BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY THE FOREST OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND.........................................................................................MIGRANT HAWKER PETE WOODRUFF

Sunday, 28 March 2021

....And Memories Of '95.

A pair of Siskin visited our garden Wednesday this week, the male a brilliant individual, briefly on the feeders before flying off together. I was jumping for joy at the sight of these two birds and was tempted to call them rare for our garden, but looking through past records, I was surprised to discover 13 records here, the first being a pair on 2 March 2013 nearly 12 months after we moved in here, followed by 6 on 5 April 2013 which remains the best count in the garden to date....This means this weeks Siskins have been reduced from rare to scarce.

Thanks to Martin Jump for the excellent header image of a pair of Siskin at loggerheads.

Looking in on the Portland Bill Obs website for an update, showed a mainly negative feel on the sightings page in relation to spring migration, with 20 Wheatears being the first double figure arrival there to date this year. Comments went on to say, 'other passerines were few and far between'. Sea passage has yet to be anything meaningful, though a little taster for it on Wednesday turned out to be wide of the mark the following day, with 'no more than a dribble of routine early season offerings' on Thursday. A 'handful' of Sand Martins was as good as it got on 17 March, and just one Swallow was mentioned on Wednesday last.


Black Stork.

Twenty six years ago, was a memorable year for me in the early days of my birding whilst delivering car parts over a c.50 mile radius from Lancaster.

Black Stork. Bury Antoine.

On 24 April 1995, having looked in on Blea Tarn Reservoir during my lunch break between runs. I was driving along Littledale Road, when I saw a large heron sized bird flying quite low over the Quernmore Valley in the direction of the Lune Valley. The bird was initially in silhouette, but as I drew nearer its identity was revealed.

There was what was regarded as a secondhand rumour of this bird being seen on the floodplain in the Lune Valley later the same day, and one was also reported two days later in the area around Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire.

Status: The Black Stork is regarded to be a vagrant which has turned up with surprising regularity in our recording area, this one was the 5th or 6th record.

Lesser Yellowlegs.

Lesser Yellowlegs. Martin Lofgren.

I had gone into the Eric Morecambe Hide at Leighton Moss on Wednesday 18 October 1995. Two birders already in the hide, asked me if I would join the attempt to ID a wader which was with 2 Greenshank and several Redshank, but noticeably smaller in size, and a more delicate build than the two other species.

The birds were all resting and required patience until they eventually became alert. The puzzling bird soon revealed long yellow legs, and a fine straight all dark bill. I took advantage of a fourth birder who arrived later to join us, he soon agreed that my suggestion was correct when I claimed the wader as a juvenile/1st winter Lesser Yellowlegs.

Status: A vagrant. This was the first record for our area, and the first of six for me seen over the years.

Thanks to Bury Antoine and Martin Lofgren for their contributions, with images of the Back Stork and Lesser Yellowlegs.

And Finally.

Some decent atmospherics made for good views of the Lakeland mountains over Morecambe Bay from Williamson Park recently. With some instability in the footage, short of a tripod on zoom. 

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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Portland Bill Obs.


Some notes of interest at/around Portland Bill Obs during March, indicating that the spring migration has yet to take off.

1 March. A tiny trickle of Meadow Pipit.

3 March. Single Chiffchaff.

4 March. 3 Wheatear.

8 March. A very interesting note on the Firecrest....

Sad to relate, as far as we know today's Firecrest was the first one seen on the island this year. We've never been any the wiser as to what it was that triggered the extraordinary and record-breaking fall of 150 Faircrest's on 15th October 2017 but that event seems to have begun an inexorable decline that's seen the species reach getting on for semi-scarcity status at Portland, culminating in last year's Bill bird-day total and Obs ringing tally both being among the lowest ever and this winter's complete absence being, as far as we can remember, pretty well unprecedented © Martin Cade/Erin Taylor

12 March. Long-tailed Skua off Chesil was a major surprise for the time of year.

14 March. A Swallow at Southwell, and a Sandwich Tern at Ferrybridge were both firsts of the spring.  

22 March. No double figures of Wheatear have arrived yet. The first Willow Warbler of the year was seen, though conversely, a count of c.100 Chiffchaff was made. 

We can keep up to date on the comings at and around Portland Bill Obs to give some idea of what we can expect to see up'tnorth in the coming weeks in the B2B right hand sidebar.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Rantin' & Ravin'.

Golden Plover.

Britain and Ireland's population of c.23,000 Golden Plover pairs, lie at the southern edge of their breeding range, they nest essentially on moorland, moving to coastal grassland and saltmarshes in autumn. 

Golden Plover. Pete Woodruff.

I've ranted on a couple of times recently on B2B, about the absence of Golden Plover (GP) on the Lune Estuary this winter, the best counts I've seen recorded on the estuary are 1,400 Gon two occasions. The peak for 2019 was a WeBS count of 3,952 GP in January, 3,712 being on the Lune Estuary. These are the kind of numbers I could easily find in winter, particularly in the fields at Cockersand and on the estuary at Glasson.

I note the Morecambe Bay WeBS count for January 2019, was 4,382 Golden Plover. Also worth noting, the high proportion of the total population of Golden Plover occurs on the Lune Estuary. So where have the Lune Estuary birds been this winter? Well at least 1,000 Golden Plover were back in the uplands on High Cross Moor in Bowland on Saturday 13 March, with a pair seen on Grit Fell, and two on Ward's Stone 18 March.

Black-tailed Godwit.

 Black-tailed Godwit Howard Stockdale View Full Screen

There was another rant last week on B2B, about issues surrounding Conder Pool, but this time the rant turned into a rave with an excellent report of 2,500 Black-tailed Godwit on Saturday 13 March, a clear indication that the pool continues to add to it's already impressive collection of rare/scarce/and common bird records, and to hold on to it's distinction of being one of the best things that ever happened in our area, when it was left to nature to become Conder Pool 18 years ago in June 2003.

Common Tern.

The terns are coming to Conder Pool, these birds will add to the above mentioned impressive collection of records for this brilliant area on the Lune Estuary. If these birds run true to form, they will arrive in the first days of May for their eighth successive year. The Common Tern has been seen here progressively earlier each year since their first arrival....

2 July 2014 

22 May 2015

6 May 2016

8 May 2017

7 May 2018

5 May 2019

2 May 2020....Looks like a possible date in April 2021!

I'm grateful to Howard Stockdale for keeping in touch with news and images, it is much appreciated.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Aspects Of Conder Pool.

There are a few issues around Conder Pool that need addressing, for the time being, I'd like to highlight  two of them.

Land Management Issues

Conder Pool had a facelift in 2018, and the powers that be are again working towards better management on Conder Pool.  

Predation and water levels both need to be addressed, but I reckon the stumbling block on this, will be the lack of funding. Examples of the huge problems facing this, the sluice needs fixing and probably represents a cost of around £8k, add to this, a predator fence that will last many years hence, and the machinery needed for infilling and reprofiling the eroded pool, would probably end up with a bill for £40k....I'm not holding my breath here, and to be honest I don't think anyone else will be either.

Grazing Issues.

With stock trampling and disturbing nests during the breeding season. The agreement needs to be, that all livestock is kept off the area at least between mid-April and mid-June to avoid these problems. It seems to me, keeping to these dates re grazing, is about all the management for Conder Pool is able to do for the near future, staff and resources appear to prevent anything beyond that. 

This distressed Avocet is a good example of disturbance and says it all about last years breeders on Conder Pool, some of which included....two pairs of Common Tern, two pairs of Avocet, one young from three Oystercatcher survived, and three Black-headed Gull were all casualties.

There's currently something like 20 tons of manure dumped on Conder Pool, clearly not acceptable, and having detrimental impacts on water quality not only on the pool, but the wider Lune Estuary.

Conder News.

I was chuffed to hear news of c.2,500 Black-tailed Godwit on Conder Pool yesterday 13 March, including a ringed bird.

Mute Swans.

Three Mute Swans have been reported dead on Conder Pool recently, it's my understanding, these swans are to be recovered for testing.

There have been a few cases of Avian Flu reported recently, involving Pink-footed Geese and migrant swans in Lancashire, and several other species elsewhere in England. This reminded me of the occurrence of 12 Mute Swans I found dead in the Conder/Cockersand area over a period of three weeks in February 2015.

I got heavily involved in this event, eventually meeting with someone collecting the corpses on behalf of DEFRA, and making the request to be kept up to date on the results of the autopsies on these birds to be carried out at Penrith. I was disappointed not to have ever reached anything conclusive about this, and the loss of twelve beautiful Mute Swans in such a small area ended shrouded in mystery.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Bonanza & Dearth.

The first day of the meteorological spring was on Monday 1 March. Although there was a chill in the wind it certainly looked like it, and I was off to do a circuit of Cockersand.

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As I drove along Moss Lane, there was a mini-murmuration of c.2,000 Starling in the air. Later a small group put on a bit of a display, screeching then falling silent as they moved around on the marsh below Crook Cottage....An underrated bird.

This field is badly flooded....

....but the field to the east of Abbey Farm held at least 1,500 Golden Plover, also to note in the field 2 Stock Dove.

As the tide reached its height, off Cockerham Sands Country Park, I saw 14 Snipe and 3 Rock Pipit put to flight off the marsh. A raft of 35 Eider was in the Cocker Channel, by coincidence the same count as seen off Plover Scar 4 February. A Song Thrush was in the horse paddock at Bank Houses, Skylark in flight song, and a Reed Bunting seen. There are at least 350 Whooper Swan still in the area, the bulk being distant and inaccessible. 

Small Tortoiseshell. Pete Woodruff.

I saw my first butterfly of the year, a Small Tortoiseshell was basking on the stone wall at Cockerham Sands CP.

Bonanza & Dearth.

The Stonechat passage ended abruptly on 28 February, 10 days after the early start on 18 February. I collated the count of an amazing 182 Stonechats, mainly from FBC birders including AC who amassed a count of 80, with 36 seen by LDBWS.

At least 1,500 Golden Plover at Cockersand this week, represents a peak count of what has been the poorest winter for the species on the Lune Estuary. The most regular LDBWS birder to the Lune Estuary made the comment 'didn't see a single Golden Plover' on 29 November. Since that date I found just two records of 1,400. 

Local Birds.

Barn Owl. Howard Stockdale.

Thanks to Howard Stockdale for the Barn Owl seen Wednesday on Abbeystead Lane in Bowland, with a pair of Stonechat also seen here again. Also thanks to Howard for his excellent Heysham Rock Pipit header image. I was grateful to Peter Kitchen for alerting me to the Avocet back on Conder Pool Monday morning.

And Finally....

A Yankee Doodle Dandy was found on Banton's Lake, Wyreside Fisheries, apparently there since 3 March.

Pied-billed Grebe. Barry Dyson.

This is the third record of Pied-billed Grebe in Lancashire, the first was at the then named Dockacres Gravel Pits 1997, the second at Leighton Moss RSPB 2015.