BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY THE FOREST OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND.....................................................................COMMON TERN CONDER POOL PETE WOODRUFF

Sunday, 26 March 2023

March Migrants.

Having had one of my worst weeks for birding in many a year, Birds2blog came close to having a seven day blank, but it was salvaged by an attempt to see a few birds on Wednesday along the coastal path between Aldcliffe and Glasson Dock.

The day turned into a near flop, but I did see my first Wheatear of the year on the flotsam at high tide, a stunning male, though not a Rock Pipit in sight. Also scurrying across the floating flotsam towards me, was what I regarded to be an unmistakable jet black Water Shrew, which unknown to the unfortunate creature, turned out to be heading towards its demise. The shrew disappeared below the bank, but 15 seconds later it reappeared between the teeth of a Weasel to disappear once more below the bank on the other side of the footpath.

I aborted my plans and wandered back to Lancaster via the embankment along Aldcliffe Marsh, to see 8 Snipe along the way, exploding into the air ahead of me. As I walked along the path parallel to Freeman's Pools, a stag Roe Deer was resting by the central reeds.

Ring Ouzel Cockers Dyke 23 MarchPaul Ellis.

In addition to the early arrivals of Sand Martin, Swallow, and Wheatear in the March Migrants in my last post, a male Ring Ouzel was found on Thursday. This bird was seen one day after the first spring arrival of a Ring Ouzel at the Verne, Portland Bill on Wednesday 22 March, where the first spring Willow Warbler was seen on Tuesday 21 March the day before.

Some other interesting early arrivals and on the waiting list in our area....

28 Feb Little Ringed Plover Hampshire.

1 Mar Osprey Hampshire.

2 Mar Whinchat Isles of Scilly.

12 Mar Yellow Wagtail Norfolk.

12 Mar Hoopoe Cornwall.

18 Mar Sedge Warbler Hampshire.

19 Mar Hobby Dorset.

20 Mar Common Tern Cornwall.

Conder Pool Common Tern.

An interesting record to be noted, the first ever Common Terns on Conder Pool, didn't arrive until the late date of 2 July 2014, they successfully raised two young and were last seen at Cockersand on 14 September.

Conder Pool Avocet.

On Friday *30 Avocet were present on Conder Pool, a record which developed into an interesting discovery. The book of wisdom, and papers written about the age of Avocet before breeding is 2 years. However, last year on Conder Pool two Avocet chicks were colour marked with flag codes in 2021. These birds were both female, and were paired up to breed on their return to Conder Pool as yearling's in 2022, both pairs hatched 4 chicks each....Maybe time to update the literature!

*A report of 39 Avocet on Conder Pool Saturday per FBC.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

GP's Make The Comeback.


On my visit to Cockersand this week, it was brilliant to see the waders had congregated in the fields, which looked more like what you would expect in mid-March, with one species of wader having been low in number throughout the winter on the Lune Estuary if not the entire recording area.

The full picture came together as I walked along the headland. I spotted a good number mid-distance already out on the shore, then over the next few minutes, several waves shot over my head with characteristic rapid flight, and dropped down to join the already mass to become the spectacle of at least 3,000 Golden Plover, many showing advanced breeding plumage....Alleluia.

In the field on the east side of Abbey Farm, at least 150 Redshank with a small number of Dunlin, and on the circuit, scattered in the fields were c.50 Lapwing looking territorial.

Lune Estuary

Noted on the River Lune at Glasson, 4 Avocet, 150 Golden Plover, 82 Black-tailed Godwit, and a distant c.100 Pink-footed Geese on Colloway Marsh.

Conder Pool.

All quiet on Conder Pool, though the Ruff feeding on the terrace, lifted my spirit as it always does. A Stock Dove and Little Grebe seen, with probably 50 Black-headed Gull screeching and behaving like they were checking out the islands for breeding sites, and all of which seemed unfazed by the management work taking place here.

Two birders joined me during my watch at Conder Pool, both agreed to be as puzzled as me about the structure we were seeing currently being assembled at the east end.

My guess is, perhaps a large raft is being assembled to the left of this image, which shows the existing small raft right of centre, to be joined soon by the new and larger one....Time will tell.

March Migrants.

Some early March migrants have now arrived in and around our area, with a Sand Martin reported at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve Wednesday 15 March, a Swallow at Bispham Thursday 16 March, Wheatear at Blackpool Airport Wednesday 15 March. Also out of our Lancashire area, *Sandwich Tern at Hodbarrow Sunday 12 March. And an Osprey over Tebay Friday 17 March.

*This bird at Hodbarrow in Cumbria, beats the earliest Sandwich Tern for Lancashire by one day, but according to info received, the earliest ever record of Sandwich Tern in Cumbria was of a bird seen on 9 January 2001. The implication being it was a very early migrant, but right to consider, either a very late departing bird, or one over-wintering....Thanks for this Andy, interesting piece of information and much appreciated.

Thanks to Howard Stockdale for the header image of the Goldeneye on Glasson Basin, where it is worth a mention, a male Pochard is currently present as no more than a scarce visitor to the area.

And Finally....

White-tailed Bumblebee Bowland July 2022. Pete Woodruff.

Had my first bumblebee of the year, this morning in the garden. Briefly, but Bombus lucorum I reckon. 

Sunday, 12 March 2023

The Sunday Post!

There's a Wheatear to be seen soon at a location near you, possibly before next week is out, but you won't beat the first two males seen on 23 February in 2021, these birds set a new earliest arrival record for Lancashire.  

Golden Plover.

Birding this week was limited to a 3 hour session around Cockersand on Wednesday, and produced just 5 species getting into the little black book, but as always there was interest, not least of which was up to 2,000 Golden Plover in the field east of Abbey Farm. 

My archived video shows the kind of number to be found in the past on the Lune Estuary at Glasson. Wednesdays count exceeded the 1,500 Golden Plover seen at Braides 11 October 2022, which - until last Wednesday - was the best count anywhere on the Lune Estuary this winter. I'm repeating myself here but....where have all the estuary GP's been this winter?


Off the caravan park, I saw 32 Eider, difficult to count whilst diving for molluscs.


Their diet consisting mainly of 80% grass, 42 Wigeon where characteristically grazing in the field by Bank House Cottage. The Wigeon have long been numerous in Lancashire, migrating from Iceland, Fennoscandia, and Russia, from where an interesting recovery of a Lancashire-ringed Wigeon was found on the River Ob in Central Russia. This bird was ringed at Banks in March 1984, and was recovered 26 days later at Sytomino 4,495km to the east the following month in April.


Stonechat Female Cockersand. Ian Mitchell.

I found just 2 Stonechat at Cockersand both female, one on roadside fence posts east side of Abbey Farm, one at the Moss Lane/Slack Lane junction. Both were at locations where birds have been seen all winter, but now not possible to know whether winter or passage, though I reckon the winterers have now moved on and these two are moving through. 

Whooper Swan.

Up to 350 Whooper Swan seen, a number regularly recorded this winter in the Cockersand area, though there was a peak count of 450+ recently.

Garden Birds.

I was a little more than chuffed to see a male Reed Bunting as a first and never to be expected visitor to our urban garden in Lancaster on Friday. Unfortunately it didn't stay long, but I did get a poor quality grab shot through the window with my out of date digital camera for the record. 

Reed Bunting. Pete Woodruff.

I'm puzzled by the result of the photo of this moulting bird, void of detail, it shows just a grey tone on the wing....Time to get up to date with my camera! 

Following the bunting, the dainty little regular Wren showed well, and long enough for some footage as it worked its way up the Norway Spruce outside the patio window picking off insects as it went.

March Migrants.

Fingers crossed I might soon find my first Little Ringed Plover on Conder Pool, mean arrival date 19 March. Also a Sand Martin maybe over the canal basin at Glasson Dock before the month is out, the mean date for arrival being 9 March. I'll be on the look out for a Swallow 21/3, Willow Warbler 29/3, House Martin 31/3, Ring Ouzel 22/3.

Lots to keep us interested in the coming weeks....There's a good time cumin!  

Sunday, 5 March 2023

Geese And Chats.

Thursdays birding was a day that started just about as bad as gets, but soon took off to be as good as it gets as far as geese and to a lesser degree chats were concerned. 

Conder Pool, was virtually void of birds save 4 Wigeon, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Cormorant and a Little Grebe, and to make matters worse the wintering Stonechats appear to have moved on. But there was a little interest on the coastal path, with the sight of a Greenfinch being no better than an occasional bird here, in fact I'm struggling to recall the last one I saw at Conder Green. Something more positive from Conder Pool, 6 Avocet had moved in on Friday with news published by AC@FBC....But not reported since.

Along with Pete Crooks and J.C.Wood who joined me on Moss Lane, and later in the day Barrie Cooper at Cockersand, to quote Pete Crooks we enjoyed....'the best birding experience currently on offer in North Lancashire'.

Over the 3 hours spent at Cockersand, at one point I estimated a total of up to 5,000 Pink-footed Geese in the air, with 8 Barnacle Geese, and 3 White-fronted Geese seen earlier in fields opposite Lambs Farm on the south side of Moss Lane. 

With the first count made in fields, geese were in the air several times following human disturbance, and c.2,000 were in this field immediately north of Bank House Cottage.

Worth a mention, over the past few days during these pre-migration gatherings of geese, a peak count was made of 12 White-fronted Geese, with 3 Bean Geese and a Lesser White-fronted Goose per FBC. 

A little wandering had me find 5 Stonechat, seen as two male and a female on roadside fence posts east of Abbey Farm, and a pair on the spoil heaps in the field south of Lighthouse Cottage.


Throughout my observations of 'the best birding experience currently on offer in North Lancashire' on Thursday, I witnessed or was reliably informed of several incidents of wilful disturbance of geese and swans in recent days.

In addition to my personal experiences, there was disturbance being seen as deliberate a few times in a field south of Moss Lane. Add to this, earlier on Thursday and on two occasions earlier in the week, Whooper Swans had been disturbed more than once in fields west of Jeremy Lane, and on 23 February south of Cockerham, up to 3,000 geese including Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese and Pink-footed Geese were disturbed by 'someone' on a quad bike.

This incident isn't directly related to the current post about geese and swans disturbed in fields, but....Wildlife is a low priority to some, you can educate a minority, but definitely not the ignorant majority! 


The 5,000 Pink-footed Geese were flushed this p.m. again today by a farm vehicle deliberately driving through the birds in the same area as Thursday at SD445541 We have collectively to somehow try to stop this wildlife persecution, but an uphill struggle will ensue. Like I have's nigh on impossible to educate the ignorant!     

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

February Stonechats.

On 7 February I received e-mails from two Fylde birders reporting Stonechats in areas where none had been reported during the winter, in both messages it was suggested that Stonechat movement was underway.

So this is the first week in February, and both suggestions proved to be spot on, Stonechat migration was well and truly underway, and by the last day of the month I had collated an impressive 53 records of 102 individual Stonechats with not a single duplicated record. With 11 records in the LDBWS area, the rest were from the Fylde. 

All the records are regarded as migrants, good numbers were in many areas unfamiliar to me, or are new areas for the species, and interestingly most were inland birds, for example....

Hawes Water bird

Carr House Green Common male 

Westby pair

Mythop 4 birds

Singleton pair

Parrox Hall female

Whitters Lane male/female

Aldcliffe Marsh male

Thurnham Hall 2xmale

The Heads 4 birds

Preesall Flashes female

Holme male

Lower Ballam 4 birds

Lambs Lane pair

Longridge Fell 2xpairs

My personal best count has been 7 Stonechat at Cockersand on 23 February.

If the Stonechats behave so obligingly as this male did at Cockersand on Monday, then they are likely to feature regularly in videos on B2B.

Other notes from Cockersand on Monday, 4 Stonechat including another male and a female accompanying the male in the video, with a female seen on Slack Lane. Up to 350 Whooper Swan were seen in three fields, including at Clarkson's Farm where 150 Whooper Swan were accompanied by 2 Bewick's Swan, 7 Twite flew off the marsh by the caravan park.

A long time dead Razorbill was on the shingle below the Lighthouse Cottage car park.

If I'm honest, there was nothing to excite on Conder Pool, but noted were c.70 Wigeon, being almost entirely vegetarian, grazing in a compact group on the sloping grassy edges. Also 2 Stock Dove, a Little Grebe, a Snipe, and the seemingly annual visitors the pair of Lesser Black-backed Gull.


Yesterday 7 Avocet were seen feeding on the Lune Estuary as viewed from Conder Green, per LDBWS.

Many Thanks to Simon Hawtin who kindly sent me his image of the Aurora Borealis taken from Catshaw Fell on Monday night.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Simon who takes credit for furnishing me with Stonechat sightings in particular, but also Ring Ouzel records in Bowland.

Sunday, 26 February 2023

Fourteen Days Later.

Two weeks since my last birding day, one word springs to mind about that....chronic. But I was back in business on Thursday when the day should and could have been a decent one to start and end with a geese bonanza, but wasn't.

To start with, a Fylde birder joined me on the viewing platform, with news that he had been alerted to sightings of a Bean Goose on Conder Pool earlier in the day. As the saying goes - to cut a long story short - I left Conder Pool one hour later unconvinced a Bean Goose had ever been anywhere near Conder Pool.....To end with follows later.

Snipe Conder Pool. Pete Woodruff.

At least 8 Snipe were hunkered down amongst the stones and vegetation on one of the islands on Conder Pool, difficult to see let alone count, and even more perfectly camouflaged than the four Snipe in the image above, taken on Conder Pool 8 years ago in 2015. Three Pink-footed Geese were with a small group of Greylag and around 10 Black-tailed Godwit. Also noted, the Kingfisher obliged with a couple of visits to the sluice, up to 70 Wigeon, and 120 Black-headed Gull. The Stonechat pair were busy at the east end in the long grasses, and a male Ruff was seen in the creeks.

As I drove to Cockersand, I estimated at least 250 Whooper Swan in four fields, mostly distant and inaccessible, including 50% being in fields off Hillam Lane at Cockerham. The visit to Cockersand had to be a success in that I found 7 Stonechat, though the circuit proved quiet, with a Reed Bunting and a Skylark which was in song seeming to pronounce the early arrival of spring. Four Snipe came off the marsh as the tide pushed in.

On Plover Scar c.60 Turnstone and 6 Ringed Plover, and when I got back to Bank Houses, 5 Black-tailed Godwit dropped in and spent a few minutes on the shore before flying off.

To end with, the geese bonanza that wasn't....

As I got back to the motor, I was alerted with a text at 14.08....'3 Bean Geese, a White-fronted Goose, 7 Barnacle Geese, and 2,950 Pink-footed Geese' were on pasture not far from Cockersand. I was set to go but, 6 minutes later at 14.14, another text told me....'geese all flushed by someone on a quad'.....I luv these 'somebodies', lets face it, what would we do without them, well for starters there would be a few more million birds around in the countryside!

Little Egret.

It must be very rewarding to be able to watch a Little Egret in the field behind your house at Cockersand.

Grey Plover.

I must note, since my claim regarding the paucity of Grey Plover on the Lune Estuary and my finding 26 on Plover Scar 9 February, 39 Grey Plover were seen there 24 February per FBC. This record now stands as the best count to date of the Grey Plover on Plover Scar and the Lune Estuary. 


An Avocet made landfall on Conder Pool Wednesday at 11.00am, but didn't hang around very long flying off towards the Lune Estuary and hasn't been seen since. This bird arrived a day earlier than last year on 23 February 2022. 

Sunday, 12 February 2023

First....A Plovers Tale.

The Grey Plover is at best scarce on the Lune Estuary, although it can be found in good number during the winter months not far to the north and to the south west of Cockersand. A couple of examples are, 525 at Middleton Sands, and 174 at Fluke Hall during this years January WeBS counts. In all my visits to Cockersand over many birding years, personal counts have only ever once exceeded single figures on Plover Scar, that of 14 Grey Plover 17 November 2017, and rarely on the Lune Estuary upstream from Glasson, I cannot recall ever seeing them there. 

Although the wind is a little annoying in this unsteady zoomed in clip, I decided not to mute so the feeling of real-time remains.

Finding 26 Grey Plover on Plover Scar was another first for me, and went some way to making my day. Also to note at Cockersand, 4 Stonechat seen, the pair at Bank Houses, and singles on Moss Lane east of Abbey Farm, and at Lighthouse Cottage. A mix of at least 50 Fieldfare and Redwing in the field behind Bank Houses, also two raptors seen, a Merlin over fields, and a Sparrowhawk over Slack Lane.

I counted 15 species in as many minutes on a very lively Conder Pool. With thanks to Howard Stockdale who saved me the trouble of counting by supplying the geese figures.

Stonechat Pair Conder Pool 9 February. Howard Stockdale.

The wintering pair of Stonechat, a Ruff and Greenshank, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Pink-footed Geese, 88 Greylag, 34 Canada Geese, at least one each Reed Bunting and Goldfinch, a 'few' Wigeon and Tufted Duck, 2 Little Egret, 2 Little Grebe, a Grey Heron and a Kestrel. 

Making another one of my mis-timed visits to the Lune Estuary at Glasson, saw most of the waders and gulls driven off by the tide, though I noted about 40 Black-tailed Godwit hanging on, with c.350 Wigeon....The end of a most enjoyable and rewarding visit around the Lune Estuary.

Thanks to Martin for the header Reed Bunting, the image cropped with Martins permission, and which caused no loss of quality in my opinion, and to Howard for the Conder Pool duo of Stonechat.

Nice to see the Snowdrops, soon followed by the sight of a brilliant pair of Bullfinch in Lancaster Cemetery recently, also a beautiful cluster of half a dozen Daffodil's by the shore at Cockersand this week....'I wandered lonely as a cloud'....   

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Fringillidae's Ring My Bell!

It was good to get back up to Birk Bank again on Monday, though I found no Stonechat, but didn't feel any guarantee to do so to be honest. I only managed to chalk up 9 species in the 3 hours spent there doing the circuit, Rigg Lane - Ottergear Bridge - Crag Wood - Littledale Road -  Rigg Lane, but like I have said many times before....this is upland birding, and this is mid-winter.

The first of my pick of the day birds were, 8 Siskin, seen briefly in Alders around the car park, they were soon followed by a mix of around 50 Redwing and Fieldfare in a field with c.500 Starling off Rigg Lane, nearby a Jay seen. Birds noted on the circuit were, 5 Blackbird, 5 Robin, 2 Wren and a female Chaffinch.

At least 14 Red Grouse seen, included probably my tenth encounter over three years, of a rogue individual. I've not yet worked out this behaviour by all these grouse which, given they are game birds subject to being shot out of the sky, they don't take kindly to humans and take to flight on sight.

Like every other encounter I have had with these birds, this one either went ahead of me, or followed behind with its loud bouncing barks and 'go back' calls. This one flew three times at me from behind....I remain puzzled!

Calling in at Lancaster Cemetery on my way home was a good idea as I made my second 'pick of the day' and sixth contact with a pair of Bullfinch, the male calling/singing to a female in the tree opposite before both flying off....Must keep my eyes on these two for possible breeding evidence in May.

Stonechat Records January 2023.

Stonechat Cockersand. Ian Mitchell.

Having collected 33 wintering Stonechat records during the month of January, I'm supposing they had a good breeding season in 2022. There have been a couple of January records which surprise me, in that I either haven't seen records from the location before, or don't know the site, examples are....

9 Jan Milnthorpe Sewage Works, female.

9 Jan Haweswater Moss, bird.

15 Jan Longridge Fell, 4 pairs.

21 Jan Light Ash, pair.

Two birders have been in touch with me, and passed on records from two locations which they claim haven't had wintering birds, both have suggested spring migration of the Stonechat is already underway in the first week of February.

Ring Ouzel.

Known to winter mainly in southern Spain and N.W. Africa, I was surprised to see one reported 3 days ago on 5 February at Tarn Crag, Langdale, Cumbria. I was further surprised to learn this sighting isn't the first winter record of Ring Ouzel in Cumbria, that being of a bird reported 27 years ago on 2 February 1996.

Absolutely no apologies for two stunning images of Stonechat at Cockersand. With many thanks to Howard Stockdale and Ian Mitchell.   

Sunday, 5 February 2023

....Wot No Piks!

There was a little more life on Conder Pool than my last visit here when I called in this week, and I finally caught up with a pair of Stonechat on the eastern perimeter of the pool taking top spot for me. Next best bird was a Ruff seen along the back edge, it was accompanied by 2 Greenshank and 9 Redshank. Also noted, 45 Wigeon, 4 Tufted Duck5 Goosander, and a Little Grebe

It is worth noting that a Ruff is heading towards a year long stay on the Lune Estuary in the Glasson/Conder Green area, with at least one having been recorded every month - including my dozen sightings - since 9 April 2022, this is seen as a first record for the species in this area. 

As I arrived at the bowling green at Glasson to look over the Lune Estuary, at least 1,500 Lapwing were on the wing in a dread, together with large numbers of waders which were also in the air a couple of times during my stay here, the culprit of which remained undetected throughout my stay. Estimates noted along the south bank, 425 Black-tailed Godwit, 320 Redshank, 240 Curlew, 350 Wigeon, and a Goosander.

On a brief visit to Cockersand, 3 Stonechat was another top spot for me. A Snipe exploded out of a ditch as I walked along Moss Lane, and 28 Twite came off Plover Scar and flew the distance towards Crook Farm, almost certainly the same flock seen on Plover Scar previously on 20 December. At least 1,200 Curlew were along the shore by the Cocker Channel. I've recorded a similar number of Curlew at this location perhaps 5 years ago, when Brian Rafferty experienced the same.

Another interesting record was of a drake Shoveler in the ditch running parallel with Moss Lane at the junction with Slack Lane. This Shoveler record follows one seen in this ditch several times from 22 March - 18 May 2018, and includes a pair of Gadwall seen here 21 May the same year, a first for the area in my book, and not seen since. As far as the Shoveler record is concerned this is a scarce bird for the estuary around Cockersand, and is seen as a scarce resident breeder at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, irregular elsewhere. 

I didn't fire up the little digi camera today, and I'm out of appropriate bird piks for the blog, but hope my header image portrays the beauty of Morecambe Bay with the Cumbrian mountains in the background.     

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Disaster...Well A Bit Of One!

I called the visit to Harrisend, Hawthornthwaite and deeper into Bowland a disaster, but I have to say that is a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps a disappointment would be more appropriate. But a few hours birding without the sight of a single Stonechat, did tempt me to call it a disaster.

I've not been on these two fells since 18 October, when I found a total of 15 Stonechat. Since then these birds have retreated to the lowlands, mainly on the Fylde coast, including Cockersand where a peak count of 8 Stonechat was made recently as the best ever winter count here. 

I was in the good company of Martin Jump on Thursday, and 2.5 hour on Harrisend has to be labelled a disappointment, but not never is.

Roe Deer Harrisend. Martin Jump.

Two Roe Deer seen at a range of 80 metres had to take top spot on the visit, they were seen 30 minutes later bounding off in the opposite direction and away from us. Also seen, 2 Raven, 2 Red Grouse, and 3 Buzzard. On Hawthornthwaite, Buzzard and Red Grouse were the only sightings. Martin took note of at least 8 Wren heard on the day.

Star Jelly.

Lets be honest, a frog has to take credit for a first and interesting record made on Hawthornthwaite Fell on Thursday.

Star Jelly. Pete Woodruff.

Void of anything scientific, or the folklore of which there is much surrounding it, here's the simple explanation and the most plausible theory of what we found on moorland on Thursday....This is frog spawn and reproductive organs, regurgitated by a predator that has taken and eaten a frog. On contact with water the mucus jelly has expanded in the stomach and the predator has vomited, leaving a perfect example of Star Jelly.

Black Redstart/Bullfinch/Little Owl.

Black Redstart Cockersand 26 January. Ian Mitchell.

Thanks to Ian for the excellent image of the long staying Back Redstart at Cockersand, and to Colin for reporting another brilliant record of 2 Bullfinch he saw on Rigg Lane on Friday, these follow my record of 2 Bullfinch seen on Rigg Lane on 24 October last year. Thanks also to Martin who found a Little Owl as he drove toward Oakenclough on Thursday late afternoon, seen as a scarce and declining breeding bird in our area.

Thanks also to Ian Mitchell for the brilliant header image of the Golden Plover at Cockersand....Note the stunning plumage detail.