Monday, 27 June 2016

Dragons Emerge In The Sun

The past few visits I've made around the Aldcliffe area have been pretty interesting, one way of the other.
On the sunnier days, the highlights have definitely been insect-related; dragonflies and butterflies have been much in evidence.
Relatively recent colonists such as black-tailed skimmer appear to be settling in nicely with mating pairs and individuals on Frog Pond (where the photo here was taken) and Darter Pool.
Dazzling emperor dragonflies can now be found on all the pools and I was pleased to spot a broad-bodied chaser at Darter Pool a couple of days ago. Hundreds of common blue and blue-tailed damselflies too are prolific on warmer days.

Good news (if such low productivity can be hailed as 'good') from the Wildfowlers' Pools concerns the appearance of a brood of 4 lapwing chicks. A pair behaving like 'new parents' in the one of the maize fields also looks promising but given the number of pairs that initially settled in to nest this is pretty dire stuff. Hardly surprising that the numbers of lapwing have decreased massively in England recent decades.
The reappearance of little ringed plovers on The Flood last week wasn't much of a surprise. A pair of adults with a well-fledged youngster implies local-ish breeding but as far as I'm aware there were no nesting pairs on the patch at all this year. I suspect that these birds nested not too far away in some un-watched grubby industrial spot. 
In other baby-bird news; I accidentally flushed a pair of grey partridge the other day, revealing a brood of tiny, recently hatched chicks. Let's hope that some of these make it to adulthood to prop up the dwindling local population.  
The pair of avocets seen on the Lune off Aldcliffe Marsh last week were presumably not those currently nesting further down river.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Quail Fail

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.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Flaming June by the Lune

Crikey, it's been a month since I last posted here. What a slacker.
I do have a half-decent excuse, as I've been in Canada since May 20th guiding a group of Brit birders in BC. We had a great trip and saw almost 200 species of bird in two weeks, plus all manner of mammals including orca, grey whale and black bear. I was there with North West-based company Ribble Bird Tours and our itinerary included a range of habitats in the Lower Mainland, Okanagan Valley and Vancouver Island. An account of the trip will be posted here soon, so if you're keen to find out more about birding in Western Canada please check back shortly.

So, I had a quick scout around the Aldcliffe patch in the flaming June sunshine today to see what was occurring. There were plenty of birds in song including summer visitors such as blackcap, chiffchaff, sedge warbler and whitethroat.
Down at Freeman's Pools it was good to see that the local mute swan pair had hatched 7 cygnets. A lone near-fledged oystercatcher chick was feeding on the muddy edges of the upper pools while a well-grown brood of 4 mallard were also present.
As I walked along Dawson's Bank I spotted a common tern fishing by the Lune and over the saltmarsh pools (my first on the patch this year).
Another local 'year-tick' came in the form of a couple of reed warblers, both of which were singing from the small reed-fringed Bank Pool. One of these fine birds showed well as he belted out his fabulous song from high up in the waterside vegetation.
Potential good news from the maize fields; at least 6 sitting lapwing and an oystercatcher bodes well following the earlier nest trashing...

Thanks to the balmy temperatures there were plenty of butterflies around including speckled wood, small tortoiseshell and my first painted lady of the season.
At Darter Pool I added another year-first in the form of a dazzling emperor dragonfly while the poolside was positively alive with hundreds of blue-tailed damselflies