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.