Monday, 14 March 2016

Fired Up

Having spent countless hours thrashing around in Freeman's Wood over recent weeks in fruitless search of the firecrest I was surprised to practically bump into it today when I least expected it.
It was actively feeding in a scrubby patch of woodland just to the south-west of the football pitch, within the fenced area. It showed well for a couple of brief minutes before melting away into a dense patch of brambles.
(Gav Thomas and I had another look for it late afternoon / early evening but other than flushing a woodcock we came away pretty much birdless).

Snoozing drake pintail
With a fair amount of much-needed hedge-work going on by the Wildfowlers' Pools, the area was a bit less birdy than it has been of late. Few waders were on the flooded fields (just 3 black-tailed godwit and few redshank, lapwing and oystercatcher) though there were still some wildfowl hanging in there. Around 30 coot were in the deeper water while a peak count of exactly 30 gadwall (an Aldcliffe record?), 3 shoveler and a pair of pintail were the notable highlights.
A singing common chiffchaff was in the hedgerow but again, the Siberian chiffchaff was nowhere to be seen.

Given that little ringed plovers have returned to Aldcliffe on the same date of March 19th for the past two years (March 17th in 2013), it's fair to expect that given the calm weather forecast we may well get our first of 2016 in the next few days. With so much appealing habitat available at the moment, my bet is that one will show up on the Wildfowlers' Pools before the weekend. Mind you, I'm a terrible gambler so don't set off to Ladbrokes just yet...

I walked back along Dawson's Bank but there were no geese (see Jean Roberts' post from a few days ago here) or much else for that matter. Even the reliable redpoll were absent.
A singing 1st year male reed bunting was at the still very flooded Bank Pool. Given the glorious weather I was surprised that no lapwings were displaying over the maize fields today. As futile and unsuccessful as it will doubtless be, thanks wholly to the farming practices employed here these days, it will be interesting to see how many nests we have here this year.
Maybe, just maybe, the birds will actually hatch some chicks before the tractors roll in.

Freeman's Pools were fairly quiet with no sign of the recent drake scaup. There was still a decent number of wigeon and a pair of goldeneye present, along with half a dozen tufted duck and a couple of little grebe.

As I neared home, a pair of dancing small tortoiseshells represented my first butterflies of the year. It would seem that spring has officially arrived!

* Ex-Aldcliffe regular birder and latter-day citizen of the white-rose county, Greg Potter, sent the following highlights from his visit to the patch on Wednesday:
45 mute swan, c550 pink-footed geese on Aldcliffe Marsh
5 goldeneye, 15 gadwall, 4 shoveler, 3 pintail & 80 BT godwit at the Wildfowlers' Pools
18 redpoll with 22 goldfinch & 2 greenfinch on Dawson's Bank
5 tufted duck, 20 wigeon & 2 goldeneye at Freeman's Pools
Cheers Greg!


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