Friday, 30 August 2013

Dabchick Late Brood News

Juvenile barn swallow
I've been making a point of checking the patch every morning this week but sadly my efforts have gone mostly unrewarded, as far as unusual off-passage species are concerned.
Given the volume of ace birds being seen elsewhere in the recording area (eg yesterday I dropped in at Leighton Moss and saw 24 curlew sandpiper, at least 4 ruff and a couple of spotted redshank) it seems only natural that Aldcliffe will have a few waders passing through, right?
Nonetheless, it's been interesting to see the daily changes regarding common birds. Chiffchaffs and willow warblers have been moving through in numbers, and the swallows and house martins have been gathering in increasingly larger flocks.    
The first wigeon arrived early in the week and the number of teal continue to build. I've been scrutinising the latter for the odd garganey but alas none have yet shown up.

The number of little grebe on Freeman's Pools have peaked at 6 birds and today (Friday) I was able to confirm my suspicions of a late breeding attempt with one grebe in the company of a recently hatched youngster. This seems to be a regular occurrence at Aldcliffe with this species. They clear out completely in the spring, returning late in the summer and have a crack at a late brood. Perhaps the habitat just isn't good enough early on and only once the vegetation has grown up significantly does the site offer suitable nesting habitat?
Another bird really increasing in number as the days go by is little egret; I saw at least 8 today without even really looking.

Green sandpipers continue to show both on the Flood and at the Wildfowlers' Pools. The week's high count came this morning with 6 present.
A juvenile little ringed plover had remained on the Flood throughout the week, but it looks as though it may have finally moved on as I couldn't locate it today.

When I went out to see if I could see last weekend's wood sandpiper on Sunday morning I missed it, arriving at Aldcliffe too late. Pete Crooks has seen it on the Flood at 7.30am but it was flushed by a dog walker seemingly engaging in practice for the Noisiest Man In The World competition.

All was not lost however, and I did see an adult female marsh harrier hunting along Dawson's Bank and I also spied my first post-breeding wheatear out on the marsh.


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Wood You Believe It

I got a message from Guy McLellan saying that he'd found his second Aldcliffe wood sandpiper of the season this afternoon - a juvenile on The Flood.
Once again, I was well out of town with work and unable to get along to see it.
Pete Crooks reported it as still being present up to 4.55pm.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

All The Fun Of The BirdFair

Me and TV's Nick Baker. Sort of...
The work load's been a bit heavy of late and as a consequence my visits to Aldcliffe have been, at best, few and far between.
Nonetheless, it hasn't been all bad as I spent the weekend down at Rutland working at the Birdfair
This was my first visit to the event since I last went in the mid/late 90s (the exact year escapes me...) and it was quite a privilege to attend as part of the RSPB team.
I didn't get to see too much of the fair as I spent the majority of my time on the RSPB stand handing out free checklists (we gave out over 9,000 of them over 3 days!), selling raffle tickets (£15,000 trip to Antarctica for 2 as the first prize), and signing up new members to the society.
And on the plus side, I had red kite drifting over the campsite I was staying on two days in succession.

In my absence, Aldcliffe regular and finder of spoonbills and yellowlegs, Pete Crooks posted the following on the LDBWS site on August 19th:
"The flooded field at the end of Aldcliffe Hall Lane proved to be very productive following the morning rain - 1 juv. Ruff, 5 Green Sandpiper, 4 juv. Little Ringed Plover, 9 Snipe, 1 Whimbrel and c.80 Goldfinch"

I did manage a brief check on the following day but it was pretty birdless by comparison. A single pair of juv. little ringer plover were on the Flood, a single mobile and noisy greenshank was flying around and 3 golden plover were flushed off the marsh along with a large flock of lapwing when an adult peregrine came blasting through accompanying a younger bird carrying prey.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Torn Between Two Plovers

After spending the day today out wandering around the Lyth Valley area with Jenny I squeezed in a quick late afternoon visit to Aldcliffe for a spot of leisurely, if blustery, birding.
Three little egret were on the island at Freeman's Pools, alongside a couple of stately grey herons. There wasn't much else showing bar a few mallard, coot, moorhen, the resident mute swan family and a tufted duck.  
I could only see two green sandpipers at the Wildfowlers' Pools. A few snipe, around 60 curlew and another little egret were also here.
On the Flood there were 4 little ringed plover but perhaps more interesting was a single ringed plover. Although considerably commoner on the whole, ringed plovers are pretty scarce in the Aldcliffe area, usually preferring the wider sandier stretches of the estuary.

Moth fans may like this pic I took of a Magpie (Abraxas grossulariata).  
We came across it while trundling around near Crosthwaite. Or rather it came across Jenny's face after she flushed it, much to her delight (not). It crawled into a dry stone wall where it posed badly and made getting a decent shot all but impossible.
The Magpie is a really smart looking insect though I have to say that I'm not all that familiar with the species, despite the fact that it is apparently reasonably common.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Wandering warblers

Another quick walk round on Saturday afternoon revealed 4 lrp's on the Flood.
A green sandpiper and snipe were at Wildfowler's.
Approximately 50 goldfinch were at the bund.
During my morning walk around Scotforth it became evident by the calling in the bushes along the railway track that warbler migration is underway. 6 chiffchaff, including a singing bird, were heard in various bushes along the cycle track.


Friday, 9 August 2013

Marsh Attacks

On Thursday morning I managed a reasonably thorough, if quick, blast around Aldcliffe.
Freeman's Pools were quiet, as seems to be the norm at this time of year. 5 little grebe were present, including a well grown juvenile.
There were a couple of green sandpiper and a snipe at the Wildfowlers' Pools plus three further green sands on the Flood along with an adult and 2 juv little ringed plover.
I was chatting to fellow Aldcliffe regular Ray Hobbs when I spotted a large dark raptor heading toward the drumlins. It was a large female/juv marsh harrier. It continued to fly in the direction of Freeman's Wood before banking round and flying out to the river.
Over the next 10 minutes or so, despite my not being able to actually see the harrier, it was obvious where it was as waves of panicking lapwing, starlings and other species flew up off the marsh as it seemingly made its way out toward Stodday.
Once again, I was a camera-free zone so here's one of my old recycled sketches...


Monday, 5 August 2013

Partridge Family

It's almost incomprehensible that last week I was concerned about the lack of water in the various smaller pools around the patch. The Wildfowlers' Pools for example had been sunbaked to the point where only a trio of tiny puddles remained.
The last few days have seen something of a change of fortune and normal service has resumed, with wet weather ensuring that water levels have returned to an acceptable level.
Unfortunately, I was in the Peak District all day when Guy contacted me with news of the wood sandpiper on Friday, and Saturday saw me working in West Yorkshire.
With a day off today (Monday) I headed out in the pouring morning rain for a check around the Aldcliffe area.
Arriving at the Wildfowlers' Pools it was immediately apparent that there wasn't too much going on. The mute swan family were still very much in evidence but other than a few coot, moorhen, mallard and a couple of little grebe there was little to see on the pools. Of note, three stock dove were around the reserve.
I was delighted to come across a family party of grey partridge near Frog Pond, comprising two adults and 7 fledged young. This nationally declining species is just about hanging on at Aldcliffe, but we're going to need some new blood in the area if they are going to continue to survive locally.

Frog Pond itself was hosting a soggy looking little egret and 5 snipe
Multiple snipe were also around the Wildfolwers' Pools with flighty groups of 9, 7 and 2s here and there moving around the site.
A small group of teal were dabbling in the wet grass.
Just one green sandpiper was seen here along with 2 little egrets, 3 black-tailed godwit and several curlews feeding in the fields. (In the absence of any photos taken today here is a drawing of a curlew that, as they almost used to say on Blue Peter, I prepared earlier...)
More curlews were in the fields near The Flood.
A single adult Mediterranean gull was in among 70 or so black-headed gulls on The Flood edge, as was another green sandpiper, a couple of oystercatcher and a dozen lapwing


Friday, 2 August 2013

Wood you believe it

I struggle to do any birding these days so I made the most of a free hour to head down to the patch. Water levels are low (certainly much lower than this time last year) but after the recent rain the flood and wildfowler's are nice and muddy. A wood sandpiper was at wildfowler's. This is only my second Aldcliffe wood sand but they head my list as the favourite and I always thought the star of the show on the patch last autumn was the wood sand rather than the lesser yellowlegs.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Birding in a Wader Wonderland

One of the great things about mid-summer is the return of waders from their northern or upland breeding grounds.
Aldcliffe typically gets the first, and the largest number, of green sandpipers in the local recording area and so far this year is pretty much on track with expectations. Of course, we local patchers are also very keen on finding an oddity here and there; wood sandpipers for example are annual, while other scarcer species might just show up on any of the pools or on the river if we're lucky.
Post-breeding little egrets also start to really show up in numbers along with grey herons and a wealth of gulls.

Here are selected highlights from recent days:
Black-tailed godwits

Monday 29th - A trawl around the patch during the morning turned up the following:
1 adult little ringed plover was flying around calling by the Lune at Marsh Point - presumably recently fledged young were nearby. 2 common sandpiper were on the river bank.
There were 5 green sandpiper and
2 little egret at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
26 black-tailed godwit, including a colour ringed bird (photo), were feeding near Reedy Corner. The bird had been ringed in Iceland - I'm waiting for further details.
Another little egret was on The Flood. There were 16 common sandpiper at the Creek and scanning through the black-headed gulls on Gull Bank I picked out 2 adult Mediterranean gulls

Colour-ringed black-tailed godwit
Thursday July 25th - Following the (re?)appearance of 5 avocet a couple of days previously, there was still one juvenile on the Lune off Marsh Point in the morning.
A greenshank was on Freeman's Pools as were a newly arrived mass of greylag (c320 birds).
3 green sandpiper, 1 common sandpiper & a little ringed plover were all at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
Raptors-wise peregrine, kestrel (including newly fledged pair) and a sparrowhawk were all seen in the area. 

A smart black-tailed godwit in full breeding garb was on the river at Gull Bank while 2 whimbrel and 5 common sandpiper were on the river near the pylons. 
Black-headed (left) and Mediterranean gull (right)

Tuesday July 23rd - 5 avocets were on the river in the early evening (1 adult, 4 juv) just off Marsh Point.
There were 4 green sandpiper, 3 little ringed plover and a snipe at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
The little grebes on Freeman's Pools increased from 3 to 5 birds, all of them adults.
The little ringed plovers on the industrial estate still had at least 2 healthy-looking near-to-fledging chicks.

Monday July 22nd - At least 6 green sandpiper were in the area during morning, though there were possibly as many as 9. Their rather flighty behaviour made a definitive count impossible with birds present on Freeman's Pools, Frog Pond and the Wildfowlers' Pools. Six were definitely visible at one time, so at least we know an absolute minimum. 
Also on the patch were a minimum of 4 little ringed plover.
It was nice to see a single stock dove over the maize fields, though I suppose it would be nicer still to see several!