Friday, 19 September 2014

Quiet Patch

Jon here.
I've had a busy few weeks and opportunities for birding Aldcliffe have been scarce, to say the least. Thanks as ever to Dan for covering the patch so diligently and for regularly updating the blog!

Last week I was on Jersey, visiting my brother Paul. I didn't get much time for birding but of course I had my bins with me wherever I went on the island.
I stumbled across plenty of common migrants including several spotted flycatchers, reed warblers, blackcaps and such, plus regular marsh harriers and the occasional hobby. Highlights included great white egret, cetti's warbler and black-necked grebe at St Ouen's Pond while a couple of birds I quite fancied running into totally eluded me. These were Dartford warbler, which unlike good Victorian children were heard but not seen, and short-toed treecreeper, which despite being a common resident proved otherwise during my visit.

Yesterday, I actually found a couple of hours to get down to Aldcliffe and have a good kick around. It seemed pretty quiet on the whole, though I suspect my arrival around 9am meant that I'd missed the best window of activity.
Freeman's Pools were hosting an impressive 10 little grebes, though not much else bar a trio of tufted duck and the usual other bits and pieces (plus a dead juv great black-backed gull on the island). A small increase in common teal numbers was evident but still no sign of any garganey - are we going to have a totally blank year?
7 wigeon were on Frog Pond along with the expected mallard & teal.
The maize fields continue to attract good numbers of chaffinch and reed bunting plus a single goldcrest was in the hawthorn hedge there.

A small number of chiffchaff were evident throughout the area but on the whole common migrants were very thin on the ground. The only other warbler seen was a lesser whitethroat by the Flood.
At the Wildfowlers' Pools a single green sandpiper was still in residence. Another pair of little grebe were also here as was a kingfisher and couple of snipe.
Out on the estuary a group of c40 golden plover were mixed in with the roosting lapwing on Gull Bank. There was nothing of note among the throng of black-headed gulls along the river, just the usual dozen or so little egrets.
A greenshank was feeding on the Lune by Cadaver Corner and another kingfisher was also seen here.
Good numbers of swallows were on the move throughout the morning; the only other 'vis' included small numbers of meadow pipit (compared with the huge movements a short distance away at Heysham & Sunderland Point), 2 skylarks and 7 grey wagtails.
Butterflies were out in force including the comma pictured here and dragonflies included common darter and migrant hawker (also pictured).     

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Reed-only File

Dan here.

A quick (doubtless too quick) poke around the parish this morning yielded little to pique my interest other than 2-3 Reed Warblers- including the extrovert pictured above.

In my ignorance, I'd thought that acros were strictly insectivorous but two RW were gobbling Hawthorn berries like there was no tomorrow. A fruit hard to come by to the south of the Sahara, happen...

Aside from these, I only managed to scrape together 15 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest in terms of warblers and allies.

The giraffe-pattern skies were more conducive to visible migration passerines than yesterday, and I counted 110 Meadow Pipits heading SSE between 0800 and 0930. In the same period I noted 3 southbound Chaffinches (first CH vis of the autumn here!) and a Grey Wagtail. There were plenty of Swallows milling about but no clear signs of passage.

This morning's miscellany contains a Kingfisher, a Green Sandpiper, two Jays, 5 Snipe and a Stock Dove.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Damp Patch

Hi-- Dan once again.

Lancaster was drizzly this morning and so was the patch. I made an all-too-brief visit as the rain was letting up.

Dunlin cries greeted my arrival and I looked up to see 4 heading ENE and away over the city. Greenshank sounds emanated from the Marsh Point area but I couldn't locate the creature itself.

Freeman's Pools was hosting 12 Wigeon, 17 Teal, 5 each of Gadwall & Little Grebe, and a piping trio of Kingfishers.

Two Wheatears were present as were 19 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 3 Song Thrushes. Chaffinches in and around the maize field numbered 40.

Unsurprisingly given the damp and gloomy conditions, vis mig seemed quite limited with just 2 Grey Wagtails and 5 Meadow Pipits noted making their way south in the space of an hour and a bit-- plus 2 northbound Tree Sparrows. A few airborne Skylarks were heard but not seen.

Around one hundred Swallows were congregating near the Wildfowlers Pools.

A Stoat was seen bounding down the path with a shrew in its jaws.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Wrong type of Migrants

Dan here. Hello.

A brief afternoon visit wasn't too inspiring, with 5 or 6 Chiffchaffs, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Rooks and a heard-only Kingfisher the pick of the aves. Four Snipe were also noted.

Six or seven Migrant Hawker dragonflies were on the wing despite overcast skies, including 3 at Freeman's Pools.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Foxy Greyday

Dan here. Hello.

As well as having a few Grey Wagtails over, this morning was literally grey for the first couple of hours. 2+1+1 of the aforementioned went SSE under low dark cloud.

Vis limped on with just 8 Meadow Pipits until about ten o clock, when the sun came out, a light breeze got up and the sky cleared to the north. At this point the floodgates opened.... or rather another Grey Wag headed south and 2 Tree Sparrows and 2 alba wagtails went over, W!

While there wasn't much on the deck, it was perhaps a little better than last time and with persistence my Chiffchaff count got to 22. It was very still first thing and in the hush Chiffchaff beaks snapping shut on flies were perfectly audible.

Goldcrests were easier heard than seen but five or six were listed. A Willow Warbler juv, an adult Blackcap and one each of juv Common and Lesser Whitethroat all surrendered so reluctantly you'd think they were big rares. All good practice, I suppose...but bird of the day was nevertheless a fox (pictured).

In the miscellaneous paragraph are a family party of six Grey Partridges, two roving GS Woodpeckers, 2 Stock Doves, a Green Sandpiper and a Snipe.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Grey Day

ST near the maize field.
Dan here.

Blue skies this morning but little to excite bird-wise. The bushes were emptier than they have been in days (if not weeks) and the vis (c50 Mipits per hour, a party of 5 Tree Sparrows, 4 Grey Wagtails and some unseen Skylarks) was a little too high and sparse to be very engrossing.

Four Grey Wagtails were at the flood for a time, with another quartet at the sewage works.



I can only add that 2 green sandpiper were on the Wildfowlers' Pools around midday. Just OOA was a smart little stint at the Conder estuary (thanks to Paul Ellis & Paul Slade) and a fishing common tern there too.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

No Rain, No Gain

The early morning rain had me all excited and I headed out to Aldcliffe with high expectations. To be honest, I always head out with high (some may say, unrealistic) expectations but morning rain during migration time never fails to get the optimism-ometer really revved up.
It was soon pretty clear that there were loads of grounded chiffchaffs around, I must have seen well in excess of 40 around the patch. The largest number involved a lively tit-flock that was actually more of a chiffchaff flock and contained 18 chiffs plus a single willow warbler.
After yesterday's acro-fest, I didn't come across a single reed or sedge warbler today but I did find 3 common whitethroat, 1 lesser whitethroat and a lone blackcap.
There were 3 wheatear at the Flood and a further 8 (at least) on the Marsh.
When the rain finally stopped things changed quite rapidly with northbound skylarks, meadow pipits and 5 grey wagtails audibly announcing their presence. Hirundines too started to move and along with birds stopping to feed small gangs of swallow and house martin passed through at height.
Alas, there were no wrynecks or even whinchat or redstart to get the pulse racing but nonetheless it's always a thrill to get out when things are clearly on the move.
Other stuff around the Aldcliffe patch included an increase in the number of gadwall on Freeman's Pools (now 6), the kingfisher in-residence at the Wildfowlers' Pools and at least a dozen reed bunting  and a pair of linnet by the maize fields.
I had ace views of a stoat along the cycle track and a couple of roe deer were up by Freeman's.