Birding The Lune Estuary The Forest Of Bowland And Beyond......................................................................MED GULLS - 2 OF 4 - CONDER POOL 23 SEPT PETE WOODRUFF

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Mini Marathon!

But first another stunning image from BR, this time a Redwing which graced his garden today, many thanks yet again for allowing me to put your images on Birds2blog. Don't forget you can link to Brian Raffertys blog from here in the left hand sidebar.

I decided on another 'Up a Lazy River' again today which is actually not quite accurate as the walk involves going downstream. Today I started at Skerton Bridge and although it was never my plan to do so I ended up 4 hours later at Glasson Dock, the dawdle produced the following......

Between Skerton Bridge and Marsh Point I saw 9 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander drake's, and 4 Cormorant, the tide was wrong today and this resulted in the 'gull grilling' being much reduced as there were very few to grill. At Marsh Point I saw just 6 Black-tailed Godwits today but note C.180 recorded earlier by H Hughes on another blog on which you can read more here

On Aldcliffe Marsh the visit was in ruins just after my arrival here due to a 'man and microlight' which put up a couple of thousand 'geese' of which I did managed to ID the 4 Snow Geese accompanying them in flight before disappearing from view. I won't wish this guy had run out fuel in case I'm accused of wishing ill on one of my fellow men as he fell from the sky, but why did he have to be over here at the same time as me instead of - lets say -  somewhere in Scotland......Urghhhh!

Two Little Egret, 12 Goldfinch, and a  Dunnock were noted and 2 Water Rail obliged feeding below the fence on the much reduced (in water) flood. Between Stodday and Conder Green I counted a good number of 42 Blackbird and what I can only describe as 'an amazing' 22 Song Thrush at least, also 4 Fieldfare, a Mistle Thrush, and a Brown Hare was racing straight at me on the path until it saw me. On the lake at Ashton Golf Club I noted 21 Tufted Duck, I then had to put my legs into 5th gear to catch a bus for Lancaster at 4.15 from Glasson Dock. So, with the 'amazing' Song Thrush record aside nothing remarkable but this is birding in my book. 

Many Thanks to EVERYONE who visited Birds2blog in 2009, I never really thought I'd get this far down the line when I created the blog in November 2008 but encouraged by lots of people visiting I did and am now left wondering whether or not I'll survive 2010......we'll see!


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Looking Back......

......and a couple of pics of Richard Shilling's recent Landart creations in Ribblesdale.

Both a stunning piece of sculpture and an equally stunning photograph showing Penyghent in the background.

And again the second piece located in Ribblesdale North Yorkshire. Richard calls these work's of art Ribblesdale Stacked Snow Squares......Thanks for allowing me to show these two images on Birds2blog Richard.

And a few snippets from my Jan/Feb records of 2009.


The Common Sandpiper remained at Conder Green throughout the winter months as did Spotted Redshank and Greenshank with two of both seen on one visit, at least 50 Twite was the peak of this species here in January, c.150 Goldeneye on the River Lune at Glasson Dock far exceed any other location in the area, 3 Stonechat were at Conder Green on Thursday 8 January, and a male wintered at Cockersands, Short-eared Owl/s entertained lots of birders at Bradshaw Lane Head including me but became a little too predictable for my liking but I did keep returning to see the spectacle just the same.


On Wednesday 5 February a Short-eared Owl was hunting the marsh at Cockersands, at New Lane on 5 February at least 100 Corn Bunting was an amazing sight and you wonder if this will/can last with agricultural practices forging forward in the 21st century, 3 Stonechat seen at Conder Green again this month, an adult Mediterranean Gull was on the canal basin at Glasson Dock with another on the Lune Estuary where they are now a regular feature, on Sunday 15 February I saw the Purple Sandpiper on the Bubbles groyne, an amazing 21 Bewick's Swans were on Jeremy Lane on 20 February, a Tundra Bean Goose was with c.2,000 Pink-footed Geese opposite Gulf Lane from the A588, and a female Stonechat at Fluke Hall was almost certainly the first returning one in my book.

It's worth noting a Blackbird was heard in full song in Dalton Square Lancaster in the dark just after dusk on 28 December 2008. More 'snippets' from 2009 to follow at a later date.  

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Up a Lazy River.

Well the River Lune certainly looked lazy today compared to what it did a few weeks ago during the appalling November weather we had. I decided to take a look at the section between Skerton Bridge to Marsh Point then on to Aldcliffe Marsh.

Between these points I saw 10 Goldeneye, a drake Goosander, a Grey Wagtail and Song Thrush. Despite grilling a few hundred 'gull's' on the way down I could find no Med's but 26 Black-tailed Godwits taking rest opposite Marsh Point was excellent.

The pic above is the best of my efforts to record the 4 Snow Geese on Aldcliffe Marsh for a month and two days since 27 November and previously of Carnforth Marsh fame, they were in company with a small group the rest of which in total amounted to at least 550 Greylags which represents the largest number of this species I personally ever recorded. I would estimate the 100 Pink-footed Geese here today as numbering little more than that, the 'best' bird was a Dark-bellied Brent Goose, a Little Egret was also noted, and as I came off the marsh 3 Meadow Pipit seen.


I decided to put this piece of 'artwork' on the blog as I came across it along the quay on the outer shell of what was the very heartbeat of employment called Williamson's of Lancaster when I was a little younger, you could actually leave a job of work here on a Friday and probably start a new one at Lansil/Storey's on the following Monday morning such was the level of work in those things change!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Keen as Mustard!

Well keen enough to take the  pic below of Conder Pool as the sun came up, it's the view to the southeast of the pool which is the only section not frozen but will be in the morning.

Well, if like me you thought the Common Sandpiper had given up on wintering here again this year having not been seen by me since 10 November (22 Nov LDBWS) you were not just too clever but wrong as well as it was found on my second visit here today at 3.00 pm, and how many times has a second visit to many a location paid off for me......recommended if possible.

Back to the beginning......I gave Conder Green a full 2 hours including a circuit which produced, hanging on in on Conder Pool, 45 Lapwing, 26 Mallard, 7 Snipe, 4 Shelduck, and a pair of Wigeon, by the platform a Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, and Dunnock. Just one on the pool but nine in the Conder Channel equals the ten Little Grebe seen regularly here recently, also noted 2 Grey Plover, c.2,000 Pink-footed Geese seen from here lingering over the Hillam Lane area, later another 2,500 went south over Glasson Dock and later still in excess of 4,000 disturbed over Hillam Lane (Norbreck Farm) again. On the Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock to note, circa 1,500 Bar-tailed Godwit, 250 Golden Plover, 85 Greylag, an adult Med Gull and Little Egret. Between Waterloo Cottage and Bazil Point I would estimate 135 Goldeneye seen on the River Lune again as on 4 December.

At Cockersands just 9 Eider seen off Plover Scar today, c.150 Dunlin, and 12 Black-tailed Godwit. By the time I'd walked a stop/start dawdle I was a block of ice when I arrived at the caravan park end so low estimates of 6 Greenfinch and 4 Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail, 2 Reed Bunting, 6 Fieldfare, a female Kestrel, and a male Stonechat has finally arrived here again this winter, c.100 Golden Plover were scattered in the fields back to the lighthouse via the road, and 4 Brown Hare.


This notice is on a post at the entrance to Cockersands Abbey Farm and although I've not yet had an opportunity to look up the website I think you should, and act upon it too.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Looking Forward.... Monday to get back to some normality, can't wait to see Conder Pool and a few other places in my sights. Meanwhile, thanks to Paul Baker for the excellent image of the drake America Wigeon at White Rock BC Canada of which I  reckon it not beyond the bounds of possibilities that there's one lurking out there amongst the thousands of them in our area and just beyond.

The image of the 1st winter drake Velvet Scoter is thanks to Colin Bushell and for your infomation the bird is currently at Barrow Lodge near Clitheroe if you have a desire to see it.

There is much to be said about the Sanderling but these brief notes are interesting and the species runs very close to being one of my favourite waders, in all my years of birding the best record I ever achieved in our recording area was of 130 at Cockersands on 31 May 2007 and I now await something of a repeat of this excellent record which didn't happen in 2008/9.

Inland records of the Sanderling are not unknown and of particular note is of c.20 at Brockholes Quarry  in May/June of 2000, also at Stocks Reservoir an unprecedented 12 were recorded in May 2001. There is only thin evidence of where our passage migrant Sanderling winter, the only foreign recoveries of marked birds in winter are of three on Mauritania's Banc d'Arguin and two in Morocco, but this at least does suggest that many of them winter in Africa, but there remains much to be learned about the movements of Lancashire's Sanderlings.

I've edited this post as the photograph of the Velvet Scoter and accompanying text has brought about some interesting conflict regarding sex/age. I've seen it reported as a 1st winter female, a female, and a juvenile drake, it is now widely recorded as the latter. 

Thursday, 24 December 2009

And Finally......

......with what will inevitably be the Christmas break from birding - well I could do without that now couldn't I if you've been following my misfortunes recently - and with a couple of decent images I found from my 'off the road' birding friend John Bateman, it was a good excuse for another small post on Birds2blog.

Not your average bird the Black-headed Gull for paying a visit to your garden but this one came to John whilst he's waiting to be up and running again hopefully in the New Year. John also made an excellent job of capturing the Pied Wagtail below.

I witnessed at first hand the utter madness of Christmas these days when I accompanied Kathleen on a shopping excursion ending up mid-afternoon at Morrisons to collect a few bits we still needed. Having picked up just three items we proceeded to the checkout to find a total of c.30 of them all having queues of at least 35 shoppers - that's a grand total of 1,050 people waiting to pay for their trolley loads (or should that be 1,050 people off their trolleys) - I said to Kathleen 'I'm off drop'em'......thankfully she heeded what I said and we left at the speed of sound and stuff the three items we'll do without them.


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

HAPPY CHRISTMAS.... all who visit Birds2blog - I'm hoping the 'Flag Counter' will top 1,000 Union Jacks before/on Christmas Day, but probably pushing that hope a little too far - and the kind people who also photograph the birds we love and permit me to use on the blog, I really appreciate you and thanks very much for your help in adding some colour and flavour to Birds2blog with some stunning and always excellent photographs.

OK so the pic is of a Song Sparrow in BC Canada and not at all related to the species/country I'm about to make a few brief notes on, but at least the image has a nice holly border with a Christmas feel about it and thanks to Paul Baker for that....Happy Christmas Paul.

The Twite (Mountain Linnet) is always popular with birders in the winter months when you might come across the species in our area, and if you try really hard and visit the right area's will probably have some success. I'm not an authority on ornithological history and wouldn't know whether or not things have changed any with regard to their distribution over 100 years as I've  done no research prior to penning this, but I do know it was then a bird inhabiting the Arctic Regions, Scandinavia, and Russia travelling south in the autumn to breed from Derbyshire northwards and was then referred to as very common on the Lancashire Moors and in the winter months could be observed assembled in very large flocks.

How things have changed since those days at the beginning of the 20th century, the Twite is now one of England's most vulnerable birds with a breeding population no more than a fraction of what it was 100 years ago. The species is dependant on the moors for nesting, and the moorland fringes for feeding and is very vulnerable to habitat change. However, there is a project in place which aims to increase the numbers of Twite by helping landowners to restore nesting/feeding conditions on their land, having suffered a severe population decline in recent years you would want to wish the project good luck in the quest to bring back the Twite to its former glory and numbers.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Shortest Day....

....well alleluia I say to that.

Having gained a first record this month in not getting out birding for ten days and the motor going into hospital tomorrow - hopefully just for the day - my hopes remain high. But if its the shortest day today then we can at least leapfrog over the Christmas period and begin to think about the New Year. I myself look forward to the repeats of 2009 which started with finding 210 Lapwing on Newby Moor just over the border and into North Yorkshire on 24 February with obvious signs of the new breeding season so early in the year, these birds could  begin laying in mid-March which would have been just three week after the date I saw them. Three days later I found my first returning Stonechat at Fluke Hall and around three weeks after that my first Wheatears were found with three a Cockersands and another two on Glasson Marsh from Bodie Hill.

Wing stretching Lapwing thanks to Peter Guy. 

Well I wouldn't want to jump too far into the future but before the end of March - as in 2009 - I'd like to think I will have found my first Sand Martin, and two Little Ringed Plover just scrapped into the month by arriving on Conder Pool on the 31 March which coincidentally was the very same date as in 2008. Also on the last day of March I observed a Swallow over the canal basin at Glasson Dock, and three Small Tortoiseshell butterflies at Cockersands.

So with just this small selection of records from 2009 I look forward to seeing them again in 2010, and with the influx of summer visitors to look forward to beyond this things are already beginning to look brighter....hows that for positive thinking!

Friday, 18 December 2009

This is the News.

OK, so I never ceated a blog to unload my lifes little problems which come my way from time to time, but just a minute, things are going from bad to worse. In the first place I had thought I would get out birding yesterday for the first time in six days but that fell apart, I was never going to get out today and weekend now its Monday until my car decides its given me five years of untroubled motoring so today it gave me cause for some serious concern and my mechanic tells me he can't look at it until Tuesday, well by now I'm thinking I may as well be dead......Ahhhh, you should never say things like that said grandma!

So now I may have to make plans to bird by bus on Monday, well I could take the ride to Conder Green to check out the bird life there, then to Glasson Dock, and then a cholesterol fighting walk to Cockersands......sounds good actually, I'll keep you informed.

Meanwhile, how about Brian Raffertys stunning images of the Barn Owl at the top of the page, and more of BR's stunning images of the Little Owl above in the Trough of Bowland.

And you really would think someone had said to the Short-eared Owl......'look I'm going to take your photograph will you please stare at me with those glaring eyes'......Excellent pictures as ever Brian and thanks a bundle.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

This is History.

Filling the gap on Birds2blog until I can get out birding again....Wot No Pic's!

Some of these random selected 'blasts from the past' extracted for LDBWS Annual Reports, rank from remarkable to mind boggling in relation to the birds we can see/don't see today, I may also have already mentioned some in a previous post on Birds2blog, if so my apologies. 

Fifty years is a long time ago perhaps but in 1959 just imagine the following records of a species which - unless someone is keeping secrets from us - can't be found anywhere within the recording area and beyond......

The Nightjar breeds in the Lune Valley, more common on the hills in Quernmore, and wait for it......15/20 pairs on Warton Crag. In the same year there was no evidence of 'recent' breeding of the Stonechat. 60/70 Yellowhammer were recorded at Leighton Moss on 31 December......Well WOW to all that lot. 

There are a lot of 'WOW' records to be found if you search the archives, and what about c.250 Redpoll at Leighton Moss in Sept/Oct 1964......go there tomorrow and see if you can equal this!

In 1966 a Caspian Tern was a first record not only for this area but also for Lancashire. The record of four Cirl Bunting at Conder Green on 18 November 1968 (but not verified) fascinated me and would more than fascinate me if I find one there on my next visit.

This one is my favourite of the random selection......An adult Little Egret on 25 May 1970 was the first record for the area......who would have thought 40 years on! And the Twite in 1973 was referred to as a species which is 'undoubtedly overlooked' whilst a pair were possibly breeding in Crag Wood in 1977.

I think perhaps here we should leave this 'gap filler' for Birds2blog and ponder as to why some of these sightings have changed so dramatically over the years, one of the best examples I know of is......why - over at least the past ten years in my book - has the Whinchat ceased to breed on Clougha/Birk Bank when in 1976 three pairs did so?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Not looking good......

......for my birding this week what with this Crazy Christmas lark - well there's a pun - and the washer deciding to blow up and breath its last I'm completely knackered and what with researching for a new one plus purchase/delivery/installation my mental state is going to be in shreds. So I'd say Thursday is the best chance I have up to now though KT doesn't know I have this fixed inside my head yet. Meanwhile, thanks to my photographic/birder contacts and RS's 'Landart' I can at least put up a fight at keeping the blog alive with the following pics.

This is a stunning image of the equally stunning male Desert Wheatear thanks to Mike Watson who was off on his birding trip to Oman and Bahrain in Oct/Nov this year. The first record of a Desert Wheatear O.d homochroa in the UK is of a male found in 1880 at Alloa in Scotland and all these years on this first record fits in with the now established pattern of vagrancy for the species which became annual during the 1990's. A male was found at Fair Isle in October 1928 and was eventually accepted as being the first British record of the eastern race O.d.deserti.

Warren Baker got this excellent shot of the Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding in his garden......Thanks Warren.

And thanks to Richard Shilling we have another of his creations which he calls '4 Colour Sun Wheel' which unfortunately I have created as a collage in the wrong sequence because the bottom picture is of Richards original location for the artwork which he moved to a different one in sunlight (top) close to a path for others hopefully to enjoy. As always I recommend you take a look at this and other pieces of Richards 'Landart' which is linked in my sidebar to the left of this post. Its worth noting that Richard collects his material on location for is work and as far as I'm aware never takes any with him. Always a pleasant relief from the birds Richard and many thanks for allowing me to put your art on Birds2blog.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Needle in a Haystack!

BT day and I suggested it was perfect for taking a look over Dalton Crags to see if this Great Grey Shrike which gets a mention every now and then is going to submit itself to us. But these crags cover quite some area and OK its seen in and around a regular haunt but then it can be regarded as mobile. We didn't locate the bird but were compensated by a pair of Stonechat and 2 Coal Tit noted. On the way here we had called in at Swarthdale, lots of beech here and Brambling in the past but not today, again we were compensated by at least 24 Redwing - my first this winter - and a Coal Tit.

Back at Dalton Crag the day was so good weather-wise that we were able to have a 'buttie & coffee' at one of the table and benches in the picnic area, not bad considering the appalling weather of late and the fact it's mid December......quite a turnaround. Question now is, where do we go from here......after a bit of a circular tour we found ourselves at Burns Beck Moss, an attractive little reserve but I'm not sure the winter months are an ideal time to visit, last time we came here I threatened to come back in the summertime as I reckon this area is probably 'quite interesting' but I never carried out the threat but reckon I will this time as it looks the place not just for the Stonechat for example but also for Whinchat given a good going over......a days job at least.

So now we are on our way home but on the way had a look in on an area around Rigmaden and - blow me down - another 3 Stonechat and by now my faith in the species is being rapidly restored, also noted were c.12 Long-tailed Tit. A four species total, this is worse than being up Clougha for the day......still I don't do bird races!

An excellent Yorkshire view of distant Ingleborough courtesy of Pete Woodruff.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The hills are alive!

Well not with the sound of music or birds for that matter, but I did find an impressive 12 wintering Stonechat of which not a single one would have been found by the casual visitor with occasional glances through binos despite the birds reputation as a 'sit up and beg' artist......not always the case and 'now you see me, now you don't' often rules especially if you take your eyes off 'em, today's birds were all distant observation's.

This is the only pic I took today, nothing new there then. It illustrates the loneliness of a distant isolated farmhouse in the Forest of Bowland. If you stand at an elevated viewpoint anywhere in the Forest of Bowland you realise just how vast this place really is and have to wonder how many birds over the millenniums have gone unnoticed and the impossible task of collecting records in such wilderness. In six hours serious searching today I myself barely scratched the surface at three locations.

On Harrisend which has become a huge sponge in the wake of the appalling November rain's, I found 4 Stonechat which were all males, also 11 Red Grouse, a Buzzard, a Raven, 5 Wren, and a Brown Hare, 16 distant 'geese' went over going north east.

On Hawthornthwaite where I had 'given up' on the place during the summer months and paid just five visits here all year including today's and found just one female up until 7 October when I saw eight birds, today I found 6 Stonechats and 8 Red Grouse representing the only fourteen birds seen here in 2 hours. From the Marshaw access track to the same fell I found a pair of Stonechat, at least 8 Red Grouse, a Buzzard, 3 Wren, and 3 Meadow Pipits were the only ones seen anywhere today.

On the way out this morning I called at Blea Tarn Reservoir to count 145 Mallard, 2 Goldeneye, and a Little Grebe, and before all this an estimated 380 Pink-footed Geese were going SW over Bowerham. So what are these PFG up to bearing in mind I'd seen up to 370 on Tuesday going north over Conder Green.   

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

No Real Need...... update Birds2blog on a daily basis but there are so many excellent images of birds out there that I just cannot resist posting some of them and they really are all excellent. Of course I don't have to remind anyone that they are posted with the kind permission of all the photographers and birders I meet on 'my rounds' on a regular basis and I'm here to thank them all once more for helping me to create one of the best and brightest bird photograph blogs to be seen anywhere and none of these are professionals to my knowledge.

Two of today's images may well be out of season but I'm not sure that matters and this one of the Whinchat represents my second favourite passerine. Anyone who knows me knows the first favourite is the Stonechat and there's not another single bird for me which beats this one to that privilege.

And the Swift, the amazing bird which almost totally lives on the wing, try getting your head around that one in human terms then. As for the image of this bird in flight well, not many photographers can lay claim to achieving one as good as this in flight shot.

Many thanks for both the above pictures Simon.

And the smart little female Reed Bunting thanks to Stuart Piner who I've not seen since he discovered the Long-billed Dowitcher at Cockersands on Tuesday 13 October when I was at Conder Green and the RBA pager alerted me to the find and I was stood by Stuart within minutes looking for the bird which had done a disappearing act but wasn't long before it reappeared to give excellent views. I'm not prepared to make any patronising comments about SP but he does rank amongst the best of birders of which I know one or two.

An adult Mediterranean Gull was off Morecambe Town Hall slipway mid-afternoon today.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


So keen that I was up at 7.00 am ready for the off at daybreak, in the end it was 8.30 when I arrived at Conder Green where it started quiet with the exception of 100+ Mallard on Conder Pool. I was thinking of the Sparrowhawk which flew across the pool on 30 November to transform the place from a 'handful' of birds to in excess of 150 in seconds. Today in addition to the Mallard, I noted just 4 Little Grebe, a pair of Wigeon, 35 Teal, a Goldeneye, and 5 Snipe. A estimated 250 Pink-footed Geese flew north towards Aldcliffe soon followed by another 120 which circled for a few minutes over Jeremy Lane before heading off back south......Mmmmm.

On the canal basin at Glasson Dock I noted a drake Goosander, Little Grebe, and Great-crested Grebe. On the Lune Estuary, circa numbers of 7,500 Knot, 6,000 Lapwing, 1,000 Dunlin, 1,500 Bar-tailed Godwit, 350 Wigeon, and 4 (accurate) Goldeneye. From Bodie Hill, 320 Wigeon, c.3,500 Lapwing, and 12 Goldeneye were noted.

I'm slotting in David Cooksons excellent image of the Kestrel here, in my opinion as good a photograph of this bird you could ever achieve......thanks David.

At Cockersands, 10 Eider were around the lighthouse, and at the caravan park end a minimum of 3,200 Wigeon, at least 18 Black-tailed Godwit, and 4 Pintail with 22 drifting past the lighthouse an hour later. On Pilling Marsh 20+ distant Whooper Swans with just c.180 Pink-footed Geese, in the field opposite the entrance to Lane Ends another 1,200 seen. On Fluke Hall Lane an adult Mediterranean Gull was in a stubble field, and a walk to Cockers Dyke was rewarded with another adult Mediterranean Gull.

Little Egrets see today at......
Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock
Plover Scar, Cockersands
Pilling Marsh (4)
Cockers Dyke

And now for my second rate attempt at photographing an adult Mediterranean Gull on Pressall Sands this late afternoon......Well it was a long way off, and you can't be clever at everything......can you?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Living in Hope.

Hopefully I'll get some birding in tomorrow but according to the forecast I may well be home soon after mid-day.

Meanwhile, what about the Great Tits in Hungary which have taken a liking to hunting, killing, and eating hibernating Pipistrelle Bats in the Bukk Mountains in the NE of the country. Researchers have documented eighteen cases and speculated the birds can hear the bats which - when disturbed - their squeaks are audible to both humans and the birds, but scientists claim they can only hunt the bats when they see them and they have also suggested that bats are a food only as a last resort in harsh winters. An amazing discovery nevertheless.

Bullfinch courtesy of David Cookson.

A Biodiversity Project in Glasgow has discovered that the Bullfinch was just one of 47 bird species which are of conservation concern and were recorded in green spaces in Glasgow showing how valuable such spaces are for birds within the urban environment.

The same project uncovered a butterfly which is gradually  expanding north and what is thought to be the first record of a Comma in Glasgow.

The decline of many British butterflies continues, but amid the decline there was a rare combination of circumstances in 2009 when an estimated one billion Painted Ladies arrived in the UK early in the summer but in the autumn when most migrant species were heading south again newly arrived Clouded Yellow, Large White, and Red Admiral  were recorded in large numbers crossing the south coast.

I have an uncomfortable feeling all the illustrations have been posted on the blog before, still nice to see them again even if they have......the butterflies are mine!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Weekends Off.

Well the weather never affects me at the weekends because I never get birding then, but it's all very well me sounding a little clever about the weather never being a problem Sat/Sun but after this comes the Mon - Fri bit and this is where it really begins to hurt, especially as of late and the forecast I just looked at gave little if any hope of improvement in the early part of the coming week, but based on past forecasting - which is sometimes a bit more than off the mark - I live in hope, meanwhile a couple of pic's and comments whilst I see what tomorrow brings......

Purple Sandpiper courtesy of David Cookson.

The Purple Sandpiper is a difficult species to find - though not impossible - especially if you're wanting to find it in the LDBWS recording area where it is best described as the rarest regular winter visitor, but a visit to Heysham Harbour will actually make life a little easier as you can often find up to two birds usually on the old wooden jetty, also 1-2 annually returning birds to the Stone Jetty area at Morecambe though to date I've seen no records of any here this winter so far. Personally I otherwise only ever encountered this bird at Rossall Point Fleetwood and again in single figures only.

Willow Tit courtesy of Alan Tilmouth.

The Willow Tit is not just a species difficult to find but one you're not likely to find anywhere within the LDBWS recording area and well beyond I would suggest. However, one was found at Cottam Brickworks on 27 October in 2004 and was the first in the Fylde recording area since 1998. In 2007 one was found yet again at Cottom Brickworks in January, then at Greyfriars on 21 March and was presumed to be the same individual present in the area since 2004. Whilst I don't pretend to know any other history about this species I do know that one has been - and is still present again today  - at Cottam Brickworks representing some excellent records of what can only be described as a rare visitor.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Friday...... BT day and our first port of call....yes you got it right....Aldcliffe where the four ex Carnforth Marsh Snow Geese were on the marsh but distant and would have given excellent views from the Golden Ball, also on the marsh, circa 390 Greylag and 70 Canada Geese, 3 Little Egret, a minimum of 2,000 Lapwing but just not possible for any accuracy, a Water Rail was briefly below the fence on the flood which is more appropriate to call a lake now.

From the picnic area at Conder Green a female Merlin perched obligingly on a post, also of note from here, a Little Grebe, 4 Goosander, 4 Grey Plover, a Spotted Redshank, and 7 Snipe in the air. Best from here on the River Lune drifting upstream on the incoming tide were at least 135 Goldeneye which - short of checking past records at the time of writing - I'd claim was an all time record of many years at this location. Noted on Conder Pool, 7 Little Grebe, a pair of Wigeon, 2 Goldeneye, and 8 Snipe.


By now the Lune Estuary was just a vast expanse of water and on the canal basin at Glasson Dock I counted 138 Tufted Duck and 3 drake Pochard. The Great-crested Grebe above was also on the canal basin but as the plumage will indicated not today, photo courtesy of PW. From Bodie Hill where Glasson Marsh was also virtually under water a Little Egret and 2 Reed Bunting were to note. On Jeremy Lane the c.20 Fieldfare I keep seeing in this area were in one of the fields. At Cockersands just 8 Eider were on the river by the lighthouse today, also noted 3 Goldeneye, a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, and a Great-crested Grebe. At the caravan park end, a Little Egret, 4 Meadow Pipit, and 6 Tree Sparrow.

I was a little surprised to find BT heading off towards Pilling now, though it was only about 2.30 the light was rapidly beginning to fade and last week at this time we were heading home towards Lancaster......not a complaint you understand, just facts. A detour round Gulf Lane produced the Little Owl perched in its usual tree staring at us like it does with that 'oh no not them two again' look. On Pilling Marsh at least 24 Whooper Swans were distant and 3 Little Egret present we were heading back to Lancaster.


I was amazed to find something like 470 photographs have been posted on Birds2blog in just over a year and can't help thinking, if the next year can produce another 470 the likes of these then I'm really looking forward to seeing them and I know of one person who allows me to copy his images on to Birds2blog and who has just returned from some exotic land with a memory card full and I'm off to take a look at them right now. Of course with so many pics posted there's always the possibility that some have been seen twice like the stunning picture of the Kingfisher above courtesy of David Cookson and who wouldn't want a second look at this......Thanks David.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


A bit down in the dumps today as for the second day in a row I didn't get out with the birds and so to keep my troubled mind occupied amongst other things I did a search through some quite ancient books I have thanks to the treasure hunter Kathleen. From the first book 'Birds of Our Country' by Frank Finn, B.A., F.Z.S. and E.K.Robinson, F.Z.S. which curiously doesn't appear to have a publishing date but which I reckon is heading up to a hundred years old. I have copied the coloured plates below in the hope I'm not violating any copyright laws, if I am and I get caught I'll call upon my readership to help me out with the fine.

Illustrating a Cuckoo being fed by a Hedge Sparrow/Dunnock on the left, and the Whinchat, Stonechat, and Yellow Wagtail on the right. The colours may well not be quite true to life, probably a combination of the book and my 'fixing' in Picasa which incidentally is a pretty useful tool to have on your computer and highly recommended.

The colour plate above is from the book 'British Birds in their Haunts' by Rev. C. A. Johns, this book is certainly over a hundred years old and published in February 1909, a bit more of a chance this one is outside the copyright laws but what would I know about that. The illustrations are quite obvious and are of the Stonechat at the top then clockwise, Black Redstart, Redstart, and Whinchat. There's some interesting reading in these old books in that - for example - the Stonechat is referred to as, quote......We can scarcely pass through a furze-brake during the spring and summer months without having the presence of the Stonechat almost forced on our notice......unquote. How things change with time, since 1999 we had an upturn in the status of the Stonechat which lasted just five years from my experience and began to spiral downwards as the summer months became much more unsettled with too much wind and rain for breeding birds to have much if any chance of success in the attempts to raise young.


I couldn't resist posting this excellent image of the pair of American Wigeon courtesy of Paul Baker in BC Canada. Thanks Paul......

......or this one of Richard Shillings 'Landart' creation, excellent as always and thanks Richard. Please visit his website via the link on the left hand sidebar on Birds2blog to read how Richard created this piece and its title.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Greenfinch......

......and, as I have no pics of this species an excellent image of two Spotted Redshanks on the Eric Morecambe complex at Leighton Moss......Thanks Ian.

A friend who lives on the outskirt of Lancaster was on the phone to me recently and went on to tell me of the disappearance of the Greenfinch from around his house, he went on to say he once counted them coming in to roost as they did every evening, apparently taking full advantage of the many Leylandii both in his own garden and surrounding neighbours too. I briefly explained the decrease in numbers of some 'finch's' in particular the Greenfinch and House Sparrow which has been ascribed to a disease known as Trichomonad.

The disease was formerly known from Pigeons and Doves but since the summer of 2005 this parasite has been reported in 'finch' species in gardens and every year outbreaks are seen in late summer and autumn. The poor victims of this parasite eventually die of starvation due to the fact that the upper digestive tract of the bird is progressively blocked by this parasite which lives there and renders the bird unable to swallow thus its death is brought about through starvation.

This parasite cannot live for long periods outside the host and is vulnerable to 'drying out', the transmission of the disease takes place during the breeding season when birds are feeding one another with regurgitated food, other methods of transmission include drinking water which has been contaminated by saliva or bird droppings.

But I posed another question to to my friend in his conversation with me on the telephone......has the disappearance of what was 50+ Greenfinches coming in daily to roost in and around his and his neighbours gardens been down to the fact that most of the Leylandii have been taken out since last winter and has this been the factor to take into account in this particular area, or does the demise of the Greenfinch at this particular location remain firmly at the hands of the Trichomonad parasite.

Spotted Redshanks courtesy of Ian Tallon.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


It was good to get up and on to Clougha today though hardly to be regarded as pleasant as the wind got up quite strong in exposed areas and very cold it was too. November was a big disappointment for me as I didn't get up here primarily for the monthly check on the Stonechats and I only went today to satisfy myself that I had at least tried to get there soon after the end of November, a month which offered me just two opportunities of good weather both of which I was otherwise employed.

Well, if you engage in upland birding you certainly can't expect a record sheet full of bird species and it was no surprise for me to leave this area after 4.5 hours with just eight in my book and today resulted in finding just 3 Stonechats, seen as a lone male - actually I don't think it was alone but I certainly couldn't find its mate - which is always unusual as 'generally' if you find one there's nearly always two and in the breeding season certainly 99% of observations have this result. Also noted were singles of Wren, Blackbird, and 2 Dunnock, with at least 10 Red Grouse including the one above which appeared unworried at my presence. A Sparrowhawk came over and with a tailwind soon zoomed by barely flapping its wings, I accidentally flushed a Woodcock which went up in front of me no more than two strides away from trampling it underfoot.

The day ended with a bit of spectacle when a female Merlin came on the scene from Rigg Lane flying a foot off the ground over a field and which was promptly chased off by a Carrion Crow which made quite a good job of keeping up to the raptor for a fair distance but eventually ran out of the necessary steam needed to outmaneuver this amazing small bird of prey.


Monday, 30 November 2009

A Beady Eye......

......and just a pair of bino's round my neck today, too cold to be standing around with a cruel north wind blowing in your face counting waders and in any case the tide was at its height at Glasson Dock rendering the Lune Estuary too much water but here goes......

At Conder Green I must first note not having seen the Common Sandpiper here since 2 November though it has been reported twice on the LDBWS website since that date. The Spotted Redshank obliged in the creeks as did a single Grey Plover, 2 Little Grebe also here by way of a change. Conder Pool was going to be recorded on the blog this evening as 'deserted' but - as if to prove the point that there are so many areas on here which are out of view - a Sparrowhawk over the entire length of the pool transformed it from desertion to there being in excess of 155 birds in seconds, with at least 85 Teal and 62 Mallard, a pair of Wigeon, a Goldeneye, 3 Little Grebe, and 9 Snipe in the air. From the picnic area I saw in excess of 3,000 Knot huddled out of the sight of almost everyone on the bank of the Conder Estuary, also 17 Black-tailed Godwit and 18 Bar-tailed Godwit noted. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock I noted 4 Pochard drake's and a Little Grebe.

At Cockersands I'm not proud of the fact that with my telescope still firmly locked up in the boot of my car I totally ignored any waders present but walked the headland and returned via the road to record the male Stonechat at the lighthouse end for its 28th day on the same fence posts for four consecutive sightings over this period......fascinating creatures aren't they! Also 12 Greenfinch seen again - which prompts me to note I should comment on Birds2blog at some point on a good number of the species disappearing from a location in Lancaster - a solitary Black-tailed Godwit was on a flood with 22 Lapwing, a Little Egret was by the pool in the field NW of Bank Houses where it was seen on several occasions last winter, a Song ThrushSparrowhawk, and a Brown Hare.

And with just four hours available for birding today back at the lighthouse meant the end of the day unfortunately.

For anyone who knows John Bateman and hasn't already seen these two images above on the LDBWS website, I'm pleased to pass on the news that John is feeling much better now and has had the enthusiasm to get outside his house to photograph the Starling and the Blackbird. Hopefully perhaps by the New Year he will be able to accompany me on the 'Coastal Run' once again.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Three CB's!

Three more 'gap-filler images' from globetrotter Colin Bushell starting with the Lear's Macaw which Colin encountered recently on his current trip to NE Brazil. Colin tells us the birds were seen following a trek to see them leaving their overnight roost near Canudos. Apparently the total population of the species appears to stand at around just 250 birds and this party of birders reckon they saw about 50% of the population at this sighting if this is the case.

Lettered Aracari in NE Brazil.

And the Northern Caracaras seen and photographed in Guyana earlier this year. You can keep up with the travels of Colin Bushell here also linked 'Ribble to Amazon' on the left of this post.

The new link 'LinkWithin' which I have added to the blog will take the viewer to a previous post at random on Birds2blog, so if by chance you have no interest in a blast from the past......ignore it!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Over the Rainbow.

Quite a nice rainbow formed over Aldcliffe Marsh this morning - my efforts at capturing it are above - which is where I called with BT......well it is Friday and that's where we start on Friday. As it turned out it was the right decision by BT today as 45 minutes into the visit c.250 Greylag went up into the air accompanied by 4 Snow Geese which immediately prompted the thought 'Leighton Moss birds', later they were better viewed from 1/2 mile SW of the Golden Ball. Also noted at Aldcliffe was an excellent count - in my book - of  10 Dunnock including six together, the best count of the species at one time I ever recorded,  a good number of Blackbirds were in evidence with at least twenty seen. On the wildfowlers pool which has now become a lake a Goldeneye was noted and c.90 Redshank were also on here, c.170 Feral Pigeon were in one of the stubble fields, and a Goldcrest was on the edge of Freeman's Wood. On Freeman's Pools 3 Little Grebe and 3 Gadwall were of note.

Having had better views of the SG's and a Little Egret on Colloway Marsh we went to Sunderland Point were I counted 260 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Goldeneye were drifting downstream, everything else was too distant way over on the Glasson side of the River Lune and at this point BT declared our birding day had ended, we saw another Little Egret as we left the marsh at Overton.

A good day with BT as always as he is a good companion who knows 'quite a bit of stuff' about wildlife in general and is very helpful on my learning curve......thanks BT.