Friday, 3 July 2015

Green sandpipers return

 There were 4 green sandpipers on the Wildfowlers' Pools this morning - a sure sign that for some birds the breeding season is well and truly over.
The only other highlights were the appearance of emperor dragonflies on at least three of the pools and black-tailed skimmers on Frog Pond.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Summertime Blues

I've just returned from a two week visit to my old stomping grounds in western Canada where I was co-leading a birding group with Ribble Bird Tours' Stuart Meredith. The weather out there was amazing while the birds and other wildlife were equally wonderful (I even got a lifer!).

Having finally got to grips with the jetlag, I headed off down down to Aldcliffe this morning to see what, if anything, had changed during my short absence.
There was still quite a lot of song filling the air; common and lesser whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff, greenfinch and a host of other common breeders were belting it out around the patch.
The mute swan pair at Freeman's Pools were still being accompanied by 4 growing cygnets (5 had hatched before I went away) though there was little else evidence of successful breeding at the pools by anything else bar a coot chick or two. The island-nesting oystercatchers appear to be chick-less and there was no sign of any little ringed plover there.
At Darter Pool the mute swan nest was empty with both adult birds gone.
Worst still was the apparent absence of lapwing chicks in the maize fields. Up to 100 adult birds were flocked together but there was no sign of any young at all. A single dazzling summer-plumage golden plover brightened up an otherwise depressing vista.
Nearby, a single lapwing chick was seen with an adult on the Flood. Hardly cause for celebration.
Despite the rather gloomy morning, a couple of painted ladies were on the wing along with the odd common blue damselfly.

Friday, 29 May 2015

In The Pink

Apologies for the paucity of input on Birding Aldcliffe lately. It isn't a reflection of a lack of visits to the patch, more a sign that there's not been a great deal to write about.
There has been little in the way of obvious movement in the last couple of weeks; most expected migrants are well-established and the resident wildlife is just getting on with stuff. All very pleasant to note, but not terribly inspiring when it comes to scribing a blog post...

What I can report is that some species appear to be having a reasonable breeding season. Today a flock of some 500 starlings were searching for grubs etc in the recently cut fields to the south of the Lane. Why silage needs to be cut in May is beyond me, and hardly helps what few nesting birds and leverets that may be found in these dull, flowerless fields but that's another story... anyway, among the mass of garrulous starlings were many youngsters. Good news for a species in steady decline.

Elsewhere coot chicks of varying age were spotted at the Wildfowlers' and Freeman's Pools.
Neither mute swan nest appears to have produced cygnets yet, and I have yet to see any young grey partridge, moorhens, little grebes, lapwings or oystercatchers. Not very encouraging.

On a more positive note, a number of lapwing and oystercatcher have at least re-settled in the barren, ploughed maize fields to have another go at hatching some chicks. There's still plenty of time for success as long as the weather is kind...

So, in the absence of any particularly photogenic birds, here's a photo of some delightful sea pink (AKA thrift) on the estuary.  


Monday, 18 May 2015

Cage Bird

There hasn't been a great deal to get excited about the past couple of times I've been for a trawl around the patch, I'm sorry to say.
Regular Aldcliffe nesters seem to be getting on with things as best they can. A few pairs of lapwing appear to have settled again in the maize fields; let's hope they get time to lay again and actually hatch some chicks this time.
Neither of the mute swan nests have produced young yet and I haven't even seen any young coot or moorhen. A couple of pairs of gadwall are still hanging around - perhaps we'll finally add this handsome duck to the list of breeders on the local patch?

On the subject of nests, I was shown this amazing long-tailed tit nest hidden away among a stack of wire fences at Cuerden Valley Park yesterday.
Pretty amazing eh?  In a rare demonstration of a bird illustrating irony, this wild creature seems to have chosen to temporarily confine its offspring to a cage.
Not only is the long-tailed tit's nest one of the most immaculate structures to be built by any European bird but this pair have also found a pretty predator proof location!

...and talking of predators: this morning I had stunning views of a fox vixen chasing down and catching a rabbit at Aldcliffe. The speed and agility of the hunt was really impressive and the prey was dispatched swiftly.
I just hope that this fox doesn't have a liking for lapwing eggs...


Thursday, 14 May 2015

EU Nature Directive Threat

European leaders are looking at rolling back decades of progress by revising the EU Nature Directives in the mistaken belief that weaker protection for wildlife is good for business.

In reality this would be bad for business, and a major disaster for wildlife. The RSPB is asking concerned nature lovers to add their voice to thousands of others below and defend Europe's vast natural legacy.
Without a massive demonstration of public support for the Directives, it will be very hard to prevent them being weakened.

Click on the link below to find out more and to fill in the questionnaire.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Spots Before My Eyes

I wasn't too hopeful as I set off for a spot of Aldcliffe birding this morning. The as-forecast brisk south-westerlies weren't convincing me that there would be much to found on the patch (skua passage not really being a feature of the Aldcliffe birding calendar).
I had a good root about in Freeman's Wood and came across a fine spotted flycatcher - my first for the year.
In the sheltered areas there was plenty of activity from the territorial blackcaps, common whitehroats, chiffchaffs and such.
Freeman's Pools were relatively quiet with most of the breeding birds simply going about  their business. On the island 6 tufted ducks (4 male, 2 female) were snoozing alongside a pair of drake goosanders. A couple of gadwall were dabbling around in the poolside vegetation.
There were lots of hirundines skimming over the water - chiefly house martins with smaller numbers of swallows and a couple of sand martins. Swifts too were hawking low over the pools.
In the maize fields there were 4 wheatears and a whinchat feeding in the furrows.

How to make a lapwing egg omelette
A large proportion of the bigger field was ploughed on Friday and I watched the tractor being trailed by up to 600 large gulls. These were mostly sub-adult herring gulls although a few adults of both herring and lesser black backed were also mixed in.
The lapwings were going berserk as they valiantly, if pointlessly, defended their doomed clutches (for the second time this spring).
Today, there were still up to 12 lapwing sat (presumably on eggs) on the areas yet to be ploughed while others were inspecting the potential of relaying in the freshly turned sections. I suspect any that do attempt to nest again will once more be wasting their efforts as the fields haven't yet been seeded.

I bumped into Dan near Walled Meadow and he too had struggled to find much in the blustery conditions. We checked the Flood was it was practically devoid of avian life. Dan mentioned more wheatears out on the marsh.
Other than the usual very vocal lesser whitethroats along the cycle track as I'd headed from the maize fields there wasn't much else to be added to the day list.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Reed All About It

Hello. Dan here-- just thought I'd fill in as Mr Carter was away this morning.

Interesting weather but a small influx of Reed Warblers (three heard, two seen) was the best I could manage in a dawn raid. One was chuntering away in an Elder deep in Freeman's Wood without a reed or rush in sight.

The heavily overcast sky put the kibosh on my photographic ambitions (my camera hates the dark) so I scratched the itch with some sound recordings.

I made an annotated collage of the best bits of audio and you can listen here . It features the off-passage Reed Warblers, breeding sylvias, over-flying hirundines and more.

A light but steady flow of northbound Sand Martins (c50ph) was evident from first light and as the wind picked up Swallows began to move NE. Just two Whimbrels and 2 Wheatears-- and yesterday's White Wagtail had moved on. The Grasshopper Warbler was singing very reluctantly from the newly-laid hedgerow along the bund.