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

Sunday, 31 July 2011




Friday, 29 July 2011

Sandwiches at lunch time.

Sandwich Terns. Pete Woodruff.

Interesting that this photograph of the Sandwich Terns at Knott End was taken a month later - 29 August 2009 - than the birds seen here today and gives precise detail on the advance of moult in the space of four weeks, also interesting that this species stops off at Knott End annually around this date and into August, today's count came to c.230 Sandwich Terns, with an adult Mediterranean Gull also seen through the heat haze.

Butterflies. Pete Woodruff.

From here on the day with JB/BT developed into more of a butterfly day than a bird day, and at Fluke Hall I noted at least 12 Gatekeeper, 3 Small Copper, 3 Red Admiral, 2 Common Blue, and the interesting and uncommon Corn Marigold, a vulnerable species according to the BSBI and about which - if you are really interested - you can read about HERE . The photograph above is of the Gatekeeper and Green-veined White the latter of which was not seen today.

Wildflowers. Pete Woodruff.

There is usually an annual show of colour in the wild flowers at Pilling Lane Ends and this year is obviously no exception, butterflies noted were at least 14 Common Blue and 7 Gatekeeper. A detour along Gulf Lane produced estimates of 30 Goldfinch and 40 Tree Sparrows amongst which I saw a Whitethroat.

House Martin. John Bateman.

At Moss Edge Farm, eight House Martin nests counted and adults were feeding three young obviously not long out of the nest and perched in the cover of a hedgerow. An excellent photograph of an unusual and great experience seeing these young birds so soon out of the nest, hiding under the hedge and looking quite apprehensive about it all.....Thank you John.

I now got the feeling we were calling in at places merely to comply with routine, and a brief look in at Cockersands giving the location no justice at all, gave the Black Swan seen again, and an uncounted 'good number' of Tree Sparrow. An equally brief look in on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock gave speedy notes of c.300 Bar-tailed Godwit, at least 40 Knot and 90 Golden Plover, with 2 Little Egret to note. We now left Glasson Dock and did something even my car won't ever do let alone me, and we drove past Conder Pool and home....Shuks!!

Coastal Path from Fluke Hall. Pete Woodruff.

Contrasting days in relation to the weather, with today's clear sky - above - compared to that of Friday 8 July below when JB and I abandoned all hope just after I took this picture in the early afternoon. 

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pluggin' Away.

I could easily have gone into Bowland today - the plan - but I didn't quite like the sound of the weather-mans voice so decided to carry on plugging away at you know where.

Common Sandpiper. Pete Woodruff.

I managed a half decent pic of three of the 16 Common Sandpipers I counted at Conder Green today, also of note was the intriguing sight of a juvenile then five hours later on the return an adult Little-Ringed Plover, intriguing because since the bird/s arrived here in the spring I've probably only seen them about six times and not for the want of trying. The last two sightings were of an adult I took to be sitting on 13 June, then two adult and a chick seen on 20 June, now today's adult and juvenile. So, not for the first time the Conder Pool LRP's make a fool out of me....alternatively the birds today are passing through. Also noted on Conder Pool 3 Wigeon, and a Moorhen with three chicks, in the creeks a Greenshank, Grey Wagtail, and 15 Goldfinch of note.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, 2 Mediterranean Gull were both adult, c.300 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Greenshank, an Arctic Tern obliged at rest again for my third consecutive visit here, and c.150 Knot of which at least eight were in full summer plumage, I don't recall ever seeing this 'red dress' before on a Knot in my part of the world....or have I been birding with my eyes shut at times!

At Cockersands, Plover Scar was quite lively today with some estimates made, 500 Oystercatcher, 450 Golden Plover, 65 Dunlin, 8 Ringed Plover, and at least 5 Whimbrel. Off the scar, 56 Eider included three young, 24 Shelduck were all juveniles, and a single Red-breasted Merganser. Along the headland I saw 2 Wheatear, at least 50 Swallows gathering on a fence-line, and from the Caravan Park I saw a Pale-bellied Brent Goose though distant on Cockerham Marsh, and a Black Swan in the Cocker Channel.

Lesser Black-backed Gull. Pete Woodruff.

From my observations I reckon these two brutes made a failed attempt at breeding this year on Conder Pool. A bit of B+W photography which I just have the feeling has made an appearance on here once before.

Ringed Plover. Phil Slade

I have it on good authority that Ringed Plovers were seen today on Plover Scar with young....surely a first record.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Flogging a dead horse!

Waders. David Cookson 

There's a relation to the photograph of the Redshanks and Oystercatchers in that I've been down by the seaside again today. I don't usually use such language when it comes to my birding, but at times today I felt I was 'flogging a dead horse' though a grandad with two grandchildren, two youths who thought they'd have a days fishing, and a woman - my politeness shining through there - with 14 dogs - I'll just repeat that - 14 dogs, all played their part in ruining the day.  I think the first lesson to learn if/when you take up this birdwatching thing is to get used to the 'blank times' of which I had one or two today. 

It only took a few minutes to see that Conder Pool had been deserted and I never even got out my note book. In the creeks I found only 5 Common Sandpiper, a Spotted Redshank, and saw a juvenile Reed Warbler, having only moments earlier thought they had failed to turn up this year in the reeds upstream from the A588 road bridge, though at least two Sedge Warbler have been heard on my visits. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock 2 Arctic Tern obliged today, at rest with the waders of which I noted at least 300 Bar-tailed Godwit, 450 Dunlin, 200 Knot, 320 Redshank, 5 Greenshank, and a solitary Golden Plover.

At Cockersands where the 'dead horse' - and the aforementioned 'woman' with 14 dogs - was certainly present. I did manage to get to grips with a count of at least 120 Tree Sparrows today, and a female Sparrowhawk. The only butterflies noted were 2 Red Admiral, but on last Thursdays visit I overlooked posting my records of c.55 Small Tortoiseshell and a Red Admiral at Cockersands.

And finally....

Grey Partridge. Geoff Gradwell

Nine of twelve in this covey of young Grey Partridge, a bird which can lay as many as 20 eggs. Thanks to DC/GG for the photographs.

Interesting bits!

Something about a book, something about Badgers, a couple of 'top of the range' photographs, and another photograph of a rarity in the country with some history about the species.

First the book which is about Nest Monitoring....don't forget to read the comments....interesting.

Then perhaps you'd like to help Save the Badger....I did....'cos its morally indefensible, and scientifically claimed to be not going to work, and thats the side I come down on heavily.

And the pics....

Blackcap. Geoff Gradwell

GG doesn't just have the Blackcap visiting his garden lucky him, he also gets an excellent photograph of the bird.

Whitethroat. Phil Slade

And the Whitethroat with thanks to my man from the Fylde.

Stilt Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper. Dan Pancamo 

A Stilt Sandpiper was found at Lodmoor RSPB Reserve in Dorset on Sunday 24 July and still remains there today. The bird is a North American wader which winters in South America, we won't go down the road about 'whats an American wader - which breeds and winters there - doing in Dorset'.

The first record of this species in Britain was of a bird found by two boys in August 1954 at Kilnsea in East Yorkshire, they were staying at the Spurn Bird Observatory and actually saw the bird again the next day. On the 2 September some birders were alerted to the finding and in due course the bird was accepted as being the first British occurrence of the Stilt Sandpiper. This species remains a very rare vagrant to Britain, but an individual visited various sites over a six month period in Cheshire in 1984 and is by far the longest staying Stilt Sandpiper in Britain.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Devil Birds.

A bird about which a volume of books would have to be written to cover anything like the story of this truly amazing creature with wings. But here is a fraction of the many things making this bird remarkable, these are a few of the 'bits' I know about  it.

Swift. Simon Hawtin 

The Swift  - historically known as Devil Birds - must be one of the most fascinating and mysterious birds to visit these shores, a bird which for centuries has lived in close proximity to man, nesting under the roofs of our houses. Yet little is known about this bird which spends its entire life on the wing and flying literally miles measured in millions in a lifetime to the exclusion of the breeding season when they are hidden away in their dark nests. The European Swift spends most of the year in southern Africa, each spring migrating to Europe as far north as Lapland, inside the Arctic Circle, and eastwards to China to breed and to raise their young. 

All bird species have mastered the art of flying, but none so much as the Swift, a bird which can obtain everything it needs from the air, insects, water, and nest material borne on the wind. It can ride on air currents all night whilst sleeping on the wing, it is the only known bird having the ability to mate on the wing, this creature truly is a fascination to us all. As a group of birds Swifts are the fastest of all in level flight, and the Needle-tailed Swifts of Africa and Asia have been claimed by some experts in the field to have attained speeds of up to 105 mph....maybe that sounds even more impressive at almost 170 kph.

For a bird weighing no more than 50 grams the European Swift can have quite a long life-span averaging about five and a half years. But an individual found dying in Oxford in 1964 had been ringed as an adult in 1948 making this bird at least 18 years old, it was calculated to have possibly flown in its lifetime a distance of some 4 million miles, thats equivalent to flying to the moon and return eight times....ponder over that!

It wasn't until 1960 that the first British ringed Swift was recovered in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. A bird ringed in Yorkshire in 1962 was recovered  five months later in Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - 5,600 miles away thereby setting the southernmost limit to the distribution of the Common Swift.

Over the years there have been many legends about the Swift, but the real-life story of this amazing bird has slowly been pieced together through some amateur naturalists and professional ornithologists and the truth is, this extraordinary bird is in truth revealed as something much stranger than any of the legends surrounding it.

Simon Hawtins excellent image of the Swift has been featured on Birds2blog once before....Welcome Back!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Moorland Birds/Birding.

The Short List.

On a rare Saturdays birding for me and a good day weather-wise I couldn't resist giving Clougha/Birk Bank a 'going over' to see if it could offer me any surprises. Well it c.400m and two hours into the visit I found a lone male Stonechat, but despite keeping my eyes on the bird and its immediate surroundings for fifteen minutes I found no other bird/s with it. Also of note, 5 Raven, at least 14 Red Grouse, 8 Meadow Pipit, a juvenile Wheatear, 2 Wren, and - taking into account the risk of duplicate counting - up to 8 Kestrel seen.  

Meadow Pipit. Phil Slade

It isn't really all that long ago that I would have steered clear of ever going up and onto the moorlands having never been attracted to what I used to refer to as dull places void of birds in particular during the winter months. If you do visit the moorlands in winter you'll probably end up being dismayed at the lack of birds, and its perfectly possible you'll see almost nothing for hours on end. But the key to any birding - and particularly moorland birding - is patience, and there are one or two moorland birds up there which I'm quite attracted to, and in a brief season during the summer months the moorlands are in fact quite rich in bird life. 

During the summer the bird you are likely to encounter most is the Meadow Pipit, a bird with the serious misfortune of always being on the agenda of the Merlin and its next meal, this bird of prey is my most favourite one and - along with another moorland bird the magnificent Hen Harrier - takes the Meadow Pipit by the hundred at this time of the year on their daily hunts for food. Not surprising then, the Meadow Pipit is a bird that I see as one with little ability to deal with a crisis, immediately it sees you it will go into panic mode fluttering up into the air whilst blurting out its series of sip, sip calls, flies this way and that way, giving the impression of never really knowing what to do or where to go next, but eventually dives into cover on the ground and in all possibility won't then calm down for some time to come. So, if you're a small moorland bird you really only have two options for survival, you either skulk all day long in the heather, or venture out and stay on guard, but not many birds are up to this latter strategy, but I know one that is, and I happen know it very well....    

Female Stonechat Brian Rafferty

The Stonechat has the habit of 'sitting' on elevated perches the reason being, it can scan the ground below for the movement of small insects to pounce on. For a small bird the Stonechat has large eyes which I reckon are capable of spotting a Merlin from a mile away and probably only falls victim to one very rarely. The other birds take advantage of this little beauty and its ability and willingness to stand guard whilst they live their lives knowing that if danger is imminent the Stonechat will give them the warning to take the cover needed to escape. 

Red Grouse
Red Grouse Brian Rafferty

Another moorland specialist is the Red Grouse, this is the bird that often surrounds me on my regular visits to Clougha which is a stronghold of the species where I've counted in excess of forty birds on one occasion during a five hour visit here. Not liking my approach, they 'chuckle' away at me as they fly off, they are a bird whose ecology is so tangled up with heather that it is actually heather-coloured itself.

So, as opposed to about twelve years ago plus my knowledge that the Stonechat is now always present on our moorlands in Bowland - though much declined and absent in many areas - since the past two harsh winters - I always enjoy my regular wanders into the areas I once dismissed as bird-less and boring places to find the birds mentioned here plus the excitement of hopefully finding yet another of my favourites the declining....

Whinchat David Cookson   

Note once again the excellent photographs on Birds2blog, with many thanks to PS/BR/DC. 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Hit for six!

I gave Conder Green/GlassonDock/Cockersands a good six hours today and deserved better than I got for the effort....but enjoyed every minute of it.

Little Egret. David Cookson

With the exception of one seen from the Grisedale Hide at Leighton Moss on 10 May, I saw my first Little Egret since 1 April today, it was on Conder Pool, also on here, 7 Greenshank, a single Black-tailed Godwit, and a pair of Moorhen were feeding three young. On the circuit I counted 8 Common Sandpiper, heard a Sedge Warbler singing like it was the beginning of May, also a singing Reed Bunting, a Dunnock, House Martins still visiting nests at River Winds, and a Grey Wagtail seen was my first at Conder Green in at least two years.

Common Tern. Geoff Gradwell

At Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary I found an Arctic Tern conveniently - though distant - at rest with 250-300 Bar-tailed Godwit and c.200 Knot, also noted a similar number of Dunlin. A Peregrine Falcon on the left over of a tree trunk on Colloway Marsh was waiting patiently to change the landscape once it took to the wing. Whilst searching for an Arctic Tern photograph I came across the above Common Tern, a rather impressive result for the effort. Thanks GG....nice one.

At Cockersands I found my second Little Egret on Plover Scar and noted at least 3 Whimbrel with others heard during the visit, also c.250 Golden Plover all appeared to be of European origin, c.250 Oystercatcher, 50 Dunlin, 74 Eider, and 5 Greenfinch were a 'must' to be noted. I saw my second 'early' returning Wheatear of the autumn here.

Gannet. David Cookson

More impressive stuff with the Little Egret and Gannet, with thanks to DC. I found a 'not too long' dead adult Gannet this afternoon on the shingle at Cockersands.

Clement. Courtesy of BTO.

Are you keeping up with Clement and Co.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Med up not fed up!

Sanderling. Brian Rafferty.

No accurately appropriate pics today, but an excellent mug shot of the delightful Sanderling is good enough for me to head the post. JB and I had a good look at the coastal areas of Conder Green/Glasson Dock/Cockersands today but the day was cut a little shorter than planned for more reasons than one, not least of which was the clock, and a road diversion if we wanted to go south beyond Cockersands.

A look in before the tide at Conder Green, and another five hours later at high tide produced an excellent count of 11 Greenshank, and another one of 18 Common Sandpipers which JB reckons is his highest count of the species at this location, I'd need to check my records to know if this applies to me too. Also an adult Spotted Redshank, 82 Redshank, 3 Wigeon, a Red Admirable was the only butterfly seen on the day. On the Lune Estuary from Glasson Dock, a 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull, up to 300 Bar-tailed Godwit, 275 Lapwing, and 200 Redshank all had the area beginning to look like autumn in terms of a small build up of numbers.

From Bodie Hill an adult Yellow-legged Gull gave nothing like the excellent close views I would have appreciated being the worlds number one novice when it comes to tricky or immature gulls. On Jeremy Lane a single Grey Partridge had its head just above the long grass for JB to see it in the field as we drove by. At Cockersands an adult Mediterranean Gull was off Crook Farm with c.150 Black-headed Gull, 25 Eider, and 2 Red-breasted Merganser noted, Plover Scar was unusually void of birds.

And finally, another excellent photograph....

Kestrel. Phil Slade.

....of the female Kestrel. Thanks to BR and PS for the photographs. I use the word every time I post on Birds2blog without fail, and always mean it when it comes to the images I use....Excellent.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Goldfinch.

Goldfinch. David Cookson

The Goldfinch is a widespread species in Britain, absent only from the highlands and islands of Scotland. The bird appears to have been able to adapt to the changes brought about by agricultural intensification through the 1970' and 80's which led to a reduction of thistle and other weed seeds, but following a struggle for a while it seems to have sought to move into gardens with bird tables and feeding stations.

Earlier in its history the Goldfinch has suffered at the hands of 'bird-catchers' who netted and limed them, their downfall was that they were amongst the most attractive and therefore most popular of cage birds being of such beauty in their plumage. By the end of the 19th century Mitchell claimed they were almost extinct, and by the mid 20th century Oakes claimed the species to be 'by no means common' and went on to state the estimate for the County of Lancashire stood at a mere 10 pairs in 1946. Thankfully the Bird Protection Act of 1954 meant that it was prohibited to be in possession of a wild-caught finch and soon after this the Goldfinch was gathering momentum in numbers and by the 1970's had become a common and widespread species in Lancashire. 

In our recording area of North Lancashire September/October is the best time to see the Goldfinch sometimes in impressive numbers, for example my records at Conder Green show up to 400 seen on 22 September 2008, up to 300 seen on 14/24 September 2009, and up to 220 on 21 September 2010, with a similar number again on 2 October. The Goldfinch is hardly affected by harsh winters and these birds at Conder Green were possibly on their way south to the Mediterranean region where up to 80% of the population winter. 

When there are so many bird species in decline, it is always a pleasure to hear the sound of the cheerful notes of the beautiful Goldfinch which can be enjoyed much more frequently than any other of our 'finches'.

Clement. Courtesy of BTO.

There are two Cuckoos now in Africa, they are in the middle of the Sahara Desert the crossing of which is one of the major sources of mortality for many migrant birds. Of the five birds tagged Lyster is the only Cuckoo left in Britain and remains in Norfolk, but an update on all five birds is/was expected sometime today. Be prepared to be amazed and take a look at whats happening on the 'Cuckoo Scene' including news on the Two in Africa 

Friday, 15 July 2011

Never a dull moment!

Sand Leek. Pete Woodruff.

If I can be excused I'd like to start this post with a commemoration to my good friend and mentor John Leedal. Perhaps its becoming a little too regular that I mention JL on Birdsblog, but just this once again because of my finding the Sand Leek Allium scorodoprasum at Witherslack yesterday after a period of probably 12-15 years since JL and I first found it here, a few days after which it was cut down to which - as I recall - JL 'went to town' on the appropriate authorities responsible for the crime. So as I drove up to the corner yesterday were it was found all those years ago it was quite a nostalgic moment for me as you will appreciate when I saw it there as a memento to JL. I would welcome anyone who thinks my claims are inaccurate about this plants status and distribution which is confined to the North of England and Scotland and not too common. 

With BT we first went to Foulshaw Moss which didn't produce the hoped for Hobby or Osprey. However, I did find to my pleasure a male and juvenile Stonechat which showed distantly and briefly as viewed opposite the parking area here, but despite a thorough and closer search of the area wasn't seen again. Also of note were a few fly-overs of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin, the latter of which three females gave good views feeding, a Great-spotted Woodpecker was also seen in flight, good numbers of Swallow were feeding over the moss with House Martin and Swift seen, two Red Deer appeared one of which was a pure white albino and is possibly the same individual we saw here last year. I think we needed to be on the 'hunt' for dragonflies to collect some comprehensive records but one or two Emperor Dragonfly, a 'few' Four-spotted Chaser, and Blue-tailed Damselflies were noted. A brief visit to Latterbarrow gave us c.25 Meadow Brown butterflies and little else posing the serious question....what is the general status of the butterfly in the UK in 2011?....must do some reading up on this. 

Silver-washed Fritillary. Steven Cheshire

A visit to Witherslack gave some recompense for NO butterflies seen at Foulshaw Moss - to the exclusion of a very few 'whites' - when at least 4 Silver-washed Fritillary were seen with a Dark-green Fritillary, 5 Small Skipper, and 2 Comma all noted. Birds were represented by a nice sighting of the very localised Marsh Tit, and three Peregrine Falcon over Whitbarrow were seen initially in some sort of altercation.

A decent and enjoyable day with BT, though the title of the post isn't quite accurate....but reasonably so!

And finally....

Adder. David Cookson.

A couple of non-bird 'Cookson Crackers' with the excellent image of the Adder and....

Fox. David Cookson.

An equally excellent portrait of the Fox, a creature persecuted as much as many other forms of wildlife and more than most. Thanks for these....much appreciated DC 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Irresistible Blog!

Well....I can't resist posting this evening for one or two reasons and a pic. The reasons not least of which is the excellent and intriguing news about a Cuckoo having reached Africa much sooner than anybody ever thought they did, having left the UK sooner than anybody ever thought they did too. This bird is now apparently on the northern slope of the Atlas Mountains in the Sidi-bel-Abbes region of north western Algeria having migrated via Spain, something else nobody ever thought they did, of course I'm talking about....CLEMENT THE CUCKOO

Heath Fritillary. Paul The Tortoise Man

OK....The photograph is an excellent one of the Heath Fritillary with thanks to Paul, but a Large Tortoiseshell has been found today on the Scilly Isles. The Large Tortoiseshell is officially extinct in Britain, though previously seen in the largest concentrations in the south and eastern England, it has never been recorded in Ireland.

And finally....

Take heart once again all ye who have suffered at the hands of a mis-ID....Oh come on, we all suffer at the hands of mis-ID, I certainly have and probably will do so again. A Greater Yellowlegs reported yesterday in N'hants has turned out to have been a Greenshank....Whoops!!

Down by the riverside.

River Lune. Pete Woodruff.

The River Lune snakes its way through the beautiful Lune Valley, in the pic above  - note the foreground tools of the trade - the river is actually flowing north east which is more towards the direction it came from. Ingleborough is in the distance the very tip of its summit in cloud, but as the river goes out of sight on the left in the pic it turns to head south west again towards Lancaster and on to the estuary about 12 miles downstream at Cockersands. So here I was doing what I love to do the best, to the neglect of everyone and everything.

Little Ringed Plover. Pete Woodruff.

Five hours plus on the River Lune upstream from Bull Beck yesterday produced some excellent results and I refused to award the Gold  to a species as I was torn between 5 Little Ringed Plovers - note above my latest attempt at international level photography - including two unfledged but growing young, and the 4 Green Sandpipers I saw together an hour later further upstream on the best flood I've seen in ages and in perfect condition, a Kingfisher seen was also excellent. With the risk of duplicate counting taken into account I recorded at least 22 Common Sandpipers, also of note a lone Ringed Plover, 8 Grey Wagtail, a juvenile Robin, a Kestrel, 3 Red Admiral and a 'few' Small Tortoiseshell noted. 

Oystercatcher. Pete Woodruff.  

Oystercatchers were dotted about here and there on the shingle and I saw one young chick on the visit. I have no idea of the status of the Sand Martin on the River Lune in 2011, if there is info somewhere out there about this I've had no time to look for it, what I do know is that I'd rate the numbers I saw here yesterday as at least 'quite large' and it was a joy to watch young in the bank opposite peering out of the many nest holes, quite a few of them with three little bodies vying for pole position at the entrance.

Living on the edge.

During the visit here I couldn't help but think, the natural world these birds are part of is also their enemy particularly during the breeding season. The Little Ringed Plover adults were watching their two young every move whilst threats like the Grey Heron, 'gulls' and 'corvids' were all on the prowl. Also the fact these birds are breeding on the shingle banks are at some risk of being washed away following any prolonged heavy rain causing the river to flood and wash away everything in its path including the many hundreds of Sand Martins trapped in their nest holes until fledged.


A Greater Yellowlegs has been found at Daventry Reservoir in N'hants. The first record in Britain of this N.American wader which winters in the USA south to southern America, was shot by an obvious 'rhymes with tanker' on the Isles of Scilly in 1906.

Monday, 11 July 2011

....and Clement the Cuckoo!

I've recently received some very welcome e-mails telling me of Stonechats seen in Bowland, they are from birders who visit Birds2blog and I'd like to show my appreciation for the information publicly with a thank you. However, despite these records in the positive from Bowland I'm personally still visiting areas that have 'lost' the Stonechat, some of these areas are previous strongholds for the species since 1999. Today Harrisend didn't manage to spring any surprises on me and the 2.5 hours spent there produced the expected Stonechat zero. But my interests in birds and birding don't begin and end with the Stonechat they're only a part of it, todays efforts didn't produce anything spectacular but enjoyable and with interest just the same. 

At Harrisend I noted at least 18 Meadow Pipit, 7 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackbird, 3 Linnet, 3 Reed Bunting being two male and a juvenile interestingly all three birds together, also a juvenile Dunnock, 4 distant Redstart appeared to be a family party but not including a male, and 2 Buzzard. Butterfly interest was in 5 Small Heath, and a Green-veined White.

At Conder Green 11 Common Sandpiper, 3 Black-tailed Godwit were all in full breeding plumage. On Conder Pool, 66 Redshank and 3 Wigeon drakes were of note. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, c.250 Bar-tailed Godwit again, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, and a Greenshank were the best of an otherwise deserted area of the River Lune.

Two birds I had hoped to see today had apparently moved on....

Scaup. Copyright Granted.

The first was a drake Scaup - the very bird in the picture - which had been at Glasson Dock for a couple of days on the canal basin. 

Marsh Harrier. Simon Hawtin

And the Marsh Harrier, a first summer male - not the one in the picture this time - which was at Cockersands yesterday but wasn't seen today.

You must be as intrigued as I am about Clement the Cuckoo, well hes surprised the 'Tag Team' and everyone else by moving 400 miles out of France and into Spain, see for yourself.... HERE

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Corn Bunting.

Corn Bunting. Phil Slade

The Corn Bunting (CB) has a feeble flight and with its legs dangling it doesn't suggest a strong flyer, yet the species has at one time or another managed to colonise the remotest fringes of Britain. The CB owes much throughout history to mans alteration to the environment, the spread of cereal agriculture across Europe and reaching Britain a few thousand years ago resulted in the clearing of vast areas of woodland creating open habitats suitable for the CB.

In the north of its range the CB is largely confined to arable farmland, in winter the bird feeds mainly on cereal stubble a habitat which has declined greatly over recent years. In Lancashire the CB was uncommon towards the end of the 19th century and Mitchell commented it was 'very locally distributed and seldom seen except where grain is grown'. Today the reason for the dramatic crash of the CB - and the Yellowhammer for that matter - is unquestionably down to intensification and changes in farming methods which include the switch to autumn sowing of cereals with the subsequent loss of seed-rich stubble in the winter, and replacement of hay by silage, food supplies have also been depleted by the use of herbicides, pesticides playing their part  in the dramatic fall of the CB.

The CB is often referred to by some as a 'dull bird'. I personally don't know of a single species of bird I'd ever refer to as 'dull', but I do know if I'd like to see the CB in our recording area in north Lancashire I'll need a good deal of luck on my side, and if I do it'll be a 'straggler'. In our area 52 years ago in 1959 the CB was a scarce and very local resident, by 1997 it was declared as possibly extinct, today it most certainly is. However, just outside the border on Tuesday 18 January I recorded up to 100 CB's on Union Lane. Areas in south-west Lancashire and the Fylde are where the CB has a healthy status, that of a common breeding bird.

By the way, this I found both news and interesting, and if you're local....  

High Brown Fritillary. Steven Cheshire

....did you know about Myers Allotment and the High Brown Fritillary 

Friday, 8 July 2011

Early Finish!

Today I had no plan to go into the Bowland uplands, but as the pic above shows, for the second consecutive day its just as well it wasn't the plan, this taken on the coastal path from Fluke Hall to Knott End just after lunch time. Soon after this JB and I decided enough was enough of sitting out the 'monsoon' which followed and we were on  our way back to Lancaster and an unplanned early finish. But before all this....

I had noted on Conder Pool, 10 Common Sandpiper, 3 Greenshank, c.200 Redshank, a solitary Black-tailed Godwit, and 5 Shoveler unusual on here, in fact - although I'm not absolutely certain - could be a first record....but I know a man who will. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock I took note of c.250 Bar-tailed Godwit again, c.180 Redshank, c.50 Knot, and 2 Shelduck accompanied by 23 young. At Cockersands - where it was virtually unsafe weather-wise to get out of the car - up to 15 Goldfinch noted.

Whitethroat. John Bateman.

At Fluke Hall 4 Whitethroat, 10 Tree Sparrow, and a singing Skylark were followed by a sit in the car to shelter from the aforementioned monsoon. We decided it's always best to face up to defeat, and the elements had beaten us yet again. On our way back to Lancaster we called back in at Conder Green but, here we go again and the rains came once more....the final straw!  

Red-legged Partridge. David Cookson.

There are some birds which I never record, in fact some I refuse point blank to do so and the Red-legged Partridge is a good example, though to contradict this claim I actually posted one in my records on Monday of this week at Cockersands, my excuse here is that the single adult bird had 11 very young with it and was 'running' down the road with them following on in a line.

Rook. David Cookson.

Another example is the Rook, but again this is a rule I break sometimes, an example would be if I encounter unusually high numbers of this corvid. At the end of the day this was a good excuse for posting a couple of brilliant images from the man who isn't going to stop taking photographs until hes dead....well thank goodness for that! 

You dont have to take my word about his photography, just take a look HERE

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The butterfly has it!

This photograph taken at Cockersands looking east to the fells of Bowland clearly illustrates why I didn't go up Harrisend which is blotted out by the cloud and rain this afternoon. So Plan A out the window and Plan B put into place once again and away I went to the coast and kept reasonably close to the car in case a dash from the showers was necessary.

At Conder Green the Spotted Redshank was in the company of at least 200 Redshank on Conder Pool, also on here, 6 Greenshank, 8 Common Sandpiper, and a pair of Oystercatcher have one young on here. In the creeks another c.100 Redshank, and a single Bar-tailed Godwit and Black-tailed Godwit gave an excellent opportunity to compare these two species - similar in certain conditions and distance - at close range.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, c.250 Bar-tailed Godwit included ten males in their stunning summer dark rufous underparts, also noted a Greenshank, 2 Eider, and 2 Wigeon. On the canal basin a pair of Tufted Duck had three chicks. 

Marsh Harrier. Phillip Tomkinson 

At Cockersands I decided to do the circuit until the tide came in to give me some time to loiter off Plover Scar to see if the Wyre Estuary AGP had decided to pay us a visit....or maybe a Broad-billed Sandpiper with the Dunlin perhaps!

To be honest at one point I went into one of my 'shouldn't I be doing something more useful in life than this' modes but I soon came out of it when I clapped eyes on a Marsh Harrier quartering the Abbey Farm fields. Also noted on the round, probably no more than 15 Tree Sparrow seen today, up to 8 Goldfinch, and a Sedge Warbler still in song. 

Painted Lady. Phillip Tomkinson

I had given the Marsh Harrier today's Gold Award but this only lasted a couple of hours until I found the Painted Lady fluttering by, at which point I decided the award should go to the insect and not the bird. Last year I had found two Painted Lady butterflies here at Cockersands four weeks earlier on 7 June, but I think the records will show a poor year in 2010, but just in case I'll put my parachute on ready for being shot down on that suggestion.

Golden Plover 3
Golden Plover. Brian Rafferty 

To watch the tide gaining height I put myself opposite the lighthouse and sifted through c.250 Golden Plover and c.35 Dunlin to no avail, the young 'fluffy' Oystercatcher was seen to be still surviving, and 7 Eider were off the scar.

A conversation with farmer Brian from Gardners Farm on Moss Lane revealed on questioning only about three pairs of Swallows this year, on asking how this compared with recent years he told me they could have as many as twelve pairs at times....interesting.

Thanks as always to PT/BR for the excellent images of Marsh Harrier, Painted Lady, and Golden Plover.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

An even closer look.

There's an excellent 'Closer Look' Gallery which has recently been brought up to date on the Flyde Bird Club website and the American Golden Plover, Blue-headed Wagtail, Temminck's Stint, Kentish Plover, and White Stork are all examples of what you will find HERE 

Blue-headed Wagtail.

One of the birds featured on the Fylde Bird Club website is the Blue-headed Wagtail (BHW) and I've been taking a closer look for myself at this bird.

The fact that continental Yellow Wagtails differed from the British form escaped the attentions of ornithologists until the early 1830's when the distinction was eventually noted, and in 1834 at Colchester in Essex the first British record of a continental BHW was made. This form of the continental race is the most common one to reach Britain, and breeding with the British flavissima is today recorded almost annually.

American Golden Plover.

The first record of an American Golden Plover (AGP) - a North American vagrant - in the Lancashire and North Merseyside area was of a bird with Golden Plovers at Marshside in November 1984, four years later another was found at Fleetwood in September 1988.

The next record of an AGP in Lancashire became famous for both me and for the county, in my case it was the bird I 'twitched' with my old friend and mentor the late John Leedal, and for the county it became the first long staying AGP for Lancashire. This bird was found at Fishmoor Reservoir, Blackburn on 28 October 1995, and was last seen on 11 November which was the date JL and I went to see the bird and therefore we were amongst the last birders to see this individual. Having looked up my record of the bird I found I'd made the following note....

'After a three hour wait to see if the grim weather we had traveled to Blackburn in would clear up - which it didn't - and following a further period searching for the bird in rain we discovered it with the c.200 Golden Plovers it had been in the company of for almost two weeks now, we eventually had excellent views of the AGP, also of note here was a female Common Scoter'. The note ends....'A Good Day'.

Yellow Wagtail. Simon Hawtin

The Yellow Wagtail to be found in our area of North Lancashire is that of a scarce and declining migrant breeder of probably no more than 'one or two' pairs. The most reliable site I know of for seeing this species is/was the Halforth/Heversham Moss area where I've neither heard nor seen the place mentioned this year, though I have to confess to not having been there to see for myself.  

For the record....I have been given permission to post the photographs of the BHW/AGP.   

Monday, 4 July 2011

The AGP....

....and about 130 'early' Europeans at Cockersands.

But first - to start the post with a bit of colour - a couple of excellent images of the male and female Linnet with thanks once again to Phil Slade

On a brilliant sunny Monday morning I'd have been a fool not to have 'shot off' - as all good twitchers do - to Skipool Creek on the Wyre Estuary to have excellent views of the stunning summer plumage adult male American Golden Plover, still here as I write at 9.00pm this evening. Having had my fill of the bird and duly 'ticked' - as all good twitchers do - in my records I left to call at Fluke Hall with the idea that today was surely a good one for butterflies, well I was wrong again on that one, save noting c.12 Meadow Brown, a Red Admirable, and a Whitethroat continues with its scratchy song.

Eider. Pete Woodruff. 

On to Cockersands where the first returning 130 Golden Plover were waiting for me to count them, along with a miserable 8 Oystercatcher and two young, c.10 Dunlin, and a solitary Lapwing were all accompanied by a Brown Hare looking decidedly out of context though often seen on Plover Scar, 19 Eider were off here. Small birds seen, up to 50 Tree Sparrow were pretty difficult to count and spread far and wide, 2 Sedge Warbler, a Dunnock, Reed Bunting, and 2 Sand Martin over, a Red-legged Partridge had eleven chicks in tow on the road and living dangerously, and a Red Admiral noted.

With the rest of the area under water at the height of the tide I just checked Conder Pool today and found 6 Greenshank on here with the Spotted Redshank and a noticeable change in plumage considering its only five days since I last saw this bird, also 4 Common Sandpiper, and 23 Redshank.  

And finally....

Spotted Flycatcher. Warren Baker

The classic pose of the Spotted Flycatcher which can be identified a mile away, with thanks once more to WB. 

Lyster is the only remaining Cuckoo still in the UK, and Chris isn't dead after all, hes in the Moselle region of France....LOOK HERE