Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Owls about that then...

Managed a late morning / early afternoon wander around the patch.

Freeman's Wood was quietish with the only highlights being a jay, the roosting tawny owl (pictured, badly, left), a woodcock (my first here in ages, even though they're annual winter visitors) and the usual cluster of goldfinches and blue & great tits near Lucy Brook at the Willow Lane end.
Seemed to be lots of blackbirds around again...

3 bullfinch, and Guy McClellan, were by Freeman's Pools which were almost entirely frozen bar a very small patch of open water. On it were 8 coot, 2 little grebe, 5 mallard and, new in, 2 pairs of gadwall - the first I've seen in the Aldcliffe area since spring. A heron, 2 mute swans and a kestrel were here too.

A few snipe were in the frozen stubble fields and around the Wildfowlers' Pools, as were 5 fieldfare.

The fog on the marsh hindered viewing somewhat and the only geese visible were Canadas and 2 greylag.

Here's to an interesting 2009..!

Monday, 29 December 2008

More ansers than questions...

An early finish allowed a post-work blast down to the patch, where I bumped into Steve W. who joined me for a bit of a root about. Soon after we also met Jenny & Jeff Butcher who were similarly on a wild goose chase.

The 4 European white-fronted geese were again with the greylag flock on Aldcliffe Marsh opposite Snatchems plus 100 or so 'new-in' pinkfeet. Further pinkfeet were wheeling around, with numerous birds seen dropping out of sight toward Oxcliffe.
When the whitefronts are head-down feeding amongst the greylags they can be pretty inconspicuous. The 2 adults are of course relatively easy to spot if their heads are up, even at distance. The 2 juvs can be trickier, though one has something a blaze developing while the other appears to have none. When feeding out in the open, the adults' dark belly markings are obvious, again the young birds lack these and can be harder to pick out. Their small size and distinctive head shape can be a giveaway even at range, and indeed this was what alerted me to their presence yesterday - worth bearing in mind when trying to locate them in the low winter sunlight!

Thanks to Jeff Butcher for the above
pic .

What appeared to be a ruff flew over from the direction of the Flood toward the tip but too brief a view didn't allow absolute confirmation. Really can't imagine what else it could have been...

Freeman's Pools: All the usual suspects, fem scaup (now starting to resemble an adult) plus 5 shoveler, 3 wigeon, 3 goldeneye, 2 little grebe etc. A small flock of meadow pipit were nearby.

Frog Pond: 60ish wigeon again present. A sparrowhawk was cruising the hedges here.

Wildfowlers' Pools: Quietish, just a few teal and 3 snipe visible. And a brown hare.

6 snipe by the temporary pool in the field over the road from the Flood.

3 bullfinch along the cycle track were only notable passerines.

The Freeman's Wood tawny owl was in its usual roost.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

New socks & whitefronts for Christmas...

A mid afternoon amble with Jenny saw the following highlights:

A good find came in the form of 4 European White-fronted geese (2 ads, 2 juvs) feeding amongst the 300ish greylags on Aldcliffe Marsh (1.45pm).
A little egret was nearby.

Freeman’s Pool: Scaup 1 1stw fem, 4 Shoveler, 8 Mallard, 3 wigeon, 4 Goldeneye, c.210 Canada geese, 4 Mute Swan, 2 Little Grebe, 9 Coot, 1 Snipe.

A little owl was in the Admiralty Wood.

Of note: at least 60 wigeon still on Frog Pond yesterday but none this afternoon. The roosting tawny owl was still there yesterday too.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Penelope pitstop

Managed a bit of time out for a lazy early afternoon trawl around the usual key spots.

Freeman's Pools: the regular 1stw fem scaup still present and showing well in glorious sunshine.
Otherwise, a male shoveler, a single female wigeon, 5 goldeneye (1 ad drake), 2 little grebe, 1 snipe, just 8 coot, 4 mute swans and a bunch of mallard made up the supporting cast.
Frog Pond: The highlight of the day was the unprecedented sight of 45+ wigeon on this smallish pool. I imagine they'd been kicked off the marsh by shooting activities. The regular mute swan pair were also here.
Wildlfowlers' Pools: Quiet, just 4 teal and a load of mallard.
30 or so meadow pipit & 1 pied wagtail were feeding on the wet fields. 4 snipe were in 'reedy corner'.
Very few passerines were noted along the cycle track. The number of blackbirds has really gone down and there are few tits and common finches to be seen or heard. Only the territorial robins and dunnocks are evident.
The tawny owl discovered by Guy last week was again at its roost.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Patch-work guilt...

After failing to get to Aldcliffe yesterday I felt in desperate need to spend a bit of time there this morning but it was pretty quiet down the old patch, thanks mainly to the blustery wind which seemed to have the effect of making everything seek cover.

The 1st w female scaup was roosting on the island at Freeman's Pools alongside a pair of drake shoveler. Also present were the 3 regular 1stw-type goldeneye plus a pair of smart adults (m&f) on the top pool, 1 little grebe and the usual (though notably reduced) scattering of coot & mallard.
The Wildfowlers' Pools were quiet but for the large numbers of mallard and a few moorhen.
Other than an audible but invisible group of long-tailed tits the cycle track was pretty birdless, and the marsh seemed quiet too.

Stop Press
Thanks to Guy McClellan who texted with the discovery of a roosting tawny owl in the Freeman's Wood area.
Zipped down to have a look and found it - though it wasn't all that easy, so big thanks to Guy for his great instructions! Worth keeping an eye on it in case it's a regular roost, it might come in handy on New Year's Day...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Waxwing lyrical

OK, so it may just be on the fringes of the Aldcliffe patch (though in my defence I was the one that made that up) - but I didn't get chance to cover the patch today so the 3 waxwings that graced my street can be justifiably posted here!
2 were seen by the nursery as I came out of the house at 11.40am, and I immediately dashed back in for my bins for a proper look at them, abandoning all thoughts of the post office and the parcels I had to collect.
Called Dan H who popped round the corner in a matter of seconds and we were treated to good views of one very mobile bird in particular.
The local mistle thrushes seemed particular vexed by the crested interlopers.
Later (1.05pm), 3 were together in the same area before flying off up Ays-Garth Road. Had a wander around trying to find a suitable feeding spot but that was the last I saw of them.

Oh, and to further enhance my 'house-list' a party of long-tailed tits made their debut around my 'feeding station' in the front garden. Nice.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Back on the patch...

Apologies for the lack of postings of late but I've been on Madeira, escaping the pre-Christmas madness and adding the endemic pigeon and 'crest to my list, oh and plain swift too (which I'd missed on a trip to Tenerife in December a few years back). And after a week of enjoying the lovely Madeiran firecrests I came home to discover a goldcrest by my birdtable - a garden tick!

Anyhoo, enough of that. Got back just in time for my WeBS count which I did in reverse for a change - Conder to Aldcliffe.

General highlights will be on the LDBWS site - I'll just stick with the Aldcliffe patch notables here.
12 shoveler were on Freeman's Pools as were 3 goldeneye but no sign of the scaup - did this leave as a result of the 'big freeze' last week?
A rather remarkable flock of 177 oystercatcher and 98 black-tailed godwit came up from the river at Marsh Point and started feeding on the grazed area on the old tip.
2 little egret, 5 pinkfeet & 276 Canada geese were on Aldcliffe Marsh, while a large number of greylags (200+) were grazing in the fields to the east of the river - my attempt to count them accurately was thwarted by an aircraft that flushed them before I got to a spot where I could do so, and they then headed off in the direction from which I'd just come. Darnit.
Admittedly, all the best birds were outside the patch area today... and I didn't have time to bash the miles of potential LEO-hiding hawthorns. Bet there's one in there somewhere. But I've been saying that for years...

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Weekend lowlights

Saturday's visit was somewhat marred by the fact that I couldn't see beyond 50 metres at best thanks to the blanket of fog shrouding the whole lower Lancaster area.
A pair of grey wagtail and some coot shaped birds were just about visible on Freeman's Pools and a rather remarkable 84 mallard were crammed onto Darter Pool. 9 teal were at the Wildfowlers' Pools. Hardly anything else of note except a lone bullfinch along the cycle track.

Sunday - after a failed attempt to add cattle egret to my recording area list, and missing waxwings at Booth's car park at Carnforth for the second consecutive Sunday, I decided to waste my time nearer to home and headed for Aldcliffe mid-afternoon.
Highlight was the 1stw fem scaup still present on Freeman's Pools along with 16 coot, 2 shoveler, 3 wigeon, 2 goldeneye, 2 little grebe, about a dozen mallard, 2 mute swan and a snipe. A grey wag flew over.
9 twite and a reed bunting were in the stubble field hedgerow and good numbers of fieldfare were around.
Nothing of note at the iced-up Wildfowlers' Pools, or visible on the marsh. A small group of meadow pipit were feeding at The Flood with a single pied wag.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Shrike a light!

A message came through via LDBWS website (posted by Pete Woodruff) that a great grey shrike was seen at the junction of the upper cinder path and the main, lower, cycle track (near the Wildfowlers' Pools) on Sunday. At the risk of sounding mental, was it specifically identified as GREAT grey given the Steppe grey in the east of the country!!?

Unfortunately I was arseing about chasing waxwings yesterday (that'll teach me...) , so I didn't do my regular Sunday check of Aldcliffe.

Any news of further sightings (plus details of the original one please, Pete's friend!) would be very welcome... my contact details can be found in the right hand panel.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Weekend winter wonderland

Ahh, the good old weekend and time during daylight hours to have a mooch around the patch.
Bloody freezing, though...!

Freeman's Pools still seem to be attractive to a number of birds, notably: Juv. female scaup, 6 tufted duck, 2 goldeneye, 9 wigeon, 7 mallard, 2 little grebe, 16 coot, 4 mute swan & 33 woodpigeon.
Darter Pool: 1 coot
Frog Pond: 2 mute swan
Wildfowlers' Pools: 2 goldeneye, 3 shoveler, 1 little grebe, 3 teal, 2 coot & numerous mallard & moorhen. A group of c.30 redshank were commuting to feed in the wet field areas here and at The Flood where there were also 5 shelduck, 6 mallard and 7 moorhen. 1 fly-over snipe.
A couple of egrets were kicking around though there was little else of note visible on the Marsh.
Loads of blackbirds around plus reasonable numbers of redwing and fieldfare along with 3 bullfinch along the cycle track.

Noted a Portuguese vagrant in the form of Ricardo, a student currently residing in the area and a keen birder - welcome!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Time and tide...

A rather knackering WeBS today, though at least the weather was rather stunning!
Walked from Aldcliffe (well, home actually - started counting from Aldcliffe) to Conder and back again with the following highlights noted:
Freeman's Pools - 2 Green sandpiper, female scaup, 2 goldeneye, 4 tufted, 3 wigeon, fem goosander.
Aldcliffe Marsh - 8 little egret, 275 Canada geese, 430 greylag, 230 golden plover, 2 rock pipit, 4 adult Med gulls amongst 800+ BH gulls on the river.

(Remainder of WeBS 'out of the parish' but highlights included kingfisher, peregrine, 2 spotted redshank, 1 greenshank, at least 45 tufted duck on Conder Pool plus 3 flyover tree sparrows there.)

On the walk back, accompanied by a spectacular sunset, noted some shooting going on at the Wildfowlers' Pools and a very vocal tawny owl was sat out in the open in Freeman's Wood, easily viewable from the footpath and equally easily audible from Willow Lane.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Out for a duck

A bit of a brief visit to the parish today, with Mrs C, so casual birding all the way!
The juv female scaup was on Freeman's Pools (where does this bird 'disappear' to?) plus a pair of tufteds, just 3 wigeon, 2 little grebe and 1 goldeneye plus the usual stuff.
A further 3 goldeneye (2f, 1stw m) were at the Wildfowlers' Pools and a single little egret was on the marsh.
Plenty of blackbirds about but no other thrushes of note.

First grey partridge I've see in the Aldcliffe area for ages (I'd rather gloomily summised that they'd possibly finally disappeared as breeding birds in the area) - but NO! A pair of adults with 3 1st year birds were seen in an area where they traditionally breed. But for how long?

A little owl was in Admiralty Wood.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

November Rain

Dan signing in.

After hearing of Guy McC's intriguing little'un of yesterday, me and Steve W gave Freeman's Wood a soggy 3-hour bash today.

Couldn't find owt scarce- but there were a fair few birds about, the highlights being two blackcaps, a chiffchaff, and a lesser redpoll.

There were also circa fifteen goldcrests, 25 redwings and four-and-twenty blackbirds.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Scaup 'scoped.

Unfortunately my only window of birding opportunity for the whole weekend coincided with a horribly persistent wet and windy spell which started soon after me leaving the house and stopped withing seconds of my arrival home. Thanks for that.
Anyhoo, through the mizzle and falling leaves I bagged the following:
Freeman's Pools - 1st w f scaup, 10 wigeon, 1 tufted duck, 9 coot, 2 little grebe, 4 mute swan, 3 moorhen, 7 mallard.
Stubble fields: 2 tree sparrow, 3 reed bunting, 11 chaffinch feeding together.
Wildfowlers' Pools: green sandpiper, 120+ redshank, 10+ black-tailed godwit, 3 teal, 1 female goosander, 2 mute swan.
Marsh: Quick scan through the soggy haze - 2 little egret, 40+ Canada geese.
Cycle track: 1 water rail, good numbers LT tit, approx 60 fieldfare, pair bullfinch.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Daniel here.

What few birding skills I had have deserted me so far this month, after getting into a good rhythm a few weeks back.

For example- my October-style pishing is of NO interest to the callous birds of November.

Today I stumbled around the wood doing little but terrifying the thrushes.

Couldn't find any warblers...I could hear goldcrests, but saw few... The best wingbars I could manage were those on a red admiral.

Feeling rather adrift, I thought I'd finally twitch the Freeman's Pool scaup- but couldn't locate it. (It had last been noted by Guy McLelland...this morning!).

If anybody finds my Aldcliffe mojo-- could you please let me know? You'll find me at Heysham.

Accidental highlights were a nice pair of stonechats on the sliver of land just 'upstream' of Keyline (one pictured-just O.O.A.A.!) and six tree sparrows in Freeman's Wood.

Saturday, 1 November 2008


The main thing about this morning's trawl through Freeman's Wood and into Aldcliffe was the overwhelming number of thrushes - fieldfare in particular. Well, just the number of birds in general was enough the set the pulse racing!
Almost every hawthorn held redwings, song thrushes and blackbirds with associating flocks of mobile fieldfare being quite impressive.
The stubble fields were attracting good numbers of finches (mainly chaffinch) plus a few reed buntings, tree sparrows and the odd meadow pipit & pied wag. At least 12 skylark passed over.
c. 370 greylag were feeding in the cut maize fields.
On the flooded Wildfowlers' Pools there were at least 500 redshank, 36 black-tailed godwit, 9 snipe, 4 teal and 14 coot. A water rail squeeled nearby and another showed well by the flooded Bank Pool. A green sandpiper was seen over the fields by Guy McC. (cheers Guy)
Just 1 little egret was noted the Marsh and around 100 Canada geese were on the river.
Freeman's Pools held 4 mute swan, 11 shoveler, 9 wigeon, 2 tufted duck, 1stw f scaup, 10 coot & 2 little grebe.

Superb numbers of winter thrushes about.

Heading north over Fairfield and adjacent areas of west Lancaster this afternoon were:

C.550 fieldfares and 1200 redwings over between 1400h and 1545h, mostly in single-species flocks. The largest flock was 320 fieldfares N at ten past two.

The hawthorns in Fairfield paddocks were pulling down scores of thrushes from on high too. Parties were having a quick re-fuel and re-orientating north in double-figure parties.

This corner of the parish had around 300 fieldfare, 600 redwings, 150 blackbirds (mainly 1st- winters) and 50 continental-looking song thrushes knocking about at one point mid-afternoon.

A stock dove was near Pony Wood.

Smaller numbers of blackbirds, redwings and 4 goldcrests were noted in Freeman's Wood.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Return of the Green Sandpiper

Green sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pools and 1st w female scaup still on Freeman's Pools today - thanks to Steve W for keeping an eye on things down there!

Good to see a green sand back at the pools. Overwintering birds at Aldcliffe usually vanish for a while if the water levels get too high, then return once the pool edges become exposed. I wonder where it's been?

To see the rest of Steve's recent Aldcliffe postings click on the link to the LDBWS website below, on the right.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Scaup stays put...

The juv female scaup was again present at Freeman's Pools this morning. Glad to note that Steve W successfully 'twitched' it!
Also there: 4 mute swan, 3 little grebe, 7 wigeon, 3 tufted duck, 1 shoveler, 15 coot & 1 goldeneye plus the usual mallards & moorhens.
Pair of m swans on Frog Pond & 2 coot on Darter Pool.
The Wildfowlers' Pools continue to expand due to the incessant rainfall and are now at sever mid-winter levels with the cycle track being flooded for a good 100m or so. Good job the upper path is there, allowing you to bypass it if you don't have wellies. Not much there bird-wise though, just a group of 50ish feeding redshank, the usual moorhens, a few coot and a little grebe.
Just 1 little egret spotted on the marsh.
1 common snipe flushed from Snipe Bog.
Passerines pitifully quiet in general with just 1 flock of redwing and a few feeding blackbirds, song thrushes and 2 tit flocks in the hedgerows.

And finally...
Congratulations to my very good pal Adrian 'Ziggy' Dawson who today became a first-time dad. As a former Aldcliffe patch-worker this blog wishes him, Rachael and their newborn daughter Isobella our very best wishes.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Scaup scoop!

The combination of a bright day and a 5 o'clock finish on Friday allowed for what will certainly be the last post-work visit from me for quite some time... However, it wasn't exactly stunning.
2 little grebe, 2 tufted duck, 9 wigeon, 7 mallard, 14 coot & 4 mute swan the Freeman's Pools highlights.
2 further little grebe were on the Wildfowlers' Pools plus around 20 mallard and 60 or so redshank.
Another 2 little grebe were on the Flood along with approx 100 mallard.

Didn't manage to get out until the afternoon when I spent spent a soggy spell trying to check the area.
Several hundred lapwing were in the fields with a few redshank and a solitary golden plover. A flock of approx 150 resting BH gulls held an adult Med gull by the Flood.
A shoveler and 2 little grebe were on the Wildfowlers' Pools.
The undoubted highlight was a 1st winter fem. scaup on Freeman's Pools with 3 tufted duck (this is personal first for Aldcliffe and brings my patch list to 177). Also present were 13 wigeon (finally made double figures), 2 little grebe and the usual mallard, coot, moorhen etc. No sign of any pochard.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Winter thrushes arrive...

Late morning, early afternoon prowl around revealed the following 'highlights'...

Freeman's Wood - 50ish redwing tazzing around and feeding in the hawthorns, plus 2 fieldfare and few song thrushes. No tit flocks of note.

Freeman's Pools: 3 little grebe, 2 shoveler, 2 tufted duck, 2 pochard, 1 goldeneye, 5 wigeon, 21 coot, 4 mute swan.
Also 1 stoat and a roe deer.

Frog Pond - 2 mute swan & 1 brown hare.

Darter Pool - 1 little grebe, 2 coot.

Wildfowlers' Pools - 6 coot & a peregrine.

The Flood - 1 little grebe.

Snipe Bog - 4 common snipe

Aldcliffe Marsh - 3 little egret.

Cycle track - 1 LT tit flock contained 2 blue tit and nowt else.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Aldcliffe annex?

Dan again..

I will shortly be in talks with Jon Carter to extend the ancient Aldcliffe parish boundary to include Milking Stile Lane, which is only about 250 metres from Freeman's Wood.

I was hobbling home down Milking Stile early this afternoon when I heard loud firecrest calls emanating from the bushes adjoining Jon's street. A couple of minutes and a bit of pishing later the culprit flitted out from deep cover and gave me a mean look.

Over the next twenty minutes I caught a few more glimpses of this splendid female as it motored around this unpreposessing patch of planting.
A secondary surprise was the number of migrant songbirds alongside this busy stretch of pavement-- with a minimum of four chiffchaffs, 5 goldcrests and up to 10 coal tits rubbing shoulders with the posh kinglet. A few redwings were knocking about too.

Two chiffchaffs looked rather like the continental abietinus race.

This suburban firecrest is the only one I've ever found in Lancashire (glad Ray Hobbs got a look too)-- what a shame it wasn't quite inside the parish patch--or was it?!

Jon's tuppenyworth...

Given that I start birding the minute I leave my house to walk to Freeman's Wood and on to Aldcliffe (as I'm sure you do, Dan), I suppose we could include it... only problem is, where does it end? I recall taking the p*ss out of Mark Prestwood and John Reddish a few years back 'cause they raced to Teal Bay in order to 'scope a razorbill I'd found off the Jetty and they wanted to get it on their Leighton Moss list! By that logic we should be able to count stuff in the Trough of Bowland and Conder (well, you can see both sites from Aldcliffe) :-)

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Just the Regulus!

Dan once more.

A paltry four goldcrests located in Freeman's Wood in ever dampening conditions this afternoon. No chiffs or sylvias evident in a thorough search.

Freeman's Pools were only marginally wetter. The largest pool held a pochard, nine wigeon and two tufted ducks. A kingfisher was piping up on one of the shallow pools.

An off-passage meadow pipit flock of twenty-eight was feeding in the rough grass.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sylvia's Cover


Thought I'd make the most of the still conditions this morning and do a spot of Aldcliffe 'vis' ... almost all birds were heading south or south-east

Raven - 1E (though probably a local).
Chaffinch- 16.
Linnet- 4.
Alba wagtail- 32.
Meadow pipit- 34.
Goldfinch- 9.
Song thrush- 3.
Greenfinch- 29.
Coal tit- 3.
House sparrow- 3.
Siskin- 3.
Grey wagtail- 3.
Snipe- 6.
Starling- one flock of 80.
Golden plover- 123.
Skylark- 20.
Redpoll sp.-3.
Reed bunting- 1.
Smaller (silent!) finch sp. -flock of 17.
As I began working Freeman's Wood I could hear more skylarks, meadow pipits and alba wags heading over , until fog stopped the vis trickle at about 0930.
The FW bush-bashing was fairly productive with a shy garden warbler, 3-4 male blackcaps, 15 or so goldcrests, 9 coal tits and c.40 song thrushes.
Seems to have been an influx of robins with around 25 in the wood. I could only find one chiffchaff, but another was just out of area halfway down Willow Lane.
At 1100 43 pink-footed geese headed S as the fog began to dissipate- a welcome change to all the feral honkers that seem to dominate the area at the moment!
Before a family exercised their dogs in Freeman's Pools 2 pochards had added to the duck numbers.
A green sandpiper was vocal and mobile in the north of the parish.

Jon: Following my return from 2 weeks out of the parish (birding in the Western & Northern Cape = approx 180 new birds), I had a lazy amble with Jenny this afternoon (that's not a euphemism, but a description of our walk) but it was unsurprisingly devoid of notable birdlife.
We did bump into Dusty (long time, no see) who reported 3 buzzards and a little egret.
The pochard pair were on Freeman's Pools along with a drake tufted, 21 coot & a little grebe. Nice to be back... cheers, as always, to Dan for keeping things interesting here.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


Little'uns like chiffchaffs and goldcrests were hard to come by in Freeman's Wood with just two of each found this afternoon.

The only 'new' birds in the wood were thrushes, with at least 15 song thrushes (british-looking, mind!) skulking in the denser patches, and a typically noisy flock of 9 mistles on the rampage.

A quick squint through the branches towards Freeman's Pools revealed 10 wigeon by the island.

A migrant hawker was hawking over Lucy Brook despite the overcast and windy conditions.


Monday, 6 October 2008

Vis and Vee

A little bit of visible migration over the top end of the ancient parish this morning 0830-1000:

Tree sparrow 2.
Skylark 17.
Meadow pipit 19.
Chaffinch 20.
Linnet 2.
Swallow 7.
Grey wag 3.
Alba wag 9.
Snipe 1.
Reed bunting 3.

All were heading south-east-ish into the stiff breeze..

The maize fields were chock-a-block with reed buntings- at least 20 knocking about.

The largest of Freeman's Pools had 10 wigeon, 3 tufted duck, a shoveler and 6 little grebes- plus the regular feral geese which noisily descended from the NE at about quarter to nine.

Still good numbers of common darter dragons in sheltered spots.


Sunday, 5 October 2008

It Pays to Pish?

Dan again.

I've persisted in searching for migrant passerines in the parish the past few days- spending inordinate lengths of time pishing up trees in Freeman's Wood for the most part!

The wood has been holding between 8 and 25 goldcrests daily, up to ten chiffchaffs and a whole heap of tits. The day before last I heard a call that reminded me of y.b. warbler, but whatever it was only piped up once before it melted!

Today, a silvery-looking songbird flitted out and up from the hedge that bisects Fairfield paddocks (cf. Jon's map!) in response to my whistling.

It was obviously a flycatcher- but which?
It landed at 20ft above me (up an ash)- at which point I could rule out spotted (no striations- clean white) and red-breasted (on under-tail pattern).

It flew on and I re-found it 80 metres away in the community orchard- an obvious white wing-bar.
I wanted to scrutinise such a late migrant 'pied'. Initially I thought it looked like an adult female, rather than a more likely 1st-winter bird. I got good views of a pale, greyish-brown flyca and began to try and rule out semi-collared and collared flycatcher... Not as easy as I thought...Especially since I didn't know what I needed to look out for....

The face was pale, and 'open'-looking- with the jet black bill and eye looking unusually conspicuous. The lores quite pale aswell. The crown was a little lighter than the mantle- a 'milky', 'mushroom' kinda colour!

After awhile, (thinking I'd lost the bird for good) I hobbled home and checked a field guide which showed both female-type semi and collared flycatchers as lighter and gentler-looking than pied I began to sweat.

I hobbled back to the scene and eventually re-found it just 50 metres from where I'd last seen it- it was flycatching in willows. I noted that the rump was concolourous with the mantle and tail (bad news for a collared?) and that the white in the wing looked more restricted as with pied.

Later, when Pete Crooks came to my aid- a small median covert bar was also showing in the more contrasty late sunlight.

The under-tail (it was above us- wood warbler style!) was mid-dark grey with white outers. It was tame and silent throughout....

Cheers to Pete and Ray for coming out and giving their thoughts.

Anyway-- almost certainly a pied....that's enough of the boring story of an interesting little bird!

Tomorrow- Dan looks at a house sparrow for too long...

Saturday, 27 September 2008


Had an exceedingly slow-paced bash at Freeman's Wood today with phylloscopus inornatus in mind.

A garden warbler, three blackcaps, 6 chiffchaffs and 20 goldcrests were all spread out-- hardly any flocking in the summery, insect-rich conditions... Also 5 coal tits and 3 jays.

I allowed myself a few sneaky peeks above the canopy, and 3 swallows were seen heading SW.

Dragonflies were aplenty this afternoon with at least 100 common darters, 13 migrant and 2 brown hawkers in and around the wood.


Freeman's Wood Pt 1

Freeman's Wood is a fun patch of woodland, scrub (and playing fields!) at the top end of the glorious parish of Aldcliffe.

Yesterday, I (Dan) re-acquainted myself with it after a year of neglect.
I've had a little accident and the wood is within limping distance of me house!
I even had to take my girlfriend with me because my cracked ribs means that it hurts when I pish.

With Rachel on pishing duties we slowly worked the wood for migrants but a few goldcrests, coal tits and chiffchaffs were the best we could manage.

Freeman's Wood has a reasonable track record for less common passerines. I found myself a yellow-browed warbler here in the big invasion of autumn 2005.

Jon Carter's nearby hedgerow firecrest of last year surely ended up somewhere in Freeman's thickets.

In spring 1989 a subalpine warbler was the ace find of Dave Carter and Ziggy Dawson.

Freeman's is a good spot for holding chiffchaffs and blackcaps through most winters. I've found mealy redpolls quietly snacking on seed heads here too .
A great grey shrike hung out in the 'lino dump' zone in the winter of 91/92.

A decent patch-within-a-patch and often worth a hobble...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Coots mon!

An influx of coot onto Freeman's Pools noted this evening with at least 11 birds present.
6 mute swan, little grebe and a couple of wigeon there too.
Another pair of swans were on Frog Pond.
Not much on show, from the gate, at the Wildfowlers' Pools - 1 pintail, 11 snipe and 5 teal. Heard a kingfisher but couldn't spot the blighter.
2 green sandpiper dropped noisily in from a considerable height.
A few goldcrest were heard along the cycle track hedgerow and I watched a pair for several minutes at close range engaged in some sort of dispute with a lot of very high pitched calling (even by goldcrest standards) and some interesting posturing.
A couple of hundred lapwing were feeding in the fields along with 60ish curlew.
Both the Flood and Marsh appeared quiet.

I couldn't help but notice that today was the first day for some time that I haven't seen any hirundines at all...

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Ruff around the edges

Morning visit reasonable - 2 wigeon amongst the mallard etc on Freeman's Pools. 2 chiffchcaff nearby.
4 green sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pools plus 5 shoveler & 5 teal.
Another green sandpiper was on The Flood and 5 little egret were on the marsh.
I then bumped into Ray Hobbs by the Walled Meadow who reported a stock dove at the cutting - quite a scarce bird here these days... as we chatted 2 waders flew over us and on to The Flood, further investigation revealed them to be a pair of ruff. Very nice!
A few meadow pipits were kicking about and my first rock pipit of the autumn flew onto the marsh.

As I was on my way back home I came across Steve W who was on his way to d a trawl around - later he told me he'd had an osprey over the marsh about ten minutes after I'd left!

At home, a group of buzzards were thermalling to the west of my house (as viewed from my back yard at 1.35pm) - closer observation revealed one of the 6 birds in total to be an adult honey buzzard, the rest were commons. After a while the honey b. departed swiftly to the SW, soon followed by the com's. As it happens, fellow birder Shaun Coyle was visiting and also got on to the bird - providing him with the first decent bird he's seen in England this year!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Steady increase in wildfowl

Quick blast around this morning (7.15am-7.50am) before heading off to Morecambe.
Not much in the way of passerine migrants noted along the cycle track apart from a few chiffchaffs (inc 2 singing birds) and a pair of coal tits.
Using PJMs robin methodology, there were many singing birds - indicating the relative lack of grounded migrants.
Around 20 meadow pipits and a lone alba wagtail passed over.
250ish Canada geese were on Freeman's Pool and a pair of wigeon were there too.
7 shoveler, a wigeon and a green sandpiper were at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
2 little egrets and 21 wigeon were on the marsh flashes.
3 further green sandpipers were on The Flood.

A post-work visit added nowt new - 2 wigeon were on Frog Pond.
5 shoveler, little grebe, 1 green sandpiper & 9 snipe plus a few teal were at the Wildfowlers' Pools. A chiffchaff was nearby.
2 little egret were on the marsh - though Steve W had 6 there earlier (see his entry on LDBWS site).

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Dark night returns

Post-work blast around - couldn't help thinking that it's a shame that the 'decent' weather's coincided with the lack of available daylight after work... only a couple of weeks and I'll be back to being limited to weekend-only birding at Aldcliffe. Boo.

Anyhoo, this evening's highlights included:
2 little egret & a pintail on the marsh
2 green sandpiper & 12 teal at the Wildfowlers' Pools
Little owl near the walled meadow - where there was also a wryneck-shaped chunk of wood in a bush that had me going for a few minutes...
Loads of robins around but no sign of any 'typical' passerine migrants.

Guy McC had a good morning at Freeman's Wood with highlights including spotted flycatcher (the only Aldcliffe record this year?) and lesser whitethroat plus good numbers of chiffchaff.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Out for a duck

It says something when the highlight of a visit to Aldcliffe is the thrilling discovery of a tufted duck 'new-in'! This exciting aythya was loafing around on Freeman's Pools, where there are now also two pairs of mute swan. Phew.
By the Wildfowlers' Pools, I bumped into Steve W where we spied a green sandpiper, 2 little grebes and a drake shoveler. He mentioned that he'd seen a kingfisher there yesterday.
Other than a pair of peregrine over Colloway Marsh, there was little else to report from my post-work visit ...

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Year-tick trio

Didn't get much birding in today, but managed a walk with Mrs C down the cycle track and up the seawall (keeping my eyes ever skyward in anticipation of passing honey buzzards etc...)

A female merlin was on the marsh and 5 little egrets were dancing around one of the flashes.
Then a distant large raptor came into view, high and heading in a south-westerly direction. After trying my best to make it into something more interesting I had to concede, as it finally gave better views, that it was a common buzzard - albeit very likely a migrant given its behaviour.

Then came the year-ticks alluded to in the title, in the form of a Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster Bomber passing over the estuary to turn and make their scheduled appearances for the crowds at Morecambe. Got a good 20 minutes out of them too. Very nice.

Lots of common darters, migrant hawkers and a couple of brown hawkers around.

Nipped out again at 4ish to pluck some blackberries for tonight's pud, once more keeping my eyes mainly skyward, but a lone green sandpiper on the pools was my sole reward. Apart from the blackberries, of course...

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Out for the count....

Did my WeBS count today (as opposed to tomorrow) for a number of reasons that: a) I cannot be bothered going into and; b) won't interest you in the slightest...

Some interesting stuff along the way. Set off on foot, started my count at Aldcliffe at 10.15am and finished it at Conder Pool at 2.10pm then walked back doing a little 'leisure' birding.

Highlights included:
3 green sandpiper at the Wildfowlers' Pools
8 little egret in total (3 Aldcliffe)
5 little and 1 black-necked grebe (the latter and 2 of the former at Conder Pool)
1 rather late common sandpiper on the Lune as well as 2 greenshank, 2 ruff (quite a surprise) and - a scarce bird for Aldcliffe - a ringed plover.
6 wigeon flew in at Waterloo and a female goosander was present.
A female merlin scattered the waders and excited the swallows at Conder.
A nuthatch was an unexpected find in the hedge along the seawall at Aldcliffe.
A whitethroat was eating blackberries by the cycle track at Aldcliffe.
3 wheatears were on the marsh and kingfishers were seen at Ashton Hall lake sluice and on the Conder.
2 pair of raven honked around Conder and Aldcliffe.
What was presumably the same dead razorbill as found by Dan the other day was still rotting nicely at Waterlooo.

Other notable counts included: 212 mute swan, 328 greylag & 339 Canada geese. Despite the large numbers of BH gulls along the Lune I couldn't find any Meds, though to be honest I wasn't overly-diligent...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Lieutenant wigeon

Not too much to report from a briefish post-work visit this evening.
The 2 wigeon, as spied by Guy McC previously, were still present on Freeman's Pools though there was little else there. A greyish juv-like chiffchaff with an odd piercing call was with a small tit flock in the hedge by the pools.
A single green sandpiper was seen at the Wildfowlers' Pools and a pair of little grebes were on The Flood.
Only around 20 swallows coming in to roost, though more were heading that way a little later - as seen from my house.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Fowl Weather

The following account of birding Aldcliffe on tuesday 9th is by Dan Haywood aged 33-and-a third.

On my way out I spied a wheatear alighting atop a lamp-post on the Marsh estate.

I rushed down the road on my Raleigh Chopper hoping that this urban chat indicated some sort of a passerine fall in the parish...

Not so. I managed to pish out a few willow warblers and a goldcrest from some sheltered cover at Stodday, but any scarce sylvias or hippos were staying silent and well-hidden!

Only ducks were 'new in' so far as I could tell... A pair of gadwall were keeping a green sandpiper company at Freeman's Pools, and two pintails and 16 teal were making 'the flood' look pretty.

On the saltmarsh a scrum of 6 little egrets was mercilessly ridding a tiny pool of animal life--a bit like shooting fish (or shrimp or crabs?) in a barrel.

A few sand martins were a small part of a hirundine swirl (c.100 birds) over the sewage tanks. Twos and threes of swallows seemed to be heading south here and there.

Four migrant hawkers were on patrol inbetween downpours.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Just Swell

Dan reporting for Mr. Carter's hard-earned readership!

The swollen Wildfowler's Pools were the focus this morning, with three greenshanks, 4 green sandpipers, 12 redshanks and 17 black-tailed godwits using the grassy edges.

The 'flood' just N of Aldcliffe Hall Lane had a kingfisher and two little grebes. A med. gull was reported to me as being present a little later.

A modicum of visible migration in the parish with c60 meadow pipit, 5 alba wagtails and 3 grey wagtails over SE, noted between 0915 and 1100. No hirundine movement though.

Stodday sewage works seemed to have pulled down a few migrant wags, with nine grey wagtails on-site.

Spent much of the day honing my pishing-craft, but the bushes were hardly bursting with passerines. My vocalisations did have the undivided of a juv. whitethroat and a few chiffchaffs for a little while though.
And I can really rile a robin.

Thanks Dan - now Jon's breaking news bit...
Well, hardly breaking. 15 snipe were flushed by a sprogbasher at the Wildfowlers' Pools this evening though only a handful of redshank and lapwing, plus a couple of curlew, were present.
The greater sand-lapwing was again amongst the flock feeding in the fields - it really is a striking looking bird.
Little else of note bar the huge distant flocks of birds dropping into the Cockersands / Pilling area as viewed from Aldcliffe Marsh - I can only guess that they were pinkfeet? There were probably a couple of thousand birds...

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sunday, sunny Sunday...

I'd forgotten what the sun felt like - how very pleasant.
Bird-wise there wasn't a great deal going on however, the highlights being just 3 green sandpiper (had the 'new' birds taken advantage of the relatively calm night to clear out or were they simply being elusive?) and a lone greenshank which flew noisily on to the marsh from the direction of The Flood, just minutes after having a conversation with Steve Wallis about the lack of greenshanks at Aldcliffe this year!
A single black-tailed godwit was amongst the waders flushed by a peregrine on the river.
A few snipe were kicking around, including a very 'grey' bird roosting on the island at Freeman's Pools where the little grebe remains.
A pair of showy lesser whitethroat were feeding in elders by the Walled Meadow and there were plenty of hirundines around, though little else 'migrant'-wise apart from a few ticking robins.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Green sandpiper bonanza

As per Guy's sightings yesterday there were still a minimum of 6 green sandpiper in the area this morning.
Initially, 4 flew off Freeman's Pools towards the Wildfowlers' Pools. It was very difficult to ascertain the exact number of birds as singles were scattered around feeding in the wet fields - as viewed from the sea wall. Eventually I was able to confirm at least 6 - as they were all visible at the same time, though one or two others may well have been creeping around elsewhere.

Other highlights included:
A snipe flushed in Freeman's Wood, plus 2 at Wildfowlers' Pools.
1 pintail, 5 teal and at least 4 shoveler in the area.
2 little grebe (1 Fm's Pools & 1 Wfs' Pools)
Kingfisher at Bank Pool.
3 wheatear.
Lesser whitethroat and male blackcap at Walled Meadow.
Raven in the fields.
Only 54 greylag were on the marsh - the rest at Carnforth Marsh? 150ish Canadas present.
Tit flock in Freeman's Wood included at least 7 chiffchaff, 2 willow warbler and a goldcrest.
Female sparrowhawk was doing the rounds as was a male kestrel.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Depression's setting in...

The pools around Aldcliffe are at mid-winter levels water-wise, something I've never know in almost 20 years of regular coverage of the area. The lower cycle path is flooded to a depth of around 10 inches in parts.
Unfortunately the avian occupants were somewhat less noteworthy early evening...

Freeman's Pools: 1 little grebe, 2 coot, 1 heron.
Darter Pool: 2 coot
Wildfowler's Pools (and adjacent flooded fields): 70+ mallard, 6 teal, 1 shoveler, 1 little grebe, 1 green sandpiper (feeding in furrow) , 2 snipe, 2 coot, 12 moorhen, 2 little egret.
The Flood: 2 shoveler, 7 mallard, 1 little egret (presumably 1 of the above birds).
Marsh: (very quick scan..) 1 little egret (again, as above).

* Guy McClelland had a further 6 green sandpiper today feeding in the wet field furrows as viewed from the seawall - invisible from the cycle track.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Water, water everywhere...

Following the obligatory soaking en route from work the clouds actually parted just as I reached Freeman's Pools and some sky appeared that wasn't altogether grey. It was actually blue. A colour I'd forgotten existed sky-wise.
Anyhoo - a little grebe was the only thing of note on the very full pools. Looks rubbish for waders at the minute.
Similarly, all the other usual pools were pretty full and pretty quiet with just a single green sandpiper and a couple of snipe on the Wildfowlers' Pools, as well as numerous mallard. The usual release of mallard here in summer by the Wildfowl Association artificially boosts the numbers so it's quite difficult to tell when post-moult wild birds truly start to appear in any number. A single teal was present too.
Meanwhile in other duck news, a trio of shoveler and a female pintail were on The Flood - unprecedented this early on in the year.
The wet fields above the raised path had attracted good numbers of common and BH gulls, but no Meds.
Bumped into Nick, a regular down Aldcliffe, who reported at least 6 wheatear along the tideline.

* Osprey seen over Freeman's Wood/Pools earlier (4.30pmish) by Andrew McCafferty.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Two grebe evening

Both little and great crested (scarce here) grebes on the Freeman's Pools this evening (though sadly not a displaced BN!).
Otherwise very quiet - unless the loud pop of another exploding rear innertube counts...

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Redstart makes up for flat tyre... almost

A few more grounded migrants around during a late afternoon/early evening trawl.
A tit flock at the Wildfowlers' Pools held an astonishing minimum 8 chiffchaff, 2 willow warbler and a pair of goldcrest. The bulk of the flock was made up of long-tailed tits, unsurprisingly.
A green sandpiper was visible here from the gate on the cycle track.

A little grebe was on Freeman's Pools.

A little egret and an adult Med gull were on the river amongst the many BH gulls.

At Stodday ETW the number of alba wagtails had dropped to just over 40 but again there was nothing else associating with them. Very surprised that no grey wags were present (again) given that normally this species is virtually guaranteed here. Disappointed there were no yellows...
Oh, and this is where I got a puncture and had to wheel my bike home, though at least the journey was brightened up somewhat by a redstart and lesser whitethroat, plus a number of robins, which were around the sheep pen at the Walled Meadow.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

A few migrants moving through

The most notable thing yesterday (Friday) was the number of hirundines around. I was aware of large numbers feeding from the moment I left home in the morning and all the way to Morecambe - there were feeding groups of mainly swallow with lesser numbers of house martin, all over the place. At Aldcliffe in the evening this was yet again evident with literally hundreds of birds, including a few sand martins, feeding over the fields and pools - doubtless fuelling up before taking advantage of the change in weather.
This morning, there were very few hirundines feeding in the Aldcliffe area but there was a definite thinly scattered but persistent movement south.

4 wheatear were on the tideline.
Going through a few tit flocks I came across just one chiffchaff and a single lesser whitethroat (yesterday evening one tit flock contained 6 willow warbler and a chiff). Another notable feature in the past couple of days is the 'return' of singing robins all along the cycle track - presumably establishing their winter territories.

2 green sandpiper were over the marsh and landed on the river off Heaton, I imagine these were the same 2 seen 20 minutes later at the regular haunt of the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A single common buzzard drifted over the marsh while both a peregrine and a female merlin also put in appearances. The resident raven pair were kicking about.
2 common sandpiper were on the Lune as was a shoveler in amongst a group of mallard.
Went through the gulls but despite the many BH's there were no Meds present.

Lots of dragonflies & damselflies around with dozens of common darter throughout the area and a single ruddy darter at Frog Pond. Brown hawkers were also much in evidence.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Leucistic lapwing reappears

The leucistic lapwing seen on the marsh back in July was feeding in the fields this afternoon.
Also present amongst the many nearby starlings was one with a whole white tail (a completely white bird was near here a few years ago).
Otherwise, a little egret flying through and good numbers of hirundines were the only birds of note at Aldcliffe.
At Stodday ETW around 200 swallows/house martins were feeding over the beds with at least 80 alba wagtails at the site, though I couldn't find anything else amongst them despite a pretty thorough grilling. Probably worth checking here in the next few days if these numbers remain...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sunshine Sunday

A late afternoon prowl around the parish revealed little new.
A very large juv peregrine was doing the rounds and a female sparrowhawk was over Freeman's Wood.
A pair each of little grebe and green sandpiper were at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A noisy raven duo were honking over the marsh.
Some jet-skiers kindly flushed a group of 11 snipe.
2 chiffchaff were the only notable 'migrants'.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

SEO performs again

Quick post-work visit revealed little at Freeman's Pools bar an adult little grebe and the usual coot, mallard etc.
3 little egret flew over Frog Pond heading north, gaining height - could they have been heading for the Leighton Moss roost? 8 teal were new in on the pond.
2 ravens were dossing about over the marsh again.
Returning to Freeman's Pools, homeward bound, I noticed the short-eared owl was engaged in something of a fracas with one of the local kestrels. The falcon retreated to a hawthorn while the owl did a few turns over the rough grass area before landing on the fence and allowing superb views in the intense evening sunlight. All this, just 20 minutes walk from the city centre...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Prowl reveals owl

As I approached Freeman's Pools along the cycle track this evening I noticed a short-eared owl flying around the overgrown field behind Keyline. It flew over to the pool and hunted around the northern end before continuing its foray over the rough sedge area beyond. This is presumably the same bird as seen a week ago by Pete Crooks - has it been present here, and perhaps over the river on the tip - since then?
Otherwise, 2 green sandpipers were visible at the Wildfowlers' Pools from the cycle track, as were the teal pair.
In the wet fields above the upper track there were 30+ common gulls and just a handful of BH gulls. Over 80 BH gulls were on the Flood but there were no Meds to be seen.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Soggy fields attract Med gull...

A great deal of water but few birds of note...
Highlight was an unringed adult Med gull amongst approx. 60 black-headed & 24 common gulls feeding in wet fields at Aldcliffe this evening. The nearby Flood really was, well, a flood.
A single green sandpiper was flitting around the Wildfowlers' Pools and a pair of teal were new in here. No sign of the garganey pair anywhere.
A shoveler was on Freeman's Pools.
2 ravens were wreaking relative havoc on the marsh.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

New hawk compensates for drenching...

Did my WeBS count from Aldcliffe to Conder on foot and back, some good birds and some very mixed weather. Set off at 11.30am, got home a bit knackered at 5.45pm.
Notable highlights were 2 green sandpipers at the Wildfowlers' Pools and another on Freeman's Pools, the garganey pair again on Frog Pond and an adult yellow-legged gull (presumably the Sunderland/Bazil Point bird on walkabout) at Gull Bank, though surprisingly no Meds amongst the many black-headeds there. 10 snipe were flushed from the river edge by jetskiers.
A peregrine was on the pylons at Stodday.
5 little egrets were seen on the estuary. 3 golden plover were amongst the lapwing and single whimbrel & spotted redshank were at Conder as well as 4 common sandpiper .
A wheatear was near Waterloo and singles of both whitethroat along the cycle track were the only notable passerines.

The biggest surprise of all came in the form of a goshawk which drew attention to itself by flushing everything off Bazil Point and the adjacent bit of the marsh as it passed low-ish over and on across to Conder giving excellent views as I sat at looking toward the Conder mouth south of Waterloo. It then climbed a little more and did a couple of tight circular flights in good light to emphasise the upperpart colouration and then drifted off over Long Plantation and away to the east. Judging from its size (it absolutely dwarfed the BH gulls and lapwings that scattered around it), and having consequently checked dimensions, it was an adult female.
Where it came from (although it wasn't wearing any jesses) may be another matter for discussion! Stunning.
Just a shame it was out of the Aldcliffe parish!!

Late news from yesterday - again just outside the Aldcliffe area, a juv yellow wagtail was feeding with a small group of pieds, on the Girls' Grammar School playing fields in Fairfield, briefly yesterday afternoon (as I was on my way to get a haircut...).

Friday, 15 August 2008

Double ducks

At last! I managed to get down to Aldcliffe for the first time this week for a post-work visit and it was actually dry and reasonably productive.
Highlights were the re-appearance of the garganey pair, and two green sandpipers, on The Flood. Also there was a mallard with very recently hatched ducklings (it's quite surprising how much a lone small duckling dabbling in the middle of a pool can look like a phalarope at distance with the naked eye!).
A quick scan over the marsh revealed at least 4 wheatears, implying something of a fall...
Had stunning views of a very pretty vixen by Darter Pool where a little grebe was lurking in the waterside vegetation.
A lesser whitethroat and several willow warblers were in the track-side hedgerow.
Nothing of note at Freeman's Pools, except a single emperor dragonfly.
A very noisy gaggle of panicking swallows drew my attention to a male sparrowhawk who was soliciting more interest than perhaps he wanted.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Club Med

Dan reporting once again. Hello mother!

A 'scoping sesh from Dawsons Bank turned up a mediterranean gull on the estuary mud. This time a big-looking adult in non-breeding plumage.
Circa 200 lapwings and 2 dunlins were roosting here, with a peregrine eyeing them up from the top of a pylon.

One of about fifteen roving willow warblers seen ended up in the clutches of a sparrowhawk. Three common whitethroats (a juv. and 2 adults) was the sum total of sylvias.

Pond-watching revealed 2 green sandpipers and a few snipe. The garganeys seemed to be absent-- though I didn't check Bank Pool , arguably the most 'garganey' spot in the parish.

Only two species of dragonfly seen in borderline conditions- common darter (c15) and brown hawker (one).

LATE NEWS - A short-eared owl was present by Freeman's Pools early afternoon - via Pete Crooks.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Downpours and Dabblers

Dan today!

The two garganeys were again the pick of the parish. I 'scoped Frog Pond from where the track crosses the new bund. An adult male and an ad. female I think.

Freeman's pools were quiet- 2 dabchicks the highlight. A third little grebe was on Darter Pool.

A stock dove was in the Low Wood area- not a common species in Aldcliffe.

Two green sandpipers were on 'the flood' alongside the track hedgerow where 3 willow warblers foraged.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Quick anas inspection...

Returned from the Leighton Moss Summer Fair late afternoon/early eve and legged it down to check if the garganey were still present on Frog Pond. They were.
Had a quick look round the other pools - where the water levels were notably higher - but little else revealed itself.
Approx 40 swift were over the marsh and a little grebe (plus bicycle 'new in') were at Freeman's Pools. A raven was bothering a kestrel over Snipe Bog.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Good weather for ducks.

Decided against waiting for a non-existent clear spell and eventually ventured out mid afternoon. Pretty wet and pretty quiet on the whole with highlights being 1 green sandpiper & 5 snipe seen on the Wildfowlers' Pools, a wheatear by the Walled Meadow and a whimbrel on the marsh.
All of this was soon eclipsed, (no pun intended) by the discovery of two garganey on Frog Pond. Not too sure whether they're a pair (ie eclipse male & female) or an adult female and juv. Only had binocs with me and I didn't want to flush them, but one of the birds was almost certainly an adult female.
Not quite a Sabine's gull (see Heysham blogsite...) but a very welcome find which made the dousing seem worthwhile.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Tidal Bore

Parishioner Dan again.

Saw a Lune bore cruising upstream past the Freeman's Pools stretch. Not a jet-skier this time.

A bit later spent about ninety minutes hoping the tide would get high enough to shift a mediterranean gull in my direction. What a bore...

It was a small 1st summer > 2nd winter med (deceptively BH gull-like) snoozing and preening opposite 'Cadaver Corner'.
I had been 'scoping in vain to make out what was on the white ring (a NW European-ringed bird, I'm told) on its right leg. At times it looked like green lettering/numbering. At others I couldn't make out any at all! Too far off.

A dunlin and 3 black-tailed godwits were also on 'Gull Bank', while on the deep marsh channel N of Dawsons Bank (Aldcliffe proper!) there were 7 common sandpipers and a whimbrel as the high water lapped an inch or two below marsh height.

A grey partridge was calling nearby.

Around 60 common darters, two emperors and two brown hawkers noted.

Butterflies included a fresh-looking comma, a few small tortoiseshells and many speckled wood.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

In the zone...

The post-work visit today was somewhat inspired by my earlier discovery of rain-dropped wheatears at Morecambe and I thought I'd better check out the Aldcliffe chat-zone, which although sounds like a premium rate phone service, is the area south of the Walled Meadow and Cadaver Corner - consistently the best place to look for wheatears, whinchat, stonechat, bluethroat (!) etc. However, today was not the day and, in fact, buggar-all was present.
Otherwise, a pair of peregrine were hunting in tandem around the whole area this evening causing mass panic amongst the lapwing, curlew etc.
2 green sandpiper were visible from the metal gate overlooking the Wildfowlers' Pools as were 3 snipe.
A very bright willow warbler was accompanying a long-tailed tit flock further hinting at the arrival of autumn...
The number of Canada geese seems to have suddenly doubled with up to 60 on Heaton Marsh.
Just 1 com darter and a hawker sp. (migrant or common) were at Freeman's Pools, as were a group of 20ish swift.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Teneral Lee

Dan here.

The title pun refers to my observation that what few common darter dragonflies (c15) I found were a) immature (no ripe and red males noted yet)- and b) in only the most sheltered spots in the breezy conditions.

Other parish odonata seen amounted only to one brown hawker, plus blue-tailed and common blue damselflies.
This week I've been scrutinising the latter species hoping to tick azure damsel for the patch. No luck yet though.

To the birds...

Waders included three freshwater green sandpipers, and a common sandpiper on the saltier pools.
2 whimbrel were also on the marsh. One was seen to be gobbling crabs, their usual quarry at Aldcliffe.

A peregrine, sparrowhawk and raven were soaring overhead.

A few juvenile willow warblers and lesser whitethroats were in the hedges. A juv. and an adult little grebe were seen on the deepest of Freeman's Pools before a number of dogs took a dip!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Quiet afternoon trawl...

All quiet at Freeman's Pools with nothing more than a couple of coot and a moorhen.
Similarly Bank Pool, Darter Pool and Frog Pond were pretty birdless. Nothing much on the Marsh either.
2 green sandpipers and a couple of snipe saved the day at the Wildfowlers' Pools.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Raven vs Hare

An unusual observation this evening in the form of a raven actively chasing a hare on the saltmarsh. The hare would run short zig-zags then the raven would hop/fly toward it and try and hack at it only for the hare to leg it again. This went on for some time until the hare took cover and the raven got bored and flew off. All the while a group of 5 carrion crows watched on with mounting interest. It was like something from Aesop's fables..!
Otherwise it was the same old stuff really - the 3 green sandpipers were still on the Wildfowlers' Pools along with 4 snipe. Another 4 snipe were on The Flood.
Little grebes were on Darter Pool and Freeman's Pool.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Green sandpipers remain

Arrived at Aldcliffe after a thorough drenching just in time for a clear, warm 30 minute window. At Freeman's Pools an adult little grebe was 'new' in, otherwise all was quiet there.
The juv little grebe was still on Darter Pool alongside the usual suspects.
The Wildfowlers' Pools held the 3 green sandpipers in-residence plus 8 snipe and a lone female/eclipse teal - tried to string it as a garganey but it was, frankly, nothing like one. A sparrowhawk was ruffling a few feathers around the pools.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Monday early evening

1 green & 3 common sandpiper at Freeman's Pools, despite the hot weather having attracted a couple of the nearby Marsh Estate's lets say, more infamous brothers having clearly been enjoying a swim.
Soon a bunch of, admittedly relaxed and utterly non-destructive, teenagers arrived for a trample around the pools, successfully flushing everything in the process! Oh well...
Nearby, the Wildfowlers' Pools contained a further 2 green sandpipers and 5 snipe. 2 meadow pipit passed over.
The juv little grebe was again at Darter Pool (where a lone emperor was patrolling).

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Morning glory

A cracking morning weather-wise (though one or two local birdie-purists may disagree!) and some interesting things around.
Just a single common sandpiper - no LRPs - at Freeman's Pools along with the oik pair with their well grown youngsters and the coot brood of 1 doing well.
3 little egrets were 'new-in' on the marsh and the greylag flock has built up to 292, with a further 12 coming in later from the north-east.
3 green sandpipers were on the Wildfowlers' Pools plus 2 snipe.

Insects were well represented with 2 emperor, 4 brown hawkers a handful of common darters and lots of damselflies.
Butterflies included comma, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, and so on..

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Winds of change

The change in wind direction certainly had the desired effect with the result that there were a minimum of 3 green sandpipers at the Wildfowlers' Pools this evening.
Nearby the juv little grebe was on Darter Pool - with 2 Emperors there at last!!
A LR plover and 2 common sandpiper were at Freeman's Pools.
Then at 6.40pm I noticed a medium sized raptor coming over the trig-point hill (from the direction of Fairfield) - it soon revealed itself to be a marsh harrier. It drifted low over me and started hunting over the maize fields. It appeared to be a juv, or a very dark female, with no pale edges to the forewings. Only my second at Aldcliffe in 20 years of birding there!

Monday, 21 July 2008

No surprises...

All much as expected this evening with 3 common sandpiper and 1 LR plover at Freeman's Pools.
A little grebe was on Darter Pool along with the coot family and a grey heron.
A single green sandpiper was at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
As has often been the case in recent years, the moorhens have very young chicks at the moment - it is my assumption that once the more aggressive coots have well developed young they become more tolerant and therefore 'allow' the moorhens to nest. As coots are relatively recent colonists this is simply an observation - I'd be interested to find out what happens at other sites where both species breed.

Sunday, 20 July 2008


At least it stayed dry for my monthly WeBS count but boy, was it windy!
On foot from Aldcliffe to Conder and not once could I shelter from the breezy onslaught, which not only made 'scoping a pain but also made for less than enjoyable, leisurely birding. Ho hum...
Highlights were:
Freeman's Pools - 3 com sandpiper & 1 LR plover.
Aldcliffe Marsh - 1 LR plover & over 700 lapwing. A peregrine was sat on a stump for a while before chasing all the waders.
A green sandpiper was on the Wildfowlers' Pools.
There was very little on the river, possibly due to the large number of jetskis, motor boats etc.
A few bar-tailed godwit were at Conder plus 2 dunlin, 2 golden plover and, rather surprisingly, just 1 common sandpiper.
A kingfisher and 1 LR plover were at Conder Pool.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Late afternoon

Nothing much happens during July down at Aldcliffe as a rule, but this year things seem to be even slower than usual. A very few waders are moving in, and through, but it seems the weather is doing little to bring many new birds.
At Freeman's Pools there were 3 common sands and a single LR plover.
The Wildfowlers' Pools were playing host to a snoozing green sandpiper and another common sand.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Swiftly does it

At least 70 swifts around Freeman's Pools and Wood this evening plus lesser numbers of house martins and swallows.
3 common sandpipers were on the Lune at Marsh Point & at least 2 more plus a pair of LRP were on Freeman's Pools. A little grebe was also present.
Another common sandpiper was on the Wildfowlers' Pools as well as a single green sandpiper.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

A few waders...

3 common sandpiper and 2 LR plovers were at Freeman's Pools this evening. In the adjacent overgrown field a flock of 40+ goldfinch were feeding.
At the Wildfowlers' Pools there was another common sandpiper, 2 green sandpipers and way too many horseflies for my liking.
Otherwise it was pretty quiet, though a very pleasant quiet nonetheless.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Parallel lanes...

Two visits today produced the following:
An impressive 10 common sandpiper were on the Lune at Marsh Point.
1 green & 1 common sandpiper, 2 little ringed plover and the female shoveler were on the Wildfowlers' Pools.
Common buzzard, kestrel and sparrowhawk were seen.
c. 210 greylag on Aldcliffe - a sudden and noticeable increase!

Very little in the way of odanata around with just 2 brown hawker and 1 common darter seen - did the hobby eat all the emperors?!

And finally... a bit of bureaucratic oddness (manners prevents me saying bollocks, oops...) - it seems that having finally realised that the lower part of the road from Aldcliffe village to the parking area was known as Railway Crossing Lane, and erecting a lovely road sign saying just that, someone at County Hall has now decided that it should be Aldcliffe Hall Lane (which I thought historically referred only to the first section of the road ie up to Aldcliffe Hall, as was)... Anyhoo, the sign has now been changed (at what cost?) to declare that it is indeed Aldcliffe Hall Lane.
Looks like I'd better change my map.. again!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

'pipers at the gates of Lune

A check of all the pools this morning turned up the following:
Little grebe on Freeman's Pools, plus the coot pair with 1 chick. The ever-growing oik youngsters are still going strong.
3 little ringed plover, 2 common sandpiper and 1 green sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pools.
1 green sandpiper on Frog Pond.
Peregrine over the marsh & 400 or so lapwing revealed themselves as a result.

Decided to spend a couple of hours at Leighton Moss in the afternoon where I added such exciting ticks as marsh harrier and reed warbler to my year-list!
I was rather rather surprised to see 8 greenshank, with a group of redshank, on the island in front of the public hide...

Friday, 11 July 2008

All quiet on the Aldcliffe front

Very quiet this evening with all ponds checked and just one each of green and common sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A female mallard here had 2 very young ducklings.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Whinchat and Waders

Dan here.

Bird highlights of a pleasant look around the parish were as follows:

A whinchat- an adult male.

Green sandpipers- a minimum of four using the various pools, where I also noted 4 LRPs and 2 common sandpipers.

Circa 600 lapwings were on the saltmarsh- but frequently took to the air on account of a peregrine and a kestrel.

21 black-tailed godwits and 3 breeding-plumage dunlins were on the estuary opposite 'cadaver corner'. Little of interest in terms of gulls.

Warbler-wise, I saw two juv. lesser whitethroats, and 2 common whitehroats and 2 chiffchaffs were in song.


I also came across a remarkably tame hare and a few immature common darters. A (5-spot?)burnet was buzzing around near Freeman's Pools.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Dry gap in the evening

Had a quick look around in the bit where it didn't rain (8.10pm - 9.15pm) though all was quiet. Highlights were a green sandpiper on The Flood, single common sandpiper on the river and a herd of sheep that had wandered onto the cycle track. I corralled them back (with proper whistles and bike-bell ringing and everything) onto the marsh, via the broken gate they'd obviously come through.
Nothing in the way of hobby food was around so I quit early...

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Hobby-less evenings

After an unsuccessful evening vigil (if you don't count the jokes and Willy Russell stories) with Ray Hobbs yesterday, I decided a return visit tonight under considerably more conducive conditions - ie not blowing a gale...
However, an hour or so in decent light (9pm-10pmish) and with lots of prey items around (60+ swift, dozens of house martins and swallows plus a sand martin or two) I still failed to see the hobby again. Is it still around?
Some compensation came in the form of a Freeman's Pool tick - a roe deer!

A quick post-work visit earlier had revealed a green sandpiper, 2 common sandpiper and little ringed plover at the Wildfowlers' Pools plus another common sandpiper at Freeman's Pools.
A pair of common tern were over Aldcliffe Marsh.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Green sandpipers & hobby

Hobby update

Went to test my theory (see earlier posting below) at around 8.20pm...
Had a good root about trying to determine where the bulk of the hirundines were feeding, which was the Wildfowlers' Pools but they soon went off to roost leaving just a couple of swallows and 50+ swift in the area.
I went to the raised part of the path near Freeman's Wood for an all-round view and came across Steve Wallis who had also decided to give it a go.
We spent quite some time with no luck, though did determine that the local kestrels have now, in fact, 3 fledged young. Otherwise the female shoveler and 2 LRPs were on Freeman's Pools along with a pair of newly arrived mute swans.
At approximately 9.37pm I noticed something out the corner of my eye which was pretty immediately clearly the hobby having just caught a swift! It then proceeded to land on the new flood defence bund some 200 metres in front of us where it spent 20 minutes eating the unfortunate bird. We obviously had stunning views! Once finished eating, the hobby flew off into the wood, pursued by a magpie. How long has this bird been around?

A lengthy trawl around this morning proved reasonably fruitful.
Freeman's Pools were pretty quiet with nothing new in and just a fraction of the regular stuff.
The Wildfowlers' Pools were more productive with 2 green sandpipers, 2 common sandpipers and at least 5 little ringed plover present (4 ads, 1 juv). Later, single green sandpipers were also flushed from The Flood and seen on Frog Pond though I'm pretty certain these were the same bird and indeed one of the earlier ones from the WPs.
5 raven were chowing down on the pungent carcass of a sheep on Aldcliffe Marsh - these were presumably the adults and young of the nearby, first-time, nesting attempt.
Just as I was about to call it a day a hobby flew low over Freeman's Pools in the direction of Abraham Heights. Presumably the same bird I saw last Saturday (appears to be an adult), we may be missing a trick here if it is roosting in and hunting from the wood - an evening vigil may well pay off. Unfortunately there have been so few sunny days lately that it won't be finding much in the way of dragonflies to eat and will presumably be targeting hirundines etc.
Whitethroat seem to have had a particularly productive breeding season with yet more broods seen today.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

LRP fest

2 adults and the juv LRPs at Freeman's Pools this evening.
The 2 ever-growing oystercatcher young continue to prosper and a new lapwing chick was on the pool edge.
The local kestrels have fledged at least 1 youngster.

30+ house martin were over Freeman's Wood.

Another adult LRP was on Frog Pond.

2 young coot on the Wildfowlers' Pools bring the area total to 7 currently surviving coot chicks. A little owl was here again.

2 hares noted.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Dr. Ochropus

Hello. Jon's fellow parishioner Dan here.

My highlights from a midday bash were as follows...

A green sandpiper (the herald of July) was roosting on the Wildfowler's Pools, where 3 adult little ringed plovers scampered.

Seven house sparrows were by a darter-less Darter Pond.

A juvenile little ringed plover and a common sandpiper were at the shallowest of Freeman's Pools. A female shoveler flew in from the estuary and landed on the deepest pit.


c6 male emperor dragonflies.
c20 immature common darters, though not flying.
Scores of blue-tailed damselflies and c25 common blue damsel pairs in tandem .

What a difference a day makes...
Stats fans might like to know that the green sandpiper's about bang on time.
The past five years' post-breeding arrival dates were:
2007 - 25/6
2006 - 3/7 (2 birds)
2005 - 3/7 (4 birds)
2004 - 5/7
2003 - 16/7


Monday, 30 June 2008

More of the same

Quick post-work visit...
3 LRplover at Freeman's Pools this evening, 2 vocal birds in flight (may have included the juv) and another (adult) on the island.
Oystercatcher family still seem to be doing well, though the coot brood is down to one.
There was an unfortunate bit of disturbance from a dog-walker who walked the entire main pool edge, freaking out all the parent birds. I had what I hope was a polite and instructive chat pointing out that the site was being managed as a wildlife site but in fairness, she did point out that there was nothing to imply as such. Though the mass of signs saying No Unauthorised Access, Danger Deep Water and such perhaps should have hinted that public access wasn't exactly being encouraged...
Lots of hirundines and swifts feeding over Freeman's Wood.
The 2 young coot on Darter Pool appear to be doing well, nearly adult sized now.
The drake shoveler was dabbling on the Wildfowlers' Pools, as viewed from the gate.
All being well, and based on previous year' experience, we could well see the first returning green sandpipers within the week...

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Nowt new...

A routine visit resulted in routine birds.
At least 2 oystercatcher youngsters seen at Freeman's Pools today, growing well. The drake shoveler, rapidly moulting into eclipse plumage, remains. The coot pair here still have 2 small chicks and just one adult LRP put in an appearance. My first patch dragonfly of the year put in a brief appearance though unfortunately it was way too far away to ID.
A large tatty peregrine put everything up over the marsh and latterly the Wildfowlers' Pools.
There were lots of swifts and hirundines (mainly house martins) around with good numbers, in particular, over the marsh at the sluiced channel.
Couple of whitethroat in song along the cycle track.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Another Aldcliffe first!

A late afternoon visit revealed a rather unexpected Aldcliffe first in the shape of an adult hobby.
The bird came over me from the direction of the marsh and went into Freeman's Wood where it was rapidly met by a rather agitated local kestrel. The pair engaged in a spectacular dog-fight over the wood and adjacent (Frog Pond) field for around 5 minutes. The hobby then flew back up the edge of the wood toward me and shot up over Freeman's Pools much to the alarm of the feeding house martins and swifts. After a total of around 12-15 minutes it disappeared over the pools and despite some thorough searching I failed to relocate it. Meanwhile Dan H arrived (I had, of course, called him about this fab patch tick) and while I went off to see if I could determine whether it had perched up somewhere around the pools he stayed put in case it reappeared which, much to his delight, it did.
Dan had it come out of the wood again in the area where it had battled with the kestrel but by the time I returned it had vanished and despite my hanging around for another hour or so I didn't see it again.
Other news: the juv LRP on the island was trying its wings out in front of an attentive mum & dad and was making short flights. Other (or just a mobile one of the above?) adult LRPs were on the Wildfowlers' Pools and Frog Pond.
Approx. 100 swift were feeding over the marsh and starling numbers are really building up there with the main feeding flock containing around 200 birds (though sadly nothing pink & black amongst them...)

Monday, 23 June 2008

Little oiks make an appearance

Freeman's Pools
Could just make out at least one oystercatcher chick with an adult in long grass by the pool side this evening, so presumably the young were able to get off the island somehow. Answers on a postcard...
Otherwise both adult LRPs were present though no youngster spotted.
The coot brood were down 1, to 2 chicks. No tufties or shoveler seen.

First moorhen chick of the year on the Wildfowlers' Pools.

Greylag pair with 4 goslings on the river.

My brother Dave saw a roe deer in the proposed nature reserve at Fairfield (viewed from the Millennium Orchard) this evening - certainly the first I've heard of there.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Friday Night and Saturday Morning

Friday eve.
A quick blast round after work revealed a few of things of note.
2 adult LRPs were flying around Freeman's Pools.
A coot pair had 3 newly hatched chicks here too, a breeding first for this relatively new site.
The oystercatcher pair have vacated the gravel island and there was no sign of the 3 young birds - will they pick up and carry young? Or have the nippers simply snuffed it in that horrible wet weather a couple of days ago?
Just 1 tufted duck present plus the drake shoveler.

Saturday morning
Just about avoided the rain...
c.50 swifts were feeding over Freeman's Wood.
The lone LRP chick, and both adults were seen at Freeman's Pools this morning. Still no sign of the little oiks. First sand martin here for a few weeks. Single tufted duck and drake shoveler.
A little owl was by the Wildfowlers' Pools.
A lesser whitethroat was singing in the hedgerow along the seawall path.
The mute swan pair have had a rotten time of it - after abandoning (for whatever reason) the first nest at Darter Pool they eventually hatched just one cygnet at Heron Pool and have now relocated, completely youngsterless, to Frog Pond.
A handsome toad (above) was encountered along the cycle track.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

More little oiks

Managed to spot at least 3 oystercatcher chicks on the island this evening. No sign of any wee LRPs and just 1 adult was visible. The shoveler pair were hanging around in a favourite corner with the drake being very aggressive to a passing moorhen. 2 tufties still there.
Arctic tern again over the marsh.
Lesserthroat responded well to pishing and showed down to a couple of feet.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Little Oiks

At last, I had my first sighting of a young oystercatcher this evening. Just one recently hatched chick was seen on the gravel island at Freeman's Pools with a very attendant parent.
Otherwise it was business as usual. 2 drake tufteds, 2 shoveler etc.
A single Arctic tern was fishing in the small pools over Aldcliffe Marsh for the second time this week, perhaps there's actually a pair at the old colony after all. I'll check it out when I'm doing my WeBS count this weekend...
The curious drainage sink-hole near the parking area at Railway Crossing Lane has been keeping my interest of late. It seems to be full of stickleback of some kind, a number of which are gravid. Often in with them are loads of shrimp. Now, I'm not sure whether this pool is supplied by salt water from the Lune or a fresh water spring and to be honest, I'm a bit confused as to why it has what I thought were a freshwater fish species and shrimp, which I conversely assumed were salt or brackish water dwellers. Wikipedia, here I come!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Gloomy Sunday

A brief and terribly timed blast around early evening (my visit coincided nicely with the only significant spell of cold, wet weather all day. Smashing).
Not much doing, jut 2 drake tufted duck remaining on Freeman's Pools, along with the shoveler pair and just one LRP visible. No new sprogs noted, apart from a newly fledged brood of blue tits along the cycle track.
Oh well, only a few weeks and I can start looking forward to the first post-breeding green sandpipers...

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Aldcliffe kindergarten

Friday eve.
After a few days of work/domestic related obstacles I finally managed a quick tea-time visit.
The most notable thing was the appearance of many young birds - lapwings in particular seem to have done reasonably well at hatching decent broods, though of course it's early days...
The tufted duck bachelor party now includes 5 birds at Freeman's Pools and the drake shoveler is still present, though looking rather tatty. 2 LRP present.
Fledged broods of blackcap, whitethroat, willow warbler and robins etc were encountered along the cycle track and a little owl was on the receiving end of 2 very agitated lesser whitethroat on the upper path.
The coot pair on Darter Pool still have 2 very healthy looking young.

Saturday morning.
Yet more lapwing sprogs about the place, though I'm not sure how well the maize-field broods will fare following a chemical spraying this morning. No sign of any oystercatcher chicks yet despite a number of pairs.
Confirmation of successful breeding by the LRPs again, though I could only see one chick - hopefully others have hatched and were simply keeping hidden.
The coot pair at Bank Pool still have their 2 young despite my fearing the worst last week.
A lesser whitethroat was in full song in Freeman's Wood.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Mediocrity rules

You may have noticed a slowdown in the regularity of postings - that's because nothing much has changed.
Well, I say nothing. The big news this week was the arrival of a further drake tufted duck making the total 3m, 1 f. The greylags (30+ usually) continue to hang around Freeman's Pools quite a bit and a little grebe remains there, as well as the LR plover pair. Hares really seem to taken to the place too.
The coot pair at Bank Pool appear to have lost their chicks and I could only see 1 of the young with the parents on Darter Pool. Both common and lesser whitethroats seem to be busy feeding young along the cycle track and there are lots of fledged long-tailed tits around.
Plenty of blue-tailed damsels but no dragonflies as yet...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Same old same old...

Past couple of days have revealed little new.
I even went out later yesterday evening (7.30-9pm) in the hope that I might witness something a bit different but it was pretty much business as usual, though to be fair a vocal grey partridge in Low Wood paddocks was worthy of note .
Unfortunately I don't even have the 'excitement' of moth sightings to post to brighten up these rather dull times (as I have neither the gear nor the knowledge to provide such information).
To summarise: 2 shoveler, 3 tufted duck, 2 LR plover plus numerous mallard, greylags, Canada geese, the odd common and lesser whitethroat, blackcap etc. kestrel, reed bunting and so on.
The coots on Darter Pool are now something of a reduced family with just two chicks currently surviving.
The increase in breeding coot in the Aldcliffe area in the past 2-3 years seems to have coincided neatly with far fewer moorhen nests early in the season. Last year no moorhens successfully bred until well after the coot young had fledged - I assume that the more aggressive coots take the best sites first?

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Mixed weather brings little change

Saturday was glorious weather-wise but little of note bird-wise. The usual fare really, with the avocets still absent. Last seen on Tuesday (to my knowledge) the pair have obviously decided that Freeman's Pools are not as much to their liking as it first appeared...

Sunday highlights were the re-appearance of tufted ducks, 2 drake and 1 duck, on Freeman's Pools and the sight of approximately 120 swift over the estuary. A cloud of 40+ house martins also dropped by briefly.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Sandpiper excitement

Sorry about the rather misleading title to this posting but the appearance of a common sandpiper on Freeman's Pool this evening was (almost) exciting.
The shoveler pair were still present on the top pool.
A couple of LR plover were present as per usual, with a third on the Wildfowlers' Pools.

Best bird of the day, by far, was the wood warbler I came across in Morecambe Dome bushes this morning. Often a good spot for turning up migrants, this spring has so far been rubbish with very few birds of note, so I was well chuffed with this little beauty! For those who don't know - I usually check the Stone Jetty and the bushes on weekday mornings before work and again at lunchtimes. For those sightings check the LDBWS website:

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Early evening stroll

Good to note at least 3 pairs of linnet in Freeman's Wood this evening plus singing common and lesser whitethroats. A further linnet pair were by Freeman's Pools.
The pools themselves seemed rather quiet, though the fact that it was a nice afternoon combined with half-term may well explain that... the shoveler pair were present as was a lone LR plover.
Nothing of note was on the marsh and there was little on the Wildfowlers' Pools bar the 2 LR plover there. Looks like a garganey-free spring - fingers crossed for a late summer bird!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Mmmmmmm muck

The most notable thing about my brief post-work visit today was the strangely warming and pungent aroma of freshly spread muck in the fields, something that always reminds me of my younger days helping out at our friends' farm in North Yorkshire.
Aside of that olfactory reminiscence, the highlights were the shoveler pair, a couple of LR plover and a kestrel. Good to see a leveret too, as well as three adult hares.
Plenty of house martins and swifts around now.
Dan H had checked the pools thoroughly today and had seen no stints, so it's highly likely that they've moved on despite the continued easterly winds.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Quick blustery visit

No sign of any stints on the Wildfowlers' Pools during a relatively brief visit, though as I know too well and is evident from a number of postings on the LDBWS site birds can often be hidden away for prolonged periods of time at this site. A couple of LR plover were visible but nothing much else.
Mute swans have hatched young on Heron Pool. This was their third and final nest site.

The most exciting thing today though was that my bird table had blown over in the monster gale...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Birding by bike and stints revisited

The Birding by Bike event went well with a good turn out. Thanks to Rachel for organising it and Dan for his expertise and enthusiasm.
Undoubted highlight was the avocet pair which made a timely reappearance and entertained the crowds at Freeman's Pools. Otherwise we saw what you'd expect but it's always great to look at familiar birds through 'new' eyes - added interests included eider (4) and a good selection of waders at Conder including greenshank, both godwits and common sandpiper.
On my return I stopped off at the Wildfowlers' Pools and spotted both Temminck's stints (and adding Tony Riden to my Aldcliffe yearlist).
One of the stints however got me in a bit of a tizz upon close inspection and I started thinking Baird's sandpiper for a while, but after a good deal of scrutiny I gave up on that fanciful idea! Well, it did have dark legs and appeared longish-winged... and what about that 'oval' shaped body? Hmmmm

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Stints return

Nothing out of the ordinary in Freeman's Wood this morning and even Freeman's Pools were back to their normal almost bird-free selves - ie no avocets and just 1 LR plover.
However, I was delighted to discover at 7am that what were presumably the same 2 Temminck's stints from there yesterday were on the Wildfowlers' Pools and, with patience, good views could be had from the cycle track. Equally, they would be visible from the seawall when feeding on the 'eastern' side of the pools. Apologies for the crappy pics: hand-held camera up to the eyepiece of scope...
This is the second/third occurrence of Temminck's stint at this pool - the first being on 25th June 2004.
A pair of shoveler were on Frog Pond.

UPDATE: The stints were apparently seen throughout the day by visiting local birders. I nipped down for a quick look late afternoon and bumped into Mark Prestwood who was just arriving at the gate. There was no sign of any stints until one flew up from the far end of the pool calling, passing in front of us and heading off in the direction of Railway Crossing Lane at 5.45pm. I checked the Flood in case it had gone onto there, it hadn't (although a LR plover was present).
Another LRP was at the Wildfowlers' Pools but no stints were forthcoming.