As I made my way to Birk Bank to check out the bog for dragonflies on Thursday, I was muttering to myself, this is a mistake I'm making. The plan was then to do a circuit, Ottergear Bridge-Cragg Wood-Littledale Road-Rigg Lane. But the weather was unsettled, not a day for a dragonfly hunt, and I soon found myself sheltering from a downpour under a tree, and by now feeling pretty miserable....
Sunday, 3 July 2022
Sunday, 26 June 2022
The Cuckoo is a Red Listed bird of Conservation Concern in the UK.
Having heard a Cuckoo calling at Marshaw on Thursday afternoon and being 23 June, is my latest date for hearing a Cuckoo calling anywhere, and was quite unexpected. The surprise about hearing this Cuckoo calling in Bowland, came about by learning that six other Cuckoos from the BTO satellite tagging project, have already crossed the English Channel and are now in France. So some obvious variation in the strategy of migration south from the UK for Cuckoos.
Some added interest about this remarkable species, comes in the form of a Scottish Cuckoo, who has flown 462 miles from breeding grounds in Perthshire, to the Dutch coast. This bird is now on a Nature Reserve in South Holland, and further interest is, that in 2021 this same bird was in the Netherlands, and remained there until 4 July, when he moved swiftly south through Germany and Italy, arriving in Libya 4 days later on 8 July, and arriving in sub-Saharan Niger 2 days later on 10 July.
Some interest for me in Bowland on Thursday, was finding 4 Spotted Flycatcher to add to four other birds I found on previous visits, but didn't connect with this time. A lone male Pied Flycatcher was active around the compound at Tower Lodge, 9 Common Sandpiper were on the Marshaw Wyre, and a Woodcock seen.
A Curlew was calling in the compound at Tower Lodge, on its behaviour, I felt it may have had young close by. The bird had something attached to both legs which I was unable to identify....See for yourself in the cropped still from the video.
Thursday, 23 June 2022
With with an e-mail from AC of 10 male and 2 female Keeled Skimmer at Birk Bank on Tuesday, and my finding Golden-ringed Dragonflies without much effort at three locations already, I'm fast becoming confident of a good Odonata year, in particular the GRD's.
My day on the fringe of Bowland was a bittersweet affair on Monday. Beginning with the 'sweet', on 29 April I found a pair of Redstart prospecting a tree hole near to Holme Wood, but despite two subsequent visits on 19/27 May, I had no sign of the birds. But on my return there on Monday, I found one possibly two Redstart, one a juvenile, the second, a glimpse of movement around the trees, I failed to establish female/juvenile, but good to know they bred there after all, but not in the Ash I had seen them at on 29 April.
I found a Common Blue Damselfly at Grisedale Brook, and it didn't take long for me to find 3 Golden-ringed Dragonflies, watched a Wren feeding a begging young on the brook, and noted an Ashy Mining Bee.
Of 3 Willow Warbler singing within 50 metres of each other, this one was atop of the same bush it was when I saw it here on 27 May, when it escaped the talons of a Sparrowhawk that dived into the gorse, I had thought it had met its end, thankfully I was wrong.
The 'bitter' came with a visit to Harrisend, where I was disappointed to find just 3 Stonechat, being two male, and one escaping ID behind the tall bracken. A Raven and a large number of Carrion Crow including c.80 up into the air over the ridge. At least 10 Meadow Pipit seen, 2 Reed Bunting one a singing male, 3 Willow Warbler, 4 Linnet, a Goldfinch, Blackbird, 3 Swallow over, and a Kestrel.
Butterflies and bees seen on Harrisend, 17 Small Heath and a Red Admiral. Also the second of two Cuckoo Bumblebees I've recently found, this one is the largest of British cuckoo species, the Vestal Cuckoo-Bee.
I counted 180 spikes of Common Spotted Orchid, and 14 spikes of Northern Marsh Orchid on Langthwaite Road Monday evening.
Stunning header image of the equally stunning male Stonechat on Hawthornthwaite Fell, probably the same bird I recently caught on video. Thanks Martin.
Sunday, 19 June 2022
I've been having a good old whinge to myself, about the paucity of dragonflies at Birk Bank, having not found one yet, despite two recent visits over the past few days, and it was now mid-June. But Thursday changed all that big time for Steve and myself, when a couple of hours pacing up and down the boardwalk at Birk Bank, with periods of standing and staring, yielded a decent haul of 36 dragonflies, including a couple of date and number surprises.
The day started at Bull Beck were I was keen to establish the Sand Martin situation. I had found none here on my visit 22 April, today we found the bank had partly collapsed and counted just five nest holes, and no more than 30 Sand Martin. But compensation came in the form of a Banded Demoiselle, a good record anywhere in North Lanc's, but overshadowed by 50+ reported at St Michaels on Wyre on Wednesday 15 June. Our individual at Bull Beck was followed a couple of minutes later by a Hummingbird Hawkmoth....A good start to what was to develop into a good day.
Thursday wasn't particularly a birding day, but we were welcomed to the car park on Rigg Lane by a singing Garden Warbler. Just up the track a juvenile Stonechat was on the fence post, seen as a lone individual, it was at least my first proof of breeding here. More evidence of breeding was a pair of Meadow Pipit, with one bird carrying food, later a singing male Blackcap.
On to the bog, and the surprises came in the form of 5 Keeled Skimmer, including a female seen ovipositing.
These were followed by the surprise of the day, when the first of 2 Golden-ringed Dragonfly flew across the bog to go to rest on bracken beyond the boardwalk. This species was more likely to have been seen two weeks later, with average emergence from the beginning of July.
There was a sum total of 15 Four-spotted Chaser, and 14 Large Red Damselflies, also pleasantly surprising was the count of 32 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Other butterflies were less impressive, with 4 Small Heath and a lone Small Tortoiseshell seen.
A saunter along the track to Ottergear Bridge, where we found parasitic Cuckoo Bees Bombus sylvestris on Heather, which is more expected to be in flower in August than mid-June. Earlier we had seen in the near distance, a dragonfly in flight, and eliminating the few possibilities, although like the Golden Ringed Dragonfly an early date, and would have been less of a surprise in a couple of weeks time in early July on first emergence, we concluded it was a Common Hawker.
I'm grateful to Steve Graham for his company on what was a memorable day for the pair of us. I'm also grateful to Ian Mitchell for the excellent images including the stunning Four-spotted Chaser header.
This Zebra Spider was on the frame of our greenhouse, the speed of the hapless insect was such, that my camera wasn't able to record it arriving on the frame. The camera also struggled to record the spider pouncing on its prey, but I did slow the motion down in the second video to show the attack. The Zebra Spider can jump up to 10cm, it anchors itself by gluing a silk thread to the surface it is jumping from, you can see it dangling from the thread after it pounces on the victim....View Full Screen.
Wednesday, 15 June 2022
Grey clouds and a cold wind in the face, made Monday in Bowland feel more mid-April than June, how the breeding birds are coping in these prolonged cold and windy conditions is beyond me.
This Pied Flycatcher male took me by surprise, not expecting to find it on the Marshaw Wyre about 1/4 mile upstream from Marshaw, and not a nest box in sight. Try to spot the bird whizzing downstream, its a Common Sandpiper.
Twenty three species in 5 hours is about the average around this area in my book, these included 5 Pied Flycatcher, seen as four male and a female, with no young seen from nest boxes presumably already dispersed. But a nice little nest hole I found in an Oak, being attended by a male, much more attractive and pleasing, as opposed to seeing these birds at wooden boxes branded FOBMG.
With 4 Spotted Flycatcher seen, this year is already a disappointing one for the species, with the area being a stronghold for the flycatcher in the past. My last visit here 17 May gave hope that there could be three pairs of Spotted Flycatcher here this year.
Conclusions according to my observations....There has been five pairs of Pied Flycatcher, and two pairs of Spotted Flycatcher in 2022 in the area around Marshaw-Tower Lodge-Trough Bridge.
Away from the flycatchers, at least 10 Common Sandpiper seen, up to 50 Sand Martin were hawking around the Marshaw Wyre at Marshaw, and upstream to Trough Bridge, I noted 12 Grey Wagtail including young seen. I heard just 6 Willow Warbler and saw 3 Wren, also 3 Robin included a downy young being fed, Great Tit with young, a singing male Blackcap behind Tower Lodge, where House Martin have nests under the eaves, 6 Mistle Thrush, a Treecreeper, and 8 pairs of Curlew.
Two birds vied for star of the show, with this juvenile Dipper on the Marshaw Wyre, and a male Redstart around the plantation at Marshaw, which I spotted through the windscreen as I munched my sausage rolls and a brew for lunch.
My definition of a nice lunch break....Sausage rolls in company with a stunning male Redstart!
Sunday, 5 June 2022
Since my last visit to Conder Green a month ago on 5 May, the change of scenery is best described as dramatic. Notes from an update at Conder Pool, from 47 Avocet young 32 have been predated....In my book, that's a tragedy, but on a positive note, there are an amazing 30 Common Tern currently on Conder Pool, seen as yet another first for this truly excellent location....What next!
My own records from Conder Pool during the week.... A pair of Little Ringed Plover were seen without any of the young they had in mid-May, they are nesting again at a new site. In my opinion, the count of at least 100 Black-headed Gull with several chicks, points to one of the reasons behind predation on Conder Pool, but no obvious evidence to corroborate this with plenty of other predators like Lesser Black-backed Gull and corvids....the list goes on.
A Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler were in the hedgerow around the pool, and it was good to find House Martins have nests under the eaves at River Winds.
On Saltcote Pond at Glasson, Azure Damselfly in the video, Blue-tailed Damselfly, and Common Blue Damselfly seen. And along the canal Blackcap and Chiffchaff by Christ Church....
....and a Mallard on the canal had a raft of 11 ducklings in tow.
I then decided to switch to Plan B and went to Birk Bank in the hope of finding my first dragonfly of the year....Well that didn't happen!
But I was pleasantly rewarded by a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary* at rest. I was pleased when it showed its underwing briefly as the breeze blew up. A Buzzard soared overhead, and 3 Willow Warbler ended what I can only describe as an average days birding.
*Steve Graham recorded an amazing 51 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary last year, at Birk Bank on 14 June 2021.
I'm grateful to Howard Stockdale for keeping in touch, and for the image of the ringed Common Tern. This bird is one of two currently on Conder Pool.
I'm also grateful to Martin Jump for keeping in touch, and for the header image of the Kingfisher flying off with a good meal in its bill.
The Poplar Hawk-moth has a noticeable attitude at rest, having its hindwings held forward of its forewings, with the abdomen curved up at the rear.
Thanks to Lynn and Ian for the record and image in their Brookhouse garden on Friday.
The end of the post, the beginning of a new day. The Blackbird sings at sunrise around 3.30am from our bedroom window this Sunday morning....Full Volume Magic.
Sunday, 29 May 2022
Birdwatchers Code of Conduct.
I'm well aware of this code, it includes requests to refrain from posting information about breeding locations of rare or locally uncommon species. So for once I have decided it best to do the right thing for the sake of a single bird I found on Friday. Hence, the rather bland title....
Friday continued the theme of being the worst May that I can recall in recent years, the weather being best described as crap throughout. I was in Bowland on a day more reminiscent of 27 March than May, cloudy with a cold northerly wind.
I'm getting closer to being convinced the Redstarts are not breeding in the Ash I found them at on 29 April, having returned there on 19 May, and again on Friday with no sign of activity over a 30 minute watch. Another 30 minutes in the woodland, 4 Grey Wagtail, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, 2 Robin and a Wren.
My visit to one of the many moorland sites I favour, actually put an end to the gloom of the cloudy cold day, when a brilliant male Ring Ouzel with its white half-moon across the breast, took to the wing, to soon go to ground out of sight....For me, it was like a ray of sunshine!
Also seen here, running a close second to the Mountain Blackbird, 6 Stonechat, seen as a pair with at least two young, and two male. A Curlew was circling me in flight alarm calling, obviously with a nest/young in the area. Up to 18 Sand Martin seen, 14 Meadow Pipit, and a Kestrel was, not for the first time, the only raptor seen in Bowland in 5 hours.
On my way back to Lancaster, a pair of Pied Flycatcher feeding young at the nest, 3 Treecreeper, Chiffchaff and Blackcap heard.
As I turned off the camera after filming from the road bridge, a Kingfisher flew past me upstream.
I note the interesting report of a male Stonechat at Conder Green on Thursday 27 May. The record prompts the question, what's a Stonechat doing at Conder Green at the end of May? One thing for sure, it's another first for the location....Unless someone would like to correct me!
Sunday, 22 May 2022
I have given over my header to Geraldine Stockdale, to feature the excellent image of the Skylark....Thank you Geraldine, this is much appreciated.
I was in the good company of Ian on Thursday, and gained a couple of hours therapy in Holme Wood, albeit from a birding point of view, the theme of the day seemed to be 'that's another one that got away', with lots of movement seen in and around the fully leaved canopy, but ended in birds disappearing from view.
But the air was full of woodland birdsong, including multiple Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, and Blackcap a male of which gave good if brief views.
I reckon this Willow Warbler escaped the talons of a Sparrowhawk, which flew like a rocket within a few metres of me at waist level, and disappeared into the depths of the gorse bush. I took this photo of the Willow Warbler about 10 seconds later, when it went to perch atop of the gorse.
A Cuckoo called unseen, but sounded to come from the moorland edge east of Grisedale Bridge.
On the way back to Lancaster, we called in to Birk Bank, to find Red Grouse with at least 9 chicks. And at the bog, with the weather being reasonable, there was a mass emergence and 12 Large Red Damselflies were seen as six pairs coupled, also a Green Hairstreak and Holly Blue seen.
Birding....Never fails to produce at least a little interest and lots of therapy.
A Summary Of Conder News.
The latest on Conder Pool, is that the Little Ringed Plovers are a chick down from four to three. There have also been Avocet losses, but the site has been very productive so far, with 11 chicks on Conder Pool, and at least 7 on the River Conder, making a healthy number of 18 chicks in total so far to date.
Wednesday, 18 May 2022
A positively excellent 5 hours plus in the area Marshaw-Tower Lodge-Trough Bridge, during which time I noted 21 species, being an average count here....This is upland birding.
It was the perfect start for me, when just five minutes out of the motor at Marshaw, I saw the first of 5 Spotted Flycatcher on the day, it was followed by two in the Tower Lodge area, and one - possibly two - east of Trough Bridge.
Just a few minutes later, I saw the first of only 2 Common Sandpiper to be seen on the Marshaw Wyre. Last year I found 7 Common Sandpiper including young, but this was a month on from today on 15 June, so watch this space.
A few Sand Martin seen, including interest being shown at this bank by the Marshaw Wyre just east of Marshaw. I counted no more than 6 House Martin around Tower Lodge.
The 6 Grey Wagtail seen included this pair nesting in a vent at the lodge. The kindly and understanding estate employee I spoke to told me the plan was to seal the vent, but it was on hold until the birds had left, he had no idea they were Grey Wagtail until I told him.
My other notes included the surprise find of a female Goosander on the Marshaw Wyre, at least 12 Willow Warbler mainly heard, 9 Mistle Thrush, 8 Curlew behaving like breeders, 6 Robin, 5 Wren, 2 Nuthatch, and 2 Meadow Pipit.
My search resulted in finding 8 Pied Flycatcher, a male was at Marshaw, a pair and a male at Tower Lodge, a male east of the lodge, and a pair and a male east of Trough Bridge. These sightings had confirmation of breeding at two sites, and with lone males seen without females being on the nest, I concluded that there are probably six pairs of Pied Flycatcher in this area of Bowland.
The day came to an interesting end as it had started, when I spotted from a moving car, a stunning male Stonechat on a fencepost near Jubilee Tower. And calling in to the bog at Birk Bank, in the hope I might find my first Large Red Damselfly on the boardwalk.
Sunday, 15 May 2022
I've not had a days birding since Thursday 5 May, and it hurts for me to have to say that I'm in danger of suffering from a bout of depression.
But hey....Wildlife always has something to interest, and one of a few events this week for me, was a couple of visits to check out the cemetery Nuthatch nesting in the Cypress tree. The video shows, first the female enters the nest hole, and doesn't emerge, the male then visits the hole, it doesn't appear to have food to offer the female, but something white shows at the nest hole, there's no exchange, and the object in the females bill disappears back into the hole with what appears to be a fecal sac....See for yourself.
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