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 


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