Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Several Cygents Signal Successful Spring Season

Mute swan family at Freeman's Pools
Once again my 'weekend' happened on Monday and Tuesday this week. Unfortunately the long prolonged spell of warm, sunny weather decided to end on Sunday evening and as I headed down to Aldcliffe on Monday morning there was a decided chill in the air. It did warm up as the day wore on and today (Tuesday) certainly felt better.
Although little new has appeared in recent days (with the exception of a drake tufted duck back on Freeman's Pools) there is still plenty of activity going on around the patch.
Non-breeding large gulls continue to build in number on the river and yesterday up to 500 were roosting along the western shore. Also hanging around the Lune are around 30 or so non-breeding mute swans.
Juvenile robins and blackbirds are present in good numbers throughout the patch while blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, goldfinches, greenfinches and chaffinches are busy feeding multiple young.
Despite their late arrival, many migrant songbirds seem to making the most of the good conditions and chiffchaffs and both common and lesser whitethroat are fastidiously tending to growing chicks in the cycle track hedgerows.
However, the waders seem to be struggling to get anything out of the nest. I have yet to see any young oystercatchers, lapwing or little ringed plover despite the presence of nests, or breeding pairs on territory. In the maize fields, the 'second attempt' lapwing eggs should be due to hatch any day now, so hopefully some of the 11 nests (that I'm aware of) will get some young through to fledging stage.
The mute swans on Freeman's Pools left the nest last week, and on Wednesday evening I saw the proud pair escorting 3 very newly hatched cygnets around the reserve. (Incidentally, the pair on the canal along Aldcliffe Road also have 3 young cygnets, as seen today).
Also on Wednesday I noticed a very unseasonal drake goldeneye on the River Lune off St. George's Quay in the early evening. An escape or a genuine wild bird?
And on the subject of ducks, I also saw 2 female-type gadwall (1 adult, 1 fledged juv?) on the river toward Stodday. They flew in from inland and dropped on the water - have gadwall actually nested nearby this year? A pair certainly hung around Aldcliffe well into spring... 

Langden Valley, Bowland
On Wednesday of last week, I had the great pleasure of joining two of the RSPB's front-line Bowland staff for a walk up the Langden Valley.
I was accompanying a new member of my team, who will be working within the region in coming months, and who better to put her in the picture than Bowland Wader Project Officer (and killdeer finder extraordinaire) Gavin Thomas and Bowland Project Officer Jude Lane.
Gavin and Jude expertly put into context the struggles and successes of working within the Bowland area and answered all our questions with obvious passion and enthusiasm.

Adult dipper
Of course, we didn't see any hen harriers (Langden used to be my guaranteed year-tick site for this species along with short-eared owl but alas no more) but we did get ace views of a pair of another Langden speciality; ring ouzel - with the female in particular showing really well.
Add to that the spectacular landscape, plus up to 3 pairs of stonechat and a dipper with a recently fledged youngster and the time spent was not only educational but also genuinely exhilarating.
Sometimes I really, really love being back in Britain!

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