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

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Bleak In Bowland!

Definitely bleak in Bowland, and not much pen and paper used - non actually - in my latest trip there on Friday. In fact I was almost in despair when I realised I hadn't even taken the little black book out of my pocket for the entire 5 hours....I'm convinced this was a first in my 150 years of birding.

But the visit served it's purpose well, and I now know that Harrisend probably has two wintering pairs of Stonechat. With my 'now you see me, now you don't' theory, a pair seen, and a lone male with which I failed to locate it's mate. Otherwise, 8 Red Grouse seen/heard, and a Cormorant flew over the fell purposefully east....can't imagine what that was all about.

Red Grouse. Pete Woodruff.

After my last two visits to Hawthornthwaite on 15 Oct/10 Nov, I found no Stonechat here again on Friday, but noted up to 10 Red Grouse.

Small Blue.

This signage still stands erected at Fenham Carr in Williamson Park and I took a pik of it again last week, it's been featured on B2B before. It is sheer nonsense and you wonder who commissioned it to illustrate the wildlife to be found in the park. It shows a Small Blue butterfly - top right of centre - which is not to be found anywhere near Williamson Park which couldn't grow the butterfly's food plant of Kidney Vetch if it tried.

Small Blue © Dave Miller

The nearest Small Blue colonies are more likely to be found on the Cumbrian coast around Whitehaven and Maryport.

Tern Attack.

I was quite pleased with the result of this video of the Common Tern attack on an Oystercatcher on Conder Pool in 2019. 

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It's been nominated for an Oscar for musical score!!  😋

Note....If the video doesn't work first time, hopefully it might on your next visit to the page.

Thursday, 26 November 2020


OK, I've had enough of all this Covid malarkey, and whilst it's best if we all continue to go along with the advice 'Hands-Face-Space'....I'm off into Bowland again tomorrow.


Like this little bunch in my header, try as we may we'll never get through to some people, mutts and wildlife are never going to be compatible and are often a deadly mix. Though this time, I'm not going to let them spoil the beauty of the rainbow across Morecambe Bay on Sunday.

Beware....Your photography might let you down on occasions, and the quality of photography in this video clip of an adult male Kestrel fooled me initially. Though I have no idea what practical skills were lacking here. 

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The underparts look pale and void of showing any bold dense spotting, and the obtrusive small twig on the tree masks most of any detectable moustachial stripe. I verged on a little dreamland for a while, but in the end, it can't be turned into a Lesser Kestrel, 'cos it would have shown some underside small sparse spots, and definitely no facial moustache and some other subtle differences. 

Another Must Read....History Has Been Made

I'm resisting going down the road to controversy about in or out of the EU, but....The UK can't throw it's hat into the air on this one can it.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

A Redstarts Tale.

A decent weather forecast for Thursday saw me take off to Heysham for some therapeutic escapism. I decided to look in on the promenade off Knowleys Road as the Brent Geese had been reported back there on 11 November, be nice to see them there again this winter.

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The geese hadn't returned there, but  I saw 8 Little Egret foraging the pools, and 2 Whooper Swan flying across the bay heading south. Then I was off to Heysham Harbour to spend a couple of hours of nothing to note to be honest. But n'er mind, a quite enjoyable birding experience was about to unfold and fire up my passion.

Black Beauty.

Black Redstart Heysham. Malcolm Downham.

As I arrived at the seawall, I approached a birder looking over Red Nab. As a conversation piece, I asked 'any Meds about', he replied 'no but I saw a couple of Black Redstarts about an hour ago, they were flushed by dog walkers, and flew off '. I thought to myself, hopefully these birds will have gone to the area of rough ground or the scrub at the south wall of the harbour, or perish the thought, maybe onto the non-operational land within the power station....Whatever, no luck, they've disappeared.

I'd earlier seen Malcolm Downham along the seawall, he had also seen the birder who also reported the redstarts to him. Malcolm takes up 'A Redstarts Tale' here....

Black Redstart Heysham. Kevin Eaves.

Towards high water a visiting birder reported 2 female/immature Black Redstart on Red Nab, which had then been flushed along the wall by walkers. Myself (MD) and Pete Woodruff were in the area, we split up, and after an hour, relocated them just 30m from the original sighting, on the rocks east of Red Nab. They were very mobile and kept disappearing then reappearing, sometimes two together other times a single bird. By this time we had been joined by Kevin Eaves, and between us managed some record shots. Kevin had "both" birds together at Red Nab and looked over to me and Pete who were photographing another 100m away, there were three Black Redstarts.

Later we learned another had been found at Bank End, there was 4 Black Redstart in our recording area, same day, same time....Another first!

Vagrant Emperor.

I wanted to feature this excellent creature, discovered on the seawall at Heysham Harbour on 9 November. species primarily found in Africa and the Middle East, it is a highly migratory dragonfly, capable of traveling long distances, there are records from Iceland, and even the Caribbean. 

The Netherlands were flooded with large numbers of Vagrant Emperors in 2019. The influx was unique for more than one reason, the number of Vagrant Emperors was higher than all previous sightings combined, and it was the first time a real influx was seen before summer. Mating and ovipositing was observed at many Dutch locations, and for the first time in history the Vagrant Emperor emerged in The Netherlands, in August 2019.  

Vagrant Emperor Heysham 9 November. Kevin Eaves.

A mega for Heysham, and congratulations to Kevin. 

Malcolm's header image though small, shows how startling the birds rusty-red tail is when taking to flight. Many thanks to Malcolm and Kevin for their images, they are much appreciated.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Birding Magic '94.

The date and record sits proudly up there at the top of the list of goodies found over the years, this one in the days when dinosaurs ruled the world....Well, let's say just after!

Saturday 19 November 1994.

At 10.30am, I was at a location at Hest Bank locally known as Teal Bay and situated at the north east end of Morecambe Promenade. As I was looking through the waders assembled on the groyne at the high tide roost, I came across a plover that was instantly recognised as not a Ringed Plover if only because it had black legs. Bloody's a Kentish Plover.

There was quite a remarkable claim connected to the Teal Bay bird, in that it was presumed to have been the same individual that returned to Rossall Point on the Fylde Coast at Fleetwood on the same day some 3 hours later.

Kentish Plover. Courtesy Fylde Bird Club.

I remember well, driving to Heysham in a state of elation, to alert the recorder at the time, to tell him of the discovery of a first record in our area, whose account in the Birds of Lancaster & District 1994 reads (abbreviated)....

Kentish Plover

Status: A new species for the area.

'The wintering Rossall bird was intercepted on return passage by P. Woodruff at Hest Bank, before disturbance by a windsurfer saw it's perhaps premature departure. Thanks to PW for driving to Heysham to inform me....pity about the windsurfer!'

All this was in my early days of birding, and was one of the starting points of what was to become a passion for me....Birding Magic.

The image is of my second Kentish Plover found on Plover Scar at Cockersand on 3 May 2011. This bird has the distinction of being only the second record this century, the last being at Marshside in June 2004.

The header image of the delightful Grey Wagtail seen on Aldcliffe Marsh on Monday's high tide was much appreciated and sent to me following some communication about a record query. Thanks Dan.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Seek And Ye Shall Find....But Not This Time.

Since the beginning of September, I have personally found or lifted 143 Stonechat records off Lancaster/Fylde bird club websites to date, they include 16 Stonechat seen in our recording area of South Cumbria during Sept/Oct. Thanks to Garry Sharples for being in touch with me regarding details of these sixteen records.

Stonechat Birk Bank 9 Nov 2020. Pete Woodruff.

In my quest to locate any wintering Stonechats, I managed a couple of follow-on visits to Bowland again this week, one to Birk Bank, and the following day to Hawthornthwaite Fell. These visits brought about a disappointing result, with a solitary male Stonechat found on Birk Bank being the only bird seen, with none found on Hawthornthwaite. Seek and ye shall find....I don't think so.

But on the east and west side of Hawthornthwaite, I found at least 60 Red Grouse. Simon Hawtin tells me of at least 100 Red Grouse, seen between Lee and Tarnbrook Fell in one session recently. These numbers added to my 78 Red Grouse on 5 October are unprecedented in my records, and I'm reliably informed Bowland shoot days have been much reduced in 2020, with possibly no more than four taking place.

Red Grouse. Pete Woodruff.

I managed some more piks of Red Grouse, and this short video clip has the bird obliging with it's characteristic 'bouncing bark' at the end....Pump up the volume.

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Fungi Diversion.

After the Stonechat negatives, it was my lucky day when I bumped into Ross who knows a thing or two about fungi, and obligingly showed me a specimen he found. 

Boletus erythropus Scarletina Bolete. Pete Woodruff.

Ross decided to give me a demonstration, he cut the fungi out and sliced it in half to show when the flesh is damaged the Scarletina Bolete oxidises and turns blue very quickly. 

After Ross left, I decided to abandon the Stonechats, and felt inspired to divert my attention to eventually find two more to fungi to identify.

Russula atropurpurea Purple Brittlegill (the remains of). Pete Woodruff.

Clavulina rugosa Wrinkled Club. Pete Woodruff. 

And Finally.

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As I came off Hawthornthwaite Fell, I saw an airliner high and flying west, as I attempted to make a video, at 20secs on the timer, a strange phenomenon occurred which I'm unable to explain....See what you think happened here.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

A Bowland Double.

There's a bit of hesitation with my words in this video, and a little humour in there too. I think to have a script might be a good bet until I get used to the idea of commentary. 

Meanwhile, a little introduction to Fridays visit to Bowland. View the videos Full Screen.

A Bowland double today, when I found a couple of goodies up the track from Tower Lodge. I saw a bird flitting around in the trees, and although my views were brief before it disappeared from view it was clearly a Marsh Tit. Not 10 minutes later up the track, I spotted a cracking male Bullfinch soon followed by a female.

Marsh Tit Jan Larsson 

I've never seen either of these species in our recording area in the Forest of Bowland, and I'm not aware of any records here in recent years if ever. The Marsh Tit is an uncommon localised breeder in our area, restricted to the limestone woodlands of Arnside, Silverdale, and the Wray area. The Bullfinch is more of a common breeder in similar areas to the Marsh Tit....But these two records are in autumn in the Forest of Bowland.

I was a bit too busy having fun with the camera today, and noted just 14 species of birds in the hours spent in the Marshaw-Tower Lodge-Trough Bridge area. But this Grey Wagtail gave me a little therapeutic moment....

The other eleven....a Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Great Tit, 6 Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, and Robin. About 8 Mallard were on the Marshaw Wyre, and 4 Red Grouse from the track to Winfold Fell, with Buzzard and Kestrel seen.

I noted an excellent record of 10 Stonechat on Lytham Moss yesterday per F. Bird at Fylde Bird Club.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Must Watch!

Most of us have probably seen this, but if you haven't, this is a must watch film. It's 7 mins 35 secs long, but hang on in there. It is brilliant, and deals with the tragic subject of too many lunatics under the umbrella of 'Guardians of the Countryside'....The perfect gap filler for B2B.

Dragon's Government's Den. 

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Egrets & Scilly Stonechats.

On a lighter and much more enjoyable note....As ever, I was grateful to Howard Stockdale for the video of the Cattle Egret at Cockersand. 

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Prompted by a comment in my last post about Stonechats seen on the Scillies, and having no idea of the status there. I was interested in whether or not they bred there. I made contact and received a reply with this brief information.... 

The Stonechat is recorded in the Annual Review and described as: Uncommon to common, a breeding resident, spring and autumn migrant, and winter visitor. The Stonechat breeds in reasonable numbers, and with a little effort can be seen most days. This autumn saw a very rare Siberian Stonechat, and the Scillies have also recorded Caspian Stonechat.

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My birding is often full of gratitude, and on this occasion the gratitude goes to Alan Hannington at Scilly Birding 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Winter Chats And A Nice One At Heysham.

Since reading an article I've had since 2015 on observations of the Stonechat,  I've been able to add more interesting facts to my learning about this enigmatic little gem.

Juvenile Stonechat. Ana Minguez.

The Stonechat is unique among passerines, in that they generally winter in establish territories, often in pairs. There seems no obvious explanation as to why any pair bonds are maintained in winter, other than two birds rather than one, are able to defend a territory. Data has shown that the winter pair bond appears strong, and birds seldom seen more than 20m apart, seems to suggest that extra vigilance in upland winter habitats - which is open and with limited cover - is a distinct advantage.

Interesting colour-ringed sightings confirm that some adults, and some 1st winter birds, overwinter in upland areas. Records of colour-ringed chicks from upland sites show that they have wintered within 2km of their natal site, others that have moved to the coast, and some which have migrated to continental Europe. Such is the variation in the Stonechat migratory behaviour, evidence has also shown that an individual retains a pattern for life.

In a personal quest to find wintering Stonechat, I'm now seeing fewer birds than I saw during September at the five locations visited in Bowland. The flocking behaviour - my best early example being 18 Caton Moor 26 August - has ceased, the birds have dispersed, sometimes into the winter territories that I'm looking for, or to migrate to the Mediterranean.

Up to 5 Stonechat have already been seen at Cockersand through Sept/Oct, and records passed on to me or collected from Lanc's/Fylde websites during this period amount to 20 records of 39 Stonechat.

All that I need now, is for the weather to buck up, so I can get on with the business in hand.

I'm grateful to John Callion for corresponding with me, and for allowing me to make some references to his article Observations of breeding European Stonechats in Cumbria. British Birds 2015.

Heysham 'Golden Oldie'.

OK, so this record is now ancient, but this Thursday 5 November, sees 15 years since I found a nice little job at Heysham where I had decided to pay one of my occasional visits.

Grey Phalarope. Martin Lofgren.

Arriving at the power station Stage 2 outfall, I had excellent views of an adult Little Gull. At Stage 1, another adult Little Gull was accompanied by a juvenile Arctic Tern which found itself in the records book as being the latest one ever in Lancashire, where it remained at Heysham until 12 November. As I walked away from the outfall toward the south harbour wall, I saw a bird between the outfall and the old wooden jetty, for a moment I thought it was another Little Gull, but soon realised it was a 1st winter Grey Phalarope behaving in it's typical spinning habit whilst feeding....Nice.

Some brilliant autumn gold around now, as in the header, taken in Bowland in a previous life!