Regular visitors to
Birding Aldcliffe will have doubtless noticed that new posts to the site are somewhat rarer
than ivory-billed woodpecker these days. I can only apologise for this; updates
were once extremely regular… but that was when I, presumably, had a bit more
time on my hands.
I first visited the
area as a young lad in the late 1970s but it wasn’t until I returned to Lancaster
after being away at college in the late 80s that I started birdwatching there
regularly. At that time, I would venture onto the saltmarshes and wander along
the old disused railway line (now the cycle path) with a couple of birding
friends, Adrian ‘Ziggy’ Dawson and Greg Potter, both then students at St
Looking through my
old notebooks from that time, it was clear that I was going to my ‘local patch’
as often as I could (interspersed with frequent visits to RSPB Leighton Moss
and further afield) and it’s also clear from these tatty old memoirs that there
were a lot more birds around than there are today. There were also far fewer
people and I would often only see the same handful of local dog walkers and
occasional wildfowlers (Morecambe Bay Wildfowl Association own and manage
Aldcliffe Marsh) from one visit to the next.
Changes in habitat,
infrastructure, grazing regimes and livestock levels have all contrived to
change the overall landscape while the notable increase in people, dogs, cycles
and such have also impacted on wildlife here in recent decades.
Not all change has been
negative - improvements including the creation and management of the
Wildfowlers’ Pools along with the much larger Freemans’ Pools (a ‘borrow’ pool
that came into being after sea-defence bunds were built to prevent tidal
flooding and now managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust) have been fantastic.
But, we have lost
corn bunting (last bred in arable fields in 1990 and swiftly vanished when the
fields were turned into a biodiversity vacuum, ie grazing land) and grey partridge is almost certainly extinct in the area now. Bewick’s swans were once an annual highlight with significant numbers to be expected on the marsh every winter, but sadly no more.
There have of
course also been gains. The expansion in the range of little egrets nationally
means this bird is now a common sight all along the River Lune, with great white egrets now following in their footsteps. Little ringed plover are annual
summer visitors, as are reed warblers (both relatively recent colonisers). Stock dove and rook were both once scarce on the patch but are now regular
seemingly endless stream of dogs, walkers and cyclists that are now a daily
feature of the area, there are still birds to be found here. It can still offer
great spring birding when scores of migrants pass through in the right
conditions. It is still a stronghold for breeding lesser whitethroats,
wintering green sandpiper and good numbers of migrating geese with scarcer
species such as bean and white-fronted expected most years.
Moving forward I
will endeavour to post at least once a month, covering recent highlights.
Hopefully this will inspire more binocular-wielding folk to explore this
fabulous area and who knows, you might be the one to discover the next new
Coming soon... 2022 Highlights From The Patch.