My few visits to the patch have been pretty unremarkable over the past few days; a pair of tufted duck have appeared on Freeman's Pools and the mute swan pair have actually hatched eight cygnets (not seven as I said in my last post).
The first returning greylags and Canada geese dropped in too - numbers of both these 'resident' species should increase significantly in the coming weeks. Similarly, lapwings have started gathering in the fields - these all presumably failed or non-breeders. I have yet to see a single youngster around the Aldcliffe area this season...
Given this dearth of avian thrills, I headed out to Fluke Hall, Pilling yesterday morning in search of something of a nemesis bird. A quail has been singing in fields in the area for several days and I was quite keen to go and have a listen for it and hopefully to catch a glimpse of this often secretive gamebird.
Quails are long-range migrants and are scarce summer visitors to the north west. This species is what we birders call a 'bogey bird' for me. I have heard them on several occasions throughout the UK and I have seen them on the continent and in their wintering grounds in South Africa, but it is the only breeding British bird that I have never seen on British soil. And given David Talbot's superb shots of the Pilling bird on the LDBWS website (click here) I was feeling optimistic.
I arrived at the spot and was soon marveling at the sight of a smart corn bunting (now sadly extinct as a breeding bird at Aldcliffe) and several tree sparrows. What a difference a few miles and a few arable fields make...
On a slightly less exciting note there were also lots of red-legged partridge in the fields, along with lapwings and an oystercatcher. The hedgerows were filled with whitethroat too, many of which were carrying food to noisy begging youngsters.
But alas, no singing quail could be heard.
I had a walk along the seawall, spotting 8 grey plover out on the sands and a large flock of knot by Cocker's Dyke. I estimated around 2000 birds present, several in dazzling brick-red breeding garb. A scan through (secretly hoping for a broad-billed sandpiper or something of that ilk) only revealed 3 smart summer-plumaged dunlin. A painted lady was seen along the path.
I returned to the 'quail-zone' and once again the air was bereft of its distinctive 'wet my lips' song.