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

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Keep On Plugging.

OK, so I was faced with a little household problem this morning which seriously interfered with my birding plans for the day, well not so little actually, in fact the problem needed immediate attention, and it not only interfered with my birding plans it actually buggered them up completely for the life's not all that good after all, and to make matters much worse tomorrows weather looks like rhyming with 'trap'....

But here's a pic or two to be going on with....

Marsh Harrier. Dennis Atherton. 

An excellent photograph of the female Marsh Harrier which Dennis captured at Leighton Moss where the birds are well established as summer visitors which breed here. They are scarce but regular as passage migrants at sites beyond the hunting territories of the Leighton Moss birds. Thanks for the pic Dennis.

Kingfisher. Brian Rafferty.

Ah well....we've had Kingfisher pics on here before but not this one I reckon and in any case you never tire of seeing Kingfisher pic' you! Thanks for this Brian.

Slavonian Grebe. Phillip Thomson.

Well we ain't had Slavonian Grebe on here before and this image of one is as good as they come. The species is a rare visitor to our area but as I recall one was a long stayer on Pine Lake from 18 October until 10 December in 2009 during which time I enjoyed good views of the bird on more than one occasion. Thanks for this Phillip.

Unfortunately we now have the choice of whether or not to dip into some more 'gloom' but the truth is we all have a duty to 'Keep On Plugging' these terrible crimes against our wildlife and in this case - yet again - our birds, one thing for sure....we can't ignore it. 

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Water Vole. Phillip Tomkinson.

I reckon this to be the best image of a Water Vole I ever saw or am ever likely to see. Thanks for this Phillip it is a brilliant and much appreciated photograph of a scarce creature lots of us are not likely to ever see without or even with an intense search.

A good day for doing one of those searches through old records on which I picked out a couple of birds I'm hoping to find/see this winter, though if the past 'one or two' are anything to go by I won't be holding my breath. There are some gaps in any accuracy in the following 'short but sweet' notes, but it's been 'a while' since I last saw a Smew but in the yesteryear there was the time when you could visit what was then called Dockacres and see a smart drake which wintered here - and wandered to other areas - for 'many' a consecutive year. Though there is now evidence of a decline in sightings of this species in the UK, once was the time when the record book was dominated by occurrences at Leighton Moss and Dockacres where the Smew was almost annual since 1990. I myself was delighted to find a drake Smew had returned yet again to Dockacres on 22 November 1992, and again later on 21 December I found a/the bird on the River Lune at Snatchems opposite the Golden Ball, then six days later by Greyhound Bridge. The following year a drake Smew gave me an even greater 'buzz' when I discovered it had paid a visit to Blea Tarn Reservoir on 5 March 1993, I remember this morning with relish as I'd gone to the reservoir on my way to work and enjoyed what turned out to be one of those special birding moments of which I've experienced many a one since.

In the winter of 1992/93 I recorded a total of eleven Brambling locations, this was in the days when I drove a car parts delivery van for a living, something which turned out to be the best in 'the world' when it came to a job of work and a growing passion for birds becoming an unbelievable combination. A record of the Brambling which  I recall with pleasure was collected on 5 December 1995 when I came across a flock of at least 300 'finches' below a superb Beech Tree opposite Levens Park the greater majority of which were Brambling with Chaffinch's, how could I ever forget a sighting like this plus the fact they were eventually scattered by a Sparrowhawk.

The Brambling winters in widely separate areas from one year to the next with little apparent site fidelity to wintering sites, and both this species and the Smew are well overdue to 'put in an appearance' in our area and I'd like to think this will be put right this winter.


Tuesday, 28 September 2010

In the Negative.

Birk Bank. Pete Woodruff.

You don't get class photography if they're mine but this one illustrates a bit of sunlight which came down at my feet on the top of Birk Bank this afternoon and lasted about ten seconds to brighten up an otherwise dull day in more ways than one.

Nothing to celebrate up here today as my five hour search for the Stonechat ended in disaster with not a single bird found. Without labouring the issue too much this is the first time in more than ten years I've turned up a blank on the Stonechat in the Clougha/Birk Bank area, the ten years represents at least 132 visits and consumed up to 600 hours so I learned a bit about the species in that time both here and at about twelve other upland locations. On the United Utilities Estate in Bowland the Stonechat population fell by close on 50% in'll have gathered I'm not a happy chappy at the moment.

As I got out of the car 6 Swallows went over south and were the only ones seen, raptors were one Buzzard and a Kestrel, 6 Redpoll went 'bouncing' overhead, I heard just 2 Wren, and 16 Meadow Pipits erupted out of the bracken and flew towards Cragg Wood, and taking into account duplicate counting I saw at least 23 Red Grouse. Well it's the end of September now and upland birding doesn't offer you a long list of birds and you often have to be content with scant reward for some bloody hard work, but not as scant as today....but it's gotta be dun!

Red Grouse. Pete Woodruff.

The lone Red Grouse showing the height and ruggedness of its habitat. And finally....

In a recent post I was 'shouting my mouth off' about the Greenshank becoming the next species to winter at Conder Green. Well this turns out to be some Birds2blog rubbish as instead of relying on my weak memory recall I should have consulted my records - which I have done now - to find the species has done so at this location for the past three winters....I think I'm on the wrong medication! 

I suggest- no actually insist - you take a look at Richard Shillings latest post HERE and be shocked at what he saw in a beautiful Lakes valley. 

Monday, 27 September 2010

Never A Dull Moment....

....but it came quite close today.

Little Grebe. David Cookson.

I put David Cookson's excellent photograph of the Little Grebe in my sidebar recently but as they came in to the reckoning today I thought I'd like it in the post too.

The weather was dull and the birding barely raised itself above that level either, though I'd find it difficult to regard any birding to ever be really dull, but Conder Green was a big disappointment today, the creeks were deserted and the circuit actually drew a blank. Conder Pool produced a couple of interesting records in that the Common Sandpiper seen is surely the one going to winter here, and 11 Little Grebes come within one bird of equaling last years peak of twelve, also noted on here a Snipe and the 4 Wigeon....aren't they ever going to meet up with the relations on the River Lune! 

At Glasson Dock, the Lune Estuary here goes under water on the incoming tide pretty quick and about to be 'pushed off' were a Spotted Redshank, and Greenshank, c.580 Golden Plover were similar to last Thursdays number and I'd estimate 4,500 Lapwing here, a Little Egret was again in it's favoured area below Waterloo Cottage.

At Cockersands what was left above water of Plover Scar held a count of 32 Turnstone - never an easy species to catch up with - and circa's of 120 Redshank, 90 Oystercatcher, 50 Dunlin, and 2 Little Egret, 10 Eider were on the sea. At least 30 Greenfinch are still attracted to the set-aside and a similar number of 30 Goldfinch in the area. From Bank End 6 Little Egret were on the marsh and a Great-crested Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser were of note on the Cocker Estuary.

Ahhhh well....birding isn't all about finding an Empidonax Flycatcher! 

And finally....

Little Bustard. Paul Foster. 

This photograph of the Little Bustard's in Portugal has the quality of an excellent painting in my opinion. I'm impressed and thanks for letting me put them up here Paul. 

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Another RS Gallery

Maple Leaf Lantern.

If ever I need to fill a gap and brighten up Birds2blog at the same time there's one place I can always take a look and that's at Richard Shillings Landart website....OK you may ask 'whats this got to do with a birding blog' well nothing at all actually but so what, everything can become a bit tedious at times and a change is as good as a rest. Well you can never fail to be impressed when you see some of the things this man gets up to with his creative mind running in 5th gear and I was really taken in by this his latest creation above, and....

Doodle on a Rock-Concentric Maple Leaves.

I was with this one too....Richard has a new book out 'Transcience' and I recommend you take a look at his website HERE to get an idea of what the book contains and to keep up to date on what he's been creating recently.

Thanks for these two photographs Richard, and you're really going to have to put up with my Songs of Praise as you never fail to bowl me over with your art and I reckon you do the same to most if not all my visitors.

And finally....

Before you view the video below I'm asking you if you are going to attend this years 'Scilly Season' soon and more to the point planning your first ever pelagic trip, if you are then I'd suggest you leave Birds2blog without watching it but if you can't resist the temptation you must note this is on board a huge ocean going liner and not some small craft with a handful of birders on board....make your choice now!! 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good!

A MEGA in Norfolk.

Now I'll need to be careful here as this is well outside my range in terms of knowledge and I'm putting myself in danger of being shot out of the sky by the professionals if I say too much and don't proceed with caution.

The pager news this morning was of a Empidonax Flycatcher at Blakeney Point in Norfolk. Early news suggested the bird to be either a Willow/Alder or Acadian Flycatcher but is now considered to be a presumed Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. What I do know about these birds is that they are known to be 'notoriously scary' when it comes to separation for ID and perhaps the earliest report naming three of the species and ending up with the current 'presumed' one is a clear indication of this. Apparently the best feature is the song of the bird which I'd suppose is one nobody is going to hear on Blakeney Point in Norfolk but I was impressed with the video above.

Then at 6.23pm comes the news of a Northern Parula on Tiree, Argyll. This one follows a bird at Brownstown Head in Co Waterford, Ireland on Sunday 5 October 2003, the bird was eventually caught, ringed, released, and was never seen again.

The Bad and the Ugly....Tragic in fact.

Malta has been shamed yet again by its illegal bird hunters who have blasted a number of Spoonbills this week which were passing through the islands on migration from Europe to Africa. Only nine of an original twenty two birds have escaped the attentions of these hunters and were able to continue their migration to Africa. Dr Andre Raine of BirdLife Malta said....'the targeting of protected birds during the night invariably takes place every time rare species roost on the islands, this is clear indication of just how ridiculous the illegal hunting situation is in Malta, and its about time the Maltese government accepted that here we have a serious conservation problem'....A polite and diplomatic man if you ask me.



Friday, 24 September 2010

Paying The Price.

View from the Lower Hide. Pete Woodruff. 

I paid the price for a visit to Leighton Moss today which happened to be my second choice, the first one abandoned due to circumstances out of my control.

The rewards for the first couple of hours were excellent and when I entered a deserted Lower Hide, straight out across the far side were 16 Little Egrets not visible in my moderate photograph above but honestly they are dead centre of the frame. It wasn't many minutes later that a juvenile Black Tern flew across the mere and perched on a post in the middle for the next thirty minutes, from my observations it appears to be the only one left from what was four birds during this week, 6 Greenshank were also at the back of the mere, and 2 Great-crested Grebe were of note. A little later on I noticed a few 'hirundines' in the air - some low some high - and eventually I estimated up to 100 House Martins with single numbers of Swallow and Sand Martin. But then came the best of the rewards I had already enjoyed when an Otter came in to view at 12.30 and 'porpoised' for several minutes, thirty five minutes later at 1.05 it appeared again, this time it eventually hauled itself out of the water on to the very area in front of the reeds where there was just five of the initial sixteen Little Egrets left, it stood staring at them within just a couple of metres, all the LE's were alert but not one of them moved off, the Otter then went back into the water and swam the full length in front of them and soon disappeared into the reeds....this is great stuff....and free of charge.

At the Public Hide I counted in excess of 200 Redshank, 3 Greenshank, and 3 Black-tailed Godwit.  Anyone who knows the Leighton Moss Reserve will appreciate this island is just small and this number of waders on here definitely meant 'standing room only' and the Redshank number far exceeds anything like this figure on here before in my records book. At the Grisedale Hide things were a little quiet but I noted 4 Black-tailed Godwit and c.15 Gadwall with a similar number of Shoveler, and watched a Snipe feeding like a sewing machine at half speed, as I was leaving the hide I spotted a Peregrine Falcon over the woods opposite.

Now I was about to pay the price of a visit to the RSPB Reserve of Leighton Moss, when I stepped into the Lillian Hide I was reminded of the days when Saturday night meant an evening for me in the Melbourne Club, a lively working mans watering hole with the associated noise, the same environment inside this hide isn't 'my kind of birding' and I made a speedy exit. But things were not about to improve unfortunately and now I'm in the Eric Morecambe Hide where I counted 29 Little Egret on the Allan Pool along with 7 Greenshank, a Kingfisher perched close by, and 42 Wigeon were of note. But inside this hide was a group of about six people who had obviously decided a day at LM was a good idea for a social gathering to discuss just about anything and to hell with any suggestion of 'quiet please' in the hides....I went home!

By the way if you are planning to visit the Eric Morecambe complex it's more reminiscent of Lake Windermere at the moment with not a cat in hell's chance of finding a wader on there. This complex was once described to me many years ago now by a high profile ornithologist as one of the best in the north of England to which I readily agreed at the time....and - in the right condition - still do.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Raking Around!

Photograph by Pete Merryweather.

I was initially a bit hesitant at going birding today but a little blue patch in the sky around 10.00am got me going, though I did later suffer another of those 'sat in the car staring through the windscreen' periods at Pilling Lane Ends which is where the pic above was taken and where I got that feeling again that I should be doing something useful in life instead of this birding lark....'scuse the pun!

The creeks at Conder Green were awash once again with the tide well on its way in, the pool appeared quiet but the customary walk down to the west end proved otherwise with 2 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, a Little Egret, Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, and 3 Goosander, I gave in counting after reaching 7 Little Grebes several times and if yesterdays ten were still here they wouldn't all come to the surface at once, I could also only find 3 Wigeon today. Leaving here the Little Owl was to be seen from Jeremy Lane.

I decided the best plan was to leave Glasson Dock until after the tide had fallen and went off to Pilling Lane Ends in a downpour which - as the pic above illustrates - was still in progress when I arrived there to find at least 650 sheep out from the car park. After the rain ceased I made some estimated counts of 450 Greylag, 90 Pink-footed Geese, and noted at least 380 Pintail, 5 Great-crested Grebes were also of note as a species I'm not seeing many of wherever I go these days, 3 Little Egret, a Peregrine Falcon came through putting up a not all that impressive number of distant waders.

At Fluke Hall a walk west along the sea wall for a few hundred metres proved several species of waders thinly spread along Preesall Sands which I could see all the way down to Cockers Dyke and which I made no attempt to count in total but noted as far as the walk went, 17 Grey Plover, 42 Golden Plover, 15 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12 Knot, and I could see 26 Pink-footed Geese at Cockers Dyke a 1/2 mile away. Passerines in the hedgerows and flighting, 25 Goldfinch, 38 Tree Sparrow, 15 Linnet, and 2 Skylark, a 'few' Swallow and Meadow Pipit were passing through, and 2 Wheatear were on the sea defences. The best bird came at the end of the visit here as an adult Mediterranean Gull was seen on the sands.

A quick check over the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock produced 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, and c.580 Golden Plover were of note, a Little Egret was over below Waterloo Cottage.

And finally....

The North Western Fells. Gary Jones. 

Another of those unrelated photographs for a birding blog but just too impressive to ignore. Gary's account and photographs of his recent visit to the Lakes is HERE and recommended....Thanks for the picture Gary it must have been a great day for you.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Geese 'n Swans.

Whooper Swans. David Cookson.

The geese and swans are coming, in fact in the case of the geese they're already here with c.3,500 - at an early date for such a high number - on Pilling Marsh last Friday 17 September. In the case of the swans perhaps we will be seeing them in two/three weeks time. Thanks for the photograph David....brilliant as ever.

It was great to find c.3,500 Pink-footed Geese on Pilling Marsh last Friday and I look forward to the added interest in these birds with the possibility of finding some with neck collars and - in the case of swans- leg rings along with the associated often frustrating challenge of reading the marks with birds distant, in water, or in long vegetation. Not many winters ago I had already seen and read fifteen Whooper Swan rings just weeks after their arrival but this was exceptional. There is the added interest in seeing the history of these birds with some amazing movements being recorded through observations of marks.

Whooper Swans (WS) breeding in Iceland have a much shorter migration journey of 800km to wintering sites in Britain than do the Bewick's Swans (BS) which fly some 3,200km from breeding grounds in Arctic Russia, as a result the WS usually arrive here about four weeks ahead of the BS in autumn, and conversely leave a similar period of four weeks later the following spring. All these migratory movements are of course related to the weather, if for example there is low pressure over Britain for most of September with winds in a predominantly southerly direction in the latter half of the month, autumn migration from Iceland by the WS can be delayed by up to a couple of weeks. With regard to the BS, movements from summer to winter grounds is also controlled by the weather, for example, if climatic conditions are mild across Northwest Europe throughout October, with winds mainly in the west, the eastward movement of the BS can be slow not only from the continent to Britain, but from Russia to wintering sites in the Netherlands and Germany.

Greylag Geese.   

Since 1998 a total of 1,281 Greylag Geese on Tiree and Coll have been fitted with neck collars as part of a detailed study of the populations and movements of these birds. Some 13,000 sightings to April this year have shown them to be remarkably sedentary, with regular small movements within and between the two islands but very few beyond them. It was therefore with great surprise that Kane Brides reported a neck collared Greylag Goose at Martin Mere WWT Reserve in Lancashire on 27 March this year. This bird had been marked on Tiree as K82 as a first summer male on 4 July 2009 and this subsequent long southerly winter movement of this individual was most surprising and was last seen at Martin Mere on 29 March just two days after its arrival. It will be interesting to see where this bird is next observed.

Of course my personal best ever sighting of marked birds was that of two Bewick's Swans I found on 5 January 2002 at Preesall, and were subsequently found via a history print out to have been two truly remarkable birds.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Black-eared Wheatear. Paul Foster.

Thanks for this Paul....A couple of interesting points about the Wheatear, 1) They were once classed as a 'thrush' but now considered as Old World Flycatchers, 2) Despite being in areas today for almost seven hours where they would have been expected to be not one was seen.

I was in the company of JB today and had some rewarding sightings. We first called in at Conder Green - well where else - where the tide was well in and rendered the creeks under water but this visit and one six hours later produced on the pool a Little Egret, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, 4 Wigeon, c.20 Teal, and I could only find 6 Little Grebe on here today, 3 Spotted Redshank flew off the pool having been hidden from view and appeared to go down on to the channel below the railway bridge, on the later visit a Ruff was in the creeks, and c.220 Goldfinch were flighty over the marsh, an increase in number since I first saw them here a week ago when I estimated eighty birds.

With the tide approaching its height we decided to pay a visit to Knott End which produced two adult Mediterranean Gulls on Preesall Sands east of the esplanade, a Little Egret was seen and I also noted at least 50 Eider and a Great-crested Grebe whose numbers I have noted recently have fallen everywhere I visit. As we passed Sand Villa on the way here a Buzzard was of note the species having expanded south in recent years. On Pilling Marsh and the sands beyond up to 700 Pink-footed Geese, and a Little Egret on the marsh.

At Glasson Dock 6 Curlew Sandpiper continue to make this year an exceptional one for this species passing through our areas, also 4 Spotted Redshank were 'hoovering up' together along the tide-line and 2 Little Egret were on the far side of the estuary.

An excellent tour of the coast with JB who will record the day much more comprehensively than me and if this interests you I'd pay a visit HERE to see his account.

And finally....

Purple Heron. Phillip Tomkinson.

Thanks for allowing me to occasionally post your photographs on Birds2blog Phillip it is much appreciated. Phillip's website is HERE please take a look at some excellent photography. 

Monday, 20 September 2010

High Time!

Plovers and Dunlin. Pete Woodruff.

I dug out this pic as I was struggling for one for today's post, as it happens its quite a decent pic if only for having the benefit of separating the male - on the left - from the female Ringed Plover.

In relation to the title of the post....high tide time actually which made my allotted Mondays four hours a little awkward as high tide isn't quite the best time for a visit to Conder/Glasson, but please note 'isn't quite' as Conder Pool played host to one or two decent birds in the roost with 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, Ruff, and Common Sandpiper, a Little Egret, 9 Little Grebe, 4 Wigeon, a Goosander, and 38 Pink-footed Geese flying high south.

At Cockersands the tide was barely on the ebb and heavy showers threatened, so in the hope last Tuesdays packet of Hula Hoops had a drawing effect on the sea birds I opened another packet and sat it out with eyes peeled but to no avail, but as the tide dropped I donned my 'recorders' hat - which was full of dust - and noted unimpressive numbers of waders before leaving having run out of time, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Turnstone, 8 Ringed Plover, 6 Curlew, 12 Dunlin, and c.450 Redshank. I was also rewarded by seeing the set aside here having drawn and kept c.30 Greenfinch provided with winter seed....the birds need one of these set asides in every farmland field in the country and the sooner the better.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock 2 Curlew Sandpipers accompanieed up to 700 Redshank I was grilling, Lapwing numbers probably exceeded this but otherwise the area was quiet. 

Whooper Swans. Pete Woodruff. 

Whooper Swans at Fluke Hall last winter and a reminder of things to come, and if last year is anything to go by I'm hoping to have found some by 1 October which is the date three were in a field opposite Braides. 

Mega News.

In Glamorgan a Bobolink is/was SE of Port Talbot, and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper is/was SE of Greatham.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Out of time!

Out of time for blogging today and not your average weekend birder's a few 'bits and pieces' mainly excellent photographs.

Leach's Petrel. SP.

Photographic opportunities like this don't come every day and this one of the windblown Leach's Petrel came for SP at Knott End this week during the blow which had good numbers of these birds off course along our coastlines, I myself was lucky to be at Cockersands at the right time on Tuesday to find one fluttering by at a location less likely to have been than the one round the corner at Heysham. An excellent pic, SP having made full use of the opportunity.

Masked Duck. Colin Bushell.

More excellent photographs, this of a bird I'm never likely to ever see the drake Masked Duck, just one of the many species CB is currently seeing in Brazil, and....

Masked Duck. Colin Bushell.

Two ducks of the same....Thanks for these Colin, of course you won't know this but I'm often green with envy sat staring at my monitor when I read your accounts and see your photographs of these wonderful birds you keep finding.

Farming Methods! Warren Baker. 

And to end with....

Hows this for nonsense on a monumental scale. In this photograph we see a farmer who is either 'off his head' or just a cunning steward of the countryside, either way this guy is almost certainly claiming a supplementary payment for 'trimming' this minute tree which is causing no problems to anyone or anything....the mind boggles. Thanks for the pic Warren, it's one of your best in its category. 


Friday, 17 September 2010

Heres The Sickener....

I was out with JB/BT today and decided on arrival at Cockersands lighthouse I'd walk along the headland and meet them again at the caravan park, so off I went collecting along the way 3 Wheatear, 7 Linnet,  7 Goldfinch, 5 Skylark, and Tuesdays c.30 Greenfinch seen again, the only wader of note was a single Grey Plover which retained a good part of its summer plumage, and....

I did my best to get a decent pic of the Small Copper butterfly above, but wait a minute 'cos here comes the sickener....When I get back to the car JB/BT have the nerve to tell me they had 5 Curlew Sandpiper back at the lighthouse end after I left them, so OK you can't win 'em all! JB's comprehensive records are HERE please take a look, John's records don't always tally with mine as we don't hold hands.

Before Cockersands we had called at Conder Green to find singles of Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Greenshank, and 2 Common Sandpiper. On Conder Pool I could only find 6 Little Grebe today with the 4 Wigeon, a pair of House Martins are still visiting a nest at River Winds. At Glasson Dock - where I let JB collect the 'full' records - I noted c.350 Golden Plover, and a solitary Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Great-crested Grebe on the river represented a 'long time no see' bird on the River Lune here. From Bodie Hill a Little Egret was on Bazil Point, and from Jeremy Lane the Little Owl seen again.

The run to Pilling Marsh was worth the while if only to find on an early date the surprising number of up to 3,500 Pink-footed Geese. When I checked my records I found I had seen c.145 here on the same date of 17 September last year, 2 Little Egret were seen here with another at Fluke Hall. Butterflies on the day in addition to the one above were 6 Red Admiral and a similar number of Speckled Wood.

Red-necked Phalarope. SP.

Today's local star bird is the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope still present early evening on Fairhaven Lake at Lytham....This is an excellent photograph of the bird with my thanks to SP.  There's a good selection of photographs on the Fylde Bird Club website HERE please take a look.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Not The Best Of Choices.

Masked Shrike. Colin Bushell.

But of Colin Bushell's Lesvos 2010 exotica in the form of the smart Masked Shrike.

Not the best of my three options for today but the other two I didn't fancy doing on account of my distrust in the weather which turned out to be a false distrust as it kept nice and sunny. Anyway 'ordinary' birding can often become extraordinary though it didn't today....but that's birding. So I found myself checking the 'gull's' on the River Lune behind Sainsburys before heading off to check everything else on the calorie burning trek to Glasson Dock in the hope perhaps a Wryneck would jump out at me along the way....but didn't.

A quick look over Freeman's Pools showed it to be a lake rather than a pool now so it'll be a surprise if any of the 'parishioners' find any waders on there for a while. Two Wheatear were seen along the embankment and the only 'geese' on the marsh were c.75 Canada and 6 Greylag. Between Aldcliffe and Conder Green I noted a Raven over the golf course with a Brown Hare on there, 8 Goldfinch, a Kestrel, 4 Red Admiral, and 6 Speckled Wood....this is desperate stuff you know!

At Conder Green a less than serious circuit produced 2 Ruff, a Greenshank, and another Wheatear. Conder Pool is also in ruins now resembling a lake with no edges but 9 Little Grebe was another increase in their number and three short of last years peak of twelve, interestingly the count has gone back up to 4 Wigeon on here for the first time since 2 July.

Black-eared Wheatear. Colin Bushell.

Exotica number two from Lesvos is the Black-eared Wheatear. Thanks for these Colin, much appreciated.... I'll be looking out for the Peruvian flag!!

By the way....The Masked Shrike - Eastern Mediterranean east to Iran and winters in sub-Saharan Africa - was one of six species of birds which were removed from the British List in 1962 in connection with the 'Hastings Rarities Affair'. Since one was shot at Woodchurch in Kent in 1905 there have been just two records of this extremely rare vagrant the last of which was at St Marys on the Scillies on 1 November 2006.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


Ruff. Jack Ashton-Boothe.

This is the front cover illustration of the BTO WeBS Report I received today which I've barely had the chance to flick through. It will obviously have some interesting facts and figures to peruse through and I've picked out one or two 'favourites' which have already grabbed my attention.

The number of Goldeneye present on UK wetlands has been in steady decline for over ten years in Britain, and longer so in N.Ireland. Trends indicate numbers to now be at their lowest ever and this follows a period of consistent increase from the 1970's through to the mid 1990's. Numbers at the most important site in the UK - Loughs Neagh and Beg in N.Ireland- are dramatic evidence of long term decline with annual peaks of more than 13,500 birds in the early 1990's compared to the recent five-year mean of just over 4,500. In local terms the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock probably held in excess of 200 Goldeneye more than any other location in our recording area and beyond on a personal count one day last winter, and it will be interesting to see figures at the end of this coming winter of 2010/11.

The number of wintering Greenshank in Britain has increase over the last 25 years and the peak WeBS count last winter was 25 birds at Chichester Harbour being a site where wintering numbers have increased at a slow but steady rate in recent years epitomising the national trend. I personally think the Greenshank is the next species to join the list of wintering birds at Conder Green and maybe one of the four I saw there yesterday is set to become the first.

Regarding the Common Sandpiper....Loughs Neagh and Beg comes into the reckoning once again with the first ever wintering Common Sandpiper record in N.Ireland from here in 2008/09. In the UK a small but increasing number of birds have over-wintered and during the period December to February c.60 birds were recorded at WeBS sites primarily in the south. In the north a Common Sandpiper has wintered at Conder Green - with others in our area - for the past two years, and again I wonder if one or both birds I saw there yesterday are set to winter here again this year.

And finally....

Little Stint. SP.

A couple of pics, this one of the juvenile Little Stint at Cockersands recently....

Whinchat. SP.

And another one at Cockersands, this of the Whinchat which along with the Little Stint are two of my most favourite birds. Thanks for these SP, much appreciated.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

At Last....

I can't remember when was the last time I had a seven day break between my birding but there was nothing enjoyable about this one and today it came to an end when I was back on the road again at last.

Goosander. Paul Foster.

A nice family portrait of the female Goosander with five of her chicks. I don't know if this was the full compliment or not, if it was then she's at least two down with the possibility of up to nine down from a full clutch of fourteen. Thanks for the picture Paul, it's excellent.

I gave Conder Green a good 1.5 hours this morning to find, 3 Spotted Redshank, 4 Greenshank, 3 Ruff, 2 Common Sandpiper - is there a wintering bird in the making here - and a flock of at least 80 Goldfinch, all found on the circuit. In the channel downstream from the old railway bridge, 2 Curlew Sandpiper juveniles were with c.150 Redshank and 11 Dunlin. Conder Pool was quiet but 8 Little Grebe, 3 Wigeon, and 18 Teal were of note. From the bridge I took note of up to 120 Canada Geese and c.60 Greylag in the distance on Colloway Marsh.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was with c.220 Redshank with barely a double figure of Dunlin, the area was otherwise unimpressive, I saw 2 Red Admiral and never stood a chance of any more where I went today in a near gale force wind. On Jeremy Lane the Little Owl on the derelict farm building was in the sun and sheltered  from the wind.

At Cockersands I decided to do the headland and return via the road circuit - and almost got blown over a few times into the bargain - to find c.30 Eider bouncing like corks off Plover Scar where 3 Little Egret were seen, 7 Wheatear were at various points along the headland. The road back drew a blank until I reached the Lighthouse Cottage where at least 30 Greenfinch were in the winter seed 'wedge' opposite, my best count in a year or two.

By now it was 2.30pm and I decided I'd give Aldcliffe a look over but before I left Cockersands the bird seen whilst munching a packet of Hula Hoops changed all that as a Fulmar came into view from somewhere off the Lune Estuary and flew inland east over the Abbey Farm fields and before I'd finished the munch what turned out to be a Razorbill dropped on to the sea at Plover Scar and eventually gave excellent views appearing healthy if 'windblown' and diving on occasions, by now I was beginning to think it a good idea to stay put and see if anything else turned up whilst scanning the sea near and far in the prevailing wind conditions the result of which soon came as a Leach's Petrel was flying out of the estuary quite close in and giving excellent views.

An excellent return to normality for me. 


Was of the claim of a Little Shearwater on the Wirral flying west past Meols Point and later west past Hoylake this afternoon.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Old Records....again!

Towards Raven Castle. Peter Guy.

But first another excellent B/W photograph which PG has kindly sent me today. I know this area intimately and with passion, and if you know the top of the Cross of Greet area to look east then so do you. Nothing new to say anymore about brilliant pictures like this Peter except a sincere thank you.

Old records make fascinating reading although the ornithological history of Lancashire doesn't extend much - if any - further back than the 19th century. I'm lucky to hold in my library a copy of 'The Birds of Lancashire' by Clifford Oakes (1953) who - soon after the publication of the book - became the first chairman of the then newly formed East Lanc's Ornithologists Club (ELOC) in 1955.

For the sake of it we'll take a look at the first and last species to come under Oakes's 'microscope' in his book which was - amazing considering I decided to post the photograph above - the Raven which he begins by referring to it as a scarce and local resident and a bird described by a predecessor called F.S.Mitchell as 'exceedingly rare' in his book of the same title published in 1885, Mitchell went on to prophesy its extinction in 'a question of a few years'. Oakes goes on to say, despite persecution and exploitation by egg-collectors, the bird still breeds on the northern hills and occasionally wanders as far south as the Bowland Fells in autumn and winter, whilst singe birds have appeared at rare intervals in the coastal districts of the Ribble Estuary. He goes on to mention a pair found breeding in the Cartmel Valley in 1910, this being the only record of breeding outside the traditional haunts during the present  20th century. The account of the Raven ends by recording that it used to nest in Wyresdale and in the Clivinger Gorge near Burnley over 100 years ago. Localities bearing such names as Raven Crag, Raven Clough, Raven Holme, and Raven Winder are frequently to be found on the Ordnance Survey maps of the eastern and northern hills giving indication of the wider distribution of the species in former days.

Today the Raven is referred to as a scarce breeding bird in Lancashire, but a species who's rise continues unabated with records from all corners of the county. If you search thoroughly through recent records you'll find them like a pair breeding on pylons at Heysham and Penwortham, breeding in Silverdale and the Lune Valley, and a bird seen displaying in Liverpool in 2008.

And the last in Oakes book is the Quail which in 1953 he described as 'formerly common and widespread' now a scarce and irregular summer visitor to south Lancashire, and very rare north of the River Ribble. Oakes only gives a brief account of this species but one note is of interest when he says....'there has been a gradual decrease since the advent of the 'mowing machine' and there is abundant proof of many which are killed at harvest time'....

Well Mr Oakes if you're ever offered a chance to return to earth I'd suggest refusing the offer as you're almost certain to die afresh with shock within minutes of your arrival here to witness the results of the 'mowing machine' in the 21st century.

And finally....

Waders. Phil Slade.

I love this photograph of the Ruff with two Spotted Redshanks, a perfect example of the birds to be currently found  at Conder Green with the latter probably set to winter here again....Thanks for this Phil, it means a lot to me being taken where it was, and what it illustrates.



Sunday, 12 September 2010

More Raptor Persecution.

OK so Birds2blog is struggling to keep alive and to make matters worse I've chosen to fill in today with another gloomy and tragic wildlife story and more to the point one about a Red Kite and close to home to make matters even worse.

Marsh Harrier. Dennis Atherton.

Obviously not a Red Kite but an excellent photograph of the female Marsh Harrier taken by Dennis on a recent visit to Leighton Moss. Well we've seen pictures of this species on Birds2blog more than once before but....each one is as good as the one before it and they're all brilliant. Thanks for this Dennis it helps to brighten up the blog on another day when it needed to be for more reasons than one.


Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Gull, a Woodpecker, and a Bunting.

Yellow-legged Gull. Chris Batty.

Not remotely connected to the post but another of those excellent pics of the Yellow-legged Gull, this one a 1st winter bird to help you on your way to identifying this difficult subject of immature gulls. This individual appears on occasions in the Knott End/Cockers Dyke area if you're that way anytime....Thanks for this Chris, a great picture of a great bird.

I note with interest good numbers of Wryneck and Lapland Buntings into the country at the moment with one individual Wryneck having been at Cley in Norfolk for most - if not all - of the week in the area around the East Bank which brings me to recommend you getting your hands on a copy of the book above, about an amazing man and an equally amazing place, both of which I couldn't agree more, the East Bank has some good memories for me. The books author Moss Taylor - who was a GP - came under Richard. A. Richardson's spell on his early birding trips to Cley and in time became a member of the medical team who nursed Richard in Kelling Hospital near Holt in August 1977 during the last few weeks of his life.

So some brief notes on these two 'desirable birds to see' species....

The Wryneck.

Its hard to believe the Wryneck - a rare passage migrant from continental Europe -  was once a common breeder in Lancashire but even as far back as the 1850's the bird was already in decline, and by the beginning of the 20th century it was scarce if not rare, a nest found at Winmarleigh in 1883 is the last 'published' breeding record in Lancashire. I once read of a Wryneck turning up in a garage basement in 1973, an extreme example of a species regarded to be likely to 'turn up almost anywhere' though they do have a strong affinity to coastal watch-points with up to five at Heysham being a good example of this. I reckon Cockersands to be as good a place as any to search for the Wryneck and is the very location for a record of the species nearly 15 years ago on 19 October 1995.

The Lapland Bunting.

The Lapland Bunting is an uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor from Fennoscandia - and possibly from Greenland - is also currently appearing in the country in notable large numbers, in terms of 'locally' I have seen a report today of one bird on the sea wall at Hesketh Out Marsh. However, this area is no stranger to the Lapland Bunting and nearby Crossens held a flock of 31 birds in January 1980, and again nearby six were at Marshside in 1986, all these three areas are excellent coastal birding hot-spots. Cockersands also comes into the reckoning with this species as with the Wryneck and wintering birds have been recorded in the past on the saltmarshes and coastal grasslands of coastal Lancashire and North Merseyside, so I'll certainly be doing some 'circuits' here if and when I can in the coming days/weeks.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Cumbria Birds....

....of thirty years ago, but first....

Steam Crane. Peter Guy.

Another remarkable and interesting photograph of the old steam crane at Lamb Hill Quarry on the moors of the Forest of Bowland and all that remains of the stone extraction for the construction of the dam at Stocks Reservoir. I'd wager the average birder/visitor to Birds2blog didn't know about this piece of history....I certainly didn't. Thanks for this Peter, the second the the two B/W photographs you sent me recently for which I'm truly grateful.

Well, they say something good comes out of everything in varying degrees and I suppose my currently being 'off the road' gave me the opportunity to do some searching through old records to come up with something of interest from our neighbouring county of Cumbria thirty years ago. I know little detail of the birds of Cumbria today but was intrigued to find the following records/notes from 1979 when Cumbria was broken down into five areas for the purpose of recording. Randomly but systematically chosen with varying degrees of interest some of which can be regarded as 'very interesting' making you realise how things have changed both locally and nationally.

Black-throated Diver. Five records one of which stood out as being seen 2 March on the River Kent at Watercrook, Kendal inside the town boundary.

White Stork. At Brocklebank, Wigton, 3-6 June regularly seen roosting on a chimney.

King Eider. A male seen 10-23 June, South Walney B.O.

Hen Harrier. Bred at two sites in Cumbria for the first time in many years.

Black Grouse. Breeding recorded in all districts with single birds in possibly new sites.

Dotterel. A pair bred successfully on a Cumbrian site.

Temminck's Stint. At Hodbarrow 17 May. The record also reads, quote....'The last Cumbrian record quoted in R. Stokoe's 'The Birds of the Lake Counties' was September 1891.

Baird's Sandpiper. Arnside Marsh 25-30 September. The bird - a first for Cumbria - was seen by many observers and was flushed by a male Peregrine Falcon one day.

Nightjar. One seen in May at Heversham Marsh was the only record.

Yellow Wagtail. On 17 April, 25 seen at Tarn House Tarn, on 5 May, 20 at Kendal Sewage Works, on 29 August, c.30 at Killington Reservoir roost.

Stonechat. A note reads....The hard winter produced a notable decrease in most areas especially on inland sites where many were deserted in the breeding season.

Ring Ouzel. Breeding recorded in all five districts.

Willow Tit. A note reads....Still regular in woodland around Carlisle e.g. High Stand. No records from the south of the county.

Nutcracker. Two records one of which was accepted by BBRC and was seen on 22 October 1978 at Fallow Park, Bowness-on-Windermere and was the first record for Cumbria. The second record is of a bird seen on 1 December 1979 by the warden and four other observers at South Walney B.O.

Two-barred Crossbill. A female seen on 10 August at the southern end of Lake Thirlmere by an observer with experience of this species.

All interesting stuff and I personally wonder just how much things will have changed with at least seven of these fifteen records in the thirty years since they were collected in Cumbria in 1979.


Thursday, 9 September 2010

Off The Road.

OK, now I've no intention of labouring this first part of today's blogging efforts but things ain't looking good at the moment, either for me and my birding or Birds2blog 'cos I got this bacterial infection in my chest (not good)....anyway that's dealt with that, not material for a bird blog and perhaps a good way to loose customers. But at this point I'm not prepared to shut down, so meanwhile do take a look at these brilliant photographs.

Cuckoo. David Cookson.

Now I know we've been down this road before, but I really recommend you take a look at DC's website HERE to read a comprehensive account and see some excellent images of his visits to see the juvenile Cockoo which gave a rare opportunity to many birders to observe this creature at close quarters and experience - amongst other things - it's ability to take caterpillars from a 30ft dive off telephone wires at a 100% success rate.

Cuckoo. David Cookson. 

When you visit David's website you'll see this guy doesn't 'give in ' easily and with rewards like these pictures you might say who would....Thanks once again for allowing these on to Birds2blog David, in this case  I'd say determination and patience are the keywords and you seem to have an abundance of both.

Burrowing Owl. Colin Bushell.

CB is off on his travels again and finds himself in Brazil at the moment and here's an example of the kind of birds he's seeing on his trip there. The Burrowing Owl - like all it's relations - hunts mainly at night however, its not on it's own amongst the 'owl' family in also hunting during the day, they nest in burrows the likes of which the Prairie Dog excavates which are found in grasslands or any open area with low vegetation. Thanks for this Colin, enjoy the rest of the trip, I honestly can't see how you can fail to. If you wish you can keep up  HERE with Colin's travels both here and abroad.