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

Monday, 30 May 2016

Three Years Later.

It's 3 years since my last visit to Newby Moor on the North Yorkshire border when I found no Stonechats on 3 June 2013. This was another upland location once a stronghold for the species, but the last time I saw Stonechat here was 6 years ago on 9 April 2010 when I found two birds.

On my visit to Newby Moor on Friday, 2 Stonechat, seen as a female and a not obviously connected young bird a half mile away, but at least it's a breeding record here again at last. Also noted on a two mile walk to Clapham railway station and the River Wenning, good numbers of Lapwing breed here and I saw at least 12 birds in one field, 9 Meadow Pipit, coincidently all the two's, Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting, Linnet, and Skylark, 6 Curlew are hopefully breeding up here, House Martin were around Nutta Farm and a cottage by the River Wenning at Clapham station were I heard a singing male Blackcap, a Grey Wagtail on the river, and a Buzzard soaring overhead. 

Small Heath Warren Baker 

Three butterflies seen, a Small Heath and 2 Orange Tip. Thanks for the butterfly Warren.

I made a repeat visit to Barbondale to find a 'no expenses spared' new footbridge in place over Barbon Beck. I found 4 Pied Flycatcher, being one down on my visit 12 May, a Spotted Flycatcher, a female Redstart was the only one seen, 5 Willow Warbler, 3 Wren and 2 Robin.

It was good to see Swifts from a moving vehicle around the village store in Barbon, also from the motor, nice to hear a Blackcap singing close by as I pulled up at a roadworks traffic control in Melling. 

Barbondale/Newby Moor No-No's.      

It's important to note birds at best not seen, at worst missing from these two locations. On two visits to Barbondale I've seen/heard no Stonechat, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Wheatear, Cuckoo, Woodpecker sp, seen only 2 Redstart, one Spotted Flycatcher, and notably at least 10 years since my last Common Sandpiper on Barbon Beck.

On the Newby Moor area visit, it was notable no Sedge Warbler here, in the past I could record often close to double figures on many summer visits just as I could the Stonechat, and I found no Spotted Flycatcher on/around the River Wenning at Clapham station.

Conder Pool Strikes Again!

Thanks to Simon Hawtin for the brilliant in flight Avocet on Conder Pool. Another excellent record to add to the already impressive list for this relatively small brackish lagoon, with the Avocet nesting on the same small island next to the nesting Common Tern, and excellent past records.... 

White-winged Black Tern
Black-necked Grebe
Temminck's Stint
Pectoral Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper

Friday, 27 May 2016

Last And Best!

On Tuesday I walked from the car park on Rigg Lane, up Birk Bank, went across the top, back down to cross Ottergear Bridge, past Cragg Cottage, down Littledale Road, on past Gibson Wood with it's excellent past record for Wood Warbler, and arrived back at the car park on Rigg Lane 3 hours later to hear and chase around until I eventually found and had excellent views of my last and best bird of the day, a Garden Warbler.

Garden Warbler. Jan Larsson @ Vingspann 

I noted 16 bird species in the 3 hours on this circuit, including at least 10 Meadow Pipit, 4 Wren, 2 Willow Warbler, a Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, 3 Curlew were over, two west and one east, 25 Jackdaw off Rigg Lane, some of which were harassing Lapwing with young, a Brown Hare was in the same field. The big surprise on the top of Birk Bank was when nine young Red Grouse little more than a fortnight old, exploded out of the undergrowth almost from under my feet, they flew off a short distance all calling noisily followed by the female. Never seen anything like it before, a first for me, and didn't know the Red Grouse could have a clutch of up to nine. 

Thanks to Jan for the Garden Warbler, the views of my bird were as good as this one.  

The visit to Birk Bank was to get an update on the two pairs of Stonechat seen here on 5 May, but disappointingly I made contact with none. However, a much better result was on Harrisend, when I found a pair of Stonechat with two - possibly three - young but never saw them excellent record.

Also of note on Harrisend, 13 Meadow Pipit, 3 Linnet, 2 Willow Warbler, a Reed Bunting male, and a Mistle Thrush which came up off the moorland with food in it's bill, to fly towards trees in excess of a mile away from me and out of sight....had this Mistle Thrush really flown over two miles for a morsel of food presumably for young.

Small Copper. Warren Baker @ Pittswood Birds

It was good to see the first Small Copper of the summer on Harrisend. Thanks for the butterfly Warren. 

Birk Bank Dragonflies.

I saw a - too distant for my liking - Dragonfly over the bog, but colouration and the fact it was small and looked like a giant wasp in flight leads me to suggest it was a female Broad-bodied Chaser.

A Photographic Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Kent: Keeled Skimmer &emdash; Male, Hothfield Common, June 2013
Keeled Skimmer (male) Marc Heath 

In 2015 two - possibly three - male Keeled Skimmer were found (Steve Graham) in August at the bog on Birk Bank which appears to be suitable habitat and brings the hope that colonisation may now take place here, hopefully I may see for myself this summer. Thanks to Marc for the Keeled Skimmer at Hothfield Common in Kent.  

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


....but little else to write home about.

The Conder Pool Avocets.

As I see it, the Avocets - which were on Conder Pool last Friday morning when I arrived there - look set to attempt to breed here, today is their fifth day on the pool.

Avocet. Conder Pool. May 23.

The Avocet is a bird generally silent outside the breeding season, but I watched them for twenty minutes yesterday during which time they called persistently....'kluit, kluit, kluit....'in response to anything that moved and appeared as an intruder entering or flying over a nesting area. When I returned later in the day, the bird on the right prodded and poked at the ground then eventually appeared to settle down there....Mmmmm!

It's difficult to know exactly what the 2 Common Tern on Conder Pool are up to, but a suspicion I have is that the female is now sat in a tray hidden behind vegetation on Tern Island which is where she's sat the past two years, the male just loafs around....Mmmmm! 

Also seen was the lone Black-tailed Godwit in the creeks, a Whitethroat and male Reed Bunting were the only rewards for my efforts at Conder Green.

High Tide Roosters. Ringed Plover/Dunlin.

Ringed Plover.

I visited only Plover Scar at Cockersands around the high tide to find waders in fewer number than my visit last Friday, today c.500 Dunlin and c.150 Ringed Plover were grilled a few times to find nought 'odd' amongst them.

An hour along the top track and return via the lower one at Aldcliffe had a lone Little Ringed Plover with the flood entirely to itself, with 3 Chiffchaff seen/heard.

Considering I was on the roam for six hours yesterday, I ended up with little to write home about....Birding can be hard work y'know!!

Today's pictures, your's truly.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Avocet On The Starter Menu.

Avocet. Brian Rafferty.

I arrived at Conder Green yesterday morning to see 2 Common Tern evicting 2 Avocet - an excellent record for Conder Pool - from Tern Island, the Avocet disappeared behind the back side of the pool, but when I returned 5 hours later I found them in the creeks. 

Other action on the pool, the solitary Black-tailed Godwit, a Great-crested Grebe, 2 Greylag, a Grey Heron, and Little Egret, a Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat were heard, and a few Sand Martin and 2 Swift were over the pool. On the Lune Estuary, 8 Eider and a drake Red-breasted Merganser hauled out were my only notes save several Shelduck sifting the mud on an otherwise deserted estuary, 4 Orange Tip butterflies seen in the area.

Dunlin (and a Ringed Plover) Brian Rafferty.

Probably up to 2,000 waders on Plover Scar at high tide, with my best estimates being, 1,650 Dunlin, 355 Ringed Plover, 2 Sanderling, 2 Turnstone, and 3 Little Egret. Walking along the headland, at least another 1,000 Dunlin flew by in five groups from Cockerham Sands towards Plover Scar, 4 Skylark and 3 Whitethroat noted.

Many thanks to Brian Rafferty for the images in this post, and to Antonio Puigg for the new header, all much appreciated. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Bowland Notes.

Weatherwise a decent enough day for another visit to Bowland on Tuesday, on which I made a 34 species count. 

Stonechat Warren Baker  

I paid a visit to the west side of Hawthornthwaite Fell where I found 4 Stonechat, they were seen as two pairs, all alarmed at my presence, and 'clicking pebbles' with food in the bill for young in the nest....excellent sight, excellent news. Also of note, 6 Curlew hopefully three breeding pairs, 8 Meadow Pipit2 Red Grousea Grey Wagtail, and a soaring Buzzard overhead was the only raptor seen on the day in 6 hours. Thanks for the brilliant male Kent Stonechat Warren.

Snipe With Chicks. Howard Stockdale.

At the foot of Hawthornthwaite I heard a Snipe 'chip-per' four times. Thanks to Howard for his excellent shot of the Snipe....not every day you get the chance to photograph a Snipe with two chicks.  

Driving from here towards Marshaw, a Redshank was on a fence post, House Martins were around Well Brook Farm, with Sand Martins also on the Marshaw Wyre here. At Marshaw, 2 Common Sandpiper, a Dipper, and a Grey Wagtail seen on the Marshaw Wyre, with 3 Mistle Thrush in the area.

In the Tower Lodge - Trough Bridge area, I saw/heard no more than 4 Willow Warbler anywhere on my visit here today, 4 Nuthatch, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Coal Tit, a Dunnock, Goldcrest, and Treecreeper. A single Siskin was seen at Trough Bridge, with a Grey Wagtail and a female Mallard with 12 ducklings on the Marshaw Wyre.

Marshaw - Tower Lodge - Trough Bridge No-No's.

I found no Pied Flycatcher, and even more disappointingly, no Spotted Flycatcher, nor were any Redstart, Redpoll, or Cuckoo heard/seen in the 4 hours spent here today. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Common Tern.

In Preston on Sunday I went to show KT the Common Terns at Preston Dock in the hope perhaps some recent Black Terns there would still be around as a bonus. I reckon in excess of 200 Common Tern here today, and our timing was good with one pair, the male of which began displaying to the female walking around her a few times, resulting in some mating behaviour. 

I managed to get a small four frame sequence of the action which was rewarding.

Common Terns. Preston Dock. Pete Woodruff.

In 2009 following an epic journey from their wintering in West Africa, a pair of Common Tern successfully bred on a pontoon at Preston Dock raising two young. Fylde Bird Club with the RSPB, capitalised on the opportunity to create what is seen today as a thriving colony, by introducing artificial nest sites on pontoons at Preston Dock, today's trays can be seen in the pictures above.

All this adds to the excellent return of the Common Tern pair to Conder Pool on Friday 6 May, a fortnight earlier than last year when they arrived on Friday 22 May 2015 and went on to rear three young, and 2 months earlier than their first year here, when they surprised everyone by arriving on the much later date of 2 July in 2014 to successfully rear their first two young....Hopefully these successes will continue on Conder Pool this summer with similar accommodation now in place as at Preston Dock thanks again to FBC and the RSPB. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Target Practice At Barbondale.

Pied Flycatcher. Noushka Dufort @ 1000-Pattes

I was asked if I was available to check out the birdlife at Barbondale last week and duly obliged on Thursday....I found 5 Pied Flycatcher, seen as a pair, two singing male, and a female. The only other birds seen were a single male Redstart with two more heard, and a Treecreeper feeding young.

If you're planning to visit Barbondale for some 'target' birding in the near future, be informed, there's no footbridge over Barbon Beck, and you'll need to be cautious if you intend crossing to the other side via one or two areas with a few stepping stones to negotiate with a little sense of adventure. 

Down the River Wenning from Hornby, and up the River Lune towards Lloyn Bridge. A singing male Blackcap, 3 Song Thrush, 3 Blackbird, a Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch were noted at the start of the walk from the road bridge at Hornby. To Lloyn Bridge, a Common Sandpiper, Willow Warbler, Pied Wagtail, with 2 Swift and a Redshank over, and 2 Orange Tip butterflies seen.

I probably saw up to 250 Sand Martin on the Wenning/Lune walk, and whilst I have little detailed knowledge of the history of the River Lune Sand Martin colonies, I regarded as healthy, a small colony on the south bank of the river Wenning which showed up to 40 nest holes, and another larger colony on the west bank of the River Lune at the confluence showing up to 85 nest holes. 

The Bar-headed Goose.

Bar-headed Goose. Conder Pool 13 May. Pete Woodruff.

In the area on Friday, I was unable to drive on and ignore Conder Green where I found this Bar-headed Goose on Conder Pool. An attractive bird but not one to be taken seriously, the species is in the 'Escaped/Unknown Provenance' category, though it is recorded almost annually once or twice per year scattered around the county of Lancashire, with no evidence of breeding. I also saw my first Brimstone butterfly here.

Many thanks to Noushka and to Simon for their excellent images, including Simon's header of the in flight Black-tailed Godwit, they are all very much appreciated.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Two Hour Short List.

A couple of hours to spare on Tuesday only gave me time to check Plover Scar coming up to a 9.66m high tide at 2.41pm, but a good hour was taken up when I found something like 1,500 Dunlin with 350 Ringed Plover in what had been a ploughed field off Slack Lane a couple of days ago, but was now more like a carpet having been rolled flat which had suited the birds nicely. 

High Tide Roosters. Cockersand. Pete Woodruff.

Also in the roost, it was good to see 4 Sanderling - 'clik the pik' there's two in there, with one in winter plumage, the other to the left with it's head down in advanced summer plumage - and a single Turnstone, 2 Stock Dove were in an adjacent field. Another Sanderling was on Plover Scar with 225 Dunlin, 3 Turnstone, and a Whimbrel.

Calling in at Conder Green I was a little surprised to find a Common Sandpiper still here, the last in 2015 were four seen on 1 May. The Common Tern pair were also still present, though I've seen a report of the terns and everything else on the pool disturbed by someone on a four track speeding on the bund yesterday with 100+sheep still on here last time I counted them, none of which can hardly be conducive to any ground nesting birds.

I'm off to check the 'Birds of Barbondale' now....that'll take a little more than two hours I'd say.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Pint Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please!

A brief look in on Conder Pool on Monday had the pair of Common Tern on Tern Island with a single Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Swift were loitering overhead. Seven Eider hauled out were the only birds keeping the Lune Estuary alive at Glasson Dock, with 2 House Martin collecting mud below the bowling green. A scour of the hedgerows on and around Jeremy Lane produced nothing save a Buzzard on a stone gate post distant behind Aspley Farm.

Ringed Plover/Dunlin. Cockersand. Pete Woodruff.

At Cockersands, at least 500 waders in a field off Slack Lane comprised of c.65% Ringed Plover together with Dunlin and a single Turnstone. Thirty minutes later up turned Mr Farmer and an accomplice complete with two tractors and machinery to put them to flight, this joined forces with the pair of goons out on Plover Scar at near high tide and not a bird in sight....Good eh!!

Sedge Warbler. Martin Lofgren @ Wild Bird Gallery

Otherwise a bit of a rake around produced my first 2 Sedge Warbler seen together by a reed-lined ditch, 2 Wheatear were by the abbey ruins, 2 White Wagtail were on the headland, and bringing up the rear, a Stoat was on Slack Lane.


I don't find it easy to make negative comments about birds and my birding and rarely do, but to be honest, I may as well have spent today in the Dalton Arms at Glasson Dock....Pint of lager and a packet of crisps please!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Chats & Bells.

What a good idea it turned out to be yesterday when KT and I incorporated an hours 'bush bashing' on Heysham Barrows with a pleasant walk from Sandylands.

Right day, right time, to initially find two, then eventually up to 5 Whinchat and 6 Whitethroat, with 5 Blackbird, 4 Linnet including a female with nesting material, 2 Dunnock, a Song Thrush, Greenfinch, with a good healthy number of House Sparrow, and 2 Swift lingering over.

The Bluebell.

Bluebell. Pete Woodruff.

It was good to find native Bluebells on Heysham Barrows, which are losing the battle to an insidious competitor the Spanish Bluebell. Introduced in Victorian times as a garden plant, the Spanish Bluebell lept over the garden fence years ago to cross-breed with our native Bluebell and produce hybrids with a mix of characteristics.

Our native Bluebell is best identified by it's droop like top of the stem like a shepherds crook, with bell-shaped flowers of rolled back tips, and creamy white pollen. 

Spanish Bluebell. Pete Woodruff.

The Spanish Bluebell has conical bell-shaped flowers with open tips, and more notably an upright stem, the pollen of this Bluebell is blue. 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Missing Out.

Unfortunately I missed yesterday's arrival of migrants, in particular that of the mass influx of Spotted Flycatchers, and Friday was another of those 'grab a couple of hours when you can' days, to be honest I missed all the action and wasn't able to give my birding much justice in the time available....can't win 'em all.

Common Tern. Conder Pool 6 May. Pete Woodruff.

But it didn't take long for me to get excited when I stepped up to the viewing platform at Conder Pool to find two Common Tern had arrived and taken an interest in the accommodation availability.

Great-crested Grebe. Conder Pool. Pete Woodruff.

Also on the pool, 12 Tufted Duck and the female Wigeon noted, with 35 Black-tailed Godwit over and heading to the Lune Estuary, do these birds not have a flight to Iceland booked! The Great-crested Grebe was again in residence, I reckon this bird takes regular days out from the canal basin at Glasson Dock. A single Common Sandpiper and 6 Dunlin were down the Conder channel.

My visit to Cockersands wasn't really practical in the circumstances, but I saw 2 Whimbrel and 4 Little Egret, with 19 Eider, and a Red-breasted Merganser off Plover Scar, and I saw another Lapwing off Slack Lane with a single young bird.

The header and photograph in the post marks a major event in our recording area, that of the arrival of the Common Terns on Conder Pool, hopefully for the third breeding of the species to follow the success over the past two years at Conder Green in north Lancashire. 

Friday, 6 May 2016

A Hike Up The Pike.

Male Stonechat. David Cookson @ Flickr

An excellent day and an excellent time for me to be off up Clougha Pike for the first time since 8 September last year. 

Female Stonechat Martin Jump

Yesterday I spent 3.5 hours on Clougha and found not a single Stonechat, but the good news is that I found two pair of Stonechat on Birk Bank, these are the first to be found on Birk Bank in 6 years when a pair were seen at the far end on 27 April 2010 at the end of the first of two harsh winters which had a catastrophic effect on British wintering Stonechats.

In the 5.5 hours spent on Clougha, then Birk Bank, I made notes on all the 18 bird species I saw, including 4 Wheatear, 7 Willow Warbler, a singing male Blackcap, a Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, 6 Wren, a Blue Tit, and a Chaffinch. I noted just 2 Red Grouse as an unusually low count, being at least six less than I would have expected in early may here, at least 20 Meadow Pipit, and saw just two raptors, a Buzzard and Kestrel

I watched my first 5 Swift giving an excellent arial display which appeared to represent nothing more than the sheer enjoyment these birds were having in flying like rockets, twisting and turning, climbing and diving at random and in sync....brilliant. 

For the second time recently - Ring Ouzel 20 April - I find myself downgrading the chat - that's terrible - to claim the Cuckoo as 'Bird of the Day'. This bird called five times during my 5.5 hours here, always sounding it was in the Birk Bank area, but I found the bird eventually at the top end of Cragg Wood atop a tall tree with a passerine - probably a Meadow Pipit - perched by it's side as it called repeatedly.

Cuckoo Marc Heath  

The Cuckoo took off, flew west, and disappeared out of view below the ridge above me, but it called for the fifth time a half hour later above Birk Bank as I walked the lower path.


After surviving the challenges of his 4,500 mile migration from the Congo basin back to England, the Cuckoo Vigilamus is lost. The last location received from his tag showed that he was back on the north Yorkshire Moors where he was originally tagged, but the tag temperature suggests that he succumbed to the near-arctic conditions there last week....This is bad news. 

Thanks to Martin/David/Marc for the brilliant images.  

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Spring Is In The Air.

Well it wasn't where I was yesterday, and although the sun had put in an appearance it certainly wasn't in the air at Cockersands and neither was the Swift, but I did get a first on the day.

Whitethroat. Warren Baker @ Pittswoodpatch

It's the never knowing what's next that spurs us on in birding, and as I walked the circuit at Cockersands yesterday, a bird I hadn't seen ahead took off from a hedge top, it soon dropped down on to a fence post to reveal it was a Whinchat to the east of Abbey Farm. I also saw my first Whitethroat here, it was singing in the bush nearest the Lighthouse Cottage on the private road to Crook Farm. a few House Martin went through north whilst I was here today, one or two resident Tree Sparrow and a pair of nest building Linnet were around Bank Houses, also a Reed Bunting and another Lapwing seen with two young were my third success to hatching and out of the nest at Cockersands. Thanks for the Whitethroat Warren.

The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock was virtually deserted, but 9 Eider noted, with a Whimbrel in almost the same place it/one had been last Friday. Two Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Goosander, and the summering female Wigeon were all of note on Conder Pool, where I've had no sign of the female Mallard and 10 ducklings since I found them here on 21 April, 2 Whimbrel were over the pool, and in the creeks, a Greenshank and 5 Common Sandpiper which included two down the Conder channel from the old railway bridge.

Cormorant Siesta. Conder Pool. Pete Woodruff. 

The Conder Green House Martins. 

House Martins were not surprisingly nest building at a property in Conder Green yesterday, I approached the owner/s to see if they were aware of this and had good reason to ask if they were prepared to accommodate these breeding birds. Our conversation was in confidence and I'm not prepared to detail it on a blog on the internet, but I was made confident the House Martins would be OK this year. I once called on a property elsewhere in this area on the same subject, on that ocassion they told me they would be doing all they could to deter the House Martins from nesting on their property, 'they make a mess and are a nuisance'....nice one!! 

Monday, 2 May 2016

One To Three.

I managed just one hour each at three locations on Friday, Conder/Glasson/Cockersands. 

The first hour was at Conder Green where the star birds all put in an appearance for me plus the bonus of 3 Greenshank with the Spotted Redshank and 5 Common Sandpiper seen. Also of note, 2 Black-tailed Godwit were in stunning summer plumage, 2 Goosander, and 2 Little Egret, the surprise being a female Wigeon, though a glance at my records showed at least one drake spent last summer here. On the canal basin at Glasson Dock, up to 150 Sand Martin were hawking here with a few Swallow also seen.

Black-tailed Godwit. Lune Estuary Glasson. 29 April. Pete Woodruff.

Common Sandpiper/Black-tailed Godwit. Pete Woodruff.

On the Lune Estuary, 31 Black-tailed Godwit in variable stages of plumage were eventually joined by a Common Sandpiper....

Whimbrel. Pete Woodruff.

....and a Whimbrel which dropped in obligingly close, but remained half hidden behind a large stone for the duration of my short stay here, 14 Eider were counted but possibly more hidden by the mud-bank upstream below Colloway Marsh.

I just needed the time to check Plover Scar as the tide came in, to find at least 400 Dunlin and 50 Ringed Plover, with a 'few' uncounted Turnstone present. As I drove along Slack Lane, I pulled in to note c.200 waders in a field, seen as a pretty even mix of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, judging by the number of the latter I have no reason to connect these birds with the ones on Plover Scar earlier. The remaining 2 Whooper Swan appear to have no intention of leaving the area just yet.

Two pair of Ringed Plover today were behaving like they might nest on the shingle on the inner edge of Plover Scar, a pity they don't know that would be a bad idea, as a classic example the last time I visited, a photographer with a second mortgage camera and two mutts were out on the scar.

I'm grateful to DH for the excellent header image of the Wood Warbler he found at Stodday on 23 April. At best an uncommon bird in our area, which appears to be heading inexorably towards extinction in the county of Lancashire and beyond.