Thursday, 28 August 2014

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Clouded Yellow Delight

After the sudden appearance of 'autumn', it was nice to get out this morning and feel the August sun beating down once again.
Highlights from my birding trawl around Aldcliffe included the following:
Marsh harrier (juv) hunting over Heaton Marsh. I didn't see any here in spring, so this bird represents the first patch record for the year.   
2 green sandpiper. 1 on the Flood, another on the upper ponds at Freeman's Pools.
A single wheatear was also by the Flood along with half a dozen pied wagtails.
The lone wigeon from a few days ago was on Frog Pond.
Again, there were phylloscs all over the place, the majority being chiffchaff but a few willow warblers were still hanging around.

The sun had brought plenty of common butterflies out but I was thrilled to find a clouded yellow near Marsh Point. I'm pretty sure I must have seen one or two in the Aldcliffe area over the years but without going through all my old notebooks I can't actually recall when I last saw one on the patch...


Same Site, Same Day, Different Sightings!

Hello Jon!

Dan here.

I too had a look around today, and though I wish I could have connected with your Marsh Harrier it was a bird-filled visit nonetheless.

My best bird was a Tree Pipit which was quietly sitting in a bush before heading off to the E. Also eastbound were 35 migrating Sand Martins with perhaps four times that number of Swallows seen on the move mid-morning.

Six House Sparrows and two Mediterranean Gulls flew south. A few Whitethroats and two Lesser Whitethroats were loosely associating with the Chiffchaff hordes.

A Holly Blue (some way from any foodplants) was my best butterfly. Wel jel of your Clouded Yellow. My last Aldcliffe sighting was eight autumns ago.

Pictured above is a Brown Hawker. Pleased to finally get a decent snap of what is a common, but very camera shy insect!


Thursday, 21 August 2014

All The Fun Of The Fair

Once again I trudged down to the estuary this morning for a spot of optimistic birding at Aldcliffe...
It was blustery with occasional showers and to be frank, it was a little bit grim. 
First off, I checked Freeman's Pool where the excitement was limited to a pair of tufted duck, 3 gadwall a lone wigeon and 8 little grebes, one of which was feeding a pair of recently hatched fluffy chicks.
Darter Pool and Frog Pond were quiet, bar the regulars. 
The Wildfowlers' Pools were slightly more interesting with an influx of 18 teal, a couple of snipe and a kingfisher dashing around.
The Flood was hosting a pair of green sandpiper, a single redshank and 15 alba wagtails. 
The gusty winds made scanning the estuary all but impossible, but even through my watering eyes I could tell there wasn't much going on.

Last time I came down, on Tuesday, it was actually rather lovely; bright sunshine and calm conditions. Quite a contrast.   
The highlights included 2 whimbrel and a couple of common sandpiper on the river. A distinctive and immediately recognisable call alerted me to the presence of a golden plover in amongst a flock of descending lapwing at Gull Bank.  
Two green sandpipers were on the Wildfowlers' Pools.

The hedgerows were positively jumping with common migrant passerines, chiefly chiffchaffs plus a couple of willow warblers and a female blackcap.  

The RSPB stand at Birdfair 2014
Last weekend I was down at Rutland Water for the annual Birdfair.
This massive event attracts thousands of birders, and hundreds of people who wish to sell stuff to thousands of birders.
As well as an enormous array of stalls flogging selling everything imaginable including optics, books, outdoor clothing, holidays and original artwork there are also lots of conservation organisations there to raise profiles and funds.
For many visitors to Birdfair, a main focus of the 3-day event is the broad range of lectures and talks by a wide variety of speakers. 'Celebs' such as Chris Packham and Bill Oddie will often pack them in, while numerous authors, scientists and all manner of professional-hobby-birders deliver myriad talks to the masses.
Me and Rich get photo-bombed by a hen harrier...
It really is a great event and although I was working on the RSPB stand for most of the 2 days I was there I still manged to find time to catch up with some old chums, including my mate Rich Mooney who I met while living in Canada.
If you have never been to Birdfair, make a note in your calendar for next year. 


Monday, 11 August 2014

High Winds and High Tides

Rising Tide - Aldcliffe
With high winds and high tides, my optimism-ometer has been on overload for the past couple of days. Surely I could hope to find some gale-blown waif in the Aldcliffe area? Turns out, not.
Yesterday's meager highlights were a trio of green sandpiper (1 on the Flood, and 2 at the Wildfowlers' Pools where there were also 3 snipe) and a single adult Mediterranean gull on Gull Bank. Other stuff of note included several dunlin and just 1 common sandpiper on the river & 19 little egret fishing on the dropping tide. Another common sandpiper was at Freeman's Pools, as were 8 little grebe. One of the adult grebes was tending a nest; this species has a track record for late breeding at this site.
The doe roe deer was also seen, along with her fast-growing triplet fawns.

Painted lady
Today was slightly better, but there were still no little gulls or breeze-buffeted terns to excite this easily-bored birder. A female tufted duck was cream of the crop at Freeman's Pools, while Darter Pool and Frog Pond drew blanks. A trio of golden plover flew over - my first patch post-breeders of the year.
There were at least 4, though possibly 6, green sandpiper at the Wildfowlers' Pools. The Flood was bereft bar a scattering of pied wagtails and a couple of ubiquitous moorhen.
The incoming tide provided some interest including a tight flock of 7 common sandpiper but once again there was nothing unusual lurking among the mass of commoner birds.
A lone rook probing in the fields to the east of the cinder path was notable - these characterful crows are pretty scarce visitors to Aldcliffe.
Non-avian additions included a painted lady (pictured) and stoats at Freeman's Pools and along the track near Walled Meadow.

Common lizard
Last Friday I paid a visit to Foulshaw Moss with Gav Thomas, where we not only saw up to 3 of the ospreys present but also a marsh harrier, lots of stonechats and a single migrant whinchat.
We also spied a few common lizards. These highly variable reptiles were sunning themselves along the boardwalk and were quite approachable with patience. The photo here was taken using my phone.


Monday, 4 August 2014

The Magnifent Seven

There were seven green sandpipers on the Wildfowlers' Pools this morning, all snoozing in the most visible corner by the old tyre and easily seen from the metal gate.
Other than a trio of snipe and a small flock of 5 teal there wasn't much else going on. The other pools were pretty quiet, with no sign of any other waders (or owt else for that matter) passing through.
A scan from the marsh over Gull Bank revealed little of note - just the expected build up of lapwing and post-breeding black-headed gulls. I was rather disappointed not to find any Mediterranean gulls among the birds loafing on the mudflats; we can normally expect to get one or two here at this time of year.
Hopefully someone will discover a wood sandpiper or something of that ilk (or perhaps even more exciting) in the near future. It's just a case of getting out and checking those pools as often as we can!