Tuesday, 19 November 2013

New Med Highlight

Another gloriously bright sunny morning, and another day off. Grand! The tide was forecast to be reasonably high at 9.2 metres but not quite high enough to cover the marsh - so little chance of water pipits or jack snipe today!
Nonetheless, I headed out for the rising tide just in case something interesting got pushed up out the creeks or came floating down the Lune.
First off, I checked Freeman's Pools but they were disappointingly quiet with just the usual coot, little grebe, heron, mallard, teal and such on show.
Frog Pond was hosting 26 wigeon plus a pair of mute swan.
Darter Pool was bereft of birds while 20 or so each of teal and moorhen were the only things on the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A flock of thrushes came over; 12 mistle thrushes and 5 fieldfare. These are the first fieldfare that I've seen here this winter. The berry-filled hedgerows were positively bustling with blackbirds and smaller numbers of song thrush.
A couple of distant gamebirds caught my eye up on the drumlins. They looked very pale about the head so I got my 'scope out and confirmed what I thought - red-legged partridge! Not a terribly common species in these parts they are almost certainly released birds, as opposed to ones that have arrived here from a viable population elsewhere.
Out on the river there were hundreds of black-headed gulls milling around. I couldn't locate any adult Mediterranean gulls among them but I did eventually find a 1stw bird that I picked up as it flew in, before landing on the water.
Also on the estuary there were several hundred golden plover and curlew, c160 dunlin and a couple of thousand lapwing. 4 common snipe flew off Snipe Bog.
Walking back along Dawson's Bank I spotted a kingfisher as it flew off the marsh and toward the Wildfowlers' Pools.
I checked the length of the tide rack for foraging passerines but only came across a party of 7 meadow pipit and a single rock pipit.
A lone pinkfoot and 'that' snow goose were the only things amongst the mass of greylags and Canada geese. Even last week's whooper swan had cleared out.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Whoop of Delight

Whooper & mute swan
Another gorgeous day with bright sunlight and only a bit of a cool breeze. Better still, a day off and a couple of hours free to get out and check the patch this morning.

Despite my obvious enthusiasm, Aldcliffe hasn't really been at its best this autumn and I suspect that it will pretty much remain this way until we get some serious temperature changes.
The pools are still bereft of wildfowl in any number, just the usual mallard, teal and handful of gadwall to see most days along with the odd little grebe and multiple coot and moorhen

The geese seem to have had their fill of the stubble for now and were back out on the marsh. Consequently the only things poking around in the maize fields were pheasants, woodpigeons, carrion crows and jackdaws
Even the large finch/sparrow flock had whittled down to around 20 chaffinch and a couple each of tree sparrow and reed bunting. Just 3 skylark were flying around.

Whooper swan
I was delighted to finally find a whooper swan among the mute swans out on Aldcliffe Marsh - it was surely only a matter of time before one dropped in!
Scanning through the Canada geese and greylags I couldn't see anything else among them, bar the usual snow goose-on-the-loose and the regular farmyard honkers.

An unexpected sighting involved a late small tortoiseshell fluttering over the tideline.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Marvelous Montanus

Tree sparrow
I finally caught up with some tree sparrows on the patch this morning. 
There were 9 in the hedge dissecting the stubble fields. Unfortunately they were a bit too flighty for me to get a decent pic, so I've cheated and used a previously taken shot I got of one earlier in the year.
Feeding nearby were a mixture of other birds including around 40
chaffinch, 6 reed bunting and a couple of greenfinch.
Also present were at least 14 mobile skylark. It was lovely to have the calls of these increasingly scarce birds constantly ringing out over the fields.
There was also a trio of stock dove nearby. It almost felt like proper farmland birding! I just need to find an errant yellowhammer, or something even better...  

Golden plover, lapwing and dunlin
On the river there were approx. 700 golden plover, 2,400 lapwing and c100 dunlin in the Gull Bank area, along with the usual curlew, redshank, etc. While out on the marsh the usual geese, mute swans and little egrets were doing what they do.

Freeman's Pools were again quietish, as were all the other ponds. The 5 gadwall -in-residence were about the only things of note. 
A female sparrowhawk was doing the rounds.

Thrush numbers seem to building slowly with a notable increase in blackbirds along the cycle track, along with a few song and mistle thrushes. Still no off-passage redwing or fieldfare around Aldcliffe though. There is so much food available in the hedgerows this year, I guess they have no need to range as far and wide as in some years. I'm sure they'll be along soon. 


Thursday, 7 November 2013

No Head for High Tides

Had a good stroll around the patch late morning culminating with a trawl along the seawall on the incoming tide.
Freeman's Pools were pretty quiet with just 27 mallard, 5 gadwall, 1 wigeon, 7 coot, 2 moorhen and a little egret visible.
The stubble fields were full of geese, specifically c280 greylag. I could only find a single pinkfoot among them, plus the fenc-hopper snow goose (and that white barnyard thing).
I couldn't see or hear any tree sparrows - 'lots' were reported from here yesterday on the LDBWS site! Not sure how many that means, but anything into double figures is generally pretty significant for Aldcliffe.
A couple of reed buntings were among the chaffinches and a flock of around 18 skylark was notable.
Frog Pond, Darter Pool, Wildfowlers' Pools and the Flood were all pretty quiet bar the odd mallard, moorhen, redshank, etc.
Aldcliffe Marsh wasn't too thrilling either with the usual scattering of curlew, lapwing, redshank, grey heron, little egret and the common gull species. There were no yellow-billed swans among the numerous mutes and I couldn't locate anything of note mingling with the 80ish greylags and 200+ Canada geese.
Passerines feeding in the tide rack included 22 pied wagtail, 9 meadow pipit and 3 rock pipit. The twite seen here by birders yesterday were nowhere to be found, unfortunately.
Tideline stiffs included a headless heron, a headless common gull and an immaculate, if somewhat dead, red fox.


Sunday, 3 November 2013

Partridge Family Reunion

While reading the Lancaster & District Bird Watching Society 2012 annual report recently I was dismayed to see the grim status of grey partridge. So few sightings had been made in the local recording area that it was described as "so rare... that it has become a notable occasion when they are seen."

Grey partridge
 Back in August, I was pleased to find that the pair I'd been seeing on and off around Aldcliffe had fledged 7 youngsters and I was even more delighted to come across a covey of 11 partridge today. They were quite distant but it appeared to be a mixed group of adults and 1st year birds. Hopefully their local extinction can be held off for a few years yet.
Otherwise there wasn't much to get excited about. There were no 'real' geese to be found among the mass of Canadas and greylags on the marsh and similarly the build up of mute swans has yet to drag in any passing 'wild' swans.
A single rock pipit was at Marsh Point and now that the maize has been cut there are up to 40 chaffinches feeding in the stubble. I couldn't find any tree sparrows or anything else of note among them, bar a single skylark
A dead razorbill, long deceased, was on the tideline.
There were very few ducks around, the ponds and pools were almost empty of birds.
A bloke out with his Harris hawk provided a brief distraction...