Sunday, 3 March 2013

Attractive Blonde at Aldcliffe

Leucistic pink-footed goose (top right)
Thanks to the mostly mild and bright weather this week my forays into the birding world have been very pleasant, if somewhat unremarkable.
Most days I've managed to find time for a visit to Aldcliffe but as is often the case in late winter there's a sort of sense of déjà vu, with little variation from day to day. At least the fine and sunny days have urged a few birds to indulge in a little early spring behaviour with singing robins, chaffinches, song thrushes and greenfinches all in good voice.  
Lapwings have been displaying over the maize stubble fields and the glorious sound of skylarks is becoming increasingly heard over the marsh.
Out on the marsh the number of pink-footed geese has fluctuated slightly throughout the week peaking at around 3,500-4,00 birds yesterday (Saturday). I had a good scan through them in the morning before the heat haze caused them to meld into a shimmering, honking mass of unidentifiable grey blobs but I couldn't find any other species among them. A single leucistic pinkfoot was particularly interesting; I expect that its distinctive 'blonde' appearance will have ensured that it's been tracked as it moved around the country during the winter. I managed a terrible 'scope shot which at least shows just how pale this bird is.
The redhead smew finally made a reappearance on Friday when it returned to Freeman's Pools along with a couple of goldeneye and 6 tufted duck. I hadn't seen the smew for several days despite checking the pools regularly and I still have absolutely no idea where it disappears to when AWOL.

One really lovely development this week involved the appearance of a huge pile of (what I think is) asbestos that was kindly dumped on the cycle track by some generous individual. Not content with simply fly-tipping this car-sized mound of poisonous waste on a public pathway the carefree dumper also managed to cover half of the track just to prevent farm traffic from being able to go about its business. What a champ.
I expect that the offender is making a nice profit on the renovation they're doing; I for one am delighted that my local taxes are being used to clean up after them. Not. 
Should you happen to see someone doing this kind of thing and you can safely get a vehicle registration number or photo of the act, I urge you to do so.
The number to call to report fly-tipping incidents to Lancaster City Council is (01524) 582491.

Pied wagtail numbers continue to grow with up to 40 birds around the Flood and the Wildfowlers' Pools. The green sandpiper was feeding in one of the channels off the Wildfowler's Pools today (Sunday) and snipe have been putting on a good show lately with up to 7 feeding out on the pool edges.

Lancaster Castle viewed from FAUNA nature reserve
Snipe are also a feature at the recently established Fairfield FAUNA nature reserve.           
When Jenny and I were walking by this suburban sanctuary midweek we noticed a couple of the cryptic waders feeding in the boggy grass. On closer inspection there were actually 4 present, all just about visible in the accompanying pic.
I'll be trying to keep an eye on this place in the coming weeks. In the past, before the habitat 'improvements', this area regularly attracted a suite of interesting spring migrants including whimbrel, redstart, whinchat and cuckoo. Even wood warbler and pied flycatcher have passed through.

4 snipe - go on, find them.
With a favoured hedgerow no longer present and a footpath that now bisects the site it may prove less appealing to some migrants...
Even the once obscured pool that regularly hosted a range of passage waders including common and green sandpipers is now totally exposed and way too close to the new path to attract birds for more than a short visit. 
Nevertheless, with plans afoot to secure further land adjoining the reserve it really has the potential to become quite an important green space on the city's edge. Even if the birds don't like it as much as they used to, at least it won't get lost to development and surely that can only be a good thing.

The Admiralty Wood at Aldcliffe
In nearby Admiralty Wood the resident little owls continue to be seen. We spotted a snoozing bird snuggled tight against the trunk of a large tree as we strolled by a couple of days ago. They can be really tricky to locate here so it's always a treat to clap eyes on the wee predators.


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