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

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Quick Dash!

Well not exactly quick but I didn't hang around too much, nor did I get too far either, the wind chill was something else again today. No pictures associated with today's efforts - nothing new there then - but....

Striolated Puffbird. Colin Bushell.

One of CB's Puffbirds from his recent birding trip to Peru. Thanks for this Colin, a new bird to me, and to Birds2blog....luvit!

I did the circuit again at Conder Green knowing well the pool would be frozen over when I got round to it, though there was a couple of small 'free' areas with just two Mute Swans holding on to one of them. In the Conder Channel below the railway bridge 2 Spotted Redsank, a Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Snipe, and c.320 Wigeon, a Song Thrush and c.30 Chaffinch noted along the coastal path, a Kingfisher flew out of the small pool as I approached it on the west side of the A588 opposite the Galgate Road junction, I wish I had a pound for every time I've seen a Kingfisher flying of this pool.

At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary I noted just 7 Goldeneye at a location void of anything at all of note, quite amazing how you can visit an area holding thousands of birds one day and virtually deserted the next. On Jeremy Lane 3 Bewick's Swans with 15 Mute Swans, the Little Owl was on the roof despite the bitter wind which must have been blowing into it's face. The big surprise on this lane for November was at least 6,000 Pink-footed Geese which despite scanning through twice I found no 'hangers on' with them. I'd have been much less surprised to find these birds here in January, more likely in February or even March, but November and particularly in this number....very unexpected. 

Well I suppose you'd have to call that a....'Quick Dash' wouldn't you!

And finally....

This is such poor taste it hurts, and I think I may well loose some 'customers' through it's weak humour, but I just cannot resist this photograph I took today of....wait for it....Carr Bank.

Monday, 29 November 2010

This and that!

I didn't even get my four hours birding in today....woe is me!

Ice Cubes. Richard Shilling  

But I had an excellent chance to do some searching through 'This and that' including - as a brief diversion from the birds -  finding that RS has been out and about into the great unknown and come up with some more stunning and creative landart. I think this guy gets better as he goes along, click on his name below his 'Ice Disc's' - being Norwegian Maple at the top, Red Oak on the left, and Rowan on the right - and see for yourself how amazing he really is. Thanks for this Richard, brilliant as ever. I also dug out my 'Bird Behavior and other oddities' book and thought the following - chosen at random - might be of interest....

At Leighton Moss on 10 October 1998 I saw a female Ruddy Duck with four downy young, nothing spectacular about that if you didn't note the date.

A few years ago at Out Rawcliffe I observed and took note of a Yellowhammer singing for twenty minutes at the rate of eight times per minute, this individual sang a truly amazing 160 times in the twenty minutes I spent with it....some songster which I'd guess probably holds some sort of record at such vocals.

Two species I've encountered over the years doing mimicry have been, a Whinchat  - a particular master at mimicry - at Borrowdale in June 2005 which fooled me into thinking I'd heard a Whitethroat. And a Starling - another master at mimicry - was once outside our house on telephone wires and 'did' the Curlew to perfection.

At Barbondale on 7 May 2004 I observed the only female Redstart I ever heard in song, something it is only ocassionally known to do in the breeding season.

This is an excellent and interesting sound recording of Twite singing in the snow by Hugh Harrop....the higher your volume the better it sounds.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Little Grebe.

Little Grebe. Phillip Tomkinson

On Friday 6 November I found 12 Little Grebes (LG) on Conder Pool, their numbers had been increasing on here since the end of the breeding season, this year I found 16 birds on Conder Pool on Monday 18 October - a little later than in 2009 - with the same build up in numbers after the breeding season as last year. This is an interesting observation, in the first place you have to ask, 1) where do all these LG come from, 2) do you suppose off the canal, 3) why do they choose Conder Pool to assemble in such relatively high numbers, 4) where else would you find 16 LG in one place. Last winter they disappeared from Conder Pool associated with the onset of the 'big freeze', this year no big freeze but again they have disappeared though one or two can still be seen in the Conder channel....intriguing stuff! 

As far as I'm aware the LG hasn't bred a Leighton Moss since 1988, but Oakes reported them as nesting regular here in the early 1950's. In the last 30 years there appears to have been a slight increase in the breeding range of LG in Lancashire. The National situation appears to be a not very clear one, but some consider there to have been little change in the population of breeding LG over a period of 55 years. Once again global warming comes into the reckoning with some suggestions being that over the coming years there could be an increase in breeding LG's if the 'warming' continues, but human disturbance with the use of water for recreational purposes could play significant part in halting this advance with other factors to be taken into account.

I've seen comments made about species like the Pied-billed Grebe - recently on Hollingworth Reservoir in Greater Manchester - amazingly having the ability to cross the Atlantic Ocean, two ringing recoveries of LG also show the ability for long distance movements with one bird ringed in Essex in 1956 was found dead in Liverpool two year later in 1958 with a movement of 315km, but there's an even more amazing record of a bird ringed in Latvia in 1983 which was also found dead, this one at Pilling almost two years later in 1985 having made a movement of something like 1,650km, whenever I've seen LG's in flight they always give the impression they couldn't achieve much more than a few metres....I've obviously always been wrong on that one!

Many thanks to Phillip for the use of his image of the Little Grebe which is much appreciated.


Friday, 26 November 2010

The Long List...

....but first.

Great Northern Diver. Brian Rafferty

Two more cracking photographs of the long staying Great Northern Diver at Fleetwood Marine Lake. If this bird can maintain this kind of eating, drinking, and sleeping on this lake then it's never going to move just yet. Thanks once again for these Brian, the only problem you have with this level of photography have to keep it up and I for one know you will.

With JB/BT again today and as ever, if you think my records and JB's are going to 'line up' you'd be wrong, his are here at LDBWS

On Aldcliffe Marsh 14 Barnacle Geese seen again and a male Bullfinch seen briefly in flight. At Conder Green, the pool was almost deserted but noted elsewhere, 2 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank, Grey Plover, Little Grebe, and yesterdays c.180 Wigeon were in the channel again. At Glasson Dock as I watched the tidal bore approaching, life was made a little easier for me as it took with it a string of at least 60 Goldeneye past, I'd loved to have been on the water with them....riding the bore looks good fun, also noted, 4 Bewick's Swans were an excellent sight, c.12 Black-tailed Godwit were as distant as ever, and at least 100 Dunlin noted.

On Jeremy Lane, 3 Whooper Swans were in a distant field, and on Moss Lane c.60 Fieldfare from the moving car. At Cockersands the 'set-aside finches' appeared to comprise of 30/20 Greenfinch/Linnet, 22 Greylag came down on to the estuary, with 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Eider, and a Great-crested Grebe, c.620 Oystercatcher were on Plover Scar, a count of 6 Grey Plover was high for this location, and the count of 84 Turnstone was an even higher count for here or any other location in our area in my observations, the Bank Houses Little Owl was seen again today, and 3 Snipe in flight over fields as we drove away from here.  

In fields heading towards Pilling Lane Ends, c.250 Golden Plover and 170 Curlew. On Pilling Marsh, 2 Whooper Swans and c.950 Pink-footed Geese noted. A decision was made to go back to Lancaster via the feeding station on Bradshaw Lane where I noted, 9 Corn Bunting, at least 35 Tree Sparrows, a Yellowhammer, and a Little Owl. On the day Little Egrets were seen at, Glasson Marsh, Crimbles Lane, Pilling Marsh (2), and Fluke Hall (4).

Greenfinch. John Bateman.

Thanks for the pic John, great stuff and a fair tour of the coast, with a fair number of species, a fair number of birds, and a fair good time was had by all....Another 'Good Friday'.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Plan A.

It was always going to be Plan A today whilst the weather is good, though the wind chill factor was something else. The plan was to walk from the River Lune at Green Ayre in Lancaster to Glasson Dock whilst thoroughly checking out the bird life on the way. I had another one of those welcome e-mails today with some pics attached two of which are on show in today's post....Thanks for these Tim, the photography is looking good.

Robin. Tim Crossley.

I noted 29 species along the coastal path and at Conder Green with one or two silent in flight silhouettes which escaped me. The first bird to catch my eye was a Grey Wagtail below Greyhound Bridge, a 'few' Redshank had found their way up river here, 5 Goosander and 5 Goldeneye were also on the river as was a Little Grebe. On Freemans Pools there was no sign of yesterdays reported 10 Goldeneye, but I noted a Little Egret, 9 Gadwall and a similar number of Shoveler.

On Aldcliffe Marsh 14 Barnacle Geese are down two in number from the original sighting of sixteen, with one down from yesterdays fifteen. I counted my best ever of up to 650 Greylag, also 320 Canada Geese and 3 Little Egret. Over the distance from Aldcliffe to Conder Green, 10 Golden Plover were in the flood field at Aldcliffe with Lapwings, 22 Blackbirds, 3 Song Thrush, a Dunnock, solitary Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail, and my first lone Redwing of the winter, 5 Robin, 2 Wren, and a flock of at least 30 Chaffinch, a Red-breasted Merganser was on the river.

Red-breasted Merganser. Brian Rafferty.

With not much time left for anything serious at Conder Green I did find the wintering Common Sandpiper, a Greenshank, and 2 Little Grebe. In the channel below the railway bridge c.180 Wigeon and a drake Red-breasted Merganser, a Raven went over going northeast. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock I counted 74 Tufted Duck and noted a Goldeneye, 6 Pochard, and a Little endeth Plan A.  

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Iceland Gull.

But first....

Bowland. Peter Guy.

Anyone who follows Birds2blog will know how much I appreciate any/all photography and I can no longer resist posting this excellent image of the early morning sunrise through the trees just on the east side of Trough Bridge near Tower Lodge. Thanks for this Peter....pretty impressive stuff.

Iceland Gull. Ian Tallon.

There's been - and still remains -  an Iceland Gull (IG) at Preston Docks since 19 November, the bird was first found on the River Ribble the day before. The IG is a regular visitor to Britain and in the main are immature birds, they breed on cliffs and offshore stacks across northeast Canada, Baffin Island, and east to Greenland, they winter south to New England, the eastern Great Lakes, Iceland, and northwestern Europe.

From over 550 ring recoveries only seven were of movements outside the local breeding area, two of which were immatures which reached northern England and northeast Scotland, they are the only two IG's ringed in Greenland to be recovered here, another one demonstrated the potential for movements from Greenland to North America with this individual recovered in Labrador.

Although there is variation from year to year estimates wintering in Britain are between 100-200 annually, as is often the case influx years are related to unfavourable weather conditions further north. A small number of reports involve long staying birds with an extreme case of one in Dublin, Ireland from October 1968 for over eighteen months until May 1970.

The vast majority of winter records in Britain are of birds of the race glaucoides which breeds in Greenland, but there are also records of the race kumlieni which breeds further west into Canada, but the degree of plumage variation is such that it is difficult to establish a clear distinction between the two and many birds cannot be readily distinguished in the field, as a consequence the British Birds Rarities Committee have taken the stand that records of birds showing characteristics associated with kumlieni should not be differentiated from those of glaucoides.

Some brief data of a bird which interests me very much. Thanks for the photograph Ian, I'd suggest some telepathy at work here as you sent me the pic at the same time I'd decided to 'look up' this fascinating gull.

It was excellent to see at least 50 Waxwing the nearest to my home they've ever been, in trees by Bowerham School this afternoon.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Reality Birding.

The reality of my birding today was the fact that in 5.5 hours in the Bowland uplands fringe of the Clougha/Birk Bank area I found nine species and - excluding the counts of just two of them - totalling just seventeen birds, just as a reminder....this is in 5.5 hours no distractions and serious searching.

Windy Clough. Pete Woodruff.

Having found no Stonechats again on here I have decided to give the area a break perhaps until next April. Particularly with the Stonechat in mind there seems little if any point in pursuing an already established fact that there are no birds on here or almost all other upland locations, in fact from personal observations and the reports of Stonechat in coastal areas amounting to no more than three/four birds with a pair seen at Cross of Greet Bridge the other day, it remains to be seen how long it will take to 'build up stocks' again. The pic above is a small section of Clougha known as Windy Clough, an area I only once ever attempted to attack which  I found to be not much fun but a little adventurous.

I decided to note everything - other than a very few corvids and gulls - I saw today, otherwise I was in danger of returning home with an empty notebook. The best results were up to 200 Fieldfare - of course some could very well have been Redwing - seen distant on Littledale Road from Birk Bank, and an excellent count of 48 Red Grouse including two flocks of 15 birds in flight, something I've not seen here or anywhere before and I think the total being the highest count ever in my book. Also noted, 5 Blackbird, 4 Robin, 3 Wren, 2 Blue Tit, a Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush.

It will always be easy to find this kind of disregard for our countryside and is a war we'll never win, but in my opinion these kind of people are just as big a threat to our heritage as any other type of threat. This example was in the car park on Rigg Lane and although admittedly causes nothing nor anyone any harm it simply shows no respect for such areas which demand it.  

I note with interest of a Willow Warbler seen today south of Freckleton, apparently near Freckleton Boatyard along the Lancashire Coastal Way.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Here and there.

But first....

Iceland Gull. Mike Watson  

An excellent photograph of the juvenile Iceland Gull currently present at Preston Dock and obviously showing well as the picture above clearly illustrates, more via the link below the photograph....Thanks for this Mike.

I paid two visits to Conder Green today, the first one was abandoned until the tide receded when I returned three hours later. Birds noted were a Kingfisher, Goldeneye, 2 Wigeon, and 2 Little Grebe all on Conder Pool, two of the latter were in the creeks along with a solitary Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Red-breasted Merganser, a flock of 14 Chaffinch were also of note from the coastal path.

On the canal basin at Glasson Dock, a Little Grebe and 6 Pochard interestingly two of which were female, much more unusual than the drakes on here as per past records. On Glasson Marsh, educated estimates of 5,000 Lapwing, and 2,000 Golden Plover.

Little Owl. Phil Slade

From Jeremy Lane the Little Owl was on the roof of the old farm building once again, this one isn't it but is one of 'Phil's birds'....Thanks Phil, an excellent photograph of the smart Little Owl.

I decided to give Cockersands a miss today and went off to the Pilling area where I saw 10 Whooper Swans way out at the seaward end of Pilling Marsh, with c.350 Pink-footed Geese seen, on the sea I noted a single Great-crested Grebe, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, and a 'few' Pintail. I was looking forward to a good grilling of the excellent stubble field's off Fluke Hall Lane but with the usual unpredictability of birds was disappointed as the field's where totally void of birds. At Fluke Hall a short circuit resulted in at least 22 Meadow Pipits in stubble, and c.350 Jackdaw were also of note in a ploughed field. Single Little Egrets seen on the day were....Conder Green, Glasson Marsh, Fluke Hall, and 2 on Pilling Marsh. 

And finally....

Nothing glamorous about the pic of the boat above but it isn't supposed to be, for those acquainted with Conder Green you will know this boat. I've no idea how it got there but I picked up a Stoat running along the rim of the bodywork of this boat soon followed by it disappearing into the hull from whence it came out with what I took to be a Rat in its jaws but it quickly disappeared once more never to show again before I ran out of waiting time. I remain mystified by how this animal actually got on to the boat....not via one of the ropes surely!  

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A 'pecker and a wader.

But first the wader....

Turnstone. David Cookson

An excellent portrait image of one of my most favourite waders the Turnstone, a bird I must say more about sometime soon in a 'gap filler' between my birding. A brilliant photograph David for which - along with the LSW below - I am truly grateful.  

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. David Cookson

I was prompted to make a few brief notes on the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker (LSW) when I found this image of DC's, a bird you'll be hard pushed to find in our recording area in North Lancashire where it bred in the Silverdale-Leighton Moss area during the 1960's and 70's with frequent records during the 80's. In 1978 three pairs of LSW bred at a location on the River Lune with one or two annually until the mid-90's, apart from a single pair at Melling in 2000, no breeding has ever been confirmed in the Lune Valley since. To the south of Lancaster nesting was recorded at Scorton and Street Bridge between the early 1960's and 90's with only occasional sightings since then, the most recent I'm aware of was of a male - at a site I'm not at liberty to disclose on Birds2blog - in the spring of 2003, surely raising the possibility of a breeding foothold of this reclusive little bird.

It is the reclusive behaviour of the LSW which makes the species a difficult one to observe/survey but it has been shown to be restricted to England and Wales having never been recorded in Ireland, in this country it is also absent from the uplands and treeless lowlands. The LSW has declined at sites with a high density of Grey Squirrel, although the Great-spotted Woodpecker is a more likely predator which - if some opinion is to be considered - will also evict LSW from their nest holes.

The combination of a scarce and declining species that inhabits a difficult habitat means that further required research into the LSW will be something of a challenge. With regard to our own recording area I reckon there are isolated pairs of breeding LSW somewhere out there, finding them is another matter, but I've been in touch with someone recently who has told me he's going to take me to a location where he almost guarantees a sighting of the LSW....I'll let you know the result.


Friday, 19 November 2010

Going from bad to worse!

Well it didn't go from bad to worse actually as it started quite well and ended quite well too, but the bit in the middle was almost crucifying, in any case you should read 'Straight Talk' by Alan Tilmouth before my miserable records from today's efforts with JB/BT, as it says just about everything I would have said on the matter had I decided to.

Linnet. John Bateman.

Thanks to JB who took the photograph of the female Linnet last Tuesday near the set-aside at Cockersands which has attracted an estimated 200 'finches' at times.

So off we went in the direction of Kendal in search of Waxwings - not my kind of birding but there you go - we called in at Pine Lake to see the Slavonian Grebe giving good views in good light at the eastern end of the lake. Now the day becomes a bloody bore to be perfectly honest as we call at Holme Mere to find everything taking to flight as we arrived but I did get the chance to note a solitary Pink-footed Goose flying off with Pochard, Wigeon, and Tufted Duck. Now we're at Sizergh Castle for goodness sake looking in vain for Hawfinch and if I'm not careful I'm going to scream like a spoilt little brat. We came away from here with 4 Long-tailed Tits in my notes. 

Now we're at Kendal driving round Kendal Green looking for bloody Waxwings, followed by a run up Appleby Road looking for the same,  well OK I know they're an enigmatic bird but....come on, from a personal point of view I'm trying my best to convince everyone that I really am a birder!

We're now into our fourth hour of the day just riding around and I'm silently becoming something of a wreck, but wait - in keeping with the title of today's post it's - 'going from bad to worse' - 'cos now we're in the 'Hawfinch Hunters Heaven' at Woodwell, this is not funny anymore and we leave with a Jay and 2 Coal Tits in my notes.

But wait....nearly five hours into the JB/BT/PW Friday and the final push in search of the 'target bird' found us on Stankelt Road in Silverdale and yes you guessed it, 20 Waxwings at the junction of Stankelt Road/Hazelwood and all's well that ends well....Alleluia and Amen.

And finally.... 

Lanceolated Monklet. Colin Bushell. 

Two young little beauties in Peru with my thanks to CB who recently returned from his trip there, his website is HERE for some more accounts and photographs of trips to the Amazon and beyond. 

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Kingfisher.

For many of us the Kingfisher in usually seen as an electric blue streak as it flashes by close to the surface of a stream or river.

Kingfisher. David Cookson.

I've been watching Kingfishers at Conder Green for almost 20 years now, a coastal area on the estuary of the River Lune and can truthfully claim to have observed the bird perched just as many times as in flight. This location is as good as anywhere within our recording area to see the Kingfisher having personally amassed nearly 200 records of the bird over the years.

I noted the following records about 7 years ago now - so for this reason obviously not up to date - and in 2003 I drew up an article which claimed that I had only recorded the Kingfisher at Conder Green during the months between July - November, therefore between this period of about seven months I never saw the bird/s after a given date in November until a date in July the next year and was always intrigued by this, I still wonder where was the Kingfisher during this period covering so many years. 

There are six different races of Kingfisher, the birds we see in Britain - Alcedo atthis - is one of the most northerly members of a mainly tropical family, most of its relatives are confined to remote islands, mainly in the Pacific. In world terms the Kingfisher can be found from Europe eastwards across Asia and southeast Asia to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The species needs clear waters that are rich in small fish prey and this particular aspect of the birds habitat needs makes the Conder Green birds absence over the long period of seven months an even bigger mystery simply because the small River Conder is an all year round ice-free environment. 

Another interesting fact is the mortality rate which is quite high in very harsh winters, but with breeding birds able to rear two broods - sometimes three - each of which having the potential of six young rapid recovery is likely, though such successes are probably not common. More interesting facts are that young birds disperse from their natal territory soon after independence, even as early as July the young can reach remote places like the Isles of Scilly, and records from Cape Clear Island are not unknown. A small number of individuals ringed in Britain in the breeding season have been recovered on the continent, with one exceptional record of an immature bird ringed in Wales and caught on the north coast of Spain just nineteen days later.

The Kingfisher is a highly vulnerable species, its breeding requirements are such that pollution and disturbance are a threat, and this - along with drainage and drought - all pose problems for the birds. Hopefully the day will never dawn when these threats have become so acute that we never again see the delights of the blue electric flash as it flies by on the streams and rivers.

Thanks for the photograph David, though I think he's - it is a male - been on Birds2blog once before.



Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Flying your Kite!

White-tailed Kite. Colin Bushell.

Well hows that for struggling for a title and not remotely connected with the post I'm about to write. But connected to an excellent photograph of the bird above - which I'd hazard a guess you won't be seeing in the UK any time soon - seen by CB on his latest trip to Peru....Thanks for this - and the one below - Colin.

With JB today we started at a quiet Conder Green with just 2 Little Grebe seen again on the pool though 5 Wigeon is something of an increase, and the Kingfisher brightened up the visit here. At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary the Bar-tailed Godwit/Knot were more obliging today being opposite the viewpoint and allowing us a more accurate estimate of 1,500/6,500 respectively until they took to flight in a spectacle you'd pay money to see. Also of note, 5 Goosander, a solitary Black-tailed Godwit, and a Little Egret. From Bodie Hill yesterdays 2 Whooper Swans, c.800 Wigeon, 22 Goldeneye, and a Black Swan in company with c.95 Mute Swans

In a field opposite Sand Villa, 4 adult and a juvenile Whooper Swan. At Knott End c.15 Twite, but a visit to LDBWS will show JB saw more including a comprehensive list from elsewhere. At Cockers Dyke an adult Mediterranean Gull and a Little Egret were to note. On Fluke Hall Lane, 12 Whooper Swans and 2 Ruff, a brief look in at Pilling Marsh produced 4 Whooper Swans and 2 Little Egrets.

And finally....

Pectoral Sandpiper. Colin Bushell.

As opposed to the bird at the top here's one you have a very good chance of finding/seeing in the UK. The Pectoral Sandpiper is the most numerous Nearctic wader on this side of the Atlantic, during the years 1958/85 an average of 52 a year were found, and in fact as many as 150 were recorded in a single year in 1984.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Monday Trawl.

Whooper Swan. David Cookson.

A photograph with a difference and an excellent study of the Whooper Swan by David Cookson. I know I'm always plugging someone elses website 'cos thats the way it is and they're always worth a look I promise you.

Mondays - four hours only - Trawl began at Conder Green to uncover nothing of any great note and only 2 Little Grebe were on the pool with 3 Wigeon and a Goldeneye. In the creeks 3 Goosander, a 'few' Redshank, and c.90 Teal noted. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock the c.8,000 Bar-tailed Godwit/Knot wader flock of 9 November seen again, as ever mixed and distant, I just wish these birds would come within easy viewing range and separate, 4 Red-breasted Merganser and a Little Egret seen in it's favourite area below Waterloo Cottage. On the canal basin 52 Tufted Duck and 3 Pochard drakes seen, interesting that this species here are invariably drakes. From Fishnet Point 2 Whooper Swan were excellent, 32 Goldeneye are shaping up to becoming the best location for the species in the area again this winter, also in excess of 1,000 Wigeon and 3 Black-tailed Godwit noted.

On Moss Lane c.30 Fieldfare from a moving car. Cockersands produced three surprises - though none in the 'mega' bracket - a Little Owl in the bushes surrounding the horse paddock at Bank Houses was the first in more than twelve months void of searching my records, a Great-spotted Woodpecker is - as far as I can recall - the first I ever saw in this area, and a Grey Plover in an inland field was to say the least a bit unexpected and is certainly a first for me. A Meadow Pipit on the shingle had me jump to attention for a moment until I got my binoculars on it. Others noted on the circuit, 4 Skylark, a Snipe, up to 550 Golden Plover in an Abbey Farm field, and the set-aside Linnet/Greenfinch flock topped 100 again today with my ratio estimate still standing at 90/10 respectively.


There were three records of note today, 1) At Wintersett Reservoir in West Yorshire six Mealy Redpolls were controlled one of which was discoveresd to have been a bird ringed in Norway. 2) An American Coot was found on Termoncarragh Lake, Co Mayo in the West of Ireland. 3) Nearer home a Barred Warbler was found near Fleetwood.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Another American!

Pied-billed Grebe. Mike Watson.

We have yet another American vagrant in the country, a Pied-billed Grebe which was found on Tuesday 9 November on Hollingworth Lake in Greater Manchester and is still present today to the delight of the many who have traveled to see this amazing little bird. Thanks to Mike for the photograph which can be seen HERE along with other interesting accounts and photographs of birding in the UK and beyond.

The first record of a Pied-billed Grebe (PBG) in Britain was only made 47 years ago in December 1963 at Blagdon Lake in Somerset. The PBG breeds over much of Central, North and South America, the last time I checked there had been 40 records in Britain at scattered localities in all months. It is difficult to imagine the ability of this apparently weak-flying bird being able to cross the Atlantic Ocean to find itself at these various locations in this country. Once here, some males have stayed for long periods, even setting up territory and advertising for mates with one particular individual being observed attacking a Whooper Swan which had straying into what the grebe had claimed as it's territory, but the behaviour of this bird was put into the shadows of another one which paired with a Little Grebe producing three hybrid young, remarkable in that the two species are not in the same genus. No mercy is on offer in the natural world when one unfortunate individual PBG was killed by a Peregrine Falcon on the day it arrived in Britain on the Isles of Scilly in October 2000.

Wren. Phillip Tomkinson.

I couldn't resist this excellent image of the Wren photographed in the grips of winter, when you view a picture like this one you have to hope this winter won't be as harsh as the last one for the sake of these tiny creatures. Thanks for the photograph Phillip, please take a look at some stunning images on Phillip's website HERE   


Friday, 12 November 2010

Back in the Trough!

But first....

Great Northern Diver. Brian Rafferty.

The GND was found on the Marine Lake at Fleetwood on last Sunday 7 November and still remains there today. There are three 'bits' of good news about this bird, firstly BR has been to see it, secondly he photographed it, and thirdly I have access to his photographs. So the plug is....Please visit his website HERE for more of the same.

Well BT's car - with JB and I inside it - didn't shoot off to Aldcliffe today, instead we started with a failed 'twitch' - oh dear - to see some Waxwings which were no longer in Booths car park in Lancaster, followed by what turned out to be a quite enjoyable days birding in the Trough of Bowland.

We first halted at Blea Tarn reservoir where I noted 2 Little Grebe, as with the rest of the day JB's records will show that we actually saw much more than these two little beauties on here. A call in at the car park on Rigg Lane produced a Raven over and a Mistle Thrush to note. At Abbeystead 2 Coal Tit, and 2 Dipper on the River Wyre with one just downstream from Stoops Bridge, and the other upstream, from the road away from here, 2 Buzzard and c.2,500 Starling turning a large portion of the field they were in black.

Between Marshaw and Tower Lodge, yesterdays 80 Brambling were eventually accounted for, but today they were even more mobile and fragmented into three flocks between these two points, up to 50 Wood Pigeon also appeared to be feeding on beechmast here, and a Treecreeper noted. At Langden, as we arrived 2 Raven overhead and a Kestrel. The short walk to the pump house produced not a single bird but of note was the serious erosion which has taken place since I was last here, at one point towards the small pump house little now remains of the track.

Fieldfare seen on the day probably numbered 400 with my 'at least' figures being, 50 on Long Lane, 200 on Rigg Lane with a 'few' Redwing with them, and 120 in the Cam Brow area.

In an e-mail from the WWF I was told of just eight days to go before the summit in St Petersburg to 'Save The Tiger'. The WWF have already had their target of 100,000 signatures smashed and are now hoping to collect a massive 150,000 to which we can contribute, so please will you Sign The Petition

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Brambling.

Buzzard. David Cookson.

Not a Brambling, but a stunning photograph of a stunning bird in flight. Please take at look at DC's WEBSITE for more photography of this calibre. Thanks David.

Finding at least 80 Brambling yesterday near Tower Lodge in the Trough of Bowland was something of a surprise if only because I've seen very few reports of the species anywhere in the county as yet this winter, but it's early days though not so for the Waxwing of which there appears to be thousands of them.

The Brambling breeds in a broad band stretching from Norway in the west, through Russia to the shores of the Bering Sea. The birds have a strong preference to beechmast as a food source and is less of a farmland bird than it's close relative the Chaffinch. Wintering flocks in Britain have usually dispersed to the continent by mid-April though there may be occasional stragglers, early autumn migrants, or even the results of nesting attempts during June-August, the nesting records of which I have little knowledge though I do know of some breeding in Scotland without ever establishing a permanent presence there.

It's pretty sad that in the 21st century we can read of a good number of ringing recoveries being related to birds having been shot or trapped, a good example of which is, of eleven recoveries in Italy all but one bird had been the victim of hunting by humans of some sort. Another example of the misfortunes of the Brambling - though this one natural - is that unlike the Chaffinch which migrates mainly by day, Brambling movements are often nocturnal which can leave exhausted birds grounded along the east coast of Britain during the day having made what appears to be a direct crossing of the North Sea in the autumn.

Taking into account the reality of global warming and milder winters across Central and Northern Europe you have to wonder if numbers of Brambling wintering in Britain will diminish as they become able to find enough food further north.



Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Perfect Day.... more ways than one.

There's still some 'Autumn Gold' around but before I saw this one I was on Harrisend in the morning to learn the Stonechats have deserted. The visit here served as another reminder that you don't use much pen and paper on upland birding, but it was the perfect day with no wind, wall to wall sun, and I'm looking forward to one or two more like it this winter. Upland birding is brilliant, you can talk to yourself all day long with nobody around to call the men in white coats to come and take you away. I found just one each of five species in two hours on Harrisend, in the order of sightings, a Raven, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Buzzard, Red Grouse, and a Wren.

I changed my plans about three times today, when I left Harrisend I was going up Hawthornthwaite Fell from the Scorton Road access but drove by having decided to go up the access track to the same fell from Marshaw, as I approached the gate I noted some activity which turned out to be 3 Coal Tit, a Great Tit, and 4 Chaffinch. By the time I'd walked 50 paces up this track I changed my mind and plan yet again and decided to give the rest of the day to a thorough look over the distance from Marshaw Farm-Tower Lodge-Winfold Fell which took me three hours including a look at the front and rear of the plantation behind Tower Lodge and noted, 2 Mistle Thrush, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Jay, and a Treecreeper

About 300 mtrs east of Tower Lodge I had seen a good number of 'finches' flying away from me some distance and into the sunlight through the trees, I was now inwardly screaming but managed to console myself with thoughts of seeing them again on my return from the fringe of Winfold Fell where I saw just 4 Red Grouse. On the way back, Alleluia....movement on the ground and I reckon I'd found the birds which escaped me an hour earlier, very mobile, into the trees then back down again, I eventually estimated at least 80 Brambling with 2 Nuthatch in my sights at the same time as a bonus.

My photographic efforts are - at the top - of one of the many superb Beech still maintaining it's autumn colours by the Trough Road near Tower Lodge, and the lodge - hidden on the left - as you come down the track past the plantation.   

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Doing the rounds again....

....well 'sumovum'....means some of them!

Nothing spectacular or professional about the pic but I was a bit surprised to see a little snow on the Bowland fell tops today, the pic taken from Glasson Dock where I watched a definitely spectacular aerial display by at least 8,000 waders - Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit - of which I could never have produced a ratio figure if I'd have viewed them all day, not from the distance they were, they were a tightly mixed group at the mouth of the Conder, and although it is of no value for recording purposes a sighting here last year on 6 November was of c.4,000 Knot and c.2,000 Bar-tailed Godwit and is probably a reasonable indicator of what I saw today. Also noted were the first 18 Goldeneye on the River Lune here and is hopefully another indicator of the good numbers found here during the winter 2009/10, and 7 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Little Egret were on Colloway Marsh.

I had first been to Conder Green where a drake and female Goldeneye were on Conder Pool, as was a Little Egret moderately photographed above. In the creeks were 2 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, a Kingfisher was upstream from the road bridge, and 5 Little Grebe were also in the creeks, no wonder I can't find them on the pool when the little buggers are in the creeks. At Cockersands the tide was well advanced and I spent little time here but noted up to 240 Oystercatchers being the guardians of Plover Scar as ever, 14 Turnstone were also of note, and 8 Snipe took to the wing to escape the tide.

On Fluke Hall Lane I was delighted to find 2 Bewick's Swans with 7 Whooper Swans in the brilliant condition stubble field, also - with my recorders hat on once again - I counted/estimated 320 Lapwing, 260 Redshank, 120 Dunlin, 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 10 Golden Plover, and 5 Snipe.

It's worthy of note that on this day last year I found a 1st winter/female Black Redstart at Cockersands where I also found a male Stonechat which I eventually referred to as the wisest Stonechat around as it fed daily on the tide wrack whilst most of the others perished in the big freeze, this bird stayed here until the last time I saw it on 22 February this year, another male was found on the same date of 9 November at Conder Green.


A Pied-billed Grebe was found today on Hollingworth Lake in Greater Manchester reminding me of the summer plumaged bird found on Dockacres 13 years ago on 24 May 1997 staying until 8 June to the delight and satisfaction of the many. 

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Cetti's Warbler.

Fallow Deer. Brian Rafferty.

With no photographs of the Cetti's Warbler the excellent one of the beautiful stag Fallow Deer is good enough to headline today's post. You can keep up with Brian HERE 

I see the excellent news of a singing Cetti's Warbler (CW) found in Northhumberland yesterday, evidence of the species expansion northwards taking a giant leap whilst creating the hope the bird will winter there and be the forerunner of colonisation there.

The first CW to be found in GB was in March 1961 in Hampshire with breeding confirmed in 1972. In our county of Lancashire the first record is of confirmation in November 1990 at Marton Mere of a bird heard singing there the previous month, this bird stayed at Marton Mere until late March 1991. At Leighton Moss a bird was seen in late October 1995 and trapped and ringed there two days later, coincidentally this bird stayed here until March 1996 an almost identical length of time as the first recorded one did at Marton Mere,  this/another bird was found at Leighton Moss later the same year in October 1996. 

Yesterday at Fleetwood Nature Park two CW were trapped and ringed, and news on the LDBWS website in the 'Sightings' section says the fourth CW this autumn was trapped and ringed just a couple of days ago making the news on this species improving and becoming more exciting by the day it seems. I have no idea of the current national status of the CW but by 2006 there was a figure of 1,400 singing males, numbers being up on the figure of just over 1,000 in 2004.

It's always good to see something positive happening in the bird world both around us and worldwide, and whilst its easy to read that most CW's are to be found in the south of England, SW and East Anglia, it's also good to see they are now in places nearer home like Marton Mere, Fleetwood Nature Park, north at Leighton Moss, and now even further north in Northhumberland....where next! 

Landart by Richard Shilling. 

I've often been thanked for pointing people in the direction of Richard Shilling's Landart from Birds2blog and these are two recent additions to his ever growing collection, 7 Dogwood Colour Strips on the left, and Autumn Beech Sun Curtain. If you don't already know about Richard, he takes no materials with him on his mission's and collects all he requires to create his art from around the location, he never ceases to amaze me and a visit HERE as a relief from the birds is recommended to see for yourself.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Hardly Exciting!

Dull-capped Attila. Colin Bushell.

A little exotic thing to start with from one of CB's trips to Peru, though the birds name hardly matches the beautiful rustic colour of it's plumage. But the birding today with JB/BT was anything but colourful, I don't think dark and grey can ever be called colourful, and the dark and grey turned to rain soon after lunch so....hardly exciting! 

As ever BT's car seemed to head off to Aldcliffe of it's own accord and as we drove down Aldcliffe Hall Lane we saw a female Kestrel perched on a fence post, a smart little falcon which I love to see, also noted were at least 10 House Sparrows. Down the lane at the gate overlooking Aldcliffe Marsh which was awash with the high tide, 6 Little Egret were over on Colloway Marsh with another just north of the gate we were stood by. As we drove through Stodday a Buzzard was overhead.

Wigeon and Little Grebe. John Bateman.

At Conder Green 2 Little Egret here, also of note were 7 Little Grebe on the pool with a single Wigeon and the Common Sandpiper showing too. Definitely no circuit today and we were off to Glasson Dock where - if you'd like a little advice - there's little  point in attempting to observe birds on the Lune Estuary from here up to 2 - 2.5 hours either side of a high tide. From Bodie Hill another 3 Little Egret on Glasson Marsh with another over by Bazil Point. At Cockersands - where by now we had to put up with some typical November damp turning to rain weather - we struggled to note 20/10 Greenfinch/Linnet in the 'set-aside' flock, and noted a single Grey Plover from the car park. The most interesting sighting here was that of a Grey Seal which some people had told us at Glasson Dock we had just missed by minutes, but the creature obligingly showed well here, close in eating a quite large fish, great stuff....who needs Autumn Watch! 

Whooper Swans. Gary Jones.

On Pilling Marsh it was pretty hopeless trying to count but estimates of at least 3,000 Pink-footed Geese, 300 Greylag, and 50 Whooper Swans were all distant in the murky grey yonder and no apologies for nice round figures, also up to 3 Little Egret seen. In the stubble field off Fluke Hall Lane 5 Whooper Swans were a family party of two adult and three juveniles. Thanks for the Whooper Swans in flight Gary, and for the Wigeon and Little Grebe John....both excellent photographs and much appreciated.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Raptor Persecution and....

....three Americans!

I think you may be interested in THIS where you can also link to the government press release on the subject. The request to the RSPB now is....please make a move in the direction of the government to bring this law to England and Wales post haste, where the problem of persecution continues and - in my opinion - possibly gets worse.

There are three American birds to note in the UK at the moment one of which was found on 31 October in the south east of Ireland at Tacumshin in Co Wexford and is a Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus hudsonius - previously Marsh Hawk - and is the American race of the Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus in relation to which the males plumage is darker, as is the females which is more rufous in colour. Another is an American Bittern (AB) in Cornwall, apparently access to the location of the bird is closed after Sunday for some reason. This bird is superficially similar to the European Bittern but is slightly smaller and has several differences some subtle, I think if one ever pops briefly out of the reeds at Leighton Moss you'll need to be pretty smart to claim it as an AB. On a local level the most famous AB has to be the one found at Marton Mere, Blackpool in January 1991 which almost completed a four months stay there until May. The third is the long staying Green Heron also in Cornwall.

Please take a look at the video of the Northern Harrier which is over 3.5 minutes long, but stick with it as it is quite good, only the man near the end of the video worried me a little though he confesses to only taking photographs but I was uncomfortable about him. 


Northern Parula.

Northern Parula. Tiree, Inner Hebrides Sept 2010. SP.

On 25 September a Northern Parula was found on Tiree, Inner Hebrides, this bird created some interest for me for a few reasons. The Northern Parula (NP) breeds in the eastern half of N.America, and winters from Mexico south to Nicaragua, and from southern Florida south through the West Indies.

The first record of NP in Britain was as recent as 44 years ago on Tresco, Isles of Scilly in October 1966 when a man and his wife told a visitor at the same hotel they were staying in of a mystery bird they had seen earlier in the day feeding with Goldcrests, rushing off to the location described to him he eventually caught a glimpse of the bird which instantly solved the mystery and he claimed the bird to be a NP. However, there had been an earlier record of the species than this one, it was of a bird seen and caught on board a ship in September 1962, but this individual died after the ship had docked at Southhampton in Hampshire. 

The NP is unmistakable amongst the American Wood-Warblers and is often regarded as the prettiest of them all, small and multicoloured. This individual is unusual in that most - if not all - previous vagrants to the UK have been in S.W.England and S.Ireland, though one was found dying in Wigan, Lancashire in November 1982.   

You can read about this bird, when, where, and how in the finders article on the RBA website. 

On a personal level....

Stonechat. David Cookson.

I never tire of seeing excellent photographs of any subject in particular those of birds, and certainly would never do of the Stonechat. I'm desperately overdue visiting many upland location favourites of mine to keep tabs on the species, that said, the prospects of birding anywhere for me are not looking good at the moment but I'm doing my best to change that situation. Thanks for the photograph DC, looking forward to seeing you sometime again soon. Also thanks to SP for the NP photograph.  

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Not Much Fun.

Twite. Phil Slade.

I thought I'd made a big mistake this morning, by the time I reached Conder Green it was raining and I spent the first 30 minutes doing one of those staring through the windscreen routines wondering if I should be doing something more useful with my life, but it cleared up and I managed to complete the three hours I had to spare to devote to my birding before having to be back in Lancaster by 3.00pm, though I'd have to  regard today and it's weather as not much fun. I didn't see any Twite like the one in the photograph above but expect to I will somewhere soon. Thanks for the pic Phil.

I didn't get to do the circuit at Conder Green so only half the task achieved today, on the pool I counted 10 Little Grebe, and a Goosander was the only other bird of note, come to think of it was probably the only other bird....full stop! In the creeks the Spotted Redshank obliged as did a Little Egret. The platform overlooking Conder Pool was as far as I got today and I was off to Glasson Dock where a quick check over the canal basin gave me my first Goldeneye this year, 3 Little Grebe were of note on here.

On the Lune Estuary where the tidal and flood water were still covering much of the area 155 Golden Plover, a solitary Bar-tailed Godwit, and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser were all I noted before taking cover from the second of a few showers I had to dodge today.

I decided if I was going to have to go through another sulking period I may as well do it at Cockersands whilst I see if it clears up again which it did for just enough time to estimate 40/35 Greenfinch/Linnet at the set-aside whilst a Snipe went over and a Little Egret was seen on Plover Scar. In one of the Abbey Farm fields I became a dedicated recorder for a while and counted c.750 Lapwing, 125 Redshank, 450 Curlew, a few as yet uncounted Brown Hare are showing in this area again now. Driving down Moss Lane a small raptor seen briefly in flight down a ditch was almost certainly the 'possible' Merlin seen in the area on 18 time I'll nail this bird!

I was out of time....I'm sick of birding against the clock!  

A RBA MEGA alert this morning at 9.40am was of an American Kestrel in Suffolk, south of Felixstowe at Languard NR, but by 12.40pm it had been re-captured as an escaped bird with a metal ring on its leg.