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

Friday, 31 December 2010

The hat-trick.

I scored a hat-trick today, my third day in a row with a pleasant days birding with JB/BT to end a pleasant years birding as is always the case....what would I be without my birding!

Barnacle Geese. John James Audubon.

We first paid a brief visit to Freeman's Pools where a Roe Deer was soon seen, ears pricked and the staring eyes of a creature which hears and sees things a mile away. As noted in my post yesterday the pools remain frozen and deserted. On Aldcliffe Marsh 12 Barnacle Geese seen again with the c.650 Greylag I should have been able to see yesterday but could'nt, along with today's uncounted Canada Geese and surprisingly just 4 Pink-footed Geese.

At Conder Green it was good to find the Spotted Redshank not seen since the big freeze, 5 Little Grebe were all I noted here today which prompts me to point out, if you really need to see a fully comprehensive list of today's sightings then all you need to do is visit HERE to see JB's list, always remembering JB doesn't see all that I see, and I don't see all that JB sees and therefore our records don't fully tally.

At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary c.400 Bar-tailed Godwit were the only birds of note at a pretty void section of the river. On Jeremy Lane, 3 Whooper Swans including a juvenile. On Moss Lane, at least 350 Common Gull were of note. At Cockersands, c.90 Linnet still at/on the set-aside, 5 Black-tailed Godwit and a solitary Grey Plover posed the question....where are all the waders? 

Grey Partridge. Mike Watson

Thanks for the photograph Mike....On Gulf Lane it's always good to see Grey Partridge anywhere as we did here today in two coveys of eight and five. Pilling Marsh produced 3 Little Egrets - the first in many a days birding recently - with just c.120 Pink-footed Geese, and a smart little Merlin distant and looking not much bigger than a Mistle Thrush. At Fluke Hall c.6,500 Pink-footed Geese at close quarters allowed some detailed scrutiny.

BT's car seems to go into auto pilot from here every week and takes us to the feeding station on Bradshaw Lane where - whilst I tried to get to grips with a distant 'dark' raptor and failed to - JB recorded 8 Corn Bunting, 6 Yellowhammer, 30 Tree Sparrows and a Buzzard.

It was good to be out again with JB who surprised me to say it had been a month since he was last out with me....t'will soon be Easter John, and soon after that the summer with endless places to go to and endless birds to see. 

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL BIRDS2BLOG'ERS....Whoever and wherever you are.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

River And Marsh....

....and the old railway line, all excellent habitats for the birds. Today was - as always - enjoyable but routine stuff with a couple of excellent pics to add some nice colour to the post.

Blue Tit. Brian Rafferty 

I decided on the walk from Lancaster to Conder Green via St Georges Quay, Aldcliffe Marsh, and the coastal path which follows the old railway line to Glasson Dock, in the hope something 'unexpected' would be lurking along the way....dream on. Well birding isn't all about finding 'something lurking' and I noted the following birds.

Along the River Lune to Marsh Point I saw just 2 Goldeneye and 8 Goosanders. Freeman's Pools are still frozen and abandoned so I kept to the embankment along Aldcliffe Marsh where 12 Barnacle Geese are still with c.380 Canada Geese, I could count around 370 Greylag around the wildfowlers pool though there were more out of sight and inaccessable. I'd checked several hundred 'gulls' to Marsh Point again today to no avail.

Along the track to Conder Green from Aldcliffe, at least 27 Blackbirds was a much reduced count of 90 on December 17, 6 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Song Thrush, 6 Goldfinch, 3 Great Tit, 2 Wren, 3 Robin, singles of Mistle Thrush, Blue Tit, and a Kestrel. I didn't get to grips with a flock of c.25 'finches' but mainly Goldfinch with Chaffinch. I had little time for Conder Green but did achieve confirmation that the Common Sandpiper survives and is still living here, 7 Little Grebe also seen.  

And finally....

Iceland Gull. Colin Bushell

Another excellent image with a reflection of the juvenile Iceland Gull which has taken a liking to - and stayed at - the docks at Preston. Thanks for the pics BR/CB. Sharing them and going round the world on your blogs and mine....Great stuff!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Bird of the Day.

Out at last to find the bird of the day - perhaps year - and a couple of below average pics one of which is....

....this one of the Lune Estuary at Cockersands, showing a distant Crook Farm on the right across the river from Sunderland Point slightly obscured in the light mist.

But I started at Conder Green where - to my somewhat amazement - I found a smart little male Stonechat which put thoughts through my mind like 'where the bloody hell have you been mate' and 'how the bloody hell did you survive the big freeze'. Also on the traditional circuit - where almost the entire wader population seems to have disappeared - 3 Little Grebe, a drake Goldeneye had found its way almost to the A588 road bridge, and probably up to 100 Teal in the creeks, Conder Pool remains frozen over and deserted. A couple of Redwing and a 'few' Blackbirds - seen everywhere again today - a Sparrowhawk changed the bird scene in an instant, and c.550 Pink-footed Geese > south, another c.160 PFG were on Colloway Marsh seen from Glasson Dock where I saw just 5 Goldeneye on the Lune Estuary, 2 Little Grebe and a Grey Plover to note, otherwise the area was almost unbelievably void of waders. On the canal basin, at least 150 Tufted Duck and 11 Pochard all drakes save one female were all in the 20% ice free area around the marina. From Bodie Hill, 15 Goldeneye and 5 Black-tailed Godwit noted. On Jeremy Lane 2 Reed Bunting, and on Moss Lane a 'few Fieldfare and 2 Redwing seen from a moving car.

At Cockersands I did the circuit which was a bit 'bare' for the main part, but at least 90 Linnet were at/in the set-aside - with 55 of them in the moderate pic above - a Song Thrush and Dunnock were the sum total of small birds, and 14 Redshank had found some easy pickings in an inland field. In the Cocker Channel, c.2,600 Wigeon, c.380 Mallard, 2 Pintail drakes, a 'few' Teal. At the lighthouse end, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and single Bar-tailed Godwit, and the 'customary' Grey Plover.

And to end with....The 'joke' in my Christmas cracker  - as it happens quite appropriate for me - was so incredibly unfunny it must be published here....Why do birds fly south in the winter....Because it's too far to walk. 

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Shorelark.

Perhaps you'd like to take a look the video first.

I noted a record yesterday which has prompted a few brief notes about the Shore Lark - another rare bird in our area and well beyond - and was of nineteen birds at Dingle Marshes in Suffolk. This number of the species strikes me as exceptional as the birds are not recorded as a 'flocking' bird in this country and at best are usually only seen in single figures. The Shore Lark (SL) is a scarce visitor from Fennoscandia of which there is a ninety year old record of a bird at Ainsdale in December 1920, after which there was no published records of SL for forty three years until another bird reported on the shore at Fairhaven in December 1963.

The SL is remarkably rare anywhere in our area to the north of Blackpool, but single birds at Carnforth slag tips in January 1968, February 1975, April 1997, and November 1998 are the only records. Two more records of interest are of inland birds with one at Stocks Reservoir in February 1987, one on Pendle Hill in December 1990, with another one there in October 1994.

All British records are believed to be of breeders across Eurasia from S.Norway to Lake Baikal, though they have been known to summer on mountain tops in Scotland where they are also known to have bred in the past, and a fledged juvenile in 2003 was the first confirmed breeding since 1977.

It strikes me I should be taking a look in on the slag tips at Carnforth....we may be missing some excellent SL records in our area.

And finally....

Black Kite. Phillip Tomkinson

An excellent image of the impressive Black Kite with thanks to Phillip. I have a new monitor which I've had little time to install properly, as a result these pictures may be burning your eyes out as they are mine, if they are then you now know why until I get to do some adjustments.

You will have gathered I've not got out birding yet and this has now gone beyond the serious, I almost dare not suggest....maybe tomorrow.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Sneaking off again!

Another sneak to 'the office' again this evening - I think the family visits may be coming to an end today - and hopefully another sneak off to get some birding in tomorrow though no bets or guarantees on that one I'm afraid. 

So another opportunity to post a couple - three actually - more excellent photographs, this time from BR who has recently had a close encounter and excellent views of this stunning Fox which gave him the chance to achieve some equally stunning and excellent pictures of the creature.

Fox. Credit as above.

Wildlife is out there for us all to find and see, all we have to do is get out there and search and if results like these don't inspire us to do so probably nothing will. Many thanks for allowing me to share these photographs on Birds2blog, much appreciated Brian.

OK its supposed to be a birding blog so....

Marsh Tit. Gary Jones
Sorry to keep on being so repetitive but, another excellent photograph, this of the Marsh Tit which appears to have bitten off more than it can chew but I'm sure it dealt with the problem eventually. And here's another repeat....please take a look at BR and GJ's website as there are always some good pictures and reading to be had on both I can assure you.

Like I said at the top of the page, hopefully in with a chance of some birding tomorrow in which case the blog will resemble more of a birding blog that it has done of late....I'll probably regret all I just said.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The River Wyre.... Abbeysead.

River Wyre. Peter Guy.

I managed to sneak out of the room for a while to give Birds2blog the kiss of life and to post a couple of photographs which I found in my 'inbox' to help it along the road to recovery. Many thanks PG, these pictures have several reasons for me to be pleased to see them and here are a couple of them....

In the first place it doesn't seem all that long ago I was visiting this area, how time flies, and secondly I was mainly visiting because not one but two pairs of Pied Flycatchers were found to be nesting here this year and something which made this all the more special was the fact they were both nesting in natural tree holes, always more rewarding than finding them in a man made home to raise their young in.

River Wyre. Peter Guy.

Both these photographs are taken within a stones throw from both the PF's nests, and if you're reading this JB - and I know you are - although these pictures here won't encourage you to think so because they'll make you feel it's a long way off, but just remember, once we get the other side of next weekend it'll soon be Easter, and once we get the other side of that, it'll soon be spring and I know very well like me can't wait!


Friday, 24 December 2010

After The Break!

If you've been following Birds2blog during 2010 - either on occasions or even daily - I'd like to thank you very much, your interest and support is much appreciated and I hope you found something of interest from time to time. Whether or not I can maintain the blog - and it survives another year - remains to be seen.


Some delayed records from yesterday - Friday 23 December - when I ran out of 'blogging' time but had the opportunity to get out birding after a six day unavoidable and unplanned break.

High Tide Roosters. Pete Woodruff.

Apart from the snow giving the show away these four Turnstones and a Lapwing could have been photographed roosting at high tide at any time of the year, but they looked a little forlorn and you couldn't help feel they were probably feeling hungry too. There was some pretty worrying sights today with birds obviously on the hunt for food and sitting around sometimes in places you wouldn't expect to see them - and you can approach them too - in particular the Lapwings sat in fields looking like they were lost in a sea of ice and snow. Sorry for the drama....just seeing things realistically.

With BT - JB had wisely decided to give it a miss today - we first went to Conder Green where I noted a fair number of small birds flitting from bush to bush searching for food, in particular Blackbirds of which the day produced them 'around every corner', Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, c.12 Fieldfare, and a single Redwing. Birds noted in the Conder channels, up to 200 Wigeon, 4 Little Grebe, a drake Shoveler was very unusual here, and 48 Mute Swans, c.120 Pink-footed Geese (PFG) > south.

On the canal basin at Glasson Dock c.150 Tufted Duck and 4 Pochard drake were in a large ice free area with the uncounted Coots around the boats in the marina. On the Lune Estuary, at least 120 Goldeneye, a drake Eider and Red-breasted Merganser were also noted, otherwise the tide had taken over the area. On Jeremy Lane, 16 Whooper Swans and c.3,000 PFG. On the length of Moss Lane, probably around 100 Fieldfare seen. And at Cockersands, 22 Turnstone and 3 Grey Plover were close by the car park as in the pic above, otherwise....high tide. At the set-aside just c.30 Linnet, also noted was a Kestrel, and along the way to and from here 11 Brown Hare.

Driving away from Cockersands.... was looking a little angry as we drove by the snowy landscape looking across to Abbey Farm.

In a field SW of Cockerham we stopped to estimate another c.5,000 PFG in a field along with another Brown Hare. Off Gulf Lane, c.70 Fieldfare, a Buzzard, and yet another c.1,500 PFG. On Pilling Marsh I counted the 'swans' as they flew off towards Fluke Hall Lane where - when we arrived there - the combined total was at least 200 Whooper Swans.

Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty 

During the visit to Cockersands I had excellent views of a Barn Owl, seen last week by JB/BT in my absence. At Fluke Hall I had the good fortune to see and have a conversation with a man who knows a thing or two about these brilliant creatures which I was told had a good breeding season in 2010 in the Rawcliffe and surrounding area, the figures he gave me were exciting to say the least, he also told me that he knew about the one at Cockersands.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Barnacle Goose....

....and two ducks.

This winter has been exceptional for Barnacle Geese in our recording area, I've personally seen 54, with 23 on Pilling Marsh, 7 of Fluke Hall Lane, 8 flying south at Cockersands, and 16 on Aldcliffe Marsh just a few days ago and which have been present here since Thursday 18 November. Void of searching my records I'd say this number of 54 exceeds all my previous sightings of Barnacle Geese over my entire birding years in this area by something like fifty. 

Barnacle Geese. Phillip Tomkinson

There are very few records of any UK ringed birds in America, but at the end of November the first British ringed Barnacle Goose was reported at Orchard Beach in New York 5,204km from where it was ringed in 2002 on Islay, an island in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. Barnacle Geese are in any case rare in North America so this is certainly a bird to qualify as 'MEGA'. This individual was frequently seen on Islay since it was ringed - along with one of its parents and a sibling - until it disappeared in 2005, the other two are still seen around Islay.

Interesting stuff, and the bird has now moved 50 miles north east of Orchard Beach to Stratford, Conneticut where the bad news is that the bird has an injury to its left leg. If I hear more about this bird It'll get a mention on this space! 

And finally....

'Two Ducks' Colin Bushell

The first winter drake Scaup at the top, and the Red-crested Pochard below were see at Southport Marine Lakes in November by Colin. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Eclipse Part 2

Couldn't resist this piece of fascinating video.

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

A Bunting and a Finch!

Reed Bunting. Phil Slade

I noted a record of 35 Reed Buntings (RB) on the LDBWS  website this week and - void of any research - thought it sounded quite exceptional in our area for so many of this species to be seen at one sighting.

In 2009 a January survey recorded just nine RB's in three coastal squares, and outside our area in the same year at three well watched sites on the Fylde only one months peak out of thirty six counts exceeded this number of thirty five at Foulshaw on the Lancashire/Cumbria border.

The Lancashire and North Merseyside breeding population of RB is estimated at 2,000 pairs, a mere 1% of the UK total which had suffered an in excess of 50% decline in the twenty years between 1970's - 1990's but had recovered by 30% between 1994 - 2005, though the RB in Lancashire has shown no conclusive evidence of a recent recovery.

A small portion of a highly migratory population in Scandinavia visit Britain on passage and a first winter bird controlled at Mere Sands Wood in March 1999 had been ringed as a juvenile in Norway almost 800km away indicates that some of our wintering RB's are of Scandinavian origin.

The RB is yet another species that will suffer if the harsh weather - which has returned after an earlier period of sub-zero temperatures  - continues, this and other bird species are facing population crashes unless the freeze relents soon.

And the 'finch'....

Bullfinch. Gary Jones

As with the Reed Bunting the Bullfinch is a fairly common bird, but both are regarded to be declining breeder's in our area, Red List and Amber List respectfully. Thanks to PS/GJ for the photographs, please take a look at their respective websites for some interesting birding/ringing/photography/and - in the case of GJ - mountaineering. 

A pause for thought....

In the early afternoon today I watched a Lapwing from our kitchen window flying NW > SE, something I would  generally ignore as we all do, but this time I took particular note and pondered....why was this 'wader' alone in flight over Bowerham in Lancaster?....why in this direction?....where had it come from?....where was it going?....and why? 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Birding and blogging virtually non existent today unfortunately - totally so in the former - and this is becoming too much, but I'm afraid I may have to get used to it. Meanwhile....

....take a look at this Lunar Eclipse from Shetland

Starlings. Mike Watson

Well I couldn't do a post - not even a 'shortie' like this - without a picture, and this one of the Starlings I think is brilliant both in subject and photographically....Thanks Mike, much appreciated.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Those 'Other Things' Again!

Several 'other things' - not least the weather - all played their part in the prevention of any birding again today bringing about another one of those 'gap fillers' to Birds2blog. Some reckon non-birding days are not the end of the world....shows what some people think they know dunnit!

Blackbird. Phil Slade

An excellent photograph of the partial albino Blackbird which I found on Phil's blog prompting to remind me that I found 90 Blackbirds on Thursday 7 December on a birding walk from Lancaster to Glasson Dock, I reckon several more will have been missed and the true number was certainly into three figures. No doubt the harsh weather added to the winter visitor numbers mainly from Scandinavia.

Song Thrush. Phil Slade    

The Blackbird is a species at least five times as abundant as the Song Thrush in Britain and is one of our most widespread birds, its status varies slightly from area to area in this country between 'very common' to 'abundant', whilst the Song Thrush - which breeds across much of Eurasia -  is on the 'Red List' and in serious decline in the UK, especially on farmland where agricultural practices are - as ever - responsible.

And finally....

3 Leaf Ice Circles. Richard Shilling

3 Leaf Ice Circles. Richard Shilling

At the beginning of the month RS created this impressive piece of Landart, but hes 'done' more since then and whether or not you've seen Richards 'Landart' before you should treat yourself to a look at his website for more amazing creations of won't be disappointed.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Barn Owl.

Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty

Well we've seen Barn Owls on Birds2blog before and BR has photographed them many times before too, but perhaps not in such superb evening light as he did this bird recently and you can never tire of seeing excellent photographs of the Barn Owl can you, in any case there's good reason to want to highlight a picture of one this time and I think it is interesting to write up a few facts about this stunning bird.

It's difficult to image - and indeed believe - that in 1932 a survey of the Barn Owl (BO) was carried out resulting in the truly remarkable record of a population of 12,000 pairs in England and Wales alone....I'll just repeat that figure....12,000 pairs. Historically the most common 'owl' in Britain and more remarkable is the fact that even this figure in 1932 was regarded as a decline over the hundred years since the middle of the 19th century.

Only a few years on from this 1932 record, Oakes reported the BO in the Fylde as 'nesting at every farmstead' - even today the Fylde could be regarded as retaining a healthy population of BO's, in the main with thanks to a dedicate few along with co-operation of farmers - but a long term decline began and was attributed to the use of pesticides and changes in agricultural practices that reduced the number of rodent populations. Today in almost all areas the general 'tidying up' of the countryside including the removal of old barns has seen the BO slowly disappearing from the very same areas where there once was the abundance of the species in the survey of 1932, it is also worth a note that the volume of road traffic has steadily increased over the years resulting in higher figures in road casualties as a contribution to the decline.

Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty

In the past couple of days the 'ice age' has returned and the number of reports of BO's being found dead - with the weather being the factor as the cause - stands at in excess of 30 birds unable to hunt and find any small mammals due to snow cover and the freezing conditions. Today - as a single example - the temperature hasn't climbed above freezing during daylight hours, and tonight it will plummet to well below freezing and the birds will once again be suffering at the hands of nature and the weather it throws up at times like this. Sad to end on a note of gloom but these conditions are making life hard for wildlife and lots of bird species are facing starvation unless this weather relents....and quickly. 

Friday, 17 December 2010

Keep Moving!

Are you sitting comfortable, then we'll begin....

Versicoloured Barbet. Colin Bushell

....with the bird with a fancy name which CB photographed on his last trip to Peru recently, another bird you'd be well advised not to hold your breath whilst it finds itself lost in the UK.

One thing I certainly was never going to do today was to stand around counting waders whilst seeing if there was anything with them that shouldn't be. So if I was going to do some birding I'd have to keep moving to keep warm on a decent day, but with a wind that had nothing about it at all to call friendly.

Blackbird. Tim Crossley.

So it was foot soldiering from Skerton Bridge to Glasson Dock which - as always with birding - had it's surprises and rewards not least of which was, over the length of the walk I counted 90 Blackbirds and no doubt missed several more, so certainly in excess of 100 of the species on this route of c.6 miles. What a coinsidence you sent me this brilliant pic of the female Blackbird yesterday Tim, never knowing I was going to find this number the following day....nice one.

On the River Lune to Aldcliffe I noted 10 Goosander, a Little Grebe, and a single Goldeneye, and grilled several hunderd 'gulls' to no avail. On Aldcliffe Marsh 16 Barnacle Geese were distant, as were c.120 Greylag, a much reduced number from 650 seen here on two previous visits recently, c.320 Canada Geese and a Little Egret, c.250 Pink-footed Geese were in a field behind Aldcliffe village, and I counted 35 Moorhens in one group around the wildfowlers pool, c.45 Fieldfare and a 'few' Redwing seen. Of note between Aldcliffe and Conder Green, 6 Song Thrush, 6 Robin, 2 Wren, a Meadow Pipit, Mistle ThrushReed Bunting, Dunnock, 6 Grey Heron, and a Sparrowhawk whizzed past over the marsh.  

I had little time to spare at Conder Green today which was unfortunate as I'm overdue a good search of the area, but noted from the railway bridge, 2 Little Grebe, 4 Snipe, and a Grey Plover, 12 Fieldfare and a 'few more' Redwing, and another Sparrowhawk. The canal basin at Glasson Dock is now 50% ice free and up to 100 Tufted Duck have returned as have a similar number of Coot with a single Goldeneye of note with another 10 Goldeneye on the Lune Estuary.

And finally....

Fallow Deer. Brian Rafferty

By way of a diversion from the birds, a brilliant close encounter with the Fallow Deer. Thanks to CB/TC/BR once again for the pics....what would Birds2blog be without such excellent and varied photographs. 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Shoplifter....

....and a couple of other bits.

We all know some birds are known to be what are referred to as wire hoppers, plastic and such like names meaning they are not to be taken serious and are often escapees from collections, zoos and the likes. But this Herring Gull is definitely wild and appears to have mastered the art of shoplifting....This is really something else....  

Robin. Phil Slade

The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow so what shall the Robin do then poor thing, he'll hide in a barn to keep himself warm and put his head under his wing, poor thing. I remember this from my childhood days of a 'few' years ago. The weather is forecast to return to the ice age once again, and the Robin won't be the only bird seeking food and shelter, not good times for the birds and other wildlife.

Ingleborough. Peter Guy.   

I can't resist this one any longer, though I have a niggle it's been here before....but who cares. If you're a fan of Sunday evenings Countryfile on BBC 1 you'll have seen - and maybe bought - the calendar which is the result of a photographic competition in which it's no secret that Peter Guy had the good fortune to have been selected as one of the many sidebar photographs. Peters picture appears in the month of December and in my view is a worthy choice for inclusion in this excellent calendar. Thanks for this Peter and congratulations on your successful entry.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!....and live in hope for tomorrow.  

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Oh no....not Waxwings again!

This link shows us an interesting table of the movements of Waxwings ringed in the Northern Isles....It's all over in the Northern Isles 

Meanwhile, I've been sidelined once again from my birding life by 'other things', something I expect will take over me for probably three weeks now until we get rid of this Christmas/New Year holiday....roll on Easter. That said, tomorrow and/or Friday are looking good as I write, but I know more than one person who may well want me to dispel that idea.

So we'd better take a look at four more excellent photographs like....

Blue Tit. Gary Jones

This brilliant image of the Blue Tit, and....

Goldfinch. Gary Jones  

The Goldfinch from Gary who's website I recommend if you'd like to see some stunning and dramatic photography of a day he spent recently on the mountains of the Lake District, a must see....please go there from the links below his photographs.

Twite. Ken Hindmarch.

A nice picture of the equally nice Twite....Thanks for this Ken, much appreciated.

Purple Sandpiper. Brian Rafferty

And the excellent image of one of only four Purple Sandpipers inside or outside our area that I'm aware of at the moment, 'rare' in our area with three birds in 2009, and 'scarce' in Lancashire with just four birds in 2009 which included the three in our recording area at Heysham. These four birds are drifters from the estimated 17,500 Purple Sandpipers that winter in Britain which are overwhelmingly to be found in the Northern Isles, Outer Hebrides, eastern Scotland, and north-east England.

Thanks again collectively to GJ/KH/BR for these excellent photographs.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Vikings with rings!

Waxwing. Kenneth Hindmarch.

I'm grateful to Ken for allowing me to post this photograph of the ringed Waxwing. I'm also grateful for the information Ken has forwarded to me of some results from the winter influx of Waxwing in 2008/9 and an even more interesting one from a bird ringed in 2005. I have also been given permission to post a few details for our interest on Birds2blog.

YRW was ringed at Bridge of Don, Scotland on 9 November 2008 and found 12 days later on 21 November in Barrow, Cumbria.

OLO and BGB were also both ringed as YRW above, OLO was found on 6 January 2009 in Essex, and BGB was found in County Dublin, Ireland and was one of two colour-ringed birds to cross the Irish sea this winter.

BB and RW were both ringed at Allenvale, Scotland on 11 November 2008, BB was found at Skipton in N.Yorkshire on 5 December, and RW was found in Derbyshire on 4 February, then in N.Lincolnshire on 14 April.

OWG was ringed in Dyce, Scotland on 13 November 2008 and found in Nottingham on 29 December. 

WLR was ringed in Aberdeen on 22 November 2008 and found 17 days later at Dalston, Cumbria on 9 December.

Since the last week in October thousands of Waxwings have arrived and spread across many parts of Britain, this appears to be an earlier and much larger invasion than that of 2008 and very similar to the invasion of 2004 when a bird was ringed in Aberdeen, Scotland in March 2005, this bird was found the following winter in February 2006 at a site named Alyabevskiy, Sovetskiy, in the county of Khanty-Mansi in Russia.

If you think I've made any errors in this data I'd be much obliged if you would point them out to me. 

Monday, 13 December 2010

One million....and two!

I found two Brambling today....nothing compared to this estimated 1,000,000 in Basque country, Northern Spain....seeing is believing....turn the volume up!

I also managed a half decent pic of one of my birds but not until I'd done a circuit of Conder Green which achieved little save a Woodcock which escaped me in the split second I had it in view before I could get a 'positive' on the bird which is noted as 'an almost certain', 4 Little Grebe were alongside a drake Goosander in the creeks, as was a Grey Plover, 12 Chaffinch were noted on the coastal path. Conder Pool remains surprisingly almost frozen save a Mute Swan in an area not much bigger than itself.   

The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock looked brilliant in the light, but nothing brilliant about the bird scene unfortunately with just c.60 Bar-tailed Godwit, 22 Goldeneye,and 3 Little Grebe to note....disappointing being it was at low tide. On Moss Lane an impressive 250 Fieldfare at least were on the masses of berry trees this year.

At Cockersands I noted no more than 15 Linnet as I drove past the set-aside and had no time to check more closely today, a single Eider and Goldeneye were by the lighthouse and another impressive number, this one was of up to 300 Pintail though difficult to get to grips with accurately because of the distance away on the low tide, and the usual unobliging mix with a similar number of Wigeon, also 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Great-crested Grebe, just 2 Grey Plover today were the only shorebirds of note. At the Caravan Park end 2 Brambling were with 9 Greenfinch, and the Banks Houses Little Owl was in the paddock bushes again sunning itself.   

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Birds of America.

Goldeneye. Brian Rafferty

Thanks to BR for the image of the Goldeneye of which I estimated at least 80 on the River Lune at Glasson Dock last Thursday.

There was a rare chance to own one of the best preserved editions of a 19th century masterpiece in the shape of John James Audubon's Birds of America at Sotheby's the other day, with its 400 plus pages of hand-coloured illustrations. Birdlife Partner in the USA 'The National Audubon Society' are named after the books artist, the society is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife, and the habitat that supports them.

The plates printed in black and white were hand-coloured afterwards, they were made from engravings of Audubon's watercolours. The book measures more than 90cm x 60cm - I prefer 3ft x 2ft - because he wanted to print the birds life size. A fiery enthusiasm amongst four collectors bidding in the room and on telephones soon drove the price well beyond pre-sale expectations and the book was finally bought by a London dealer who - after the sale - described the work as priceless.

A director at Sotheby's said 'the book deserved the extraordinary price it achieved' adding 'It is a remarkable work, both in terms of its scale and of the dedication that went into producing it. To have handled such rare and splendid volumes has been a privilege and a joy'.

Today one in eight bird species are currently threatened with global extinction, and at least 33 bird species would have gone extinct in the last century including 16 during the last 15 years alone, without dedicated conservation actions of organisations the likes of Birdlife and The National Audubon Society.

Well - if like me - you may be wondering whether or not these people with such vast amounts of money ever actually focus their wealth on conservation action as well, so future generations don't just have to look at dusty old books....maybe they do. 

Oh by the way....the world's most expensive books final bid amounted to a staggering £7,321,250

And finally....

Red-breasted Merganser. Brian Rafferty

Another thanks to BR for an excellent action shot which I hope he won't mind my adding the caption 'Coming in to land'.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!....hopefully a little tomorrow.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Grey Plover.

Grey Plover. Pete Woodruff.

Well its my pic of the Grey Plover (GP) so it was never going to be the best one in the world, but search as I may, could I find a pic I was permitted to use of the But this individual is one of maybe up to three maximum each winter at Conder Green and is my own evidence - in line with that of studies - that GP's use the same feeding areas from tide to tide, and from year to year.

The GP breeds in the high Arctic regions of Russia and North America and migrates to winter in areas throughout much of the world which makes the bird one of the most widespread of all species of waders, and the coasts of Britain provide the most northerly wintering areas in the world for this species.

The GP occurs in Britain both as passage migrants and winter visitors all of which are from the Russian breeding populations. Away from its breeding grounds the species is almost entirely confined to the coasts and - as indicated above - moves into its same wintering areas year on year, and feeds in the same areas tide on tide. Numbers of wintering GP's in Britain increased significantly, rising from under 10,000 in 1970 to 43,000 twenty years later in 1990, another twenty years on and today this figure stands at an estimated 52,000. However, warmer winters on the European side of the North Sea make it possible that the decline in the wintering populations in Britain are due to a reduced need for birds to leave rich feeding grounds, and  there is direct evidence that wintering numbers in the Netherlands have increased steadily in recent years.

In our own area the GP is uncommon, and 2009 was regarded as 'another poor year' and only five counts achieved a number between 35-55 and peak WeBS counts were 720 in September and 767 in October (LDBWS Annual Report). But counts in Morecambe Bay were unspectacular in any season and both winter and passage numbers are continuing on the decline. 

I was prompted to do these brief notes on the GP because of my sighting of 22 birds at Cockersands on Thursday, a number I never recorded here before despite regular visits all year round and - in the case of this bird - particularly in winter where my maximum numbers have never reached a double figure before but interestingly - as with Conder Green - does so annually in ones and twos.

Birds....they fascinate me in a thousand ways!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Signs of the times.

Lapwing. Phil Slade.

There were some signs that the weather was playing its part in some of the bird-life I observed today, the inland Lapwings looked more inclined to be able to feed a little better than of late....

Snipe. Phil Slade

....whilst the Snipe were more inclined to be out in the open than is usual. Thanks to PS for both these photographs, please take a look at Phil's website for more pics/birding/ringing accounts. Time seemed to run away with me somehow today but I managed the Conder/Cockersands circuits and a look in on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock though I unavoidably mis-timed it and the tide had almost taken over the area.   

At Conder Green 2 Greenshank and a Spotted Redshank put in an appearance along with 2 Grey Plover, 5 Snipe, and 2 Little Grebe. In the channel downstream from the railway bridge c.125 Teal and 65 Wigeon, 2 Skylark were on the marsh, and 4 Reed Bunting were seen from the coastal path. At Glasson Dock just prior to the tide pushing them off, c.350 Bar-tailed Godwit, 11 Black-tailed Godwit, and c.120 Dunlin, at least 80 Goldeneye are living up to retaining last years record numbers here. On Jeremy Lane the Little Owl was again on the roof of the old farm building.

I was off to Cockersands to collect a first record here with what I assumed to be a cold weather movement of 22 Grey Plover, this is my first ever double figure of this species at Cockersands, based on my observations you just don't get double figure numbers of these wintering birds here, another excellent record today was at least 80 Turnstone, actually only 28 birds less than the entire WeBS count for the month of December in 2009, 25 Knot, c.600 Oystercatcher, 3 Eider, 8 Red-breasted Merganser, and - as Monday - a Rock Pipit again. On the return via the road and some nooks and crannies, 2 Meadow Pipit, c.25 Fieldfare in a distant field, a single Redwing - I've seen just three so far this year all single birds - a Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Kestrel, and 3 Wren one of which took me by surprise foraging on a large washed up tree trunk on the shingle, my first Wren to become a shorebird. The set-aside 'finches' made life easier today being an easy count of 55 Linnets, quite interesting how numbers/species have varied since they first took up here.

And finally....

Fallow Deer. Gary Jones

The Fallow Deer in Dallam Park, Milnthorpe. If you'd like to see Fallow Deer and you're in easy reach of Dallam Park, then this is the place to go. Thanks for the pic Gary.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Now some good news....

Pheasant. Warren Baker

I was pleased to see the good news that the BASC have called for restraint on the shooting of wildfowl, geese, and waders during this severe cold weather we are suffering at the moment, though in 5 days time it will become illegal to shoot at all. I'd like to point out that as a birder with a moral responsibility towards the welfare of all wildlife I shall report any shooting activities I witness - as you can too using a contact form on the BASC Website - until this weather improves and the subsequent ban is lifted. I'm not sure the poor Pheasant will be protected by all this. I'm damned if I know off hand what a 'pure' Pheasant should look like but thanks to Warren for the excellent 'mug shot' of the bird above.

As expected I got no birding done today but I live in hope for tomorrow. Meanwhile another opportunity to look at a couple more excellent photographs like....

Black Redstart. Phil Slade

This one from Phil taken on his recent trip to places exotic. And this one....

Crimson-mantled Woodpecker. Colin Bushell.

Of the Crimson-mantled Woodpecker taken by Colin on his recent trip to places exotic. Unlike the Black Redstart Phil photographed which you can find in this country, I wouldn't be inclined to hold your breath until you see this 'woodpecker' here in the UK.



Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Now the bad news....

The bad news for me is....I'll get no birding done today or probably tomorrow, nor will I get any blogging done today save this short piece. This evening we attend a much looked forward to concert in Liverpool....'Human League'....thats if the roads/weather allow us to get there, so fingers crossed as it doesn't look too bad at the moment.


Sparrowhawk. David Cookson

An excellent image of the Sparrowhawk....thanks David.

Brambling. Colin Bushell.

Another excellent image, this one of the Brambling which is a 'finch' sometimes known as the Cock 'o the North, seen by Colin at Hesketh Out Marsh yesterday.

The Brambling has curiously been trailing behind its Scandinavian relative the Waxwing - here in their thousands - for some strange reason, but looks like it has arrived in numbers now with 1,000 in Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria in the past few days and other records now beginning to filter through....Thanks for this Colin.


Monday, 6 December 2010

More Pics Than Birds!

Well not quite more pics than birds but some excellent photo opportunities today - I don't get too involved anymore these days - especially with the hoar frost holding all day long.

High tide at Conder Green looking towards the Stork Hotel on a brilliant but freezing cold day, Conder Pool  of course was a solid white mass.

And again looking towards the old railway bridge....

....and yet again looking towards Glasson Dock.

In truth I shouldn't have been birding at all today and barely had the time to look in at Cockersands and - to save myself from a death by freezing - walked along the headland from the lighthouse to Cockersands Caravan Park and return. It was almost impossible to stand around assessing and counting birds, not that there was many birds to assess and count, though quite a few Lapwings in particular were stood around in fields giving cause for concern for their well-being and heading for starvation if this continues.

I did get the best count I ever had at Cockersands of 9 Grey Plover, thats not suppose to be a sarcastic comment either and I've yet to see a double figure of the species here. Also noted, at least 38 Turnstone difficult to see foraging amongst the shingle/stones, c.55 Dunlin flew SW past the lighthouse, and 74 Pink-footed Geese flew over going south, there was only around 85 Oystercatchers on Plover Scar, and the best bird of the day was the Rock Pipit, a species no more than uncommon and certainly a bird you're not likely to encounter on every coastal visit in our area. Not the day for trying to get an accurate ratio on the set-aside 'finches' but c.45 Greenfinch/Linnet got away with it - if only this time - when a Sparrowhawk - which didn't like the look of my car - flew off in the opposite direction from them having been perched close by checking out which one to go for.

Looking across the River Lune Estuary towards Overton and Bazil Point from Bodie Hill.