Thursday, 21 August 2014

All The Fun Of The Fair

Once again I trudged down to the estuary this morning for a spot of optimistic birding at Aldcliffe...
It was blustery with occasional showers and to be frank, it was a little bit grim. 
First off, I checked Freeman's Pool where the excitement was limited to a pair of tufted duck, 3 gadwall a lone wigeon and 8 little grebes, one of which was feeding a pair of recently hatched fluffy chicks.
Darter Pool and Frog Pond were quiet, bar the regulars. 
The Wildfowlers' Pools were slightly more interesting with an influx of 18 teal, a couple of snipe and a kingfisher dashing around.
The Flood was hosting a pair of green sandpiper, a single redshank and 15 alba wagtails. 
The gusty winds made scanning the estuary all but impossible, but even through my watering eyes I could tell there wasn't much going on.

Last time I came down, on Tuesday, it was actually rather lovely; bright sunshine and calm conditions. Quite a contrast.   
The highlights included 2 whimbrel and a couple of common sandpiper on the river. A distinctive and immediately recognisable call alerted me to the presence of a golden plover in amongst a flock of descending lapwing at Gull Bank.  
Two green sandpipers were on the Wildfowlers' Pools.

The hedgerows were positively jumping with common migrant passerines, chiefly chiffchaffs plus a couple of willow warblers and a female blackcap.  

The RSPB stand at Birdfair 2014
Last weekend I was down at Rutland Water for the annual Birdfair.
This massive event attracts thousands of birders, and hundreds of people who wish to sell stuff to thousands of birders.
As well as an enormous array of stalls flogging selling everything imaginable including optics, books, outdoor clothing, holidays and original artwork there are also lots of conservation organisations there to raise profiles and funds.
For many visitors to Birdfair, a main focus of the 3-day event is the broad range of lectures and talks by a wide variety of speakers. 'Celebs' such as Chris Packham and Bill Oddie will often pack them in, while numerous authors, scientists and all manner of professional-hobby-birders deliver myriad talks to the masses.
Me and Rich get photo-bombed by a hen harrier...
It really is a great event and although I was working on the RSPB stand for most of the 2 days I was there I still manged to find time to catch up with some old chums, including my mate Rich Mooney who I met while living in Canada.
If you have never been to Birdfair, make a note in your calendar for next year. 


Monday, 11 August 2014

High Winds and High Tides

Rising Tide - Aldcliffe
With high winds and high tides, my optimism-ometer has been on overload for the past couple of days. Surely I could hope to find some gale-blown waif in the Aldcliffe area? Turns out, not.
Yesterday's meager highlights were a trio of green sandpiper (1 on the Flood, and 2 at the Wildfowlers' Pools where there were also 3 snipe) and a single adult Mediterranean gull on Gull Bank. Other stuff of note included several dunlin and just 1 common sandpiper on the river & 19 little egret fishing on the dropping tide. Another common sandpiper was at Freeman's Pools, as were 8 little grebe. One of the adult grebes was tending a nest; this species has a track record for late breeding at this site.
The doe roe deer was also seen, along with her fast-growing triplet fawns.

Painted lady
Today was slightly better, but there were still no little gulls or breeze-buffeted terns to excite this easily-bored birder. A female tufted duck was cream of the crop at Freeman's Pools, while Darter Pool and Frog Pond drew blanks. A trio of golden plover flew over - my first patch post-breeders of the year.
There were at least 4, though possibly 6, green sandpiper at the Wildfowlers' Pools. The Flood was bereft bar a scattering of pied wagtails and a couple of ubiquitous moorhen.
The incoming tide provided some interest including a tight flock of 7 common sandpiper but once again there was nothing unusual lurking among the mass of commoner birds.
A lone rook probing in the fields to the east of the cinder path was notable - these characterful crows are pretty scarce visitors to Aldcliffe.
Non-avian additions included a painted lady (pictured) and stoats at Freeman's Pools and along the track near Walled Meadow.

Common lizard
Last Friday I paid a visit to Foulshaw Moss with Gav Thomas, where we not only saw up to 3 of the ospreys present but also a marsh harrier, lots of stonechats and a single migrant whinchat.
We also spied a few common lizards. These highly variable reptiles were sunning themselves along the boardwalk and were quite approachable with patience. The photo here was taken using my phone.


Monday, 4 August 2014

The Magnifent Seven

There were seven green sandpipers on the Wildfowlers' Pools this morning, all snoozing in the most visible corner by the old tyre and easily seen from the metal gate.
Other than a trio of snipe and a small flock of 5 teal there wasn't much else going on. The other pools were pretty quiet, with no sign of any other waders (or owt else for that matter) passing through.
A scan from the marsh over Gull Bank revealed little of note - just the expected build up of lapwing and post-breeding black-headed gulls. I was rather disappointed not to find any Mediterranean gulls among the birds loafing on the mudflats; we can normally expect to get one or two here at this time of year.
Hopefully someone will discover a wood sandpiper or something of that ilk (or perhaps even more exciting) in the near future. It's just a case of getting out and checking those pools as often as we can!


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

You've Been Collared

There were 3 green sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pools this morning along with 4 snipe and 3 teal. Another snipe was on the Flood where there were also 20+ alba wagtails.
The regular post-breeding greylag and Canada goose numbers continue to infest the area - at least 3 greylag were sporting nifty neck collars. A quick conversation with Kane Brides from WWT suggests that these are likely from the ongoing Windermere project.
At Freeman's Pools a doe roe deer had 3 fawns in tow.

Following a tip-off from a regular Aldcliffe walker I went back down in the evening to look for barn owl.
Unfortunately, I didn't get lucky in the hour and a half I spent hanging around near Marsh Point. Mind you, the sunset was rather pretty!
The roe deer made an appearance again, but not much else showed bar the gathering of swifts, swallows and house martins over the pools. I kept my eye out for a hunting hobby, but none showed up.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

St George's Quay & The Dragons

Common darters
Unfortunately, the spectacular weather we're enjoying at the moment doesn't appear to have dragged any particularly exciting birds into the Aldcliffe area.
Setting off from St. George's Quay this morning I made my way along the path to Freeman's Pools. A scan over the water, along the vegetated fringes and on the island turned up just the usual bits and pieces. There were a few dragonflies zipping about however, including emperors, common darters (photographed mating) and brown hawkers.
A walk along Dawson's Bank revealed little to add to the list. Small numbers of lesser black-backed  and herring gulls were on the river along with grey heron, little egret, lapwing, curlew and redshank.
Checking the Lune overlooking Gull Bank it was more of the same really, with just a couple of common sandpipers livening things up. The expected post-breeding mid-summer build-up of greylag and Canada geese was getting off to a noisy start.
The Flood was hosting a lone green sandpiper (as has been the case for a number of days) along with a smattering of lapwing. Several pied wagtails and family parties of goldfinch were feeding around the muddy fringes.

Green sandpiper
A lesser whitethroat showed very well near the Wildfowlers' Pools while the pools themselves held a second green sandpiper (photographed badly; preening by a discarded tyre - lovely!) and a common snipe.
A couple more emperor dragonflies were at Darter Pool where the coots were feeding a newly hatched second-brood chick.

Four-spotted chaser
Frog Pond was birdless bar the 'resident' mute swan pair, but it was positively buzzing with odanata including another emperor, several common darters and a very tatty four-spotted chaser (photographed).

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Wading In

Had an enjoyable couple of hours out birding Aldcliffe this morning. I was hoping for some interesting waders on the pools but there was a fair bit of sheep-and-farmer activity around the patch so I expect anything 'good' had long one by the time I got there.
There was nothing on the muddy upper ponds at Freeman's Pools, despite it looking really good for probing bills... Indeed the only thing of note here was the newly arrived pony of dubious origin and ownership that had appeared in the bank-side strip of land. An amount of major damage had been kindly inflicted on the fence and gate in order to get it there... nice.
The pools were relatively quiet with most the usual suspects present: mallard, tufted duck, coot, moorhen, mute swan and little grebe (4 adult, 1 juv). There were lots of sand and house martins and a few swallows feeding over the water.
Frog Pond and Darter Pool were harbouring nothing of note, and the Wildfowlers' Pools had been sheeped-out completely.

Common sandpiper
A lone green sandpiper was feeding on the Flood, along with a handful of lapwing.
Checking the Lune off Cadaver Corner I noted my first post-breeding dunlin flock. 22 birds were present. Also here were 13 common sandpiper and a single little ringed plover. Redshank, lapwing and curlew numbers are starting to build up significantly, as are the number of black-headed gulls.
A lone duck eider was on the river and a couple of good-sized shelduck crรจches implied a pretty good breeding season. Little egrets certainly weren't in short supply with ones and twos pretty much wherever I pointed my bins!      

Sunday, 13 July 2014