Sunday, 28 September 2014

Reed On

Hello-- Dan again.

I was able to give the parish more attention this morning, but not a lot seemed to be happening.

Best find was a Reed Warbler feeding in hawthorn bushes by the sewage works-- it's been a good autumn for this species.

Golden Plovers on the estuary mud numbered 130. Eighteen Black-tailed Godwits flew south and 5 Snipe flew east.

Vis was quite limited, with just 70 Meadow Pipits S in four hours. 32 pinkfeet went south and 22 headed north. Two Jays flew N over Stodday.

Today was my first blank visit for vis mig Grey Wagtails for four weeks, but at least five were feeding in and around the sewage works, including two clambering around the interior of a bush, snapping at small flies.

Five Goldcrests and five Chiffchaffs were found, and a Treecreeper was calling in Freeman's Wood. Twenty Swallows were perching by the Wildfowlers Pools.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Flying Vis-it

Dan here.

An all-too-brief visit mid-morning revealed that a fair bit of mid-autumn vis was ongoing.

Several small skeins of pinkfeet were seen heading S over Heaton and Overton, and 150 Meadow Pipits, 18 alba wags, 2 Grey Wagtails, 7 Chaffinches, 6 Skylarks and a Song Thrush all headed SSE in the space of an hour.

Not much time to bash the bushes but 3 Chiffchaffs, 12 Long-tailed Tits and a Jay were quite conspicuous.


In The Pink

A quick post-work dash around the patch yesterday (Friday) late afternoon had me connecting with my first pink-footed geese of the autumn. A skein of approximately 100 birds passed over, heading in a south-westerly direction.
There have been several sighting of pinkfeet in the local area in recent days, and Aldcliffe stalwart Dan H had a flock of 21 barnacle geese over at Sunderland Point a few days ago. At Aldliffe we usually have good numbers of geese passing over at this time of year with very few bothering to land on the Lune salt marshes or adjacent fields. However, in the late winter when birds are heading back north from East Anglia we get thousands touching down for often prolonged periods.
The only other birds of note were a couple of green sandpiper, one each at the Flood and Frog Pond.


Monday, 22 September 2014

A Bit Aukward Down Aukliffe

Hello. Dan here.

Every year we have a few Guillemots that tire of the monotony of the Irish Sea and drift up the Lune estuary on the rising tide to gaze upon our beautiful parish.

So I was blasé when I saw an auk doing the same today. Reviewing shots it looks like I fumbled a first-winter Razorbill-- which is a patch first.

Please accept my dodgy photo as penance for not being at all razor-sharp.

Aside from this rather passive auk movement, there was a little bit of visible migration this morning with an eastbound Rock Pipit the pick of the lot, and a creditable 10 Grey Wagtails. A similar number of alba wags went SE as did 5 Skylarks. Meadow Pipit vis. scarcely registered, with a mere 30 or 40.

More dramatic were the first skeins of Pink-footed Goose, with 50+20 N and 26 south, and the attractive circumzenithal arc pictured above.

Songbirds on the deck included 2 Stonechats, 5 Song Thrushes, 17 Chiffchaffs and 8 Goldcrests.

Wader interest included a Greenshank, a late-ish Common Sandpiper, 48 Golden Plovers and a Green Sandpiper.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Quiet Patch

Jon here.
I've had a busy few weeks and opportunities for birding Aldcliffe have been scarce, to say the least. Thanks as ever to Dan for covering the patch so diligently and for regularly updating the blog!

Last week I was on Jersey, visiting my brother Paul. I didn't get much time for birding but of course I had my bins with me wherever I went on the island.
I stumbled across plenty of common migrants including several spotted flycatchers, reed warblers, blackcaps and such, plus regular marsh harriers and the occasional hobby. Highlights included great white egret, cetti's warbler and black-necked grebe at St Ouen's Pond while a couple of birds I quite fancied running into totally eluded me. These were Dartford warbler, which unlike good Victorian children were heard but not seen, and short-toed treecreeper, which despite being a common resident proved otherwise during my visit.

Yesterday, I actually found a couple of hours to get down to Aldcliffe and have a good kick around. It seemed pretty quiet on the whole, though I suspect my arrival around 9am meant that I'd missed the best window of activity.
Freeman's Pools were hosting an impressive 10 little grebes, though not much else bar a trio of tufted duck and the usual other bits and pieces (plus a dead juv great black-backed gull on the island). A small increase in common teal numbers was evident but still no sign of any garganey - are we going to have a totally blank year?
7 wigeon were on Frog Pond along with the expected mallard & teal.
The maize fields continue to attract good numbers of chaffinch and reed bunting plus a single goldcrest was in the hawthorn hedge there.

A small number of chiffchaff were evident throughout the area but on the whole common migrants were very thin on the ground. The only other warbler seen was a lesser whitethroat by the Flood.
At the Wildfowlers' Pools a single green sandpiper was still in residence. Another pair of little grebe were also here as was a kingfisher and couple of snipe.
Out on the estuary a group of c40 golden plover were mixed in with the roosting lapwing on Gull Bank. There was nothing of note among the throng of black-headed gulls along the river, just the usual dozen or so little egrets.
A greenshank was feeding on the Lune by Cadaver Corner and another kingfisher was also seen here.
Good numbers of swallows were on the move throughout the morning; the only other 'vis' included small numbers of meadow pipit (compared with the huge movements a short distance away at Heysham & Sunderland Point), 2 skylarks and 7 grey wagtails.
Butterflies were out in force including the comma pictured here and dragonflies included common darter and migrant hawker (also pictured).     

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Reed-only File

Dan here.

A quick (doubtless too quick) poke around the parish this morning yielded little to pique my interest other than 2-3 Reed Warblers- including the extrovert pictured above.

In my ignorance, I'd thought that acros were strictly insectivorous but two RW were gobbling Hawthorn berries like there was no tomorrow. A fruit hard to come by to the south of the Sahara, happen...

Aside from these, I only managed to scrape together 15 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest in terms of warblers and allies.

The giraffe-pattern skies were more conducive to visible migration passerines than yesterday, and I counted 110 Meadow Pipits heading SSE between 0800 and 0930. In the same period I noted 3 southbound Chaffinches (first CH vis of the autumn here!) and a Grey Wagtail. There were plenty of Swallows milling about but no clear signs of passage.

This morning's miscellany contains a Kingfisher, a Green Sandpiper, two Jays, 5 Snipe and a Stock Dove.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Damp Patch

Hi-- Dan once again.

Lancaster was drizzly this morning and so was the patch. I made an all-too-brief visit as the rain was letting up.

Dunlin cries greeted my arrival and I looked up to see 4 heading ENE and away over the city. Greenshank sounds emanated from the Marsh Point area but I couldn't locate the creature itself.

Freeman's Pools was hosting 12 Wigeon, 17 Teal, 5 each of Gadwall & Little Grebe, and a piping trio of Kingfishers.

Two Wheatears were present as were 19 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 3 Song Thrushes. Chaffinches in and around the maize field numbered 40.

Unsurprisingly given the damp and gloomy conditions, vis mig seemed quite limited with just 2 Grey Wagtails and 5 Meadow Pipits noted making their way south in the space of an hour and a bit-- plus 2 northbound Tree Sparrows. A few airborne Skylarks were heard but not seen.

Around one hundred Swallows were congregating near the Wildfowlers Pools.

A Stoat was seen bounding down the path with a shrew in its jaws.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Wrong type of Migrants

Dan here. Hello.

A brief afternoon visit wasn't too inspiring, with 5 or 6 Chiffchaffs, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Rooks and a heard-only Kingfisher the pick of the aves. Four Snipe were also noted.

Six or seven Migrant Hawker dragonflies were on the wing despite overcast skies, including 3 at Freeman's Pools.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Foxy Greyday

Dan here. Hello.

As well as having a few Grey Wagtails over, this morning was literally grey for the first couple of hours. 2+1+1 of the aforementioned went SSE under low dark cloud.

Vis limped on with just 8 Meadow Pipits until about ten o clock, when the sun came out, a light breeze got up and the sky cleared to the north. At this point the floodgates opened.... or rather another Grey Wag headed south and 2 Tree Sparrows and 2 alba wagtails went over, W!

While there wasn't much on the deck, it was perhaps a little better than last time and with persistence my Chiffchaff count got to 22. It was very still first thing and in the hush Chiffchaff beaks snapping shut on flies were perfectly audible.

Goldcrests were easier heard than seen but five or six were listed. A Willow Warbler juv, an adult Blackcap and one each of juv Common and Lesser Whitethroat all surrendered so reluctantly you'd think they were big rares. All good practice, I suppose...but bird of the day was nevertheless a fox (pictured).

In the miscellaneous paragraph are a family party of six Grey Partridges, two roving GS Woodpeckers, 2 Stock Doves, a Green Sandpiper and a Snipe.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Grey Day

ST near the maize field.
Dan here.

Blue skies this morning but little to excite bird-wise. The bushes were emptier than they have been in days (if not weeks) and the vis (c50 Mipits per hour, a party of 5 Tree Sparrows, 4 Grey Wagtails and some unseen Skylarks) was a little too high and sparse to be very engrossing.

Four Grey Wagtails were at the flood for a time, with another quartet at the sewage works.



I can only add that 2 green sandpiper were on the Wildfowlers' Pools around midday. Just OOA was a smart little stint at the Conder estuary (thanks to Paul Ellis & Paul Slade) and a fishing common tern there too.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

No Rain, No Gain

The early morning rain had me all excited and I headed out to Aldcliffe with high expectations. To be honest, I always head out with high (some may say, unrealistic) expectations but morning rain during migration time never fails to get the optimism-ometer really revved up.
It was soon pretty clear that there were loads of grounded chiffchaffs around, I must have seen well in excess of 40 around the patch. The largest number involved a lively tit-flock that was actually more of a chiffchaff flock and contained 18 chiffs plus a single willow warbler.
After yesterday's acro-fest, I didn't come across a single reed or sedge warbler today but I did find 3 common whitethroat, 1 lesser whitethroat and a lone blackcap.
There were 3 wheatear at the Flood and a further 8 (at least) on the Marsh.
When the rain finally stopped things changed quite rapidly with northbound skylarks, meadow pipits and 5 grey wagtails audibly announcing their presence. Hirundines too started to move and along with birds stopping to feed small gangs of swallow and house martin passed through at height.
Alas, there were no wrynecks or even whinchat or redstart to get the pulse racing but nonetheless it's always a thrill to get out when things are clearly on the move.
Other stuff around the Aldcliffe patch included an increase in the number of gadwall on Freeman's Pools (now 6), the kingfisher in-residence at the Wildfowlers' Pools and at least a dozen reed bunting  and a pair of linnet by the maize fields.
I had ace views of a stoat along the cycle track and a couple of roe deer were up by Freeman's.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Acro Batty


Dan again, reporting on another morning visit with one eye on the bushes and another on the sky.

A long-billed warbler clambering around treetops dwarfing a couple of Chiffchaffs had my pulse racing early on, till I got better views and saw it was just a Reed Warbler.

It flitted into a more photo-accessible elder where I got this snap which shows that it had been fitted with a ring.

Twenty minutes went by and I was looking at a second RW foraging in some thistles close to the maize fields. Later Mr. Carter had this or a third bird near the sea of not-so-sweetcorn (I've sampled it). No doubt the reed-alike maize cover is what has been attracting these night migrants.

Who knows what might be lurking in there? Perhaps Mr. Draper would like to come down with some nets. I'll assist!

Though hardly super-exciting, the Reed Warblers (which are fairly scarce here and do not breed) nevertheless show that passerines are on the move and that Aldcliffe can pull them in.

Two or three (late-ish?) juv Sedge Warblers were also encountered, but warbler numbers seemed down on yesterday with 18 Chiffchaffs, 2-3 Lesser & one Common Whitethroat, a Willow Warbler and 4 Goldcrests noted.

Songbird numbers seemed lower in general, with far fewer Robins, tits and finches at large.

Visible migration was more steady than yesterday but hardly heavy, with c30 per hour of Meadow Pipits (mainly SE) and 4 southbound Grey Wagtails early on. Later a further three GLs dropped in to the flood for a short time and 3 were also noted at the more regular haunt of the sewage works.

A flock of five Skylarks headed E, but they seemed a little early in the morning and a little too low in the air for bona fide migrants.

The soft sounds of House Martins were heard at times but when I found them they were very high and somewhat directionless-- so whether it was a leisurely exodus or local birds (or both) was unclear.

In the miscellaneous bracket today were two Jays moving back and forth along Dawsons Bank-- perhaps caching acorns, two Kestrels, a Kingfisher and a lone Green Sandpiper.

This Sparrowhawk paused for a photo... it too seemed to be lamenting the paucity of tasty migrants


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Nice Spot

Dan here.

A humid early to mid-morning session was spent bush-bashing (with occasional sky-watching and balsam-pulling breaks) in hopes of finding a rare passerine.

No such luck, but a migrant Spotted Flycatcher near the wildfowlers pools was a very welcome sight.

Goldcrest passage has started a little early, with a creditable 6 moving through the hedgerows, as well as 5 Lesser Whitethroats, a Whitethroat, a Blackcap, 2 Willow Warblers and c30 Chiffchaffs.

Robin numbers seemed to be elevated (20+ noted), and Blue Tit (30) and Dunnock (15) seemed particularly numerous  today too.

A male Wheatear was hopping around on the marsh.

Thirty bramble-, haw- and sloe-stained Greenfinches were present and a flock of Goldfinches feeding on saltmarsh plants just topped a hundred.

Visible migration was quite thin on the sky, with 18 southbound Meadow Pipits all I could detect. Three Skylarks flew low W, but a copse blocked my view of how far they went and they might not truly belong in this paragraph. 4 southbound Snipe possibly fit the bill.

Two adult summer Common Terns were seen to fish beneath the estuary pylons- no doubt to feed offspring at Conder Pool.

In the miscellany paragraph are a sewage works Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 5 Grey Wagtails... and one each of Painted Lady and Red Admiral broke the Speckled Wood monotony.


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Subtly Autumnal

Chiffchaff and Mediterranean Gull, today. DH.

Hello. Dan here.

In the summery sunshine this morning, it was deceptively quiet. I had to strain my eyes and ears to find out that autumn passage was well underway overhead-- the faintest of squeaks alerted me to specks of Meadow Pipits heading south (about 50 between 0800 and 1000) and similarly high Swallows migrating S and E (around 80).

A southbound Grey Wagtail was only a little more conspicuous, and a lost-looking, restless trio of Tree Sparrows was heading north.

On close inspection, the hedgerows were seen to full be of Chiffchaffs (at least 30 along the main drag today) with smaller numbers of Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats, but no matter what the throughput may be, this has been the case for some weeks.

A juvenile Sedge Warbler was my first here for a while...but looking past warblers a few small  flocks of Chaffinch, a Jay hopping around the walled meadow before heading W and an increase in Robins were all positively Octoberish.

I couldn't connect with any quality vis (some Tree Pipits would've been nice) or skulkers (a Jynx torquilla or even just a Redstart) and indeed the best birds-- a Green Sand and a Med-- are three-season species, but under the sunny surface, the morning was distinctly autumnal.