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

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Bowland Again....My Kind Of Birding.

My kind of birding in Bowland with some good results, and I had the good company of Martin Jump for my second visit in six days.

Mistle Thrush Fledgling. View Full Screen.

Over my two visits 23/28 April, I've notched up 23 true thrushes, being 19 Mistle Thrush, including a family of 2 adult and 3 fledglings found in the woodland strip on the track from Tower Lodge, a Song Thrush, and the bonus of 3 Fieldfare, being the first late April birds I've ever recorded. Also here, a pair of Blue Tit were seen copulating. 

Having failed to find any on my last visit, it was good to see 5 Common Sandpiper, seen as 2 pair and a lone bird. A count of 10 Willow Warbler was two up on the last visit, 2 Pied Wagtail and 2 Meadow Pipit seen, and a Kestrel was being mobbed by Lapwing over the lower moor of Hawthornthwaite at Marshaw.

I think my hopes for some tree breeding were dashed today, when I found a pair of Pied Flycatcher in the same area a male had been seen flitting around the trees last week east of Tower Lodge. The pair were in an area where one of the recently erected and branded FOBMG nest boxes.

Whilst the Common Sandpipers made up for a blank day on the Marshaw Wyre 23 April. Today, after a combined 9 hours, no Grey Wagtail seen here yet....not good. I found 15 Grey Wagtail here last year, on 14 May 2020.

Dipper Abbeystead 28 April. View Full Screen.

On my way back to Lancaster, I paid a brief visit to Stoops Bridge at Abbeystead. I was rewarded there by good views of a Dipper, and heard a Chiffchaff in full song.   

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Too Good To Miss.

There can't have been anything more I wanted to do, than to get myself off to Bowland on Friday morning to spend a pleasant 5 hour wander from Marshaw-Tower Lodge-Trough Bridge-Winfold Fell.

I saw Swallow and House Martin around Marshaw Farm. As the summer progresses, I'll try to get some numbers here.

My first sighting was this Common Toad, seen as the largest and heaviest amphibian in Britain, it was slowly heading toward the stream running off Hawthornthwaite Fell, and looks to have an injury running over it's eye.


In this crop, I notice the unfortunate Toad appears to have lost it's left eye to some attack or accident. I guess the dark colour is dried blood. 

The Toad was behind the small plantation at Marshaw, where I also saw 3 Lesser Redpoll. Later, I found 3 Pied Flycatcher, all male, with two in the area around Tower Lodge, and one seen mid-way between there and Trough Bridge, so hopefully a tree nesting pair away from the boxes again this year. I heard at least 8 Willow Warbler and saw 10 Mistle Thrush on the visit. Also noted 3 Meadow Pipit, Blue/Great/Coal Tit, and saw just one butterfly, being a male Orange Tip.

The Negatives....It was disappointing to get some poor results from this area of Bowland today, some expected, some hoped for.

In addition to seeing just the one butterfly, I saw no Grey Wagtail, Dipper, or Common Sandpiper on the Marshaw Wyre. No House Martin at Tower Lodge, and found no Spotted Flycatcher, nor heard the Cuckoo, but perhaps in these latter two cases, I was a couple of days too early.

The plan was to wait until the end of April for this visit to Bowland, but with wall to wall sun, and barely a breeze, it was just too good to miss. 

I was pleased to see for myself, the sign at Cam Brow, where the bank isn't looking all that good at the moment. Thanks to Howard Stockdale for keeping in touch and for the picture.

Conder News.

My suggestion that the Common Tern would possibly make a first ever April appearance this year on Conder Pool has proved correct, when one arrived yesterday morning 24 April. Hard to believe that it is 9 days short of 3 months earlier than the first Common Tern to arrive here 7 years ago on 2 July 2014.

Three Avocet nests all have eggs, with a Little Ringed Plover present, and a Spotted Redshank also gracing Conder Pool.

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This 'rather shaky' Spotted Redshank with Black-tailed Godwits gave me much pleasure on Conder Pool in May 2019. 

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Birk Bank.

A pleasant spring day for upland birding, with one or two good rewards and three decent butterfly records.

Not the most attractive of woodlands at the start of the path to Clougha, but by the time I got here 20 minutes from the car park on Rigg Lane, I had seen/heard 10 of the 22 Willow Warbler on the day.

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Finding 5 Stonechat on Birk Bank today, including two seen as a pair. I reckon possibly four breeding pairs here to date. One lone male seen, had the largest white wing patches and neck collar I've ever seen. I really need to get back up here again to try for an image of this 'unusual' Stonechat.

My other notes include, 2 Green Woodpecker, one around the area of Rigg Plantation, the other at Gibson Wood. Also, 5 Red Grouse, 4 Wren, 3 Mistle Thrush, surprisingly only 2 Meadow Pipit, one of which I watched take off to take out a small white moth on the wing flycatcher style. Raptors seen, 2 Buzzard, and a Kestrel.


Green Hairstreak. Pete Woodruff.

I made casual records of 12 Green Hairstreak, no doubt many more to be found here today if my focus had been on them. Also, 9 Peacock, and an Orange Tip.

Particularly with dragonfly larva in mind, I definitely didn't like the look of this pair of Mallard on the bog at Birk Bank. Despite throwing a few small missiles to flush them, they remained unmoved

Rare & Scarce. 

Brimstone was rare, and the first ever in our garden, and a scarce here male Orange Tip also seen.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Well....That Was A Good Idea!

Looking over a stretch of the River Lune at Bull Beck on Thursday, a few minutes after I had found a Little Ringed Plover on a shingle bar, distant in the sky, there's this large lumbering bird flying upstream, then dropping down out of view. Yep, it was an Osprey. Well....that was a good idea, nice, very nice indeed.

My excitement slowly calmed down, and I went on to find 2 Common Sandpiper on the river, a Little Egret flying upstreamBuzzard over, a Willow Warbler, and 2 Blackcap.

Hyperactive Sand Martin were in good numbers at a couple of colonies on both banks of the river.

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I walked from Hornby, down the River Wenning where a Kingfisher was seen flying upstream. Also noted, TreecreeperSong ThrushWillow WarblerBlackcap. A Grey Wagtail and 2 Goosander on the river, a Buzzard over was harried by a Carrion Crow, also c.50 Sand Martin seen. Butterflies seen were 3 Small Tortoiseshell and a distant small fast unidentified white, presumed female Orange Tip, the true sign of spring.

Watching the Wenning as it flowed into the Lune at the confluence had quite a calming effect.

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In it's infancy as a small stream, the source of the River Lune is at Newbiggin in Cumbria. The river which runs through stunning landscape throughout it's length, has up to 100 tributaries, including the River Wenning at Hornby. The journey ends when it reaches Plover Scar at Cockersand, where it flows into the Irish Sea, 53 miles from it's beginnings.

Info from an insider earlier in the week about a bird in Bowland, had me heading there, but failing to make any connections. So I gave Hawthornthwaite another lookover, where I found a lone male Stonechat, at least 500m away from the location of a pair seen 1 April. Four Sand Martin were patrolling over and around Catshaw Grieve, 2 Buzzard were good to see soaring together, soon followed by a male Kestrel. Also, they came two by two, Red Grouse, Meadow Pipit, Wren, and Lapwing on territory. 

Geese were dropping down off Hawthornthwaite Fell in ones and twos, had me finding later that they were 82 Greylag gathering in a field. I watched 24 Curlew come down into a field opposite at Isle of Skye Farm.

This sign has now been erected at Cam Brow 

I'm hoping all the sun seeking picnickers and photographers will heed the message at this small but significant Sand Martin colony in Bowland.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

April Chats And The Blue Nailed Hawker.

Searching through my records of April Stonechats since 2006. I found little has changed over 15 years, although 10 Stonechat on Hawthornthwaite 10 April 2006, on Harrisend 5 April 2007, and 8 on Clougha/Birk Bank 21 April 2008 were decent peak spring counts. Thereafter, numbers only reached counts of no more than four birds in the month of April in the two years 2007/9. Two years of severe winter weather then saw the decline of a decade of growth in upland breeding and wintering Stonechats, from which - according to my records - they never recovered.

My latest visit to Harrisend had me finding 5 Stonechat, probably three pairs on territory to date. Also to note, at least 28 Meadow Pipit, 3 Wren, 2 Red Grouse, 2 Raven were foraging on the ridge, a Kestrel, and a Brown Hare. As I got back to the car, 2 Greylag were overhead loudly cackling before doing a U turn.

As I arrived at Hawthornthwaite, 2 Greylag flew east, when I got back to the car again two hours later, 2 Greylag flew west, all a little coincidental. I found a pair of Stonechat here, 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Red Grouse, a Buzzard, Kestrel, a Curlew presumably on territory, and a Skylark which I don't recall ever seeing here before.

On the way back to Lancaster, I called in at Street Bridge for a brief look for the Pied Billed Grebe, with no luck, but did hear my first Chiffchaff, and a Song Thrush was nice. On Sunday, 4 Swallow over and around the canal in the Deep Cutting area, were the first of the year for KT and myself.

The Blue Nailed Hawker.     

I'm looking forward to the season getting underway. Maybe if I get myself off to somewhere like Birk Bank, I might find an early April Large Red Damselfly over the bog to confirm it's already underway.

 Female Migrant Hawker. Pete Woodruff.

Coming across my record of 54 Migrant Hawker seen in little more than one hour along the canal between Glasson Dock and Conder Green on 19 September 2019. I subsequently found this photograph of a female Migrant Hawker taken in August 2020. Although not the best of images, it clearly shows a distinctive 'blue nail' on S2.

Field Guide Reference 

I was puzzled by my 'blue nail' photograph, the mark should be a distinctive yellow. So, off it went for expert analysis which came up with some interesting explanations, 1) because this was an immature female, the yellow isn't very bold yet, 2) field guides can't illustrate at every colour stage, 3) colours can change with temperature. Mmmm....Learning something every day!

Tawny Mining Bee Andrena fulva. Pete Woodruff.

Smart little bee on Euphorbia in the garden yesterday.

Unconnected to the post, but an excellent and much appreciated image of the Avocet by Martin Jump.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Godwit Headline Conder Pool....Again.

Although it was a pleasant sunny day, to be honest Conder Pool was a bit dull when I arrived there, but things were about to change for the better....much better. Unknown to me I was about to experience another of those excellent birding moments that crop up now and again if you keep at it.

All of a sudden, a couple of hundred godwits flew over the pool, escaping the Lune Estuary from the incoming tide. They wheeled around for a few minutes, before settling on the island where they were soon joined by others to form a flock of up to 1,000 Black-tailed Godwit.

Black-tailed Godwit Conder Pool 13 March. Courtesy of Howard Stockdale.

I was delighted to see these stunning elegant waders on Conder Pool, which added to two other recent impressive counts of BTG, one report of 4,100 seen on the Lune Estuary at the Conder mouth 27 February, another 1,000 seen a little later further downstream, made the possibility of making this record an all time peak count of in excess of 5,000 birds. Worth noting, the Lune Estuary peak count in February 2019 was of 2,620 BTG. The second record which included a ringed bird, was of yet another peak count of 2,500 BTG on Conder Pool 13 March....Magic birding moments for me, and for all concerned in these sightings I would imagine.  

The godwits were accompanied by 6 Dunlin and at least one Knot. Also on the pool, 2 Avocet, 15 Tufted Duck and 10 Teal to note. 

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I probably saw up to 100 Meadow Pipit flighting and in the fields at Cockersand, a White Wagtail stood out amongst the Pied Wagtail, a lone Reed Bunting and 2 Stock Dove. In the air, at least 10 Sand Martin through, a distant Raven flew out over the sea, cronking at another lone corvid harassing it, c.500 Pink-footed Geese flew south, 20 Golden Plover were flighty over fields, and off Cockerham Sands CP, 15 Eider

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It was good to watch c.60 Dunlin with Ringed Plover on the flood, whilst listening to the joy of a Skylark in full throttle.

The circuit of Cockersand ended with a bit of a disappointment as I failed to find my first Wheatear. But ne'r mind eh!....who needs a Wheatear when you can see nearly 1,000 Black-tailed Godwit on Conder Pool.