BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY THE FOREST OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND..............................................................................THE VIKINGS ARE COMING BRIAN RAFFERTY

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Picture Gallery.

I've recently been sent some excellent images of the goodies currently at Cockersand, and a Golden Oldie from 2014 which can't fail to bring a little interest to B2B.

Wheatear Cockersand. Pete Woodruff.

One of my own piks, not with the perfect props, but who cares when it's a pik of a Wheatear found at Cockersand at the end of November.

Snow Bunting Cockersand. Ian Mitchell.

I love this image of the Snow Bunting, like the upright stance of a Wheatear.

Stonechat Cockersand. Howard Stockdale.

Lovely shot of a 1st winter male, one of six Stonechat currently wintering at Cockersand....They never fail to delight me.

Bewick's Swans Jeremy Lane. Howard Stockdale.

The conservation status of the Bewick's Swan is Red.....When I was sent this image I made the comment, what a beautiful creature the Bewick's Swan is. As far as I am aware, these are the only two in our immediate area of Lancashire. This is pleasing when you think the only other places to see these beauties is more likely to be in eastern England, around the Severn Estuary. The Ouse and Nene Washes, and Slimbridge are the best places to see the Bewick's Swan. 

The Golden Oldie.

Shorelark Rossall Point December 2014. Martin Jump.

I love the low level angle of this image of the Shorelark at Fleetwood a few years back.

Thanks to Brian for the header, and to Ian, Howard and Martin for the excellent images, they are much appreciated.

And Finally.

Terror in the garden....The furious evil eyed male Sparrowhawk in the plum yesterday.

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Sour Turns Sweet.

A couple of visits for some birding around the Lune Estuary - where else - soon ended on a sour note on Thursday, but not until I had found 2 Bewick's Swan with a few Whooper Swan at the north end of Jeremy Lane. In the same field, up to 850 Lapwing and 300 Curlew.

I then drove to Cockersand to find myself sitting out a downpour whilst wondering when the tap would be turned off, but it wasn't so off I went back to Lancaster....Sour!

Although the weather was much improved on Friday, birding started off sluggish, with little to note at Conder Green, so away I went to my intended destination at Cockersand. Over the years this has always been the place for me to find my first and often the last Wheatear of the year, but this one is....Ridiklus.

Wheatear Cockersand 25 November. Pete Woodruff.

On my arrival at the caravan park, a lone birder was stood by the marsh, tripod and telescope at the ready. I joined the birder - from Clitheroe apparently- we both stood, soon to be gobsmacked at the sight of a smart Wheatear....Sweet! 

What!....a Wheatear on 25 November. Initially my thoughts turned to maybe it's an Isabelline Wheatear, but after a mobile call and a few hours later, including checking photographs, Wheatear it is. This is an excellent late record beating the latest in Lancashire by 11 years on 7 November 2011.

Snow Bunting Cockersand 25 November. Paul Ellis.

At one point I was watching a Snow Bunting with the Wheatear in the same view.

Stonechat Moss Lane 25 November. Pete Woodruff.

I found 4 Stonechat on the visit, a pair along Moss Lane to the east of Abbey Farm, and a pair along Slack Lane, these four birds are noted for covering a wide foraging area. There are 3 pairs of Stonechat currently wintering at Cockersand, though I have yet to connect with the pair in the caravan park area.

A number of little more than 50 Whooper Swan seen today, are currently wintering in the Cockersand/Thurnham area, with birds in small herds spread over four fields. With the outbreak of avian flu in mind, this is worrying when compared to example figures like 620 Whooper Swan 5 years ago on 19 November 2017, and more up to date, a peak count of 243 in November 2021. 

I'm grateful to Chris Batty and Paul Ellis for help and photographs with regards to clearing up the doubts I initially had about whether it was Oenanthe isabellina or not.   

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Twice Round The Block!

During the week I managed a couple of blasts through Williamson's Park and Lancaster Cemetery. This turned out to be another one of my good ideas as I was rewarded with the latest sighting of 4 Bullfinch here again, seen as two male and female. This is my fourth sighting of Bullfinch in Lancaster Cemetery since I found five on 30 October 2014, whilst noting as in Bowland, I've never found Bullfinch here during the breeding season starting late April.

Canadian Maple In Williamson's Park. Pete Woodruff.

Also of note in the park, 2 Jay, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, and Wren, 3 Coal Tit, at least 16 Blackbird, 12 Wood Pigeon, 8 Magpie, and with 6 Chaffinch on beech mast I was hoping to find a Brambling....wishful thinking!

Red Admiral 19 October. Pete Woodruff. 

On the two visits I saw 7 Red Admiral, they were seen as five in Williamson's Park, and two in Lancaster Cemetery....Have you seen the one on Ivy top left of the frame?

Pintail Anus acuta....In our recording area, the Pintail is a passage migrant and winter visitor.

The header image is of 20 Pintail>south off Plover Scar. This is significant in that I'd say it's the first record of such a number at Cockersand in many a year, I've never recorded the species here to date, and I regard the Pintail on the Lune Estuary at best scarce. In my records, 2 female on Conder Pool 25 October 2019 were the first there and not since.

Thanks to Martin Jump for his excellent record breaking image.   

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Scrappy But Pleasant As Ever.

My recent visit around the Lune Estuary seemed a little scrappy, and somehow never settled into a steady flow. It started with a huge disappointment at Conder Green where Conder Pool was on the brink of deserted, but a Ruff was in the creeks with 16 Redshank. Worth noting, the Ruff holds a first record this year at Conder Green, in that the species has spent 8 months here since 9 April, and has been recorded every month since. A species no better than a scarce winter visitor, and uncommon spring passage migrant, though more common in autumn. 

Great White Egret. Brian Rafferty*

Of interest on the Lune Estuary viewed from the bowling green, a Great White Egret was on the east shore opposite Meldam Wood, and up to 120 Curlew and 350 Wigeon were to note. On the canal basin, I saw my first 3 Goldeneye drakes of the winter. On Jeremy Lane, 28 Whooper Swan were in the field on the north side of Bamber's Farm, I've never seen the Whooper Swan in fields at the south end of Jeremy Lane before. On Moss Lane, 32 Whooper Swan previously seen were still present at Clarkson's Farm.

A circuit of Cockersand was rewarded by a male and female Stonechat working their way along the Moss Lane roadside fence posts opposite Abbey Farm. A skein of 130 Pink-footed Geese went over>south. Also seen from the road, 8 Blackbird, 6 Stock Dove, and a Wren. On the sea between Plover Scar and the Cocker Channel, up to 2,000 Wigeon and 18 Eider.

Thanks to Ian Mitchell for the header image of the group at high tide Cockersand. Ian got a pleasant surprise, in that he hadn't seen the Snipe in the frame until he came to process the shot later.

*Having not been in touch with Brian Rafferty for some time now, I made enquiries about the use of his GWE image on B2B. I was pleased to hear he is doing OK following time off the road, and passed on to him my Kind Regards. 

Sunday, 13 November 2022

Antiques Roadshow!

I was in receipt of an e-mail yesterday. The message had an image attached which contained the most interesting record of a Stonechat I ever saw. 

The e-mail, record, and photograph is credited to Ian Mitchell, and is of a male Stonechat which he found at the rear of the house he had recently moved in to at Altham Road on the Westgate Estate, Morecambe 47 years ago in late September 1975.

The photograph was taken on an instamatic style camera when Westgate was in its infancy to becoming the huge housing estate it is today, hence the landscape where the picture was taken at the time, resembles a building site, and looks more akin to the habitat of a Black Redstart than that of a Stonechat.

From the first record in the LDBWS Annual Reports 1959, and for 38 years the Stonechat was recorded as 'no evidence of recent breeding' (1959) and 'no breeding records' (1997). Though the report does mention Morecambe twice, in 1963 'a male found dead in Morecambe during a cold winter spell' and in 1968 'breeds sporadically at one location in Morecambe'.

Historically the Stonechat in our area was scarce until 1999 when the species saw an upturn in status until the harsh winters of 2009/10/11, after which the records reverted near to pre 1999 numbers. For 12 years I comprehensively monitored the rise and fall of the Stonechat in Bowland. 

Ian Mitchell's record of this male at Westgate Morecambe in 1975, whilst out of the public domain, has been the best kept secret of a Stonechat in the LDBWS area for 47 years.         

Sunday, 6 November 2022

Some You Win....Some You Lose!

Birding didn't quite pan out as I had hoped it would on Friday, the weather wasn't as good as the forecast, and the birds were generally not obliging mainly because they weren't there, though the waders at Glasson made something of a contradiction to that remark.

River Conder After The Rain. Pete Woodruff.

On arriving at Conder Green, I spent the first 20 minutes on the viewing platform sheltering from a downpour. Thanks to the late Ian Pinkerton for putting in the planning application, and thanks to FBC for the erection of the said shelter complete with roof.

Conder Pool West End Looking East. Pete Woodruff.

Hard to believe it was heaving down just 15 minutes before I took this picture, when Conder Pool was virtually void of birdlife, but a Ruff was in the creeks with 6 Greenshank.

Minutes after I arrived at Glasson Dock to look over the Lune Estuary, though I didn't pick out the culprit, I'd say it was a Peregrine Falcon put something like 4,000 waders into the skies, some of which disappeared downstream and never returned. Those that did settle again were spread far and wide, and I made no attempt to count, but initially I estimated a four figure mix of predominantly Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot, with a mid-double figure of Golden Plover, and a lower figure of Black-tailed Godwit. Also noted, 2 Avocet were at the Conder mouth, a single Snipea pair of Goosander, and 16 Little Egret. A Small Tortoiseshell was basking on the whitewashed wall at the Victoria Hotel.

On Jeremy Lane from a moving car, 10 Whooper Swan, and on Moss Lane, a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew ahead of me, and c.30 Whooper Swan I saw recently remain in the field at Clarkson's Farm.

Looking North From Cockersand. Pete Woodruff.

By the time I got to Cockersand the weather had made a nose-dive, from flat calm and sunny, to cloudy, windy, and threatening rain. Not the conditions to set off on a 2 mile hike around Cockersand with nowhere to hide....Some you win, some you lose!

The Parish Of Aldcliffe.

On a brief visit, a buck and doe Roe Deer seen amongst the trees on the perimeter of Freeman's Pools....Nice.

Thanks to Ian Mitchell for the header image of the three Avocet, still on target to winter on the Lune Estuary. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Full House....Well Sort Of!

A bit of a marathon on Conder Pool, in the creeks, a circuit around Conder Green, around the Lune Estuary, and a run down the A588.

On Conder Pool, a Spotter Redshank obliged albeit asleep with 9 Greenshank in the not the best video I ever saw, 9 Little Grebe were my best count, 12 Wigeon and up to 150 Teal were also noted.

Ruff Conder Green. Ian Mitchell.

Three Ruff were in the creeks, also just one Avocet was seen in two visits, another day closer to wintering here.

Lune Estuary From Glasson Dock. Pete Woodruff.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson, c.350 Bar-tailed Godwit were of note, with up to 2,750 Lapwing, 14 Snipe, and a drake Goosander. On Jeremy Lane, 550 Black-tailed Godwit and 320 Curlew on a flood. Along Moss Lane, 7 Little Egret were in a small field on the west side of Gardner's Farm. A visit to Cockersand served the purpose well when I found a female Stonechat in the rough field behind Lower Bank House.

As I drove down the A588 up to 2,000 Pink-footed Geese were in the air, eventually out of view and gone down in the Cockerham Moss area. At Braides, 3 Curlew Sandpiper were in the field, with at least 1,500 Golden Plover in the same field split in half by a grit track to Cockerham Marsh.

I decided to continue to Fluke Hall to be rewarded by another female Stonechat and 30 Whooper Swan to the south of the car Park.

Thanks to Ian Mitchell for the excellent header image of the Spotted Redshank/Greenshank on Conder Pool, and the Ruff in the creeks. 

Blot On The Landscape.

 Conder Pool 1 November.

The perfect example of 'some' photographers getting the rest a bad press. So what's wrong with the sluice as a perch for the Kingfisher, instead of the plank with a nail in the end, and weighed down with a ridiculous huge stone. Both these props will have been removed by the weekend....Guaranteed. 

Sunday, 30 October 2022

Finch It!

My Bowland records made another forward surge this week when I found 3 Bullfinch, seen as two male in the trees at the car park on Rigg Lane, and two hours later, one in flight towards Cragg Wood. These birds represent 7 sightings of 23 Bullfinch in Bowland, with 16 at Birk Bank - eight of which were Northern Bullfinch - on three dates in Nov/Dec 2004, a pair at Tower Lodge Nov 2022, a pair at Rushy Lee Feb 2022, and 3 at Birk Bank/Cragg Wood Oct 2022.

The Bullfinch is regarded as a partial migratory bird, those that migrate make short to medium distance movements. So are these Bowland birds wintering, or do they actually breed in Bowland. I reckon they don't breed, but if they do, having never seen a Bullfinch in Bowland during the summer months, I've yet to discover where. 

Other sightings included Siskin seen in mini groups flighty around Rigg Lane, woefully small numbers of no more than 6 Fieldfare all on the wing, and 8 Red Grouse.

No apologies, but the following section of this post starts with my third video footage of 2 Ruff at Conder Green, the species being well up the list of my favourite waders, also in the creeks, a Greenshank.

The purpose of this outing was to get to Plover Scar for the high tide, to find it relatively quiet, but with peak counts of 120 Oystercatcher, 95 Turnstone, and 42 Dunlin

Twite Cockersand. Martin Jump.

A count of 28 Twite were flighty and spent a little time on the scar. There was an obvious presence of Skylark in and over the stubble field by Lighthouse Cottage, with 16 >south. A male Reed Bunting seen, and a Kestrel hovering over the marsh off the Caravan Park before diving to take out a small rodent.

In the field south of Clarkson's Farm, I counted 32 Whooper Swan, though they were in a dip in the field and certainly a few more with heads down as they fed.

Thanks to Martin Jump for his Oystercatcher header and Twite at Plover Scar.


Vagrant Emperor Heysham Harbour 25 October. Kevin Eaves.

When Kevin visited Heysham Harbour last week on 25 October, he must surely have had what he might find in the back of his mind. What Kevin did find could only have made him amazed and elated in equal measure when he came across his second Vagrant Emperor at Heysham 15 days earlier than his first seen on 9 November 2020.

Thanks to Kevin Eaves for the image of the Vagrant Emperor, and his permission for the must post news of this Lancashire rarity on Birds2blog.

Sunday, 23 October 2022

October Chats.

Being the last visit to Hawthornthwaite Fell was on 11 July, I hadn't realised my birding had made such a dramatic nosedive, but I was here on Tuesday, and also back on Harrisend again to find 15 Stonechat on the day.

I was only on the track up Hawthorthwaite for 15 minutes before I found 6 Stonechat, all in this small area of heather looking east in the picture. The birds were mobile, and moving generally south east. Walking on for about 50 metres, when I looked again there was no sign of the birds.

Other than the chats, I saw just 4 Red Grouse and several airliners in the couple of hours spent here.

Whilst spending a few therapeutic minutes by Cam Brook, I was reminded of the smart male Ring Ouzel I saw here on 27 May. This was my fifth consecutive year of finding the mountain blackbird on Hawthornthwaite, only one sighting of which I ever had evidence of breeding here and was a female in flight with food in its bill. 

There was also a pleasant 3 hours spent on Harrisend, where I found 9 Stonechat. As with the Hawthorthwaite birds, five were together in a small area of gorse. Also 4 Raven over and 3 Red Grouse seen.

Clougha Pike From Harrisend. Pete Woodruff.

Wish I had a pound for every Stonechat I've ever seen atop of this remnant of the Hawthorn. I reckon I could get myself a couple of bottles of Jack Daniel's in for Christmas!

The Gannet.

There was a little sadness about a walk along the promenade at Sandylands last week, when I found the corpse of an adult Gannet on the shore, seen as a possible victim of avian flu.

Only a vagrant Albatross in the Western Palearctic is a larger seabird than the indigenous Gannet. Of the worlds breeding population, 48% are found in Scotland. This year there was a 90% breeding failure of Gannet on Bass Rock.

Turtle Dove.

Turtle Dove Hest Bank. Howard Stockdale.

A 1st winter Turtle Dove has been at Hest Bank since 13 October. There has been a mix of opinion about the bird, some seeing it as a sickly bird, dicing with death at the hands of the mutt brigade and their charges, others saying the bird looks well as it does in Howards image, it feeds well, and is a tame individual. Whatever....the bird would be better advised to stay put at Hest Bank, up to 100,000 Turtle Dove are shot annually on migration over Malta.  

Bearded Tit.....Another one of those must see images.

Bearded Tit Leighton Moss. Martin Jump.

Many Thanks to Howard and Martin for sending me these excellent images.

And Finally.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth. Peter Rhind.

Couldn't possibly end this post without mention of the brilliant Hummingbird Hawk-moth which gave us about 60 seconds of pleasure as it checked out the Verbena in our garden yesterday afternoon.

Pity I didn't get a pik of the moth, but I did get 30 seconds of comic relief with these two ponies at Heysham in the week....You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours!


Sunday, 16 October 2022

Sidelined Again!

Off the road again for five days, but although pleasant if cloudy there was good birding around the Lune Estuary in the week. 

Conder Green.

Starting at Conder Green with my first Whooper Swan this winter, it was accompanied by 2 Mute Swan on Conder Pool. Also of note, 3 Greenshank, 4 Wigeon, and 7 Little Grebe on Conder Pool was my best count of the day here.

The customary circuit turned up an adult Ruff preening alongside a Redshank in the creeks, with 2 Black-tailed Godwit and a snorkeling female Goosander.

Lune Estuary.

Viewing from the bowling green, there was much more life on the Lune Estuary than my last visit here on 28 September. I picked up 8 Mediterranean Gull, seen at a distance, all adult save one 2nd winter bird. Godwit numbers were at around 350 birds, estimated to be 260 Black-tailed Godwit and 90 Bar-tailed Godwit, also c.550 Knot, 8 Snipe, and a Great-crested Grebe. Two adult Avocet were by the Conder mouth, two seen in the creeks at Conder Green when I returned there after the high tide were possibly the same two.

On the canal basin, 45 Tufted Duck and a Great-crested Grebe. Noted in a field on Jeremy Lane, 120 geese in a pretty even mix of Canada Geese and Greylag Geese 


It was an enjoyable hour at Plover Scar, made all the more enjoyable with the appearance of a smart Little Stint still retaining much breeding plumage.

High Tide Waders Plover Scar. Martin Jump.

There was much coming and going of waders for the hour up to high tide. Just as I arrived at Plover Scar, 3 Grey Plover were departing south along with a swathe of other small waders. As more birds flew in and settled, I estimated at least 350 Dunlin, with 55 Turnstone and 45 Knot at the peak.

I walked along the headland back to Bank Houses, from where I could see 15 Whooper Swan some distance in a field to the north. I reckon this group had been joined by the 6 Whooper Swan which flew by me inland over Cockersand C.P.

Right Place, Right Time....A Leighton Moss Treble.

Cetti's Warbler. Martin Jump.

Thanks to Martin Jump for the 'rare to be seen out in the open' Cetti's Warbler checking out the grit trays.

Bearded Tit. Martin Jump.

And the Bearded Tit, doing the splits.

Bittern. Martin Jump.

The Bittern 'we have lift off' from Leighton Moss, up and away into the blue out yonder.

Thanks to Howard Stockdale for the Little Stint in the header, seen on Plover Scar about a month ago in mid-September.