BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY THE FOREST OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND.......................................................................................................GREY WAGTAIL MARTIN JUMP

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Notes From The Estuary.

I put together a few notables around the estuary on Friday, starting at Conder Pool where there was a decent count of 35 Tufted Duck, the 47 Wigeon present took off in sync flying to the estuary. Also 4 Little Grebe, and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull noted on the island.

At Cockersand, the swans were over three fields again, the ones north of Bank End Farm were distant and inaccessible, but I reckon the total count was of up to 320 Whooper Swan with 12 Bewick's Swan including juveniles, and 2 Black Swan in the field west of Gardner's Farm.

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Around 90 Pink-footed Geese were in a field - a few in the next field - between Lighthouse Cottage and Abbey Farm, and at least 500 Curlew were in view on the Cocker Estuary, probably more out of my view at Bank End.

Stonechat Female Cockersand 14 Jan. Pete Woodruff.

It took a while to find the female Stonechat being elusive today, but it eventually performed well in front of the motor, from where I got the shot through the windscreen. I've not seen the male of this pair on my last two visits here, and four other reports failed to mention the bird.

 NOT ME!

I'm now thinking it may have fallen prey to a cat, there are at least three often around and on the hunt, though I did catch a glimpse of what I reckon was a male Stonechat in silhouette at the far end of the rough field behind Lower Bank Houses....Watch this space!

The light was fading when I decided to take a brief look at the estuary at Glasson, but I managed to find an adult Mediterranean Gull with at least mainly 400 Common Gull....probably an underestimate there.

Black-necked Grebe....Ian Hartley LDBWS.

A blast from the past December 2019, and a good example of why the Lune Estuary is amongst those at the top of the list for some excellent all round birding in our area.

View Full Screen Video Pete Woodruff

The header Grey Wagtail visiting his garden, features one of Martin Jump's excellent images he keeps sending me....Thanks Martin.

Breaking News.

Male and female Stonechat at Cockersand yesterday 15 January, in grassy area off the Caravan Park.....Guy McClelland LDBWS

Post Edit 17 Jan

Three Stonechat at Cockersand this morning. A pair flying in from the Bank End area have joined the original female. Excellent report from Andrew Cornall....Thanks Andrew.  

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Full House At Cockersand!

Well, sort of a full house when I visited Cockersand on the best day of the week weather-wise. Sightings for the little black book looked good, and Plectrophenax nivalis hunters were out in force, with fourteen cars parked up when I arrived.

In order of being seen, 7 Goosander were the first to be noted on Conder Pool, then 22 Black-tailed Godwit arrived over the pool from the Lune Estuary, circled once and appeared to be going to land on the island, but decided against it and departed back from whence they came, they were accompanied by 2 Jack Snipe in the flyover. Two Little Grebe seen, one on the pool, one in the creeks.

The Cockersand swans were scattered over three fields, I estimated they numbered 220 Whooper Swan, with 8 Bewick's Swan accompanying 114 in fields west of Gardner's Farm. At high tide, 6 Rock Pipit were with a similar number of Meadow Pipit on the marsh, a few Snipe were driven off the marsh by the tide, and the female Stonechat of the wintering pair was constantly mobile over the shore between the caravan park and Bank Houses, it was still there two hours later on my return, but I never did see the male today.

On the circuit, I noted 4 Wren including three together, the interest there being I've never seen the species as a threesome before, though they are known to roost communally in hard weather, with numbers occasionally up to 10, but there is an amazing record of up to 61 from the archives. Also, a Reed Bunting, with 10 Greenfinch which are always a pleasure to be seen in double figures these days. Ten Eider were off Plover Scar, where 6 Turnstone was the sum total of waders on Plover Scar an hour after the tide.

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By the time I reached Cockersand Abbey, a happy little band of birders were enjoying the sight of an obliging and tolerant Snow Bunting quietly pecking around the front door of the abbey, at the same time 12 Twite were also pecking around the gate to Abbey Farm.

When I got back to the caravan park, a traditional look through the gate by Lower Bank Houses paid off when a Barn Owl came into view before soon disappearing again.

I didn't hang around for the sunset at Cockersand, but when I got home, this was the view looking SW from our bedroom window at 16.40pm....Another Grand Finale.

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Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon....North America, south to Panama and Caribbean coast of South America.

First recorded (shot*) in Britain at Sladesbridge, Cornwall in November 1908. The sighting stayed unrecorded until it was exhibited at a meeting of the BOU in October 1918.

*Nothing's changed in the persecution of birds in the 113 years since this man seeing the bird from a window in his house, he records himself to say....'I took my gun and went out, and successfully stalked and killed it'.

Belted Kingfisher Kevin Cole

An angler and ex-birder George Shannon was astounded to see the bird at Redscar Wood by the River Ribble in Preston on 8 November 2021. George couldn't believe his eyes that a Belted Kingfisher had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and  found itself in Lancashire, England, but his disbelief was dispelled by the fact he had previously seen the Belted Kingfisher for himself in North America. In the month that followed the birds discovery by George, twitchers in droves from all over the country have been to see this bird. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Stonechats & Dragons '21.

My birding took a bit of a nose dive in 2021, it became fragmented, and by December made a crash landing to be honest, even worse, I've yet to see any sign of lift-off in '22. But that's a long story, and in the main boring material for a birding blog. 

From a personal point of view 2021 went out on a high, thanks to the one bird I hold above all others.

Stonechats 2021.

I made notes of an amazing individual 539 Stonechats in 228 records through 2021, the first on I January, the last 22 December, and none duplicated. The records were collected mainly from Fylde Bird Club, a few from LDBWS, and include mine in Bowland, with evidence of breeding, including lowland locations with young/juveniles present (*)

12 May Cam Brow, at least one young.

12 May Fairhaven Dunes, pair and 2 young.*

8 June Hawthornthwaite Fell, pair with 2 young.

13 June Fleetwood Marsh, male with juvenile.*

14 June Birk Bank, 2 pairs with at least 7 young.

22 June Hareden, 6 birds including 2 young.

29 June Catshaw Fell, family party seen.

1 July Harrisend Fell, 12 birds including 5 juvenile.

5 July Cam Brow, pair and 3 young.

17 July Brennand Tarn, pair and 2 juvenile.

19 July Starr Hills, pair and 4 juvenile.*

26 July Langden Valley, 6 birds including 3 young.

2 August Harrisend Fell, 18 birds including 9 young.

3 August Fleetwood NR, male and 4 juvenile.* 

4 August Hawthornthwaite Fell West, pair/female/male.

4 August Hawthornthwaite Fell East, 2 pairs and 3 young

25 August Wesham Marsh, juvenile seen.*

6 September Birk Bank, pair and 2 juvenile.

6 September Mythop, juvenile seen.*

13 September Heysham Head, juvenile seen.*

14 September Heysham Head, 2 juvenile seen.*

Pete Cook.

Whilst searching the LDBWS website for records, I came across the news which reminded me that Pete Cook had passed away on 5 January 2021, he was the LDBWS Hon Secretary for 19 years from January 2012.

Pete Cook had been an active birdwatcher from the early age of 12. His trigger point for birding was watching Stonechats which were then nesting on Heysham Barrows. Pete wrote an article for the LDBWS Annual Report in 2013 when he said....'My enchantment with the Stonechat led me to want to know more about birds in general'....and went on to add his disappointment that the Stonechat was no longer a regular breeding bird in coastal areas in the LDBWS area, including Heysham. This brings me to note, the last two records of juvenile Stonechat at Heysham Head in the list above, would have been autumn passage birds....or alternately something I don't know!

Though not at the age of 12 in 1958, I was to follow Pete Cooks footsteps with regards to the most endearing Stonechat and the fascination which goes with the species.

Odonata....This year I turned my attentions from birds and a little more towards dragonflies. 

For the fifth year I found Keeled Skimmer again at Birk Bank, with 8 seen on 21 July, including something of a surprise when three males were seen around boggy areas on the west side of Ottergear Bridge. I found a total of 14 Golden-ringed Dragonfly at 4 locations, including 8 on Grizedale Brook at Grizedale Bridge, where I found my first Common Hawker.

Another highlight was of up to 100 Migrant Hawker found along the Glasson-Galgate length of the Lancaster Canal during Sept/Oct.

And Finally.

A Blackbird was singing in our garden in the evening of New Years Day.

Friday, 24 December 2021

The Damp Squid.

A visit to Harrisend Fell then on to Hawthornthwaite, turned out to be something of a damp squid, but as with any birding, not without interest including a first.

It was a bitter disappointment that I struggled to find just one pair of Stonechat at Harrisend, 7 Red Grouse, and a Magpie calling and flying purposefully south across the fellside below the ridge, in itself something unusual and a first 'Moorland Magpie' for me. On Hawthornthwaite, just 18 Red Grouse seen. 

Stonechat Behavior....I had been on Harrisend 1.5 hour, and was on the return leg before I found the pair of Stonechat providing me with a first record. 

The male was atop of a gorse bush, the classic view of an upland Stonechat. The bird soon took to the wing and was seen to be in pursuit of a female, flight was fast and direct until the female changed direction, then soon went to perch, followed by the male going to perch close by her. This was soon followed by the female taking off again, with the male in hot pursuit to repeat a similar pattern, the pair going to perch again.

Having spent 15 minutes watching this pair of Stonechat, during which time this behaviour was repeated at least ten times, covering quite a large area of about 100 square meters, before I left them to it.

I was in touch with John Callion about the Stonechat observations at Harrisend on Tuesday, and he asked if I had any evidence of a third bird involved, in which case the male was seeing off an intruder. In fact I saw no other bird throughout my observations.

In our correspondence, John passed on to me some pretty impressive records, one of which was c.130 nestling Stonechats ringed this year. John added a footnote to this, within 10 miles of his house approx 40 nestlings were colour ringed this year, at least six of the broods successfully fledged, yet no colours on any of the six wintering pairs close to him have been seen....Fascinating.

The other equally impressive record from John, was of 74 Wood Warblers - 13 adult and 61 nestling - colour ringed in the Borrowdale Valley this year....Need to get myself into Cumbria next year.  

In The Garden....A Goldcrest graced our plum tree and conifer yesterday morning.

The counter on B2B reached a viewing count of 2167 views for one post recently. To each and everyone, my little Robin friend 'Bob' and I would like to wish you....

A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS   

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Keeping Up Appearances!

In my attempt against mental instability and my world of diminishing birding. I was off armed with bino's round my neck and camera in pocket, and went for a wander through the Lancaster Cemetery and Williamson Park, from where there was excellent if slightly misty views from the Ashton Memorial over the north side of Lancaster to the distant Lakeland mountains over Morecambe Bay.

This turned out to be another excellent idea, if only because I found a stunning male Bullfinch in the cemetery. This is my second record of Bullfinch at this location, I found five here on 30 October 2014. These represent the only two records of Bullfinch seen in Lancaster Cemetery east of Lancaster at SD 491619  

I will be keeping an eye on this, although 7 years between my sightings, I now reckon the Bullfinch is resident in this area in which to my knowledge no-one does any birding and I only visit occasionally, but that's going to change, and I need to find them here in the summer months. 

Some thoughtful bird lover has put four feeders up in the cemetery which had attracted a mix of up to 20 Blue Tit and Great Tit, a Nuthatch and Robin soon joined them as I watched. Also seen in the cemetery, at least 8 Long-tailed Tit and a TreecreeperOther notes on the wander, 2 Jay one of which was seen of in aerial combat by 2 Magpie

Eight Rooks were in the rookery by the entrance to Williamson Park, they were quite noisy and you would have thought it was at the start of the breeding season in March by their behaviour.

Good numbers of birds at the feeders in Williamson Park, including Blue Tit, Great Tit, and Coal Tit, 3 Dunnock, and 2 Robin. Fourteen Black-headed Gull were accompanied by Mallard on the pond. I liked the reflections of the surrounding landscape in the video.


All in all, an enjoyable couple of therapeutic hours on Friday.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Another Ten Days Later.

Three Of A Kind!

Another bit of decent birding around the Lune Estuary again for the third time in a row yesterday.

The male Green-winged Teal which has recently become a member of the local Anus crecca gang which was up to 80 strong today on Conder Pool. It wasn't very obliging in poor light, distant, and asleep, the vertical white bar at the side of the breast appeared quite indistinct in the head on view in the video. Wildfowl of note, 62 Wigeon and a drake Goosander. A Little Grebe was the only bird seen in the creeks. Maybe this was the same Little Grebe I saw an hour later at the Conder mouth.

Notes from the River Lune at Glasson, with no apologies for comfortable rounded figures, at least 3,000 Lapwing, 120 Curlew, 80 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 Golden Plover, uncounted Redshank and Dunlin, and a lone Snipe. Also of note, 350 Wigeon, and a drake Goosander. On the canal basin, 3 Goldeneye drakes.

At Cockersand, a mix of 50 Redwing and 30 Fieldfare, and 3 Tree Sparrow in a hedgerow. On the circuit, a large swathe of waders in the air off Crook Farm included up to 400 Black-tailed Godwit, at least 2,500 Starling were marauding the fields, and the winter resident herd of at least 180 Whooper Swan keep changing location and included six off Slack Lane today.

As I got back towards the caravan park, a Snow Bunting was on the coastal path opposite the brick tower, from where I saw 28 Twite in flight and undecided where to land. The resident wintering pair of Stonechat spent their time making sorties, some the results of which according to AC, they catch hairy caterpillars, something I have yet to see for myself.

No Grand Finale this time....But as ever, a good time was had by all.  

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Ten Days Later.

Where to go on Thursday....I juggled with one or two of my favourite birding sites, in the end the estuary magnet got a hold and off I went to Conder Green.

On Conder Pool, a Kingfisher was the star attraction, it landed briefly on the outflow where I'd wager it does a few times on a daily basis. I counted 68 Wigeon, 4 Goosander, and 2 Little Grebe, another was in the creeks. Three drake Goldeneye were my first of the winter on the canal basin at Glasson Dock.

Ten days after my visit to Cockersand 22 November, c.180 Whooper Swan have relocated to other fields, including up to 120 west of Gardner's Farm. On a wander, 12 Greenfinch, 8 Blackbird, a Song Thrush, at least 300 Golden Plover south of the abbey, and probably as many as 20 Skylark hidden in stubble off Slack Lane. 

The Grand Finale.

There was another grand finale for me again at Cockersand, though this time I left too early for the sunset.

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The Barn Owl performed impeccably for several minutes as it hunted over the fields north of the caravan park.

Stonechat Cockersand. Pete Woodruff.

The pair of Stonechat also put on a show for me again in the long grasses. But today, a bonus awaited me as I drove towards the gate to Abbey Farm.

Short-eared Owl Brian Rafferty

To make the grand finale complete, a Short-eared Owl was in front of me within 50 metres initially, but soon worked away from me as it hunted the inland fields and eventually disappeared east from view. 

Thanks to Brian Rafferty for the excellent image of the stunning Short-eared Owl. It perfectly mirrored what I saw through the windscreen at close range on Thursday afternoon. Putting this image up represents a huge thank you for the kind of photography he allowed me to use on B2B for many years. I sincerely hope he can resume some normality in 2022, and I can then continue to use his work again....I wish you all the best on your road to recovery Brian.

And Finally.

A second helping of the stunning sunset at Cockersand on Monday 22 November. Set to music, not necessarily the best choice, but as an experiment it's at least OK until I find something more appropriate.

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Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Cockersand....Best & Brilliant.

On a lovely sunny, cold, and calm day, Cockersand was at its best and brilliant on Monday, and produced a nice little trio to add to some other good things.

But I first called in at Conder Green to note 2 Kingfisher in flight down the creeks, one in pursuit of the other, before doing a U turn to fly back upstream and out of sight. On Conder Pool I counted 46 Wigeon, 7 Snipe, and a lone Little Grebe. Interesting, that the Conder Pool winter population has rapidly fallen in number this year, since the all time peak count of 32 Little Grebe recorded here 25 September, and numbers usually remain in decent double figures here until after the turn of the year.

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A circuit of Cockersand is always on the cards as a traditional thing for me, as is the case for most other locations I visit on my birding sorties. Today was no exception, and with the conditions, Cockersand was perfect for some birding.

In fields north behind the caravan park, up to 180 Whooper Swan including 28 off Slack Lane. As I wandered along the road, 13 Blackbird counted, 3 Greenfinch, and a Reed Bunting, and as I rounded the corner at Lighthouse Cottage to head south back to the Caravan Park, a male Merlin shot across my path and flew along the shoreline to Crook Cottage before turning inland and out of view. Almost certainly the same male Merlin I found here 8 October.

I counted 135 Wigeon drifting on the sea, in a line from Plover Scar upstream and out of view towards Glasson. 

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I got this clip of the Whooper Swans south of the abbey, looking east with the Bowland Fells and Hawthornthwaite in the background, whilst c.300 Golden Plover shot over my head to the shore, and from here I saw the only Brown Hare of the day, seen racing through the field.

When I got back to the caravan park it was to my delight I found a pair of Stonechat amongst the tall grasses above the shingle. Whilst stalking the chats to try for a pik, a visiting birder from Skipton - who I had met earlier along the headland - called that he had seen an owl that had gone to ground distant over the fields behind Lower Bank Houses. A Buzzard and Carrion Crow had gone down in the same area seemingly curious as to what was going on with the owl. We had to wait a while for the bird to reappear and take to the wing flying towards us, it was a Barn Owl....Thanks Duncan, nice one.

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I was at Cockersand until 4.00pm as the sun was setting, a pair of Stonechat and a Barn Owl was the prefect end for me. If it's a little therapeutic birding you're after, I recommend Cockersand....Be there.  

At 8°C a Small Tortoiseshell was in our garden briefly yesterday. 

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Top Ten On Harrisend.

Weatherwise the day started well on Thursday, but by midday it turned cloudy eventually becoming drizzle for a spell in the afternoon with a cold wind, not the day I had hoped for.

But the inclement weather didn't succeed in putting the damper on my visit to Harrisend. By the time I took this photograph of the view toward Clougha almost hidden in the murk, I had found a perfect 10 Stonechat looking set to winter here.


I love this image of the stunning male Stonechat, it takes me back to the moment where and when I found the bird isolated on the remains of the old lone Hawthorn.


This male Stonechat was amongst the gorse where there was another surprise find, in and out of the gorse was a Coal Tit. Unexpected, I never thought I'd find a Coal Tit on moorland, being a woodland bird, preferring conifers particularly spruce, also a regular garden visitor. Just 2 Red Grouse seen, with no Raven or Buzzard seen, as opposed to a mix of 6/8) seen here 6 October.


I came across this Dusky Puffball Lycoperdon nigrescens on Harrisend. This fungi rarely occurs in large number, is found in acid coniferous woodland and on heathland, and is regarded as suspect and inedible. 

A comparatively short visit to Hawthornthwaite had me finding 14 Red Grouse, and a Wren skulking amongst the heather.


Thinking I was going to draw another blank as I had on 6 October, I was five minutes away from the end of the visit, when I came across a pair of Stonechat, the male being in the short 30sec footage above.

Garden Birds and Moths.

I was grateful as ever that Mike and Ian were in touch with news and images from their respective Lancaster gardens recently.

Brambling Male. Mike Atkinson.

Sparrowhawk Juvenile. Mike Atkinson.

Feathered Thorn. Ian Mitchell.

Merveille du Jour....Wonder Of The Day.

Merveille du Jour. Ian Mitchell.

One of the most beautiful of UK moths, with a brilliant name to match.

Thanks to Bob Bushell for his excellent header image of the Redwing.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

After The Break!

On a lovely wall to wall sunny day on Thursday, there was nothing more I wanted to do, than to get to do a 3 mile circuit Rigg Lane-Birk Bank-Cragg Wood-Littledale Road-Rigg Lane. There was half a chance of me finding the last Common Darter around the bog, and maybe some winter thrush to be seen.

Well, two visits to Birk Bank Bog, one at the start of the walk, and one at the end, proved my first hope wasn't to be, with not a darter in sight. But as I was leaving the boardwalk, the sound of a loud chattering 'schack-schack-schack' filled the skies above me, and by the time I ended the walk 3 hours later, I had seen the arrival and roaming around a wide area, of at least 365 Fieldfare. Flocks were seen several times in 3 hours estimated at 200/100/60/5 

Mostly seen distant and in flight, the Fieldfare were accompanied by a few noticeably smaller Redwing, this flock were mobile west of Cragg Wood later in the afternoon at 3.00pm.

Couldn't resist a picture of the Robin by the lane to Rushy Lee.

Robin Rushy Lee. Pete Woodruff.

Seeing none today, I heard just one Red Grouse, 3 Raven drifted overhead as did a Kestrel which I saw twice later hovering in hunting mode, and as I wandered along Rigg Lane a small group of Long-tailed Tit were working through the trees.


A brief glimpse of a butterfly in silhouette around the top of this tree on Rigg Lane would have had me thinking Purple Hairstreak had it been mid-summer, presumably a Red Admiral seen.

Epilogue.

It's been almost a month since my last post on B2B, and nearly the same length of time since I last escaped for some birding. On both counts that's the biggest gap since I started this blog 13 years ago on 15 November 2008 Here

I'm hoping to successfully address some issues to avoid any continuation of this situation which may take a while. Meanwhile, 300+Fieldfare around Birk Bank on Thursday certainly helped me on the way to that goal....Watch this space!