Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Tide Up

I headed down to the marsh this morning to watch the spring tide come in. I set myself up just south of Snipe Bog and watched to see what the incoming water would bring to Aldcliffe. 5 Goldeneye were the first birds drifting upriver and they were soon followed by at least 4 of both Great-Crested Grebe and Little Grebe, and then a cracking pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers which landed near the Golden Ball.

As the tide began to cover the mudflats large flocks of waders began to gather on Gull Bank, these consisted of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank; I was a little disappointed that no other species had been pushed upriver.  All 5 of the regular gull species were present and feeding as the tide began to encroach onto the marsh, eventually flushing 7 Common Snipe from Snipe Bog. 3 Little Egrets were also pushed off the marsh and headed inland as did a Grey Wagtail, whilst a small number of Meadow Pipits fed on the remaining patches of grass between the rising water.

The Greylag Goose flock was up towards Marsh Point and I was informed by another birder that the juvenile White-fronted Goose was still with them (a report of 2 on Birdguides today). A large number of Pink-footed Geese dropped into the fields on the other side of the river next to the road and a small flock of 30 were on the marsh.

Freeman's Pool had thawed slightly and held a female Goldeneye and a number of Wigeon and Teal as well as the 4 Gadwall again.

Patch yearlist up to 66 species (Great-Crested Grebe, Red-Breasted Merganser and Grey Wagtail the additions)


Monday, 19 January 2015

Cold Does The Trick

Cold weather usually brings about bird movements so I was keen to get down to Aldcliffe to see what effect this current cold snap has had on the local birdlife. The path along Freemans Wood was still frozen in the late afternoon and the Pool itself was completely ice covered save for a tiny patch next to the island that held a crowd of 2 Little Grebe, 4 Gadwall and c50 Teal. The woods were pretty quiet so I headed up to Marsh Point where a few Cormorant were feeding in the river along with 3 Goldeneye (1 male) and a female Goosander.

From here I could hear the familiar sound of geese, but not the Pink-feet that I've been hearing this last week, this was the Greylag flock which has been absent from the marsh for a couple of weeks. About 50 Greylag Geese were feeding in front of the Golden Ball along with 15 Canada Geese and about 20 Pink-feet. A few scans through the Greylags and bingo, a single juvenile White-fronted Goose, the cold weather had brought them back after all. There also seemed to have been an increase in Mute Swans on the marsh with about 40 dotted around, no yellow bills amongst them yet however.

The river itself held the usual wader species and a couple of Little Egrets, whilst he marsh was mostly frozen which probably explains why there were no Snipe in the area around Snipe Bog, just a small flock of Meadow Pipits. A small wader that flew past me when I was there was unfortunately too brief to get an ID on, but it sounded different.

For the first time this week there were no Pink-footed Geese on the Drumlins. 63 species for the patch year.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Third Time Not So Lucky

I took the short route around patch this evening, spending about 45 minutes around Pony Wood. The Linnet flock in the arable field numbered about 50 but were flighty as usual and disappeared after a while, whereas the Chaffinch flock was once again absent altogether other than 2-3 with the Linnets, meaning a third successive dip of the Brambling this week. For the first time this week there were no Pink-footed Geese on the drumlins to the west.

A male Kestrel was hunting the area throughout the evening and in the process flushed a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were loudly arguing across the gap between Pony Wood and Admiralty Wood, I stayed around the area to dusk but there didn't appear to be any owls at the latter site.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Weekend Wonders

Highlights from a few hours spent on the patch this morning included:
A single jack snipe at Snipe Bog plus 4 common snipe.
The increasingly wet fields around the Flood were teeming with birds - lapwing, curlew, redshank, dunlin, black-headed gulls and a few oystercatcher.
There were yet more lapwing, redshank & dunlin were on the estuary, plus good numbers of golden plover.
Other than a single lowly greylag there were no geese on the marsh.
There was a sizeable flock of redwing and fieldfare hopping around in the grass around Frog Pond, with 8 pink-footed geese there also.

There were 12 wigeon, 19 gadwall and 4 little grebe at Feeman's Pools along with all the other expected stuff.
A male kestrel was hunting along Dawson's Bank (pictured).

An early afternoon wander around the FAUNA reserve revealed c900 pinkfeet still grazing on the drumlins. Time spent watching the chaffinch flock on the edge of Pony Wood rewarded me with good views of the female brambling. There were 80+ linnet still feeding in the arable field.
A brown hare was seen in the Big Meadow.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Finch Frustration

I took the circular walk from my house, through the FAUNA reserve, up past Pony Wood and back along the canal this afternoon in the hope of connecting with the finch flocks in the arable field adjacent to the wood. Earlier in the day I had happened to glance out my window at the same time as a male Goosander flew over heading towards the canal, a yeartick.

The reserve was quiet bar a mixed tit flock which included my first Long-tailed Tits of the patch year. The Pink-footed Goose flock was again present on the hill west of Pony Wood, about 1500 were in view with an unknown number out of site over the brow, presumably the Barnacle Goose was with them as I couldn't locate it in the visible flock. A small flock of Redwings were flying around above the wood and they were soon joined in the air by the flock of c70 Linnet which were being very flighty around the field. The frustration alluded to in the title was directed at the Chaffinch flock which was always out of view on the other side of the wood, so I was unable to find the Brambling amongst them. A couple of Greenfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker around the wood were nice compensation and on the way back another male Goosander flew over, this time heading towards the town.

59 species for the patch year.


Monday, 12 January 2015

Debut Post

A quick introduction from me. My name is Jonathan Scragg, I am a 20-year old birder originally from Blackpool and I am now in my 2nd year studying Ecology at Lancaster University. Living in Lancaster means I now have the Aldcliffe area on my doorstep and so this has now become my local patch for the next couple of years. I am also using Aldcliffe as my patch for the Patchwork Challenge competition.

This afternoon was my first opportunity to visit Aldcliffe since returning to university (and getting very jealous of all the good birds Jon has been seeing!). The main target was the Pink-footed Goose flock that was occupying several fields between Pony Wood and The Flood. After a bit of searching the Barnacle Goose was picked out from amongst them. The whole flock appeared to be in excess of 2500 individuals.


The high wind meant there were few passerines to be seen around the arable field next to Pony Wood so I failed to find the Brambling or the Chaffinch flock it has been associating with. The Flood held 100 or so Redshank and smaller numbers of Oystercatcher and Curlew, whilst just 2 Common Snipe were at Snipe Bog.
The tide was in on the river so the waders and gull flocks were confined to the edges of the marsh, all the usual suspects were present but nothing out of the ordinary yet. An unseen Water Rail was calling from Reedy Corner and a trio of Grey Partridge and a Little Egret were in the field adjacent to Frog Pond. Freemans Pool held 2 each of Goldeneye and Little Grebe and I waited here till dusk in the hope of any owls putting on a show; not tonight but I'll be back again soon in search. 53 species seen, a good start to the patch yearlist.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

When The Wind Blows

Spent an hour or so being buffeted by the brisk winds this morning in the hope that I might find some oddment but unfortunately there was nothing apparent 'blown in'. Often in these conditions we can hope to get a stray kittiwake or little gull joining the regular Aldcliffe birds but not this time, it would seem.

Grey partridge
The number of pink-footed geese was up however, with around 800 new birds supplementing the 1000 or so already in situ. Due to the fact that many of the geese were feeding in the dips in the undulating fields, it was difficult to get an accurate count.
The barnacle goose was still in among them.
There were 22 gadwall were on Freeman's Pools along with 3 little grebe and a single goldeneye plus all the usual stuff.

2 jack snipe and 4 common snipe were at Snipe Bog.

A covey of 6 grey partridge (pictured, badly) were hunkering down in the fields to the south of the lane and another single bird was near Frog Pond.