conder Pool 10 August 2014.  

The second message was the reminder of a butterfly found 11 August 2018. The last time I had seen the author of the e-mail was at Glasson Dock when together we found 9 gulls all ringed, including 5 Common Gulls, a species I had never found ringed before. 

Brown Hairstreak at Gait Barrows.

Given that the Brown Hairstreak has a localised distribution almost entirely in Southern England, the South Midlands, and South Wales, with the nearest colonies in East Worcestershire some 150 miles away, the obvious question is; how did it get to Gait Barrows in Lancashire. There are three possible explanations: 1) This elusive and largely arboreal butterfly could have been ever present, but was simply overlooked or mistaken for the widespread Purple Hairstreak. 2) Brown Hairstreak eggs were inadvertently brought in by local landowners when Blackthorn from nurseries outside the area was planted in the vicinity. 3) An unauthorised release of a small number of adults, or late stage caterpillars. The latter option for the reappearance of Brown Hairstreak in North Lancashire was favoured by three experts in the field. 

Ref: Butterfly Conservation Lancashire Branch, Winnick, Dunbar, Sivell
I'm hoping to make a break to freedom tomorrow and I think I know where I'm going.

In the garden.

A Small White, Red Admiral, and Speckled Wood. It was also good to see a young Robin and Greenfinch in the garden. 

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Well At Least...

....I took three photographs of butterflies just about reaching my standard, including the well marked female Large White in our garden in the header pik.

But the weather on Friday wasn't quite as good as I had hoped for, and the hunt for dragonflies not a realistic prospect, though the weather did buck up later in the day. 

Ringlet Grisedale Bridge. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik

At Grisedale Bridge 2 Buzzard soared together overhead, and the Ringlet seen here has proved this year to be excellent for the species. I've had seven so far,  put in the shade with records of 22 and 50 by two observers in our area this month.

Stonechat Juvenile. Howard Stockdale. Clik the pik

A visit to Hawthornthwaite to find proof of breeding when I found a pair of Stonechat and at least one juvenile here, a good enough excuse for another picture on B2B thanks to Howard. Also noted, 11 Meadow Pipit, 2 Wren, and a Buzzard soaring.

Meadow Brown Female Hawthornthwaite. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik

Butterflies, a Meadow Brown and Peacock seen.

A lone Sand Martin seen over Catshaw Greave on Hawthornthwaite, appeared to indicate the colony had dispersed as was the case at Cam Brow. This seems an early date for the Sand Martin to desert two colonies, though at the latter site a family party were picnicking with kids in the stream building a dam below the nest holes!

A Meadow Brown in our garden was a first record here. 

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Bullseye Around Birk Bank.

An excellent day, when I had the company of Ian in the Birk Bank area on Tuesday, hitting the bullseye with three out of the four targets I had hoped for. A bit of an irony for me, as the one target missed was the Stonechat, but that was mainly because we didn't get on to the top of Birk Bank where they were guaranteed. 

I finally realised on Tuesday, the capacity for the car park at Rigg Lane is 40, and another 6 outside on the lane made 46 cars parked up to pay a visit to Clougha Pike....Lockdown unlocked!


We had only been out of the car a few minutes when the day got off to a good start, with the bonus of a Green Woodpecker we hadn't seen on the ground ahead took off to land in a tree, which in turn spooked a Jay that flew off. It's 3 years since my last Green Woodpecker which was at Latterbarrow in Cumbia.

                                         Black-tailed Skimmer Pete Woodruff Clik the pik

We made two visits to Birk Bank bog, the first showed us a lone male Black-tailed Skimmer, but the second visit at the end of the circuit was rewarded with 3 Keeled Skimmer including a pair coupled.

Purple Hairstreak Ian Stephenson Clik the pik

We set off on the circuit, to soon arrive at a group of Oak's, and eventually found 4 Purple Hairstreak, seen characteristically with wings closed showing the silvery-grey underside. A butterfly easily overlooked as the adult are often in the top of the canopy where they seek honeydew, they can usually be seen more often in the evening of a warm summer's day. 

A stake out by the ford over the stream that is the River Conder flowing out of Cragg Wood, was rewarded by brief views of a Migrant Hawker whizzing upstream, and later by a Golden-ringed Dragonfly flying downstream, both quickly disappearing out of sight. There was a substantial movement of hirundines seen over the fields off Littledale Road, up to 100 Swallow, a few House Martin and single Swift.

Bird sightings were sparse, but a Song Thrush which came to bathe in the ford by Cragg Wood, took top spot behind the woodpecker in my book. Otherwise, singles of Red Grouse, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, and Wren.

Butterflies seen, 6 Small Copper were over the bog, and on the circuit, 8 Meadow Brown, 3 Red Admiral, 3 Small Tortoiseshell, and a Speckled Wood.

Common Tern Juvenile Conder Pool 19 July Howard Stockdale Clik the pik  

Thanks to Howard Stockdale who continues to keep me posted re Conder Pool. The Avocet young in the header image are now three weeks old. 

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Thin End Of The Wedge!

I'm getting closer by the day to the thin end of the wedge with this lockdown thing. But not wanting to labour that one, onward christian soldiers an'all that....

Imm Female Common Darter. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik

Lancaster Cemetery on the city outskirts is by far the best and biggest for wildlife, a huge expanse with trees and bushes in its excellent natural layout. KT and myself went off to find 4 Ringlet there again, with the bonus of an immature female Common Darter on a gravestone, and 4 singing male Blackcap heard on the way round.

Soldier Beetle. Martin Jump. Clik the pik 

Returning from the cemetery via the lanes, around 20 Soldier Beetle were seen on Wild Carrot, they were all in pairs apparently doing what they do best. A Buzzard was soaring over Grab Lane and 11 Meadow Brown seen. 

Digging into a bit of recent history, the Ringlet seen on two recent visits to the cemetery, were in the same area that I had found an excellent bonus of 5 Bullfinch on 30 October 2014, a bird more noted for its presence in south-east Cumbria, though it is a regular autumn migrant seen at Heysham. I reckon I'd be hard pushed to find the last previous record of the Bullfinch in Lancaster Cemetery.

In the garden. 

We have visits to the feeding station through the night, but were delighted to see 2 Hedgehog on the lawn at 10.30pm on Thursday, also we now have 2 Frog mostly seen when they have heads above the water in the pond, and we've had a total of six young Blackbird this year, and a stunning male Greenfinch put in an appearance on the feeders yesterday.

Speckled Wood on Elecampane. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik 

A couple of butterflies seen in the garden this week, a Speckled Wood and Red Admiral.

Conder Pool Summary. 

Avocet Conder Pool 19 July. Howard Stockdale. Clik the pik 

Two young from three Avocet are now both ringed, with the third dead. The Common Tern runt is also confirmed dead.

I'm grateful to Howard for the info and images he sends me, and to Andrew who continues to keep me informed on Conder Pool and Stonechats in Bowland in particular. Also, thanks to Martin for his over-sexed Soldier Beetle image.

In the header image of the Small Tortoiseshell, I hadn't noticed the Mint moth until I got the picture onto my computer. 

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Lockdown Miscellany.

I was grateful to David for sending me the Bar-tailed Godwit image as my new header. 

David is a visitor to the area and wouldn't have realised at the time, the significance of the Bar-tailed Godwit at Conder Green, seen as an unprecedented number and a first record summering on Conder Pool. All roosting non-breeders, but one in the centre in breeding plumage adds a little more interest. 

Despite the Bar-tailed Godwit being recorded as a species summering in small numbers around the Lune Estuary, the monthly WeBS counts in 2018 didn't reflect this when, just two birds aside, none were recorded on the Lune Estuary for four months May - September.


A walk with KT through Williamson Park and on to Lancaster Cemetery wasn't without a little interest. 

Little Grebe.

On the old Moor Hospital reservoir at Fenham Carr, it was good to find 7 Little Grebe, seen as two adult and five young, with one adult and three young being fed 100m apart from the other adult feeding two young on the opposite side. These are almost certainly the nesting pair seen on 31 March.

In a bit of reading up, I found only two ringing recoveries, indicating that the Lancashire Little Grebe might be a regular long-distance migrant. One ringed in Essex in 1956, was found dead in Liverpool 2 years later in 1958, but more interesting was of a bird ringed in Latvia 1983, and was found dead at Pilling on the Fylde coast 2 years later in 1985.


In Lancaster Cemetery, 6 Ringlet seen in the grasses and feeding at bramble blossom. The Ringlets status is common, but despite increases in distribution and population, not known as abundant in Lancashire. 

Ringlet Aldcliffe 10 July 2017. Pete Woodruff.

I only have 5 Ringlet records to my name, three of which were in Cumbria. The two records found in our recording area are very interesting in that the single one I found at Aldcliffe on 10 July 2017, resulted in my being unsuccessful in tracing the previous record of this butterfly at Aldcliffe. My second record was of 52 Ringlet seen at Heysham NR on 4 July 2019.

News From Conder Pool.

Arctic Tern Conder Pool 10 July. Howard Stockdale.

Howard found this 1st summer Arctic Tern on Conder Pool on Friday, seen as another excellent first record for the site....Did the 2cy Arctic Tern at Heysham since Thursday, have a day-trip to the Lune Estuary on Friday?

Howard also observed the three ringed juvenile Common Tern developing their flying skills on Friday, and the three young week old Avocet are still doing well.

And Finally....

Little Owl. Green Lane 10 July. SD515659    

Grab shot of a Little Owl on Green Lane before flying off.

Thanks to all who contributed to this post, much appreciated. 

Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Keeled Skimmer.

Keeled Skimmer populations are found in North Wales and Cumbria, so it is a little surprising that the species wasn't recorded earlier than it was in Lancashire, being a county well-endowed with suitable habitat for the Keeled Skimmer which is a species of bogs and mires in western areas where it is found on moorland heaths and bogs, often in areas frequented by the Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

The first Keeled Skimmer in Lancashire was found and photographed by Allen Holmes 7 years ago at Grindleton Forest Pond on 8 August 2013, unfortunately it was a one day wonder and had disappeared the following day. The second Lancashire record came from Birkdale Dunes, it was a male found by Pete Kinsella on 3 July 2015.

Keeled Skimmer At Birk Bank Bog.

I've found the Keeled Skimmer at Birk Bank, Quernmore, on the outskirts of Lancaster for four years following my first here in 2016, but the first record at Birk Bank, was of two - possibly three - male Keeled Skimmer seen on the bog by Steve Graham on 12 August 2015. 

Keeled Skimmer Birk Bank 22 July 2016 Pete Woodruff Clik the piks

The next and fourth Lancashire record of Keeled Skimmer was of a male seen at Birk Bank on 22 July 2016 (PW), followed by the species seen again at Birk Bank by Steve Graham on 6 July 2017, then three males there six days later on 12 July (PW).

Keeled Skimmer Pairing Birk Bank Bog 22 June 2018. Pete Woodruff.

Five Keeled Skimmer were found on 22 June 2018 (PW) and included a pair seen pairing. A pair were seen at Birk Bank Bog on 5 July 2019, with a male seen here on 15 July, followed by a pair 23 July (PW).

 Keeled Skimmer/Large Red Damselfly Birk Bank Bog 17 June 2020. Pete Woodruff.

This year, there was a bit of dragonfly magic for me when I visited Birk Bank on 17 June to find my first Keeled Skimmer of 2020, a male with a female seen later ovipositing. 

Southern Migrant Hawker Female Marc Heath 

Dragonflies In 2015.

More remarkable than the Lancashire Keeled Skimmer records, was that of a female Southern Migrant Hawker, found at Birkdale by Chris Storey on 10 July 2015. 

This was another first record for Lancashire and North Merseyside, and at the time believed to be the most northerly British record of the species. Even more remarkable, was that it was a female, made remarkable because it is almost always the male of all species of dragonflies that are prone to wander.

Many thanks to Martin Jump for his excellent header image of the Tawny Owl which was achieved following an invitation to a private photo shoot. Thanks also to Marc Heath for his consistently excellent images. 

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Langden Brook.

The trek up Langden Brook during the week, didn't have the result I was hoping for, if only for the fact I only got to the half way point when I should have then gone on to the upper track via Holdren Castle, but had to do a 'U' turn to return via the same lower track.

Langden Valley From Holdren Castle. Pete Woodruff. 

I noted 19 species including, a Nuthatch in the trees which line the road at the start of the walk, 2 Swallow were hawking over the field here, something wrong with the Swallow this year, I've personally seen little more than a double figure to date over five visits to Bowland. 

Soon out on to the Langden track, 4 Stonechat were seen as a male and three juvenile, also a Common Sandpiper was on the brook with 2 Grey Wagtail seen, 4 singing male Blackcap and good number of Willow Warbler in song. I only managed to see a disappointing 3 Meadow Pipit, and 3 Raven were together soaring high overhead. Butterflies were, 6 Small Heath, 3 Small Tortoiseshell, and a Red Admiral was on a young Oak.

Common Green Grasshopper. Pete Woodruff.

Both insects were green, a Common Green Grasshopper....

Green Tiger Beetle. Pete Woodruff.

....and a Green Tiger Beetle, a vicious little winged predator which can move at a speed of up to 60cm per second on bare ground, they build a burrow and ambush ground-living insects such as ants.

The Sykes Farm House Martins.

I called at Sykes Farm on my way to Langden Brook, to confirm if I still had previously granted permission to look around the buildings to check the House Martins if I called back later in the afternoon. I learned that some of the property is now privately occupied and so was out of bounds for close scrutiny.

As things turned out I wasn't able to call back, but the last time I was in the area was on 31 May 2017, when I had noted up to 45 nests around the farm complex, and established c.15 nests occupied, most of the other nests were from previous years and I saw no activity during a stake out at the rear of the property. but I did see birds flying to nest holes as I drove past on Wednesday.

Hawthornthwaite Fell.

Noted on a brief visit, a male Stonechat was accompanied by a female close by, and up to 20 Sand Martin appear to have taken to a new colony, but I need to return at a later date for more detail. The Sand Martin were in pursuit of a female Merlin which took off from the ground as I made my return off the fell. 

Swallowtail Moth

Ian was pleased to find a Swallowtail Moth in his garden where he got this record shot in the half light. Not a major find, but a moth quite unlike any other British species with a 'tail' on each hindwing.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Third Time Lucky.

Bee Orchid 22 June. Pete Woodruff. 'Clik the piks'

It was third time lucky when KT and myself visited the site on the outskirts of Lancaster again, where we found three spikes of Bee Orchid, not that all that easy to find in the long grass on the bank. Other Orchids in the area have gone through the roof, when 378 Common Spotted were counted. Thanks to AC for his contribution here.

Garden Pond Frog. Pete Woodruff.

Everyone was chuffed to find a Frog in our garden pond recently, it has been seen three times since in various parts of the garden.

Conder Update.

I had an excellent update from Howard Stockdale, with all the news from Conder Pool.

No Vacancies. Howard Stockdale.

The news included this image of a full house, with two Common Tern, two Avocet, and a Black-headed Gull all sitting on the island.

A Common Tern appeared to be an immature on the marker at Conder Pool two days ago on 22 June. 

Common Tern Conder Pool 22 June. Howard Stockdale.

It was an older bird with stunted growth related to it's injury, having lost most of it's lower left leg contributing to poor health. 

The header image is of the first breeding Common Terns of Conder Pool 2014, and shows an adult with two young including one of the runts I mentioned in my last post as being a tradition with the terns here.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Armchair Birding. Episode 2.

Common Tern Chicks Conder Pool Pontoon 16 June. Howard Stockdale.

Some excellent updated news from Conder Pool. The Common Tern have three chicks on the pontoon, all ringed and one being a runt which is becoming a tradition with the Conder Terns....

Conder Cattle 16 June 2020. Howard Stockdale.

....and the farmer has replaced the sheep with coo's!

Bee Orchid. Pete Woodruff.

I made my third visit to a local site to count at least 147 Common Spotted Orchid, whilst finding no Bee Orchid, moving a step closer towards 2020 being a blank year. Although, unless my camera date was incorrect at the time, this image was taken at the location on 22 August last year, so perhaps plenty of time yet.

Large Skipper. Pete Woodruff.

Also seen this week on a pleasant couple of hours on an equally pleasant evening, a Large Skipper and Common Blue Damselfly.

Hedge Woundwort. Pete Woodruff. 

The Hedge Woundwort is common throughout most of Europe, but nevertheless a beautiful flower, adding some welcome colour to the roadside verge where I found it. A close relative of Marsh Woundwort, and are both members of the Mint family. 

Thanks to Bryan Yorke for this and previous requests to Bryan for help with ID. Please 'clik the piks' hopefully they may look better.

During my conversation with the gamekeeper at Cragg Cottage on Wednesday, I asked if he had noted any Stonechats on his daily trips up Clougha and beyond. His reply echoed mine, that the Stonechat was only just beginning the return to Clougha in any number since their departure 10 years ago during the severe winter weather of 2009 - 11. 

Although I had given up on the Clougha/Birk Bank Stonechats when I realised they had abandoned the area following the two consecutive severe winters, on my occasional visits, I was encouraged by finding 9 Stonechat wintering at Birk Bank on 5 January 2017. That said, annual reports for 2018 claimed breeding at 14 locations in Bowland, but I saw no evidence that Clougha was included in the fourteen, and on the few summer visits that I have made there since 2011, I had no reason to think the gamekeepers comment was anything but correct, and that the Stonechat was only just beginning to return to Clougha in anything like the numbers I collected for 10 years 1999 - 2009. 

A good example from my past records would be, 20 Stonechat seen on 15 June 2009. My hopes are that it will soon become what was once our areas stronghold of this brilliant little gem.