Little Wonder

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
Little ringed plover - AldcliffeMid to late March always has me anticipating the arrival of the first little ringed plover at Aldcliffe. They are extremely reliable here and turn up each year around the same date; March 17th in 2013, 19th in 2014 and 2015 and 18th last year.So when I clapped eyes on a lovely adult female on the Flood this morning I wasn't the least bit surprised.These dainty little waders are long distance migrants, returning to the UK each spring from their wintering grounds in Africa. They are as much a herald of spring for me as wheatears, sand martins and chiffchaffs.(The pic here was taken previously). Today's morning visit to Aldcliffe followed a few off-patch visits along with fellow birder and good chum Stuart Meredith. First we headed to Sizergh Castle in search of hawfinch. These dazzling and often elusive birds a...
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White Arse Works Wonders

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
WheatearYet more indicators of the coming season came in the form of a smart male wheatear on the tide line on Monday morning.These long-distance migrants are always a pleasure to see and a real sign that there are tons more birds on their way to our shores!In case you're wondering, the name wheatear has nothing to do with either wheat or indeed ears.It is a derivation of the old name 'white-arse' - and if you've seen one flying away from you, you'll know why!Skylarks have been both passing through and singing over the marsh while meadow pipits continue to make their way north in small numbers. Chiffchaffs have arrived in notable numbers in recent days with a few birds singing in Freeman's Wood while others have been feeding quietly in the hedgerows.Presumably the same green sandpiper I saw last Sunday was again present at the Wildfowl...

A Hint Of Spring

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
StonechatWith cool, overcast conditions it didn't seem much like spring down at Aldcliffe this morning. But the sound of multiple singing birds certainly hinted that change was in the air.Oystercatchers were noisily pairing up and proclaiming potential territories while a few lapwings were already staking their claims in the maize fields.Small numbers of meadow pipit were passing over and a handful of 'new-in' reed buntings were evident around the patch. A small group of linnet were feeding on the tideline.Other new arrivals included a female stonechat at Marsh Point and a green sandpiper at the Wildfowlers'  Pools.Around 1,200 pink-footed geese on Aldcliffe Marsh, plus several fieldfare and redwings along the path hedgerows, were reminders that winter is still very much clinging on...The regular greenshank continues to hang around on ...
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Grillers In The Mist

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
Aldcliffe birding's been a bit on the predictable side of late. The last three or four visits have seen me looking at pretty much the same birds, in the same places.But today was different. Today we had persistent mizzle. Today we had apparent 'movement' of birds.Things started out as normal; Freeman's Pools was hosting a few tufted duck and goldeneye along with the regular residents. 150 or so pink-footed geese were grazing on the drumlins.Frog Pond had its attendant wigeon flock - and the drake shoveler, lately faithful to Darter Pool, had relocated to this larger water. In the fields, curlew were feeding and with them a couple of fine black-tailed godwits (my first on the patch this year).A further 9 black-tailed godwits were frantically feeding on the Flood where a sure sign of impending spring included a flock of 9 meadow pipits.Two di...
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Rare Goose Revisited

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
White-fronted & red-breasted goose, PillingI managed an hour and a half or so down at Aldcliffe on Wednesday where the most notable thing was the reduction in the number of geese.  Just c550 pinkfeet were grazing on the drumlins.A group of 7 adult whooper swans were on bathing and preening in one of the flashes on Aldcliffe Marsh, before they flew off westwards.There was quite a bit of skylark movement throughout with 1s & 2s plus a flock of 11 going in all directions. Ultra-scarce this winter, a single rock pipit feeding in the marsh channels was a nice find and the drake shoveler was once again on Darter Pool.I had a good walk around the patch this morning but it was pretty quiet. The reduced goose flock was still on the hill and the shoveler was remaining faithful to Darter Pool.Freeman's Pools continues to host a handful ea...
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Goose Influx Excites

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
Barnacle gooseAn intended quick scout around the patch yesterday morning turned into a longer visit courtesy of a large gaggle of newly-arrived pink-footed geese.Around 1,400 birds had ditched down in the fields immediately east of the cycle track and I spent a good deal of time scrutinising the flock.The only birds to stand out from the crowd were a smart barnacle goose and a rather irritating pinkfoot with orange legs and a slightly orangey bill (pictured) which was doing a half-decent job of suggesting rossicus bean goose.Fox, having a good scratchAlong the hedgeline a dog fox kept the birds on alert but he didn't seem particularly interested in a goose dinner.Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me so  the collection of shoddy shots here were taken using my phone held up to my 'scope.  A return visit to the fields today r...
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Spellbinding Merlin

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
I toured the patch by bike today and with a bit of time at my disposal ventured beyond Aldcliffe's exalted boundaries.First stop was an icy Freeman's Pools where the birds were concentrated into one relatively small area of open water. Here 20 coots dived alongside a couple of little grebe and three each of goldeneye and tufted duck. A squad of snoozing teal were on the ice.Oddly, the smaller Frog Pond wasn't as frozen and 50 or so wigeon were paddling about with a handful of Canada geese.The cycle track was pretty quiet with the just the usual blackbirds, song thrushes, robins, wrens, tits, dunnocks, goldfinches and a couple of bullfinches seen.A gaggle of 140 rather edgy pink-footed geese were grazing in the fields to the east of the track. The activities of a couple of wildfowlers on the estuary possibly contributed to their wariness.The...
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Canal King

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
Kingfisher near Whte Cross, LancasterThere's been little change in the bird life of the Aldcliffe area over the last few days, as far as I can tell.Highlights have included the arrival of a solitary drake shoveler on Freeman's Pools (yesterday) and a mini-influx of pink-footed geese with a whopping 80 in the fields this morning.Hopefully goose numbers will increase substantially over the next few weeks - do keep an eye out for any odd stragglers among the commoner species. The Fylde still is still hosting thousands of pinkfeet, plus several Eurasian white-fronts, both taiga and tundra bean geese, barnacle geese and a Todd's Canada goose and the much-twitched red-breasted goose. Tawny owl. Can you see me? Can you see me now?I've added a few patch 'year-ticks' in the past couple of days such as kestrel and stock dove while a Sunday stroll alo...
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Time & Tide

Posted on - In Birding Aldcliffe
I finally found a chiffchaff this morning, the first I've come across this winter. It was in the company of a goldcrest (interestingly, I saw more of these today than I have for quite some time) feeding at the far end of Lucy Brook at the northern edge of Freeman's Wood.I spent a good 3 hours rummaging around the area altogether but little else of significant note was to be found.Freeman's Pools continues to host a few goldeneye, tufted duck, teal, gadwall and wigeon while a gaggle of greylags and Canada geese remain faithful to Frog Pond field.LapwingsA couple of jack snipe were with a pair of common snipe at Snipe Bog and good numbers of waders were on the estuary; lapwing, golden plover, redshank, curlew and dunlin.The regular greenshank was on the Aldcliffe Marsh flashes.A flock of some 900 pink-footed geese were grazing in fields betwe...
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Goose Tales

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