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

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Beauty and the Beast....

....and some records.

I thought I'd start the post today with a beauty and the beast pic. Well, I don't know about you but I soon get fed up to the back teeth with too much scientific stuff connected with birds or anything else for that matter.... 
Blue Tit. Warren Baker  

Representing the beauty, if you can't say Ahhhh! the sight of this delightful young Blue Tit then I reckon you've lost all sense of feeling in your life.

Lammergeier. Mike Watson.

Representing the beast, this brute of a Lammergeier which Mike encountered on his recent Catalonia in Spring trip.

Bar-tailed Godwit. Pete Woodruff.

I was in the good company of JB today and we were both pleased to see the c.220 Bar-tailed Godwits in the Conder creeks again, this is a new experience for me with the species being here almost at the beginning of June, also Common Sandpiper and Greenshank noted. JB enjoyed the BTG's whilst I did a quick circuit to find 3 Whitethroat - a good year it seems -  2 Reed Bunting, House Martins nesting at River Winds and now apparently at Cafe d' Lune. From the old railway bridge I could see 9 Eider and 2 Wigeon on the Lune Estuary, and watched a Tree Sparrow - not a species in my book as seen very much here - feeding a single young, and a Buzzard overhead. On Conder Pool the pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls are nesting here, and a solitary Black-tailed Godwit flew on to here. 

At Cockersands which was looking more than a little deserted today, at least 40 Eider seen, also noted c.60 Dunlin. A Whitethroat sang close by whilst - with a little persistence in a stake out - the singing male Quail was heard in the field behind the lighthouse car park. A brief look in at Aldcliffe produced a Little Ringed Plover on the flood.

Seakale. Pete Woodruff.

I was grateful to JB for pointing out the Seakale to me at Cockersands this afternoon. The species is listed as being in need of protection having been noted by botanists and other scientists as requiring the need to preserve. The Seakale is a member of the Mustard family, its habitat is on sand or between rocks on the beach, and on primary dunes as far north as Central Scotland, it likes salt and can survive flooding and burial in shingle.

Learning something every day....I luvit!

Monday, 30 May 2011

A couple of 'pipers!

There are a couple of 'sandpipers' currently in the country which interest me, one of which is quite close to home at Brockholes LWT Reserve in Lancashire and is....

The Spotted Sandpiper (SS) is a North American wader which winters in the USA south to Uruguay and is now an annual visitor to these shores, in Lancashire the SS have always been found on reservoirs. A pair was found with a nest on Skye in the Highlands in 1975 but the breeding attempt failed. Another point of interest is that only four records exist in GB prior to 1950, there are also several records of birds wintering. The adult SS is a striking bird, but juveniles are much more subtly different to the closely related Common Sandpiper. I've personally only ever seen one bird at Stocks Reservoir on 18 May 2010. The first record of SS in Britain goes back to 1849 in Whitby, N.Yorkshire. As is usual with old records like this one the unfortunate individual was shot in the company of Dunlin.

The other 'sandpiper' is....

A Terek Sandpiper (TS) is currently at Hauxley NWT Reserve in Northhumberland. The TS ranges Northeast Europe and Siberia and winters in S.Africa, S.Asia, and Australia. It is curious to note that there are no records in Britain prior to the 1950's, curious in that it is an easy bird to identify and is not likely to have been a bird overlooked. In Lancashire the only record of TS is that of a bird at Seaforth in June 2000, whilst the first record for N.W.England was at Frodsham in Cheshire in April 1999....the same individual? 

The first record of TS in Britain was of a bird found in 1951 at The Midrips in East Sussex. A couple of notes of interest about this bird was that it walked down a mud bank to wash every food item before eating it, and the second record of TS was that of a bird seen in Suffolk three days later which was thought to have been the Sussex bird.

I'D SOONER BE BIRDING....but I could see these three absent days coming last Friday, hopefully things will change tomorrow Tuesday. I take note of a Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper reported yesterday. Today a singing male Quail in a field by Lighthouse Cottage, and 2 Avocet on a pool south of Crook Farm, all four records at Cockersands.  

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Sanderling....

Sanderling. Brian Rafferty. one of my most favourite waders, its habit of persistently chasing the ripples like a clockwork toy is both endearing and unique.

The Sanderling is a long distance migrant which breeds in the high Arctic tundra, the Ribble Estuary holds internationally significant numbers during the winter along with the Wash and the estuaries of the Thames and Alt. Two groups use the beaches of GB, one of which comprises of migrants which stage here for two to three weeks in August and May on their way between breeding and wintering grounds, data suggests that most of these birds originate in Greenland and some continue as far as South Africa, although others remain here throughout the winter. The second group are primarily winter visitors originating from W.Siberia, although many of these remain in W.Europe, some continue south into W.Africa. However, this is certainly not the case in our recording area of N.Lancashire where it is regarded as a rare winter visitor, for example in 2009 the species count didn't reach a three figure number in both spring and autumn counts combined, the winter WeBS counts rarely reach three figures either, though one in February 1991 did reach almost 300 birds. As for passage birds, well you've just got to be at the right place, at the right time, on the right day/s.

On a personal level I can recall at least two excellent experiences with the Sanderling, one of which I had with John Leedal when, on the 24 May 1997 at Ainsdale we estimated 10,000 birds, to be honest I never expect to have this experience ever again. The other observation was at Cockersands when one or two counts over a couple of days peaked on the 31 May 2007 when I counted 120 birds, a number not seen here since and I do wonder when will the Sanderling favour Cockersands in such a good numbers again enroute to the high Arctic.

Whilst all too rare a bird in our area in Lancashire, the Sanderling is known to be a site-faithful species which returns to the same wintering areas year on year, they are also long lived, the current record being of a bird over 17 years old, one individual ringed on the Wash was recaptured 13 times over the course of 12 years.

Sanderling. Brian Rafferty.

At a cursory glance this photograph could almost be a 'whats that bird' picture. Thanks to Brian Rafferty  for the photogaphs....excellent as ever.  

Friday, 27 May 2011

A bit of this....

....and a bit of that, including two - unrelated to today's birding - photographs of a couple of birds you may need a little luck to see in the UK....and the picture of a church.

The Sardinian Warbler. Phil Slade.

With JB/BT as its Friday....BT's car seemed apparently to make its own mind up once again to head of first to Freeman's Pools which we found to be almost deserted save a drake Wigeon not remotely inclined to want to breed but spend the summer here. On the flood at Aldcliffe I found a Little Ringed Plover and heard 2 Whitethroat

At Conder Green one of the days nice surprises was that of c.150 Bar-tailed Godwit in the Conder creeks making a pleasant sight as they appeared in a relaxed mood in the shelter from the unusual cold wind of May 27 whilst either feeding or preening quietly. The only other two birds to enter my book here was a Whitethroat and Linnet almost side by side in the bush. Noted on the canal basin at Glasson Dock was a pair of Mute Swans with the poor breeding result of just three cygnets, and on the Lune Estuary I noted 8 Eider. Along Jeremy Lane, a Skylark seen with three more on Moss Lane, also at Cockersands, 12 Eider, c.100 Dunlin opposite Crook Cottage which were put to panic by a passing Peregrine Falcon, a Sedge Warbler and a 'few' Tree Sparrows also noted. 

Christ Church Abbeystead. Pete Woodruff.

So....with the 'bit of this' dealt with we headed off for a 'bit of that' in the Tower Lodge area of Bowland. On a crawl in the car through Wellington Wood at Dolphiholme a Blackcap seen. At Christ Church in Abbeystead home of up to sixteen House Martin nests mainly and worryingly unoccupied in 2010, eight birds seen around the church today. At Stoops Bridge I found a female Pied Flycatcher being another of the days nice surprises, though the tree nesting pair appear to have failed to return this year, also a Spotted Flycatcher seen, a Chiffchaff and Blackcap were both heard. I may also have seen a Coal Tit with a full brood flying from one tree to the next some distance ahead of me but only saw the adult feeding a couple of young by the time I caught up. In the Tower Lodge area, up to 3 Spotted Flycatcher seen, and a Grey Wagtail, five distant and high soaring raptors were almost certainly Buzzard.

And finally....

The Audouin's Gull. Phil Slade.

The excellent Sardinian Warbler and Audouin's Gull photographs are courtesy of and thanks to Phil Slade 

Thursday, 26 May 2011


My first ever post without a picture and the shortest one too, but just couldn't resist an immediate publication.

Every birder - let alone everybody - should READTHIS and the comments too. These are the kind of people the powers that be are approaching on a 'softly softly' basis....Make up your own mind on that one. 

Taking pics!

I'm not out birding again today making me the usual miserable bugger I am in these circumstances and I'm in danger of finding myself in the divorce court if I can't take control of this situation. So whilst I wait to see what happens next....Whether or not you were on DC's side re the recent photograph 'thing' with Birdguides you may be interested in an update on both sides of the matter and read THIS

Now take a look at a couple of DC's latest photographic achievements which fill the gap on Birds2blog until tomorrows JB/BT/PW hopeful Friday birding.

Black-tailed Godwit. David Cookson.

You can take it from me, you'll be hard pushed to find another photograph of its kind to equal this one of the stunning Black-tailed Godwit in its summer finery at Marshside recently, and....

Swallow. David Cookson.

Another one of those photographs with the 'brilliant' tag of the Swallow in flight. I'm worried about these insect feeding birds in the weather we've been/are having during the month of May....struggling to say the least I'd say. 

Whinchat. Paul Foster  

I was delighted to find seven Whinchat on Bloe Greet last Thursday 19 May and in contact with PF to enquire where he'd seen them in the area too he kindly forwarded me not only some useful info but also this photograph of the smart little male, and....

Whinchat. Paul Foster

This one of the smart little female, a favourite passerine of mine which runs a very close second to the Stonechat and not an easy bird to find these days, I try to keep a close eye on its status in our area. Thanks for the info and pics Paul....excellent stuff. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Early Moths.

A little moth interest to fill the non-birding gap, but please note I am not a world leader on moths....quite the reverse to tell you the truth. 

Bright-line Brown-eye. Copyright Ian Kimber.

Well, we're in May now believe it or not and with the recent weather it really is hard to believe. But with the lowest rainfall and high average temperatures the month of April saw some noteworthy moth species at an early emergence, plus a steady arrival of migrant moths. In some parts of the country first dates began as early as February through March, but three examples in April included a Bright-line Brown-eye at Warton in Lancashire....

Yellow-barred Brindle. Copyright Ian Kimber.

A Yellow-barred Brindle in Yorkshire, and....

Chamomile Shark. Copyright Ian Kimber.

A Chamomile Shark in Glamorgan.

The Provisional Atlas of the UK's Larger Moths is the first national moth distribution maps for 30 year representing over 11 million records of more than 860 moth species.       

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Rewarding Return.

Looking East. Pete Woodruff. 

I paid a return visit to Barbondale today, a place that oozes with the beauty of the English countryside with its ancient wet woodland, and - even more importantly for me - is an excellent birding location in its own right. I always did maintain that return visits anywhere often payed dividends and today proved that point perfectly. With some field-craft, some patient standing about, and three hours to do it in I found 10 Pied Flycatchers, an all time record and excellent reward. I was also rewarded by seeing the 1st summer 'brown' male - previously recorded this month - feeding the female, some PF behaviour I've not witnessed before. 

Looking West. Pete Woodruff. 

I also found my first Spotted Flycatcher here today, and after two previous unsuccessful visits found a female Whinchat, noted 5 Tree Pipit, just 4 Redstart two of which were female, 2 Wheatear, 2 Dipper, a Reed Bunting, Grey Wagtail, and a Buzzard.

Barbon Beck. Pete Woodruff.

I've not finished with this place and will be back for more, I never settle for just the one visit to Barbondale and to be honest there's a distinct possibility of twelve Pied Flycatchers here this year as today I may have overdone it on the caution for duplicate counting and reckon two males I saw were unconnected to the ten recorded....we'll see! 

Birk Bank Cotton Grass. Pete Woodruff.

The Cotton Grass on Birk Bank bog is beginning to look good though most of my photography leaves much to be desired and this attempt doesn't do the scene justice I'm afraid.

I decided to give the top of Birk Bank a look over but was left disappointed with the best bird being a Woodcock which heard me coming and flushed from a distance, 2 Red Grouse noted, and a young Mistle Thrush seen at a distance, a Brown Hare was also of note. In Crag Wood a Blackcap heard in song, and on Rigg Lane a Garden Warbler gave me decent views, and a Buzzard over.

I've left my whinge until the end....The weather today was pathetic with lots of cloud and a cold westerly with gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour at times....'More like March than May'. 

National News.

In Ayrshire up to 1,000 Long-tailed Skuas past Saltcoats Harbour again today.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Rainy days and Mondays!

I don't like rainy days and certainly don't like wet and windy ones in which today fitted the category to perfection. birding, and I've nearly run out of blogging time but having noted 105 Long-tailed Skuas past Saltcoats Harbour in Ayrshire, Scotland this afternoon, so I dug out this excellent video showing the bird as it would be seen on a sea-watch, though there are better videos of the birds on land which don't carry with them the same excitement as this one in flight.

Interestingly a Black-browed Albatross was reported on the RBA pager service recently, which was also seen flying south past the same Saltcoats Harbour, the video below is an excellent example of some good filming over the ocean, albeit the most common and widespread of the family, it is pelagic and spends months on end at sea but sometimes spending summer months on Gannet colonies in Scotland. 

ARKive video - Black-browed albatross in flight over ocean

I also have some brilliant photographs in my library thanks to some equally brilliant photographers/birders I happen to know, like....

Silver-breasted Broadbill. Kah Wai.

The Silver-breasted Broadbill, a brilliant little bird photographed at Bukit Tinggi in Malaysia by Kah Wai whose website always has some interesting notes and photography HERE


Little Bustard. Mike Watson. 

The Little Bustard is just one of many brilliant birds seen on MW's latest trip accompanied by some interesting accounts of his visit to Catalonia in Spring.

Birding tomorrow and....I have a plan.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Bigger Picture.

Stonechat. Simon Hawtin

I was to say the least pretty excited to finally find Stonechat last Thursday at an upland location in the Forest of Bowland. I've used the word 'finally' because I had surveyed seven sites in the FOB and beyond only to find the species had disappeared due to two consecutive harsh winter periods not least the last one which was the final straw for the Stonechat, winter records had become a thing of the past and it was looking like summer ones were too. However, the six found on Bloe Greet two days ago - along with seven Whinchat - wasn't just a good result for me and the record book but a brilliant one. 

But this isn't the only 'good news' story about the Stonechat....Following a couple of weeks of being in touch with a contact in the South of England I have been privileged with some very interesting records clearly illustrating the North/South divide and giving me the bigger picture regarding the present status of this bird in the UK thanks to my man in Devon who has amassed not only some brilliant records of the Stonechat, but also of the birds breeding successes so far in 2011. 

With an update imminent on four more nests and their young, the grand totals in a study area are of 28 pairs of Stonechat, with 121 eggs laid, from which 87 birds fledged with one nest of five chicks having been predated soon after being ringed, and another with five eggs deserted. The female from one nest was trapped and found to have been ringed as pulli last year on 18 July within 1km, a male also trapped at another nest had also been ringed within 1km on 22 July 2010.

Other data received from this truly obliging man....The first egg this year was found on 4 April, and most pairs in this study area were ringed between 25 April - 2 May. The area was regularly checked during the last winter period and NO Stonechats were found within it, the conclusion of which is that the population in this study area are migrant breeders from their wintering grounds in Southern Europe and the coastal countries of North Africa. As I see it these migrant populations will now have the ascendancy over the sedentary population until they regain the advantage again which usually takes 3-4 years. 

Stonechat. Simon Hawtin  

To SH who I've not seen in a year or so, if you're reading this Simon thanks for these two excellent photographs of the adult and 1st winter male Stonechats my most favourite passerine....I'll be in touch Simon.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A long hard look.

 River Hodder at Cross of Greet Bridge. Pete Woodruff.

With the wind still a chilly one when the sun disappeared, which it did very often though there were some short sunny spells for the first three hours at least, I gave the Cross of Greet/White Greet/Greet Bridge and Bloe Greet a long hard look over today, entirely on foot over six hours.

Unless your memory is as bad as mine you don't really need to carry a note book with you on upland birding, the days of an abundance of birds in these areas exist merely in the history books. Today started a little more than depressing for me as I found no Stonechats for the entire length of the top cattle grid to Greet Bridge and return which took me almost four hours and was looking like the eighth upland location to have lost the species, but 8 Wheatear were noted, 3 Buzzard sightings were not necessarily three different birds, a Kestrel, a pair of Reed Bunting, a pair of Canada Geese up here every summer according to my records, and a 'few' Sand they nest somewhere round about I asked myself.

I returned to the motor to have my 'butties and coffee' then drove down to the bridge again from where - unknown to me - the day was about to take off. On the young River Hodder I found a smart male Grey Wagtail which set me up for a most rewarding couple of hours on the bottom fringe of Bloe Greet to find 6 Stonechat, well ALLELUIA....back from the dead! Also 7 Whinchat....well, who'da thought I'd ever see more Whinchat than Stonechat on a day in the uplands. On the day I counted an absolute minimum of 40 Meadow Pipits and probably missed at least the same again, and heard/saw 5 Willow Warblers. I watched a Peregrine Falcon chasing a Feral Pigeon? which I took to be the easiest of targets, but the raptor gave up the chase for some strange reason, I've seen this behaviour before by Peregrines and never understood the strategy of these birds 'giving in' on an easy target.

I made a brief call at Tower Lodge on the way home to find a Common Sandpiper and another Grey Wagtail, a species I've found hard to come by of late, and another brief call was at Marshaw which produced another Common Sandpiper.

The final brief call today was at Stoops Bridge in Abbeystead where the Pied Flycatchers appear to have failed to return according to my observations on three visits here in the past four weeks....but the Bluebells here are still looking good. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Well, that was fun!

I set out this morning without a single pessimistic thought in my head regarding the weather even though it was dull and grey with a stiff breeze, but by the time I arrived at Conder Green, well guess what....yes it was raining and remained that way until I threw in the towel two hours later at Cockersands defeated by the elements once more having waited in vain to see if a change for the better would come....Well, that was fun!

 I did have a look over Conder Pool which was as depressing as the weather though I must say a surprise with a Common Sandpiper on here had me wondering what this little bugger was doing here on 17 May, not breeding this year, breeding somewhere up the River Conder, or just running late....Mmmmm!

So....some other bits and pics of interest including BBC Nature UK which has quite a bit of both including an excellent image from David Cookson who has found, whilst one door closes another one opens, which prompts me to mention 'The Photographers Tale' just once more as I had one or two comments here and some e-mails about the post. However, I must reiterate, my stand is on the side of DC on this particular issue bearing in mind this is by no means always the case with me and wildlife/bird photographers, as I've experienced some 'bad moves' made by them over the years, but a website publishing images of  - for example - Blue Tits, Sand Martins, and Kingfishers obviously at nest sites but rejecting one of an Avocet and chick by DC, taken from inside a public hide with fifty people in it is  - to keep things polite - pure nonsense. 

And the pics...

Bee Eater. Phil Slade

The Bee Eater is one of the many excellent results of PS's recent trip to the Med....Thanks Phil, I always like you 'a little more' when you come back off your holidays here. 

Common Tern. Cliff Raby

This is a brilliant photograph of the Common Terns at Preston Docks where rafts are put in place for these delightful birds to breed....Like I say Cliff a brilliant pic and many thanks.

Greylag. Gary Jones

The picture of the Greylag amongst the Flag Iris at Leighton Moss is simply brilliant and makes for a photograph with an artistic touch. Photographic excellence in my opinion Gary and reminds me of the photograph of the Mallard below which I took one day at Conder Green....Thank You. 

Mallard. Pete Woodruff.

The end!

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Pied Flycatcher....Part 2.

Pied Flycatcher.

Finding three pairs of Pied Flycatcher (PF) and possibly two other singing males at Barbondale on Thursday 12 May has prompted me to do a few brief notes on the species, though I'D SOONER BE BIRDING but won't be whilst this weather continues, just not practical to do so I'm afraid, not my kind anyway. The photographs are credited to Brian Rafferty with my thanks.

The PF winters in the regions of West Africa between the Sahara and the Gulf of Guinea. In the breeding season in Britain populations are concentrated in areas where Sessile Oak is a dominant tree - though not entirely so - and sometimes in association with Birches, Alder, and Rowan. Breeding densities may be determined by the availability of nest holes, but a feature of the PF today is its readiness to take to artificial nest boxes in which it breeds very productively, which in turn makes the species a good subject for studies which includes large numbers of nestlings ringed on an annual basis.

The PF is a purely migrant visitor to Britain in the summer and dispersal from breeding areas is usually in July and there are no records of birds seen after the end of October. In Britain populations of PF are at present at an unnatural high level because of the provision of nest boxes and long may that situation continue as it is first and foremost to the benefit of the birds, but also to the benefit of those who study them. However, the PF's future well-being is critically dependant upon the conservation of their woodland habitat. I've recently discovered some Beech trees having been taken out in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close to where live, hopefully and presumably for good reason, but you do have to wonder whether or not some of these exercises are purely for 'tidying up' purposes in which case this would be yet another habitat area lost to the birds for no good reason.

Pied Flycatcher.

But the PF has a much more natural problem in that some suggestions are that the species has adopted - and probably not alone in this - to warmer springs and there are signs of advanced breeding dates which brings about the problem of being out of sync with the peak emergence of their insect food source. You just have to ponder what the future holds for birds - and wildlife in general - in a climate changing/habitat destruction/development world of the 21st century.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Photographers Tale.


The photograph above is thanks to David Cookson (DC) around who this tale is written and whose website I recommend you visit if your interests are in birds and photography where you will find excellent examples like....

This brilliant Little Stint, and....

This equally brilliant Curlew Sandpiper beginning to show signs of its brick-red underpart breeding plumage, both birds stopping off to fatten up presumably on their way to far off places to breed, in the case of the latter on its epic journey from Africa to Arctic Siberia.  

What follows is not intended to be seen as my opinion about bird photographers who no doubt do step over the mark on occasions in their quest for 'a better shot', but then....don't we all step over the mark from time to time. The post would perhaps in my view be better called 'Dictatorship off the rails'.

DC has been a regular contributor to a website which has a Photo Section, indeed DC has won the award of 'Pic of the week' on at least one occasion that I'm aware of on this website. This tale is centred around the brilliant photograph of the Avocet and very young chick above, which was submitted to the website only to be informed it had been rejected on the grounds that it goes against their policy and appears to have been achieved at the risk of disturbance to a breeding bird close to its nest site, and as I did - on the face of it - you may well be inclined to say 'rejected and rightly so'. However, DC promptly defended himself in order to put the administrators right and hopefully have the picture accepted, by explaining the location the photograph was taken and that it had been achieved from the unobtrusive cover afforded by the hide he was in on a nature reserve accompanied by up to fifty other people, DC also pointed out that as other examples of photography - which clearly indicated close approach to breeding birds and nests - had been on display on this very same website he could'nt understand why this particular photograph had been rejected, DC quoted three examples in question, being images of Sand Martins in and out of nest holes, images of Blue Tits actually photographed inside a nest box with gaping mouths waiting to be fed, and the best of all, images of Kingfishers clearly illustrated at the nest site.

There DC's case rests and the photograph remains in the reject tray at this website who have as a consequence lost one of their best subscribers because of - in my opinion - this 'Dictatorship/Censorship' gone off the rails. I think we all 'suffer' at the hands of some heavy handed 'dictators' within the birding world who like to put on their uniforms and caps and tell us where we can do our birding, what records we should submit and those we can't, what birds they'll report to us, and those they won't....Oh please!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Something Suspicious....

And a couple more excellent photographs the first of which is....

Common Tern. Geoff Gradwell

I'm not sure whats going on here with these birds, but what I do know is that its a cracking photograph of two Common Terns grappling beak to beak in mid-air.

RBA Pager Service.

A message this afternoon via this service informed us of two Nature Reserves in North Norfolk which have recently been targeted by egg collectors, otherwise known as thieves. The message goes on to ask birders to be always vigilant and report immediately to the local police anything suspicious including car registrations and people involved....Well they can rely on me on that one, and hope they can on you too.

I recall many years ago being with my old friend and mentor in the Rusland Valley in Cumbria in the halcyon days of staking out for hours on end in the hope of views of the enigmatic Honey Buzzard (HB) with a mix of successful and unsuccessful days. On one occasion we were joined by a man who drew up in a van with ladders on the roof rack, it was blatantly obvious what this mans station was in the world of birds and his conversation left no doubt to John and I that he was a ringer and knew far more than we did about the whereabouts of these birds, but by the end of the conversation we were none the wiser as he quite rightly played his cards close to his chest and good for him.

On another occasion we were joined one day by two men who as far as I was concerned were as equally obvious as the ringer had been what their station was in the world of birds/wildlife, and on this particular day they were in the business of egg theft if only they could find out where the HB were. I reckon these two thought John and I looked like a couple of dumbos little knowing that I'd sussed them out almost the instant they had arrived on the scene to talk to us, one of them in particular - who was the mouthpiece of the pair - had written across his forehead....'you can see what a nice guy I am, but what you don't realise is that we're looking for HB to steal the eggs'....these two creeps left no more the wiser than they had been thirty minute earlier, what they didn't know was that John and I didn't know where the HB's were either.

So....please be aware, the persecution of birds of prey and stealing of eggs of several bird species and Peregrine Falcon chicks as another example THRIVES AND LIVES ON IN THE 21st CENTURY. 

And finally....

Nuthatch. Gary Jones

This Nuthatch obligingly visited GJ's garden after he baited the bird table with some tasty seeds.  

PLEASE NOTE....Blogger has had some maintenance problems and yesterdays (Thursday) post 'More like March than May' which disappeared has now returned as a Friday post, but the three interesting comments to the post which I received have still to be restored.

More like March than May.

Yes its another of those through the windscreen 'sit in your car and sulk' pictures whilst hoping this lot will pass over.  I just got back to the motor before it came falling from the sky following an excellent return visit to Barbondale to see if there was anything to add to the last one on 28 April, but it was more like 12 March than May, but despite this I just had this compulsive feeling I needed to get back here and check out the bird-life.

The birds were keeping their heads down in a cloudy and pretty stiff cold wind and I found just one male Redstart today despite my 2.5 hours visit, also one Tree Pipit which actually gave excellent views as it flew up to parachute back down several times and landing on a fencepost just a few metres away. The excellent news from here was that I found three pairs of Pied Flycatcher, an all time personal record in my 120 years coming here....yes 120 years! I'm not well up on the history of Barbondale, but in my experience this is not - and never has been - a Pied Flycatcher stronghold.  Also noted, a Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Buzzard, Kestrel, and a Coal Tit. OK, now this is not impressive stuff for Barbondale, but obviously if the weather had been as it should have been on a beautiful 12 May morning the picture would have been much different.

The PF's aside, my best encounter was, as I stood motionless I must have looked like a tree to a Tawny Owl which flew at low level directly towards me and landed on the branch of a tree not 12 ft above my head, it flew off again about two minutes later....MAGIC!  

And finally....

Dotterel. David Cookson

The Dotterel are still being seen on a protracted passage period in our area with a female found on the top of Whit Moor yesterday, and....

Wheatear. Geoff Gradwell

Lots of Wheatear are now on territory in our area.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Bloggin' for the sake of it! may say this is blogging for the sake of it, but the truth is, whilst I'm not getting out birding and there are photographs always available like these three, and me with the necessary permit to publish them, well....blogging for the sake of it is a doddle, it gives me the opportunity to show off some stunning images and a plug for the authors into the all round good idea if you ask me.

Like I say, all these pictures are truly excellent, they come in no particular order, and it's not a competition.... just bloody good photography, and I strongly recommend you visit these three photographers websites via the links with the photographs.  

The Starling - WOW -  is by David Cookson who is HERE

The Grasshopper Warbler is by Philip Tomkinson who is HERE....WOW again!

And the Wryneck is by Gary Jenkins who is HERE....and WOW yet again!

Thanks DC/PT/GJ all very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

By way of a change.

I thought my best bet was to pay a visit to Leighton Moss today, I really wanted to get into the uplands and must do so in the next few days with one or two locations in mind, but the weather isn't up to it at the moment and the plan was to be able to dodge the showers between hides, as it happens -  apart from some nasty stuff around 11.00am - the day wasn't all that bad and there was no showers to dodge.

Two photographs today have nothing whatsoever to do with the post or my birding, but they are 'gooduns' and liven up the blog no end. 

Bluethroat. Gary Jenkins 

My records are of mainly predictable birds and there are some I didn't see but had hoped to, but as always an enjoyable change of non 'cutting edge' stuff which began in the Public Hide where I noted a male and female Marsh Harrier, 3 Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk, a 'good number' of Swift, and a pair of Greylag with six young. Notable was just five wildfowl being three Pochard and a pair of Tufted Duck, a Coot had two balls of fluff in tow under the watchful eyes of the two brutish Greater Black-backed Gulls nesting on the island. From the road end of the causeway I heard a Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff.

At the Grisedale Hide a Little Egret put in a brief in flight appearance, a 'few' Gadwall, and 2 Red Deer generated some excitement to a full hide, a drake Garganey eventually put in a brief three minute appearance and promptly disappeared probably for the next three days being the elusive creature it is. The Garganey is an annual summer visitor to Leighton Moss but there are no 100% breeding records at the reserve. At the centre I heard a Chiffchaff.

At the Eric Morecambe/Allen Hides I counted 23 Avocet, c.220 Black-tailed Godwit, at least 8 Gadwall, 2 Wigeon, and 2 Skylark. As I was about to leave I noted three ducks fly in which halted my exit and turned out to be two drake and a female Garganey. From the path here I heard a Garden Warbler and Whitethroat, and during my visit I inevitably heard Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler

On the way home I called in at Teal Bay to find 3 Whimbrel, 8 Eider, 8 Red-breasted Merganser, and 2 Whitethroat.

And finally....

Puffin. David Cookson    

Not just a photograph of Puffins but of two involved in a dispute of sorts brilliantly captured by DC.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Routine stuff with a WOW!

Whinchat. Brian Rafferty

Well there was two WOWS actually but one didn't develop into anything and the other probably wouldn't have been a WOW to many other birders but certainly was for me when I found a Whinchat this morning on Jeremy Lane one day earlier than last years 10 May bird and close to the same fence post again this year. I'm pretty certain this little gem above has been on Birds2blog before but thanks BR anyway....great stuff as ever. 

With just the Monday time limits for birding I thought the best bet was some routine Conder/Cockersands stuff, and at Conder Green the pool was uninspiring save 5 Wigeon drakes obviously intent on summering here, also 4 Greylag appear to have taken a liking to the place too. On the circuit a Greenshank was in the creeks and small birds of note were a Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting, and 6 House Martin counted today at River Winds, I'll get to grips with some accuracy sooner or later with these birds.

Cockersands was void of waders but as I set off on the circuit with a peer into some nooks and crannies I noted 12 Eider on the estuary and 5 Whimbrel of note. I counted 4 Whitethroat and 4 Sedge Warbler, and noted 2 Skylark, no more than 6 Tree Sparrow, and 2 Linnet. I was lucky to get back to the motor at the lighthouse cottage before one of the forecast downpours arrived. A few minutes after it had cleared the second WOW arrived in the form of c.200 small waders at which point I began to hope the KP was still with them but a full hours grilling - they were very mobile but kept returning - proved them to be around 130 Dunlin and 70 Ringed Plover.

Willow Warbler. David Cookson 

I watched a solitary Swift for several minutes from our kitchen window this evening and as always felt familiar at the sight of this mysterious creature which has lived close to man for centuries, nesting under the roofs of our houses, whilst so little is know of them other than that they hide away in their dark nests otherwise spending their entire lives on the wing, flying millions of miles in a lifetime. So difficult to grasp in human thinking that once out of the nest the fledged birds so supremely adapted for their aerial life that they fly between here and South Africa for three whole years perhaps without ever stopping, before returning here to build a nest and raise chicks of their own.

If ever a bird brought me to claim....'birds fascinate me in a thousand ways'....the Swift does.