Monday, 3 August 2015

Blur-lew Sandpiper

Dan here. Hello again.

Bestest bird this afternoon was an adult Curlew Sandpiper-- feeding along Gull Bank on the dropping spring tide. Ten or twelve pixels are devoted to it, below.

It was in the company of Lapwings, gulls and a very large pink jellyfish (c2ft across) which had washed up on the mud.

Other passage waders at Aldcliffe included at least two Whimbrel and a Green Sandpiper.

Passerine interest seemed very limited with just a few juvenile Chiffchaffs and a Sedge Warbler drawing any attention to themselves.

Jon's Garganey is still in the area, as are many (low four-figures?) feral greylags.

Odonata spotting was a bit hit and miss in borderline weather but a few Emerald Damselfly and Brown Hawker were new for the year. Readers of a sensitive disposition should avoid looking at the Emperors pictured below.



Saturday, 1 August 2015

Message from Trevor

Hello-- Dan here.

Trevor Connah from the Morecambe Bay Wildfowling Association has contacted me to help spread news of some planned work strengthening the Aldcliffe Marsh sea wall AKA Dawson's Bank.

The work, requested by the farmers (in order to prevent tidal breaching) has been given the all-clear by Natural England and is to be carried out this month.

So we can expect tractors and other machinery, and a period of disturbance hopefully no longer than a couple of days.

News of specific dates as I get it.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Spotted Drake

Eclipse drake garganey
After making a declaration that the garganey at Freeman's Pools yesterday was either a female or juvenile bird I am now pleased to say that it was neither!

I checked the pools this morning but could only find a single female tufted duck and the two common teal that the garganey had been with the previous day. Assuming it had flown to some other glamorous destination I continued my rounds of the patch.
The three ruddy shelduck were remaining faithful to the Wildfowlers' Pools and there were now a trio of green sandpiper present, along with a juvenile little ringed plover. A couple of snipe were feeding in the long channel.
It was good to see fledged broods of both linnet and greenfinch here.

I had a quick look on The Flood and low and behold - there was 'my' garganey. From the upper cinder track I was able to get far better views than I did yesterday and even managed a couple of snaps through my 'scope.
Having ruled out a juvenile bird, I was fairly happy that it was an adult female - until it briefly stretched its wings and showed the distinctive upper wing pattern of an adult male. So, it would appear in fact to be an adult drake in eclipse plumage. Ta-dah!

A cursory look at the river from the mouth of the The Channel revealed little of note bar a fishing common tern, a lone common sandpiper and multiple little egrets.
The highlight was seeing my first Lune shelduck brood of the year - a pair with 7 young duckling on Colloway Marsh.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Wild Duck Trumps Ruddy Interlopers

A lovely juvenile / female garganey was at Freman's Pools this morning. It was in the company of a couple of teal on the upper pools. It's always a pleasure to come across these attractive and scarce summer migrants on the local patch.
There wasn't much else going on at the pools, just a few moulting mallard and the usual coot, moorhen and little grebe. A little egret dropped in for a spot of fishing but didn't linger.
The ruddy duck trio were again at the Wildfowlers' Pools along with a green sandpiper, a couple of snipe and a juvenile little ringed plover.
There wasn't much going on at the Flood, and a check on the estuary revealed little beyond the expected gulls, greylags, cormorants, lapwings, herons and little egrets, etc.

Ruddy Shelduck

A few people have asked about the provenance of the visiting shelducks, but the real answer is that (as with most 'rare' wildfowl) we really don't know for sure.
This species is a regular visitor to Britain, especially in the summer months. The perceived wisdom is that these birds originate from feral populations in Europe, though in some years it is possible that genuinely wild birds may account for an influx.
Clearly, one of the Aldcliffe birds is of captive origin due the presence of a red plastic ring on its leg. That doesn't necessarily mean of course that the others are from the same source. Escaped wildfowl will often hook up with wild birds of the same, or similar, species.
In theory a fence-hopper may fly around on its own for ages before finding others of its kind. They may come upon a large feral population in Holland while on their travels, or spot a couple of free-range wanderers as they pass overhead in Nimes, Namysłów or Nantwich. Who knows?
Given that ruddy shelduck isn't even on the current 'official' British list, it's all a bit academic really! Nonetheless, they're an attractive bird and the sight of these ruddy shelducks certainly brightens even the dullest Aldcliffe morning.


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dan's Week in Pictures!

Chiffchaffs--particularly juveniles-- numerous

2 or 3 Gatekeepers seen- relatively uncommon at this site.

Lots of Hirundines Friday--including 'percher' Swallows like this one plus a few Sand Martins

Escaped Ruddy Shelducks including pinkish bangle of shame

Monday, 20 July 2015

Gulls Med My Day

Common sandpiper
I spent a good three hours or so rooting around the patch this morning.

First I checked Freeman's Pools where 40 or so of the recently returned greylag were busily and noisily bathing. Among this group were a couple of orange-collared birds from the Windermere project (both were present last winter).
In the past week up to 300 greylag have reappeared on the Lune estuary; this large post-breeding flock returns each year, along with Canada geese, having spent the summer in the Lake District. I managed to read another 2 collars later on, on birds on the marsh.

A single common sandpiper was on the main Freeman's Pool island, while another was in the company of a green sandpiper on the upper pools.
A single little grebe chick was my first sign of any successful breeding here this year. 
A fox was making the mute swan family very nervous indeed... It soon scarpered once it spotted me watching it.

Ruddy shelduck, Wildfowlers' Pools
Having heard nothing of the ruddy shelducks since I came across them on Friday, I'd assumed they'd disappeared but I was pleased to see that they were again at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
I managed to dash off a couple of shots through my 'scope, just for the record. 4 snipe were feeding in the muddy channel but there wasn't much else present bar the usual bits and pieces. After a while the shelduck took off and headed toward Freeman's Pools, where I assume they came down.
An hour and a half or so later, as I walked along Dawson's Bank, the trio came up from the Wildfowlers' Pools again but this time headed out to the estuary.
They appeared to go down somewhere in the Gull Bank area.
I checked previous records for ruddy duck at Aldcliffe and I can only find reference to the pair that I saw flying down river in July 2009.  

Adult Mediterranean gull
Talking of Gull Bank, I had a check to see if anything interesting was on the river and found 3 Mediterranean gulls among the black-heads.
One was an adult moulting out of summer plumage while the other two were second calendar year birds (one of these was metal-ringed).

2CY Med gull (metal-ringed)
Nearby, up to 5 common sandpiper were feeding along the shore. Lapwing, redshank and curlew numbers continue to build but other than a small flock of black-tailed godwit flying around near the pylons there weren't any other waders to be seen.
The expected cormorants, goosanders, grey heron and little egrets were all busy fishing away on the incoming tide.

At Marsh Point I 'scoped through the large gulls gathered in the river and came across a ringed adult herring gull. It had a yellow darvic on its left leg. After some time I managed to read the digits on the ring - I'll post the info on here when I get it.

Narrow bordered 5-spot burnet.
Despite the lack of sun, there were a few butterflies around. A couple of commas were along the path by Freeman's Wood while a single painted lady was seen along the bunds.
As always there were loads of meadow browns around and I came across a lovely 5-spot burnet (now confirmed as narrow-bordered 5-spot burnet - thanks Pete & Jonny) along the seawall path.
Dragonflies were conspicuous by their absence, just 2 emperors and a single female darter sp. were seen.



Friday, 17 July 2015

Ruddy 'ell!

Something of a surprise today was the discovery of three ruddy shelduck at the Wildfowlers' Pools. The smart trio were feeding in the channel to the south of the main pools and visible from the cycle track gate. Off the top of my head, this is only the second time that I've ever seen this species on the patch so it was quite a pleasant find (despite their rather sketchy provenance...). I gave Dan a call to let him know about these dodgy ducks, so hopefully he got down and got a snap or two to post on here.
In the meantime here's a shoddy shot I took of one at considerable distance in Lesvos a few years back...
Also at the pools were 2 green sandpiper and at least 3 common snipe.
In other news, a notably clamorous reed warbler (note I am using clamorous as an adjective and am in no way reporting a Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus) was singing away in the willows by Lucy Brook at the end of the Freeman's Wood path, where it emerges onto Willow Lane. Somewhat odd habitat for a singing reed warbler in mid-July perhaps, but there was nothing in its song to suggest that it was anything but that species. 

Highlights from a very soggy search on Monday (13th) morning included a pair of green sandpiper and a lone adult little ringed plover at the Wildfowlers' Pools, but not a lot else of note.
Two stock dove were at Freeman's Pools.
A lesser whitethroat was singing half-heartedly along the cycle track, as was a sedge warbler, while a couple of common whitethroat belted it out in the persistent rain.
I 'scoped through the increasing numbers of black-headed gull on the Lune but once again found no Med gulls. 12 goosander were fishing just north of the pylons.