Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Solitary Sandpiper

The Lune at low tide
Had a half-decent morning on the patch today thanks to some dry, bright weather and a few new birds trickling through.
Frustratingly, still no passage waders or post-breeding garganey at Freeman's Pools but it was great to see that the lone tufted duck duckling was still doing well.
Both parents are still in attendance and this constitutes the first ever breeding of this species (to my knowledge) in the Aldcliffe recording area.
Also present were a pair of moulting wigeon and 5 eclipse gadwall. Winter's here folks...
Other succesful breeders included a couple of little grebe chicks and just one cygnet with an adult mute swan. Newly hatched moorhens were in evidence along with several well-grown youngsters from earlier broods.
A reed warbler was sen foraging in the waterside vegetation.

Black-tailed godwit
I walked south along Dawson's Bank, noting good numbers of little egret along the way. A juvenile peregrine was having a go at hunting on the other side of the river and was soon joined by an adult.  This experienced bird soon snatched a starling and gave it to the youngster in a nifty aerial pass.
An adult Mediterranean gull flew up from the river and headed inland. A scan of the gulls loafing on the Lune sands revealed a further 4 Meds (3 ads & 1 second winter).
Also seen here were 5 common sandpiper and a fine breeding-plumaged black-tailed godwit (pictured).
A flock of approximately 30 wigeon flew through heading toward Glasson.

The Flood was quiet - the 3 remaining lapwing chicks all seem in good shape.

A common sandpiper and a solitary green sandpiper were at the Wildfowlers' Pools.

Insects were relatively low in number (with the exception of those lovely horseflies), despite the sunshine.
As far as dragonflies were concerned I just saw singles of emperor, brown hawker and common darter plus the usual damselflies.
Common butterflies (peacock, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, meadow brown, speckled wood etc) were all present but not in any great number.
Brown hare was the only wild mammal.



Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Great Weather For Ducks

Had a quick spin around the patch after work this evening.First stop was at Freeman's Pools where I noticed a drake tufted duck moulting into eclipse plumage. That in itself wasn't especially notable - but with it was a small duckling.
A few weeks ago I noticed a pair of tufted ducks arrive at the pools but they soon disappeared - have they simply been keeping a low profile while nesting at the site? If so, I think that this may be the first record of successful breeding of this species in the Aldcliffe recording area.
In other bay bird news; the four lapwing chicks at the Flood continue to thrive while a couple at the Wildfowlers' Pools seem to be in rude health. A brood of at least 5 shelduck were also at the Wildfowlers' Pools along with 1 common and 2 green sandpipers.

Earlier in the day I had visited the common tern colony at Preston Docks (video from today attached) in advance of spending the day there tomorrow.
I'll be there chatting about how these amazing birds have been encouraged to breed at this inner city site and I'll hopefully be encouraging local people to want to learn more about the wildlife on their doorstep!
Fylde Bird Club's Paul Ellis and Paul Slade were instrumental in providing nesting areas for these birds at the marina and a joint project that includes input from the local council, Preston Docks and the RSPB has enabled the growing colony to exceed 130 pairs in 2016.
It's well worth a visit if you're in the area in the next couple of weeks.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Wading In...

Highlights from a few hours birding around Aldcliffe yesterday included my first green sandpipers of the season. These migratory waders usually arrive back on the patch from July and are best looked for around the various pools and the Flood.
Yesterday's birds were found at Freeman's Pools and the Wildfowlers' Pools.
Other waders of note included at least 6 common sandpipers on the Lune near Gull Bank and a single adult little ringed plover on the Flood.
The two lapwing broods continue to be doing well.
On the estuary post-breeding curlews are staring to gather with a flock of c50 on Colloway Marsh.  

Other notable sightings around the area included a pair of stock doves and a singing reed warbler at Freeman's Pools.
The breezy conditions kept dragonflies down but there were plenty of butterflies around including speckled wood, meadow brown and a single comma.

At Conder the avocet pair were present with their single chick while the common terns were very active - both adults and their two fledged young showed well.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Little Wonders

Highlights from a couple of hours getting drenched around Aldcliffe this morning included a 'new' little ringed plover chick at the The Flood.
The plover was with an adult and appeared to be fairly recently fledged. Also present were 2 adults with a well-grown youngster - presumably the same ones that have been around for a while. A lapwing with two sizeable chicks made for a pleasant sight.
I could only see two of the lapwing chicks at the Wildfowlers' Pools but the vegetation was pretty dense and could easily have been hiding one or two others.
Little grebe breeding success seems unremarkable thus far with just a single chick being fed by an adult at Freeman's Pools. A lone stock dove and little egret were the only other birds of note there.
It was fairly quiet all around the patch, as is to be expected at this time of year, with this kind of weather.
Hopefully we'll start to see more post-breeding waders starting to move through in the coming weeks; green sandpipers have usually made an appearance by now and there's always the chance of a wood sandpiper or something scarcer still. And it's worth checking the gulls on the estuary as Mediterranean and yellow-legged gulls could show up among the commoner species.

I spent a couple of days up at the Malham Cove peregrine watchpoint earlier this week. The two youngsters have now fledged and they often put on a great show as the adults show the growing falcons how to hunt. A decent supporting cast includes multiple redstarts, spotted flycatchers and green woodpeckers among other things.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Dragons Emerge In The Sun

The past few visits I've made around the Aldcliffe area have been pretty interesting, one way of the other.
On the sunnier days, the highlights have definitely been insect-related; dragonflies and butterflies have been much in evidence.
Relatively recent colonists such as black-tailed skimmer appear to be settling in nicely with mating pairs and individuals on Frog Pond (where the photo here was taken) and Darter Pool.
Dazzling emperor dragonflies can now be found on all the pools and I was pleased to spot a broad-bodied chaser at Darter Pool a couple of days ago. Hundreds of common blue and blue-tailed damselflies too are prolific on warmer days.

Good news (if such low productivity can be hailed as 'good') from the Wildfowlers' Pools concerns the appearance of a brood of 4 lapwing chicks. A pair behaving like 'new parents' in the one of the maize fields also looks promising but given the number of pairs that initially settled in to nest this is pretty dire stuff. Hardly surprising that the numbers of lapwing have decreased massively in England recent decades.
The reappearance of little ringed plovers on The Flood last week wasn't much of a surprise. A pair of adults with a well-fledged youngster implies local-ish breeding but as far as I'm aware there were no nesting pairs on the patch at all this year. I suspect that these birds nested not too far away in some un-watched grubby industrial spot. 
In other baby-bird news; I accidentally flushed a pair of grey partridge the other day, revealing a brood of tiny, recently hatched chicks. Let's hope that some of these make it to adulthood to prop up the dwindling local population.  
The pair of avocets seen on the Lune off Aldcliffe Marsh last week were presumably not those currently nesting further down river.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Quail Fail

My few visits to the patch have been pretty unremarkable over the past few days; a pair of tufted duck have appeared on Freeman's Pools and the mute swan pair have actually hatched eight cygnets (not seven as I said in my last post).
The first returning greylags and Canada geese dropped in too - numbers of both these 'resident' species should increase significantly in the coming weeks. Similarly, lapwings have started gathering in the fields - these all presumably failed or non-breeders. I have yet to see a single youngster around the Aldcliffe area this season...

Given this dearth of avian thrills, I headed out to Fluke Hall, Pilling yesterday morning in search of something of a nemesis bird. A quail has been singing in fields in the area for several days and I was quite keen to go and have a listen for it and hopefully to catch a glimpse of this often secretive gamebird.
Quails are long-range migrants and are scarce summer visitors to the north west. This species is what we birders call a 'bogey bird' for me. I have heard them on several occasions throughout the UK and I have seen them on the continent and in their wintering grounds in South Africa, but it is the only breeding British bird that I have never seen on British soil. And given David Talbot's superb shots of the Pilling bird on the LDBWS website (click here) I was feeling optimistic.

I arrived at the spot and was soon marveling at the sight of a smart corn bunting (now sadly extinct as a breeding bird at Aldcliffe) and several tree sparrows. What a difference a few miles and a few arable fields make...
On a slightly less exciting note there were also lots of red-legged partridge in the fields, along with lapwings and an oystercatcher. The hedgerows were filled with whitethroat too, many of which were carrying food to noisy begging youngsters.
But alas, no singing quail could be heard.
I had a walk along the seawall, spotting 8 grey plover out on the sands and a large flock of knot by Cocker's Dyke. I estimated around 2000 birds present, several in dazzling brick-red breeding garb. A scan through (secretly hoping for a broad-billed sandpiper or something of that ilk) only revealed 3 smart summer-plumaged dunlin. A painted lady was seen along the path.
I returned to the 'quail-zone' and once again the air was bereft of its distinctive 'wet my lips' song.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Flaming June by the Lune

Crikey, it's been a month since I last posted here. What a slacker.
I do have a half-decent excuse, as I've been in Canada since May 20th guiding a group of Brit birders in BC. We had a great trip and saw almost 200 species of bird in two weeks, plus all manner of mammals including orca, grey whale and black bear. I was there with North West-based company Ribble Bird Tours and our itinerary included a range of habitats in the Lower Mainland, Okanagan Valley and Vancouver Island. An account of the trip will be posted here soon, so if you're keen to find out more about birding in Western Canada please check back shortly.

So, I had a quick scout around the Aldcliffe patch in the flaming June sunshine today to see what was occurring. There were plenty of birds in song including summer visitors such as blackcap, chiffchaff, sedge warbler and whitethroat.
Down at Freeman's Pools it was good to see that the local mute swan pair had hatched 7 cygnets. A lone near-fledged oystercatcher chick was feeding on the muddy edges of the upper pools while a well-grown brood of 4 mallard were also present.
As I walked along Dawson's Bank I spotted a common tern fishing by the Lune and over the saltmarsh pools (my first on the patch this year).
Another local 'year-tick' came in the form of a couple of reed warblers, both of which were singing from the small reed-fringed Bank Pool. One of these fine birds showed well as he belted out his fabulous song from high up in the waterside vegetation.
Potential good news from the maize fields; at least 6 sitting lapwing and an oystercatcher bodes well following the earlier nest trashing...

Thanks to the balmy temperatures there were plenty of butterflies around including speckled wood, small tortoiseshell and my first painted lady of the season.
At Darter Pool I added another year-first in the form of a dazzling emperor dragonfly while the poolside was positively alive with hundreds of blue-tailed damselflies