Sunday, 16 July 2017

Field Good Factor

I had an extremely soggy trundle around the patch on Saturday morning, but it wasn't without its rewards.
Freeman's Pools were relatively quiet; 3 tufted duck, a couple of little grebes and a few mallard, coot and Canada geese on the water. A reed warbler was half-heartedly singing but kept typically hidden.
A single green sandpiper was at the Wildfowlers' Pools along with a shelduck and one fledged youngster. The sedge warbler-in-residence was belting it out from a path-side hawthorn.
A lone breeding-plumage black-tailed godwit was also here, freshly returned no doubt from Iceland. Also back in the Aldcliffe 'hood were the first post-breeding greylags of the year - approximately 120 including a couple of collared birds.
Out on the Lune the tide was low and as a consequence the mud was littered with lapwings and black-headed gulls. From among the throng I picked out a dunlin, 4 common sandpipers and an adult Mediterranean gull.
A common tern was fishing in the channel, presumably a Conder Pools bird at large.

The arable field at Fairfield
Sunday, things were generally a lot nicer weather-wise so Jenny and I walked through the Fairfield Orchard, via Aldcliffe village and back along the cycle track to Freeman's Wood.
The arable field was looking superb in the sunshine with the crop gently swaying in the breeze and the belt of wildflowers growing around its borders.

Last week I followed up a couple of recent reports of little owl in the area and was delighted to find one. Having been resident in the area for ages (I've been aware of them here since the late 1980s) little owls disappeared from the Admiralty Wood a couple of years ago, mirroring a general decline in the wider area.
The really great news today was that I saw not just one owl there again but a second adult and a recently fledged chick. Where they nested, I have no idea. I checked the area regularly during the spring and found no birds on territory. Let's hope they stick around.

Broad-leaved helleborine
Nearby, I noticed that the broad-leafed helleborine mentioned in my last post was still not in flower. Here's a pic of it anyway - hopefully I'll get a shot of it once it's in bloom.

Birds-wise I didn't see anything that I didn't yesterday (green sandpiper, black-tailed godwit, etc) but there were more butterflies around today.

Gatekeeper
Red admirals seemed especially numerous (by this year's shockingly low standards, at least) and I spotted my first gatekeeper of the year.

Butterfly enthusiasts may be interested to hear that Pete Woodruff called me a few days ago to say that he had seen a ringlet near Stodday, certainly a species I can't recall ever seeing in that area. 

Jon

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sunday Summary

A couple of hours spent blasting around the patch today, just as the tide started to drop was reasonably productive.
Once the jet skiers by Snatchems had packed up and gone off to do whatever it is people like that do, the gulls and lapwings started to settle once more around the river's edge.
Scanning through I was slightly disappointed to find just one Mediterranean gull but as it was an extremely handsome adult still sporting it's breeding finery, I was quite happy with it. It was quite distant, hence the terrible dodgi-scoped pic here.

Med gull
Other than a single eider and my first 'autumn' common sandpiper the Lune was as to be expected; little egrets, grey herons, etc.

Highlights from the Wildfowlers' Pools included a pair of eclipse shoveler and 2 green sandpipers. The Reedy Corner sedge warbler was singing its heart out as were multiple whitethroats along the track-side hedges.

Back in 2009 Tom Wilmer let me know about a particular plant that he'd come across at Aldcliffe; broad-leafed helleborine. I wrote this short post about it. Despite checking the same area in subsequent years I have never relocated this attractive orchid. So it was with some delight that I clapped eyes on a pair of plants in the same area last week, although they had not yet flowered - I checked again today and they still haven't.
Hopefully I'll get some snaps of the flowers once they come into bloom.

Jon
    

Monday, 3 July 2017

Green Back

My first green sandpiper of the post-breeding season was bang on cue this evening with a single bird at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
We usually see a few passing through from early July onward and numbers can reach double figures in exceptional years. Of course there's also the chance of the odd wood sandpiper dropping in too; we generally get on one every other year or so.
Other notable stuff from my latish sojourn included a couple of noisy water rails in Reedy Corner (have they bred here this year?), both reed and sedge warblers singing and a little ringed plover. Although I still haven't seen any young plovers so far this year, there's still a chance that there may be a late brood, as there was last year.
At Freeman's Pools the 2 young little grebes continue to grow but other than a few mallard duckling and Canada goose goslings there's been little in the way of successful nesting. The tufted ducks failed to produce anything, no mute swans have nested for the first time in decades and even the lowly moorhen seems to have had a pretty poor time of it. That said, a recently hatched clutch was at Bank Pool while the coots on Frog Pond still had one decent sized nipper with them.

Earlier in the day I had dropped into Leighton Moss briefly and had cracking views of osprey - I've been seeing them almost daily since starting my new job there but I never fail to be chuffed by the sight of these ace birds. At one point, a male marsh harrier and the osprey were in my field of vision at the same time - an almost unimaginable sight when I used to go there as a lad...

Jon

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Tern Up For The Books

With the sun a-blazing it was always going to be about insects today. Having hardly spent any time birding around Aldcliffe lately, I was keen to see if there was much about - and particularly interested to see what dragonflies had emerged.
On the odanata front it was great to see my first emperor dragonflies of the year; four of these monsters were cruising around at Darter Pool. Also here was a lone four-spotted chaser and a few broad-bodied chasers along with multiple common blue damselflies.
Butterflies were seriously lacking and just a handful of speckled woods, and the odd red admiral, peacock and skipper were seen between Aldcliffe and Glasson.

Birds-wise, Aldcliffe highlights included a newly hatched brood of lapwing chicks at the Wildfowlers' Pools. Otherwise the patch was pretty quiet. Talking of lapwings, the post-breeding (perhaps that should be failed-breeding) flocks are starting to build up with large numbers congregating in the maize fields (the scene of the crime...) and the estuary. Similarly, adult curlews have started arriving back on the Lune in recent days.
Although birds have been present on the patch throughout the breeding season I haven't yet had confirmation of successful nesting by little ringed plover.
Wader numbers will continue to build in the coming weeks and we'll start to see the movement of such species as green sandpiper and the like.

Keen eyed visitors to Freeman's Pools will have noticed the appearance of a 'strange' floating platform a couple of weeks back. Well, if you've been wondering what on earth this odd contraption might be - let me put you out of your misery. It is a tern raft.  Probably way too late to attract breeding birds this year, it may might just appeal to passing common terns, or oystercatchers or even little ringed plovers in years to come.
Terns do take readily to artificial nest sites, as evidenced at nearby Conder Pools and notably at Preston Docks.

In other news, some numb-nuts has presumably decided to get around the law by removing a sign along the cycle track. The notice, which clearly states that it is illegal for unauthorised vehicles to drive along the track has mysteriously disappeared.
Odd that.
Especially when the number of vans, cars and lorries 'accidentally' driving along the track between Aldcliffe Hall Lane and the quay has clearly increased in recent months. Anything to do with the number of new dwellings along New Quay Road, I wonder?    
    

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Migrants Keep Trickling In...

This morning I led a guided walk around the FAUNA reserve in Lancaster. It was the first one that I've done for a while and we had a great turnout. Thankfully the weather behaved and we saw a decent selection of common birds including both common and lesser whitethroat, reed bunting, stock dove and a pair of grey partridge.

Afterwards I went off for a trundle around Aldcliffe to see if anything had dropped in. There were plenty of singing warblers around; willow warbler, chiffchaff, sedge warbler, both whitethroats, and blackcaps all belting it out.
The highlight was a whinchat in the maize fields, followed by another by Freeman's Pools.  
A few pairs of lapwing seemed to have resettled in the maize fields, along with a pair of oystercatchers. Hopefully they will have some success this time - it appears that the seed went down soon after the muck was ploughed in so they should be able to hatch a brood before any herbiciding takes place.
There are still a couple of healthy looking lapwing chicks around the Wildfowlers' Pools.

I pooped back down mid-afternoon to give my newly repaired bike an airing and the only notable difference was the presence of a couple of smart white wagtails and the dapper breeding plumage dunlin still hanging out at the Wildfowlers' Pools. What on earth that bird is doing, I have no idea..!

It appears that the mute swan pair that built a nest at Reedy Corner have abandoned it. Not too far away, the pair I saw on the canal near Aldcliffe Triangle yesterday had NINE newly hatched cygnets in tow.  

Other birds seen by Aldcliffe birders in recent days include more whinchats and wheatears and a spotted flycatcher.

Meanwhile, my new job at Leighton Moss means I've been getting a bit blasé about spoonbills, cattle egrets, marsh harriers and Cetti's warblers. Any of which would be great Aldcliffe birds (in fact cattle egret would be a patch first - surely it's only a matter of time?).  

Jon

Monday, 8 May 2017

Wagtail Tale & Marsh Hoodie

Yellow wagtail
Yellow wagtails were once a fairly regular feature of an Aldcliffe spring. One or two of these lovely migrants would appear at The Flood or around Frog Pond annually but as the species has undergone significant declines throughout its UK range in recent years, local sightings have inevitably become fewer.
So, it was a real pleasure to find one this morning by Bank Pool. The bird was a female and it was foraging around the reeds at the edge of the pool. Also there was a singing reed warbler and a coot with a brood of 5 chicks.

One other notable feature of the morning was the movement of swallows and swifts through the area. Good numbers were passing through, with many stopping to feed over the fields. A few house martins and a single sand martin were also seen.
Several common whitethroat and lesser whitethroat were seen and heard throughout the area along with multiple blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff. (Of note, I spotted a common whitethroat a couple of days ago that was ringed on its left leg; it would be great to know where that had come from!).
Also present this morning was a single wheatear on the marsh near the Walled Meadow.

This morning was the first time that I had been able to spend a good couple of hours on my local patch for a while. I was fortunate enough to be in Southern California and Arizona for the past two weeks, guiding on a trip for Ribble Bird Tours. The birding was great out there but I was acutely aware that I was away from the patch during peak migration time!

Prior to my visit to the US, I had a pretty remarkable sighting at Aldcliffe. On April 16th I had a wander down in the evening and just about the first bird I clapped eyes on was a hooded crow as it flew low, south over Freeman's Pools!
I ran up the 'hill' and connected with it as it carried on over the maize fields, much to the annoyance of the nesting lapwings. It flew over Dawson's Bank and disappeared. A scan over the marsh a while later failed to relocate it.
This is only my second ever 'hoodie' at Aldcliffe (local youths excepted) - my first was back in 2004 when a bird turned up for a few days in late July.

And talking of nesting lapwings; the maize field nesters have been trashed as usual thanks to the need to plough in manure in advance of growing animal fodder. I noticed a few pairs back in the field today but any new attempts to re-lay will be equally doomed as the seed has yet to go down. Hopefully a pair or two might lay again after the next assault. Just one pair of lapwings has hatched three young at the Wildfowlers' Pools, though only two chicks were there yesterday and I could only see one today... not exactly the best way to sustain a population.
Jon

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Missing Migrants & Punctual Osprey

Fabulous weather and an encouraging breeze from the south(ish) had me out nice and early, thoughts of myriad migrant birds swirling around my brain...
Sadly, as is so often the case, my optimism went unrewarded. A couple of hours checking all the best spots failed to turn hardly anything up.
Only a single willow warbler was found in Freeman's Wood, along with plenty of chiffchaffs and a few blackcaps. The collective ponds were quiet - 2 goldeneye, 6 tufted duck and a pair of gadwall remain at Freeman's Pools while small numbers of teal and a further couple of pairs of gadwall were on other pools.
A lone little ringed plover was at the Wildfowlers' Pools and a pair of greenshank were on Aldcliffe Marsh.
A solitary swallow over the marsh was my first on-patch bird of the year, and a few off-passage meadow pipits were seen here and there, but other than that you'd be hard pressed to find much evidence of migration.

On Friday I had my last day in the RSPB office in Lancaster (as of Monday I'll be at Leighton Moss) and we had our first over-office osprey of the season. As usual we were alerted by the sound of agitated gulls (the windows are always open at this time of year for this very reason) and Gav Thomas was first to pick up the bird as it drifted over the city, heading north-west just after noon.
Following a discussion about our first office osprey last year, we checked and discovered that it was the very same day in 2016 (7 April) at 12.30pm! That's what I call punctual.

Jon