Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Geese Are Getting Fat

Eurasian white-fronted geese
Following the discovery of 5 Eurasian white-fronted geese on the Lune on Friday, I headed off to Aldcliffe Marsh this morning with the hope that they may still be around. Initially seen from the Golden Ball on the Oxcliffe side of the river, the quintet were apparently associating with greylags, rather than pinkfeet.
I eventually discovered the whitefronts grazing toward the river's edge about halfway between Marsh Point and Aldcliffe Hall Lane.
They were distant, but I managed a couple of digi-scope record shots. Also among the usual mass of Canada geese and greylags were just a handful of pink-footed geese plus at least 6 orange-collared greylags.

Whooper swans
The expected groups of mute swan on Aldcliffe Marsh had attracted a pair of whooper swans - earlier a flock of 7 had passed over but continued on toward Glasson.
Good numbers of redwing and fieldfare were feeding in the hawthorns. In the maize fields 7 stock doves continue to be a regular sight.
In the wet fields black-headed and common gulls were feeding but there no Med gulls among them.
A few oystercatcher and redshank were scattered among 112 curlew, all busily probing the soft earth.

Collared greylag
At Freeman's Pools there was a slight increase in the number of tufted duck, now numbering a barely impressive seven. Half a dozen wigeon, 19 gadwall and the usual teal and mallard were also joined by a single goldeneye.
Several of the little grebe seemed to have moved out, leaving just a couple on the pools.
The lone Canada goose with the pink ring seems to have succumbed; its lifeless form was being methodically picked over by a couple of carrion crows on the island.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Distant Drum(lin)s

With an eye of the high mid-day tide I headed off for a spot of Aldcliffe birding late morning.
The most two most notable things today were the numbers of winter thrushes and finches and the presence of several hundred pink-footed geese in the fields.
For the first time in quite a while I was coming across actual flocks of chaffinches; starting with 20+ along the footpath from the Millenium Orchard up to the Admiralty Wood near Aldcliffe hamlet. There was a report of brambling from here yesterday on the FAUNA blog but I couldn't locate any today. I did notice that that were 3 linnet and a couple of greenfinch among the chaffinches and that they were feeding in the weedy areas of the arable field. An area well worth keeping an eye on over the winter.
All the way down Aldcliffe Hall Lane and along the cycle track and into Freeman's Wood there were yet more chaffinches, linnets and greenfinches in varying numbers. More notable still were the many blackbirds, along with smaller numbers of song thrush, redwing and fieldfare.

Pink-footed geese on the Aldcliffe drumlins
Up on the drumlins there were around 800 or so pink-footed geese but as I only had my bins with me a thorough scrutiny was out of the question. At that range, in good light, at least I could see that there was nothing as obvious as a barnacle goose lurking among the ranks, but the odd beans or even whitetfront would be tricky to say the least. If they stick around I may get chance to 'scope them tomorrow...

At Freeman's Pools it was business as usual with no new arrivals to excite a local patch birder.
Nearby 6 skylarks were buzzing around the maize fields while 4 grey partridge were feeding in an adjacent field. Another small covey of 4 partridge were also in fields up nearer the village.
Just a lone common snipe was at Snipe Bog and the dearth of rock pipits was in no way compensated by the single meadow pipit by The Channel.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Red Rings Read

Freeman's Pools at Dusk
For a number of weeks now I have been making regular dusk visits to Freeman's Pools in search of owls. So far, I haven't had any success but it's still early days. At the very least I'm hoping for a wintering barn owl, while short-eared owl also has a good track record at the site. And of course, a repeat of the long-eared owl action we witnessed back in 2009 would be most welcome!
Dusk is an interesting time even still with many species still very active into darkness. A kingfisher was attempting to catch one last meal of the day in very poor light and both kestrel and sparrowhawk were putting in plenty of effort. The kestrel struck lucky with a field vole, while the sparrowhawk failed an attempt to snatch a starling from the mini-murmuration taking place over the pools. Meanwhile a stoat was snaking its way through the waterside vegetation.
A few more cold nights and we may well see an migrant owl or two appearing on the patch as they head for food-rich coastal areas.

Frosty Freeman's Pools
The frosty start to the day made quiet a welcome change this morning. However, I think we'll need a few more days of sustained cold conditions if we're going to see much wildfowl movement in the Aldcliffe area.
Things were much the same on the ponds and pools this morning, with the usual number of coot, gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, teal and little grebe present. A single goldeneye was on one of the upper ponds and a kingfisher was again at the sluiced pool. A pair of reed bunting were busy extracting seeds from the reed heads.
Elsewhere, a great-crested grebe was on the Lune off Marsh Point and the wintering greenshank was out on the marsh.
Four grey partridge were feeding in the fields and a common buzzard was cruising around searching for something to eat. 3 siskins flew over toward Freeman's Wood and a party of 4 bullfinch were in the hawthorns along the cycle track. All the expected winter thrushes were seen in varying numbers.
Several hundred geese, presumably pinkfeet, were wheeling around in the distance somewhere over Oxcliffe / Heysham, while the usual gaggle of greylags and Canada geese were scattered around the marsh. The bar-headed goose was among these.

Talking of geese, there were two Canadas on Freeman's Pools today, each sporting both a BTO metal and a red darvic ring. Whether the original lone goose of recent weeks has been joined by another ringed individual, or the lone goose has gone and been replaced by two 'new' ringed birds I cannot say. Regardless, I was able to read the letters on these two birds' rings and will doubtless discover their origins to be no further than than Windermere, where a ringing project has been in place for some time. 


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Snooping For Snipe

FAUNA Nature Reserve, Lancaster
On Monday morning I joined in with the monthly snipe flush at the FAUNA nature reserve in Lancaster.
During the winter months a small number of volunteers (usually just 2-3 people) systematically walk the boggy areas of the reserve in order to put up any snipe so that they can get an accurate count of the number of birds using the site.

We started off well, flushing 3 woodcock in an area of Upper Sowerholme where this species has been seen in the past. The presence of three woodcock here strongly suggests that this could be a regular wintering area for a small number of these elusive birds.
Next we worked our way through School Pond, putting up an impressive 47 common snipe and a single jack snipe. There were also 20 teal here.
A further 23 common snipe and another jack snipe were flushed from Big Meadow.

As temperatures drop and winter sets in, it seems likely that could see notable increases in the number of snipe roosting here. It will certainly be interesting to see how many birds are found on counts in January and February. I for one, will be more than happy to join Graham, Glenys and Paul on their future snipe quests.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sunny Delights

A quick blast around the patch yesterday revealed little to add to the previous day's sightings.
The pochard (pictured) was still present at Freeman's Pools, though there was no sign of it there this morning (Sunday).
A kingfisher was present on the upper pools today, but otherwise things were pretty much as normal with half a dozen wigeon (pictured), 3 tufted duck, 19 gadwall, 27 teal, 7 little grebe, and 30 coot.

Snoozing pochard
3 grey herons were on the gravel island and a little egret was fishing on the sluiced pool.
A kestrel was doing the rounds as was a female sparrowhawk, scattering the handful of fieldfare and a couple of mistle thrush in the process.
Yesterday's passerine highlight was the single siskin that came over from the other side of the river and headed for Freeman's Wood.

A raven was circling over the Lune late morning; all I could make out on the saltmarsh were the usual mix of greylags, Canada geese and mute swans.
On the river I searched through the black-headed, common and herring gulls but found nothing of note among them, unless one counts the odd wintering lesser black-backed gull.
Grey partridge continue to feed in the fields in and around the maize stubble.

That Canada goose was again hanging around the island at Freeman's Pools but on both of my visits today and yesterday it stayed either partly, or fully, in the water.
As can be seen in the pic, the top of the darvic ring on its left leg is just visible.
Despite my being armed with a 'scope its 'pinkie' ring remains unread.


Friday, 28 November 2014

Diving Duck Debut

Highlights from a morning visit included my first pochard of the season on Freeman's Pools. Also there were 3 tufted duck, 19 gadwall, 7 little grebe and an increase in coot number to 38.

The lone Canada goose that has been in residence on the pools for a couple of weeks now was out of the water and I could see that it was sporting a pinky/orangey darvic ring on its left leg.
I've been curious as to why this bird stays on the pools while hundreds of Canadas and greylags hang out on the marsh. My first impressions of this goose were that it was slightly smaller and more delicately built than the usual gang and perhaps this ring indicates that it is of captive origin? I couldn't see any other rings or whether the coloured ring bore any digits as I only had my binocs - maybe it's a genuine North American vagrant? (I'm not holding my breath...). Hopefully I'll get to 'scope it and see something more definitive in the coming days or weeks.

A green sandpiper was on the Wildfowlers' Pools with good numbers of teal, and 4 grey partridge were in the stubble fields.

Otherwise it was a pleasant enough morning, but ultimately there was little to set the pulse racing.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Obese Geese

Hi. Dan again.

Just a quick visit today.

Yesterday's Greenshank and Chiffchaff were still around. A male Blackcap was eating haws near Stodday.

A female Merlin was in the north of our patch (as per Pete Marsh- probably the same one as yesterday) and the Bar-headed Goose was with Greylags on the marsh.

The injured white-morph Snow Goose was on the river's edge of Colloway Marsh in some insalubrious company-- a limping Greylag and some baggy-bellied white farmyard types.