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BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY THE FOREST OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND.................................................................................NORTHERN MARSH ORCHID PETE WOODRUFF

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Phenomenal!

The 2021 spring passage of Stonechat is unprecedented, best described as phenomenal, and appears to be raging on.

To date I have records of 162 Stonechats, collected by 18 birders, predominantly on the Fylde coast with some interesting inland birds, at least at 25 locations. The ever reliable AC has himself found at least 63 individuals over the ten days since he first told me about his first two migrant Stonechats seen on 18 February at Knott End and Pilling. Thanks Andrew, this is much appreciated.

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On Friday I joined the band of folk taking their exercise allowance. I clambered the uphill track to search the top of Birk Bank to see if any Stonechats had arrived to take up breeding territories. It took 2 hours on Birk Bank to find my first male at the far end before I dropped down to go over Ottergear Bridge. It took me another two hours to find a pair of Stonechat, by which time I had almost reached the car park four hours after I had arrived there.

I suppose most people would find it hard to believe fours hours in Bowland would result in finding just 9 species of birds....but thats upland birding.

Twelve Goldfinch were in the trees at the car park, 4 Robin, also 3 Wren and 2 Mistle Thrush all heard singing, Buzzard and 8 Red Grouse. I caught sight of 2 Raven which soon disappeared from view behind a ridge. It was pure delight to hear the call and melancholy whistle of a Curlew, highlight of the day.  

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I'm looking forward to my first visit to Birk Bank bog this summer, to hopefully see amongst other odonata, the Keeled Skimmer here for my fifth successive year.

The header pik is of the stunning sunrise over Clougha on Tuesday morning at 8.10am, seen between the rooftops from our bedroom window. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Nest Box Revival!

I paid a visit to Bowland yesterday, after having been given the heads up on the relocation of the nest boxes brought down in storms and some land management.

There are no names mentioned in this post about the nest box scheme which is clearly not in the best interest of birds they are supposed to serve, and not likely to reap any rewards as far as increased breeding is concerned. 

 

As in this photograph, some boxes have been erected too close to the road, and in close proximity of all the summer picnickers, many of who like to let the kids play in the Marshaw Wyre, causing disturbance to not only the nest box birds, but also the Grey Wagtails, Dippers, and Common Sandpipers that breed annually up and down the stream here.


One nest box is accompanied by a rope swing that is in place on a branch, typical of the type of thing not in keeping with an area designated as an AONB.


This box is only one of the two still remaining in the small woodland by the west side of Tower Lodge, the other hanging off it's hinges.

Nest Box Revival....I don't think so, more like Nest Box Disaster.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

They're Off!

The spring passage of Stonechat appears to be underway, according to my records 2 weeks earlier than last year when I found six birds at Cockersand on 4 March 2020In the three days since 18 February, I have collected records of 32 Stonechats on the move, mostly Fylde coastal birds.

Many thanks to Dinesh Patel for the excellent header image of a female Stonechat at Cockersand on 17 February. A little gem, which prompts me to recall a mind-blowing event of 11 years ago....

The Stonechat is amongst one of the most complex of bird species, and although this amazing event has featured on B2B before, I'm once again airing the discovery and photographing of this bird by Brian Rafferty at Brockholes NR during the severe winter of 2010. This was the period around the time the Stonechats moved off Clougha Pike, hence deserting our recording areas stronghold after ten years plus of my monitoring this most enigmatic of chats. 


The more I view these photographs - and dozens of times I've done so - the more I find it difficult to comprehend I'm looking at a Stonechat staring into an ice hole on a lake.


These photograph's are unique records of the Stonechat waging war against the elements thrown at it as an act of sheer survival. The prey item was Common Backswimmer Nononecta glauca.


In the UK Stonechats have been observed hovering over water and picking unidentified prey items off the surface, on one occasion actually dropping into the water, but I reckon this particular image is the most spectacular and unique of all. Not the plumage colour, but otherwise like watching an Eider duck taking a dive for it's next mussel....Breathtaking stuff!

Stonechats are opportunist feeders and will exploit a wide range of invertebrate species. OK we don't really have to go to Israel for examples of this opportunism, but two males were observed there in December 1993 in the Neger Desert to prey on and eat a Scorpion estimated at 17mm not including the tail. Another example, is of an African Stonechat in Zimbabwe, seen to dive into the water and secure a 3cm Green-headed Bream which it took back to its perch and swallowed whole. 

On the subject of prey items, of interest, there is evidence of parent birds avoiding some insects with Ladybirds as a good example, a 3 hour observation revealed that none were brought to the young despite the availability of the prey in huge number.

Perhaps this isn't going to be the last time the Stonechat confounds us with it's complexities, but this is going to be a hard act to follow....So the next time you see a Stonechat, ponder this and be amazed.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Birds & Hymenoptera.

Made my first venture of the year on to Harrisend and Hawthornthwaite Fell this week. It was my first visit to both these fells which I made at the onset of the return of the beast from the east.

Add to the bleakness of the day, I got no returns for my search for Stonechats, drawing a blank at both venues, despite my finding possibly two pairs of Stonechat on my last visit in Nov/Dec last year.

Hawthornthwaite Fell. Pete Woodruff. Clik The Pik

On Hawthornthwaite, at least 12 Red Grouse, a Buzzard over, a Snipe flushed out of a ditch, and 2 Fieldfare seemed deserted in a nearby field. 

On Harrisend, 2 Red Grouse, 2 Reed Bunting, a Raven over, and a Brown Hare which I don't recall ever seeing before on Harrisend Fell.

Garden Birds.

Over 20 minutes, I watched 9 Blackbird leaving a blossom tree to go to roost. Five left the tree and flew in an easterly direction, and four northerly. Two Buzzard were soaring together, then drifting off directly over the house.

Five Years Ago.

Rooting through my records, I was chuffed to find this coming Thursday was the anniversary when I found a wintering Little Stint on the mudbank midway between the old iron railway and the Lune/Conder confluence on 18 January 2016. I remember the day well, when my good friend Stuart Piner later joined me to share and enjoy this smart little wader, on the same day a Spotted Redshank was on the Lune Estuary at Glasson, and a female Scaup on the canal basin....Nice!

Thanks to Antonio for the beautiful header image of a beautiful bird.

Bees, Wasps and Ants.

Tawny Mining-Bee. Pete Woodruff.

Though the subject is mostly outside my comfort zone. I well recall one encounter when I found some Tawny Mining-Bees emerging from a lawn in a garden whilst visiting a relative at a care home in Lancaster. These creatures create a distinctive 'soil volcano' (tumuli) around the nest hole, and it was a delight for me to witness the emergence of these little beauties.

 

Ben Hargreaves with Steve White (Editor), and all involved in this informative and beautifully illustrated book, should be congratulated for the huge effort involved in this publication. 

I would like to personally thank Dave Bickerton as the Honorary Secretary of L&CFS for being in touch with me, and for posting copies to members....A recommended read. 

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Part Time Birding.

It was a much better day than my last visit, in fact it was quite pleasant with some sun when I arrived at Cockersand on ThursdayI had Ian for company today, he had wanted some relief from the madness that is lockdown, and I needed no persuading to make the same escape with him. But no long distance traveling on a mission to see how many species we could count and record, just a pleasant wander around Cockersand....Part time birding! 

It was disappointing to see the fields in prime condition for waders but not the farmer. Save c.150 Lapwing in a field by Abbey Farm, they were void of birds escaping the tide. But a mini high tide roost on Plover Scar, comprised of a viewable c.180 Oystercatcher, 15 Turnstone, and a 'few' Dunlin of note. 

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Up to 35 Eider off Plover Scar, were nigh on impossible to count, up and down like yoyo's feeding. Hard to believe, but the Eider dives for Mussels to swallow whole, the shells are then crushed in the birds gizzard.

Bewick's Swans. Howard Stockdale.

Keeping to comfortable round figures, at least 500 Whooper Swan were in the Thurnham/Cockersand area, including 2 Bewick's Swan adult off Moss Lane in a quick scan.

Earlier in the afternoon on Conder Pool, 45 Teal, with 3 Goosander, 4 Little Grebe, and a Kingfisher seen briefly in flight.

Thanks to Howard for the excellent Jeremy Lane Bewick's Swan header and video.

Chat and Plover....I found a couple of interesting records this week.

On Colloway Marsh, 1,400 Golden Plover is the new peak count of wintering birds on the Lune Estuary. The other interest was of the inland record of a male Stonechat seen on Twistleton Scar. This location has an elevation of 332m at its lowest point, but the record read....'high up on Twistleton Scar above Ingleton', so no telling how 'high up', but another excellent high altitude wintering Stonechat for my records.  

From the B+W File....Not a bird in sight.

Follow Me. Pete Woodruff.