Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Mipit Show

Little ringed plover (pic by Steffi Carter)
The only real downside to my having started a new job with the RSPB is that I’m no longer blessed with having the luxury of loads of time on my hands.
As a consequence my daily Aldcliffe visits have been seriously curtailed.
However, given the tediously slow start to spring I doubt that I’ve really missed all that much.
The times that I have managed to get down to the patch for a root about have been almost migrant-free in the past couple of weeks. The major exception has been the impressive run of little ringed plovers that have stopped by. The most that I have seen at any one time is 6 (5 on the Flood, 1 on the Wildfowlers’ Pools) but Gavin Thomas counted 10 in the Aldcliffe area on one visit!
It will interesting to see how many pairs set up territory this year, and more interesting still to see how many young are fledged.

There have been a couple of wheatears seen on the marsh, including one spotted by my brother Dave and his wife Steffi who were visiting from Wales over the Easter weekend. But really, only 2 wheatears reported into the second week of April? Sheesh.
Male wheatear (pic by Steffi Carter)

Perhaps more interesting still was the dead manx shearwater that Dave and Steffi found near Marsh Point – only the second record for Aldcliffe that I am aware of. That previous bird was also a tideline stiff. Incidentally, Dave and Steffi have their own blog, highlighting their exploits in Wales: Borderline Birding.
Yesterday I nipped down to the Parish after work and finally bagged my first chiffchaff of 2013. Once again, I can’t recall ever seeing my first one of the year so late in the season. Once those winds change direction (the latest forecasts suggest that will finally happen this coming weekend) we can expect the floodgates to open a touch and all being well, we should be awash with freshly arrived migrants from the continent.
The only significant movement thus far has been that of meadow pipits; hundreds of birds have been pouring through in the past week or so with many stopping off to feed in the fields and saltmarsh around Aldcliffe and Fairfield. The few rock pipits that I have been able to get decent looks at around the marsh have all been well-defined littoralis birds with distinct supercilliums, discernible wing-bars and pale outer tail feathers.
Fieldfare are still very much in evidence around the patch, just to remind us that summer is still a long way off. A group of 8 of these fab thrushes have been kicking around in recent days and I was surprised to see   around 30 feeding in the fields adjacent to Aldcliffe Hall Lane yesterday.

The view (with avocet) from Marshside's Sandgrounders Hide
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time outside the area in the last couple of weeks, including a day spent at the RSPB’s Marshside reserve near Southport. The place was positively jumping with birds; streams of meadow pipits passed through while some were engaging in flight displays and singing their heads off. Similarly, impressive numbers of skylarks were belting it out from on high.
Good numbers of elegant avocets paraded in front of Sandgrounders Hide alongside moulting black-tailed godwits.
A long-staying spoonbill (see badly digiscoped image) played hide and seek throughout the day but occasionally showed well, though somewhat distantly.

Scanning over the marshes there were wigeon, shoveler and pintail to be seen as well as  few lingering pink-footed geese. Several ruff were busily feeding in the shallows with dunlin, oystercatcher and the ever-garrulous redshanks.
With news breaking of a Lancashire’s first record of killdeer this week, I was rather delighted to find myself scheduled to spend the day today at the excellent Beacon Fell Country Park in Bowland – just a few minutes away from the location of the American vagrant’s discovery. The bird was found by the RPSB’s own Gavin Thomas, who ironically found a killdeer in Ireland recently – quite probably the same bird he came across on his home patch of Alston Reservoir in Longridge!
This killdeer has been extremely elusive with more people dipping on it than actually seeing it and after my hour-long visit this evening I can now include myself in that unfortunate club. It’s not exactly a big deal for me as killdeer is one of those birds that I was seeing on a near-daily basis during my 3 years in Canada.  

1 comment:

Pete Woodruff said...

Jon....I read your posts on Birding Aldcliffe which much interest, this latest one is full of interest and some incredible coincidences.

Congratulations on your new RSPB job, which is where Gavin Thomas holds his position....a little coincidence.

Gavin found a Killdeer in Ireland recently and it is suspected that the next Killdeer he found at Alston Wetlands is the very same Irish bird....an amazing coincidence.

Gavin has also broken what was thought to be an all time record of six LRP's at Aldcliffe by finding ten LRP's recently....a quite unbelievable coincidence.

Look forward to 'bumping into you' again soon Jon.