Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Goose Tales

Well, it's certainly been an interesting week.
On Monday, news of a somewhat elusive nearby red-breasted goose filtered through; it was with a large flock of pink-footed geese in the Cockerham area. Although I was at work, its discovery came (rather conveniently) at a time that allowed for a quick dash during lunch. And so it was that a small contingent of the RSPB's Lancaster office made their way out to try and locate the goose flock. Within minutes we were scanning through a gaggle of grazing geese and enjoying views, albeit fairly distant, of the rather dazzling rarity plus at least 4 white-fronted geese (Russian race albifrons).
Ill-equipped as I was (I don't always have my bins with me at work) I was most grateful for the loan of Lancashire birding legend Maurice Jones' scope, kindly provided while he sat in his car eating lunch.
This was only the second time I've seen red-breasted goose in Britain (my first was at Caerlaverock back in the 90s) and so it was quite a treat to add it onto my Lancashire list. Not that I actually keep one...

More brief birding fun was had yesterday when a short visit along the causeway and in the Causeway Hide (the hide formerly known as Public) at Leighton Moss allowed for a few jammy year-ticks. As we idled along the path, I was asking Kev Kelly about recent bearded tit sightings when one dutifully gave itself away with its loud pinging call to our right.
Better still, within minutes of sitting down in the hide a bittern flew in from the left and landed on the water's edge - it was fairly distant but clearly visible with binocs as it crept along the reed edge. A marsh harrier then drifted across, adding another classic Leighton bird to the tally.
With good numbers of wildfowl on the reserve including lots of pintail and shoveler, plus local goodies as marsh tit and redpoll the reserve has tons to see at the moment.

Today, though it was back to the patch and I spent a blustery couple of hours around high tide trying to find some interesting Aldcliffe birds.
As I walked along the Freeman's Wood path I could hear the distinctive sound of pinkfeet in Frog Pond field and was hopeful that a sizable flock might be sheltering there. A scan revealed just c160 geese there and nothing out of the ordinary among them. Yep, you guessed it - I'm secretly hoping that the red-breasted, or any other scarce species for that matter, might drop onto the patch while heading north. There's plenty of time yet, so it's always worth checking the geese from here on in.
Freeman's Pools were pretty quiet with just 5 goldeneye, 9 wigeon, 2 teal and a lone female tufted duck riding the waves.
Another 4 tufties were on Frog Pond.
In the fields between the cycle track and the Fairfield drumlins a flock of around 600 starlings were foraging. Accompanying them were 100 or so fieldfare and 20ish redwing - now clearly resorting to invertebrate food now that the hawthorns have been stripped of fruit!

The tide had covered Aldcliffe Marsh and I was hopeful of finding some rock pipits along the strand line. Unfortunately, it would seem that wintering pipits are all but a thing of the past on this stretch of estuary. Not too long ago, one could expect double figures of presumed Scandinavian rock pipits at high tide but these days ones and twos are notable.
Similarly finch flocks were regularly encountered as they searched for food along the tideline - today (as is the norm now) I didn't see a single tideline songbird between Snipe Bog and Marsh Point.
The wintering greenshank was wading in the marsh pools and masses of black-headed gulls were picking food items from the surface of the water but I couldn't dig out any wind-blown little gulls from among them.
Later, walking back through Freeman's Wood I added woodcock and jay to the Aldcliffe yearlist (currently 71).  


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