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

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Stonechats Through The Roof.

With birding off the cards now, the March passage of Stonechat is almost certainly over, but there has been an excellent and unprecedented passage through Lancashire this year. I have noted up to 160 Stonechat in records collected throughout the month from the FBC website alone, which include a truly remarkable 91 Stonechat seen by AC as at 24 March, I reckon with this result he's the happiest birder in the UK. 

Looking back through the LDBWS Annual Reports over the past 10 years, the best counts of spring passage was of 74 Stonechat in 2015, and 54 Stonechat in 2018, both records to the end of March. The other 50% of records show no passage figures at all in these reports.

Stonechat. Paul Foster. Clik the pik

A few people have been in touch with me in the past few days, including Paul Foster who sent me this image of the Siberian Stonechat maurus, seen on his recent visit to Cyprus, Thanks Paul. Also thanks to Martin Jump for the header image of the displaying Great-crested Grebes. 

Garden Update.

Two Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock. KT and I were treated to excellent views of not one but two Wood Mouse together, they were feeding on spilt bird seed for 15 minutes, watched from the patio window as we ate our tea....Great Stuff. 

Elton John is gifted with a singer/song writer talent ranked as one of the best in the world. He performed Yellow Brick Road with Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, New York in 2000, in front of a capacity of almost 20,000. 

It follows Mr Blue Sky in it's attempt to get us all out of the black hole which is Covid-19....It did me, and this 4.45 mins did too....Music to uplift the spirits.

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Friday, 27 March 2020

Covid-19....This Is Serious.

Just done a countrywide internet trawl to find up to 20 birders still reporting on a website, at up to the same number of locations not including garden birds. Words fail me, but - unusual for me - to keep it polite....Shameful.

Thank goodness the weather came good just at the right time, wall to wall sunshine in clear blue skies. Free yourself for a few minutes, from the black hole that is Covid-19....We're all in it together.

Mr Blue Sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long, so long
Where did we go wrong

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Garden birds/butterflies.

Two Buzzard soaring over our house yesterday, lucky KT.
Two Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Take Care, Keep Safe.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

In Control!

Whilst the moors are fresh in my mind following a visit to Bowland last Friday. I learn of the fire brigade being called out yesterday to a moorland fire at Deer Hill Reservoir in West Yorkshire.

Photo West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service. Clik the pik

Thought to have been caused by an out of control 'controlled burn', the fire service is now calling for a ban on this practice of grouse moor heather burning. Fifteen crews with twenty appliances attended which had a mile long fire-front.

Of course there's a connection between these burns, the grit roads featured in my last post, and wildlife crime, including the attempts to eradicate the Hen Harrier. I encounter traps for other small fry on my often visits to the moors, which gets in the way of the industry, whose motto is....if it's wildlife get rid of it.

Apart from the fact heather burning is nothing more than vandalism on the moors and serves no other useful purpose, this burn is against the law, the legal dates for heather burns are 1 October - 15 April. 

On 21 March 2007, I did a survey in the Clougha and Birk Bank area and found 23 Stonechat which were seen as 11 pair and a lone male. Four weeks later I went to do my April survey, to find a heather burn had taken place, borderline or more likely outside the permitted date in mid-April. The result was to find just 4 Stonechat, with the rest of the 9 pair driven from the area and certainly nests/eggs and possibly young destroyed.

The Great Bustard.

I wanted you to see this 'person' who I featured in a recent post, but made the mistake of pointing everyone in the direction of my side-bar where it soon got buried beneath new posts on Tweets by RBA with which there is absolutely no connection to my comments below.

Here's the nice man in India who shot the Great Bustard, then stood with it hanging from it's wing, whilst he grinned his head off for a pik....BASTARD, he's an even bigger bastard if you Clik the pik.

I found a Peacock in our garden today, my first identifiable butterfly of 2020. 

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Hopes Realised In Bowland.

Friday was a good sunny day, though a cold wind in exposed places on the fells took the edge off an otherwise perfect late March day. I gave six hours between Harrisend and Hawthornthwaite west and east.

Harrisend Fell Looking East To Clougha. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik

On Harrisend, my hopes for today were realised when I found 5 Stonechat, seen as two pairs and included a male seen by Grisedale Bridge, also notable was at least 40 Meadow Pipit seen/heard/and some entertaining with their parachuting fall, 3 Wren were heard only, with 2 Reed Bunting and 2 Red Grouse also seen.

Stonechat. Dinesh Patel. Clik the pik 

On the west side of Hawthornthwaite, more hopes realised, albeit just one pair of Stonechat, 3 Red Grouse, 2 Meadow Pipit, and a Wren. No Stonechat found on the east side, but 9 Meadow Pipit, 3 Curlew, 3 Red Grouse, 2 Mistle Thrush, and a Wren.

Thanks to Dinesh for the excellent male Stonechat, a little gem, as is the image for which I have sought no permission to copy. But if Dinesh wants it removed I'm sure he will let me know.

Hawthornthwaite Fell East Side. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik

You have to be the Queen of England, or perhaps in this case the Duke of Worstminster, to get planning permission to build these abominable grit roads to the very top of these fells in Bowland. This vast AONB is littered with these roads, all built for the convenience of gamekeepers and shooters  - well what else - to get them to their respective butts.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

They're In!

I have news of 6 Sand Martin and 2 Swallow at Claughton-on-Brock fishing lake at 8.30am this morning, also the first report of a Wheatear on the Fylde coast.

A bit repetitive but couldn't resist, I got a better short video of the Golden Plovers yesterday in better light than my previous attempt.

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Although at least 900 Golden Plover at Cockersand was a lower number than of late - at least 2,000 on occasions - I was treated to a brilliant spectacle with the birds yesterday, including a Merlin hunting around the waders causing them to be unsettled all the time I was there with them, the 'whoosh' as they flew 15m over my head several times was amazing. 

Difficult to count, but at least 50 Meadow Pipit with 20 Skylark and 12 Pied Wagtail were in and around the same flood as the plovers east of Abbey Farm. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, c.1,500 Black-tailed Godwit fluctuating in number but remain faithful here, with 4 Goosander noted.

Great Bustard. 

Make sure you take a look at the guy with the Great Bustard in my side-bar.

Though Izhan Sheikh does ask....'WTF is wrong with our people'....he says he's trying to avoid swear words. I've no intention of trying to avoid them, and the most diplomatic description I can muster, is that he and his like are barbaric bastards.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

100 Plus And Counting.

The spring passage of in excess of 100 Stonechats appears to be going through the roof. I've noted records of 50 Stonechat on the FBC website in 2 weeks to date, almost certainly all passage birds with no duplication. AC was in touch to tell me his personal tally had reached 50 at close of play on Friday, with more seen since, including 5 this very morning at Fluke Hall. By comparison, my 9 Stonechat record for March is abysmal.

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Whilst failing to find any Stonechat at Cockersand on Friday, 1,500 Golden Plover were in the field east of Abbey Farm. Four Snipe came off the marsh in as many minutes, and I wondered how many more would have been seen if I'd have hung around as the high 10m+ tide pushed them off. I also saw a lone Tree Sparrow around Bank Houses, the first for almost a year here when I saw six on 2 April 2019, also a Dunnock, and a Skylark in it's never ending flight song.

I watched up to 4,000 Pink-footed Geese from Cockerham Sands CP, every one of 'em calling 'yak-ak-ak' over and eventually settling on Cockerham Marsh. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, just prior to being pushed off by the tide, up to 2,000 Black-tailed Godwit, and just 25 Bar-tailed Godwit, with 8 Goldeneye and 7 Goosander of note.

Clik the pik   

With a gale behind the latest 10.35m tide the sea has changed the landscape dangerously at Cockersand once again. Cockersand Abbey can be seen in the distance in right of centre. 

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Mission Impossible....Well Almost.

The extended run of foul wet and windy weather we are having, takes away most if not all of the pleasures of birding, it's pretty well impossible to stand around, particularly on the coast in a westerly gale, and I've been driven back home by this looking like a wet mackerel a couple of times, but.... 

Mediterranean Gull Conder Green. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik

It was good to find an adult Mediterranean Gull with the Black-headed Gulls just as the tide was about to flood the B5290 at Conder Green yesterday. The last of the wintering Little Grebe was on Conder Pool again, with c.250 Redshank and 2 Goosander also noted. On the canal basin, 4 Goldeneye.

I had no intention of hanging around at Cockersand, just wanted to check a couple of Stonechat hotspots which drew a blank, but a Rock Pipit was driven off the marsh, with at least 2,000 Golden Plover tightly packed by Abbey Farm, and the herd of distant swans now looking more like 500 Whooper Swan.

A run down the A588 was well rewarded by two excellent female Stonechat on the fence posts at Pilling Lane Ends, soon followed by another female Stonechat at Fluke Hall, and a Snipe lifting into the air out of a damp rough field here. 

Thanks to Martin for his Black-tailed Godwits header in flight at Cockersand, taken recently during a lull in the storms.

Rings And Things.

Following on from the interest in finding nine colour ringed gulls with Pete Crooks on the Lune Estuary on 6 March, I made a search for any info I could find about the origins of rings without knowing the codes. The best I came up with was, the bulk of the projects are European, with one on Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Ireland, but one was local and corresponded with the Black ring we saw on the left tarsus, in which case, if it could have been read, the ring would have had a White single letter indicating R=Ribble, T=Tarnbrook, W=Walney....Frustrating.    

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Of Geese And Gulls.

On my way to Heysham on Friday, I pulled off the by-pass to park up and walk down Imperial Road leading to the 'Waste Technology Park'. This is at the eastern boundary of the Heysham Obs recording area, and was the location of an exceptionally early spring Stonechat migration in 2019, when up to a possible seven were seen on 17 February. I was hoping I'd picked the right day, right time for a repeat this early March, but the visit drew a blank.

Eight Brent Geese had made a return to Heysham on 27 February, a visit today was rewarded with 6 Brent Geese seen off the promenade by the children's play area, but flew off a little north towards Sandylands, 77 Eider were off here.

A 50 sec snatch of at least 2,000 gulls on the Lune Estuary late afternoon.

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I had been at the bowling green about 45 minutes when Pete Crooks joined me. I had already noted a number similar to that of the gulls, c.1,500 Black-tailed Godwit and 500 Bar-tailed Godwit, and an adult Mediterranean Gull, Pete found another one later. A Buzzard flew low over the river, putting everything in sight to flight. 

But the interest over the course of an hour, was in eventually finding nine darvic ringed gulls, listed as.... 

Five Common Gull, all with right leg rings, three White, a Green, and a Red.
Two Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow left leg, and Black left leg. 
Two Black-headed Gull, Yellow left leg, and White right leg.

Though frustration was equal to the interest, in that, because of distance, no readings could be made to add to the colours, the gulls being on the opposite shore below the south end of Colloway Marsh, this was an excellent and rewarding exercise between PC and myself.

Friday, 6 March 2020

And The Winner Is!

After seeing him the day before on Jeremy Lane, when his final tally for the day was 15 Stonechat,  I wasn't too surprised to see AC turn up at Cockersand on Wednesday to learn his total for the day was another 15, bringing him to the grand total of 30 Stonechat migrants in two days. 

Amazing, cutting edge and gold medal stuff....I turned a sickly green with envy.

Stonechat Slack Lane C'sand 4 March. Pete Woodruff. Clik the pik

I was grateful to AC for giving me the nod about the birds he'd found at Cockersand, the result of which was 6 Stonechat, being two female on Slack Lane opposite Lighthouse Cottage, and four male in the rough field behind Lower Bank House.

No more than 400 Black-tailed Godwit were seen as the remnant of a clear out from the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, with 2 Goldeneye and 5 Goosander noted, and I picked out a Buzzard atop of a tree at Overton.

A Little Grebe was on Conder Pool, the first here since three were on the pool 29 November, with all sightings in the creeks since. The bird was sporting near summer plumage, and I reckon is the last of the Conder Green wintering birds before moving off, 62 Teal were noted.

Clik the pik

There was a weird and wonderful cloud formation as viewed looking east over Glasson Dock on Wednesday at 3.50pm.


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Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Game On.

Stonechat. Ian Stephenson. Clik the pik

Stonechat migration is in full swing. Over the two days 2-3 March, I've taken note of 30 Stonechat, the majority being passage birds on the Fylde, with 15 credited to AC who I met on Jeremy Lane to be told he'd already seen 10 yesterday before lunch.

My score stood at one male Stonechat, being the wintering bird at Cockersand in the rough field behind Lower Bank House. A full circuit failed to turn up any more Stonechat, but excellent views of a female Merlin gave me some quality compensation. A few thousand waders were again in the fields, the one east of Abbey Farm held at least the same as my last visit here a week ago, with Golden Plover and Dunlin each reaching a five figure count. On the Cocker Estuary, at least 180 Curlew, and 150 Pink-footed Geese flew SW towards Pilling Marsh.

I see no change in the swan numbers in the Cockersand and Thurnham area, with up to 400 Whooper Swan but no check for any Bewick's Swan with them. 

The godwits on the Lune Estuary at Glasson were challenging again, they were packed into two groups, with two more in lines along the shore, my best figures today were, with no apologies for nice comfortable numbers, up to 4,000 Black-tailed Godwit and 1,000 Bar-tailed Godwit, also noted 13 Goldeneye. There was little to excite on Conder Pool, with 32 Wigeon, 28 Curlew, and 26 Greylag noted.

I'm grateful to Ian for his female Stonechat rubicola, taken on his recent visit to Pathos in Cyprus. Also to Howard for his stunning drake Goldeneye header a bit nearer to home at Glasson Dock.   

Sunday, 1 March 2020

A Wild Goose Chase....

....turns into a dead duck!

I'm often heard to say things like 'every birding day is good birding day' and rarely have cause to put my birding down, but Thursday was an exception to the rule.

Five White-fronted Geese were reported on Aldcliffe Marsh on 16 February, since then they have been seen on Heaton Marsh and were reported to be conveniently there on Wednesday at the corner of the Snatchems and Overton Roads. So Thursday, full of hope, I set off to the location....Nil, but heyup, there's around 300 Pink-footed Geese on the opposite side of the river on Aldcliffe Marsh which I scoped to no avail and found no WFG with them.

Off I went to Knowleys Road at Heysham to see if the Brent Geese were there, they had made a return to Heysham on 20 February. A week later they were seen again, seen as two adult and four juvenile, in which case the Canadians had returned as a family group....great stuff. 

But today was turning out to be a bad one for me, no WFG at Heaton Marsh, and no BG at Heysham despite eight being reported there earlier in the morning, but if they were keeping to a pattern they built up previously they would perhaps now be at Red Nab, so off I went.

No sign of the Brent Geese at Red Nab, nor did I find the earlier reported Little Gull and Kittewake over the outfall, despite legging it to the south wall at the harbour, followed by a visit to Ocean Edge salt marsh, where there was no sign of the recent Stonechat.

Ne'r mind, in the end it was exhilarating seeing the tide roll in at Half Moon Bay before I threw the towel in on a bad day at the office.

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