Monday, 25 April 2016

Got Wood

Singing wood warbler, Stodday
As a few migrants continue to trickle through, we birdwatchers always hope to find something that little more unusual among the commoner species. That can mean something unusual in a real sense or simply in the context of the patch.
My best finds of late have included nothing more than the expected but always welcome whimbrel, lesser whitethroat, common whitethroat and the like.
However, Dan H came up trumps on Saturday morning when he came across a fine wood warbler at Stodday Effluent Treatment Works. This not-so-glamorous sounding spot has a habit of turning up decent birds from time to time and it's only down to the efforts of a handful of local birders that they get recorded. Over the years it has hosted such birds as yellow-browed warbler and black redstart and it has a fair track record for attracting yellow wagtail - an increasingly difficult bird to find in North Lancs.
Dan's wood warbler was singing intermittently and he managed to get a couple of record shots, one of which is reproduced here.
Unlike most other long-range migrants, wood warblers hardly ever turn up at well-watched coastal bird observatories so finding one off-passage is always a thrill for local patch birders. Also, these dazzling migrant warblers have, like yellow wagtail, become very scarce in parts of the UK where they were once relatively common and it's a number of years since one was seen around the Aldcliffe area.

Monday, 18 April 2016

More migrants...

Willow warbler
My work and non-birding lives have conspired lately to keep me away from Aldcliffe. In the past week or so I've seen copulating ospreys in the Lakes, hunting peregrines in the Yorkshire Dales and a smart male ring ouzel in a bleak Pennine valley but none of these are equal to a first-of-the-year migrant on my local patch!

I did squeeze in an hour or so late on Sunday afternoon where the few highlights included:
5 whimbrel - flew in calling 
6 little ringed plover and 2 white wagtail on the Flood
7 goldeneye still at Freeman's Pools
2 grey partridge near Walled Meadow
With a day off today and no pressing chores in wait, I headed off for a couple of hours checking the area. Admittedly, the weather wasn't quite what I'd have hoped for; a brisk westerly with a few squally showers may be OK for coastal birding but alas, not much cop on the estuary.
At Freeman's Pools there was a nice feeding flock of around 40 swallows with a handful of sand martins thrown in for good measure. Swallows were something of a feature of the day with birds trickling through at regular intervals.
A couple of blackcaps were singing in Freeman's Wood along with several now well in-situ willow warblers and chiffchaffs.
At the Wildfowlers' Pools there were 3 pairs of gadwall plus a couple of 'spare' drakes. Other than a small number of teal it was pretty quiet. On the nearby mud there were 3 little ringed plover, with a further 6 on the Flood. Also at the Flood were 7 white wagtails with 5 pied wags.
My first lesser whitethroat of the year was in occasional song along the upper cinder track.
Six eider (4 drakes, 2 ducks) were loafing on the banks of the Lune opposite the Channel.
Once again a pair of grey partridge were near Walled Meadow while another pair were by Heron Pool.

Later in the day I fixed a puncture on my bike and decided to go for a quick spin around the patch... the wind had dropped a bit and I felt the need to go and have another check.
Soon after arriving at Freeman's Pools a fabulous, beautifully lit short-eared owl came into view, with a carrion crow hot on its tail. The crow soon got bored of the chase and the owl briefly quartered the pools edges and rushy field beyond before disappearing from sight.   
All 9 of the earlier little ringed plover were on the Flood, noisily courting and chasing one another.  A notable increase in alba wagtails since my morning visit resulted in 26 birds being present. It was  hard to be sure of the exact ratio as they were extremely mobile and I had only my bins with me they seemed to be mostly pied with at least 7 white wagtails among them.


Monday, 11 April 2016

More Spring Things

Managed a quick stroll around the patch after work on Sunday late afternoon / early evening.
Freeman's Pools was fairly quiet with just a drake tufted duck, 6 wigeon and 5 goldeneye in the 'interesting' wildfowl department. A few sand martins were hawking over the water along with 3 swallows.
Singing birds were few but a handful of chifchaff and a couple of willow warbler were half-heartedly announcing their presence.
At the Wildfowlers' Pools there were just 2 pairs of gadwall - most years more of these wintering birds stay much later into the spring, tempting me to hope for a breeding attempt - a lone pair of shoveler and a scattering of teal.
I bumped int Steve Wallis who had seen 6 little ringed plover on the Flood. I was able to add a further two birds to his tally making an impressive 8 in total. A coupe of little egret were also fishing on the Flood with another on the Wildfowlers' Pools.   

Notes from a morning's birding in and around Aldcliffe from Thursday (7th):
A willow warbler was singing in a garden on Milking Stile Lane - my first of the year. 
Aldcliffe and up to FAUNA/FLORA included:
Chiffchaffs - lots singing all over the place!
Willow warbler - another one singing in the hedgerow along the cycle track.
Little ringed plover - 2 on The Flood
Greenshank - 1 on Aldcliffe Marsh
Wheatear - 12 on the marsh near The Channel & 6 in newly ploughed field at FLORA
Sand martin - one north at FAUNA

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Ringing The Changes

Spring is certainly well and truly upon us. Recent bouts of birding at Aldcliffe have revealed quite a bit of activity; wintering birds are thinning out and breeding species are revving up nicely.
On calm days skylarks and lapwings can be seen and heard over the marsh and maize fields respectively while singing chaffinches, goldfinches and wrens are busy proclaiming territories all over the place.
Up to 12 lesser redpoll continue to mix with the goldfinch flock along the tideline.

We've had the first real arrivals of true spring migrants in recent days too with freshly arrived chiffchaffs aplenty - I counted 12 yesterday (Saturday) between Freeman's Wood and Aldcliffe Hall Lane. I could only find 2 wheatear on the marsh but they were nonetheless a very welcome sight.
Aldcliffe regular Manjeet Lamba struck lucky earlier in the week when he came across a firecrest in the newly relayed hedges by the Wildfowlers' Pools on Tuesday morning. Given the large numbers of firecrests in the country in recent days this was almost certainly a new bird, as opposed to the Freeman's Wood one out on manoeuvres.

Drake pintail
Wildfowl numbers have dropped off a touch with the relatively long-staying pintail no longer on site and even the tufted ducks have moved on. Up to 7 goldeneye remain at Freeman's Pools along with a handful of wigeon and teal while up to 3 shoveler and half a dozen or so gadwall are still hanging around the Wildfowlers' Pools.
As the water levels continue to drop here the numbers of birds are similarly dropping. However, a feeding flock of c260 redshank have been at Frog Pond along with the ubiquitous little egrets.

Little ringed plover
The solitary greenshank is still to be found most days out on the Aldcliffe Marsh pools.
Little ringed plover seem firmly settled in at The Flood with 3 present there today.
I keep looking up in the hope of picking out the first patch passage osprey of the season but so far the only raptors winding up the gulls have been common buzzards and sparrowhawks.
Every day at this time of year one can hope to add another new bird for the year as long-distant migrants arrive and short-range ones move through - it's just a case of putting the time in and (often) being a bit lucky!