Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Year, New Year List

Freeman's Pools viewed from Marsh Point
Many birdwatchers look forward to the start of a new year as a way to add a little boost to their daily birding. With autumn migration but a distant memory, winter can drag on a bit sometimes and the arrival of a new year means the commencement of a new year list. Which of course means that those 'boring' common species can suddenly transform into exciting new ticks to be pursued with rare vigour.
Personally, I'm not too bothered about year lists these days and am happy just pottering about looking for birds whatever the season.

As to be expected I've been spending any spare time checking out the Aldcliffe area in recent weeks and the relative paucity of blog posts actually reflects a lack of exciting birds to report, rather than a lack of activity on my part.
That said, I did get an interesting call on Christmas Day concerning a barn owl that was behaving rather oddly. The owl was found by regular dog walkers Linda and Gordon at Freeman's Wood. The bird was unusually approachable and reluctant to fly far even when being inspected by the dog. Apparently the owl was hanging around the same area for most of Christmas Day and concerned walkers assumed that the bird was injured.
I had a good search on Boxing Day but came out empty handed.
From a conversation I had with Linda about its behaviour, I suspect that the owl may well have been an ex-captive bird that had either escaped or been released.
Wild barn owls do occur in the area from time to time so maybe it was one of these, weak through starvation - persistent rain can make hunting very difficult for owls.

In other Aldcliffe owl news, I've been seeing the regular little owl at Admiralty Wood recently.
When my brother Dave and his wife Steffi were visiting over the festive period we went out to see these diminutive hunters but couldn't locate them that day. Dave and I discussed how long we'd been seeing little owls at this location and we reckoned that we'd been aware of them in this small wood for well over 20 years. The now-present nuthatches certainly weren't to be found back then, nor were the little egrets that I have seen flying over the wood recently.

Pink-footed geese
Highlights from my often soggy visits around the parish just lately include a flock of 9 black-tailed godwits feeding at the flooded Wildfowler's Pools plus the usual ducks, waders and gulls.
At least 260 pink-footed geese are still grazing on the drumlins though the bulk of the greylags (presumably with the white-fronted goose) seem to have temporarily left the area.
Rock pipits, pied wagtails and goldfinch continue to pick along the tideline debris, while handsome bullfinches continue to be heard and seen along the cycle track and at Freeman's Wood.
A pair of stock dove were a nice sight in the stubble fields, making a pleasant change from the many wood pigeons and feral rock doves.
Tufted ducks at Freeman's Pools
On Freeman's Pools an arrival of 16 tufted duck were notable, and post-thaw gadwall numbers have built up to a healthy 9 birds. Goldeneye, wigeon and teal are also present on the pools but little grebes seem conspicuously absent.
Perhaps the remains of a significant amateur fireworks display might be responsible for the relative dearth of birds on the pools in general.
Despite my hearing rumours to the contrary, it appears that roe deer are still very much present around Freeman's Pools, with 3 sighted a few days ago.

Steve here, just to add I saw 18 Fieldfare on the track and a pair of Bullfinch. A Buzzard was perched on the fence posts on the hillside. The river was busy with a couple of thousand Lapwing, Golden plover and Dunlin mixed in. 3 Little Egrets. Two large groups of gulls on the mud bank, didn't have my scope with me. A pair of Ravens near the pylons.

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