Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Double Gloss-ster.

Dan here with a late evening report on events just a few hundred metres south of the ARA (Aldcliffe recording area!).

This evening, while listening out for passage Wood Warblers at Meldham Wood (no such luck) a Glossy Ibis whistled over my head and over the treetops.... Half an hour later the same thing happened again as Whimbrel titters filled the air.

I suspect that the duo were headed to roost in the plantation by Ashton Hall lake where several Little Egrets dropped in and nesting Grey Herons were croaking . There's no public access to the lake, but I'll be on the shared use path again tomorrow armed with camera.... and a scope for scanning Colloway Marsh, which is presumably where the vagrants had been feeding.

Late news for yesterday regards yet another Yellow Wagtail heading through Aldcliffe airspace- I saw and heard one as it bounded NNW over the estuary off Marsh Point.


Plover Roll-Over

A couple of visits to Aldcliffe over the last two days haven't turned much up as far as new arrivals are concerned.
The many whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff are now so embedded in their respective patches that it's easy to forget that they were still en route from distant wintering grounds just a short time ago.
A handful of wheatear can still be found on the saltmarsh, particularly around the Creek but otherwise you'd be hard-pushed to find much to suggest we're in the middle of migration season.
However, there's still plenty of time for plenty more birds to move through and we may well yet see a few notable species such as reed warbler, hobby and spotted flycatcher dropping by. Swifts will soon be making their local debuts and of course May is a great month for finding a rarity!     
Local breeders seem to be taking full advantage of the decent early spring and as well as the few lapwing chicks that have already been seen I noticed the first Aldcliffe coot hatchlings yesterday.
Talking of lapwing, I really hope that there weren't too many ready-to-hatch eggs in the maize fields when the shit-spreader rumbled over them yesterday afternoon and today. There seemed to be much noisy wheeling around by adults and very little sign of scattering young when I was there. This afternoon, they were ploughing in the wake of the muck-raking so any nests that may have escaped yesterday were likely walloped today.
There are still at least 3 little ringed plover in the area but they do seem mobile; frequently moving between Freeman's Pools, the Flood and the Wildfowlers' Pools. I found another bird nearby yesterday, seemingly sitting on eggs.
A couple of pairs of grey partridge were in evidence today, so let's hope for another successful breeding season for these increasingly scarce gamebirds.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Martins Freemans

Dan again.

A stiff east-north-easterly with lots of cloud seemed promising this morning, but (for the Aldcliffe area at least) no Black Terns went through the only action was visible migration of small birds.

There has been so little vis mig for the last week or so that although this mornings traffic wasn't spectacular, it was an enjoyable change nonetheless.

Hirundines headed the tables, with around 140 Swallows noted heading NNE between eight and eleven AM. 55 Sand Martins headed through too, as did 19 House Martins--the strongest showing of the latter species so far this year. The breeze was a strong enough headwind for the birds to use a low more river-oriented routing than is usual here-- presumably getting some shelter from the estuary banks.

A late April resurgence of northbound Meadow Pipits (25) and two Lesser Redpolls almost completed the picture, but Goldfinches and Linnets seemed to be on the move too. Because both of the latter finches breed in the parish it's harder to monitor what's what, but I suspect some light passage was underway.

Whimbrels were quite conspicuous today, with 2 on Colloway Marsh, 5 by Stodday picnic area and a party of four which dropped in from the south for a couple of minutes then headed off quite high to the east.

I ventured south of the parish boundary hoping to hear a passage Wood Warbler in the bluebell carpeted Meldham Wood (no luck of course), and kept going until I hit evidence of a night-migrant influx in the Crook Farm/ Crook Cottage area near Cockersands. A cluster of symptoms indicating a small fall included 5 Willow Warblers (very scarce there), 3 Whinchats and a babbling Blackcap (again--a rare sight in such an open Fylde habitat).

Just goes to show how hit and miss things can be...just a few miles away, Aldcliffe's hedgerows and marshes seemed pretty new arrival-free.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Rubetra? You betcha!

Dan here.

Timed today's visit to coincide with the rain clearing. I harboured a faint hope that every bough would be decked with flycatchers and every field festooned with chats, but that didn't come to pass.

There were a few of the latter family to be found; two Whinchats were at the saltmarsh edge with five Wheatears. The Whinchats could have been yesterday's birds, but perhaps not-- four out of five of this morning's Wheatears were female (after yesterday's macho-fest).

Two Sedge Warblers were singing near Freeman's Pools, where the dainty, slightly paler LBB-thing was seen once more.

Two Little Ringed Plovers were on the flood and a Stock Dove was drinking from the Wildfowlers Pools, where 3 Teals and 2 Gadwalls were noted.

Vis mig seemed restricted to a very few NE-bound Swallows and Meadow Pipits.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Ga-ga for Cuc-koo

Above: Whinchat, Red-breasted Merganser, Wheatears.
Dan here.
There were plenty of pretty things to look at this morning, but highlight was the sound of a male Cuckoo in song at the north end of Ashton golf course. As I heard it from Stodday sewage works it just about qualifies as an Aldcliffe record, and as Jon later heard it from the north of the patch it must have been heading that way anyway.
It didn't seem to linger, which sadly is to be expected for what is nowadays an almost exclusively upland species in England.  
Other songsters included Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats, with five males each holding territory along the main drag. I ventured a daring 300m south of the Stodday picnic area and added two singing Common Whitethroats to that tally.
Much chatisfaction was gained when I bumped into Guy, who put me onto two male Whinchats near Darter Pool, where I got some beauty and the beast shots of one dazzler atop a monster shite-heap.
A few Wheatears were scattered around and making the place look tidy; two in the maize fields (where 3 Lapwing chicks were seen), two on the saltmarsh, two in the flood field and, over in the NE of the parish, a flock of six in the newly-acquired FLORA site.
Vis mig was as dead as can be first thing (ie one mipit), but as the morning progressed a few redpolls (6) siskins (2-3) and sand martins (15 noted) started slipping north.
The estuary was pleasantly ducky, with eleven Eiders (nine drakes) four Red-breasted Mergansers and 28 Shelducks. Two Whimbrels nipped south over the rising tide.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Whin-Win Situation

I finally managed to get out this morning for a spot of Aldcliffe birding, after what seems like an absolute age.
Things didn't seem too birdy initially as I scanned around Freeman's Pools from the track viewpoint. A couple of gadwall were snoozing on the island alongside a scattering of mallard, shelduck, lapwing and a lesser black-backed gull.
I soon bumped into Dan by the main pools gate who reported a similar lack of activity migrants-wise.
I headed off to Marsh Point while he checked along the path. I soon came across a smart pair of whinchat feeding from the perimeter fence to the north of the viewing area and called Dan with the news. Firsts for the year, he naturally 'twitched' them.

Leaving Dan and his camera in pursuit of the dazzling duo I set off back to the main track and on to the Flood, checking the pools, hedgerows and fields along the way. It was great to see and hear so many whitethroat and lesser whitethroat back on territory.

In the maize field I noticed a couple of wheatear plus a lapwing with a single chick. A couple of days ago I'd made a brief visit and seen a lapwing with 3 chicks; was this was the sole remaining youngster of that brood, or another altogether?
The good news is that thanks to the early spring, at least some of these birds have had chance to get some young off before the fields get ploughed. I'm sure that some nests will be destroyed when the tractors roll in but it's great that these birds have had a fighting chance at getting a successful first brood off for once.

A pair of little ringed plover were on the Flood, with the male engaging in a bit of displaying. On the mud I could see 4 white wagtail and in the field there were 8 wheatears. Along the fenceline I soon picked up another whinchat which was swiftly joined by a second.
In the meantime Dan had discovered a female redstart at the back of the pools and once I'd checked around Walled Meadow (and found nowt) I headed back to see if I could catch up with it. It took a fair chunk of time but I eventually got glimpses of the bird as it fed low in a hawthorn.

Later in the day Dan called to say that he'd found another redstart, this time a male, along Aldcliffe Hall Lane.
Meanwhile I walked to Conder and back at low tide. The few highlights included 9 whimbrel on the Lune off Ashton Hall plus two pairs of eider, whose curious calls could be heard at considerable range.
Thanks to Dan for the pics.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

'Tear Drops

Dan here.

Seems to have been quite a good drop of Wheatears in N. Lancs this morning.

Mr. Carter had twenty at FAUNA, and I made a somewhat late visit to the marsh where a flock of seven were feeding in the lee of the walled meadow.

Just over the river from Aldcliffe at Snatchems, 12 Wheatears were in the field between the somewhat scruffy farm and the traveller's site, with two Sedge Warblers, 5 Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat all singing near the phragmites-lined pool there.

I confess to being tempted to the dark side of the Lune for a bit of migrant searching at Sunderland Point first thing. It was fun, with at least 22 Wheatears, including ten dropping steeply from on high to land on bushes and posts very close by.

Other migrants found there were three Redstarts-- a pretty female and two glorious adult males-- one of which was singing continuously. Continuing my run of luck with Yellow Wags-- one went over N (as well as a few mipits, two Lesser Redpolls and a Siskin) and two White Wagtails were on the deck.

A Chiffchaff skulking in a small bush at the very tip of the point was clearly a newly-arrived night migrant, as I suspect were the 8 Willow Warblers, 2 Lesser and single Common Whitethroats. Seven Whimbrels were feeding near the new sea defences.

Back at the slightly neglected Aldcliffe, my first Large White butterfly of the year was on the wing and two Whitethroats and Snipes were noted.

Nearby at Willow Lane, at least four House Martins were nest prospecting and two highly vocal Whimbrels flew east.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Whim-Whim Situation

Dan again. Hello.

I ended up with a good variety of summer fare today, but it took me over six hours to get to that point.

Highlight was another Yellow Wagtail, which called several times as it flew low to the north along Dawsons Bank. It's been the best spring for years for this species.

In the welcome-but-a-little-overdue category were two Whimbrels. I've got a real soft spot for these waders and their pleasing calls. A Common Sandpiper was quietly bobbing at the margins of Freeman's Pools (where a Reed Bunting was in song and a Snipe was seen) and another was wheedling at Gull Bank.

A drake Eider, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and two Common Gulls were just upstream of the pylons area, where the begging calls of young Ravens could be heard.

A small overnight influx of Common Whitethroats seems to have occurred, with five males noted in regular haunts. Five to six Lesser Whitethroats was about the same figure as in recent days.

Two Little Ringed Plovers were on Aldcliffe Marsh as were ten Canadas and a Pinkfoot.

Five White Wagtails were at the flood as was.... not a lot else. There are quite a few sheep and lambs in this field now and I think their feet and bladders denude the habitat for waders and wildfowl.

Any spring day without Wheatears isn't as fun as it could be so I was pleased with eleven in two small flocks. As a gung ho youth I might have called them Greenlands, but since none of them landed on my weighing scales or yelled out their wingspans in microns, Wheatears it is.

As well as the flava, NE-bound visible migration featured 15 single Meadow Pipits, 20 Siskins (including a nice party of 13), one or two alba wags and the best push of hirundines so far this year.

Swallows dominated, with just shy of 150 picked up (often in tight volleys of 4-6), and there were also 18 Sand Martins & 3 House Martins detected. Not a huge movement, but a pleasant distraction from much hedge-scanning for Whinchats and Redstarts (no and no!) nonetheless.

A Freeman's Pool gull had me scratching my head this morning. A slightly dainty adult Lesser Black-backed type with a noticeably paler mantle-- it wouldn't appear to be a Yellow-legged Gull (slight bill, paired with a standard LBB!)...I'm a dunce when it comes to gulls and it was a little too distant for helpful photos, but I can only assume it has some Herring Gull genes in there somewhere.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Mundane

Dan here.

Well, maybe it wasn't quite mundane today, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. I suspect that a few more Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were about, but with no new species there as indicators it felt like business as usual.

Morning passerine vis. seemed ultra minimal, with just a single northbound Lesser Redpoll noted!
Five or six White Wagtails were seen, but with the seeming absence of overhead passage I reckoned they were just lingering birds from last week's influx.

Goose news was limited to a string of nine Canadas with a tag-along Pinkfoot which dropped in from the east. Two Little Ringed Plovers were in evidence.

A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were on the river, as was a pair of Eider.

A late afternoon visit was made to check for hirundine passage-- and about 25 Swallows and 6 Sand Martins sped through. In a reversal of what I usually observe here, it was the Sand Martins that were tacking into the prevailing (ENE) wind rather than heading to the pole-wards.

My first Speckled Wood butterfly of the year was by the aspen plantation, and 3 male Orange Tips, 2 Green-veined Whites and a male Brimstone were also working beats near the sewage works.


Saturday, 19 April 2014


Dan here.

Another dawn raid under clear blue skies and a cool easterly didn't turn up too many migrants.

Although I only gave the patch two hours, one new male Common Whitethroat (at Stodday picnic area) to supplement the Darter Pool bird wasn't too hot for the back half of April.

4-5 male Lesser Whitethroats were about, as were 6 or 7 territorial Willow Warblers and three singing Blackcaps. Two Chiffchaffs were seen gathering dry grasses about 500m apart.

Vis seemed light, with 6 Lesser Redpolls, 3 or 4 Inviskins, 12 Meadow Pipits, 4 Sand Martins N...and two eastbound Swallows.

Nine White and four Pied Wagtails were noted. Two Little Ringed Plovers were at the flood with a third displaying nearby. The lone Black-tailed Godwit by the Wildfowlers Pools has plumage suggestive of the continental form.

Non-domesticated mammals were represented by a male Roe Deer, two Rabbits, a Hare and a squeaking shrew sp.

Away tomorrow-- hope I don't miss owt good!


Friday, 18 April 2014

Bad Friday

Dan here.

I mounted a dawn raid on the obvious parts of the parish today, but it didn't feel too good for migrants under clear blue skies, and I left just as Easter hol people (who have the temerity to enjoy beautiful weather) were beginning to arrive en masse.

There certainly hadn't been a significant arrival of birds, indeed-- the Darter Pool Common Whitethroat from the other day and sixteen White Wagtails (old news!) were the pick of the birds.

Didn't seem to be much vis mig, with just one northbound Siskin and a Swallow noted. A pair of Grey Partridge were in evidence and at least twenty Linnets were in the maize fields.

A House Martin was seen eave-prospecting on nearby Willow Lane.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dan here with a quick post listing the day's highlights that Jon and myself mustered in separate visits.

Two or three Little Ringed Plovers were seen, the year's first Sedge Warbler was having an intermittent chatter deep inside a hedge, the first House Martin was over Freeman's Pools amid the strongest Swallow passage so far this spring (at least 40 noted).

Three Lesser Whitethroats were in song and a Black-tailed Godwit was feeding at the Wildfowlers Pools. A minimum of 18 White Wagtails were at the flood. Two Wheatears and 3 Pinkfeet were on the marsh.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Flood does us another Flava

Hello. Dan again.

Two Lesser Redpolls flew over my Marsh abode as soon as I left the front door, so I harboured the hope that some frantic visible migration was on the cards. However, the sky seemed quiet and almost empty today, with just 8 redpoll sp. and a few each of alba wagtail, Swallow and Sand Martin heading north.

Jon had the pick of the flyovers today, with an early morning Yellow Wagtail overhead near Freeman's Pools, presumably a remnant of yesterday's flava-fest. He'd also had eight White Wagtails, 2 Wheatears and the year's first Common Whitethroat before I'd even rolled out of bed.

By the time I was on the prowl I only connected with his newly-arrived male Whitethroat, and The Flood was so dead I wondered whether a Sparrowhawk had been marauding there. The maize fields were more lively, with at least forty Linnets and a similar number of Meadow Pipits as well as a lone white wag.

Two Redshanks were displaying over the maize fields, as were 8 or 9 Lapwings. Three pink-feet were on the marsh. The squawks of a Jay or Jays emanated from Freeman's Wood.

A drake Red-breasted Merganser was on the river by Gull Bank, as were eight Eiders. A Peregrine was hunting over Colloway Marsh, and looking south from the pylons, c500 Black-tailed Godwits were seen up over Glasson.

A few minutes after hearing its wheedling song I was pleased to see Aldcliffe's first Common Sandpiper of the year flitting upstream over the rising water.

Lesser Whitethroats were very much in evidence throughout the main drag, with 6-7 singers-- a fantastic total for so early in April. In some years the 16th has been the early arrival date for this species, and one couldn't bank on more than one or two mid-month. A friend wonders whether unusually high temperatures in the Middle East could account for this super early influx.

By the time I'd checked out the Stodday hedges and plantations (not much doing save confirming that the Long-tailed Tit nest is occupied by an incubating bird) and returned to Aldcliffe Hall Lane, the flood had been transformed.

Aside from being topped up by the high tide via the parish's arcane subterranean channels, it was packed with birds; fifteen White Wagtails, five Brit albas, four Little Ringed Plovers, a few mipits, Redshanks and--hooray-- a male Yellow Wagtail.

After this high point I went a little dense, with a distant high-flying Grey Heron momentarily fooling me into thinking it was an Osprey (well, it was going N!), and a single Whimbrel-like titter going un-clinched. But it was an enjoyable day nonetheless.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Flava of the Month, or Yellow Peril

Dan here.

After a couple of days away the patch seemed to be gently pulsing with new blood this morning; lots more Willow Warblers (one pictured) with c20 dotted around, a couple of extra male Blackcaps and 2 Lesser Whitethroats doing the old squiggle and rattle in the hedgerows..

Ten White Wagtails (the continental cousins of our Pied) were on The Flood along with three of the British race, where three Little Ringed Plovers were feeding.

A Black-tailed Godwit was at the Wildfowlers pools, as were two Snipe. A pair of Stock Doves were at the foot of Trig Hill and 3 Pink-footed were on the marsh.

After a good look round I thought it safe to retreat to the vantage platform near Marsh Point, perhaps to spy a late-ish Osprey and log some passerine vis mig.

Following a couple of hours of light Redpoll sp. and Siskin passage (c20 and c8 respectively) plus 10 Swallows and 22 Sand Martins, I was pleased to hear the refreshing spizzz of a migrating Tree Pipit and a short while later thrilled by a heard-only but northbound Yellow Wagtail.

As most of you will be aware, yellow wags are highly desirable round these parts...I daresay they haven't bred in the parish for several decades, and I could count the number of my Aldcliffe records (in 15 years) on one slightly mutated hand-- and one of those was of the blue-headed race.

I felt even more smug than usual that I had concentrated on the skies, which had seemed like the right thing to do in clear and fairly calm conditions. But ignore the muddy deck at your peril, because shortly after the tripit/flava one-two I heard on the grapevine that a Mr. Woodruff had just been watching a terrestrial Yellow Wagtail just a kilometre away.

Having being trumped by a visitor, I sloped home to lick my wounds in front of the computer, only to read that U3A shrikefinder general Jeff Butcher had also visited MY patch and had found TWO YWs in the same spot as Mr. Woodruff.

Traumatising. Whether today's yellow fever relates to 'just' two or the more likely three individuals is difficult to say, but either way, it's a very good result for this species in 21st Century Aldcliffe.

In other yellow news. 2-3 male Brimstone butterflies were seen patrolling. Also an early Green-veined White.



Friday, 11 April 2014

We Three Rings

Dan reporting, on a clear and sunny day with a few migrants but like yesterday little to shout about.

Three Little Ringed Plovers were together on The Flood, while a male Wheatear was not too far away on the saltmarsh.

A Lesser Whitethroat was singing near the young spruce plantation that will hopefully attract groppers in the next few years. Willow Warblers weren't much in evidence but Chiffchaffs could be seen and heard very easily, with around 15 noted this morning. Two female Blackcaps were in the vicinity of two babbling males near Stodday. The singing Song Thrush pictured was nearby.

A little visible migration was noted between 0800 and 0900, with at least 30 Meadow Pipits, 15 Siskins and 12 Lesser Redpolls over and heading N. There was then an hour-long lull for no obvious reason-- then a few more northbound MP, SK and LR.

A Lesser Redpoll was quietly trilling in a tree near Aldcliffe village , and a Grey Partridge was calling by the sewage works tanks.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Emberiza Synthesizer?

Hello. Dan here.

The parish was full of colour and song early morning, nowhere moreso than the Stodday stretch of the path. Aside from the strident sounds of Wrens, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs and Greenfinches, a Greenshank (fairly scarce here in spring) called noisily as it flew upriver.

Three Kestrels were chittering as they played kiss chase around one of the pylons.

Faint strains of something akin to Yellowhammer song were heard from the Aspen plantation, but its source wasn't sighted. It could have been the one that got away, or it could have been a Blackcap, since the troubadour pictured above was skilled at mimicry, with overtures featuring the alarm calls of Swallow, Robin and Blackbird.

Three Eiders (two drakes) were on the estuary. Some rather high vis. was limited to c25 Meadow Pipits, some typically invisible Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll, all heading NNW.

Late afternoon saw a bit of Sand Martin passage with c25 noted over Willow Lane.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Know Your Linnets

Dan here.

A day of changeable skies, with a half-decent list of summer migrants for so early in April, but nothing too exciting found.

A smattering of hirundines were passing through in the afternoon, with 2 Swallows and 12 Sand Martins noted.  Morning vis seemed non-existent in evidently unfavourable weather.

Three male Blackcaps were around the Stodday zone of the shared use path, with a female in the Aspen plantation there. 4-5 Chiffchaffs here.

Chromedome-- the pale headed Long-tailed Tit was back on his sewage works beat after moonlighting up at Dawson's Bank.

Four Willow Warblers were in song along Upper Track, as well as three Chiffchaffs...much Goldfinch activity in the hedgerows and five or six male Greenfinches displaying along the main drag.

Just one Wheatear was noted, at first feeding on a dung heap, then flitting out onto the saltmarsh.

Little Ringed Plovers comprised the male and the (rather drab) probable female as snapped above, and a third bird seen by U3A bird-finder extraordinaire Jeff Butcher. No sign of any Green Sandpipers today.

A nice count of 77 Linnets was made late afternoon, though when a female Sparrowhawk shot through the maize stubble fields many more (perhaps 120 in total) were spooked, along with c100 Meadow Pipits.

A Grey Partridge was singing near Frog Pond.

A non-breeding plumage Great Crested Grebe was near the pylons, where 4 Ravens were interacting.

Butterflies seemed to be in short supply even when the sun came out--  two Peacocks were on the wing.

Yesterday evening a Lesser Whitethroat-- perhaps Jon's bird from the other day-- was singing in what's left of Freeman's Scrub. Such an early arrival for this species (average early date about the 15th of April).


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Eider Known You Were Coming, Eider Baked a Cake...

This morning's check around the patch was at least a dry one, but that wind was way too westerly for anything much in the way of migrants. Back when I worked in Morecambe I would visit the Stone Jetty daily, pre-work and again at lunchtime. Onshore winds in spring could be pretty productive there, but sadly Aldcliffe rarely benefits from such conditions.
Consequently, I found little of note. Freeman's Pools were bereft of all wildfowl and waders (had some predator or early local dog-walker with a footpath aversion cleared everything out?). 3 little egrets were fishing there, plus a trio of roe deer were grazing the southern perimeter but that was about it. Three sand martin were feeding over the main pool.
A pair of grey partridge were in the fields to the south of the bunds.
The Wildfowlers' Pools held at least 6 gadwall, a drake wigeon and a handful of teal and shelduck.
Multiple chiffchaffs continue to sing from the cycle track shrubbery with a solitary willow warbler in much the same place as yesterday.
Interesting to see that a pair of red-breasted merganser and 5 eider were on the river.
The 70 or so pinkfeet were still on Colloway, and a peregrine was patrolling the estuary but there was no sign of anything new in.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Crappy Monday

The early murk and drizzle looked promising and so I headed off to scour the patch in search of migrant birds. I got a thorough soaking and ended up chilled to the bone during my two hours trawl of all the Aldcliffe hotspots.
Well dear readers, I'm sorry to say that my customary optimism once again failed to pay off and it was really very poor out there. Such is the way for those familiar with birding Aldcliffe.
The various pools and the Flood were all unremarkable with no sign of anything off-passage; out on the marsh there was little of note looming in the gloom.
All along the cycle track the ever-present sound of singing chiffchaffs was encouraging, but I could only locate a single willow warbler - my first for the year. Cheered up by this sweet voiced migrant, I piled on and found just 3 singing blackcaps between the cutting and Stodday.
A red-breasted merganser on the Lune was the only duck of interest, while c70 lingering pink-footed geese grazed out on Colloway Marsh.

Let's just hope that next time I get a day off, conditions are a bit more 'birdy'...


Friday, 4 April 2014

Ouz a Pretty Girl Then?

Dan here.

A female Ring Ouzel was a most unexpected find in the parish this evening (03/04/14). It was feeding the tidal debris near the paddocks on the Stodday stretch of the estuary, before spotting me, giving a series of  lovely dry crackly alarm calls and spreading its silver-grey wings to escape.

I saw it again few minutes later as it rose from the narrow walled field near the pylons and paused on a small tree... at which point I managed to get a single photo-- which was as rubbish a shot of an ouzel (with its back turned) as can be.

It got away and to my chagrin I couldn't reconnect. Me first lowland RZ round here. What a bonnie thrush.

A female Blackcap wasn't too far from two males near the sewage works, and six Chiffchaffs were within 200m of each other. 2 Goldcrests were calling from ivy-clad hawthorns close by.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Lesser Is More

Thank goodness Dan's been getting out and about lots lately - my schedule of late has meant that my own Aldcliffe time has been minimal at best!
The only things I can add to Dan's thorough postings are a female little ringed plover on the Flood and a couple of wheatears that were on the marsh on Monday. Oh, and 4 wheatears were also on the improved scrape in the new FLORA reserve area in Fairfield on the Sunday.

Brambling female
I was actually away last weekend in County Durham and Northumberland. I had hoped to get out and look for black grouse, as we were in the heart of that scarce species' North Pennine range, but we were seriously festooned by fog and visibility was appalling.
Bramblng male
Nonetheless we did find a long-tailed duck at Derwent Reservoir and a flock of brambling that were kicking around in the garden of  Edmundbyers youth hostel. These two pics were taken through the kitchen window...

Now, back to Aldcliffe and my first chance for a good root around for several days. This morning I covered most of the patch and was pleased to at least find a couple of decentish things.
A scattering of sand martins passed through in small groups - I saw around 30 in total, with one trio attended by a pair of swallows - my first for the year.

Wheatear male
I could only find 5 wheatears between Stodday and Marsh Point (male pictured) and even meadow pipit numbers were minimal with just 22 counted all morning.
Linnets seem to be all over the place at the moment; hopefully we will have some stick around to breed in the Aldcliffe area. I could hear at least 5 different singing skylarks over the marsh, obviously a fraction of the numbers of 20 years ago but still pretty encouraging nonetheless.

Black swan & mute swans
I kept my eyes to the skies all morning but sadly I failed to connect with any passing fish-hawks - there's still lots of time, so I'm sure I'll bump into one sooner or later.
The two true highlights came toward the end of the morning when first, I spotted a black swan out on the marsh with the 'resident' mutes. Obviously, this isn't rally a highlight as this bird of dodgy provenance is clearly a fence-hopper and presumably the same swan seen over the winter in the Cockersands / Jeremy Lane area.
The second highlight was a genuine one; a lesser whitethroat. This bird caught my attention as it actively gleaned for insects in a budding hawthorn, constantly emitting its subtle sub-song. It eventually started singing fully, if briefly before continuing to feed up. Nice!
I'll need to check my old notebooks and LDBWS reports but I expect this is the earliest date I've ever recorded 'lesserthroat' here. Interesting to note that Bryan Yorke had one yesterday up at Dalton - see his blog here: I Love Arnside & Silverdale 


02/04/14: Anthus on a Postcard

Dan again. Hello.

My Aldcliffe birds on the second of April were scribbled on a small piece of paper in a high wind... I can't read some of the tallies too well.... but I think it went like this:

Vis 1015-1315

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) --488 (220 NE in 1st hour, 201 NE in 2nd 2, 67 in hour 3)

Goldfinch-- 37 NE

Siskin-- 7 NE

Sand Martin 26 N & NE

Pink-Footed Goose 4N

Golden Plover 16NE

Where are all the flyover Pied Wags this spring?


Not too much to else to report, highlights being 2 Stock Doves, 3 Blackcaps, 4 Goldcrests and 2 Green Sandpipers. 40 Linnets were in the maize stubble.

Lowlight was a dog-walker-for-hire exercising 8 or 9 dogs in the Wildfowlers Pools field. Birds sent flying in terror included potential breeders like Gadwall (4) Lapwing (4) Shelduck (4) Oystercatcher (3) Redshank (7) and also some Wigeon, Teal and Starlings. Very thorough disturbance.

If there were such a thing as an AASBO (Aldcliffe Antisocial Behaviour Order)... I'd slap one on him.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Fishkillers In the Mist, or Haliaetus Highway

Osprey over Aldcliffe


Hello Dan here. Happy April.

This morning was rather still, grey and murky. I was considering doing another Osprey vis vigil from the trig point, but with of all of its 33 metres ASL it was in the clouds at times, and I opted to lie in and go out if and when visibility improved.

Just as I was preparing to leave the house at I got a text from a plucky Fylde birder saying that he'd just been watching an Osprey circling over Crook Farm a few miles down the estuary.
I rushed out to try and intercept it-- which I wouldn't have attempted had it not been for the encouraging word 'circling'. If the Osprey had been straight-ahead shifting like my bird of last week it would have been half way to Speyside by the time I'd tied my laces. With a leisurely circler, I thought I stood a chance.

Eight minutes later I was scanning from the bund part of the track, and couldn't see any raptors at all. Worst still, there were none of the clamouring gulls and crazed waders that accompany any decent Osprey visitation. But a minute or two later the ghostly outline of a Pandion haliaetus materialised  out of the swirling base of the cloud. I lifted my bins only to see it enshrouded once more. Luckily, the leisurely circler reappeared right above me and got two maize field Oystercatchers, two Freeman's Pools LBBs and my camera zoom agitated.

It was probably only 100 feet (imperial-looking bird!) up as it lazily headed NE over the wood and over towards the quay road.

Other birds noted in the parish included 3 male Wheatears, two Willow Warblers in the hedgerows, 2 Green Sandpipers and 4 Goldcrests. Several volleys of Sand Martins amounted to about 25 by 11AM.
'The' Blackcap was singing in the sewage works Aspens, while another male was 200m down the track. About 400 Pink-footed Goose were on Colloway Marsh.

From just south of the pylons I noticed another hefty bird of prey swiftly flapping N over Lades Marsh at a height of about 30m. It could well have been another seahawk (it even had a few gulls chasing it) but it was a bit too distant-- and fleeting-- to say for sure.

As I type, I notice that another Osprey was seen heading N near Blackpool this teatime. They must really be piling in at present. Do any readers know whether a percentage of passage Ospreys in England are thought to be heading for Sweden or Finland? Or are they all assumed to be heading for Scotland?