Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Summertime Blues

I managed a couple of hours mooching around the patch this morning for the first time in several days. I've been down in Oxfordshire working at the impressively massive event that is BBC Countryfile Live. From the RSPB exhibit I spotted a couple of raptor species overhead, both rarely encountered in North Lancashire; red kite and hobby. In that part of the world of course, both birds are relatively common and a treat for us northerners to see!

Treats, however, were harder to find while birding at Aldcliffe today... hardly surprising really as mid-summer can often be a bit dull in the birding world.
Even so, highlights included the following:
Freeman's Pools - female tufted duck with young, 5 ad & 3 young little grebes, 40+ swifts overhead.
Wildfowlers' Pools - 2 tree sparrows, 1 green sandpiper, 4 common snipe, 6 teal.
Elsewhere the usual little egrets, greylags, cormorants and such were all present and correct. A female sparrowhawk was patrolling the cycle track hedges and a grey partridge was seen with just one well-grown youngster in tow.


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Unseasonal Whooper Swan Highlight

A few notable highlights from the past couple of days include the arrival of a very unseasonal whooper swan and the annual mass influx of geese.

For those of you who don't know, the geese that turn up at this time of year are UK 'residents' and their appearance on the Lune estuary is part of the post-breeding dispersal that takes place every summer. From studies, many of these geese are moving a relatively short distance from the Lake District where a number of birds have been individually marked.

The greylags are fitted with orange collars; each sporting a unique 3 letter code. Of the 450 or so geese in the field by Frog Pond today I could see 13 greylags with collars.
I have sent these to Kane Brides at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust who will be able to determine their origins. Interesting eh?
With a little movement around the Lune, and up into the Bay and Leighton Moss, some of these identifiable individuals will doubtless be spotted several times in the coming months. 
As for the random whooper swan, has this bird also been hanging around the Lakes over the early summer and simply tagged along with the geese?

The green sandpiper count at the Wildfowlers' Pools was up to four today (an increase of two since yesterday) and a pair of greenshank were flushed off the river by one man and his dog. They flew off high toward Conder. Later, a third bird was flying around Aldcliffe Marsh calling.
A trio of snipe were also at the Wildfowlers' Pools but the Flood was sadly lacking in any waders bar a single lapwing.
At Freeman's Pools the proud tufted duck mum continues to nurture her lone duckling and from a brood of 8 cygnets, just one young mute swan remains with its parent here.

Yesterday I counted a hefty 38 little egrets along the river between Stodday and Aldcliffe. The adult and juvenile peregrine were once again engaged in hunting training over Colloway.

As the returning waders and wildfowl make themselves know, it was the departing birds that were making a fuss yesterday evening. A veritable swarm of approximately 80 swifts were screaming and swirling in a tight flock near my house at dusk - a reminder that they will soon be off back to Africa...


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Solitary Sandpiper

The Lune at low tide
Had a half-decent morning on the patch today thanks to some dry, bright weather and a few new birds trickling through.
Frustratingly, still no passage waders or post-breeding garganey at Freeman's Pools but it was great to see that the lone tufted duck duckling was still doing well.
Both parents are still in attendance and this constitutes the first ever breeding of this species (to my knowledge) in the Aldcliffe recording area.
Also present were a pair of moulting wigeon and 5 eclipse gadwall. Winter's here folks...
Other succesful breeders included a couple of little grebe chicks and just one cygnet with an adult mute swan. Newly hatched moorhens were in evidence along with several well-grown youngsters from earlier broods.
A reed warbler was sen foraging in the waterside vegetation.

Black-tailed godwit
I walked south along Dawson's Bank, noting good numbers of little egret along the way. A juvenile peregrine was having a go at hunting on the other side of the river and was soon joined by an adult.  This experienced bird soon snatched a starling and gave it to the youngster in a nifty aerial pass.
An adult Mediterranean gull flew up from the river and headed inland. A scan of the gulls loafing on the Lune sands revealed a further 4 Meds (3 ads & 1 second winter).
Also seen here were 5 common sandpiper and a fine breeding-plumaged black-tailed godwit (pictured).
A flock of approximately 30 wigeon flew through heading toward Glasson.

The Flood was quiet - the 3 remaining lapwing chicks all seem in good shape.

A common sandpiper and a solitary green sandpiper were at the Wildfowlers' Pools.

Insects were relatively low in number (with the exception of those lovely horseflies), despite the sunshine.
As far as dragonflies were concerned I just saw singles of emperor, brown hawker and common darter plus the usual damselflies.
Common butterflies (peacock, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, meadow brown, speckled wood etc) were all present but not in any great number.
Brown hare was the only wild mammal.



Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Great Weather For Ducks

Had a quick spin around the patch after work this evening.First stop was at Freeman's Pools where I noticed a drake tufted duck moulting into eclipse plumage. That in itself wasn't especially notable - but with it was a small duckling.
A few weeks ago I noticed a pair of tufted ducks arrive at the pools but they soon disappeared - have they simply been keeping a low profile while nesting at the site? If so, I think that this may be the first record of successful breeding of this species in the Aldcliffe recording area.
In other bay bird news; the four lapwing chicks at the Flood continue to thrive while a couple at the Wildfowlers' Pools seem to be in rude health. A brood of at least 5 shelduck were also at the Wildfowlers' Pools along with 1 common and 2 green sandpipers.

Earlier in the day I had visited the common tern colony at Preston Docks (video from today attached) in advance of spending the day there tomorrow.
I'll be there chatting about how these amazing birds have been encouraged to breed at this inner city site and I'll hopefully be encouraging local people to want to learn more about the wildlife on their doorstep!
Fylde Bird Club's Paul Ellis and Paul Slade were instrumental in providing nesting areas for these birds at the marina and a joint project that includes input from the local council, Preston Docks and the RSPB has enabled the growing colony to exceed 130 pairs in 2016.
It's well worth a visit if you're in the area in the next couple of weeks.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Wading In...

Highlights from a few hours birding around Aldcliffe yesterday included my first green sandpipers of the season. These migratory waders usually arrive back on the patch from July and are best looked for around the various pools and the Flood.
Yesterday's birds were found at Freeman's Pools and the Wildfowlers' Pools.
Other waders of note included at least 6 common sandpipers on the Lune near Gull Bank and a single adult little ringed plover on the Flood.
The two lapwing broods continue to be doing well.
On the estuary post-breeding curlews are staring to gather with a flock of c50 on Colloway Marsh.  

Other notable sightings around the area included a pair of stock doves and a singing reed warbler at Freeman's Pools.
The breezy conditions kept dragonflies down but there were plenty of butterflies around including speckled wood, meadow brown and a single comma.

At Conder the avocet pair were present with their single chick while the common terns were very active - both adults and their two fledged young showed well.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Little Wonders

Highlights from a couple of hours getting drenched around Aldcliffe this morning included a 'new' little ringed plover chick at the The Flood.
The plover was with an adult and appeared to be fairly recently fledged. Also present were 2 adults with a well-grown youngster - presumably the same ones that have been around for a while. A lapwing with two sizeable chicks made for a pleasant sight.
I could only see two of the lapwing chicks at the Wildfowlers' Pools but the vegetation was pretty dense and could easily have been hiding one or two others.
Little grebe breeding success seems unremarkable thus far with just a single chick being fed by an adult at Freeman's Pools. A lone stock dove and little egret were the only other birds of note there.
It was fairly quiet all around the patch, as is to be expected at this time of year, with this kind of weather.
Hopefully we'll start to see more post-breeding waders starting to move through in the coming weeks; green sandpipers have usually made an appearance by now and there's always the chance of a wood sandpiper or something scarcer still. And it's worth checking the gulls on the estuary as Mediterranean and yellow-legged gulls could show up among the commoner species.

I spent a couple of days up at the Malham Cove peregrine watchpoint earlier this week. The two youngsters have now fledged and they often put on a great show as the adults show the growing falcons how to hunt. A decent supporting cast includes multiple redstarts, spotted flycatchers and green woodpeckers among other things.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Dragons Emerge In The Sun

The past few visits I've made around the Aldcliffe area have been pretty interesting, one way of the other.
On the sunnier days, the highlights have definitely been insect-related; dragonflies and butterflies have been much in evidence.
Relatively recent colonists such as black-tailed skimmer appear to be settling in nicely with mating pairs and individuals on Frog Pond (where the photo here was taken) and Darter Pool.
Dazzling emperor dragonflies can now be found on all the pools and I was pleased to spot a broad-bodied chaser at Darter Pool a couple of days ago. Hundreds of common blue and blue-tailed damselflies too are prolific on warmer days.

Good news (if such low productivity can be hailed as 'good') from the Wildfowlers' Pools concerns the appearance of a brood of 4 lapwing chicks. A pair behaving like 'new parents' in the one of the maize fields also looks promising but given the number of pairs that initially settled in to nest this is pretty dire stuff. Hardly surprising that the numbers of lapwing have decreased massively in England recent decades.
The reappearance of little ringed plovers on The Flood last week wasn't much of a surprise. A pair of adults with a well-fledged youngster implies local-ish breeding but as far as I'm aware there were no nesting pairs on the patch at all this year. I suspect that these birds nested not too far away in some un-watched grubby industrial spot. 
In other baby-bird news; I accidentally flushed a pair of grey partridge the other day, revealing a brood of tiny, recently hatched chicks. Let's hope that some of these make it to adulthood to prop up the dwindling local population.  
The pair of avocets seen on the Lune off Aldcliffe Marsh last week were presumably not those currently nesting further down river.