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

Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Dartford Warbler.

Dartford Warbler. David Cookson 

It doesn't come as much of a surprise that the first Dartford Warbler (DW) was discovered on Bexley Heath near Dartford in Kent in 1773, incidentally the same man who found this bird was also responsible for naming the Kentish Plover which had been first discovered in Kent 14 years after the DW in 1787 when it was then an unknown species, yet again the same man was involved with the Sandwich Tern the first of which was again found in Kent in 1784.

The DW is a species almost exclusively insectivorous which suffers adversely in long cold winters and habit loss, favoured heathlands have been converted into housing and agriculture. They previously bred as far north as Staffordshire but a massive loss of 80% of lowland heath severely reduced populations. Having barely recovered from the harsh winter of 1946-47, the winters of 1961-62-63 almost wiped out the entire British population and the number of breeding birds was thought to have been as low as twelve pairs.

The DW now breeds in most counties of the south coast of England, distribution has also expanded, and as climate change continues towards warmer summers and milder winters a further expansion in the birds range might be expected, how long before we can have them here in Lancashire, in the winter months they are known to follow Stonechats around, but finding a Stonechat now seems hard enough never mind a DW.

The bird in the stunning photograph above is that of a Dartford Warbler which has been at the curiously named World's End in Denbighshire, Wales since Wednesday 2 March....Another image with a 'brilliant' tag with thanks to DC.


Interestingly also in Wales and with no stragglers further north than Staffordshire a bird was observed for two days at Tremadoc, Caernarvonshire in May 1932. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The LRP Twitch!

Argyll Sunrise. Colin Bushell

It would have been great to have got up this morning with a sunrise like this one CB had in Argyll recently and head off out for a days birding, but not so here in Lancaster where it was dull and grey and I didn't have the day to myself for birding anyway. But I did head off out on a local 'twitch' - yes I do it sometimes - having been given the tip off from a contact about two LRP's on Conder Pool Tuesday morning, as it turned out they either left for better things, or they were in hiding, so in twitching jargon  I 'dipped' but did see a Spotted Redshank and Greenshank before leaving for Aldcliffe with thoughts that if I 'needed' to see LRP's this was going to be my best bet. With limited time before having to be back home by mid-day the plan was to do a circuit at a crawl for a couple of hours but the weather had other plans and it was reduced to a walk from Aldcliffe to Freeman's Pools where I did in fact find 2 Little Ringed Plover and noted a drake Shoveler and 2 Goldeneye on here.

All in all a bit of a miserable episode in my birding life. can't win'em all can you!

Couldn't resist this one to follow on from yesterdays 'Hobby' and you won't be able to either, and there's another three you can view here too.

ARKive video - Eurasian hobby feeding on dragonfly

And if you'd like a Red-throated Diver as your desktop background an invite to do so is HERE:

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Hobby.

Hobby Fly Past

For most birders the casual sighting of a Hobby - whether it is soaring on crescent wings or dashing in pursuit of  dragonflies or perhaps Sand Martins - causes the heartbeat to increase in pace....well it would mine!

This falcons lithe form instantly conjures up an image of compact power, with strokes of the wing and graceful flight equally matched by the sight of this little beauty when perched. There are few who have been fortunate enough to observe this creature in its hidden haunts of heath and down, broken forest or farmland, in particular when this bird is engaged at the time when its unobtrusive breeding period is in full swing. Despite the inconspicuous behaviour of the Hobby, it is a species which has been studied by numerous ornithologists in the Western Palearctic, but my being as far removed in knowledge from such people as is imaginable, I thought I'd make a few notes of my own about this stunning falcon. 

Hobby 3

My very first post on Birds2blog included the only photograph of a Hobby I ever achieved and I'll probably need more than a little luck to ever have another chance as the species is to say the least a pretty hard one to come by in our area in North Lancashire and beyond, though to be honest breeding has been thought to be probable in the area in recent years, brought about by the sightings of 'one or two' birds seen regularly during July at various sites in the Lune Valley and also at Leighton Moss, circumstantial evidence also appears to be strong enough to bring about this probability. However, with the situation regarding 'collectors' of various kinds still on the rampage since the dark ages, plus all other types of people 'on the loose' with no regard for wildlife, your not ever likely to be on the list of 'the permitted' to know the whereabouts of breeding Hobbies I can assure you. All this said, because of its habitat requirements the Hobby is never going to be numerous in Lancashire.

Of course I can always be accused of being negative when it comes to making notes on some aspects of birds, but I regard my comments as 'realistic' rather than negative. Regarding the Hobby's migration, favourable weather conditions will assist it to migrate at a considerable height - and here's where I go negative - when two weather systems meet causing less favourable conditions with overcast skies, this brings the birds down to visible height when they - and other raptor species - come within range of the notorious Maltese hunters guns which can result in a staggering 600 Hobby's being brought down in some years out of totals of 5,000 other birds of prey.

On a more 'positive' note, at a time when so many other bird species are in decline - some seriously - the elegant little Hobby is spreading northwards in Britain and now breeds regularly in Cheshire and Yorkshire, but in Lancashire and North Merseyside I'm not aware of any fully authenticated records of successful breeding of this enigmatic and exciting falcon, but then....who am I to be privy to such info!

Thanks for the photography BR, they've been on Birds2blog before but are still worth a few more views and are....Brilliant. 


I am reliably informed of 2 Little Ringed Plovers on Conder Pool this morning....I'm not at liberty to publish my informants name but who already knows of my appreciation for this report. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Quiet but....

At least five birds reminded me it was spring and included one which was something of a surprise. But it's the calm before the storm of migrant birds flooding in and by the way, if you were anywhere near me this afternoon and thought it was a lovely spring like day, well you should have been at....

Cockersands, where this was the kind of scene....

....and this too. The place was cursed with fog for the entire two hours I spent there in the hope it would burn off but didn't and just kept rolling in off the sea.

At Conder Green where it really was like spring - though we wait some more before the birds arrive - 2 Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank were in the creeks, the Common Sandpiper was on Conder Pool but I had to search from the west end to find it. The Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock was almost a void and empty space, though to contradict that I had just estimated 370 Bar-tailed Godwits when a bird seen flying across the river from one side to the other was instantly not a Shelduck, and if it's a bird in flight which looks like a Shelduck but isn't one, then it's an Avocet which promptly put itself down in the midst of the BTG's I'd just counted, I also noted c.50 Dunlin. On Jeremy Lane 3 Whooper Swans still - an adult and two immatures - but for how much longer.

Golden Plover. John Bateman.

At Cockersands during one or two periods of  thinning fog I found c.600 Golden Plover in the Abbey Farm field, a reduction in number of at least 400 from last Fridays count of in excess of 1,000 birds. Also of note, 4 Wheatear, 13 Eider, a single Grey Plover, and 22 Linnet, a Skylark sang it's constant flight song despite the murk. Thanks for the pic here John - a mere fraction of Fridays 1,000+ - with about two dozen of them coming in to land. 

Talking of Avocet....

Probably the best lager  in the world Avocet photograph with perfect symmetry I've ever seen. Thanks for the pics JB/DC, I know it's an old and much played record on Birds2blog but....much appreciated.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Cuckoo.

Cuckoo. David Cookson 

I think anyone who doesn't know the difference between a Blackbird and a Thrush would be able to identify the call of the Cuckoo in the spring. Here are a few brief notes of a bird about which many articles and books have been written to do justice to this remarkable and complex species of which the female has the ability to lay eggs that perfectly match those of the host.

A harbinger of spring, I look forward to seeing my first on Clougha/Birk Bank, Harrisend, or maybe Barbondale perhaps sometime in the middle of April. The photograph is that of the juvenile that spent some time at Cockers Dyke on the Fylde coast during August 2010 having probably been the result of a breeding success in one of the few remaining lowland pockets in areas like Pilling in the north Fylde, this bird performed well to the many birders who visited the site showing off its ability to catch hairy caterpillar's to perfection.

In Oakes time in our area of north Lancashire the Cuckoo was regarded as 'universally distributed' but by the mid 70's it was generally accepted to be in decline, today the population in the county probably doesn't reach 200 pairs, mainly breeding on the moors where the Meadow Pipit is the main host, whilst the Dunnock and to a lesser extent the Robin are hosts in what few lowland farmland locations are left where this parasite still breeds.

Amazing isn't it, that the juvenile Cuckoo not ever having known its parents because of their parasitic habits, embark on the first southward migration without any guidance whatsoever from adult birds. There is a remarkable total absence of any recoveries of British Cuckoos in North Africa in Autumn which seems to bear out one theory that fewer birds are seen there at this time of year because having reached the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea the birds fatten up then overfly that sea, North Africa, and the Sahara in a single flight of at least 3,500km. There is only one recovery of a British Cuckoo on its wintering grounds, that of a bird in Cameroon, a Dutch bird was found in nearby Togo.

The earliest spring record of the Cuckoo in Lancashire and North Merseyside was at Martin Mere on 23 March 1990, but the record of twelve birds flying east over Anglezarke Moor in half an hour at the end of April in 1983 must have seemed like a dream for the observer. As the status of the Cuckoo stands today I'll settle for one bird seen or heard this summer, though last years total in my records was four seen at Harrisend, Birk Bank, Tower Lodge area, and Cross of Greet.

Cuckoo. Pete Woodruff.

This photograph has made a previous appearance on Birds2bog but I have no hesitation in posting it once again as it represents probably the one and only opportunity I will ever have of achieving such an image of a juvenile Cuckoo I observed below Birk Bank one day in July 2006. This little monster was being fed by the unfortunate Meadow Pipit which had unwittingly become its parent having been parasitised by the youngsters devilish mother.

You will no doubt agree, the photograph at the top of the post is to say the least pretty impressive, with thanks to DC whose website I thoroughly recommend you visit.

Friday, 25 March 2011

....and a couple of eye poppers!

Swallow. John Bateman.

I saw my first Swallow of the summer today and JB's photograph shows the bird on the aerial of a house on Moss Lane. If you just stare at the pic for a moment and ponder what this tiny feathered creature has just achieved it'll blow your did mine.

At Conder Green 2 Spotted Redshank, and a Greenshank. On Conder Pool, the Common Sandpiper - which will move on sooner rather than later having spent the entire winter period here - a solitary Black-tailed Godwit, and 4 Dunnock in the area. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock I noted c.160 Redshank, 80 Golden Plover, and 5 Black-tailed Godwit.

From Bodie Hill, at least 230 Black-tailed Godwit, 135 Bar-tailed Godwit and 170 Curlew. On Jeremy Lane, 3 Whooper Swan being an adult and two immatures. At Cockersands, c.20 Linnet at the winter seed field, 20 Eider off Plover Scar, singing Skylark, and 8 Tree Sparrow. A count of a little in excess of 1,000 Golden Plover in a field at Abbey Farm makes for a number of this species I'm not sure I ever encountered before in one flock at this location.

On the marsh at Bank End, 4 White Wagtails were with 6 Pied Wagtails. Opposite Sand Villa, 7 Whooper Swans represent an ever dwindling number here. The Gulf Lane detour produced a pair of Kestrel, and on Pilling Marsh a Little Egret and Sparrowhawk from the talons of which a small passerine narrowly escaped, the Raven - seen here on Tuesday- was seen again. In a stubble field west of Fluke Hall, 10 Meadow Pipit, 7 Skylark, and 2 Reed Bunting.

As for the 'eye poppers'....

Yellowhammer. Phil Slade   

How about these for a couple of brilliant 'portraits', this one for starters of the Yellowhammer, and....

 Chiffchaff. Phil Slade

This one to follow up of the Chiffchaff....Nice ones PS and thanks a bundle.


A Short-toed Treecreeper (STT) - Central Europe and North Africa - is still at Landguard NR in Suffolk today, it was trapped and ringed there yesterday. Britains first record of this species was of a bird in 1969 at Dungeness, Kent where the majority of STT records in Britain are held. 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Back to Life!

It was good to find Harrisend coming back to life today, my first visit since 27 January when I could find no Stonechtas here and which then had been my first visit since 4 October 2010....but I gave Conder Green and Cockersands three hours before going up there.

Kestrel. John Bateman.

I managed to find 2 Spotted Redshank in the creeks at Conder Green, and on Conder Pool, a Common Sandpiper with 3 Whooper Swan being an adult and two immature, the circuit produced a big zero. Interestingly 3 Whooper Swan were on Jeremy Lane, these being two adult and an immature. At Cockersands, 2 Wheatear, 2 Whooper Swan on the estuary by the lighthouse, with 14 Eider, and 6 Red-breasted Merganser, a Skylark heard in full song.

The real purpose for a visit to Harrisend was rewarded by the encouraging sign of 4 Stonechat in 2.5 hours, so chance of the Stonechat pool being increased here by 'maybe' 24 birds by the end of the breeding season - though actually a potential of 36 - but what about the others still to take up territory on here yet!
I also noted 10 Meadow Pipit, 2 Wren, and a Buzzard.

Merlin. John Bateman.

Thanks for yesterdays Falco tinnunculus and columbarius John, well worth parking the car broadside and stitching the road up whilst you got the shot of the Kestrel don't you think, and I/we waited all winter to find a Merlin at Cockersands cunningly perched up overlooking the winter seed field, obviously with not a Linnet in sight at the time.

Snow Leopard. Copyright Christian Sperka.

The decision to allow Snow Leopard hunting - 'Leopards at Risk' yesterday - has been revoked according to THIS

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Leopards at Risk.

ARKive video - Snow leopard climbing across rocks

All a bit gloomy but this is the real world....So if you have a few moments to spare please take a look at Leopard Alert and maybe sign the petition.

Greylag Goose. Phil Slade

On a lighter and interesting note I have information on a Greylag seen by a Fylde birder at Hakenshall Hall recently. Thanks to Kane Brides at WWT and to Dr John Bowler, Tiree Officer, RSPB Scotland who forwarded me the information on this bird, and to the birder who gave me permission to make enquiries about it on his behalf.

The bird was collar marked in a programme at Loch an Eilein on the Isle of Tiree, Argyll on 4 July 2009. This individual stayed on Tiree until February 2010 when it then moved to Martin Mere WWT in Lancashire and seems to have then wandered around in Yorshire/Lancashire. This bird is the only one out of over 1,250 Greylags ringed on Tiree and Coll since 1998 that - as far as is known - has ever ventured beyond the west coast of Scotland.

If you're reading this AC I need to contact you with some more for your interest on this sighting but have no contact details for you, you can find my email address in my sidebar under 'Contact Me'. Many thanks again to all three for this, much appreciated and very interesting.

No birding today, but can't wait until tomorrow to get out there and do some.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Long List.

Water Pipit. Copyright Granted.

JB and I collected a good number of records on a most enjoyable day along our excellent coastline, and from a personal point of view in the company of a birder who sees birding in an all round very much the same light as me. One place we didn't visit was The Heads were the Water Pipit/s are pretty reliable - two today - on tides similar to today's 10m plus.

At Conder green where the tide was rapidly swallowing everywhere up we saw Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, and on the pool, a Goldeneye, 3 Canada Geese, and a Moorhen noted on a nest. On the Lune Estuary I thought I'd better don my recorders hat for a while or leave with nothing of note. Circa counts were of 240 Redshank, 50 Dunlin, and 10 Wigeon. Accurate counts were of 2 Grey Plover, 28 Bar-tailed Godwit, 15 Cormorant, and 28 Mute Swans. I found another interesting wildfowl on the River Lune today in a drake Shoveler - as with the pair of Gadwall yesterday - the Shoveler is another species which avoids the marine environment and seen out of context here.

On Jeremy Lane an extra bird here today with 4 Whooper Swans being two adults and two immatures. At Cockersands, a male Merlin gave excellent views, and c.24 Linnet on the winter seed. Shore and offshore, 26 Black-tailed Godwit, a high count of 10 Grey Plover, 21 Eider, and 4 Red-breasted Merganser.

Brown Hare. John Bateman. 

An excellent sight was that of 12 Brown Hare chasing one another around a field, the best area I know to encounter this brilliant and entertaining creature. The one in the photograph above obliged JB by running towards him in the parking area at Cockersands lighthouse. Thanks for the pic John....nice one.

From the A588 opposite Sand Villa, 18 Whooper Swans remain from a count exceeding 90 birds on one report I read just a couple of weeks ago. On Pilling Marsh - under water now - another male Merlin, this one tucking into lunch on the embankment, a Raven and a solitary Whooper Swan was below the embankment, the bird appeared OK but strange it was alone I thought. Cockers Dyke was also awash but a Little Egret, a pair of Pintail, and 3 Red-breasted Merganser were to note.

And finally....

Goldeneye. Brian Rafferty

Another of those BR 'specials' of the drake Goldeneye taking off. Thanks for this Brian, much appreciated.

Monday, 21 March 2011


Not the most appropriate of titles, not particularly original, and doesn't sound like one for a birding blog but....

I found this posted at Aldcliffe today, something in my view the birds/wildlife of Aldcliffe Marsh and surrounding area could well do without 'cos if these people get new customers from this advert - and thats the idea - bet your life their coming here to Aldcliffe and they'll beat the record of the two women at Cockersands recently with 18 of these creatures. Just one more note, I don't like the sound of 'off the lead' thats within the law now then is it with the 'on the lead' law scrapped?  

As usual on a Monday I was 'working' within a time limit and I soon forgot the idea of Conder Green etc as the tide was a mega one and almost at it's height submerging just about everything including the roads, but I did see a Spotted Redshank at CG, and from Bodie Hill, 2 Little Egret, c.130 Black-tailed Godwit, and c.45 Bar-tailed Godwit before deciding to give Aldcliffe a couple of hours.

I noted 2 White Wagtails around the flood with 14 Pied Wagtails, 2 male Bullfinch, a single Reed Bunting, and a Greenfinch. The biggest surprise here today was the sight of a pair of Gadwall - a species averse to a marine environment - on the River Lune with 18 Wigeon, completely out of context, and certainly a first for me. I found just one Greenland White-fronted Goose today with c.4,000 Pink-footed Geese as opposed to two seen here last Friday when circumstances - not least of all distance - prevented any assignment to race.

And finally....

Buzzard. Phil Slade  

If you're looking for a photograph of a Buzzard to study underpart plumage detail this is an excellent one.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Coming Soon....

....and a Grey Wagtail. 

No time for blogging again today unfortunately but three stunning pictures to look at highlighting the photography of  David Cookson whose website I strongly recommend you take a look at.

Sedge Warbler

With a 'coming soon to an area near you' Sedge Warbler photograph. If I've checked my calendar correct Monday is the first day of spring and these birds will be winging their way back from their wintering grounds in tropical and south Africa to breed in our reed-beds and marshes. The average first date of arrival in the UK is in mid-April. The status of the Sedge Warbler currently stands in the GREEN list.

Male Pied Flycatcher

Another 'coming soon' bird is the Pied Flycatcher, a bird I have a special liking for and know of at least two locations where they have bred/breed in natural nest holes though they are a species benefiting from the help of nest box schemes which are set up in many areas of mature woodland. This is another species winging its way back to the UK from tropical Africa to arrive here on average in mid-April, it's status currently standing in the  AMBER list.

                                      Grey Wagtail

Finally the Grey Wagtail (GW), a bird of fast moving streams and rivers. The GW is much more colourful thats its name suggests, with slate grey upper-parts and distinctive lemon yellow under-tail. The species has increased its range in the past 150 years and in the UK has expanded into English lowlands from the northern and western uplands, in the winter months the GW can sometimes be found in urban areas as one often outside our house has proved. The GW is particularly affected by harsh winters, its status is currently in the AMBER list. 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Aftermath.

Not much time for blogging today but recommend you read The Aftermath. after which you can contemplate the care and attention given to the birds by these people following one of the worlds most devastating and ongoing disasters.

On a lighter note....

Thought you might like to meet Terry the Twitcher, or at least an absolute dead likeness of him. I met Terry at one of the very few 'twitches' I ever attended on a rare occasion when the bug bit me. I can't begin tell you what an obnoxious little turd this guy really was and I honestly couldn't connect him with birds/birding at all, sadly he wasn't on his own in this regard. Talking of 'twitches' the Rufous Turtle Dove is still performing in the garden at Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire with all the rules and regulations attached to the viewing procedure....Mmmmm!! 


Friday, 18 March 2011

....and another first!

A good day with JB/BT and another first - well in my book anyway - and it's in the report below, but first....

Brown Booby. Paul Foster

A photograph of the Brown Booby, obviously not remotely connected with my birding today - or any other day - but taken by PF on a recent trip to the Caribbean, thanks for the pic Paul much appreciated. Now to come a little nearer home....well a lot nearer home.

The almost traditional Friday visit to Aldcliffe Marsh paid off handsomely, the 'geese' are moving slowly northwards and with the c.5,000 Pink-footed Geese on the marsh I found 2 White-fronted Geese, the only disappointment about the sighting was that the unfavourable conditions didn't facilitate an assignment to race so we'll have to wait and see if someone gets better views to confirm this, also a Little Egret seen. On Freeman's Pools, 6 Goldeneye noted, with a couple of dozen 'gulls' including a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls which won't be the kind of reception party the Little Ringed Plover/s had hoped for should they turn up here eventually. 

At Conder Green it was good to see the wintering Common Sandpiper once again as it has eluded me on recent visits here, also 2 Spotted Redshank, and a Greenshank. On Conder Pool, 2 Goldeneye and a Little Grebe. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock a pair of Great-crested Grebes were engaged in their amazing courtship display, also 2 Little Grebe seen. On the - almost deserted - Lune Estuary, 12 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Goldeneye were of note, and on Colloway Marsh c.2,000 Pink-footed Geese still there. On Jeremy Lane, 8 Linnet, 6 Skylark, and a Reed Bunting were all in the beet fodder field, as were 3 Stock Doves, a personal first record at this location in my 120 years birding the area....yes 120 years!    

At Cockersands, 10 Linnet today in the winter seed field, yesterdays c.650 Golden Plover on the shingle were in a field here today, the 10 Whooper Swans at Bank End Farm seen again from here, and a Small Tortoiseshell seen. From the Moss Lane/Jeremy Lane junction, 3 Whooper Swans were the adult and two immatures. A tour along Gulf Lane was the beginning of the end for today's birding which produced the Little Owl, and at Fluke Hall a fragmented 8 Twite seen....and that really was the end.

And finally....

Oystercatcher. David Cookson

Another of those 'as good as they come' photographs this of the Oystercatcher by Mr DC with many thanks.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Great Stuff!

An excellent and rewarding days birding today with two firsts in my book. 

Tundra Bean Goose Pilling Marsh
Tundra Bean Goose. Copyright Granted.

I'd have been very fortunate to have found this bird yesterday when it was probably - but not necessarily - with up to 7,000 Pink-footed Geese distant on Pilling Marsh.

Greenshank. Pete Woodruff.

Today I didn't linger at Conder Green but found 2 Spotted Redshank and 2 Greenshank - one of which I managed a second rate pic - a Goldeneye and 4 Greylag were noted on  Conder Pool. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock I found my first summer visitor a lone Sand Martin. On Jeremy Lane the 3 Whooper Swans - adult and two immatures - were back today having been absent as I drove along here on Tuesday.

Wheatear. Phil Slade

At Cockersands my second summer visitor a smart male Wheatear - thanks for the female PS and much appreciated - a bird which can make me jump up and down with joy at being my first spring migrant though today it lost that position by about 30 minutes. Also of note, 10 Linnet in the winter seed, c.650 Golden Plover, at least 30 Turnstone, 46 Eider, 7 Red-breasted Merganser, and a Grey Plover. Off the Caravan Park, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and 2nd winter, I observed some display/posturing between these two birds for quite some time, a Little Egret seen, and 10 Whooper Swans came over - from I don't know where - and appeared to head off towards Bank End Farm where I have seen them for several days now.

From the A588 opposite Sand Villa 28 Whooper Swans counted. On Pilling Marsh, a smart male Merlin was distant on the marsh, a Kestrel hovering over head, and just c.450 Pink-footed Geese on here today. On Fluke Hall Lane, 62 Golden Plover were with 46 Lapwings and 3 Redshanks, and at Fluke Hall at least 90 Meadow Pipits

And finally....

Great-crested Grebe. David Cookson

Another excellent image of the Great-crested Grebes in courtship display....great stuff DC and much appreciated.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Turnstone....

....and the age of amazing tracking technology.

Turnstones. Peter Guy.

There are a couple of things to say about the photograph above, most importantly - and with my apologies - I cannot recall the name of the author, and secondly I reckon it has made an appearance on Birds2blog before but I'm not at all worried about that....I like the picture and it is of one of my most favourite waders.

A study group in Australia have recently recaptured a Turnstone which has made the truly amazing 27,000km round-trip migration for the second time. This bird has also achieved being the first wader to have been tracked on its complete migration in successive years, its incredible journey was made even more incredible in that it included a non-stop week-long flight of 7,600km.

This individual had a light-sensor attached to its leg which recorded where the bird was morning and evening alike. In each year the device was attached in mid-April in Victoria in southeast Australia from where the Turnstone migrated the huge distance to Arctic Siberia to breed. Data retrieved so far indicates that the birds generally start the northward migration with an initial non-stop flight of 7,600km to Taiwan and adjacent regions where they refuel before moving on to the Yellow Sea and northern China, then onwards at least another 5,000km to their breeding grounds in northern Siberia by the first week in June.

It seems the tracking of these Turnstones has turned up some surprise in that the return migration has shown to be made using considerable variation in routes taken by different birds - in itself a puzzle - and one such individual has apparently proved that a Turnstone having survived for 20 years following a particular trans-Pacific route of c.27,000km would have flown well in excess of 500,000km in its life-time.


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Spring....not in the air!

Merlin, Newton Marsh

Merlin Geoff Gradwell 

To get the post off to a good start an excellent image of the Merlin....I know you're reading this Geoff and a special thanks for the brilliant pic of my favourite raptor.

Today couldn't ever possibly have been more of a contrast to yesterday when everyone must have thought spring had arrived. Today was unbelievably depressing and never really got daylight. I drove home from Pilling with lights on my car at just after 4 o'clock, but enough of this gloom....

I started my day at Conder Green - again - to note 2 Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank, with the lone Goldeneye on Conder Pool and a Dunnock singing sweetly with its warbler type song. On the Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock 6 Eider which are by no means a regular occurrence here, 2 Red-breasted Merganser also noted. On Colloway March, being much closer to me today I estimated up to 2,000 Pink-footed Geese here still.

I took note from Jeremy Lane, the Whooper Swans had gone from here, also at Cockersands I noted no Linnet at the winter seed field. Off Plover Scar 7 Eider, as I walked along then headland the movement of two small birds on the shingle below the abbey initially made me jump to attention but soon proved to be 2 Pied Wagtails. The 'swans' seen from here distant and in haze by Bank End Farm yesterday and on two previous visits proved today to be 10 Whooper Swans seen through the gloom but haze free conditions.

On Pilling Marsh a Dark-bellied Brent Goose and a Barnacle Goose were with c.7,000 Pink-footed Geese, and at Fluke Hall a Little Egret and 4 Skylark noted.

And finally....

A nice atmospheric shot of the Wigeon at sunset....Thanks again Geoff. 

Monday, 14 March 2011

Spring in the air.

Meadow Pipit. David Cookson

Spring was definitely in the air today weather-wise but still not taken off  bird-wise, and the odd Sand Martin/Wheatear didn't present themselves to me in the four hours I was 'at it' today. But you should be able to add a few hundred MP's to your records any time soon. 

At Conder Green 2 Spotted Redshanks, neither if which is yet showing any sign of plumage transformation, but watch how rapid it does once it gets underway - white to black - amazing. On Conder Pool another 'fingers crossed' bird - the Little Ringed Plover hasn't arrived yet, though I'm getting too impatient here, 12/14 days maybe. To fill the empty space in my book I noted on the pool, a single Goldeneye, 6 Wigeon, 45 Mute Swans, and 2 Greylag, a Lapwing on here will no doubt make a breeding attempt and won't take kindly to the LRP if/when it shows up here.

The Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock was looking like a summers day with a lack of abundance in bird-life, but I noted estimates of, 220 Curlew and 60 Dunlin, 4 Goldeneye, 4 Goosander and as previously noted no more than mid-fifties of Wigeon. On Colloway Marsh, though distant and hazy for any accuracy I reckon in excess of 1,000 Pink-footed Geese. From Bodie Hill, c.130 Black-tailed Godwit and 12 Goldeneye seen. On Jeremy Lane, at the north end in the beet fodder field 12 Linnet, 3 Skylark, and 2 Reed Bunting, further along the lane, 3 Whooper Swans still, being an adult and two immatures....for how much longer  wonder.

If I'm honest I hoped for my first Wheatear at Cockersands but that didn't materialise and nothing much else did either, but I noted just 8 Linnet at the winter seed field, 13 Tree Sparrows and 5 Reed Bunting at/around Bank Houses and counted 11 Brown Hare on the circuit. From here I could see the 'swans' in the field adjacent to Bank End Farm though distant and hazy but 4 Whooper Swans present there 22 February and 4 March were almost certainly there again today....Come in No 4 times up!

And finally....

In our area the Dipper is a widely distributed species though rather uncommon and a decreasing resident breeder, and yes, this one bears a metal ring. Thanks for the excellent photographs DC/BR, much appreciated.

And here's another Dipper, the video is excellent and the bird shows no fear of  fast moving water.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


This video is brilliant if short....

ARKive video - Prince Ruspoli's turaco - overview

An Ethiopian endemic in trouble is the grandly named Prince Ruspoli's Turaco (PRT). The macaw-sized bird with it's scarlet and navy-blue wings, long tail, and green-and-white head was first found amongst the personal effects of the prince after he had been trampled to death by an elephant in 1893. As the unfortunate nobleman had not had the time to label the specimen, it's origins remained a mystery for half a century before the species was seen in the wild by a Cambridge naturalist in southern Ethiopia.

Liben Lark.

The PRT carries with it the unfortunate distinction of being classified as Critically Endangered which is the highest level of threat. It looks set to follow in the footsteps of another bird the Liben Lark which is itself heading towards being the first recorded extinction of mainland Africa's birds, the population of which is thought to number fewer than 100 birds. 

Prince Ruspoli's Turaco. John Richard Darbyshire.

But there is good news, a lifeline has been thrown for these birds thanks to funds collected at last years British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water....'Hope springs eternal'....Alexander Pope 1688-1744.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Turtle Trade.

But whats this got to do with birds on Birds2blog....well nothing, but I reckon these are the sort of issues we really need to keep up to date with and from a personal point of view my passion doesn't end with birds but continues through the whole range of wildlife and related matters throughout the world. So if you don't mind the diversion then please read on.... 

Tesco Turtles.

If you don't link to the Wildlife Extra website from my sidebar from time to time I think you should, there's a mountain of info on there and currently includes an interesting story I think will sicken you and will hopefully give you food for thought on whether or not we should all buy our bread and milk elsewhere until the powers that be put a halt on this barbaric practice. Your link is Wildlife Extra 

On a lighter note....

Grey Plover. Geoff Gradwell  

An excellent photograph from GG of the Grey Plover showing its diagnostic black axillaries - contrasting with white underwing-coverts - which are always present and are a unique fieldmark for this bird. It is the best photograph of it's kind I've seen in ages. One thing for sure you're not going to confuse this species with any other 'plover' once you've seen the 'soot' under this birds armpits.

Jackdaws. Brian Rafferty

Another of those pics I can't resist showing, an excellent pose by these two Jackdaws and photographically as good as they come. Thanks to GG and BR. 

I've seen one or two records of Sand Martin and White Wagtail today, in the case of the former - as I write - the nearest one being at Brockholes Quarry LWT.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Early Finish.

Wigeon. Brian Rafferty

Numbers of Wigeon appear to be falling now at all the places I visit, and the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock doesn't hold a three figure number now according to my last few visits here.

With BT today - no not British Telecom, Brian Townson - we first made our traditional brief Friday visit to Aldcliffe where I noted c.600 Pink-footed Geese and a Little Egret. At Conder Green a Spotted Redshank and Greenshank duly obliged in the creeks along with at least 70 Teal. On Conder Pool a single Goldeneye and 8 Meadow Pipit over. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock I noted another single Goldeneye, 25 Tufted Duck, and a Great-crested Grebe. A cursory glance at the Lune Estuary had it looking like it was the middle of summer regarding bird numbers, and a scan didn't make things much different, though 84 Black-tailed Godwit 'lit up' the place with  a solitary Knot tagging along with them, also to note c.45 Redshank, 22 Cormorant, a drake Goosander, and 2 Goldeneye.

From Bodie Hill another 10 Goldeneye and a Little Egret. On Jeremy Lane the 3 Whooper Swan still, being an adult and two immatures. A detour round Gulf Lane gave a Little Owl having had its 'box' on the tree secured - it had appeared very insecure of late - by whoever tends to the needs of this/these creatures, also 2 Stock Dove. From Backsands Lane 3 Black-tailed Godwit and c.220 Golden Plover. And from Fluke Hall Lane, another Little Egret and Stock Dove.

By now the weather could only best - and as polite as I can be -  described as 'crap' it was raining, it was an early finish and I was home again by 2.10pm

Notes and a an illustration.

Goldeneye. BWP.

1. A Goldeneye on the Lune estuary at Glasson Dock this morning which - at a distance - initially had me fooled until I realised it was the first 1st summer drake Goldeneye I have ever seen. The bird is in bottom left of the illustration above showing the most striking feature about it, being it's black head along with streaked flanks.

2. A Little Ringed Plover has arrived today at Ham Wall RSPB in Somerset.

3. Until I do some reading this is all too confusing for a little birder like me but....the formerly named White-winged Scoter has now become a Stejneger's Scoter and is still present today at Rossbeigh in Co Kerry, Ireland. What I do know is....Leonhard Hess Stejneger (1851-1943) was a Norwegian born American ornithologist who also had a Stonechat named after him....perhaps more on that later.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

More Cormorant.

If you've had any interest in the Continental Cormorant recorded on Birds2blog recently THIS may further your interest.


Short-eared Owl David Cookson
Another excuse to post two more excellent photographs with the portrait of the Short-eared Owl first, followed by....
Sanderling. Peter Guy.
The Sanderling at Rossall Point in Fleetwood....Many thanks to DC/PG, much appreciated.

The LRP.

Little-ringed Plover. Phil Slade

If my past records are anything to go by a Little Ringed Plover (LRP) will appear once again on Conder Pool by the end of March, though last year it was late and I didn't see it until 6 April.

The LRP is a scarce breeding bird in Britain and the species having bred on Conder Pool on more than one occasion makes it a special bird for me. It's breeding range is wide and expands from the Canaries, Britain, and the Gulf of Bothnia to mid-China and the Equator. The first British breeding pair were found 73 years ago in Hertfordshire in 1938, with the first in Lancashire 20 years later at Freckleton in 1958, this bird was a juvenile and the first adult LRP wasn't seen until 5 years later at the same site in 1963. In our own area in North Lancashire the first record came with a bird found on Carnforth Marsh in 1966.

Relatively few LRP's have been ringed in Britain and when searches for records are made it's all to easy to find that numbers of recoveries are often related to birds taken out by hunters, and in the case of this species I know of at least twelve, nine of which were in France....Viva Le French Hunters!

It is interesting that juveniles from first broods remain on their natal site for a few weeks, but if the adults lay a second clutch the young may disperse as early as late June. Autumn departures start in late July, and by the end of the month a number of them will have already crossed the channel. By late August quite a number will have reached the Mediterranean coasts, with some having got to Senegal by then.

Few LRP's remain in Britain by mid-September and are only rarely seen in October and even rarer in winter though some records do exist. Little is known about the range of birds which breed in Britain, though a single recovery within their known wintering range indicates that they are likely to winter in the western Sahel region though this is not absolute.

As I see it the LRP is in constant need of new breeding sites to replace those lost over the years to restoration and development, if you are local to the area you will no doubt agree with my view that Dockacres is a classic example of this kind of lost habitat to birds like the LRP. Conder Pool came into being at a later date after that site loss to the benefit of the LRP albeit with some imperfections, but the birds will no doubt take up here again this my pleasure if they do.

And finally....

The Road to Newton. Peter Guy.

Many is the time I've traveled this road on some of my birding days in the wonderful Forest of Bowland. This photograph is a reminder of what the weather has been like this winter....Nice one PG and many thanks.