Birding The Lune Estuary The Forest Of Bowland And Beyond.............................................................................................................HIGH BROWN FRITILLARY STEVE GRAHAM

Monday, 31 January 2011

Every Little Helps!

Tufted Duck. Phil Slade

Managed the Monday four hour - every little helps - slot today and started at Cockersands where the female Stonechat was feeding merrily at the Caravan Park end. At the set-aside the number of 'finches' has increased once again and reached up to 120 Linnet today, off Crook Cottage at least 180 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, c.130 Dunlin and solitary Grey Plover. A Red-breasted Merganser and 6 Eider were off Plover Scar. On Jeremy Lane the immature Whooper Swan was in a field with 52 Mute Swans.

The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock was remarkably quiet but as proof I checked it out I noted c.120 Dunlin and 200 Wigeon, a drake Goosander, 2 Goldeneye, and a Little Grebe. On the canal basin I noted 9 Goldeneye, 2 Pochard drakes, and a Little Grebe. I did'nt count the Tufted Duck on here today but PS took the excellent photograph above of them recently and you can see many more good pics like this one plus some ringing and birding notes HERE

At Conder Green the Common Sandpiper showed me that you really need to look for this bird, today it was in the channel by the right hand bend at the Caravan Park, 2 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, and Little Grebe were all in the creeks, the only bird of note on the pool was a Goldeneye, and the only one of note on a circuit walk was a smart male Reed Bunting beginning to look like it was spring.

From a good source today I learn about a dead Barn Owl at Cockersands recently - whatever recently meant, I forgot to question - taken for analysis apparently. Yesterday I found c.55 Redwing in trees by fields called Quay Meadows - well I think it is - behind St Geores Quay in Lancaster, can't recall my last 'good flock' of this species and not a regular event in any number in my records.

And finally....

Red-necked Grebe. Brian Rafferty

Another of BR's 'pics with a difference' and the bird is one with a difference too in that it is heading towards the longest staying Red-necked Grebe in the area with only a few of them ever having stayed more than two weeks though one inland bird holds the record of just over 11 weeks in 1988.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Always on the learn!

I'm always up for learning, have a lot of it to do, and certainly found a new word when I noted a very interesting one attached to the image below of  Beech leaves in winter. I reckon some of you may also be about to learn something here too. Thanks for this Linda....interesting and taught me something new. 

The foliage on this Beech tree is characteristic of a tree which retains its leaves during the winter period and which fall from the branch only when new growth comes in the spring. Oak and Chestnut trees are two other examples which present this state, though climatic conditions such as frost and wind can change this when leaves may drop in winter. And the description of this condition of winter leaves on trees is....Marcescence.

OK hold your hand up if you didn't already know that and don't be so macho! 

Stonechat. John Bateman.

An excellent pic of our nice little winter friend at Cockersands seen by JB again last Friday and remaining here as one of a very few to be currently found anywhere in our area and far beyond. Thanks for this John....Crested Stonechat Eh!

Whooper Swan. Brian Rafferty

A Whooper Swan pic with a difference. This is what I like BR, pics with a difference with many thanks.

I hope to do a 'little' birding tomorrow with luck.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Persecution is the word.

Snow Bunting. Copyright Granted.

But first an excellent photograph of the Snow Bunting which put in appearance at Cockersands on Thursday - whilst I was flogging 'a dead horse' on the Bowland uplands - I was forwarded a few pics of the bird for which I am truly grateful.

Having spent five hours on Thursday in the glorious - not strictly speaking on this particular occasion - Forest of Bowland, I was as always on visits to this outstanding area of natural beauty, inclined to have the magnificent Hen Harrier (HH)  in the back of my mind. If you find yourself in an elevated position in the Forest of Bowland overlooking a panoramic view you get the true value of how vast this place really is, a place which has enough habitat to hold 300 pairs of this truly wonderful bird, yet in 2010 only 12 pairs of HH bred in England in its entirety seven of which were successful and five of which were on the United Utilities Estate which remains Englands only stronghold for this bird. There are some graphic illustrations to be found which clearly point to this bird of prey with its small population slipping into extinction for the second time, historically the HH was persecuted to extinction across mainland Britain having been a bird formerly widespread in the UK, but its range was restricted through persecution to Orkney and the Outer Hebrides by 1900.

Thursdays sight of at least 12 uniform vehicles in make/model/and colour driving past me in the Trough of Bowland - reasonably obvious returning from a shoot - helped bring home to me just how 'big and powerful' the 'Shooting Industry' really is, the persecution of the HH is linked to land management for driven-grouse shooting and is unquestionably the main reason for the 'missing pairs'. It has to be said, even though birds of prey are now fully protected by law, persecution remains worryingly common and enforcement of these laws protecting our birds of prey are clearly not working.

Scotland appears to currently have a good environment minister who has made moves to hold to account - by fines or imprisonment - those landowners who manage staff who are convicted of killing birds of prey in Scotland. Now that the future of the HH in England hangs in the balance once again, all necessary measures need to be considered to prevent this bird being lost to persecution for ever.

Perhaps our Environment Minister should now follow the suit of Scotland on this one....I'll drop a line off in the post tomorrow!

Are you interested in moths....micro moths? Then you may be interested in THIS   

Thursday, 27 January 2011

This won't take long!

The result of today's exercise - which won't take long to record here - was a forgone conclusion really but I needed the evidence and gave five hours on Harrisend and Hawthornthwaite on the west and east sides to find not a solitary Stonechat. When I got out of the car at Harrisend this morning I had thought I wouldn't need my notebook today....something of an understatement. The uplands of Bowland can be desolate places in winter and I was alone on Harrisend for two hours save 17 Red Grouse and a few 'corvids'.

On the west side of Hawthornthwaite Fell there was at least 300 of the animals in the pic above, and probably another 300 I didn't see, something I'm hoping isn't the case when I go up there come the spring. I noted 12 Red Grouse up here but also got the bonus of 2 Ravens overhead. This wasn't looking good as I'd been on my pins about three hours now and had 'collected' little.

There's little to say about the east side of Hawthornthwaite except it took me almost two hours to find another 12 Red Grouse with another bonus in a Buzzard.

Common Sandpiper. Phil Slade

Conder Green is maintaining it's place on the list as one of the best in the area for some birding and PS saw and photographed the wintering Common Sandpiper which has survived the harsh weather we had recently despite the banks of the River Conder being white with frost for days on end, no doubt it made a few visits to the River Lune in the hunt for food.

Spotted Redshank. Phil Slade

Three Spotted Redshank were also found by PS on his visit yesterday. The Spotted Redshank is a virtual resident now at Conder Green with the exception of a few weeks in the breeding season and you can witness annually the unique transformation of this birds plumage from what you see in the pic above to it's summer coat of black.

Cockersands also lived up to its reputation again today as a 'good birding location' and one of the most reliable in the area for Snow Bunting when one was found here this morning.

Amidst all of today's negativity and a five hour/six mile slog for little reward - but it has to be done and I'm the man to do it - I managed to maintain an essential sense of humour and took a pic of the 'Nice pair of legs' on Harrisend! 

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Forests, Chats....

Snowdrops. Warren Baker

....and some Snowdrops seen yesterday in Kent. Although not opened in this photograph they've beaten any up here in't north as far as I'm aware. Thanks for these Warren a lovely sign that spring is just around the corner.

There are some opinions that the 'fuss' over the government sell off of our forests etc has no substance, but I reckon we should take it all very serious and sign the petition and maybe get involved with protests until this disbelief by some is proved. If you haven't already done so, please take a look at this which brings the whole thing much closer to home Save The Lakeland Forests. 

I was looking through my end of the year notes today and thought I'd transfer a summary of the ones on the Stonechat onto Birds2blog....

Stonechat. Colin Bushell

It doesn't really seem all that long ago that I could find the Stonechat at every location I visited during the year including the winter months, but thats all come to an end now, with two successive harsh winter periods the Stonechat population has taken a battering and I'd suggest causing considerable mortality, in particular with the recent one we just experienced.

Within the UK a majority remain to winter, residing on or near to their breeding territory or making longer movements within the UK. A smaller number migrate to S.Europe and the coastal countries of N.Africa. During milder winters - which we have experienced over something like the 12 years since I took on a keen interest in this smart little 'chat' - the population which stays to winter here has the advantage over the migratory part of the population in that it can commence breeding at an earlier date and make multiple breeding attempts.

Prior to these two harsh consecutive winter periods I would have agreed the speculation that the generally accepted global warming of the climate would allow the sedentary population of the species to increase to such a degree that in the future the European Stonechat would have become entirely resident within the UK. From my experience of observations over a period of more than twelve years at many locations in the North of England, the status of the Stonechat has now been set back to pre 1999 when the bird was something of a scarcity, the possibilities of it becoming entirely resident are as far away as ever now and certainly as far away as the years between 1986-1998 when the breeding population in Bowland reached the dizzy heights of 2 pairs from none between these 12 years.  

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!....hopefully on Thursday when I hope to convince myself that the Stonechat really doesn't exist in January at three upland locations I'd like to check out, the greater hope of course is that I'm completely wrong about that.  

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Med Has It!

Conder Green. Peter Guy.

By way of a change no pics of birds, but a brilliant photograph of Conder Green on a misty Thursday 20 January morning last week  for which I'm truly grateful to PG.

Well, the smart adult Mediterranean Gull on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock gets the 'Bird of the day' award from me on my Mondays four hours against the clock birding - I hate running to a timetable - closely followed by the Spotted Redshank at Conder Green where I also noted 2 Grey Plover, 2 Little Grebe, 15 Wigeon on the marsh here, and a hunting Kestrel. Two Goldeneye were the only notables on Conder Pool. The Lune Estuary also produced 26 Goldeneye with a reduced figure of late c.250 Golden Plover, and a mix of distant c.30 Black/Bar-tailed Godwit. On the canal basin I noted 7 Goldeneye and a drake Pochard.

Off Bodie Hill on Glasson Marsh, c.55 Black-tailed Godwit and 665 Wigeon to note. From Moss Lane c.2,500 Pink-footed Geese. At Cockersands where - running out of time - I paid a token visit and noted 25 Linnet at the set-aside, c.450 Oystercatchers were the guardians of the rapidly submerging Plover Scar underneath an almost 10m tide, with 2 Grey Plover, c.40 Dunlin, and 2 Eider drake by the lighthouse....Come in PW you're time's up! 

 River Hodder at Burholme. Peter Guy.

Well the East Lanc's birders will be more acquainted with this photograph of the River Hodder at Burholme than the North Lanc's birders, with thanks once more to PG.

And finally....I note the Shorelark found at/near the Carnforth slag tips on Saturday has been showing again today and has created some interest it being a rare bird for these parts. I did an article on the species 'The Shorelark' on 28 December which concluded with, 'It strikes me I should be taking a look in on the slag tips at Carnforth....we may be missing some Shorelark records in our area', well I did'nt....'take a look in'.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Brent Goose.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose. Courtesy of Stephen Foster.

On Tuesday I found two Dark-bellied Brent Geese Branta bernicla bernicla  (DBBG/BG), the first one at Knott End and another on Pilling Marsh later in the day. The Knott End bird surprised me for two reasons, firstly this bird was roosting on the beach at Knott End with Shelduck which I found rather odd if only because, like all other scarcer species of geese the BG are often to be found with Pink-footed Geese - as the Pilling Marsh bird was - though the least tied to them because of their more coastal distribution, and secondly, I hadn't realised the BG was actually smaller than the Shelduck....learning something new every day! 

The DBBG breeds on the Arctic coasts of central and western of Siberia, it is a long distance migrant with arguably the most energetically costly migrations of any other waterfowl species. The largest flock ever recorded in Lancashire was of up to 300 birds at Hundred End on the S.Ribble Marshes in late January 1929 with nothing remotely comparable to this record since. This remarkable record can be found in the notes of Clifford Oakes, and there appears to be no real indication that the status of the BG in Lancashire has changed much since the days of Oakes whose assessment of it was that of a 'sporadic visitor', an average of around 25 birds have been seen each winter since 1978/79 though this figure includes several sizable influxes the largest of which came in the winter of 1978/79 when 40 birds were recorded half of which were Pale-bellied Brent Geese Branta bernicla hrota, whereas the influx of 1990/91 involved 50 birds most of which were DBBG.

There is just one record of Black Brant Branta bernicla nigricans found in Lancashire, that of a bird on Pilling Marsh in mid December 1996, it stayed there until at least late February 1997.

And finally....

Brambling. Brian Rafferty

An excellent photograph of the smart Brambling to end the post with a splash of colour....Thanks for this Brian, much appreciated. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

In and out of the soup!

Eagland Hill. Pete Woodruff.

For the first three hours we were in and out of banks of fog some of which came close to 'pea soup' thick and much worse than my pic shows, but it eventually cleared and made into a pleasant if cold day.

With JB/BT we first called in at Conder Green where we didn't move from the lay-by at the pool from where I noted 8 Little Grebe in the creeks, and 6 Wigeon on Conder Pool before we were off to Knott End where the tide was well in and was about to push the birds off the beach, but I noted c.20 Sanderling and 2 Wigeon on the sea which I thought quite unusual here, up to 50 Twite also off the esplanade.

In and around the Eagland Hill area we saw 2 Buzzard. On New Lane I saw at least one Reed Bunting, and a Brambling was with a flock of c.60 Chaffinch. On Bradshaw Lane a solitary Corn Bunting and 2 Stock Dove noted. On Taylors Lane, c.2,500 Pink-footed Geese (PFG). From Fluke Hall I watched 68 Whooper Swans (WS) come off Pilling Marsh flying south, and noted 42 Bar-tailed Godwit on the beach.

On Pilling Marsh I counted another 11 WS and a 'large' number of distant and many hidden PFG, and again saw the Peregrine Falcon perched on the same post as Tuesday. From Gulf Lane another c.20 WS distant inland and in the air, another c.2,500 PFG, a Buzzard, and a Little Egret fishing in a ditch.

I have no idea why, but we then went to Cockersands to spend three minutes at the lighthouse, followed by another three at the Caravan Park end, though the latter location gave us excellent views of the Barn Owl, we saw the Black Swan from Moss Lane which appears to have lost the company of the immature Whooper Swan which I've seen with it on two previous sightings recently.

Sparrowhawk. David Cookson

I have good reason to post the above brilliant image of the male Sparrowhawk....Thanks David. 

I was busy at the time but couldn't help overhearing a conversation on the radio this morning with a so called 'pigeon fancier' who was calling for 'getting rid of Sparrowhawks', this guy I understood to make two claims, firstly the birds are deemed by him as a 'pest' because of their habit of taking out Pigeons, and secondly he claims a policy is in place in Scotland whereby eggs are 'legally' removed from any nests found with the view that control is the way forward here....I think someone needs to have a word in this mans ear, if I knew who he was I would be more than willing to do that. 

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Bay Day.

An excellent decision to give Morecambe Bay along the promenade a good going over on foot from the Stone Jetty to Teal Bay either side of the high tide on what was a nicer sunny winters day you could not have wished for, and a day aesthetically charged though not the 'busiest' of bays in the world bird wise and only ten species got into my note book in the four hours spent here. Be warned I became rather enthusiastic with my little pocket digi camera and the grand total of seven pics follows....and only two are of birds!

Scaup. Scalestones Point.

The 6 Scaup been present here recently were seen east of Broadway where an adult Mediterranean Gull was also found. I didn't pay too much attention to counting waders though there was very few to count, but did note c.250 Dunlin on the groyne at Broadway, 5 Goldeneye were also of note off here.

Pintail. Teal Bay.

At Teal Bay the 6 Pintail in the pic above, and 9 Wigeon seen. I have no idea of the history, but neither of these species are ever seen in number off the promenade at Morecambe. I saw no more than 25 Eider, 12 Great-crested Grebe, and noted just a lone drake Red-breasted Merganser in four hours along the promenade. Bird of the day had to go to the Purple Sandpiper which I picked out of four small waders in flight and which landed on the slipway by the Lifeboat Station at the Stone Jetty. 

I'm never able to appreciate this 'piece' of art, but it - if it has a name I'm not aware of it - is mid-way between Happy Mount Park and Teal bay at the east end of the promenade.

There was some excellent photo opportunities today for anyone with a real interest in the art and even I couldn't resist a photograph of the well worn LR66.

I'm not sure how this person was coping with the weather sat at the end of the Stone Jetty this afternoon whilst I surveyed any birds around, but by now I was bloody cold as the sun enjoyed earlier had disappeared and....

....a fog was beginning to form in the west and actually became quite thick and freezing about an hour later.

So by 3.00pm I was heading for home, but not before witnessing the beginning of the end of the Super Dome, and theres a bit of a laugh in this pic in that, if you look closely to the right of the small four wheeled machine you can just about pick out the seven - and I'll be truly polite here - 'pee pots' in the gents.

The JB/BT birding run tomorrow....looking forward to that. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Road Of Gloom.

I make no apology for taking Birds2blog down this ever lengthening road of doom, gloom, and tragedy. But if you prefer to avoid a fit of depression then you'd better steer clear of this one. Though if like me your preference is to face the truth and think to yourself 'can I do anything about it' then you've really got to read this, and if the sight of the Hoopoe doesn't bring your eyes close to tears, and another photograph below 'a heap of Blackcaps ' doesn't bring yourself to at least a little anger, then I'd suggest you make some attempt at changing the way you see things.

So, if you've decided to go for it then this is the way forward.... Bird trapping in Cyprus

Barn Owl. Phil Slade

This time I owe you two apologies, firstly for yet another Barn Owl picture, and secondly, following the picture is another tale of gloom which I didn't plan to post but have some tragic info regarding the Barn Owl and the harsh weather of this winter. 

Over the years 130 boxes for Barn Owls have been put up across East and North Yorkshire, following the harsh weather we had recently, out of 25 boxes visited 25 dead Barn Owls were found resulting in the possibility of 80-90% of this local population being lost. The suggestion is made that, should the same harsh weather return this winter it may mean a recovery period of 10-15 years. Please visit Robert Fuller  for the full story apart from the fact it's an excellent blog to visit at any time, and can always be linked to via my sidebar.  

Once again I offer my regret to have to fill the page with such doom and gloom....but we must always face the facts.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING!....and hopefully will be tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Better than good!

A 'better than good day' today with JB who I guarantee enjoyed the birds we discovered just as much as I did.

But first.... 

Barn Owl. David Cookson

Yep, it's another one of those excellent photographs of the Barn Owl....can't get enough of these excellent photographs of Barn Owls. 

We first invaded some Fylde territory and at Knott End found a Dark-bellied Brent Goose roosting with Shelducks in turn roosting with estimates of 2,500 Oystercatcher, 250 Dunlin, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, a single Black-tailed Godwit, and c.50 Knot. Also an adult Mediterranean Gull, and at least 15 Twite.

I took JB on one of my many routes during my 'car parts delivery days' through Out Rawcliffe, a decision which paid off handsomely with a pair of Barn Owl hunting, and the truly wonderful sight and record of at least 100 Corn Bunting in a tree on Union Lane. Also from here I counted up to 250 Whooper Swans distant from Lancaster Road which included at least 30 juveniles and probably many more, a count hampered by distance and hidden birds. At Eagland Hill, another count - hampered as above - of 12 Bewick's Swans with 88 Whooper Swans and just 10 Pink-footed Geese (PFG). 

Whilst at Eagland Hill this sign tied to a gate pleased me no end for all the right reasons.    

In the field opposite the entrance to Pilling Lane Ends c.180 PFG, and on Pilling Marsh another Dark-bellied Brent Goose was with at least 2,000 PFG. Also of note a Little Egret and another of those distant perched on a post hunting machines, the Peregrine Falcon. By now I'd been alerted to the bird I was alerted to yesterday, but I was confident this time it would still be there after we had called in to look over Bodie Hill to find 6 Bewick's Swans, c.80 Black-tailed Godwit, and 38 Goldeneye on the Lune Estuary. 

Green-winged Teal. Copyright Granted.

The Green-winged Teal above is the very bird still in the River Conder creeks at dusk this late afternoon and giving excellent views albeit being asleep for the short period I spent there on one of my rare 'twitches'.

And finally....not remotely connected with birds, not the feathered kind usually recorded and photographed on Birds2blog anyway!

Sarah Palin.
My flag counter informs me of my 382nd US Flag from Alaska. Could this new US visitor to Birds2blog be Sarah Louise Palin, American Politician and first woman Governor of Alaska, I very much doubt it but tell you what....I'm going no further down this political road for the time being!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Wot no CG!

I amazed myself by not visiting Conder Green today, the excuse being, having done another of those 'birding in reverse days' by the time I reached Gonder Green I was out of time and daylight almost.

Red-necked Grebe. Brian Rafferty

We'll start the post with another of those excellent photographs of the long staying Red-necked Grebe on Fairhaven Lake at Lytham St Annes....Nice shot with a difference Brian - playing with the feather - many thanks.

So I started my days birding at Fluke Hall from where I walked along the coastal path to Cockers Dyke where I found at least 100 Twite, these birds are outside our LDBWS recording area and as far as I'm aware - with the exception of Heysham Harbour - none have been recorded in the area this winter yet. The foot slog was otherwise unrewarded but I could feel the cholesterol burning off all the time I walked....Mmmmm! 

On Pilling Marsh I counted up to 2,000 Pink-footed Geese sifting through them in the hope I'd get a glimpse of the Red-breasted Goose but didn't, nor has anyone else anywhere today as far as I know. Also on the marsh a Little Egret and another of those silently perched hunting machines the Peregrine Falcon, 25 Whooper Swans were in the channel beyond the marsh which is deep, even large birds fall out of sight and there could have been another hundred for all I know.  

The visit to Cockersands was made all the worth while by seeing the female Stonechat of 7 January again, also down at the Caravan Park end I noted 4 Blackbirds and a Mistle Thrush in Bank Houses horse paddock. At the lighthouse end I saw at least 50 Linnet with 40 at the Abbey and another 9 at the set-aside. Off Plover Scar just 2 Goldeneye drakes and a solitary drake Eider, I took note of 5 Brown Hare on the visit here today.

On Jeremy Lane from a moving car c.60 Fieldfare, and from Bodie Hill c.80 Black-tailed Godwit. But I'd been alerted to a Green-winged Teal on the Lune Estuary from behind the bowling green - I know the place well - but my time was up, and the light was going down. But none of this mattered as the bird was nowhere to be seen so I took note of at least 5,000 Lapwing, 450 Golden Plover, 4 Goosander, c.500 Wigeon, and just 2 Goldeneye which poses the question....where have all the Goldeneye on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock gone since the 'at least 120' count I made on 23 December 2010. 

And finally....

Iceland Gull Brian Rafferty

Another long staying bird is the juvenile Iceland Gull at Preston Dock, and another excellent 'we have lift off' from BR. With my thanks once again Brian. 

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Great Northern Diver....

....and a couple of sketches from a book I required recently from a second hand bookseller who has some excellent publications for sale from time to time. This one is about C.F.Tunnicliffe, a man born 110 years ago at Langley, Cheshire in 1901 and who devoted a lifetime to his art in etching, engraving, and water colours mainly in natural history subjects.

Spotted Flycatcher. C.F.Tunnicliffe R.A.

In both these sketches Tunnicliffe manages to remind me of the halcyon days of summer now on their way around the corner from winter. A brilliant sketch of the Spotted Flycatcher with two begging young.


Pied Flycatcher. C.F. Tunnicliffe R.A.

The other 'flycatcher' favourite of mine, the Pied Flycatcher.....coming soon - well in about 13/14 weeks - to a woodland near you!

A juvenile Great Northern Diver (GND) has been present in the Fleetwood area for 'some weeks' now and is currently at Fleetwood Docks in the Fish Dock. This is an exceptional record not only because of the length of time it is staying around, but also as a rare - and by no means annual - visitor to our area mainly offshore, though they do occur occasionally at inland reservoirs. 

Although the only European breeding of GND occurs in Iceland where there is an estimated 300 pairs, it has been held by some as a potential breeding bird in GB for many years, but a record review of claimed breeders in Scotland found not one to be completely satisfactory. The W.Isles and western coasts of GB are of international importance as wintering grounds for the GND, Scapa Flow has the distinction of holding the highest winter total of 780 in March 1999, and the waters off GB hold an estimated wintering population of 3,500-4,500 individuals thought to originate from Iceland and Greenland. But the GND is notorious for remaining offshore during the winter months, although they do come closer inshore to sheltered bays and harbours during periods of harsh weather which is perhaps what the Fleetwood bird has done, though it lingers too. 


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Save Our Forests....

....and some other 'bits'.

During another lull in my birding I'm confident this gap filler on Birds2blog will be of interest to everyone who visits here so please take a look at Save Our Forests and consider signing the petition please.

Linnets. John Bateman

Two of the 34 Linnets I counted yesterday which seem to be the remnants of what has been some interesting observations of the set-aside at Cockersands where the numbers of Linnet/Greenfinch - and on one occasion a Brambling on 27 October - have fluctuated over a period of 'several' weeks and which reached a peak of at least 100 birds on two dates in Oct/Nov last year. Thanks for the pic John, you may be interested to know the only urban Grey Wagtail I know of visited our humble garden this morning after a long absence, though I know it has been seen by you recently John, on the other there more than the one bird? 


A Slaty-backed Gull has made an appearance at Rainham Marshes in London and put in a brief show again today at 12.20pm but as I write has not been seen since. Now I'm most certainly not the one qualified to make too many comments about 'gulls' it being an area where I 'fall down' in my moderate qualifications as a birder, but what I do know about this bird is this....

It is a large white headed 'gull' which breeds on the western coast of Alaska but which travels widely during the non-breeding season. It is similar in appearance to two other 'gulls' namely the Western Gull and the Glaucous-winged Gull. The species is a first for Britain with only one previous record in Europe, having been seen in Latvia and Lithuania.

If you can appreciate some good humour you'd better take a look at 'ID of the Slaty-backed Gull' HERE but be warned if 'strong' language offends you....STAY AWAY.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Whizz Kids!

Well I was wrong on my prediction in yesterdays post about being back home with JB/BT by 2.00pm as we got an extra 45 minutes added to the day compared to last weeks homecoming. However we still did some 'whizzing around' again with little lingering and - in my view - tried to cram in too many locations in the time scale....end of whinge! I've decided not use my usual 'circa' to describe my counts today which are as accurate as possible in all cases. The photograph below has no particular connection with todays events other than they are of birds and are both stunning ones which hopefully add some much needed class to the blog.

Short-eared Owl. David Cookson  

So we started at Eagland Hill were at least 4 Bewick's Swans were with 48 Whooper Swans and at least 1,000 Pink-footed Geese (PFG). We followed here with the first of our 'nipping in' at Fluke Hall where I noted 950 PFG distant on the sands. On Pilling Marsh another 250 PFG with 6 Whooper Swans distant, 2 Little Egrets, and an absolute minimum of 950 Shelduck. In the field opposite the entrance to Pilling Lane Ends, 320 PFG and 70 Greylag. Pulling in at Braides - if only to say hello to a Fylde man whose name I can never remember - I noted a Buzzard on the coastal embankment thanks to the man whose name I can never remember but whose initials I recall as being PS.

At Cockersands the set-aside appears to be reduced to 34 Linnet seen today. And here is the place I definitely needed time to spend sifting through at least 2,500 wildfowl in the Cocker Channel, the ratio of which I'll never know given the short period spent there, but in numerical order were, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, and Pintail.

From Bodie Hill, 45 Black-tailed Godwit, 450 Lapwing, 500 Wigeon, and a distant Greenshank over by Bazil Point. At Glasson Dock - another good place t'would have been good to linger at today - 2,200 Lapwing, 850 Wigeon, and 450 Golden Plover....well Alleluia to the latter record. 

And finally....

Great-crested Grebe. David Cookson

Thanks for the photographs DC, excellent stuff and much appreciated once again.   

Thursday, 13 January 2011

I wandered lonely.... a cloud. But didn't see any Daffodills, well I wouldn't it's only January and if you don't know William Wordsworth and his poetry then you'll wonder what the hell I'm going on apologies.

Pied Wagtail. David Cookson  

Once more I insist on starting - and ending actually - the post with another excellent image. I tossed a coin to decide which one was to be at the top and this one of the Pied Wagtail in the snow was the winner, probably the best Pied Wagtail photograph I ever saw with thanks to DC. 

I decided on the 'birding' walk from Lancaster to Glasson Dock was the best plan for today and was surprised at the amount of fresh coming racing down the River Lune when I arrived at Green Ayre, resulting in the scene being almost void of birds from here to Marsh Point with barely 100 Black-headed Gulls seen on the entire length with nothing esle of note.

The birds have claimed back Freeman's Pools from the iceman though few have taken it up as yet and I noted just a drake each, Goldeneye, Pochard, and Shoveler, with c.20 Mallard and 2 Mute Swans bringing up the rear. Aldcliffe Marsh was hardly a hive of activity but 13 Barnacle Geese switched on the lights for me though other 'geese' numbers were drastically reduced from my last few visits here with c.200 Greylag, only 14 Pink-footed Geese, and little more than 10 Canada Geese seen. From Aldcliffe to Conder Green the birdlife was worryingly minimal though 38 Blackbirds were counted, 2 Song Thrush, and 10 Long-tailed Tits noted. Opposite Nansbuck Cottage on the far bank I estimated 3,500 Lapwing with - better still - 95 Golden Plover.

At Conder Green the Common Sandpiper obliged, with a Grey Plover noted, 3 Little Grebe included one on Conder Pool with a Goldeneye, c.90 Pink-footed Geese went over going south. At Glasson Dock I watched about 12 Mute Swans come down onto the River Lune from the south bringing with them the Black Swan and immature Whooper Swan I'd seen on Tuesday on Moss Lane. A Little Grebe was in the dock possibly being a first for me.

And finally....

I have a feeling this smart little Dunlin has been showcased on Birds2blog before, whether it has or not this photograph definitely qualifies for 'excellent' you only have to look at the plumage detail - razor sharp - on this bird to accept the accolade....Nice one BR, with my thanks.

Out with JB/BT tomorrow, though this week the warning has gone out for 'an early finish' sounds like we'll be home again by 2.00pm....Oh dear!!!!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

British Birds.

Grey Heron. Ian Tallon.

He's done it again....just as I was about to start the post and wonder what I could use in the form of a decent photograph IT sends me this brilliant portrait of the Grey Heron. Thanks for this Ian, it was good to see you again yesterday, but don't forget you need a permit to do any birding at Conder Green!!

In my quest to find that elusive rare antique for a couple of quid which - turns out to be valued at £50,000 - I recently came across some almost 70 year old British Birds Magazines which - in those days - cost the equivalent of just 20 pence each, and £1 for twelve copies over the year....WOW !

There's some fascinating reading as you can imagine with some amazing changes in the bird scene over the years, though the one I quote here in some notes about the Treecreeper didn't need to be an old record but interesting just the same. It tells of an incident which well exemplifies the overwhelming and inborn instinct in the Treecreeper to climb up anything rather than remain on the ground. The note goes on to say, about half an hour after a fledgling had left the nest it was observed clinging to the trunk of a tree when it spotted one of the parent birds, in an attempt to fly to it the young bird missed its mark and fell on the ground. On walking up to the youngster to get close views and on standing still, it hauled itself on to a turn-up on his trouser leg and with ease climbed up his clothes until it reached his shoulder, on seeing it could climb no higher it fluttered to the base of the nearest tree, climbed so far up to a branch along which it crept upside-down for about 10ft at which point it then flew to the base of another tree and continued its climbing of tree to tree from the Treecreepers do.

I reckon this is a unique behaviour for this or any other bird perhaps....fascinating stuff! 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Coastal Way.

Pink-footed Geese. Pete Woodruff.

I grilled a few of these today in search of the Red-breasted Goose, always trying convince myself if I did I was looking at the 'real thing' flown in all the way from the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia. I know at least one other birder who did a similar search in a different and wide area to no avail.

I was a little 'late on duty' today and arrived at Conder Green around 11.00am to find the place somewhat void. However, the birds have claimed back Conder Pool from the iceman, but only 2 Goldeneye, 16 Mallard, and 13 Shelduck have so far returned here. On the circuit I'd estimate up to 200 Teal in the creeks, with a Little Grebe and 3 Grey Plover to note. The canal basin at Glasson Dock was also ice free but surprisingly much less quiet than when it was frozen over with just a small area clear around the boats in the marina but 3 Goldeneye, 6 Pochard, and 32 Tufted Duck were noted. The Lune Estuary viewed from the bowling green was equally quiet with no more than 320 Lapwing, 12 Dunlin, 8 - yes only eight - Golden Plover, and c.450 Wigeon. A Peregrine Falcon was picked up distant on Colloway Marsh quietly perched up and minding its own business preening whilst having the ability to put to panic several thousand birds in an instant as the most powerful and accomplished aerial hunter. From Bodie Hill overlooking Glasson Marsh and another section of the Lune Estuary 5 Bewick's Swans were my birds of the day, also to note, c.40 Black-tailed Godwit and 25 Goldeneye.

Fieldfare. David Cookson

On Jeremy Lane short of stopping the car c.50 Fieldfare seen, and at the junction of Jeremy/Moss Lane the Black Swan was curiously accompanied by an immature Whooper Swan obviously detached from any parent birds. I went to Cockersands but had a change of plan soon after noting 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Goldeneye, and a Grey Plover. I went off to Pilling Lane Ends via Gulf Lane where I counted about 180 Curlew in a field, and a Buzzard. In the field opposite PLE up to 50 Greylag and 80 Pink-footed Geese. On Pilling Marsh 5 Whooper Swans, no more than 500 Pink-footed Geese, a Little Egret, and another distant Peregrine Falcon also quietly minding it's own business. At Fluke Hall yet more c.300 Pink-footed Geese and 5 Whooper Swan flying NE and out on to the marsh.

With my wanderings, and although I found no more than around 900 PFG to grill today, it's surprising how time ran away, but it was encouraging to note I got home at 4.20pm without lights on the motor, longer days....roll on spring!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Red-breasted Goose.

Red-breasted Goose Staynall
Red-breasted Goose. Copyright Granted. 

A Red-breasted Goose (RBG) is back in the Pilling area and showing well again today having been around and moved about quite a bit since it was first found at Martin Mere on 14 October 2010.

The RBG has a rather restricted distribution, principally close to the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia, and winters in the S.Caspian and Black Seas having recently expanded into Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. In 1994 there was a remarkable count of 75,000 in Bulgaria.

It is a popular ornamental wildfowl and birds seen in Britain nearly always carry with them a doubt of origin. However, young birds in autumn along the east and south coasts of Britain in company with Dark-bellied Brent Geese are believed to be more likely wild. As is the case with the bird currently within our area they are often found in the company of Pink-footed Geese, though whether they arrive with the PFG can never be clear.

The first accepted records of RBG in Britain goes back into the distant 1776 when a bird was found near London, with another later in the same year at Cleveland in Yorkshire, this latter bird was actually kept on a small pond with Mallards and survived there until it died nine years later in 1785.

Up to the late 1960's RBG records in Britain were traditionally associated with Russian White-fronted Geese, but an upsurge since 1975 has coincided with the tendency to occur with Dark-bellied Brent Geese which themselves had increased in number in Britain between the mid-1960's and early 1990's.

It's all very tragic when you hear that numbers of RBG in the early 1970's had declined to 25,000 due to disturbance and hunting as was the decline also of the Peregrine Falcon near to which the RBG nested as a form of protection. However, as with the Dark-bellied Brent Goose the Red-breasted Goose has enjoyed an increase in recent years. And finally.... 

Yesterday whilst driving back from the Lakes I spotted  - whilst traveling at 60mph - a number of birds at the top of a tree....'I think I've just seen something interesting at the top of a tree, says me to KT'....I did a u-turn as soon as I safely could and my ID skills at 60mph were rewarded by excellent views of 14 Waxwings....great stuff!  

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Wait until I get back!

A slim chance of a couple of hours birding for me tomorrow. Meanwhile until I get back, take a look at Falling from the sky an amazing - if sad - phenomenon about the mysterious demise of Blackbirds in the US on New Years Eve.


Stonechat. John Bateman.'s another Stonechat photograph, this one of the smart little creature seen last Friday and all the proof needed to show a bird having survived the return of the ice age to the UK. Thanks for the pic John, a nice reminder of seeing this 'Bird of the day' at Cockersands every time I look at it.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Surprise, Surprise!

Stonechat. David Cookson

On just about every birding day I've had over the years there's always been a surprise ranging from small to huge and I suppose the one to take me out of 2010 was the Stonechat I found at Conder Green on 29 December, a bird I didn't ever expect to see - following the harsh weather of the previous weeks - before March this year when the passage of this species begins.

Blackbird. Pete Woodruff. 

Another record which surprised me a little towards the end of 2010 was the 'at least' 90 Blackbirds counted on a coastal birding walk on 17 December.

Whooper Swans. David Cookson

Well I've only got two birding days in so far this New Year of 2011 but it was welcomed in on Tuesday 4 January by the amazing sight of what had started with just seven Whooper Swans in a stubble field on Fluke Hall Lane in the Pilling area with a nice flood at the back for the birds, and which - in the space of about fifteen minutes I spent there- developed into 282 of them all coming over my head from the south and sounding like every single one of them 'trumpeting' as they came to join the initial seven, amazing....magical....and memorable.

Twite. Phil Slade.

A sighting picked out at random from 11 April 2005 which surprised me greatly was the two Twite I found just north of Loyne Bridge at Gressingham. This record was a rare inland sighting for me, but I had seen inland Twite one summers day a few years earlier with my good friend and mentor John Leedal in the area of Pen-y-Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales. By way of a bonus one of the Lune Valley birds was ringed and information passed to the ringers/experts in the field of Twite confirmed it to have been a Pennine bred bird, one of thirty two ringed two years earlier in July 2003 at Cant Clough. 

And finally....

Bewick's Swan. Colin Bushell

Another of those kind of photographs I find hard to resist seeing and showing on Birds2blog, the Bewick's Swan at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. Just take a close look at the plumage of this bird....snow white and contrasting with the extreme black of the Coots - and isn't that a Moorhen facing the swan? - in the picture, and ponder where it may well have been during the summer/breeding season in Siberia.

Thanks to DC/PS/CB for the photographs.