Monday, 26 September 2016

Ducktastic Day

Dodging the odd showery bursts this morning, I spent a couple of hours birding around the Aldcliffe area for the first time in a while.
The combined forces of a bust work schedule and a few days visiting family on Jersey have meant that I've had little time to get out and see what's occurring on the patch.
I did manage to see a few birds while on Jersey; migration was in full swing when I first arrived and I was treated to what is a rare sight in North Lancashire these days - flocks of yellow wagtails. 'Vis-miggers' on the south of the island had been logging literally hundreds of these lovely migrants, along with other classic autumn fayre, as they passed over en route to the continent and beyond.
My encounters were more modest but even so, finding groups containing double figures as they fed around the hooves of Jersey cows was quite a treat.
I also came across redstarts, whinchats, wheatears, spotted flycatchers, marsh harriers and other common migrants. Jersey is also home to a few species that are otherwise rare or absent from much of the UK mainland including cirl bunting, Dartford warbler and short-toed treecreeper and all are relatively easy to find if you look in the right places!
Find out more about Jersey birds and the latest sightings from there by visiting the website here.

Now, back to Lancaster and my morning's trawl... a few highlights included an obvious arrival of wildfowl since my last visit.
At Freeman's Pools there were 12 wigeon, 3 tufted duck and 7 gadwall plus the usual little grebes, mallards and teal.
Frog Pond was positively heaving with birds and a further 8 wigeon were there with half a dozen gadwall and teal, a lone tufted duck plus an impressive 12 shoveler.
The Wildfowlers' Pools were quiet; the highlight here was a single wheatear.
The Flood was covered in teal with 62 present (and STILL no garganey!) but only a redshank, snipe and lapwing as far as waders were concerned.
A pair of greenshank were out on Aldcliffe Marsh (later flying on to the Flood) and the only other things of note were a pair of golden plover with the mass of lapwings roosting the edge of the Lune and another 4 wheatear. The adult whooper swan was on Colloway.

The hedges were very quiet with just single blackcap and chiffchaff found among the tit and finch flocks. Chaffinch numbers were certainly up and a couple of reed buntings were kicking around. Four skylarks flew over, as did just one meadow pipit and a small number of swallows and house martins.


Friday, 9 September 2016

Dirty Harrier

Mediterranean gull
I had an interesting couple of hours rooting around on the patch this morning.
I started at Freeman's Pools where a 'new-in' juvenile great crested grebe was snoozing on the water. The female tufted duck was still present along with its youngster - a drake was nearby too.
A small gathering of 50 or so black-headed gulls in Frog Pond field also had a 1st winter Mediterranean gull among them.
Water levels on all the pools remains high and as a result we're seeing very few fresh-water waders in the Aldcliffe area so far this season.
The Flood hosted just a handful of lapwing, redshank and a lone snipe.
Out on the marsh, near Snipe Bog, a single greenshank was feeding in the brackish pools.
Meanwhile, a scan through the many lapwing on the estuary only turned up a pair of golden plover - the first I've seen there this autumn.
Two adult Mediterranean gulls were with the several hundred black-heads and handful of common gulls on the sand.

Marsh harrier
On Heaton Marsh I could see a common buzzard hunting low over the marsh and as I 'scoped it I noticed another raptor sat deep in the grass - a female / juvenile type marsh harrier. After a short while the harrier got up and spent a short while hunting over the marsh before dropping down and feeding on the carcass of a lesser black-backed gull on the river's edge.
It soon took off again but this time attracted the attention of one of the local peregrines which half-heartedly gave it a bit of bother before the harrier drifted off and returned to its manky gull meal.

Migrant songbirds seemed pretty thin on the ground, with the local tit flocks hosting fewer chiffchaffs & willow warblers than juts a couple of days ago. A single lesser whitethroat was near the parking area.


Friday, 2 September 2016

September Song

My recent birding visits to the Aldcliffe area have been rather erratic and have almost always been on days when the weather's not really been 'bird-friendly'. As a consequence, I've not seen all that much in the way of notable migrants and the like.

This morning I spent an hour or two checking the usual spots but with the wind firmly from the south west it was little surprise that I didn't come across anything mind-blowing. However, the following just about made the jaunt worthwhile:
4 Mediterranean gulls (3 adults and a 1st winter) - on the Lune
1 green sandpiper - Flood
2 greenshank - 1 Freeman's Pools & 1 Flood 
Teal numbers continue to build around the whole area (where is my garganey?) and a pair of moulting drake tufted ducks had appeared on Freeman's Pools. Some of the eclipse gadwall are now looking a lot more like gadwall should...
A sense of seasonal change was tangible as a few robins were singing - declaring winter territories or just passing through? 

Last Friday was similarly quietish with just a Med gull in Frog Pond field, 2 greenshank on the Flood and a pair of wheatear by the Wildfowlers' Pools.

A couple of days earlier (25th) things had been much better with some very migrant-friendly weather bringing some warbler action onto the patch.
Freeman's Wood was jumping with birds; one feeding frenzy included at least 12 blackcaps, 3 common and 2 lesser whitethroats plus numerous willow warblers and chiffchaffs. The cycle track had mixed flocks of long-tailed and blue tits that contained multiple willows and chiffs plus both whitethroat species (especially lesser), though notably fewer blackcaps.
A couple of wheatear were also on Aldcliffe Marsh adding to the autumnal feel.