Monday, 10 December 2012

Monday Meanderings

River Lune at low tide, looking toward Aldcliffe Marsh
It was another gloriously sunny, crisp cold day today and once we'd taken delivery of a new fridge/freezer (life doesn't get any better than that, does it?) I donned my wellies, grabbed my bins and 'scope and walked out to Aldcliffe.
With the exception of a great-spotted woodpecker and twinkling charms of goldfinches it was fairly quiet along the path by the now inaccessible Freeman's Wood but there was a fair bit going on at Freeman's Pools.
Scanning out over the water I could see tufted ducks, wigeon and teal plus 17 gadwall. Hugging the edges were the expected moorhens while coots and little grebes fished busily.
A little egret was preening on the banks - funny how we've become so blasé about these recent colonists. It's not all that long ago that the discovery of one of these exotic herons in this part of the world would have caused something of a twitch.
I checked through the larids on the estuary, finding just the usual suspects: black-headed gull, herring gull, common gull and lesser-black backed gull. A gargantuan great black-backed gull came by - I'm often surprised by just how bloody massive and menacing these bird are at close range!
Good numbers of lapwing were present and few redshank were picking their way along the river's edge.
As I trundled along the seawall path I noticed a common buzzard in the stubble fields. It was on the deck and soliciting a fair bit of interest from the local carrion crows. Several jackdaws and a handful of rooks looked on. The latter species isn't always easy to find in the Aldcliffe area, so their presence usually attracts a fair bit of interest from local patchers.
Out on the marsh I could see a couple more little egrets and good numbers of geese. Bearing in mind the albifrons white-fronted goose found by Pete Crooks a couple of days ago I spent a bit of time 'scoping through the birds but I couldn't locate it among the mass of greylags grazing on the marsh. Approximately 60 pink-footed geese were also present along with the usual shelducks, Canada geese, dodgy farmyard ganders and a just 5 mute swans. It's not all that long ago that Aldcliffe hosted herds of 100+ mute swans in the winter, which of course regularly attracted whooper and Bewick swans.
On the other side of the river large skeins of pinkfeet, totalling approximately 2000 birds, were moving around.

Common snipe - Wildfowlers' Pools
At the Wildfowlers' Pools there was no sign of either of the recent 'celeb' birds. We birders all know how luck can often play a part in our avian adventures, but I can't believe just how fortunate I was where the lesser yellowlegs and wood sandpiper are concerned. Considering just how long they've been hanging around, they pretty much disappeared immediately after I saw them! Today, barely half a dozen redshank were present, plus 3 common snipe (pictured).
Given Aldcliffe's reputation as a near-guaranteed site for wintering green sandpiper, I have been amazed not to come across one in any of the usual spots. Perhaps, along with the wood sand and lesserlegs they're all just feeding somewhere else for the meanwhile and will reappear on-and-off throughout the winter?
At 'snipe bog' I flushed 7 common snipe but failed to find any jack snipes.
Passerines were generally unremarkable during my 4-hour trek, with just common stuff such as greenfinch, song thrush and the like being seen. A couple of redwing and fieldfare were great to see in the hawthorns, but the tideline was bereft of activity. It was low tide, so there were no pipits and just a couple of pied wagtails kicking around.
Curlews and more lapwings were feeding with starlings in the wet fields at Stodday.
Returning along the cycle track I added little to the day's tally, so I took a last-minute diversion via the newly created FAUNA Nature Reserve near my house. I used to regularly bird this area before it was a 'nature reserve' and it was pretty productive from time to time. A long mixed hedgerow attracted spring migrants such as redstart and whinchat (as well as hosting many breeding birds), wheatears and whimbrel would often feed up in the sedgy meadow and a couple of small pools appealed to waders including snipe and green sandpiper. Now that the hedgerow has been removed and a path stuck right through the place I expect we can wave goodbye to this site being of any interest to anything but wood pigeons and magpies (both of which were about the only birds seen there today).
I'm a big believer in protecting green spaces and I hope to be proved wrong about this once diverse spot, but the 'improvements' don't seem to be much to get excited about unless you're walking a dog or going for a jog.  



Pete Woodruff said...

Interesting account of your birding now that Aldcliffe is back on your agenda. Its the comprehensive length of the account which impressed me....great stuff Jon.

Lesser Yellowlegs to Wood Sandpiper, OK that ex Canadian fella's seen me I'm off now....Wood Sandpiper, me too!

iancruickshank said...

Well, you're certainly succeeding in making me envious, Jon! (as I fully expected...) That was great to read.

Let's see, what's new back here...there was a second-hand report of a Rock Sand in Gonzales Bay the other day (sorry, I just couldn't resist...); up to two dozen Brown pelicans are still hanging out in the inner harbour, and 1500 Ancient Murrelets were counted flying past Clover Pt yesterday morning.

Anyways best wishes back there and we'll miss your reports out here. Aziza picked up her magazine and I'm delving into the rest as I get time.


Jon Carter said...

Cheers Pete, I'm really enjoying refamiliarising myself with the old place! Can't wait to see what turns up next.

And, thanks for your comments Ian. You're going to have make the journey over to Briatin one day - my paltry reports are just the tip of the iceberg! I have to say, any Brits reading your comment will be equally envious of mentions of rock sandpiper, brown pelican and 1500 ancient murrelets. I see the citrine wag is still attracting twitchers from all over North America. That certainly put Vancouver Island on the map!


ray said...

Blandscaping ...that's what has happened to the "Nature Reserve" area.