Wednesday, 30 December 2015

So Long 2015...

Better than a soggy dunnock?
I manged to escape post-flood Lancaster and the pre-Christmas chaos by legging it to Florida for most of mid-December. The warmth and bright skies were most welcome.
I'm lucky enough to have been to this part of the world on a number of occasions and as a result I've seen most the birds that one might hope to encounter in the south eastern states. However, there are always one or two that slip through the net and so I decided to target one of these few birds missing from my list... the rest of our time was spent relaxing and simply enjoying walking around (always with my bins, naturally).
The 'new' bird I wanted was appropriately seasonal too - wild turkey. I've been in lots of places where these avian giants occur but I had so far failed to track one down so, armed with some quality gen I set off in search of my quarry. Fortunately the site was very close to a reserve that I'd always wanted to visit, the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Anyway, without boring you with all the thrilling details of our visit, we did find our Christmas turkeys (a nice flock feeding with sandhill cranes) and also spent a few hours enjoying the many birds, butterflies, mammals and reptiles of the fabulous preserve.

Where the Wildfowlers' Pools should be...
My first visit to the Aldcliffe patch following our return to Blighty was, let's say, somewhat uninspiring. After a several days of being surrounded by pelicans, royal terns, palm warbersmockingbirds and painted buntings the soggy, sorry gaggle of greylags and bobbing coot failed to get me excited. Even the massive amounts of water in the fields had failed to attract anything new. I managed to convince myself that a lone chiffchaff, a pair of grey partridge and couple of hundred pink-footed geese were well worth the effort through.

I had my final trawl of 2015 this morning, desperate to close the year with something of note. Of course, the amount of standing water is quite exceptional but given the mild conditions there appears to be very little movement of water birds into the area. Most things simply seem to have moved from Freeman's Pools to the fully submerged Wildfowlers' Pools (ie 18 gadwall, 22 coot, 8 goldeneye). A nice cold snap would hopefully see some notable arrivals.
The only 'new' birds were 3 shoveler (one adult drake, a 1st winter drake and a female) on the flooded fields to the east of the upper cinder track.
Once again the chiffchaff was in the same area again in the hedgerows near the Wildfowers' Pools gate. Nearby, a single redwing was with a small group of blackbirds and a couple of song thrush.
There were still c200 pinkfeet present in Frog Pond field.
A further 5 goldeneye were at Freeman's Pools along with 3 little grebe, another dozen or so coot, 18 teal and a handful of wigeon.

What the early part of 2016 will bring will largely depend on what happens weather-wise. I'm guessing we won't see much in the way of massive change, but it would be nice to get some colder, northern air in along with some of those classic winter birds. It still seems very much like autumn to me...
In the meantime, I'd like to wish all readers a very pleasant New Year and an enjoyable (flood-free) 12 months ahead.
Feliz año nuevo!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Whooper Heroes

Five of the eight whoopers with a pair of mute swans
This morning there were 8 adult whooper swans on Aldcliffe Marsh, along with several mute swans. These are the first that I have seen locally this autumn/winter. They seemed quite nervous and became agitated when a couple walked along with a dog. The then flew toward the river's edge and alighted, so they may well stick around for a while if they don't get too disturbed.

Nearby, a nice mixed flock of passerines included 9 tree sparrow and 7 reed bunting along with the commoner finch species. They were feeding in the stubble fields and flying up periodically into the hedgerow along Dawson's Bank.

There was no sign of yesterday's barnacle goose or the 80-plus pink-footed geese that had dropped in to join the greylags. In fact there were very few greylags to be seen; a hundred or so Canada geese were out on the marsh.

I've been spending a bit of time reading the collars on some of these greylag in recent days and am waiting to hear back about their origins. I suspect that, like most of the collared greylags that visit Aldcliffe, they're from the Lake District feral populations. But, as orange collars are apparently used on this species throughout the UK (and there were certainly some that I hadn't read here before) it might just be that we have one or two from a little further afield...

Despite my optimism I was unable to find any interesting storm blown birds earlier in the week, but I didn't half give it a good go in some very testing conditions!
As anyone who has visited the area in recent weeks will know, a significant (and increasing) stretch of the cycle track is completely submerged between the parking area at Aldcliffe Hall Lane and the Wildfowlers' Pools. It's pretty deep in parts and can just about be managed by bike but you'll definitely get very wet feet.
The fields around the Wildfowlers' Pools are really sodden and have been attracting good numbers of teal and redshank as well as one or two goldeneye.

Other recent highlights from the patch have included and adult Mediterranean gull on the Lune at Marsh Point yesterday morning, a pair of grey partridge near Walled Meadow, a couple of stock doves and while I was out looking for owls on Monday (the one calm evening we seem to have had in some time!) I noticed two woodcock flying out from Freeman's Wood to feed in the fields.


Friday, 27 November 2015

A-maizing Geese

Highlights from visits yesterday morning and again today were the huge numbers of geese working their way through the maize fields. Unfortunately, I couldn't see any 'wild' geese, but at least 800 greylags (including a handful of orange-collared birds) and around 150 Canada geese were present.
Obviously, such a large concentration of geese at a solid food source could easily pull in some passing geese of less dubious origin so regular checks should prove worthwhile (as per the whitefronts recently).
Freeman's Pools had 6 goldeneye in residence, along with ever growing numbers of gadwall, plus 3 tufted duck.
The hedges around the maize fields were positively jumping with chaffinches and reed buntings, yesterday. The only other things I could find among them were a pair of tree sparrows.
A couple of stock dove are still kicking around the area and good numbers of fieldfare, plus a smattering of redwing continue to feast on the remaining berries.
Raptors have been in short supply lately with just the occasional sparrowhawk and kestrel being seen with any regularity. I had great views however of a merlin in pursuit of a snipe over The Flood yesterday morning.
I haven't seen anything particularly interesting drifting in with the rising high tides, but if the current forecast comes to fruition we might have better luck with some windblown waif in the next couple of days.


Monday, 23 November 2015

Cold Comfort

I nipped down to Aldcliffe on Friday to see if the whitefronts were still around but alas, they appeared to have moved on.
As it happens, there wasn't a great deal going on at all and a couple of hours scouring the patch turned up little of note, beyond the regular birds.

Yet to be harvested maize
One thing I did notice was that the maize field was still waiting to be cut. It would appear that the crop itself has been exceedingly poor this year and the plants appear to be rotting where they stand. I assume that this crop is destined to be animal feed but I wouldn't expect that lot to be much use this winter. Was it really worth destroying 22 lapwing nests for?

After a weekend working at the North West Bird Festival at Martin Mere, I had today (Monday) off and headed down to the patch this morning to see if the colder conditions had made a tangible difference to the numbers of birds to be seen.
First up, was Freeman's Pools. All the regular species (gadwall, coot, teal, wigeon, little grebe, tufted duck, etc) were present with no notable change in numbers.
However, new arrivals were noted with the appearance of 4 new goldeneye and a smart drake pochard. As it happens, a male pochard turned up here in late November last year and stayed for just a few short days. Will this one hang around any longer?
The edge of Freeman's Wood was buzzing with the commoner species of finches, tits and a few showy goldcrests.
I headed along the cycle track and became swiftly aware that the maize had finally been harvested over the weekend. As a consequence there were masses of jackdaws and carrion crows, plus a few rooks pillaging the fields.
A scan of the furrows and hedges revealed good numbers of foraging chaffinch, reed bunting and a couple of tree sparrows. Hopefully, we'll see an increase in the number of birds taking advantage of the spilled maize in the coming days and weeks.
The cooler conditions had certainly brought more thrushes in too with plenty of redwing, fieldfare and blackbird stripping the hawthorns of their remaining berries.
Water levels at the Wildfowlers' Pools was still impressively high and there were plenty of redshank feeding in the waterlogged fields. Meanwhile the greylags had moved inland a little and were grazing in the fields to the east of the upper cinder track. A scan through the flock turned up 38 pink-footed geese but again, no whitefronts.
Out on the marsh and estuary it was business as usual with flocks of lapwing and golden plover with smaller numbers of dunlin, assembling on the river bank as the tide dropped. A wildfowler was active out on Colloway Marsh, pushing the relatively few wigeon and teal onto the Lune.

A repeat visit to Aldcliffe (via FAUNA) late afternoon added one each of black-tailed godwit, spotted redshank and dunlin to the tally of waders at the Wildfowlers' Pools.


Monday, 16 November 2015


Clearly a white-fronted goose.
There was a family party of white-fronted geese in with the greylags at Aldcliffe today. They were feeding in the flood-expanded wet area between the Wildfowlers' Pools and Reedy Corner and when I first spotted one of the aduits it appeared distinctly pink-billed.
As European birds albifrons are the least common of the two races in this part of the world (the other being flavirostris from Greenland) I was rather pleased!

One bill looks pink, the other orange...
I took a couple of distant record shots and moved to get slightly closer.
Now as I looked I noticed that the three 1st winter birds had bright orange bills. Looking again at the adults it was frankly hard to tell what colour their beaks were...
As the light changed, so did the bare-part colouration and I took a few more snaps to see if that would help me get to grips with the true identity of these birds.

Now they all look orange.
Looking at the structure of the bill and the amount of black on the bellies of the adults I'd be inclined toward Greenland, especially as the young birds appear to be so orange-billed.
But, it just goes to show that light conditions can really play with colour perception in the field.
And even in the same light, colour can vary between individuals; as you can see in one of the pics here, one bird appears orange-billed while the other looks to be pink-billed.
Is one adult bird flavirostris and the other albifrons? That seems most unlikely... but not impossible.

I suppose if I'd had my 'scope with me I might have been able to determine the race of the birds much easier as I'd expect a closer look at the bills would allow clearer definition of colour.

...but these appear decidedly pink!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Gale Fail

I had a good check around the patch yesterday (in the rather windy weather) and again this morning but notable highlights were somewhat lacking. Unfortunately I wasn't blessed with the discovery of some exciting wind-blown oddity...

Obviously there's a lot of standing water around and both The Flood and Wildfowlers' Pools are particularly deluged. The former has only attracted a dozen or so moorhen while the latter pools are teeming with teal.
Also at the Wildfowlers' Pools there were a couple of little grebe and the usual scattering of mallard and today there were 40-odd greylag geese having a paddle in the wet edges.
Aldcliffe Marsh has yet to attract any wild swans or geese but there are quite impressive numbers of waders on the estuary. Admittedly there are far fewer curlew and lapwing than there used to be but numbers of golden plover seem to be up on this stretch of the river. Scatterings of redshank & dunlin and all the expected gulls were also seen.

Freeman's Pools seems pretty consistent on the whole with up to 18 gadwall, 30+ coot and varying numbers of little egret, grey heron, teal, mallard, tufted duck and wigeon present most days.
Yesterday a drake red-breasted merganser put in an appearance - not an especially frequent visitor to the site. The female goldeneye that I first saw on Tuesday was still busily diving away on the main pool.
Along the track hedgerows it has been pleasing to note lately what can only be described as flocks of greenfinch. Now, they're no where as near as numerous as they were a few years back but after significant population declines it looks as if there might be some sign of a bounce-back. I do hope so.
The almost-expected trio of stock dove were again by the flood defense bunds.   

A quick visit to the patch on Tuesday was pretty good with yet another sighting of a short-eared owl.
The same as on my previous visit or another bird altogether? With something of an influx of the species into the region in recent weeks I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if these were two different owls.
Incidentally, the pic here is not of either of the Aldcliffe SEOs, but 'one I prepared earlier' and included here for illustrative purposes only. 
Another notable sight on what was a very blustery Tuesday was the flock of 18 pintail that came barreling over and heading downriver.  This handsome duck is a pretty scarce beast on the patch, and is most regularly associated with gales.


Saturday, 7 November 2015


I spent a couple of hours trying to dodge the downpours at Aldcliffe this afternoon...

Freeman's Pools were lively enough with quite a bit of wildfowl in situ - wigeon, tufted duck, gadwall and teal were all present along with little grebes and 30+ coot.
Nearby, 3 stock dove were by the bunds and a kingfisher was at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A male blackcap was in the hedgerow between the cinder track and the cycle path: a late southbound migrant or a recently arrived winter visitor from the continent?

As I headed home, my attention was drawn to the activity of a gang of corvids over the drumlins. They were clearly mobbing something and as I got my bins on it I was pleased to see that it was a short-eared owl. The carrion crows and jackdaws were only going at it half-heartedly and the owl drifted off at height over Lancaster. Of note, Dan had seen a 'shortie' over Aldcliffe Marsh exactly a week ago. 

Prior to my spell of Aldcliffe birding, a small but dedicated group of locals had joined me for a very wet bird walk around the FAUNA reserve this morning. The rain kept most things pretty quiet and out of sight but nonetheless we still managed to see a few bits and bobs over the hour and half we were out.

Earlier in the week we had done our monthly snipe count at the reserve and racked up a total of 43 common snipe and 1 jack snipe. Hopefully we'll have a woodcock or two to add to the list next month.
Following a recent report of a barn owl in the area I checked a few likely spots and located a roosting bird - hopefully it'll stick around for the winter.  


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Another First for Aldcliffe

Once the (un-forecast) rain stopped this morning I dragged myself down to the patch for a spot of Aldcliffe birding.
First, I made my way through Freeman's Wood noting good numbers of redwings, blackbirds and goldcrests around the place. A charming pair of bullfinch showed well and a female blackcap was seen gorging on blackberries.

At Freeman's Pools there was nothing out of the ordinary, although it was good to see numbers of classic wintering species still creeping up (14 each of wigeon, teal and gadwall plus 31 coot).
As mentioned several times on this blog in the past, rooks are relatively scarce visitors on the patch. We can usually expect a few in autumn and early winter but they rarely exceed double figures, so a total of 22 scattered around the fields to the east of the cycle track was cause for minor celebration.

Stopping, as always, to check all the small flocks of passerines along the hedgerows I came across a modest tit flock made up of the usual bits and pieces; blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, wren and a couple of goldcrests. Then just a few metres behind, a 'large' warbler loomed into view.
My first naked-eye thoughts were of reed warbler but as soon as I got my bins on it it was clear that this was my long-awaited first Cetti's warbler for the patch.
The bird was feeding low down in a sparse hawthorn and gave brilliant views for several minutes before dropping down out of view.

So, if you were one of the 52% of participants who chose Cetti's warbler as probable next new bird for Aldcliffe (see the poll on the top right). please give yourselves a round of quiet applause. Now I'll have to think of another bird to replace it and keep the poll open... incidentally, the last new patch bird, pectoral sandpiper, wasn't even included in the options!

Close by, a party of at least 6 lesser redpoll were feeding on rosebay willowherb seedheads - presumably this is the same small flock that was in the same area nearly 3 weeks ago?


Friday, 23 October 2015

A Week Away Works Wonders

Blimey, it's a been a while since I posted something on here.
That doesn't mean that I haven't been out birding, more a case of that I've struggled to find motivation to write anything about in what has been a very unusual autumn period.
Common migrants have been hard to find (nice clear September nights for clearing out with no off-passage stuff to speak of) and ongoing mild conditions means relatively few weather-induced arrivals from the north.

The influx of yellow-browed warblers had me hopeful but as yet not a single one has materialised on the patch. That said, I've been working away fair bit and also just spent a week on the Scillies so there may have been dozens of the wee sprites at Aldcliffe, but with practically no birders checking the area they could easily have gone unnoticed. It's a philosophical (phylloscophical?) conundrum: a yellow-browed warbler calls in the sycamore but there's no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?   

Phone'scope pic of Hudsonian whimbrel
Anyhoo, I saw loads of yellow-browed warblers on the Scillies  along with an embarrassing glut of firecrests - always great to see. The Hudsonian whimbrel on Tresco gave me a British tick, as did the St Mary's Blyth's pipit and my third, if well overdue, 'first' was the dazzling (if a little tick infested) olive-backed pipit on St Martins.

'Fawn Yawn' at Land's End

Kev Kelly and I also found the islands' only Pallas's warbler of the season while on Tresco and we finished the week off with a look at a ridiculously approachable juvenile rose-coloured starling at Land's End. The pic of the starling here was taken with my phone. No 'scope, no trickery, just my phone.

Closer to home, here are a few of the highlights from the past few weeks around Aldcliffe...

Oct 4th: a few blackcap around plus 2 'new-in' tree sparrows

Colour-ringed grey wagtail
Oct 5th: common whitethroat, 5 chiffchaff (all but one silent), loads of goldcrests and a very showy party of 6 redpoll.
Colour-ringed grey wagtail at Stodday ETW (ringed at Middleton 27/9/15).

Sept 27th: few chiffchaffs found in the company of the local tit flocks. Small numbers of meadow pipit & swallow overhead.
A drake scaup on the Lune.

Sept 18th: 1 blackcap and common whitethroat this morning. A few swallows mainly in small numbers though one tight flock of 22, plus 4 meadow pipit and 6 alba wagtail over. Chaffinch, greenfinch and reed bunting numbers creeping up a touch. A couple of willow warbler and 5 chiffchaff.
A ringed adult Med gull at Gull Bank
Gadwall up to 6 at Freeman's Pools, plus 2 tufted duck, 6 wigeon, a green sandpiper and the usual little grebes, etc.


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Spotted Redshank Spotted

The weather wasn't exactly conducive for common autumn migrants this morning so I wasn't too surprised to find nothing lurking in the bushes. I didn't even see a blackcap and only noted 2 chiffchaff - it was as if everything had cleared out overnight.
At least things are livening up at Freeman's Pools; I counted an impressive 10 little grebe on the main pool. Coot numbers have increased slightly with 32 present and along with the 6 wigeon there were 4 newly arrived tufted duck. A little egret was on the island along with a grey heron.
A greenshank, common sandpiper and adult Mediterranean gull were on the river off Marsh Point.
A calling spotted redshank flew over me as I walked toward the Wildfowlers' Pools - perhaps it had come up from there or the Flood? It continued on toward Freeman's Pools but seemed to drop onto the river somewhere near the old tip. We don't get too many 'spotshanks' on the patch so that was nice wee surprise.
Other than a dozen or so dunlin and 5 golden plover there was nothing among the many redshank and lapwing at Gull Bank.
The relatively warm sunshine had brought out the usual array of common dragonflies and butterflies.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Whinchat Saves The Day

With Dan sending a message yesterday saying that there were 4 whinchat on Heaton Marsh, and Pete Marsh texting this morning with news of a firecrest at Heysham, along with good numbers of other migrants, I couldn't wait to get out and see was waiting to be found at Aldcliffe.
I finally got out to onto the patch just before 9am (a little later than ideal but sometimes other things simply get in the way of birding). 

A slow stroll through Freeman's Wood revealed little more than a few chiffchaff and the odd 'tecking' blackcap. In fact it seemed eerily devoid of even common resident species.
Freeman's Pool hosted a kingfisher plus the usual bits and pieces. Six wigeon certainly lent an air of autumn to the scene.

The hedgerows were pretty quiet until I finally found a pair of male blackcaps along the upper cinder track. A nice whitethroat was also present along with a handful of chiffchaff. Then it started to rain and the sky filled with swallows plus a couple of dozen house martin. At one point I could see at least 300 swallows feeding low over the maize fields and marsh.
A green sandpiper called from the direction of the Wildfowlers' Pools.
The next bout of activity came from the hedge just beyond Walled Meadow where a small tit flock included two more whitethroat, a willow warbler and several chiffchaff.
As I headed back along the cycle track I came across a trio of female blackcap gorging on elderberries near the Wildfowlers' Pools.
Three grey partridge were picking their way through the grass in a nearby field.
Another tit flock in the track hawthorns was momentarily almost exciting as it contained 3 lesser whitethroat and 2 willow warbler, but sadly nothing more exotic.
A very small number of pied wagtail and meadow pipit passed over during my three hours birding on the patch.
The only real highlight was the last-minute discovery of a whinchat sat on the newly trimmed hedgerow near the flood defence bunds. It was in the company of yet another whitethroat.    

I have another day off tomorrow, so I'll doubtless be sporting my trusty optimism-hat and be heading down once more in the hope of finding something worthy of a message to RBA... wish me luck :-)


Friday, 11 September 2015

Breezy Like A Friday Morning

Red darvic ringed Canada goose
Inspired by yesterday's impressive haul down the road at Fairhaven Lake, Lytham St. Anne's (two barred warblers and a wryneck!) I stepped out on to the patch with an air of über-optimism this morning. Who knows what might be lurking in the mass of Aldcliffe hawthorns and elders?
Who indeed. Not me, that's for sure.
The wind (although theoretically coming from a helpful direction) was pretty stiff and the vast majority of songbirds were keeping a low profile.
In some sheltered areas I was able to find a few birds, but alas my hoped-for scarce migrant remained decidedly scarce.
Here's the best I could do in a couple of hours:
Freeman's Wood - 2 Blackcap, 1 willow warbler, 2 chiffchaff.
Walled Meadow - redstart, 2 willow warbler, 3 chiffchaff and a common whitethroat.
Upper cinder track - 1 lesser whitethroat, 5 chiffchaff.
Small numbers of swallow were moving, plus a group of 6 sand martin passed through.

A green sandpiper and 3 little grebe were at the Wildfowlers' Pools while a greenshank was heard calling from somewhere out on Aldcliffe Marsh.
3 wigeon, 2 gadwall, 7 little grebe & 22 coot were on Freeman's Pools.

Common darter - immature male (I think!)
The large flock of Canada geese were grazing by Frog Pond and I was able to 'scope the letters on a few of the red darvic rings. As ever, a few had to remain unread thanks to them being mud-smeared or simply too deep in the grass to read. Oh, and the bloody wind didn't help either.
When the sun came out, good numbers of speckled wood were evident plus plenty of common darters, a few migrant hawkers and a couple of brown hawkers were seen. 


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Pec Of The Pops

I've had a busy couple of weeks since my last post here.
I spent the best part of a week in the North East, with three days working at the RSPB's fab Saltholme reserve near Middlesborough.
While there I stayed in the seaside 'resort' of Seaton Carew. The great thing about this was my seaview, which allowed me to 'scope the bird-filled North Sea from my bedroom window. Staring out to sea on our coast can be somewhat frustrating, with comparatively few good bird days to be had (still definitely worth doing in the right conditions!). However, a cursory few minutes peering through my 'scope from Seaton rewarded me with views of countless terns, rafts of eider and common scoter, plus fly-by auks, fulmars, gannets and Arctic skuas.
Given the time of year, I was rather hopeful of a few decent migrants along the coast and each morning I checked a few likely hotspots: Seaton Common, Seaton cemetery, North Gare, etc. Unfortunately it wasn't as productive as I'd hoped and other than a few whinchats grounded migrants were minimal. I did get superb views of a short-eared owl though, so it wasn't all bad.
At Saltholme itself, waders were the main news with little stints, curlew sandpiper and other regular autumn shorebirds passing through. A couple of eclipse plumage garganey were still on site as well as the very unseasonal smew that arrived a few weeks earlier.

I returned to the west coast last Thursday and headed off down to Aldcliffe for a spot of proper patch birding.
First off, a dazzling kingfisher was at Freeman's Pools but not much else was there. Checking the bushes along the cycle track I was dismayed by the lack of migrants - a lone chiffchaff was the only bird of note.
At Gull Bank I scanned through the roosting lapwing. A nice trio of golden plover were nice to see, and then I spotted something else. It had its back to me, and it was clearly smaller than the nearby plover and lapwing. Palish legs were evident but I couldn't really get anything else on it until all the birds raised their heads in response to a passing peregrine. It was clearly a calidrid and as it turned I could see the clear 'braces' on its mantle and 'warm', streaky breast - it was a juvenile pectoral sandpiper!

A pectoral sandpiper
As soon as I'd realised what it was I was looking at, all the birds got up as the marauding peregrine piled in. I kept on the sandpiper as the flock flew around in panic. The indistinct wing bar and white patches at the sides of the tail were notable.
Thankfully the birds soon resettled and I was able to see the pec much better this time but within a matter of half a minute or so they all went up and again, thanks to that pesky falcon! This happened once more with the majority of birds landing again but this time the pec was further away, and seemed a little agitated. On the fourth flush the lapwings all went up again but the sandpiper headed high and I thought that it was going to just keep gaining height but it rapidly dropped down onto the estuary somewhere between where I was stood and Snatchems.   
I headed down to Marsh Point to see if I could relocate it but there was no sign of it. Of practically no compensation were a ruff and an adult Mediterranean gull.
I had tried to get a snap of the distant bird using my hand-held camera but failed spectacularly - so here's one I prepared earlier (to use Blue Peter parlance). This was taken in Canada. 

The following day I had another look (after failing first to see the Caspian gull and Cocker's Dyke) but other than a pair of greenshank, the estuary failed to reveal any waders of note.

I then spent the weekend near Brampton at the well-publicised bee-eater breeding site. With the first youngster fledging on Friday we were expecting a few days of excitement as the remaining chicks emerged from the nest tunnel to join the family flying around for all and sundry to see. Alas, it was not to be quite as we'd hoped. No other chicks left the nest, and the adults and single young bird took off and spent the day about 1/2 a mile away! On Sunday there was no sign of any bee-eaters whatsoever. Despite the rather disappointing outcome, we were at least cheered by the fact that although only one young bird had left the nest it was still a success - and only the third ever successful breeding by this truly enigmatic species in the United Kingdom! Not to be sniffed at.
Oh, and while I was at Brampton I got word that Guy McClelland and re found the pectoral sandpiper again at Gull Bank on Saturday. Nice! 

It was back to routine yesterday with a good 2-plus hours spent scouring Aldcliffe. Highlights included a nice 1st winter male common redstart at Walled Meadow along with a lesser whitethroat. A reed warbler was at Bank Pool and a green sandpiper was at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A repeat trudge this morning was slightly birdier with a juv-type marsh harrier being the best bird. It had attracted the attention of a pair of ravens who busily mobbed it until it drifted across the river and headed towards Heysham at considerable height.
There were tons of swallows moving though, and what was presumably the same redstart was again at Walled Meadow. 
A nice feeding group of birds in an elder included 2 blackcap, 2 lesser whitethroat and a handful of willow warbler and chiffchaff. Another lesser whitethroat was in the hedge further along. A common whitethroat was at Freeman's Wood.
One each of green sandpiper and greenshank were at the Wildfolwers' Pools.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Conder Green With Envy

Lesser yellowlegs, Conder
I was working at the Birdfair at Rutland Water over the weekend so when news broke that a lesser yellowlegs had been found at Conder on Sunday I wasn't in much of a position to do anything about it.
Of course it's only 3 years ago that Aldcliffe played host to this rare trans-Atlantic wader but nonetheless, yank shorebirds are always great to see so close to home turf.

Naturally, once back in Lancashire, I spent the first part of my birding day today checking the patch before continuing along the cycle track to 'mini-twitch' the vagrant tringa. Well, one has to have one's priorities in place.
Despite the active management work being undertaken by Lancashire Wildlife Trust staff at Freeman's Pools, there were still plenty of birds to see there.
The first autumn gadwall were back with two eclipse birds present and similarly five post-breeding wigeon were also on the main pool.
I counted 12 little grebe and 22 coot.
A single common sandpiper was on the Lune off Marsh Point.
Teal numbers continue to grow at the Wildfowlers' Pools. Last week around 70 were on the pools; today the numbers exceeded 120 birds.
A lone green sandpiper was feeding at the Flood but there was little else there.
Among the throng of common and black-headed gulls at Gull Bank I picked out 3 adult winter Mediterranean gulls while the large lapwing flock on the sandy shore included a couple of golden plover.
A female merlin gave great views as she spooked the waders before heading across to Heaton Marsh and a large juvenile peregrine added to the pandemonium by harassing the birds further upriver.
Masses of the usual gulls, common waders and little egrets were feeding along the estuary on the dropping tide but other than a greenshank and a further 5 golden plover there wasn't much to add.

Lesser yellowlegs
When I arrived at Conder the yellowlegs was showing well but unfortunately the light was behind it. I tried to see if it was visible from the Conder Pool side but soon made my way back to the foot bridge and 'scoped it from the road there. I managed a couple of iffy record digi-shots, as you can see. A couple of ruff and up to 3 common sandpiper were also present.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Dan's Dragonfly Roundup

Hello. Dan here.

Two decent dragons were on the patch on the 13th; the Ruddy Darter pictured below and a Common Hawker.

My first record of either here in 7 or 8 years. Ruddy Darter is in decline in Lancashire.

Other odonata sightings in recent visits have included some of the first Migrant Hawkers, ovipositing Common Darters and building numbers of Emerald damsels.

The bird scene has been less interesting, with two adult Meds and a Greenshank the best I could manage today.

Human disturbance to the estuary doesn't let up. Birds are forced onto the relative safety of the lip of Colloway Marsh...and then jet-skis move them on again. The conduct of a 'professional' dog-walker with eight off-lead canines on the marshes today was anything but.


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Off-Patch Bongo-Bird

Juvenile ruff
After having a good trundle around the regular Aldcliffe area this morning, I decided to stray off-patch for a bit and paid a visit to Conder.

Highlights from Aldcliffe included 6 green sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pool (5 seen on my way to Conder, 6 on my return). A single common sandpiper was also picking its way around the edges but there was no sign of the garganey, despite the presence of half a dozen teal.
The female tufted duck was again at Freeman's Pools. Little grebe and coot numbers have increased here in recent days, with up to 7 grebe and 14 coot on the main pool.
A couple of noisy peregrines were mucking about around the pylons, keeping the local lapwings on their toes.

Snoozing bongo-bird
So, having failed to find much of note along the upper Lune estuary (with the exception of loads of little egrets) I pedaled onward toward Glasson, hoping to see if the spoonbill was still hanging around the Conder estuary mouth.
It was.
And it was doing what spoonbills are so fond of doing.
It was characteristically stood with its ridiculous spatulate beak concealed beneath the folds in it wings, snoozing away out on the marsh. It did lift its head out at one point and even flew a short distance before assuming its statue-like stance once more.
As the tide dropped to reveal its food-filled mud, I had a quick look around the Conder. Along with the many redshank and lapwing were smaller numbers of black-tailed godwit, curlew, dunlin and common sandpiper plus a lone juvenile ruff (pictured) and a greenshank.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Sunny Delight

Eclipse garganey
The drake garganey in eclipse plumage continues to remain faithful to the Aldcliffe patch, ensuring that even a brief bit of après-work birding offers something interesting.

Talking of work, it's all been about peregrines, ospreys and bee-eaters this week. Not that I'm complaining of course...
Talking of bee-eaters, it really is worth making a trip to see the nesting site in Cumbria. One of the nests, in full view of the RSPB watchpoint, is currently very active and visitors don't have to wait long before an adult bird comes swooping in with food for the growing chicks. For details of this amazing event click here.

Anyhoo, enough of Mediterranean exotica and back to Aldcliffe...
I nipped out this lovely, sunny evening and to my delight, I soon found the garganey. Today it was back at the Wildfowlers' Pools with 3 common teal. Nearby a green sandpiper was feeding on the pool edges before flying off toward the Flood.
When I arrived at the Flood, the green sandpiper was probing around in the mud, while a stock dove came down to drink.
Another green sandpiper was at Freeman's Pools but other than a single female tufted duck there was nothing new to see there.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Blur-lew Sandpiper

Dan here. Hello again.

Bestest bird this afternoon was an adult Curlew Sandpiper-- feeding along Gull Bank on the dropping spring tide. Ten or twelve pixels are devoted to it, below.

It was in the company of Lapwings, gulls and a very large pink jellyfish (c2ft across) which had washed up on the mud.

Other passage waders at Aldcliffe included at least two Whimbrel and a Green Sandpiper.

Passerine interest seemed very limited with just a few juvenile Chiffchaffs and a Sedge Warbler drawing any attention to themselves.

Jon's Garganey is still in the area, as are many (low four-figures?) feral greylags.

Odonata spotting was a bit hit and miss in borderline weather but a few Emerald Damselfly and Brown Hawker were new for the year. Readers of a sensitive disposition should avoid looking at the Emperors pictured below.



Saturday, 1 August 2015

Message from Trevor

Hello-- Dan here.

Trevor Connah from the Morecambe Bay Wildfowling Association has contacted me to help spread news of some planned work strengthening the Aldcliffe Marsh sea wall AKA Dawson's Bank.

The work, requested by the farmers (in order to prevent tidal breaching) has been given the all-clear by Natural England and is to be carried out this month.

So we can expect tractors and other machinery, and a period of disturbance hopefully no longer than a couple of days.

News of specific dates as I get it.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Spotted Drake

Eclipse drake garganey
After making a declaration that the garganey at Freeman's Pools yesterday was either a female or juvenile bird I am now pleased to say that it was neither!

I checked the pools this morning but could only find a single female tufted duck and the two common teal that the garganey had been with the previous day. Assuming it had flown to some other glamorous destination I continued my rounds of the patch.
The three ruddy shelduck were remaining faithful to the Wildfowlers' Pools and there were now a trio of green sandpiper present, along with a juvenile little ringed plover. A couple of snipe were feeding in the long channel.
It was good to see fledged broods of both linnet and greenfinch here.

I had a quick look on The Flood and low and behold - there was 'my' garganey. From the upper cinder track I was able to get far better views than I did yesterday and even managed a couple of snaps through my 'scope.
Having ruled out a juvenile bird, I was fairly happy that it was an adult female - until it briefly stretched its wings and showed the distinctive upper wing pattern of an adult male. So, it would appear in fact to be an adult drake in eclipse plumage. Ta-dah!

A cursory look at the river from the mouth of the The Channel revealed little of note bar a fishing common tern, a lone common sandpiper and multiple little egrets.
The highlight was seeing my first Lune shelduck brood of the year - a pair with 7 young duckling on Colloway Marsh.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Wild Duck Trumps Ruddy Interlopers

A lovely juvenile / female garganey was at Freman's Pools this morning. It was in the company of a couple of teal on the upper pools. It's always a pleasure to come across these attractive and scarce summer migrants on the local patch.
There wasn't much else going on at the pools, just a few moulting mallard and the usual coot, moorhen and little grebe. A little egret dropped in for a spot of fishing but didn't linger.
The ruddy duck trio were again at the Wildfowlers' Pools along with a green sandpiper, a couple of snipe and a juvenile little ringed plover.
There wasn't much going on at the Flood, and a check on the estuary revealed little beyond the expected gulls, greylags, cormorants, lapwings, herons and little egrets, etc.

Ruddy Shelduck

A few people have asked about the provenance of the visiting shelducks, but the real answer is that (as with most 'rare' wildfowl) we really don't know for sure.
This species is a regular visitor to Britain, especially in the summer months. The perceived wisdom is that these birds originate from feral populations in Europe, though in some years it is possible that genuinely wild birds may account for an influx.
Clearly, one of the Aldcliffe birds is of captive origin due the presence of a red plastic ring on its leg. That doesn't necessarily mean of course that the others are from the same source. Escaped wildfowl will often hook up with wild birds of the same, or similar, species.
In theory a fence-hopper may fly around on its own for ages before finding others of its kind. They may come upon a large feral population in Holland while on their travels, or spot a couple of free-range wanderers as they pass overhead in Nimes, Namysłów or Nantwich. Who knows?
Given that ruddy shelduck isn't even on the current 'official' British list, it's all a bit academic really! Nonetheless, they're an attractive bird and the sight of these ruddy shelducks certainly brightens even the dullest Aldcliffe morning.


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dan's Week in Pictures!

Chiffchaffs--particularly juveniles-- numerous

2 or 3 Gatekeepers seen- relatively uncommon at this site.

Lots of Hirundines Friday--including 'percher' Swallows like this one plus a few Sand Martins

Escaped Ruddy Shelducks including pinkish bangle of shame

Monday, 20 July 2015

Gulls Med My Day

Common sandpiper
I spent a good three hours or so rooting around the patch this morning.

First I checked Freeman's Pools where 40 or so of the recently returned greylag were busily and noisily bathing. Among this group were a couple of orange-collared birds from the Windermere project (both were present last winter).
In the past week up to 300 greylag have reappeared on the Lune estuary; this large post-breeding flock returns each year, along with Canada geese, having spent the summer in the Lake District. I managed to read another 2 collars later on, on birds on the marsh.

A single common sandpiper was on the main Freeman's Pool island, while another was in the company of a green sandpiper on the upper pools.
A single little grebe chick was my first sign of any successful breeding here this year. 
A fox was making the mute swan family very nervous indeed... It soon scarpered once it spotted me watching it.

Ruddy shelduck, Wildfowlers' Pools
Having heard nothing of the ruddy shelducks since I came across them on Friday, I'd assumed they'd disappeared but I was pleased to see that they were again at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
I managed to dash off a couple of shots through my 'scope, just for the record. 4 snipe were feeding in the muddy channel but there wasn't much else present bar the usual bits and pieces. After a while the shelduck took off and headed toward Freeman's Pools, where I assume they came down.
An hour and a half or so later, as I walked along Dawson's Bank, the trio came up from the Wildfowlers' Pools again but this time headed out to the estuary.
They appeared to go down somewhere in the Gull Bank area.
I checked previous records for ruddy duck at Aldcliffe and I can only find reference to the pair that I saw flying down river in July 2009.  

Adult Mediterranean gull
Talking of Gull Bank, I had a check to see if anything interesting was on the river and found 3 Mediterranean gulls among the black-heads.
One was an adult moulting out of summer plumage while the other two were second calendar year birds (one of these was metal-ringed).

2CY Med gull (metal-ringed)
Nearby, up to 5 common sandpiper were feeding along the shore. Lapwing, redshank and curlew numbers continue to build but other than a small flock of black-tailed godwit flying around near the pylons there weren't any other waders to be seen.
The expected cormorants, goosanders, grey heron and little egrets were all busy fishing away on the incoming tide.

At Marsh Point I 'scoped through the large gulls gathered in the river and came across a ringed adult herring gull. It had a yellow darvic on its left leg. After some time I managed to read the digits on the ring - I'll post the info on here when I get it.

Narrow bordered 5-spot burnet.
Despite the lack of sun, there were a few butterflies around. A couple of commas were along the path by Freeman's Wood while a single painted lady was seen along the bunds.
As always there were loads of meadow browns around and I came across a lovely 5-spot burnet (now confirmed as narrow-bordered 5-spot burnet - thanks Pete & Jonny) along the seawall path.
Dragonflies were conspicuous by their absence, just 2 emperors and a single female darter sp. were seen.



Friday, 17 July 2015

Ruddy 'ell!

Something of a surprise today was the discovery of three ruddy shelduck at the Wildfowlers' Pools. The smart trio were feeding in the channel to the south of the main pools and visible from the cycle track gate. Off the top of my head, this is only the second time that I've ever seen this species on the patch so it was quite a pleasant find (despite their rather sketchy provenance...). I gave Dan a call to let him know about these dodgy ducks, so hopefully he got down and got a snap or two to post on here.
In the meantime here's a shoddy shot I took of one at considerable distance in Lesvos a few years back...
Also at the pools were 2 green sandpiper and at least 3 common snipe.
In other news, a notably clamorous reed warbler (note I am using clamorous as an adjective and am in no way reporting a Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus) was singing away in the willows by Lucy Brook at the end of the Freeman's Wood path, where it emerges onto Willow Lane. Somewhat odd habitat for a singing reed warbler in mid-July perhaps, but there was nothing in its song to suggest that it was anything but that species. 

Highlights from a very soggy search on Monday (13th) morning included a pair of green sandpiper and a lone adult little ringed plover at the Wildfowlers' Pools, but not a lot else of note.
Two stock dove were at Freeman's Pools.
A lesser whitethroat was singing half-heartedly along the cycle track, as was a sedge warbler, while a couple of common whitethroat belted it out in the persistent rain.
I 'scoped through the increasing numbers of black-headed gull on the Lune but once again found no Med gulls. 12 goosander were fishing just north of the pylons.


Friday, 10 July 2015

Dan Here


Now that my spring offensive blog is shelved till next March I thought I'd share some of my Aldcliffe sightings from the past two days and inflict some midsummer pontifications on you all.

I don't know whether Jon would agree but I reckon the Aldcliffe warbler scene has been a bit odd this year. We've had Reed Warbler gains: two territories (about 500m apart) have been occupied all season and song still emanates in them to this day. Have they bred in previous years?

Blackcaps were numerous earlier in the season but seem in very short supply in recent weeks.

A Grasshopper Warbler was singing yesterday evening, in roughly the same spot as earlier in the year.

Chiffchaffs are common and still singing strongly with at least 4 males along the main drag today. However after a typical Willow Warbler arrival in April and May I haven't seen or heard one for four or five weeks.

Active Sedge Warbler territories include 1 at N end of wildfowler's pools and 1 or 2 at W end of Freeman's Pools.

Three recently fledged Lesser Whitethroats were seen today and 2 or 3 adult commons were in song too.

I saw two Lapwing chicks (from separate broods) today which is better than nothing after a worrying year. In other wader news an adult LRP was around today and a Greenshank was calling.

Signs of post-breeding dispersal and/or southbound movement comprised 3 Sand Martins knocking about yesterday, a further 8 southwest today and a Kingfisher at the Wildfowler's Pools.

Darter Pool was rammed with Blue-tailed Damselflies this afternoon (c500) and 2 Black-tailed Skimmers were on the wing for awhile. Emperors there seemed to comprise of 3 males and an ovipositing female (pictured).

I'm a little concerned that Darter Pool is not going to be around for too many more years ...with much willow encroachment and less open water yearly. Perhaps I should descend with a chainsaw one day...the farmer won't mind I'm sure!

                                                              DH (Whitethroat by J Bradley)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Green Day

A quick look around late morning revealed a fine adult greenshank on the river, just off the Channel and a single green sandpiper on the Flood.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Wading In

I couldn't find any green sandpipers on the patch this morning but other common waders were much in evidence.
Along with the increasing number of presumably failed breeding adult lapwings gathering on the Lune, flocks of curlew are returning to the estuary too. From Cadaver Corner I counted 8 common sandpiper feeding along the muddy shores and a single moulting black-tailed godwit was on the opposite bank.
Around the ponds the first 'post-breeding' snipe was probing in the wet grass by the Wildfowlers' Pools while the lone lapwing chick remains on The Flood with its parents.
At Freeman's Pools the pair of oystercatcher were still keeping a close eye on their two fledged youngsters. Meanwhile the mute swan cygnets had dwindled to three birds.
A thorough scan through the ever growing black-headed gull flocks on the river failed to dig out any Med gulls. A group of 10 eider comprised adult females and juvenile birds. Nearby 5 goosander were resting on the sand.
A welcome sight came in the form of a pair of common tern fishing on the river, and then on the Aldcliffe Marsh pools. Since the catastrophic collapse of the Colloway nesting colony, these lovely seabirds are quite a scarce sight on the patch these days. I expect these were the Conder adults out foraging for their growing youngsters.
Little egrets and grey herons were all over the place, as is to be expected at this time of year.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Green sandpipers return

 There were 4 green sandpipers on the Wildfowlers' Pools this morning - a sure sign that for some birds the breeding season is well and truly over.
The only other highlights were the appearance of emperor dragonflies on at least three of the pools and black-tailed skimmers on Frog Pond.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Summertime Blues

I've just returned from a two week visit to my old stomping grounds in western Canada where I was co-leading a birding group with Ribble Bird Tours' Stuart Meredith. The weather out there was amazing while the birds and other wildlife were equally wonderful (I even got a lifer!).

Having finally got to grips with the jetlag, I headed off down down to Aldcliffe this morning to see what, if anything, had changed during my short absence.
There was still quite a lot of song filling the air; common and lesser whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff, greenfinch and a host of other common breeders were belting it out around the patch.
The mute swan pair at Freeman's Pools were still being accompanied by 4 growing cygnets (5 had hatched before I went away) though there was little else evidence of successful breeding at the pools by anything else bar a coot chick or two. The island-nesting oystercatchers appear to be chick-less and there was no sign of any little ringed plover there.
At Darter Pool the mute swan nest was empty with both adult birds gone.
Worst still was the apparent absence of lapwing chicks in the maize fields. Up to 100 adult birds were flocked together but there was no sign of any young at all. A single dazzling summer-plumage golden plover brightened up an otherwise depressing vista.
Nearby, a single lapwing chick was seen with an adult on the Flood. Hardly cause for celebration.
Despite the rather gloomy morning, a couple of painted ladies were on the wing along with the odd common blue damselfly.

Friday, 29 May 2015

In The Pink

Apologies for the paucity of input on Birding Aldcliffe lately. It isn't a reflection of a lack of visits to the patch, more a sign that there's not been a great deal to write about.
There has been little in the way of obvious movement in the last couple of weeks; most expected migrants are well-established and the resident wildlife is just getting on with stuff. All very pleasant to note, but not terribly inspiring when it comes to scribing a blog post...

What I can report is that some species appear to be having a reasonable breeding season. Today a flock of some 500 starlings were searching for grubs etc in the recently cut fields to the south of the Lane. Why silage needs to be cut in May is beyond me, and hardly helps what few nesting birds and leverets that may be found in these dull, flowerless fields but that's another story... anyway, among the mass of garrulous starlings were many youngsters. Good news for a species in steady decline.

Elsewhere coot chicks of varying age were spotted at the Wildfowlers' and Freeman's Pools.
Neither mute swan nest appears to have produced cygnets yet, and I have yet to see any young grey partridge, moorhens, little grebes, lapwings or oystercatchers. Not very encouraging.

On a more positive note, a number of lapwing and oystercatcher have at least re-settled in the barren, ploughed maize fields to have another go at hatching some chicks. There's still plenty of time for success as long as the weather is kind...

So, in the absence of any particularly photogenic birds, here's a photo of some delightful sea pink (AKA thrift) on the estuary.  


Monday, 18 May 2015

Cage Bird

There hasn't been a great deal to get excited about the past couple of times I've been for a trawl around the patch, I'm sorry to say.
Regular Aldcliffe nesters seem to be getting on with things as best they can. A few pairs of lapwing appear to have settled again in the maize fields; let's hope they get time to lay again and actually hatch some chicks this time.
Neither of the mute swan nests have produced young yet and I haven't even seen any young coot or moorhen. A couple of pairs of gadwall are still hanging around - perhaps we'll finally add this handsome duck to the list of breeders on the local patch?

On the subject of nests, I was shown this amazing long-tailed tit nest hidden away among a stack of wire fences at Cuerden Valley Park yesterday.
Pretty amazing eh?  In a rare demonstration of a bird illustrating irony, this wild creature seems to have chosen to temporarily confine its offspring to a cage.
Not only is the long-tailed tit's nest one of the most immaculate structures to be built by any European bird but this pair have also found a pretty predator proof location!

...and talking of predators: this morning I had stunning views of a fox vixen chasing down and catching a rabbit at Aldcliffe. The speed and agility of the hunt was really impressive and the prey was dispatched swiftly.
I just hope that this fox doesn't have a liking for lapwing eggs...


Thursday, 14 May 2015

EU Nature Directive Threat

European leaders are looking at rolling back decades of progress by revising the EU Nature Directives in the mistaken belief that weaker protection for wildlife is good for business.

In reality this would be bad for business, and a major disaster for wildlife. The RSPB is asking concerned nature lovers to add their voice to thousands of others below and defend Europe's vast natural legacy.
Without a massive demonstration of public support for the Directives, it will be very hard to prevent them being weakened.

Click on the link below to find out more and to fill in the questionnaire.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Spots Before My Eyes

I wasn't too hopeful as I set off for a spot of Aldcliffe birding this morning. The as-forecast brisk south-westerlies weren't convincing me that there would be much to found on the patch (skua passage not really being a feature of the Aldcliffe birding calendar).
I had a good root about in Freeman's Wood and came across a fine spotted flycatcher - my first for the year.
In the sheltered areas there was plenty of activity from the territorial blackcaps, common whitehroats, chiffchaffs and such.
Freeman's Pools were relatively quiet with most of the breeding birds simply going about  their business. On the island 6 tufted ducks (4 male, 2 female) were snoozing alongside a pair of drake goosanders. A couple of gadwall were dabbling around in the poolside vegetation.
There were lots of hirundines skimming over the water - chiefly house martins with smaller numbers of swallows and a couple of sand martins. Swifts too were hawking low over the pools.
In the maize fields there were 4 wheatears and a whinchat feeding in the furrows.

How to make a lapwing egg omelette
A large proportion of the bigger field was ploughed on Friday and I watched the tractor being trailed by up to 600 large gulls. These were mostly sub-adult herring gulls although a few adults of both herring and lesser black backed were also mixed in.
The lapwings were going berserk as they valiantly, if pointlessly, defended their doomed clutches (for the second time this spring).
Today, there were still up to 12 lapwing sat (presumably on eggs) on the areas yet to be ploughed while others were inspecting the potential of relaying in the freshly turned sections. I suspect any that do attempt to nest again will once more be wasting their efforts as the fields haven't yet been seeded.

I bumped into Dan near Walled Meadow and he too had struggled to find much in the blustery conditions. We checked the Flood was it was practically devoid of avian life. Dan mentioned more wheatears out on the marsh.
Other than the usual very vocal lesser whitethroats along the cycle track as I'd headed from the maize fields there wasn't much else to be added to the day list.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Reed All About It

Hello. Dan here-- just thought I'd fill in as Mr Carter was away this morning.

Interesting weather but a small influx of Reed Warblers (three heard, two seen) was the best I could manage in a dawn raid. One was chuntering away in an Elder deep in Freeman's Wood without a reed or rush in sight.

The heavily overcast sky put the kibosh on my photographic ambitions (my camera hates the dark) so I scratched the itch with some sound recordings.

I made an annotated collage of the best bits of audio and you can listen here . It features the off-passage Reed Warblers, breeding sylvias, over-flying hirundines and more.

A light but steady flow of northbound Sand Martins (c50ph) was evident from first light and as the wind picked up Swallows began to move NE. Just two Whimbrels and 2 Wheatears-- and yesterday's White Wagtail had moved on. The Grasshopper Warbler was singing very reluctantly from the newly-laid hedgerow along the bund.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Short Visit

Short-eared owl
I spent around 3 hours trundling around the patch this morning. As usual I checked out Freeman's Wood and Pools and then made my way along the cycle track towards the Flood.
From there I headed up to check to Lune from Cadaver Corner, bumping into Dan along the way. He'd seen much the same stuff as me, though added a short-eared owl which had flown upriver before gaining height and spiralling off (Dan's pic posted here).
After scanning the river and adjacent marsh I headed back along Dawson's Bank to Marsh Point and then back down through Freeman's Wood.

One of the most notable things this morning was the steady, if light, movement of swifts. Good numbers of swallows and house martins were seen too, along with a pair of sand martin.

As has been the theme in recent days, common whitethroats (pictured) and lesser whitethroats were singing all over the place while blackcaps, willow warblers and chiffchaffs were occupying all available habitat.
A handful of sedge warblers were chuntering away in the undergrowth here and there. Dan mentioned he'd heard a feeble bit of sub-singing by a seemingly non-committal grasshopper warbler near Reedy Corner.
A few wheatears were scattered around on Aldcliffe and Colloway Marshes - most were robust individuals, presumably headed for Greenland and the like.

A single whinchat certainly brightened up the already sun-kissed morning (pictured).
There wasn't much going on on the river; a lone drake eider, a pair of gadwall and a single common sandpiper being the highlights.

At least 3 whimbrel (pictured) were probing away on the marsh near The Creek while another was out on Aldcliffe Marsh.
A kestrel was hunting around the area while buzzard and sparrowhawk were both kicking around the Freeman's Wood area.
As is customary at this time of year, (bar the odd visit from garganey, etc) Freeman's Pools was pretty quiet. A trio of snoozing gadwall were on the island while coots were still sat tight on nests. A couple of little grebe were lurking in the poolside vegetation.


Friday, 1 May 2015

Taking Stock

A scan of Freeman's Pools this morning revealed no sign of yesterday's garganey. Mind you, these fabulous little ducks are masters of disappearing into even the smallest clump of waterside vegetation so who knows, maybe they're still around.
One thing I did notice as I trundled around the patch was the number of singing lesser whitethroat. It would appear that there has been something of an overnight arrival. Common whitethroat too were positively omnipresent in the hedgerows.

I finally scored my first on-patch whimbrel of the year (better late than never I suppose) on Aldcliffe Marsh, as viewed from the end of Aldcliffe Hall Lane. A further three were feeding in the traditional whimbrel hotspot near The Channel. What was presumably the overwintering greenshank was still present on the marsh flashes.
At least 11 eider and a trio of red-breasted merganser were on the river along with the expected flotillas of shelduck

A fine whinchat was bug-hunting from a stone wall and nearby hawthorn not far from the Walled Meadow.
Other stuff of note around the parish included a pair of grey partridge on the tideline and three little ringed plover. And, significantly I'm pretty sure I can confirm what I think is surely a patch first:  breeding stock doves. I wonder if it's the same pair that were paired up and prospecting for nests in the Fairfield Orchard / nature reserve area recently? I'll be keeping my eye on those.

As I walked home via the FAUNA reserve I clocked a corking male redstart near the allotment perimeter and I later heard that patch regular Jonny Scragg also had a whinchat there.