Saturday, 30 May 2009

Ladies Day

The main thing today was of course the impressive and unprecedented arrival of painted lady butterflies into the patch.
An astonishing number were feeding on thistle and buttercups around Freeman's Pools with many hundreds present, in fact I eventually estimated up to a thousand individuals! It really was an awesome sight (and I DO mean awesome in the truest sense of the word, not in the way that a teenager finds everything awesome..."this orange juice is like totally awesome" etc)

Bird-wise the highlight was a female whinchat in a hedgerow above the upper track. Otherwise, the little-ringed plover family seemed intact and the gadwall pair were still on the pools along with 2m & 1f tufted ducks. A group of 28 Canada geese were new in on the river by Marsh Point while the pair in-residence at the pools remained.
Lots of common and lesser whitethroat seen and heard today.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Family fortunes

Didn't get to post my findings from a post-work visit on Tuesday, but the main things were that the pochard pair were still present and the little ringed plovers appear to have hatched some young. This was deduced by the fact that both birds were close together, a few metres away from the nest area with one bird obviously tending to something beneath its belly while the other, presumably the male, being 'on guard' and very aggressive to anything coming anywhere near.

A message today from Guy confirmed this and in fact three chicks have hatched. In previous years this has been the usual number, though nasty June weather resulted in just one bird fledging in both 07 and 08. Let's hope that the coming settled weather gives the fragile new hatchlings the start they need to gain strength.

I popped down after work this evening and could see the family party scurrying about. Otherwise, 2 tufteds, 2 gadwall, 2 shelduck, 2 Canada goose, 2 lesser black backs (unusually) plus all the other usual bits and pieces.

Of note - my first painted lady of the year was near Marsh Point. From the hype I thought I was going to cycling through a fluttering wall of the things... maybe tomorrow.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Pochard pair drop in

After having been in the West Midlands for a couple of days I arrived back in Lancaster late this afternoon and, following a few essential chores, I headed down to the patch for an early evening visit.
Expecting the worst, what with the Bank Holiday and great weather, Freeman's Pools weren't quite as devastated as I'd feared. In fact all looked well!
The little grebe pair on the main pool were still looking like they were thinking about having another go at nest building, though the fact that there are still no young coot, moorhen or mallard does speak volumes.
The little-ringed plover was still sat tight on the nest.
A most unexpected discovery came in the form of a pair of pochard - where have they come from? A pair of tufteds flew and the gadwall dup were still at the upper pools, where a Canada goose, 2 more little grebe and 3 mallard were also present.
The other pools were pretty quiet, though a frustratingly brief snatch of what sounded like a turtle dove between Frog Pond and the upper cycle patch remained unproven despite a pretty thorough search.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Littles at large

Not too much to report from the patch today, most of the usual suspects were around.
At Freeman's Pools there were no ducks to be seen, the tufteds and gadwall either having been spooked off or moved on completely.
The swans were back on the main pool but the nest seems well and truly abandoned for now. (I checked another swan nest at Heron Pool and that too was deserted, presumably by the pair today on Darter Pool, though until I see the darvic ring on the cob I can't confirm that.)
A little ringed plover was feeding at the upper pools while another was on the island.
The pair of little grebes were at the top pool.
A single female wheatear was on the tideline and 3 little egrets (inc 1 with full head plumes) were feeding out on the saltmarsh.
A peregrine came through carrying some hapless songbird.
At least 2 skylarks were in song over the marsh.
I discovered a brilliant oystercatcher nest in a large piece of driftwood, I hope that it succeeds - it certainly deserves to for aesthetic reasons alone!
The little gull remains in the ploughed field despite there being no 'carrier' species present.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Little gull, little else.

Once again the main water at Freeman's Pools was pretty quiet.
The little ringed plover was still sitting tight, no fluffy little heads have appeared as yet though.
The little grebes seem to have given up on the most recent nest construction and once again the swan nest was swanless. In fact, the birds were on the upper pools where 3 tufted duck (2m, 1f) were also hanging in.
Just the drake gadwall was visible - the optimist in me hopes that the duck is out of site in the vegetation, doing what ducks should be doing at this time of year.

The 1stw/s little gull was flying around the river off Marsh Point, easily viewable from Snatchems if any Heysham birders 'need' it for the year. A female goosander was also here.

A brown hare was the only thing of interest in the stubble fields and the Flood and Marsh both proved fruitless.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Scouting for birds

It's always something of a bad omen when one meets a cheery dogwalker with a very soggy hound just before arriving at the pools and my pessimism seemed well founded this evening.
With the exception of a few emerging skulkers (coot, little grebe) the main was totally bereft of birdlife. Only a persistent bedded-in LR plover clung on to the island, so heaven only knows just how 'active' the disturbance was. That said, it was sunny this afternoon so it could have been hammered all day...

On the upper pools a pair of tufted duck and a few mallard hung in but not much else of note. Notable was the absence of mute swans whose nest is likely now abandoned though on a positive note the little grebes were starting to construct a new nest.
No sign of the little gull amongst the handful of gulls in the ploughed fields.
Great views of a noisy lesser whitethroat domestic dispute with at least 5 birds involved!
Didn't bother to check the marsh due to a jolly gathering of cub scouts, and their charges, baking potatoes (I think...) on an open fire just beyond the gate.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Just a minutus

Undoubted highlight from the parish today was the 1stw/1sts little gull associating with black-headed gulls in the ploughed fields, and later on the river.
I must admit I had a bit of a fright when I first saw it at distance, as it alighted on the dark ground and appeared to have a distinctly diamond shaped tail! I decided to get a better look at it as I was without my 'scope and crept along the hedge bordering the field. On the deck it looked like a little gull alright and then it flew toward me allowing me to note a pinkish blush to its underparts and the reason why its tail looked an odd shape. It had moulted out the central feathers of the juv tail band and thus showed pristine white central tail feathers - hence the appearance at distance of a diamond shape. Can't say I've noticed that before - every day's a school day etc!

Since initially posting this I've done a bit of reading and the tail pattern is consistent with 1st summer plumage, although this bird's head was still very much in 1stw, therefore it is in transitional moult between the two. I must have seen plenty of little gulls of this age before, I just don't remember seeing that tail!

Otherwise it was all pretty quiet, with the exception of a little egret which was on the marsh (the first I've seen here almost 2 weeks) and a big peregrine scaring all the gulls.
Little ringed plover pair at Freeman's Pools plus the regular stuff.

Little Gull still present this morning, moving from ploughed field to river. stevew
.. and still at 5.20pm Jon

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Spotted flycatchers spotted

Hard work finding much around the patch this morning.
First decent bird was a singing sedge warbler in a scrubby area of Freeman's Wood.
All as usual were present at Freeman's Pools: gadwall pair, 4 tufted duck, pair little ringed plover (no chicks yet), etc.
1st summer and non-breeding BH gulls continue to build up with approx 60 around the maize fields and estuary today.
A single wheatear was on the tideline near Walled Meadow.

Is it just me or do there seem to be loads of whitethroat around this year? I must have seen/heard well over a dozen this morning.

Following a bit of a short downpour just after midday I optimistically retraced my steps but it appeared little had dropped with the shower, until I got back to the pools.
A whinchat and 2 spotted flycatchers were in the Roase Cottage (sic) area which I assume were new in as I hadn't seen them earlier despite a good grilling of the area.
An attempt to look for more in the wood was abandoned due to a trio of motocross enthusiasts blasting around the place.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Cut across shorty

Having enjoyed the spring showers on the way from Morecambe I arrived at Freeman's Pools just as the rain eased off. The area was awash with hirundines and swifts which made for a great sight.
The resident little grebe pair were in noisy pursuit of a third bird around the main water and 2 pairs of tufties were on th top pools.
I couldn't see any LRPs. A soggy brown hare was lollopping about.
At 5.50pm I noticed a rather odd-looking high-flying bird which turned out to be a short-eared owl heading determinedly north. It had presumably come from further down the coast having waited for the rain to clear before continuing on its journey.
Otherwise it was disappointingly migrant-free, I'd hoped for a few grounded passerines, maybe a spotfly or something, but all I could find was a single female wheatear near Walled Meadow.
A couple of raven were cronking around the parish.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Signs of the times

A post-work trawl revealed the following noteworthy things...
Pair of little ringed plover, 1 com. sandpiper, 4 tufted duck, pair gadwall, 2 little grebe etc at Freeman's Pools where, I should add, the new interpretation signs have now been put in place at both main viewpoints. A couple of locals I talked to were rather impressed though had concerns about the longevity of their current pristine (ie unvandalised) state.
Another LR plover was on The Flood though there was little of note anywhere else bar an audible whimbrel somewhere on the marsh and a peregrine over the river.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Black tern blank

Someone forgot to put out the black tern I'd ordered.
Having finally battled through the headwind on the trusty boneshaker I arrived at Freeman's Pools to discover nothing much of note at all. A pair of gadwall were present but otherwise, it was the regular stuff.
A check of the Lune at Marsh Point also drew a blank tern-wise although a gaggle of some 20 or so 1st summer black-headed gulls were feeding over the water.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Cygnus Olordy!

Not much to report from this evening's visit, a little ringed plover was at Freeman's Pool (where a pair of swans have rather foolishly decided to start a new nest) and another was at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A pair of little grebe & 4 tufted duck were on FP's too, that is until a troupe of young lads came along to chuck bottles into the pool and hit each other with sticks. Ah, memories...
At least 20 lapwing have returned to the maize fields where the latest bout of ploughing has disturbed their ongoing attempts to nest - so, third time lucky!
Hopefully they've actually sown the fields now and the birds can get on.

After my comments of hearing or seeing no lesser whitethroat at the weekend I thankfully managed to locate 4 yesterday. Phew.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Out for the count...

Highlights from Aldcliffe to Conder WeBS count included:
2 LR Plover at Freeman's Pools and another at Conder Pool
1 Arctic tern over Colloway and presumably the same bird later at Glasson
74 dunlin on the Lune at Stodday
A few whimbrel including a flock of 26 on the Lune off Colloway
32 black-tailed godwit at Conder
3m & 1f eider on the Lune
Pair gadwall on Bank Pool
145 mute swan

also en route:
Male whinchat at Stodday
10 singing whitethroat counted (though curiously NO lessers)
12 wheatears - probably Greenland birds appearing larger & darker than 'our' birds, though I'm always a bit loathe to stick my neck out without direct comparisons! The date would certainly suggest that they're leucorhoa.
Good fun watching the raven adults noisily enticing their young to fledge the nest. 2 emerged while I was there.

How nice to be out without a howling gale for company!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Brighter later

Waited for the rain to ease off before making an afternoon visit in the hope that something interesting might have been dropped with it.
The pools were fairly quiet with just the regular sort of stuff: 2 mute swan, 2 Canada geese, 2 shelduck, 6 mallard, 2 tufted duck, 1 little grebe, 1 lapwing, 2 oystercatcher, 1 common sandpiper and a pair of little ringed plover.
Single sand and house martins were amongst the more numerous swallows and swifts.
A common whitethroat was singing near the top viewing area.
At least 2 further com whitethroat were in song along the cycle track, though with the wind dropping tomorrow a more reliable count should be possible.
A single whimbrel was with a couple of curlew on the estuary and 3 wheatear were on the tideline at Snipe Bog.
A raven was upsetting the local carrion crows and the 2 resident male kestrels within the patch boundaries were busy hunting in their respective areas.

Friday, 8 May 2009

That Friday feeling...

A touch on the breezy side for Aldcliffe, but I made a post-work visit nonetheless.
Freeman's Pools were quiet with just the 5 tufted duck and the odd coot and shelduck seen - probably due to the kids who were running around the place screaming, shouting and trampling on coot nests. Actually, I don't know if they were trampling on coot nests, I just thought I'd put that in for effect.
Single common sandpipers were on the Flood and at the Wildfowlers' Pools while a lone whimbrel was on the marsh, as well as all the usual oystercatchers, redshank etc.
Good numbers of swift, swallow and house martins around plus a single singing whitethroat along the cycle track. A willow warbler was in song in the cutting behind Cadaver Corner while chiffchaffs and blackcaps could be heard in Freeman's Wood.
A raven was battling against the wind over the estuary.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Post-work parish pootle proves poor

A pair of common sandpiper were on the top pools this evening, plus 5 tufted duck.
Otherwise it was pretty unremarkable with just the usual 'resident' stuff. I couldn't see any LRPs but a carrion crow was marching around on the island so I guess they could have been keeping a low profile.
Frog Pond was birdless as was Darter Pool, bar a couple of mallard and a moorhen.
The Wildfowlers' Pools seemed quiet with just a pair of shelduck alongside the usual suspects while the Flood also drew a blank.
A noisy whimbrel was on the marsh.
Both whitethroat species were heard but were keeping hunkered down in the wind.
A group of 5 swift were feeding over Freeman's Wood.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Slight return

Quick visit to the pools on my way home Tuesday eve following an absence of 2 weeks.
A little egret was fishing on the top pools and at least one little ringed plover was on the gravel island.
2 sand martin were feeding over the water with a dozen or so swallow and a pair of tufted duck were on the main pool.