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

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Its Saturday....

....and as usual my birding is sidelined by 'other things' - yes there are 'other things' in life - and I have to get on with them like it or not. But never mind all that....

Please take a look at the video below whilst making sure you treat yourself to some more excellent photography, video's, and sound recording's on Hugh Harrop's Shetland Wildlife website, including the recently added Isabelline Shrike video which brilliantly illustrates why this bird is also known as the 'butcher bird' and which you can see along with others via the link from this Lapland Bunting video. My thanks to Hugh Harrop for allowing us to share these.


I've been contacted by a regular to Birds2blog who has given me some really interesting information regarding yesterdays post 'Clougha/Birk Bank' in which I described the truly magnificent panoramic view from the summit of Clougha Pike on days with perfect visibility. I have been told that on two occasions when he has reached the top to take in the view, he has actually identified two jutting peaks to the left of the Isle of Man as the Mourne Mountains in N.Ireland. It has been suggested next time I'm up on Clougha looking through by binoculars from the summit on a perfectly clear day, that I should look carefully to see if I too can add these mountains to an already amazing sight. Thanks for this BD, much appreciated for your interest in Birds2blog, your comments and info.


Locally, a Great Grey Shrike was found along the path to the Allan Pool Hide at Leighton Moss on Thursday and a couple of excellent pics can be seen of the bird in the 'Photos' section HERE with thanks to Steven Grimshaw.

Nationally, an 'albatross' species was reported on the RBA pager service flying west past Salthouse in Norfolk at 1.25pm.

And finally....

I could never have believed I would be making this confession on the world wide web, but since the good, the bad, and the ugly have been discarded from The X- Factor I've been glued to the television for in excess of two hours for the past Saturday evening or two. As I like to think of myself of at least average intelligence I find this very worrying and I'm going to have to deal with it as best can, but I tell you what....there's some pretty good talent on there, but following a very tough contest with some very tough and excellent challengers I'm predicting  - at this moment in time - Cher Lloyd to be the winner at the end of it all.


Friday, 29 October 2010

Clougha/Birk Bank.

I put up a new header photograph yesterday and the one above is another showing the stunning view from the top of Birk Bank, in the background are the Lakeland hills though distant and far from clear in this photograph, but if you see it for real it is pretty impressive. The header is one I took on a morning I was heading off to do the monthly observations at one of my most favourite of birding locations on Clougha and Birk Bank primarily to check out the Stonechats there. It was a brilliant morning and went on the be a brilliant day, the scene in the picture came into view as I reached the top of Quernmore Road and was breathtaking as can be seen in the header picture, I just had to take a photograph of this beautiful English countryside.

I've been going to this area on the fringe of the Forest of Bowland for almost twelve years now and the survey takes me anything up to five hours at a dawdle, I enjoy every minute of the visit which has kept me up to date on the status of the Stonechat in the area since I saw a distant bird here in 1999 when the Stonechat was certainly not a bird to be found on a daily basis, I thought at the time that I should give this area a good going over, and I'm still doing so. Although upland birding never creates a lengthy list of birds it has produced one or two bonus surprises over the years, the latest being two Spotted Flycatchers on 26 August and was a first record for me, this species certainly does not breed here and I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time to find these two off passage. I've also seen Honey Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Short-eared Owl, and Hooded Crow to mention a few, it is also good for finding Whinchat off passage, another species which doesn't breed here anymore and has never done so in the twelve years I've been coming here though it has in the past.

I remember the walk to the summit of Clougha one summers evening with John Leedal, on reaching the top the view was stunning and JL told me how lucky I was in that it was one of those rare occasions when the panoramic view was at its best, with the mountains of the Lakes, Morecambe Bay, Blackpool Tower, Snowdonia in Wales, and the best and the rarest sight of all, the Isle of Man.

If you can appreciate the aesthetics combined with your birding you're on a winner, if you can't you're the looser.

Pink-footed Geese. Gary Jones.  

I was doing another search through my records today, this time it was of neck collared Pink-footed Geese I've seen to date, I was reminded of some of the amazing movements of these birds when you read through their sheets of histories and chose this one to illustrate how one bird inexplicably moves from one place to the other whilst perhaps not being able to understand why it should want to do so. This bird was marked as an adult in 1999 at Nautalda, Thjorsarver, C.Iceland with the collar FLY and during the winter of 2004/05 through observations and collar readings made the following movements....

On 25 September FLY was at Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross.
In just under 4 weeks FLY was seen on 23 October in Holkam, Norfolk.
And 12 days later on 4 November FLY was back at Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross.
Another 16 days later FLY was back in Burnham Market in Norfolk on 20 November.
FLY was then seen 8 weeks later on 21 January at Martin Mere in Lancashire.
And on 11 March was back again at Dowhill, Perth and Kinross.

Pink-footed Geese may make much more amazing movements within the UK during the winter months than FLY did in this example, but did they really have to go to all that trouble and fly all that distance.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Half Day Closing!

Brambling. Phil Slade.

The genuine article, the Brambling seen by me yesterday at Cockersands and seen again today by PS. Thanks for the pic's and your co-operation Phil, the bird made my day and the ones in which it was in the company of are developing into an interesting observation as the foot of this post indicates.

Teal. Phil Slade. 

Along with lots of other birds I didn't count the Teal at Conder Green today with BT, but PS got a nice pic of four in flight. Some excellent news comes out of the visit here today in that one of the first sightings was that of the Common Sandpiper on Conder Pool, not seen since 12 October and which almost escaped my attention but I caught a glimpse of the bird as it disappeared, minutes later it gave me much more than a glimpse as it reappeared from behind the island, also a Little Egret, 7 Little Grebe, 3 Wigeon, 2 Goosander, and a Coal Tit, the circuit was as yesterday unrewarded. On the Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock a check through the 'gulls' proved the vast majority to be at least 400 Common Gulls, a Greenshank was the only wader of any note with unusual small numbers of the common ones.

By the time BT and I arrived at Cockersands it was becoming obvious we were going to get 'washed out' but not before making a concerted effort to get to grips with the set-aside 'finch' flock which has now increased in number. After some determination to stay with them the birds were a little more obliging as the pretty awful photograph below thats not the moon behind them but the eyepiece of my telescope. 

In this photograph you can attempt to count the birds for yourself, not easy I know and I appreciate you can't tell what they are, but you can take my word for it I've 'blown it up' and there are at least 95 birds on this wire.

OK, now this is merely a record shot of the 'finches' at Cockersands, the best I could do in the circumstances and with the abysmal equipment I have, but this gathering at the set-aside here is becoming interesting since I first found them on 14 September when there was c.30 Greenfinch, but since then - and six visits later with varying results - the flock today consisted of a reasonable estimate of at least 90 Linnet and 10 Greenfinch. So, this flock is fluctuating not only in number but also in ratio of Greenfinch/Linnet, and I'm quite convinced there may well have been/is in excess of 200 'finches' in the area making accurate recording difficult....but watch this space as I now have some help on the matter!

I was back home again just after 2 o'clock 'Half Day Closing'....Pooooh!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

No Title....

....couldn't think of one!

Fieldfare. Phil Slade.

Always a popular bird around this time of year. I've only seen two small flocks in flight so far....Thanks for the pic Phil, a superb image of the Fieldfare and much appreciated.

The 'Lancaster' forecast I follow said 'white cloud' today, a curious way of describing the weather which in any case was a little out as it was a pretty decent day with some sunny spells and mild with it.

On Conder Pool I could only count 7 Little Grebe today but 2 Wigeon are on here again, also 2 Goosander, a single Tufted Duck, and 3 Snipe to note, these must be one of the most overlooked birds as they are always extremely well camouflaged and crouching, I could very easily have missed them. The circuit was quiet with the creeks almost void of waders save 6 Redshank seen, wildfowl was represented by c.90 Teal and c.45 Mallard, the only small birds along the short stretch of the coastal path I walk were at least 10 Long-tailed Tits.

The Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock was also relatively quiet with a drastic reduction in number since my visit on Monday with c.1,000 Knot, c.125 Golden Plover, and c.90 Bar-tailed Godwit noted. From Jeremy Lane the Little Owl was seen perched on its beam inside the derelict farm building.

At Cockersands I did the circuit from the lighthouse on the basis 'you never know'. I had to walk for two hours and get back to Lighthouse Cottage to be surprised to find a solitary Brambling with the now resident mixed 'finch' flock of c.50 Greenfinch/Linnet of which I have no idea of the ratio, these birds are either highly mobile or down in 3ft of winter seed. The tide was well in here again today, but I did note 2 Grey Plover and c.750 Oystercatcher easy to count on Plover Scar, 6 Eider were off here with 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Skylark were the only birds noted on the road section which brings me to wonder....where do all the Tree Sparrows go, obviously out of my sight anyway.

From Hillam Lane last Thursdays 4 Whooper Swan adults were in the field still, 4 Whooper Swans were opposite Sand Villa, and 2 Whooper Swans - an adult and juvenile - were distant on Pilling Marsh, only c.350 Pink-footed Geese on the marsh today. On Fluke Hall Lane whilst discovering there were only 4 Redshank in the now 'excellent condition' large stubble field, a bird in flight took my eye and turned out to be a smart female/juvenile Merlin eventually giving good views on the ground. A brief look from the slipway at Fluke Hall produced a Little Egret on the beach and 7 Black-tailed Godwit went over going south inland.

I note not having seen the Common Sandpiper at Conder Green since 12 October despite several visits....Mmmmm!        

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Waxwing. Brian Rafferty.

There are two reasons why I have little time to blog today, in the first place the weather, about which if you live in our area I need say no more, and if you don't, well in three polite was raining. The other reason being that I've been involved with one of those 'other things' days.

But just to say if you don't already know, there are thousands of found and unfound Waxwings now in the country, though I must add mainly up north in Scotland, but that won't always be the case, so eyes peeled. And I reckon if you never 'heard' the Waxwing I'd strongly recommend you visit Hugh Harrop HERE but you'll probably have to turn up the volume on your computer speakers, and I reckon the third recording is the best one.

Waxwings. Brian Rafferty.

Thanks for the photographs Brian....Stunning.


Monday, 25 October 2010

All a bit Negative!

Snow Bunting. Pete Woodruff.

I thought I'd showcase a couple of  my own photographic efforts this time. The bird above is one I saw on the beach one early morning near Starr Gate at Blackpool a while back now when I became a sort of twitcher for the day and went chasing after the Snow sad is that then!

I was hoping for one at Cockersands today - nothing like living in hope - but unfortunately not, nor did I see anything else of note, though I'm never prepared - despite the title - to be too negative about any of my birding days but the best of  - nothing more than moderate - four hours follows....

For the first time ever I drove past and totally ignored Conder Green as I needed to get to Glasson Dock before the incoming tide swallowed up the Lune Estuary but I needn't have bothered as it was unremarkable save the sight of c.5,000 Knot in the air in panic over 'something', also no more than 150 Bar-tailed Godwit, 455 Lapwing, 20 Redshank and 3 Dunlin were all in view from the side of the Vic Hotel.

At Cockersands where by now the tide had taken over, I did my utmost to 'find something' via a two hour coastal/inland circuit. I noted 5 Redshank were the only birds on Plover Scar representing an all time low number of waders on here and probably a first, a clear indication of the 'emptiness' of my efforts for the day, 12 Eider were around the lighthouse. The other three sightings had a little interest in that last Thursdays c.700 mix of 50/50 Lapwing/Golden Plover were in the very same field again today, the 'finch' flock in/around the set-aside has a mix of c.60 Linnet/Greenfinch (40/20 respectively) which are bloody hard work to assess but which for the time being appear to be about this ratio, and a Little Egret in an inland field/ditch was good, these birds are 'all over the place' but I still can't take the sightings for granted and it's always good to see them.

Well, I can't call any of that anything more than moderate, and here's the other of my photographic efforts to end with....

Eider. Pete Woodruff.

On a national level, Rough-legged Buzzard are still coming through, and there are hundreds - nay thousands - of Waxwings here and there....some are heading your way! 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A Weasel and other things!

Weasel. David Cookson.

I don't ever recall seeing an image of the Weasel taken by someone I know and in any case this has to be the best you'll ever see of a creature difficult to find and see let alone photograph. I think you excelled yourself here David....great stuff, and many thanks.

Notes of interest for today....

There is - and has been for a day or so recently -  a significant movement of Rough-legged Buzzard through the UK. I've done no searching for when this happened last but this one is certainly notable with 'several' birds seen. Locally the bird making a name for itself is a Red-breasted Goose, initially found on Fluke Hall Lane NW of Pilling, and later on Pilling Marsh. On all sightings the bird has taken up the company of Pink-footed Geese. On a personal note, involved with 'other things' but with my birding eyes firmly in place in their sockets, I saw a Little Grebe from a moving car this morning on the River Lune just upstream from Carlisle Bridge, and in the afternoon saw c.25 Fieldfare flying NE over Skerton in Lancaster. There are still lots of Lapland Buntings in the country, and the Waxwings are here and have also been showing themselves in fair number, the nearest of which at the time of writing are/were in Kendal. 

OK, so this post is my latest gap filler until I free myself from the chains of 'other things' and get out birding again. There's some interesting reading about the state of seabirds in the UK which tells us of the good....the bad....and some all time lows in the breeding season of 2010 HERE


Friday, 22 October 2010

Bear Necessities.

Barnacle Geese. Phillip Tomkinson.

In my post yesterday I recorded the excellent sighting of eight Barnacle Geese quite low over  Plover Scar at Cockersands and flying south, it was the best record of the day for me and took the total number of this species to thirty eight in two days birding. I also commented that this number surely indicates birds of wild origins rather that feral birds which is often suspected to be the case in our area....But a serious and tragic story is unfolding, it is a story with more than one edge to it and involves the Barnacle Goose.

There are fears that Polar Bears - which are hungry because of the melting ice in the Arctic which is making the hunt for seals too difficult - are feasting on the eggs of the Barnacle Goose (BG), in itself a serious problem for the birds but it also adds to the fact that a conservation success story is now in serious jeopardy.

In the 1940's numbers of BG had slumped to below 300, today up to 30,000 can be seen from WWT Caerlaverock following the BG's revival through a conservation success story. According to research, last winter saw only half of the expected numbers of BG goslings on the Solway Firth and the reason for this is being placed on the Polar Bears as prime suspects as more and more are gathering around the islands off Spitsbergen where the birds breed, and evidence has been gathered by finding wrecked nests and egg debris and the added advantage of photography showing Polar Bears at nest sites. 

All this is suspected to be connected to climate change which the world is now in the grips of, which is reducing the polar ice-floe, making life difficult for the Polar Bear in the hunt for the seals they feed on and which in turn are being driven by hunger to prey on the nest sites of the Barnacle Goose. 

So, there appears to be a dilemma here brought about by two species of conservation concern which are clashing over the right to survive and is a prime example of the kind of tensions the natural world is experiencing right now in the 21st century, it is to say the least, pretty tricky to know how to resolve this dilemma without the risk to one or both Barnacle Geese and Polar Bears.

Thanks to Phillip Tomkinson for the excellent photograph of five Barnacle Geese in flight at sunrise/set.  

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Lapland Bunting. SP.

This is the bird I was unable to get to see and was at Ridge Farm on the Fylde on 16 October, with my thanks to SP and the permit to post on Birds2blog.

Redwing. Brian Rafferty. 

This is the bird I will get to see, in fact I did so today but only in flight and briefly at that....Thanks for the pic Brian, much appreciated as always.

I'd have liked to have got into the hills today but the weather put me off, in any case the magnetism of Conder/Glasson/Cockersands and beyond drew me once more to the coast....the pull is overpowering!

At Conder Green 3 Spotted Redsank and 3 Greenshank were in the creeks and I counted only 11 Little Grebe on the pool today, c.80 Fieldfare/Redwing in a mixed flock went over. I was unable to do the circuit today and regard Conder Green as only poorly covered. At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary  things were quiet and only c.200 Knot and 120 Bar-tailed Godwit seen with 2 Black-tailed Godwit, notable this early winter on the River Lune here is the low number with no more than 60 Wigeon in the Conder mouth today.

At Cockersands a roughly 50/50 flock of 700 Golden Plover/Lapwing in the field opposite Lighthouse Cottage and through which a Sparrowhawk flew, the c.40 Greenfinch flock were still around, c.550 Dunlin, 2 Grey Plover, and 12 Eider were all seen without my leaving the motor. I had the best sighting of the day here when 8 Barnacle Geese flew low overhead going south. In two days birding these eight take the count to at least 40 birds which is surely indicative of 'the real thing'.

From Hillam Lane 4 Whooper Swans were in a field with 65 Mute Swans, and 25 Fieldfare in flight over here. At Bank End - where I hoped to find a few hundred 'gulls' to grill but found none - 2 Little Egret on the marsh, a Grey Wagtail and 4 Linnet were noted, 62 Golden Plover were seen from the A588 in a field opposite Braides

On Pilling Marsh 7 Barnacle Geese were with c.5,000 Pink-footed Geese, and although it is usually easy to find a double figure on here these days I could only see 6 Little Egret today with 2 Whooper Swans out on the sands. On a flood on Back Sands Lane 2 Black-tailed Godwit were with 22 Black-headed Gulls

From Fluke Hall I walked only half way to Cockers Dyke before backtracking and drawing a blank of anything of note. From the embankment behind Fluke Hall Wood I watched a Peregrine Falcon mobbing 2 Buzzard which were down in the field....great stuff, but I worry for the safety of these two Buzzards if they're regularly preying on the poor unfortunate Red-legged Partridge - which I refuse to record and will never be seen on Birds2blog. A Raven was over the wood and I reckon may have a 'rarity' status here, I don't recall seeing one here before. 

I'm grateful for the contribution in the comments section of yesterdays post 'PFG' pointing me in the direction of the 2009 Lancashire Bird Report in order that I may make a correction to a claim I made at the end of the post when I stated with regards to the Svalbard population of Pink-footed Geese, quote....'there is no 'direct' evidence that any of the Svalbard population have ever occurred in Lancashire'....unquote.

In the report in the section 'Lancashire Ringing Report 2009-2010' there is a record of a Pink-footed Goose which is claimed to be 'One of at least two displaced Svalbard birds in the county during winter 2009/10'.

Since the bird was ringed as an adult in 2004 it was observed/read 26 times in Denmark/Norway/Netherlands/Belgium and finally in Upper Thurnham on 21 February 2010. This record clearly shows my error and brings me to suggest....A little knowledge can be dangerous! 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Pink-footed Geese. Phil Slade.

I don't usually like abbreviated words and certainly don't ever like abbreviated names attached to birds and I use them very rarely although as a contradiction this post is an example of my doing so. I think the one which makes me cringe more than any other is 'Gropper' for the Grasshopper Warbler. So I was being a little facetious when I made the title of today's post PFG for Pink-footed Geese. Thanks for another photograph for me to use on Birds2blog Phil.

The Pink-footed Geese are back again for the winter with up to 10,000 which I saw on Pilling Marsh  on 5 October, and figures of twice that number recorded by other birders since that date. Yesterday JB and I estimated 15,000, a figure reached as a combination of birds on Pilling Marsh and Fluke Hall Lane. When you see these numbers of birds gathered in one place you cannot help but wonder if such areas like Pilling and Eagland Hill are going beyond their carrying capacity and therefore unable to support such numbers of geese throughout the winter months. The Fylde appears to hold dramatically increasing numbers of PFG year on year from 6,500 during the 1980's to last year when the north Fylde population reached a peak of 30,800 in an October co-ordinated roost count, and in fact another co-ordinated roost count in the county of Lancashire revealed a figure of almost 70,000 PFG. 

The PFG have quite possibly been the commonest geese in Lancashire since the very early 18th century, I came across the record of a Mr Blundell of Crosby Hall who made an entry in his diary in 1708 of a goose-shooting party made to a site in Little Crosby which continues to be frequented to this day.

As with any bird species numbers depend on the food availability and increasing numbers of PFG are now wintering in Norfolk where the birds have discovered for themselves the vast supply of sugar beet residues, whereas the lack of food availability in Lancashire means 'the squeeze is on' which may be due to loss of permanent inland pasture and of cereal stubble which is the result of the switch from spring to autumn sowing.

Two distinct populations breed in Iceland and Greenland, and in Svalbard with the latter wintering in Denmark and the Netherlands, there is no 'direct' evidence that Svalbard birds have ever occurred in Lancashire.

And finally....

Barn Owl. David Cookson. 

Well it's not just another Barn Owl pic, it's another excellent Barn Owl pic with thanks to DC.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Blue-headed Parrots....

Blue-headed Parrots. Colin Bushell.

....but not where I've been today, though seen in their hundreds by CB on his recent trip to Peru. You can always link to Ribble to Amazon via the sidebar on Birds2blog. Thanks for the pic Colin, much appreciated.

With JB today we first visited Conder Green where 6 Little Grebe were noted on Conder Pool, though I made no serious attempt at counting them today where was the other ten, 4 Spotted Redshank seen, and 4 Goosander were in the channel, 35 Pink-footed Geese went over south as did 5 Whooper Swans appearing from the direction of Aldcliffe and which went down on to Jeremy Lane, they were seen later in the field with the sub-station at the entrance with 22 Mute Swans which incidentally have reduced in number dramatically on the River Lune at Glasson Dock....I wonder why.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, 2 Curlew Sandpipers were on the little exposed mud as the tide ebbed, also noted were yesterdays c.1,000 Knot intermingled with c.700 Bar-tailed Godwit, they were over at the opposite side almost out of sight on the bend of the river, this is the counters nightmare, especially at a distance like this and in poor light.

We drove off to Pilling Marsh to find 23 Barnacle Geese were with up to 10,000 Pink-footed Geese and included an uncounted number of Greylag one of which appeared to be a pure albino, also 11 Little Egret on the marsh. On Fluke Hall Lane another 7 Barnacle Geese were with c.4,000 Pink-footed Geese. At Fluke Hall 2 Little Egret and 7 Skylarks were the result of a wander down the coastal path to find the elusive Laplander/s in the further comment on that one!

A drive to Knott End to see if a serious downpour would have ceased by the time we got there, which it did. I counted 850 Dunlin at close range off the esplanade accompanied by a 'few' Sanderling, a Sparrowhawk flew by going inland leaving the waders unaware of its presence.

No megas, rarities, or scarcities, but I call that a decent days birding and I reckon JB does too, in any case I personally don't have lists, lifers and all that jazz, just a plain and simple birder....with NO emphasis on the 'simple'.

And finally....

OK, so you know your won't need me to tell you what these are then!!

Definitely finally this time....

Barnacle Geese. John Bateman

Barnacle Geese in stubble off Fluke Hall Lane today. Thanks for the pic John, good to have your company on a good days birding yet again.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Short List.

Whooper Swans. John Bateman.

Thanks to JB for the pic of the first Whooper Swans of 2010 in our area, found in stubble off Fluke Hall Lane last Tuesday 12 October eleven days later than last years three opposite Braides. A good days birding  with some good records collected for my book.

I have a feeling the title has been used on a previous post but we won't concern ourselves on that one, but it is a short list for the Monday four hour slot which started at Conder Green where 16 Little Grebe were counted on Conder Pool which at this rate will have to be renamed Grebe Pool, also of note on an otherwise quiet pool was 3 Black-tailed Godwit. The negatives here were no sign of the Common Sandpiper, or the four summering Wigeon which have perhaps now joined the relations on the Lune Estuary. In the creeks 3 Spotted Redshank, 3 Greenshank, and 8 Snipe.

On the Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock in excess of 1,000 Knot and 700 Bar-tailed Godwit were of note. At Cockersands a Ruff was in a field opposite the Lighthouse Cottage with c.85 Curlew, and there are now up to 50 Greenfinch in the area of the winter seed section of the same field, 9 Linnet also around this area, and the brief 'flash' of a small raptor was almost certainly a Merlin, 'almost certainly' being my way of claiming a 'possible'. And that was it....The Short List.

I was dead set on giving Cockersands a good going over for a couple of hours today, but a pick-up van and some men parked way out at the seaward end of Plover Scar, plus a pretty strong wind making the optics on a tripod behave like they were having a nervous breakdown all contributed to rhymes with 'missed' me off completely. These people do have the right to be out there on the scar with a van I assume, but what the bloody hell are they doing out there anyway....The rant ends here!

And finally....

Red Deer. Gary Jones.

Thanks to Gary for the pic of the stag Red Deer locked in combat on his recent trip to do A Circuit of Martindale where you can see some excellent photographs - both landscape and deer - of his day in this brilliant area of the Lake District.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Piper and Fare!

Purple Sandpiper. David Cookson.

I've seen Purple Sandpiper (PS) at only three locations in Lancashire in my entire birding days and even at these sites have personally never seen more than one/two birds at Heysham Harbour, roosting on the groyne by the Stone Jetty at Morecambe, and at Rossall Point near Fleetwood.. So you've gathered the PS is a rare bird in Lancashire and that's by no means an overstatement, though I am aware of other locations in Lancashire holding past records of the PS but none of which I've visited, for example Lytham/Fairhaven, Blackpool, Freckleton, and Seaforth but I don't pretend to know the situation in 2010 without doing some more reading.

In Oakes days he considered it to be a scarce and infrequent bird on the Lune Estuary and Morecambe Bay. Today one or two can still be seen on occasions at Heysham Harbour and one bird on - or in the area of  - the groyne near the Stone Jetty at Morecambe, but overall recent decades have seen a decline in numbers of the PS.

There's no doubt Heysham Harbour in the past was always the most reliable county site for the PS and records can be found of up to 20 birds recorded in both March 1974 and November 1980 after which time the numbers began to decline, and by 2000 'regular' wintering at Heysham Harbour had ceased. Rossall Point and Knott End at the mouth of the River Wyre were also regular wintering sites but I'm not aware of any birds here since the very late 1990's/2000.

I found both of the only Lancashire ringed PS recoveries, those of a bird ringed at Seaforth in March 1978 and was on Hilbre Island on 22 September of the same year, and that of one ringed at Heysham in April 1977 which returned there every winter until 1989 and actually stayed the summer in 1987.

So....if you're lucky enough to see a PS this winter you may well be the only person to do so if you don't report it!

Fieldfare. David Cookson.    

I've not found my first Fieldfare this year yet but reckon I probably will do this week, possibly along Moss Lane on the way to Cockersands to find a Merlin, Twite, Stonechat perhaps, with the odd Lapland Bunting thrown in for good measure!! 

Thanks for the pic's David....'Coming in to land' and 'An apple a day'....excellent as ever.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Merlin.

Kestrel. Phil Slade.

No not a Merlin but as good a photograph of the Kestrel that you could wish for, you won't need me to tell you this is a female with thanks to Phil who's website is HERE

I'm hoping a Merlin will take up winter residence at perhaps Conder Green/Glasson Dock or Cockersands where it has done in past years. This favourite of mine of all the raptors - along with the Peregrine Falcon - never fails to have its presence made known by thousands of waders and gulls taking to the wing en-mass and in sheer panic, if you were a wader or a gull amongst these masses and you fell victim to one of these impressive hunters in an attack you'd have to be regarded as being the ultimate of misfortune, just imagine being the one taken from 20,000 birds....Oh dear!!

It's pretty depressing when you read the history of this smart little raptor to see that the breeding population in Britain steadily declined during the 20th century, all down to persecution, egg thieves, habit loss, and general disturbance. In the early 1950's the decline was accelerated by the effects of pesticide poisoning, and as I see it the Merlin doesn't appear to have benefited from the withdrawal of these substances to the same extent as other raptor species have.

Today the status of the Merlin is still understandably shrouded in secrecy, like all raptors the bird continues to suffer the attentions of people - do they deserve to be called people - like the very nice Mr Aaron Kisiel who made his claim to fame with a lucrative business in stolen eggs and got away with it with no more than the equivalent of a slap on the wrist with our inadequate justice system.

Merlins can begin to appear in coastal Lancashire as early as the end of July/early August - though I'm not sure I ever collected a record on the coast at that time of the year - they winter regularly in south Fylde and around Morecambe Bay, whilst Marshside - Crossens has had up to four birds annually since the early 1970's, it is thought likely that some wintering birds on the coast of Lancashire come from other parts of the north of England and from Scotland and Wales, Icelandic birds are also thought likely to be fairly frequent. A couple of interesting ringing recoveries were those of a bird ringed in Bowland in June 1989 and was found dead in Brittany in January 1990, and another ringed in the Pennines in July 1995 was also found dead in Calais in October 1997.

The Merlins begin to leave their wintering grounds in Lancashire in March and all have usually left by the end of April, but some late migrants are recorded in the lowlands up to the middle of May. I'm now looking closely across the marshes and fields of Glasson, Cockersands, Cockerham, and Pilling and feel guaranteed I'll find one of these charismatic creatures once again this winter.

Sparrowhawk. David Cookson.
No this isn't a Merlin either but is another excellent photograph with thanks to David who's website is HERE  

And how about this then....My latest flag which I collected yesterday on the counter is from CHILE.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Colin Bushell.

This has to be one of the most bizarre birds you'll ever see and is one of the many species seen by Colin on his latest trip to Peru....Thanks as ever for the pic Colin.

And this is probably one of the shortest posts I'll ever do. Not enough hours in the day today, I almost ran out of them, and especially in the case of Birds2blog I nearly did.

But I must give the east coast - and south coast for that matter - another plug to put the west in the shade again, though during my 'trawling' I've come across comments like 'who needs the east coast' and 'the west coast isn't all that bad'....Well in fact I never did called it 'bad' and could never bring myself to call it such, but lets get real and consider a couple of records I came across yesterday, those of 4,500 Goldcrests and 3,200 Robins over Holme Dunes in Norfolk - and by the way these are not typing errors - and 200+ Mediterranean Gulls at The Fleet in Dorset....anyone for the west coast!

But at the end of all this I'll always remember sights like the 200+ Sanderling at Knott End yesterday, and my first six Whooper Swans for 2010, not to mention eleven Stonechats on Harrisend recently when I thought nearly ALL was lost, and many hundreds of others over the years and all mainly in the west. My passion still gains momentum west coast birding and all.

And by the way, a Red-backed Shrike at Rossall today.


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Switched On!

The title is pathetic but I couldn't come up with anything original and it relates to the fact we turned on our central heating this evening as it's getting 'a bit cold now' and I'm getting 'a bit old now'....anyway who cares about a title, lets get on with the birding.

Knot. Brian Rafferty.

Brian Rafferty has been doing some coastal photography recently whilst JB and I have been doing some coastal birding today with some nice rewards for us all. Brian's photograph shows a fraction of the mass of Knot at high tide at Southport, a place I used to go regularly with John Leedal, happy days, happy memories, and if you love to see thousands of waders on good 10m tides then Birkdale/Ainsdale beaches are the places to be...Thanks for the pic Brian, excellent as ever. If you wish you can keep up to date with BR's website HERE

At Conder Green I was pleased to find at least 12 Little Grebe (I think there may be 14) on Conder Pool today, so we now stand with an equal record to 2009 and I reckon there are more to come. Also noted on the pool, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, 3 Tufted Duck, and 3 Wigeon. In the creeks 2 Spotted Redshank and 7 Snipe seen.

At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary, even smaller numbers of waders today with only 8 Golden Plover to be seen, 75 Bar-tailed Godwit and c.40 Dunlin, at least 220 Wigeon and a Little Egret were over by Waterloo Cottage. At Cockersands, never prepared to leave JB for hours on end I walked as far as Plover Scar and noted 20 Eider, c.45 Wigeon, and leaving JB to count the rest of the waders I noted yesterdays 3 Turnstone again and a Little Egret was also on Plover Scar.

From Fluke Hall Lane 6 Whooper Swans were in the stubble field are twelve days later than last years three opposite Braides on 1 October. From Fluke Hall slipway counts of at least 320 Dunlin, 40 Sanderling, 30 Grey Plover, and a Wheatear on the sea wall. On Pilling Marsh at least 6,000 Pink-footed Geese.

A visit to Knott End was well rewarded off the Esplanade by c.2,000 Oystercatcher, a good count of 220 Sanderling, 7 Knot, 16 Bar-tailed Godwit, and 5 Eider on the sea, 2 Teal on the beach seemed a little out of place here, and yet another Little Egret.   

And finally....

Scarlet Oak Leaf Fire Star. Richard Shilling.

There was no way I could ever have ignored this latest piece of landart excellence by RS. Thanks for this Richard, in the first place red is my favourite colour, and this simple yet stunning creation of yours lights up 'just another birding blog' to unbelievable proportions in my opinion....shuks!! Keeping up to date with this man and his art is highly recommended HERE


They're still coming in and today's news is of a Common Nighthawk in Co.Durham yesterday. This bird breeds in Southern Canada and the USA, south into Central America and the West Indies. It winters in South America, south to central Argentina. The first UK record is of a bird on the Isles of Scilly in September 1927. Several of these unfortunate creatures have been found in poor condition or dead but one individual gained some popularity and publicity when it was found exhausted at Moreton on Merseyside in October 1985, was taken into care and in due course gained itself an airlift to Belize where it was released back into the wild.  


Monday, 11 October 2010

East is East....

....and west is west, and that's the way its always gonna be. I've just had a look at one or two east coast birding blogs and's just never going to compare and the sooner I/you accept, this is the west coast you're on and that's the east coast you ain't on, the better.

Eider. Pete Woodruff.

Could almost be a mystery pic, but it's a drake Eider at an intermediate stage of adult plumage off Plover Scar at Cockersands today.


OK, so you knew the other was a drake Eider....but what about these two which certainly were not off Plover Scar at Cockersands today and probably won't be tomorrow either.

I had the now customary Monday four hours to spare today and just got on with the time available. At Conder Green 'the' Common Sandpiper was on Conder Pool along with 9 Little Grebe and 3 Wigeon of which neither count was accurate as I'm quite sure as with recent visits here the numbers are 11 and 4 respectively. In the channels 2 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, 5 Snipe, a Goosander, and c.60 Teal all seen on the circuit which I did a little quicker than is the norm to get to Glasson Dock before the tide took over the estuary. As it happens there was nothing spoiling and the area hasn't yet accumulated anything like it's winter numbers with c.650 Golden Plover, c.60 Bar-tailed Godwit, and a solitary Black-tailed Godwit to note, along with a distant Little Egret. Two pristine Red Admiral were feeding on a 'blossom' tree I was unable to identify in my ignorance.

At Cockersands where the tide had by now almost taken over, I counted 16 Eider, and a Great-crested Grebe on the sea, and on the rapidly submerging Plover Scar, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Turnstone - always a difficult bird to find in number- 4 Snipe, circa 550 Redshank, 85 Oystercatcher, and 60 Dunlin....Come in PW you're time is up!

The Mega's and Rarities continue to drop in with examples like a Solitary Sandpiper at Seaton in Devon, Buff-bellied Pipit Esha, Shetland, and Isabelline Wheatear at Lowestoft in Suffolk to add to the already impressive list. 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Mega Time!

Rufescent Tiger Heron. Colin Bushell.

With thanks to Colin Busell for the photograph of the Rufescent Tiger Heron in Peru where he is currently searching out the birds/wildlife.

Its MEGA TIME now and the RBA pager is going nuts and the list - including some omissions - at the moment in the UK stands like this....

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler 1908 Dublin.
Yellow-breasted Bunting 1905 Norfolk.
Black-eared Wheatear 1875 Lancashire.
Hermit Thrush 1975 Shetland, Fair Isle.
Green Heron 1889 Cornwall.

Of course all these birds carry with them an interesting history and first UK records are noted above. The Green Herons (GE) first record is obviously interesting in that it was recorded in the very same county as the one there at the moment, that of Cornwall way back in 1889, but the record was later removed from the British List as the birds ability to cross the Atlantic Ocean was doubted, but apparently four days after this bird had been seen on 27 October 1889 two American Bitterns were seen in Ireland and regarded - in connection with the GH - as 'surely not just a coincidence'. The record of the GH had to wait until 1971 before it was resubmitted to the BOURC who subsequently accepted it onto the British List.

Another old record is that of the Black-eared Wheatear the first of which was in 1875 near Bury in Lancashire. Another bird of this species was that of one in Sussex on 28 May 1902 but this individual was involved in the famous 'Hastings Rarities Affair' and was therefore later dismissed. 

It is interesting - though sad - that many of these old records involve birds having been shot in the days when we obviously had a need to become more civilised and caring for our birds and wildlife, even more sad is the fact we still need to rid ourselves of some people who are remnants of the days when wildlife didn't seem to count as the very dear MR KISIEL who I think you should read about, and about who and what I made a comment, on which I have a feeling you may agree with.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Another forced four days 'off the road' with 'Homework' of sorts to be done. No wall to wall birding seven days a week for this birder I'm afraid. So take a look at these three subjects I chose at random, I hope you find them interesting as I certainly did, and by the way, my comments are not to be read as patronising, just plain facts in plain English.

Willow Tit. David Cookson.

I've met some great people - birders and photographers - over my birding years and David Cookson is one of 'em and I appreciate the fact I'm able to liven up and show some brilliant photographs of his on Birds2blog. This one of the Willow Tit which he had the good fortune to visit his garden recently....lucky him, a bird extinct on our area in North Lancashire and beyond, go out and find one today for yourself and become famous overnight to prove they've all be wrong and that the Willow Tit is alive and well in the Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society recording area. Please take a look HERE  if you'd like to see some more stunning photography....Thanks David.

Meadow Pipit. Phil Slade.

I look in on Phil's website on a daily basis and came across this photograph of the Meadow Pipit. This picture takes the bird a step beyond it's status of a very common, widespread, and abundant species and lifts this individual to a higher plain thanks to this stunning photograph, and there's more HERE ....Thanks Phil.   

5 Colour Weave Wheel. Richard Shilling.

Richard Shilling has been out in the great outdoors again and created his latest masterpiece. One or two  visitors to Birds2blog have thanked me for pointing them in the direction of Richards art and I'm pointing you once again to this brilliant creation. Whether or not you know of this mans work I strongly recommend you take a look at 5 Colour Weave Wheel and not only his art but on this occasion his words which accompany it....quite a revelation I found. Thanks for this Richard you continue to amaze me and I know you'll do it again soon.


Bobolink on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire at 9.15am with no boats today....can I borra yer helicopter mister!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Nothing to write home about....

....but an enjoyable tour of Leighton Moss just the same.

View from Public Hide. Pete Woodruff.

The outlook from any RSPB hide doesn't come any better than this and if - like me - you live within a short drive from Leighton Moss you can count yourself very fortunate, and by the way if the Bearded Tit is on your 'list' you can almost be guaranteed to make contact with them from the causeway where they visit the grit trays provided for them at this time of year and where I found John Wilson collecting ring details as they fed this morning, I told John I was going to propose the birds were renamed the Wilson Tit such has been his work and enjoyment over the many years as reserve warden and beyond, undoubtedly his most favourite bird surely.

I myself enjoyed excellent views of 6 Bearded Tits if a little zoological. From the Public Hide 7 Greenshank were on the island, but the mere was notably void of wildfowl and I noted only 27 Coot, a single Tufted Duck, Shoveler, and 6 Great-crested Grebe. From the Lower Hide a Black Tern was patrolling the mere for food which I can't believe was proving anything other than difficult for the bird, also a female Marsh Harrier came on the scene, but as with the rest of the area it was void of bird species save in excess of 100 Coot and 32 Mallard.

Migrant Hawker. Brian Rafferty.

A few Migrant Hawkers were patrolling the reed edges at both Public and Lower Hides. Thanks for the photograph Brian....nice one.

In an Alder close to Lillians Hide I managed to pick up a male and female Siskin but despite some time they were the only two I could find with Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blue Tit and Great Tit. At the Grisedale Hide I was surprised to find up to 520 Redshank, the number of which is certainly a first here for me in more years than I care to recall, but a Sparrowhawk shifted the lot and they appeared to return to the saltmarshes from whence they came having been put up by a Peregrine Falcon there by all accounts. Also noted, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, a Buzzard, and at least 2 Jay seen over the wood opposite, 2 Little Egret and a young stag Red Deer.


A Myrtle Warbler found yesterday at Cape Clear in Co.Cork is still present there today. Co.Cork has an excellent record for the species with nine of  the twenty eight records in the UK since 1955. And a Green Heron was found today in Cornwall at Pentewan at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and if you're thinking of making the trip make sure you have plenty of money in your pocket 'cos it's a tenner to get in!!  

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

For the Record.

Little Stint. Pete Woodruff.

Well the title - I couldn't think of another - refers to the record shots of the 3 Little Stints today off the esplanade at Knott End, probably the most obliging 'stints' I've ever seen, also whilst here 2 Little Egret which are almost everywhere these days and it's quite amazing how blase you can become about anything over time.

Little and Large. Pete Woodruff.

Just two of the birds in this shot with big brother HG close by. I was with JB today and we had made a very brief visit to Conder Green where we did nothing at all serious but made a quick scan of the pool were I noted just 6 Little Grebe and 4 Wigeon before we shot off to Pilling Lane Ends to find up to 10,000 Pink-footed Geese on the marsh and had no opportunity to grill them because the 'Rambo types' had taken to Fluke Hall Lane with their armoury and immediately they opened fire it was bye bye PFG. At Cockers Dyke were I found 2 Curlew Sandpiper and a Little Egret just in time before another one of those 'doggy numskulls' had the same effect as the previous bunch at Pilling and put everything in sight to flight including c.24 Snipe which had obviously been hidden from view on the marsh, a favour of sorts we could well have done without....thanks a lot 'numskull and Rambo's'.

I'm always very hesitant to call any birding dull, but to be honest Cockersands was little more than that today though the visit could hardly have been called a serious one but 12 Eider were off Plover Scar as were 4 Red-breasted Merganser, and the c.30 Greenfinch were still in the set-aside area, one day I'll make the concerted effort to count these birds.

On the Lune estuary at Glasson Dock I found an adult Mediterranean Gull again, a Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank, a solitary Snipe, the c.400 Golden Plover and c.180 Bar-tailed Godwit numbers were both down again today, and would you believe it we suffered our third disturbance of the day when a Peregrine Falcon true to form put up everything in sight and gave me excellent views in doing so. I didn't mind this final act of disturbance, nothing unnatural about this one and I can accomodate a PG anytime, a Red Admiral in pristine condition seen here.