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

Friday, 30 April 2010

Troughing Again!

Pied Flycatcher thanks to Brian Rafferty.

Back to the Trough of Bowland again today with JB/BT starting with a second bite of the cherry and excellent views - better than the last visit - of two Dotterel at 10.20 on Abbeystead Lane still, smartly followed by a visit to Abbeystead to see the pair of Pied Flycatcher at Stoops Bridge of which an image of the male of is shown above. Please visit Brian Rafferty's website to read about the benefits of an early rise from your bed in his post The Early Bird . The Dotterel were in company of a much reduced number of  c.30 Golden Plover compared to the c.70 on Tuesday when JB and I last visited here, down the lane three Lapwing chicks were a delight to see. Also at Stoops Bridge, a singing Garden Warbler, Blackcap, and Nuthatch  were all heard along with views of a male Redstart and Mistle Thrush, a female Mallard had 13 ducklings in tow on the river.

Calling in at Christ Church the House Martins are as yet still absent and it will be interesting - if not worrying - to see if there is a repeat of 2009's total lack of breeding here again at a site where up to sixteen old nest are still intact at this church. However, a nice little collection here consisted of 4 Goldfinch, 2 Blackbirds, 2 Dunnock, a Wren, a Robin, and at least one Greenfinch heard, 2 Raven went over south east whilst we were here.

We called at Catshaw Farm to find an interesting c.450 Greater Black-backed Gulls in one of the fields and also noted a Brown Hare, in the area 2 Wheatear and a Buzzard, also a single Sand Martin flew out of a nest hole at a site we discovered in 2009 and which we are closely monitoring this year.

Spotted Flycatcher thanks to Peter Guy.

At Tower Lodge the day took on some more excitement when my first 2 Spotted Flycatchers were found at the back side of the plantation here, nothing delights me more than to record this ever decreasing 'flycatcher' which always seems to turn up in this area in multi this space for the year end tally for this smart little bird sadly and currently heading towards rarity status. Also here, two male and a female Redstart, and two  Green Woodpeckers, distant but presumed a pair.

A brief call in at Langden gave difficult views of a few - high up in the trees - Redpoll made all the more difficult and brief by the rain which had threatened all day and finally arrived here at around 3.00pm just after we got there. One or two Swift were seen passing through at different places during the course of the day.

So now we're on our way back to Lancaster and I had made the comment to a Lancashire birder I had a chat with at Langden and who asked me 'what had I seen today' to which I gave him the 'list' and's good to be alive in'it!

Lapwing chick thanks to John Bateman.

And finally....

Thanks for the Lapwing image John, a delightful reminder of an excellent days birding in your and BT's good company. Also thanks to Brian and Peter for your images they are all very much appreciated. 


Thursday, 29 April 2010

Cool Man!

Barbondale looking NE from the Bull Pot track.

Still pretty cool today at Barbondale, a must place for me to visit to check out the 'visitors' and 'chat' situation. A couple of my pic's taken here on a previous visit as it looked nothing remotely like this today with a cool - if not cold - breeze and cloudy grey skies but thankful for small mercies as it stayed dry for my birding six hours. I reckon some of the summer visitors will be thinking they made a wrong turn along the way and ended up somewhere near Iceland. The records are below in no particular order.


Whinchat 4
Stonechat 3
Redstart 3
Tree Pipit
Wheatear 8
Willow Warbler
Reed Bunting 5
Meadow Pipit 11
Pied Wagtail 4
Mistle Thrush 2
Coal Tit 3
Blackbird 3
Wren 2
Green Woodpecker
Dipper 3
Common Sandpiper 2
Buzzard 3


An interesting days birding with birds notably missing, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher and Wood Warbler though maybe the next few days will see these latter two here, the Cuckoo which - void of checking my records - I don't recall seeing here in at least three years, and Grey Wagtail, a species I'm not seeing much of these days and haven't seen at Conder Green for probably a year plus. You can draw your own conclusions on some of the other figures collected at Barbondale over six hours today but a single Tree Pipit, nine Willow Warbler, 3 Redstart, and eleven Meadow Pipit can hardly be regarded as phenomenal numbers over this time scale. 

On the positive side, four Whinchat were excellent but note, the record shows extra caution on duplicate counting as I had sightings of six birds but beware if you see the Whinchat in the Bull Pot track area and minutes later from the track west towards the plantation it 'could' be the same bird. I've observed today and on previous occasions that they commute across Barbon Beck regularly. Just a slight improvement on the Stonechat situation with three birds seen here today but I note with reliable information from the Forest of Bowland that my figures agree more or less with those from there on the decline of the Stonechat.

Looking west from the Bull Pot track.

So I reckon Barbondale was a generally quiet place today, perhaps a visit I'll make here again sometime in May will show some improvement in bird numbers/species and I watch in anticipation for other birders records of visits here and see if they connect with the Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Cuckoo, and Grey Wagtail.


Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Swift.

Swift thanks to Simon Hawtin.

I've not seen Simon Hawtin for some time now but have recently been in touch and he assures me I'll be seeing him sometime somewhere 'on the road' like we used to mainly - but not exclusively - in the Forest of Bowland....I look forward to this Simon. Meanwhile, thanks for this excellent image of the amazing 'life on the wing' Swift.

I saw my first 2010 Swift this evening from our kitchen window and reckon if I'd have stayed around and looking out of the window I would have of perhaps seen more. Unfortunately there seems to be fewer of these amazing birds seen in our skies year after year to add to the ever increasing other migrants we see less  of each year. A walk through the woodland this year will probably result in all of us experiencing it less likely to find the Wood Warbler or Spotted Flycatcher as something like two thirds of our migrants seem to be declining and joining the Red List.

Though it is hard to understand precisely whats happening here it looks likely that habitat change in Africa, land use and land degradation with overgrazing and intensive farming could be the culprits posing the it the habitat change which affects how much food is available to these birds? Hardships on their migration routes to and from Africa as well as in the UK could also play the part.

In 15 years the number of Wood Warblers have fallen by 60% but if we end where I started with the Swift, you also have to wonder if too many traditional nesting sites are disappearing making it more and more difficult as the years progress for birds like these - and the Swallow and House Martin - to find suitable spots for making breeding attempts.

The Tower Lodge area in the Forest of Bowland has - for the past couple of years that  know of - been reasonably good for the Spotted Flycatcher, and in 2008 a Wood Warbler was singing opposite the lodge so I've not yet completely lost hope that all this may well happen again this year.   

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Red Grouse thanks to Brian Rafferty

Well the photograph is appropriate if only that I did some upland birding at Clougha/Birk Bank today the records  - in no particular order - of which follow. The link to Brian's website is under the pic....Thanks for this Brian.

Stonechat 2
Wheatear 8
Red Grouse 6
Goldfinch 3
Pied Wagtail 2
Willow Warbler 13
Wren 3
Robin 4
Meadow Pipit 12
Mistle Thrush
Green Hairstreak 15
Peacock 4
Small Tortoiseshell
Roe Deer


I did at least an extra hour 'overtime' here today - six hours total - to no avail in respect of the Stonechat which took me three hours to find a pair at the far end of Birk Bank. These two were sat loafing about clearly indicative of no breeding happening here this year as yet even by this single pair. If anyone had told me last year I would record eight Wheatear against two Stonechat at the end of April in 2010 in this or any other area I'd have told them they were nuts. I'm making no more lengthy comments on the Stonechat until the end of the year. I've passed my opinion based on my records for the species at several locations over the last 12 years and today's observations here - or lack of them - speak volumes. 

There were some pretty disappointing figures came out of the visit here today not least that in six hours I heard/saw just thirteen Willow Warbler - double that figure were seen in 2009 - but it did include some display by a pair which represents a first for me. The most significant outcome of this observation was the diagnostic lack of downward tail-dipping which the Chiffchaff does constantly in particular when feeding, the Willow Warbler doesn't do this persistently with just the one dip on alighting, and when feeding holds the tail still. Otherwise these two drive me nuts with their subtle and variable plumage differences.

Twelve Meadow Pipits equaling two per hour isn't at all impressive and three Wrens is quite a worrying number at one every two hours although in 2009 I only saw six, in itself a low figure I thought. Birds 'missing' to date here are Cuckoo which I was hoping to at least hear, and Tree Pipit which I also hoped to see today though last year if I recall correctly just one observer recorded one bird on one date.

The final word on the Stonechat for this post. I have just one more location to visit - hopefully in the next few days - where I haven't been since the end of June last year but where my best record for the species was 27 birds including 10 juveniles on 26 June 2006. Last year the best count at this location was just 6 birds - a pair and 4 juveniles - on 12 June, more records which speak for themselves....Watch this space!

And finally, I have it on the best of authority of 15 Dotterel on Ward Stone last Friday.

I couldn't resist editing to add this superb photograph of the Tawny Owl with thanks to Warren Baker....Thanks Warren.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Doing the Rounds.

Well....two circuits and a pool actually where I managed to confirm for myself two LRP's on CP and captured on film in one of my third rate pics as proof. 

Its Monday which allows me four hours birding and started at Cockersands where apparently I missed seven Yellow Wagtails yesterday in the field NW of Bank Houses where I nearly always find my first Wheatear of the year....Bloody Hell!!

Circa 80 Golden Plover were in one of Cockersands Abbey Farm fields, a Wheatear was at the lighthouse end, 2 Skylarks in song flight, and the Swallows are back at Bank Houses, with 2 Tree Sparrows seen but others around as I could hear them 'chipping' away, it was also good to hear a Wren though it was the only one in the entire four hours that I did.

On Conder Pool 2 Little Ringed Plover, a Common Sandpiper, with 3 Goldeneye still hanging on here, 'the' Little Grebe, and 4 House Martin over, a Spotted Redshank was roosting on the marsh at high tide.

With half my allotted time gone I decided a 'dawdle' round the parish of Aldcliffe might be a good idea which turned out to be correct if only to find a smart Whinchat representing the next best thing to a 'mega' in anyone's book these days, in the same field were 5 Wheatear and a pair of Grey Partridge, 3 Lesser Whitethroat were from the lower path where I also heard a single Willow Warbler, a male and female Blackcap were seen from the path by Freeman's Pools where I found one Little Ringed Plover, one had been seen on the flood an hour earlier. My first Comma of the year seen here with 2 Peacock were the only butterflies in the entire session.

It really must be noted that I heard just one Willow Warbler and one Wren in four hours....just as important to record the birds I didn't see as the ones I did.

Thanks to John Bateman who photographed the male Pied Flycatcher we found had returned to Abbeystead last Friday....


....and to Zac Hinchcliffe who photographed the female at the same site. Thanks for the photographs John/Zac they are much appreciated.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

In The Garden....

....and a couple of other pics.

Gary Jones has recently told me I can post some of his photographs on Birds2blog and his latest efforts were the result of a visit to his garden with the camera. The excellent image of the stunning male Bullfinch is the first of two of the pictures he captured there....

....and the equally excellent second image is of the smart Goldfinch.

Gary also recently visited a Sand Martin colony he knows about and captured several images of these delightful creatures including some pretty impressive shots of them in flight. Please support Gary's blog by making a visit there now and again to see what he's been up to. If you have your own blog you will know what it means to have a few visitors look in occasionally, it is an encouragement to keep up the good work of running your own blog when you know at least a few people take an interest by stopping by. Gary can be found here Walks and Wildlife 


Mark Fellowes photograph is of the Loddon Lillies, a local speciality which Mark understands is a Red Listed species. I've posted several of Marks photographs recently with his kind permission and his website can be found here Mark Fellowes  

I hope you like my choice of photographs here, with luck I may get a four hour birding stint - s'cuse the pun -'s hoping!  

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Y6K.... the ID ring fitted to a Whooper Swan in trouble and here's the bad news....

Whooper Swans courtesy of David Cookson.

This bird is being tracked by satellite technology and was recently found to be heading towards the cloud of ash from the volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Y6K was approaching Iceland from the southeast which is one of the landfall areas for swans arriving in the country and unfortunately is in line with the fallout from the volcano. There is also concern amongst the experts/researchers for numbers of goose species migrating to  - and through - Iceland at this time. Previous eruptions have caused bird deaths and major problems for farmers and as a result of this present eruption there is dense ash and total darkness to the southeast of the volcano near an area dubbed 'Whooper Airport' and so called because most of the birds land here after their migration. The project relating to the tracking of these birds aims to determine the migration routes the swans take, the heights and speeds at which they fly, and the effects of weather conditions on their flight patterns.

But now the good news....

Maybe the airlines are now beginning to get back to some sort of normality but we have just witnessed an amazing grounding of air flights but Whooper Swan Y6K has safely negotiated the outfall from this volcanic eruption and made it to Iceland....ALLELUIA!!

It took Y6K 4.5 days to cross from the Outer Hebrides to Iceland due to head winds, but he finally came over east Iceland at mid-day on 17 April and spent the next 24 hours resting in fields near Hofn. But despite this wonderful news about this bird there remains concern for the welfare of Icelandic breeding populations of geese and swans over the coming months particularly if this volcano continues to erupt and the added concern of whether or not Katia blows.

Wildfowl and Icelandic volcano's have lived side by side for millions of years but you do have to wonder if the people of a modern and complex world of the 21st century are perhaps a little more fragile than they are.  

Friday, 23 April 2010

Into The Trough!

Golden Plover courtesy of Brian Rafferty 

What a coincidence that BR posted some stunning images of this smart little wader around about the same time as  JB and I went off into the Trough of Bowland this morning and had excellent views of a male Dotterel in company with c.70 Golden Plovers. It was to be a good start to a very enjoyable trip into this area of outstanding beauty followed by a shorter visit to the coastal area of Cockersands and Conder Green. Please link under the photograph to Brian's website to see some pretty impressive images to accompany his regular trips here and there.

Our next port of call had to be to Stoops Bridge at Abbeystead which couldn't possibly have been better rewarded than to see the Pied Flycatcher pair back here at the same nest hole in the same tree for the third consecutive year having returned here in 2008/09 on 25 April  and 1 May respectively. Also to note here, a male Blackcap, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, and Mistle Thrush. At Marshaw another sign of the season was the discovery of 2 Common Sandpiper, and 3 Willow Warbler heard.

At Tower Lodge a female Redstart was behind the plantation, with another 3 Willow Warbler heard. Also in the area a Grey Wagtail, and a wander briefly to the edge of Winfold Fell produced just a solitary Red Grouse. Parking up at the access track to Hawthornthwaite I walked just a short distance up the track to find 7 Wheatear, 2 Red Grouse, 3 Meadow Pipits, and a Kestrel over, 6 Sand Martin were also in the air around here and appear to be almost certain to check out one or two of the banks as availablity for nesting this space!

A call in at Street Bridge initially presented me with a puzzle as I had my sights on a tree with a singing Garden Warbler hiding somewhere within it when I caught sight of a male Blackcap....Mmmmm me thinks, a Blackcap which can mimic a Garden Warbler or, I can't tell the difference between the two, but wait the singing Garden Warbler is a couple of branches below the silent Blackcap....Phew!

I'm not really sure why but we decided to visit Cockersands but just managed c.12 Eider by the lighthouse off Plover Scar. The last call was to Conder Green where I noted 2 Greenshank, and a Common Sandpiper. On the pool the lone Little Grebe - which I'm beginning to feel sorry for - 3 Goldeneye, and I counted 122 Mute Swans which had been put off Jeremy Lane for some unknown reason but which is where they had been five minutes earlier when we drove past them.

With the exception of a couple of 'dead spots' this was what I would call an excellent day....Thanks for your company John, and thanks for the photograph Brian.

Back to pollution on a grand scale with thanks to Gary Jones for the pic on a grand scale....Thanks Gary.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Double Six!

Sandwich Tern courtesy of Phil Slade.

Struggling for pics again but found this Sandwich Tern which will do nicely for the head of today's post, taken by a man from the Fylde, thanks Phil. Visit Another Bird Blog and keep up to date on his birding/ringing days.

Six miles in six hours - and thats a crawl - on a smart blue sky day though the breeze remains pretty chilly. I made an attempt at counting 26 House Sparrows from leaving home to arriving at Aldcliffe but I don't think its much of a contribution as it isn't easy putting binoculars to your eyes in urban areas especially when you get to Haverbreaks which is a very private place and not one to find yourself confronted by one of the residents accusing you of peering into peoples bedrooms....there's no need for me to go on like this is there, so here are the records, Aldcliffe - Conder Green....

On Freeman's Pools 2 Little Ringed Plover, on the way here in stubble 2 White Wagtail and a Green Sandpiper on the wildfowlers pool. The walk between Aldcliffe and Conder Green produced, at least 24 Blackbirds, 4 Song Thrush, 3 Wren, 3 Dunnock, 2 Willow Warbler - which is a poor return heading towards the end of April - single Chiffchaff, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap all singing males, 6 Goldfinch, 5 Greenfinch are almost an amazing record, 3 Wheatear, and my first 4 House Martin which were going to the trouble of collecting mud from the banks of the River Lune and flying almost a 1/4 of a mile to the property where they were nest building....tireless and amazing creatures.

At Conder Green there were at least 10 Common Sandpiper here today, a Spotted Redshank which can  now be picked out a mile away without optics and is almost as black as the ace of spades, a Greenshank, 3 Goldeneye still on the pool, and the Kestrel which can be seen on a daily basis hunting here and is surely breeding somewhere in the vicinity.

Although there was some good returns for my effort today, this walk was void of being regarded as alive with birds/song and lots of species numbers are low as far as I'm concerned, probably the two best examples being Wrens and Willow Warblers, a single Chiffchaff wasn't all that impressive either.  

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Grey Phalarope.

Well for starters the pic doesn't match the title but not to worry, this is an 'small' image of a juvenile Wilsons Phalarope as I have none of the bird of the title. Thanks to David Baker for the photograph.

I've been searching my records again which never fails to give me material for the blog when I'm in need of a filler in the gap when I'm off the birding road and this time I came across the record of a Grey Phalarope I found at Heysham Harbour on Saturday 5 November 2005. The bird I saw as the Grey Phalarope in its non-breeding plumage becomes the Red Phalarope of the North in its stunning breeding colours. This truly pelagic bird spends almost its entire life at sea being found mainly off the coast of South Africa and western South America coming to land only to nest.

The Grey Phalarope migrates entirely over the sea as opposed to the other two species of phalarope which will migrate over land. Birds arrive at their breeding grounds in late May and once the eggs are laid the male undertakes the incubation and some females are known to leave the breeding area as early as July not many weeks after arriving there. 

The very first record of this species in Britain was in 1757 at Warley Clough near Halifax in Yorkshire, sadly like many birds of the era it had been shot, thankfully in the 21st century this kind of attitude towards birds is now mainly confined to the shooting fraternity who take out game birds in the name of sport, unfortunately there remain some amongst us who still kill birds purely as an act of persecution.

Records these days average around 200 per year and British records are usually of single birds but in 1960 huge numbers were reported from around Britain and Ireland examples of which are, circa 1,000 off the Scillies, 700 off Torquay in Devon, and 500 from Cape Clear in Co Cork.

One of this birds most curious behaviour is that of its feeding whereby it spins in tight circles on the surface of the water to stir up invertebrates. Studies have shown that they tend to spin clockwise when feeding in groups, but individuals may spin both anti and clockwise but the latter is almost always the favoured method. 

What truly amazing creatures birds are and what truly mind boggling things they do.

And finally....

My birding friend Colin Bushell - and yours - has recently returned from his latest trip this time to Colombia, above is the Highland Motmot one of the many bird species he connected with on this birding tour. Please take a look at Ribble To Amazon to see many more of his photographs and comments on his trips in foreign parts and elsewhere. Thanks for the use of your images past present and future Colin.

This time definitely finally....461 White Wagtails on Hesketh Out Marsh today, an unprecedented record by many a mile!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Another Shortie!

No not a Short - eared Owl but a short birding day lasting four hours but that was the deal, a change of days with JB/BT from Friday to Tuesday and home for 3.00pm said the man....I don't ask questions!

It was a repeat of last Friday when we first visited Conder Green - you should always visit Conder Green first if in the area - where I noted on a quiet Conder Pool, a Greenshank, Little Grebe - which I'm rapidly becoming convinced is the last one remaining here - 3 Goldeneye, and 2 Wigeon, the most interesting bird by far on here this morning was a single Dunlin, birds absent/elsewhere Spotted Redshank and LRP. 

So now we're off to the hills and call in at Stoops Bridge at Abbeystead which JB refers to as Doeholme and in fact the road is called Doeholme Rake and Doeholme Farm is about a mile up this road. I noted 2 Chiffchaff, a Nuthatch, heard Blackcap and Song Thrush, and the Robin which flew of the nest on Friday as we walked past the tree leaving behind three eggs now has five but a vow was made not to walk this way again in favour of protecting the birds welfare thereby honouring that part of the Birdwatchers Code....I may sound like I'm waffling again here....but this disturbance lark - excuse the pun - is serious stuff.

En-route to Langden I counted up to 200 Curlew in a field, counted 18 Greylag at Marshaw where I heard the only Willow Warbler in the entire four hours. At Langden Redpoll seen again but no attempt made at either counting nor establishing races, the Stonechat pair were again at the pump-house, a Common Sandpiper was on Langden Brook as was a pair of Mallard with 14 ducklings - I've always thought 12 was the limit of the Mallard - and 2 Greenfinch which are always to be noted.

So....a routine four hours today but any birding is good birding in my book. Thanks to Mark Fellowes for the excellent image of the in flight Goldeneye.

And thanks also to Katie Fuller for this lovely image of the Blackthorn blossom as a timely reminder that it really is spring, a pleasure to the eye....Thanks Katie.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Just A Couple!


Thats just a couple of hours birding for me and a just a couple of pics from my Internet friend Paul Baker in BC Canada who's first image is of the Long-billed Dowitcher in summer plumage which I would claim nobody has seen in the UK, but I'm now waiting for someone to tell me I'm out of order in making the claim.

Well I was initially beaten by the weather again today and with a task to perform at 9.30 the plan was to give the Conder Green/Cockersands area a going over but that changed when by 10.00 it was you know what'ing down, but it cleared up in time for me to get a couple of hours in before another task to perform at 3.00pm. So it was all a bit of a non-event really but good to get out for a while and check out the birds.

At Conder Green a Spotted Redshank has almost transformed into its black summer plumage and was on the pool with a Common Sandpiper, Little Grebe, and 3 Goldeneye still, the Kestrel which is always around here lately was busy hunting for a meal, and 2 Greenshank were in the channel. By the time I had done a circuit here I just had time to look over Glasson Marsh where a Little Egret was noted as were an estimated 180 Meadow Pipits lingering here, along with good numbers of Swallows through and a 'few' Sand Martins. I appreciate 'good numbers' and 'a few' don't really add to the recording picture but there you go, we do have our shortcomings now and again....well I do, don't you? 


Paul's second image is of the House Finch which hopefully brings a short post to an interesting end even though this particular bird could never be called exotic, but unless you're planning a trip across the pond sometime in the future you're not likely to ever see this bird other than in a photograph like this....Thanks for these Paul they are much appreciated.

This afternoon 237 White Wagtails were reported on Hesketh Out Marsh....WOW!! 

Sunday, 18 April 2010

OK.... I didn't get birding today but at the weekends I never do, so I was at Kendal this afternoon and saw - and was impressed with - this bus. OK so I got interested in William Wordsworth in an earlier life always thinking I had at least a little culture about me. OK so Wordsworth wrote a poem about the Cuckoo, a bird in the 21st century you may not have much guarantee of seeing but just lets hope that's not seeing ever again, but its a species along with many others which are becoming more and more on the decrease and the 'Red List' becomes longer and longer. OK so here are a couple of verses from William Wordworths poem dedicated to the Cuckoo in which he explains its a bird he can often hear but not necessarily see. I'm personally hoping - if I've not seen one previously - to find one in the Clougha/Birk Bank area on my next visit there before the month of April is out.

Thrice welcome, darling of the spring;
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;

To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for never seen!

OK so you get a bit of everything on Birds2blog, birding records, facts and figures, excellent photographs, and a bit of culture now and again.

Talking of photographs....

Sorry but I really do have to keep referring to images like these as 'excellent' and this one above is no exception and is of an adult Woodchat Shrike....Tower Lodge here I come!

This is the juvenile Red-backed Shrike and both these stunning images are credited to Mark Fellowes....Thanks Mark.

Saturday, 17 April 2010


....and a couple of pics the first of which is an excellent - here I go again with my excellence - one of the Shag and is with my thanks to Mark Fellowes who can be linked to HERE to see some superb photography and comments on his trips.

As for the title of the post, well there won't be too many visitors to Birds2blog who will have known John Leedal but a few who I do know look in on the blog from time to time - if not daily basis - will most certainly remember him, and if I can be allowed the opportunity to do so I would like to mark the anniversary of Johns death five years ago today 17 April 2005. John was many things to me not least a very good friend and mentor, a birder and lover of wildlife in general and perhaps in particular flowers, plants and fungi, indeed on the latter he even had the opportunity to have a new one to science named after himself which he had discovered and sent to a contact at mean guy this John Leedal!

I am left with many abiding memories of this man, too many to contemplate mentioning here, but one I will recall were the numerous visits we made together to the Rusland Valley in the Lakes to stake out at a place with a commanding view over this beautiful valley with the hope the Honey Buzzards - which were nesting in the area at the time - would show which true to form often did and true to form often didn't, but these were halcyon days remembered with affection. On two occasions whilst in this area and following an alert we dashed off to a 'twitch' one of which was to see a Woodchat Shrike which had put in an appearance at Leighton Moss, and the other - to follow up another alert - to see Bee Eaters which - believe it or not - were just around the corner from where we were actually staked out for the HB's....fortuitous as John would say.

I wandered my way round to Johns house this morning to give his wife Rita a nice bunch of flowers proud of the fact I had remembered the date and the man who taught me so much about the birds we all love to see and observe....Cheers John the memories live on.

The Sardinian Warbler is the second image from Mark Fellowes both of which were the result of his recent trip to Mallorca....Thanks for allowing me the use of your images Mark they are much appreciated and not just be me I would imagine.  

Friday, 16 April 2010

On Tour!

Black Grouse thanks to Brian Rafferty.

Had a most enjoyable tour with JB/BT today which started at Conder Green and ended at Langden in the Trough of Bowland where we certainly didn't see one of the birds in the pic above, but Brian Rafferty did on a recent trip he made about which you can read and find some more of his excellent images including the ones shown on A Grand Day Out ....thanks for the pic Brian.

On Conder Pool BT claims to have seen 2 Little Ringed Plover whilst I was looking at the other, also on the pool a Spotted Redshank, and the 3 Goldeneye still. On the Lune estuary at Glasson Dock the only birds of any note were c.400 Redshank and 35 Wigeon counted. It was from here we left for the hills and called in at Wellington Wood near Dolphinholme to hear 3 singing male Blackcap, and see 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, at this point if you also visit the LDBWS website you should note that JB's records will not tally with mine as we separate often on our birding days as I go walkabout whilst John stakes out where we park often with good results.

At Stoops Bridge Abbeystead, a Nuthatch, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Mistle Thrush, and a Robin which flew off a nest low in a tree which contained three eggs, I must have walked past this bird on Tuesday when I visited here but it was either absent at the time or it remained on the nest whilst I passed by. As we drove past Marshaw Farm 12 Greylag were in a field here. A walk up the track behind Tower Lodge and the back of the plantation produced 2 Willow Warbler singing, a single Meadow Pipit and Dunnock, and a Buzzard over the distant fell, I also came across a dead Woodcock here the cause not at all obvious, it was next to a dead Pheasant. A short walk past the Langden intake to the pump-house was worth while if only to find a pair of Stonechat and hear a Willow Warbler in song.


Back down at the car park I did my level best to achieve some decent pics of the 20+ Redpoll  which included at least two Mealy Redpoll of which the pictures above are the best I could do. However, these birds were distinctly all a 'mealy' is for the purpose of ID as the pics illustrate and are untouched with any editing tools. Also noted whilst observing these birds, a Dipper and the odd - not very meaningful recording - Goldfinch. Once again my apologies for displaying the two pretty dismal photographs above which I was bound to have to show, that said I positively hate inferior photography....I'm waffling again!

I'm bound to end by stating that in an almost six hours birding today we saw not a solitary Swallow nor a Wheatear for that matter....puzzling if not worrying.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Silent Spring.... a book written by Rachel Carson about which perhaps I may feature sometime, but today wasn't really silent but far from 'buzzing' with activity.

Coal Tit thanks to Mark Fellowes.

Well the pic is appropriate to accompany the post as I saw just the one today on a walk from Lancaster to Glasson Dock which I decided to do as JB was unable to come with me....Thanks for the photograph Mark.

I'll do a count next time I leave home to do this walk as I noted a decent number of House Sparrows in the urban areas to Aldcliffe, there were some other counts I failed to do today having also noted good song from the Robins as I came through Haverbreaks and elsewhere. Other species I did count to Conder Green were....5 Swallow, 11 Blackbirds, 4 Wren, 2 Dunnock, 4 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Blackcap males, 6 Goldfinch, 2 Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Song Thrush, and a Coal Tit. Of particular note, a Lesser Whitethroat, and on the flood at Aldcliffe a male White Wagtail, and on Freeman's Pools, 2 Little Ringed Plover.

At Conder Green with not too much time to linger I found a Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, and 4 Sand Martin over. On Conder Pool, a Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Little Grebe, 3 Goldeneye, and a drake Wigeon hanging on here. Butterflies seen on the route were uncounted but at least 20 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Peacock, a Small White, and Orange Tip.

I must admit to being surprised to have seen - on a six mile walk at a snails pace - only 5 Swallows and 2 Willow Warblers today....Silent Spring....well nearly! 

And to end with you may well wonder why on earth would I want to put a picture of a bridge on a birding blog....

Well this is an old railway bridge north of the picnic site at Conder Green and I reckon its a beauty because its a bridge built in red brick, and I further reckon you'd have to travel far and wide to find another of its like, built over a railway track probably more than a hundred years ago in red brick....comments from railway historians would be most welcome.  

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Wood Warbler.

Wood Warbler thanks to Mark Fellowes.

Summer visitors to our shores are slow to arrive this year but when they do I personally hope at least one of them is going to be a Wood Warbler which will oblige me sometime somewhere with its unmistakable song ending with an almost pulsating trill likened to a spinning coin on a marble slab.

My first ever Wood Warbler was 18 years ago at Ingleton on 13 May 1992, my best ever encounter was at Gibson Wood on the Littledale Road when a bird returned to the same wood in May for 5 consequtive years 1996-2000 of which in 1996 I found two birds in separate areas of the wood but never had any evidence of breeding, I also found Wood Warbler at Botton, on both occasions in May 1997/98. The best ever count I had of the species was on a walk I did one day in the surrounding area of Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire but unfortunately I have as yet to find the record in my books but do recall  multiple sightings of this enigmatic bird which I'll never have the good fortune to repeat and about which there is a lot to say most of which some other time perhaps.

The recovery rate of the relatively few Wood Warblers ringed is amongst the lowest for any British bird as ringers seldom encounter them and fewer than two per season are seen at most observatories. In autumn the birds are thought to probably embark on their migratory journey direct from their breeding grounds and relatively few are ever seen or caught at migration so called 'hot spots'. They are also thought to probably cross the Sahara directly from Europe, they are one of a very few small birds that generally flies over the central Sahara region rather than around the edges.

There are so many 'unknowns' about the Wood Warbler, it is the most common trans-Saharan migrant for which there are no recoveries of British-ringed birds in the winter quarters. It has never been established where this bird fattens up to prepare for migration, or how they manage to make much longer flights than any other Phylloscopus warbler. Other secrets this bird carries with it are its habitat requirements in winter and on passage, also their population dynamics and annual survival rates are unknown.

So lots of things still to be discovered about this truly beautiful and enigmatic warbler one of which I'd dearly love to find again this summer, and if you're in any beech or sessile oak woodlands then listen for the coin spinning on marble and you've found your Wood Warbler, and I'll let you in on something, all my Wood Warblers have been found on sloping ground....Thanks for the image Mark.

And finally.... excellent image showing the Kestrel, frozen in time but looks like that in real life with its mastery of the art of hovering. Thanks for this goes to Phil Slade....thanks Phil.


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On A Loser.

I was on a loser today and if you're a regular to Birds2blog and you're fed up of hearing me going on about the Stonechats then you'd better do what the newsreader tells you to do if you don't want to know the footie scores....'look away now'. The picture - by yours truly - is of the access track from Marshaw to Hawthornthwaite Fell Top, a bit like climbing up a wall in places so don't even think of doing it if you have heart or respiratory problems, and the weather was more reminiscent of January 13 instead of April.

On Harrisend I had to search for over an hour to find a solitary female Stonechat which promptly disappeared, I just felt it had gone to a nest but despite a thorough search could find no male bird so something of a mystery there. Also noted, 2 Wheatear, 2 Willow Warbler, 4 Wren and good to hear some song too, 28 Meadow Pipits which isn't all that amazing given I was here over two hours, 2 Red Grouse which is even less amazing, 2 Reed Bunting, and a Buzzard.

On Hawthornthwaite another struggle to find another solitary Stonechat, also just 3 Meadow Pipits, and 5 Red Grouse. From the Marshaw access track to the same fell top I found no Stonechats here, 2 Meadow Pipits, 4 Red Grouse, a single Wren, a 'few' Curlew giving their song and melancholy whistle, even fewer Lapwing, and 8 Greylags flying noisily around most of the time I spent here.

I was a little hesitant to call in at Stoops Bridge in Abbeystead thinking it was too cold and too early, perhaps another week or two, but it was a good decision if only for excellent views of a smart male Blackcap and Nuthatch.

So after six hours upland birding I'm back in the pulpit again now on the status of the Stonechat at the six moorland habitats I've visited in the past few weeks which have produced the grand total of a pitiful eight birds, add to this a mere three passage birds seen this spring, plus the fact we are now into the breeding season....I rest my case.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Another Short List.

Little Ringed Plover thanks to Pete Woodruff.

My apologies for posting an inferior photograph, but at least it's the genuine article being the Conder Pool bird in a 'short list' for my four hours effort today.

At Conder Green a Little Ringed Plover eventually gave excellent views on Conder Pool this morning but I had to go to look for the bird and my hunch was the right one as it was in the far west corner of the pool and appeared not in the least interested that I was quite close and fumbling with my gear to get a pic....I waffle!

Also on the pool a Common Sandpiper, Little Grebe, and 3 Goldeneye still here, a Greenshank and 2 Spotted Redshank were roosting on the marsh opposite at high tide. On Glasson Marsh a Little Egret noted. At Cockersands I counted 57 Eider around the lighthouse area, and on Plover Scar c.420 Oystercatchers and 36 Redshank. On the circuit I saw 2 Grey Partridge always a nice find, 6 Tree Sparrow around the Bank Houses paddock, I saw just one Skylark which was in full song, and a Wren was a reminder that some birds did survive the winter freeze but I'm not hearing - let alone seeing - many Wrens anywhere anytime. This was not what you would call an excellent show of birds in a 1.5 hours circuit at Cockersands, nor did I see a solitary Swallow in four for thought.

Small Tortoiseshell thanks to Pete Woodruff.

I saw my first butterfly today....a Peacock at Cockersands. The picture above is there because I was searching my records for some dates recently and came across a couple which I thought were good enough to recall, one was of at least 300 Small Tortoiseshell on a walk along the headland here on 12 July 2003, I have a distinct feeling this won't be repeated again in 2010. The other record is unrelated to the present time of year but I found this one during the same search and was of 17 Common Sandpiper at Conder Green on 24 July 2003, I have a feeling if I'd have searched harder I may well have found records of higher counts than this especially at Conder Green which can produce impressive numbers of this species during autumn passage.

Yellow-legged Gull thanks to Mark Fellowes.

I just could not resist posting this excellent image of the Yellow-legged Gull on the Formentor Penninsula in NE Mallorca....thanks for this Mark.