Friday, 21 June 2013

Baby Birds Bonanza

Blue-tailed damselfly
My day off on Wednesday coincided with a good forecast so I hopped on my bike and spent a bit of time birding around the Aldcliffe area in the morning. My main focus was on trying to make sense of the breeding waders situation, which had been thus far pretty inconclusive.
Checking Freeman's Pools first, the signs weren't terribly good with still no sign of any young oystercatchers on the island - the adults were being very active in seeing off passing gulls and crows, so hopefully there are well-hidden chicks somewhere on there.
I could only find a lone adult little ringed plover, so unless a late clutch is being sat on somewhere it doesn't look like a productive year for this species (I didn't find any LRPs anywhere else in the Aldcliffe area despite a thorough search). 
The trio of mute swan cygnets were still all present and accompanying both attentive parents. Similarly the two coot broods seemed to be doing reasonably well.
A male and female tufted duck were acting very much like a breeding pair, with the duck in particular spending quite a bit of time hidden away in the reeds - a late second nesting attempt following a failure elsewhere? We'll see.
Reed buntings and sedge warblers were busy feeding growing young in the waterside vegetation.

In the maize fields one pair of oystercatchers was escorting a single sizable chick, but I couldn't spot any young lapwings in the furrows.
A tractor soon came along and commenced spraying the emergent maize (and of course any wee birds that might be in the way) with some herbicide / insecticide forcing the oystecatcher family to flee toward the Wildfowlers' Pools.
I did see some fluffy little lapwing chicks dashing about by the pools and a pair of very agitated redshank implied that they too had chicks nearby.
A kestrel was hunting over the area, and a sparrowhawk upset the local swallows and house martins as it barreled along the cycletrack-side hedgerow.

The marsh was pretty quiet, other than a few more redshank and a couple of singing skylarks.
Scanning through the 850ish large gulls loafing on the riverbank, I couldn't find anything interesting among them. Suddenly the gulls went into panic mode, rising noisily into the air. I looked around for the culprit and soon spotted a large female peregrine in pursuit if a woodpigeon. The pigeon did a very good job of evading capture - to a point. That is, until it got whacked, spectacularly by the master hunter.

Later in the day when the sun really came out, I returned to Aldcliffe again; this time for a dragonfly hunt. I didn't find much, but did at least come across my first broad-bodied chasers on the patch this year. A pair were at Freeman's Pools, where a female was busy ovipositing.
All around the pools there were loads of common blue damselflies and good numbers of blue-tailed damselflies and I even managed a snap of the latter. All being well, the first emperor dragonflies will be appearing any time now along with common darters and such.

An early evening visit yesterday failed to produce anything much of note bar a pair of grey partridge in the usual field. I couldn't see any chicks but, it's possible they were hidden in the grass.
I'm just hoping for a hobby or something even more exciting... after all, with singing greenish warbler and white-spotted bluethroat in the county in recent days who knows what's out there waiting to be found?       

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