Friday, 6 May 2016

What A DIfference A Day Makes

I spent four hours rummaging around on the patch this morning, covering just about every key area.
To be honest I wasn't too impressed initially, there seemed to be a serious lack of newly arrived migrants and there was no evidence of visible migration at all.

Common toad - Freeman's Wood
The first sign that things had changed slightly came in the form of a couple of common whitethroat that were singing at one another near Darter Pool.

This theme continued throughout the morning, implying a major arrival of the long-distance travellers. There seemed to whitethroats in every hedge and small tree; I even found one lurking incongruously in the tideline debris near the Channel.
By contrast, I only saw or heard around 5 lesser whitethroat between Freeman's Wood and Stodday ETW.

A grasshopper warbler was reluctantly reeling from an area of dense vegetation in the cutting just to the south of the Aldcliffe Marsh metal sheep access gate by Cadaver Corner.

A pair of peregrines were over Colloway Marsh and the only other notable birds on or around the river included 7 eider, 2 goosander and a whimbrel plus the usual multiple little egrets.

On the Flood a pair of little ringed plover were in residence while another two were with a small flock of dunlin on Aldcliffe Marsh.

Female whinchat
As I walked back along the seawall I came across the first evidence of passage migrants all morning (there weren't even any hirundines on the move).
A couple of wheatear were feeding with a pair of whinchat along the tideline. They always kept their distance, the male whinchat in particular remaining just too away far to get a pic.
A check around the upper ponds at Freeman's Pools revealed an apparent influx of sedge warblers with at least 4 singing away in close proximity.

Other stuff of note seen included 2 pairs of grey partridge, 3 gadwall, lots of blackcaps, chiffchaffs, a few willow warblers, linnets, 3 stock doves, and sparrowhawk. And while I don't normally take much notice of pheasants, I couldn't help but be struck by this rather fine male in a field of dandelions. Sorry about that...

* In other news; Aldcliffe regular Jane McVickers had great views of a short-eared owl by Freeman's Pools on evening earlier in the week. 



Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A Swift Visit

Managed an hour on the patch before work this morning. Felt like an age since I'd been birding around Aldcliffe and I was keen if there had been any notable changes since my last visit.  I had my mind set on garganey, swift or yellow wagtail...

Apart from the fact that there was a lot more greenery, it was disappointingly quiet.
Freeman's Pools were almost birdless. A couple of coot and mute swans were the only things on the water while a pair of Canada geese on the island were joined by a cormorant, grey heron and a brace of oystercatchers.

As I scanned a bird-free Frog Pond I looked up and noticed a couple of distant swifts - my first of the year! They came closer and eventually passed overhead moving in a north westerly direction. A scattering of swallows and sand martins were moving through is irregular small flurries.
Other than the vocal blackcaps in and around Freeman's Wood there wasn't too much else singing. An occasional common whitethroat muttered half-heartedly from the hedgerow but I didn't hear any lesser whitethroat at all this morning and I have yet to hear a sedge warbler on the patch this spring.
Only a couple of willow warbler were bothering to declare their presence; at least the chiffchaffs were making slightly more effort.

The first round of the annual lapwing nest-trash had taken place in recent days, with the spreading of horse manure around the maize fields. Once again, the clutches would have been just days from hatching. Compared to last year the number of birds attempting to breed here this year is frighteningly low with probably only 6-7 pairs present. With such high nest failure rates I suppose its hardly surprising that numbers are sharply declining... 
Two drake gadwall and a drake teal were at the Wildfowlers' Pools, as was a fine adult peregrine which was sat pulling a freshly dispatched moorhen apart.

Unfortunately there was no splash of yellow to brighten up the small group of alba wagtails on the Flood, but 2 smart white wagtails were some compensation. A pair of little ringed plover were present along with a lone redshank and a little egret.

Scanning the far bank of the Lune from beyond Walled Meadow I could see 7 loafing eider, while closer in a couple of whimbrel were on the saltmarsh.
As I headed off to work I noticed a further group of 7 swifts over the FAUNA reserve.

Spring might well be here, but some days it really doesn't feel much like it...