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Chats & Swans.

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The Chats.

Stonechat Half Moon Bay 10 December. Pete Woodruff.

As it turned out yesterday, it was a smart idea that I decided to take a look over Heysham Head, to then find 2 Stonechat down on the shore at Half Moon Bay. Also noted here, 5 Greenfinch, 2 Robin, 2 Pied Wagtail, and a Meadow Pipit

An hours birding on a Sunday afternoon doesn't come much better than this for me, and the fact I failed to find the long staying Chough anywhere, turned into an irrelevance after seeing two Stonechat instead. 

The Swans.

Whooper Swan Brian Rafferty  

I found two more marked Whooper Swan at Cockersand 17 November, both are Martin Mere birds.

YCC ringed as an adult female in February 2013.

YCB ringed as an adult male in February 2015.

Though the history of all three Whooper Swans I've seen so far this winter aren't particularly exciting in that none of the three has been reported outside Lancashire and certainly not in Iceland, with the exception of YCC which ventured north to Ankerville Corner, Easter Ross, Scotland and was seen there in November 2015, having been previously reported at Woodmoss Lane, Scarisbrick, West Lancashire in December 2014, and again in January 2016, all other sightings of both these swans were made at Martin Mere WWT. 

The bird marked YYG which was the first Whooper Swan I found at Cockersand on 8 November was seen five days later on 13 November back at Martin Mere.

I'm again grateful to Kane Brides at WWT for dealing with my submission and forwarding me the history....always worth waiting for. Thanks also to Brian Rafferty for the 'pik with a difference' of the bathing Whooper Swan.

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Buses, Boots, & Birds.

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First Snow On Clougha Pike. Pete Woodruff.

Perfect yesterday for the plod along the coastal path from Lancaster to Glasson Dock from where I took this shot of the first snows on Clougha Pike with the Cafe 'd Lune and the newly painted old railway bridge over the River Conder in the foreground. 

On the River Lune off St Georges Quay, a pair of Goosander and Grey Wagtail seen. On Freemans Pools, a Goldeneye was close by, but any wildfowl on here were all at the far west end, amongst which a few uncounted Teal and Gadwall. In the field by Frog Pond, 15 Greylag and 10 Curlew were of note, and the Wildfowlers Pool which would currently be more appropriately called 'Wildfowlers Lake', held 4 Goldeneye three of which were smart drakes. There was probably up to 200 Canada Geese on Aldcliffe Marsh, but I didn't linger to count.

One or two notable counts from Aldcliffe to Glasson, 32 Blackbird, 11 Robin, 10 Pied Wagtail, 5 Dunnock, and Song Thrush which I saw as an excellent count in any birders book. Of the 10 Little Egret I noted, eight were together in a field at Stodday. A few Fieldfare were mobile at Conder Green, but I'm in top gear now....the bus back to Lancaster is coming.

Egyptian Geese. Warren Baker.

Highlight of the day was 2 Egyptian Geese by the flood at Aldcliffe Hall Lane, though not a bird to be taken seriously, it was introduced to Britain 400 years ago in the seventeenth century. The Egyptian Goose has never become widespread in Lancashire, the largest flock ever recorded was eight seen on the inner Ribble marshes in January 1977.

A small population has become established in Greater Manchester, which may be the source of some records in Lancashire, but I reckon mine were probably off some collectors pond - the garden pond a Grange-over-Sands came to mind - and were at the lower end of my highlight scale.

Thanks to Warren for the excellent trio of geese, and to Richard for the equally excellent Knott End Twite header. 

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Against The Odds.

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Around the Lune Estuary yesterday, on a day that was against the odds and anything but ideal for birding, especially along the headland at Cockersand, where there was a mini westerly howler on a cold, dull, and damp day. I ended with an hour at Glasson and Conder Green, as the day progressed it wasn't until then that birding livened up if only a little.

Curlew. Richard O'Meara. 

I'd got it into my head, that the 10.32m high tide might be best at Cockersand, when the fields would hopefully hold a few thousand waders again, but unpredictable as they are, in the main the birds were elsewhere, though notable were estimates of 150 Curlew, 120 Turnstone, and a similar number of Dunlin, barely 50 Golden Plover, with Redshank and Lapwing present. Two Kestrel seen were one hovering at Lighthouse Cottage and one at Bank Houses. Spread about over three fields, some distant and difficult to account for, but at least 275 Whooper Swan seen.

Linnet. Pete Woodruff.

On Bodie Hill at Glasson, c.60 flighty Linnet, and on the canal basin, 2 Goldeneye drake and a Great-crested Grebe noted. On Conder Pool, a drake Goosander and 24 Tufted Duck. In the creeks, a female Goosander and a Grey Wagtaila Little Grebe was the only one seen today, with 2 Goldeneye drake down the channel towards the Conder mouth. From the coastal path, 18 Fieldfare briefly with at least one Redwing, 25 Long-tailed Tit, 42 Goldfinch, and a Song Thrush.

Common Sandpiper. Bob Bushell.

Two Common Sandpiper at Conder Green yesterday, didn't need me to see them together five times since 6 October as more confirmation they are both wintering here this year.

And finally....

Chough. Noushka. 

With the long staying bird at Heysham in mind and still there today, I couldn't resist this brilliant image of the six in France....There's an excellent set of more Chough Here....Many thanks Noushka.

Thanks also to Richard for his Curlew, to Bob for his Common Sandpiper, and to yours truly for the not so excellent Linnets!

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A Ruff Passage.

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This year has seen an exceptional autumn Ruff passage in our area, since I found 2 at Cockersand on 4 September, to date I've seen 50 Ruff, the best being 14 on the shore off Lighthouse Cottage at Cockersand on 26 September, and 18 on the Lune Estuary at Glasson on 6 October. 

On Friday I found an adult male Ruff at Cockersand for the third time in a week, this time it was in the field beyond Bank Houses horse paddock with Stock Dove and a few RedshankIn other fields, 550 Golden Plover and 150 Curlew. Seven Snipe came up off the marsh opposite the caravan park, up to 20 Twite were were mobile, initially in the rough field behind Bank House Cottage from where I watched a Merlin single out a Starling from the mass before being lost to view to see a result of the attack.

Fieldfare. Richard Pegler@ Peglerbirding  

In the Willows and by the cover crop on Slack Lane, 45 Fieldfare, 14 Chaffinch, 5 Greenfinch, and a Skylark heard.

The Lune Estuary at Glasson was uninspiring, but the first Goldeneye on here this winter was a drake, with 4 Bar-tailed Godwit and 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Great-crested Grebe were my only other notes.

Of the 7 Little Grebe seen at Conder Green, two were on Conder Pool with five in the creeks. Also on the pool, up to 150 Teal, 24 Tufted Duck and 19 Wigeon. The Common Sandpiper was again downstream by the bridge, and along the coastal path, 12 Blackbird, 12 Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, and 2 Mistle Thrush over.

Birding till dusk. Cockersand Abbey & Farm. Pete Woodruff.

Thanks to Richard for the Fieldfare, and to Antonio for the header image of the Chough.

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And Finally….The Owl.

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I took note of all 80 birds on Conder Pool on Tuesday, 36 Mallard, 33 Tufted Duck, 6 Teal, last Fridays Goldeneye, a drake Goosander, 2 Mute Swan, and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. In the creeks, 2 Little GrebeGrey Wagtail, and 2 Mistle Thrush over, a Common Sandpiper was again down the channel, and from the coastal path 8 Fieldfare and 44 Goldfinch.

On the Lune Estuary, c.300 Golden Plover, 450 Wigeon, and 5 Goosander were of note. On the canal basin, my first drake Goldeneye seen, and in a flooded field off Jeremy Lane, an adult Mediterranean Gull was with a pretty even mix of c.600 Common Gull/Black-headed Gull

Mixed fortunes at Cockersand, included on the negative side, a shock clear out of the 550, leaving just 8 Whooper Swan in a mid-distance inland field. In the positive, at least 2,000 Golden Plover seen, with in excess of 50% in the field by Abbey Farm, and the other in flight off the estuary south over Lighthouse Cottage, from where 4 Bar-tailed Godwit were seen on the shore. Also in the Abbey Farm field, 390 Curlew2 Ruff, and another mass clear out of last Fridays 1,800 to leave just 45 Black-tailed Godwit. On a circuit of the area, 12 Blackbird, 9 Stock Dove, 4 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, a Reed Bunting, and a patrolling low flight Buzzard.

Sunset From Lighthouse Cottage. Pete Woodruff. 

I saw 10 Brown Hare in the three hours I was at Cockersand today, and as I left approaching Gardners Farm at dusk, Barn Owl flew across Moss Lane....A birding day doesn't end much better than a Barn Owl. 

Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty.

It was good to see Brian Rafferty at Cockersand on Tuesday, and many thanks for his excellent image. My bird wasn't seen in good light like this one, but great stuff for me all the same. 

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The Red Pochard.

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The Pochard.

The Pochard is listed as Vulnerable on the European Red List and the wintering population of Pochard continues to fall sharply with no sign of recovery. I actually saw a sighting in our area recently, refered to as a 'Mega' and last year was the first on record that the bird failed to achieve a three figure count anywhere in Lancashire where the main wintering sites are at Dockacres/Pine Lake and Seaforth on Merseyside, the flocks of which dropped by almost 50% on 2015 numbers.

The loss of wintering distribution of the Pochard is most prominent in Ireland where there was a loss of almost 50% of 10km squares occupied, and driven by a large scale decline at the key wintering site of Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake anywhere in the British Isles with a surface area of 392 square kilometres, which has lost up to 20,000 Pochard over recent years.

A small number of c.500 pairs of Pochard breed in Britain which is much more important as a winter habitat hosting 25% of the NW European population, with around 60,000 in Britain.

Personal sightings of the Pochard over the past 3 years have only amounted to six records, by far the best one was a drake 06 Feb 2015 on Conder Pool....

14 Nov  2016 Blea Tarn Reservoir two drake
19 Jan  2016 Canal Basin Glasson a drake
16 Feb 2016 Canal Basin a pair
03 Jan  2017 Canal Basin a female
17 Feb 2017 Canal Basin a drake, being the only Pochard I've seen this year. 

I was prompted to dig out a post about the Pochard on Birds2blog in February 2016 last year, it makes some interesting reading Here

Birding!....Who me....what birding....when....where.

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Cockersand Wader Festival.

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Up to 3,000 waders were in the field looking more like a lake behind Lighthouse Cottage at Cockersand yesterday. The field held an absolute minimum of 1,800 Black-tailed Godwit and 900 Golden Plover, with a male Ruff, single Turnstone, and uncounted LapwingDunlin, Redshank, and Curlew, also seen in the field 10 Pied Wagtail and a Kestrel over Slack Lane. 

From the Lighthouse Cottage I saw a Peregrine Falcon clear out everything on Plover Scar, to leave it void of birds by the time I got there. Today's c.400 Whooper Swan herd had thinned out and spread out, mainly now in the Thursland Hill area, with 275 counted before they left the recently estimated 550 field by Bank Houses.

Conder Pool was pretty lively and included the first Goldeneye on here this winter, a decent count of 28 Tufted Duck, a Greenshank with 32 Redshank, 3 Snipe, and a drake GoosanderOf the 2 Common Sandpiper seen, one on the pool was feeding on small insects in their hundreds by the side and on the pool, Song Thrush was in the hedgerow. 

Up to 180 Teal were in the creeks and put to flight at the arrival of a Sparrowhawk zipping through, 3 Little Grebe seen, the other Common Sandpiper was down the channel, but a beady eye needs to be kept out here as I almost certainly saw a third Common Sandpiper as it disappeared on the bend towards the Conder mouth. The Kingfisher also put in an appearance briefly on the mud down the channel, and 62 Goldfinch were seen from the coastal path.

I found this dead Whooper Swan on the shingle below Cockersand Abbey last Friday, still there yesterday.

I get caught out at Cockersand more than anywhere else I go birding, not long after  I took this pic I was hot-footing it in the rain back to the motor....nowhere to hide.

Little Grebe. Conder Green 24 November. Pete Woodruff. 

For some unknown reason, the remaining Little Grebe's desert Conder Pool about this time every year, and take to the creeks. When the River Conder is in spate, they escape attention until you discover they hide and just sit below the marsh overhangs like this one did yesterday downstream from the A588 road bridge, Iv'e found five doing this recently.

This was an excellent day for me, the close on 2,000 Black-tailed Godwit and 900 Golden Plover at Cockersand where inspirational, and the male Ruff a brilliant bonus in my book.

Thanks to Noushka for the Crested Tit header....Confined to the Caledonian Pine Forest in Scotland if you ever want to see one in Britain.

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Black-headed Gull.

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On Friday last, I found a marked Black-headed Gull on the Lune Estuary at Glasson. The instant I read the ring it registered with me that I had not only seen this bird before, but that I had seen it at the same location on the Lune Estuary 3 years ago in September 2014.

Black-headed Gull. Pete Woodruff. 

The bird was marked with a white darvic ring and a three black alpha-numeric code on the right leg and a metal ring on the left, and has been re-sighted and read five times, three in Denmark, and two on the Lune Estuary in Lancashire. 

I'm grateful to Kjeld Tommy Pedersen for dealing with this record, and for forwarding the history of the bird to me.

Black-headed Gull 6CY.

Ringed as an adult male in Svanemøllebugten, København, Denmark on 21 March 2013, and re-sighted....

27 March 2013. 

DKHS Jesper Brinkmann Nielsen (DKC-749) White 6CY ØREGÅRDSPARKEN GENTOFTE 55.44N-012.34E Alive Colour ring read 8 81.

26 Sept 2014. 

GBLA Peter Woodruff White 6CY LUNE ESTUARY: GLASSON DOCK THURNHAM 54.00N 002.51W Alive Colour ring read 7 81.

28 March 2015. 

DKHS Kjeld Tommy Pedersen (DKC-404) White 6CY CHARLOTTENLUND FORT GENTOFTE 55.45N-012.35E Alive Colour ring read 8 81.

4 April 2015.

DKHS Eddie Bo Fritze (DKC-243) White 6CY CHARLOTTENLUND FORT GENTOFTE 55.45N-012.35E Alive Colour ring read 8 81.

17 Nov 2017.

GBLA Peter Woodruff White 6CY LUNE ESTUARY: GLASSON DOCK THURNHAM 54.00N-002.51W Alive Colour ring read 7 81.

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The GP’s Have It For Me.

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Greenshank. Conder Pool Friday 17 November. Pete Woodruff.

A snoozing Greenshank on Conder Pool was good enough to get me off to a nice start on Friday morning, 17 Wigeon were also of note here, and the 180 Teal at Conder Green were split between the pool and creeks, where I found 7 Little Grebe and the Common Sandpiper which was down by the now finished and newly painted bridge....must have cost a fortune.

The Lune Estuary was quiet wader wise, apart from the presence of the usual several hundred Lapwing, 320 Dunlin and 7 Snipe, with c.350 Wigeon seen.

The Cockersand at least 500 Whooper Swan were initially in the field by Bank Houses as seen from the headland, but by the time I got there they had been disturbed and were eventually scattered over five fields. On Plover Scar, c.450 Oystercatcher, and little more than a two handed number of Turnstone, Redshank, and Dunlin. A Mistle Thrush and single Fieldfare again, seen by the cover Crop on Slack Lane.

When the tide had dropped, 22 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Bar-tailed Godwit were feeding off Crook Farm.

A Goldcrest was in our garden Saturday morning.

The Grey Plover.

Grey Plover. Brian Rafferty.

At high tide on Friday, Plover Scar held a quite decent count of 14 Grey Plover, almost certainly my best ever count at any time of the year at Cockersand.

The Grey Plover had it for me today, a wader that breeds in the high Arctic regions of Russia, from where they migrate to winter in areas throughout the world including Britain, making it one of the most globally widespread of all the wader species, though none of our Lancashire estuaries currently supports internationally important numbers of Grey Plover.

Thanks to Bob for his Greenshank header image, and to Brian for his Grey Plovers, excellent and much appreciated.

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Uphill Struggle.

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Hawthornthwaite Fell.

It was an uphill struggle to find the birds in more ways than one on Wednesday, but literally so on Hawthornthwaite. Apart from the fact the Stonechat isn't as easy to find as it was during it's upturn in status which peaked during the early 2000's, I'd got 3/4 of the climb to the peak before I found a distant pair of Stonechat, the only two seen on my visit, and at a higher elevation than Iv'e ever seen them here before. But ne'r mind....mission accomplished. 

Wren. Martin Jump. 

Four Wren on Hawthornthwaite seems to indicate a good colony, I had six seen here on 18 October, also 10 Red Grouse

Marshaw - Tower Lodge - Trough Bridge.

A Dipper was seen on the Marshaw Wyre with a juicy aquatic invertebrate in it's bill, but it was disappointing not to find any Grey Wagtail here today. Behind Tower Lodge, Goldcrest and 2 Treecreeper seen, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit and Great Tit, and by the time I got to Trough Bridge, 2 Nuthatch, a MistleThrush, and a Kestrel noted, 4 Red Grouse were seen from the track towards Winfold Fell. 

The last bird I expected to see as I arrived back at Marshaw was a Cormorant flying north over Marshaw Farm. On the way back to Lancaster, up to 220 Common Gull in a field at Quernmore, with a Kestrel seen on a roadside fence post.

Autumn Bowland. Pete Woodruff.