The Conder Avocets.

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It's against the norm that the Conder Pool Avocet pair have turned up here again this year in that they usually nest colonially....but not these two. When I arrived yesterday morning, they were at the front left hand of Tern Island, one bird was sitting on a shallow hollow nest with a little dead vegetation noticeable around the rim, the other was roosting close by, they had been observed mating (AC) on Sunday

When I returned later in the day at 2.05pm the pair were still on the island, but 30 minutes later one was seen in the creeks, at which time the other bird on the island also flew off and was almost certainly the one I saw at the Conder mouth on the Lune Estuary 20 minutes later at 2.55pm. These birds - reasonable to assume the same pair seen by birders every time - have been engaged in much to and fro and disappearing for long periods since their arrival at Conder Green almost three weeks ago on 6 April (AC) and it's difficult to understand exactly what's going on here.

The best of the rest....

Also at Conder Green yesterday, a Whimbrel was calling with it's rippling whistle as it flew off the pool area, 6 Shoveler seen as four drake and two female is an all time peak count of this scarcity for Conder Pool, and at best irregular at other lowland water-bodies, also 12 Tufted Duck noted. In the creeks, 3 Greenshank and 2 Common Sandpiper, a Chiffchaff was the only bird heard from the coastal path on a too windy, too cold day.

Black-tailed Godwit. Lune Estuary 29 April 2016. Pete Woodruff.

On the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, probably no more than 50 gulls present, but 45 Black-tailed Godwit are either hanging on or not intending leaving, and the Avocet at the Conder mouth was almost certainly a Conder Green bird.

At Cockersand, Plover Scar at high tide held estimates of at least 1,500 Dunlin, 100 Ringed Plover, and 50 Turnstone, 3 Whimbrel were on the shore later as the tide dropped. A drake Shoveler is still on the now drying flood, with 2 Whooper Swan lingering, 2 Sedge Warbler and 5 Skylark were seen/heard. I saw only a small number of Swallow on the day, but they appear to have moved in at Gardner's and Conder Green Farm's.    

Millennium Park.

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Apparently the path from Aldcliffe to Glasson Dock has the nameplate Millennium Park at the bottom of Aldcliffe Hall Lane, something I've not noticed before....learning something new every day! 

As I went under Carlisle Bridge, I was taken by surprise when a Raven - on an away day I presume - came on the scene, into the air from behind the only building left standing after the rest were demolished, put the Feral Pigeons on the rooftop to flight, and was mobbed by a Carrion Crow.

Freeman's and the Wildfowlers Pools were virtually deserted save 4 Gadwall and 2 Little Grebe on the former. A walk along the embankment was well rewarded by 3 Wheatear, and I finally caught up with 2 Little Ringed Plover on the flood. 

To Conder Green from Aldcliffe, thinly scattered warblers were, 5 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, and a lone heard only Willow Warbler....image that, one Willow Warbler in five miles and as many hours in prime habitat, and not a single Swallow over either. The best of the rest was a Greenfinch feeding a young begging bird, also 12 Linnet, 12 Blackbird, a Song ThrushDunnock, and some small pockets of Goldfinch.

I had to get all the way from Lancaster to see my first 18 Swallow in four hours at Conder Green, 4 Common Sandpiper were seen as three downstream in the Conder channel, and one in the creeks, Avocet were on Conder Pool. On the Lune Estuary, 9 Eider were hauled out....but the bus back to Lancaster is coming!

The Greenfinch.

Greenfinch Ana Minguez @ Naturanafotos 

The Greenfinch seen feeding the begging young at Stodday was a complete surprise, the species breeding season beginning late April, and with incubation, hatching, and leaving the nest taken into account I saw this young bird being fed by regurgitation at least four weeks earlier than expected.

Bank Pool From Dawsons Bank. Pete Woodruff.

I stared at this view from Dawsons Bank on Thursday whilst dreaming the Woodchat Shrike I found atop of this very bush on 9 May 2014 might be there again....Dream On!

Woodchat Shrike. Aldcliffe 9 May 2014. Jo Bradley. 

Thanks to Ana and to Jo for their excellent and much appreciated photographs. 

Trickling Migrants.

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An obvious northerly Swallow movement yesterday albeit a trickle where I was  - c.60 birds in 6 hours - including interest being shown by single birds lingering around Gardners Farm and Conder Green Farm.

With the exception of 6 Sand Martin over Conder Pool, interest at Conder Green yesterday was with 3 Greenshank in the creeks, and 2 Common Sandpiper, both of which were in the Conder channel downstream from the iron bridge where a Kestrel came to hover.

Along the coastal path to Glasson Dock, I found 2 Chiffchaff, and on the low tide Lune Estuary, 11 Black-tailed Godwit, a pair of Eider, and 12 Wigeon were to note. Gulls here didn't amount to a three figure count and were in the main Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull

Whimbrel Cockersand Pete Woodruff

At Cockersand, 2 Whimbrel were off Crook Farm, and it was interesting to see 2 Tree Sparrow with a pair of Great Tit in the garden at Lighthouse Cottage. Six Skylark all in the air singing their seemingly endless flight song, with 2 Whooper Swan and 11 Mute Swan on the now almost deserted flooded field, a female Reed Bunting was around the cover crop on Slack Lane.

Value For Money.

On an Easter Monday wander with KT around Leighton Moss, the sight of up to 1,500 Black-tailed Godwit from Lilian's Hide, virtually all in their stunning rufous summer plumage, was in itself worth every penny of RSPB membership fee in my book. 

Garganey Noushka

Also from the Lilian's Hide, a smart drake Garganey with it's brilliant white crescent over the eye to the side of it's nape. A Cetti's Warbler gave a few loud outbursts of song along the causeway, and at least 15 Willow Warbler, 12 Chiffchaff, and 8 Blackcap on the round, all added to make it an excellent visit to the Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve

Thanks for the Garganey Noushka....Brilliant image of a brilliant bird.

A Little Spring At CG.

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There was a little - just a little - spring in the air at Conder Green on Thursday, particularly on the second visit I made five hours after my first, the two combined produced the now resident pair of Avocet on Conder Pool, and the surprise lone Little Grebe again, a couple of Sand Martin and Swallow were briefly through. With some raking around the creeks I found, 3 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, and 2 Common Sandpiper, one of which was just upstream from the iron bridge, the other downstream in the channel. 

Gulls were at a premium on the Lune Estuary, and waders were represented by c.150 Redshank in view and feeding strung out to the Conder mouth, 10 Eider, and 2 Red-breasted Merganser were both drakes, the surprise was a single Ringed Plover, at best irregular here.

Golden Plover Brian Rafferty

For most of the time in my view at Cockersand, up to 500 Golden Plover were flighting around, but did briefly come down into a field by Abbey Farm to show how splendid most of the males are in their breeding plumage. 

The circuit was a little subdued, with 6 Blackbird, the customary few Tree Sparrow, and a Wren all noted in Bank Houses horse paddock. In the flooded field, 2 White Wagtail and 2 Shoveler drake, with 2 Whooper Swan left behind with the Mute Swans. I saw 18 Linnet around the cover crops on Slack Lane again, but they flew off to join other birds in the field opposite, when I chased after them I found they had joined with up to 30 Twite, 2 Peacock butterflies were also around here.  

Knot. Pete Woodruff.

I tried out my photographic skills on this lone Knot on the sea wall at Cockersand, to find I'd made little if any progress at the art. On Plover Scar an hour short of high tide, an estimated 150 waders, 90 Dunlin, 40 Turnstone, and 20 Ringed Plover.

Thanks to Simon Hawtin for his header Redshank fly past Plover Scar recently, thanks also to Brian Rafferty for his Golden Plover, appreciated both counts.

Wrong Day, Wrong Time.

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My last post ended....'The best is yet to come'....but after Tuesday's experience seems a long way off.

I'm pretty good at making mistakes, and it was a big one when I decided to walk the coastal path Lancaster - Glasson Dock, it was cloudy with a stiff cold westerly wind.

Along St Georges Quay in Lancaster and on to the coastal path past Keyline where I was lucky to see a Dunnock, Blue Tit, and heard Chaffinch in song. Looking over Freeman's Pools, it did'nt get any better than Shelduck and Coot on the island which appears to look much smaller now than it's original size. But by the time I reached the crossroad to Marsh Point things briefly sprung to life when I heard the first of 5 Blackcap, three of which were heard later within a few metres of each other south of Stodday.

The best on offer at the Wildfowlers Pools was two pair of Gadwall, seemingly the only four birds unaffected by the man in the pick-up driving around the pools presumably to tend to his sheep, and as if to remind me of the unpredictability of birds, the flood was deserted save just 2 Shelduck. 

The rest of the route to Glasson Dock had me see 75 Wood Pigeon roosting and squat along the top of a neatly manicured flat topped hedgerow, I heard 3 Chiffchaff and counted 12 Blackbird, otherwise single figures of Goldfinch, Robin, Great Tit, and I heard a Wren by the picnic area at Conder Green where things came to life a little in that I saw a Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, and the pair of Avocet which were in the creeks seen from the A588 south of The Stork, surely a much better food source than Conder Pool has to offer, though last years young bird survived to fledging from what was available there.

When I arrived at Glasson Dock it was good to get the impression it really was spring, with at least 60 Sand Martin hawking over the canal basin, but I think the fact I never heard let alone saw a single Willow Warbler in the five hours I was on this coastal path, says all that needs to be said about my birding on the wrong day, and at the wrong time. 

 Marsh Mutts. Pete Woodruff. 

The Mutt Minder made his contribution to my downbeat day with his six hounds disturbing anything and everything on and around Aldcliffe Marsh.

Coming & Going.

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Avocet Brian Rafferty 

Following a text last Thursday, I received another one yesterday with the same message, that a pair of Avocet had arrived on Conder Pool, but by the time I got to Conder Green on Thursday, the birds had done a runner and were never seen again, but yesterday was different, the Avocet were still on Tern Island when I got there, but guess what, the birds had disappeared when I returned to Conder Green five hours later....Now you see us, now you don't. 

Spotted Redshank. Pete Woodruff.

On the marsh at high tide, Greenshank and the now considerably darker Spotted Redshank, this photograph was taken at Conder Green last year on 21 April, almost certainly the very same bird. Also on Conder Pool, 2 Common Sandpiper seen, with a Goosander also noted. The Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock was almost deserted, but last Friday's 19 Eider seen again, also a Great-crested Grebe. My second Swallow was over fields along Jeremy Lane. 

It was actually more like January along the headland at Cockersand, though it was sunny the westerly howler took the edge off the day and I was in my 'why am I doing this' mode. Thirty Turnstone were on Plover Scar, and up to 400 Golden Plover were again in the field by Abbey Farm, with 2 Wheatear, 2 Skylark, 4 Tree Sparrow, and my third Swallow over fields on the circuit.

The flooded field had gone off the boil, and just one Whooper Swan appears to be left with 21 Mute Swan and 3 Shoveler drake.

The best is yet to come!

Thanks for the Avocet Brian, four more birds and much more elegant looking than the two sleeping birds I saw on Conder Pool.

A Nice Surprise.

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Stonechat. Cockersand 7 April. Pete Woodruff.

I didn't really expect a migrant Stonechat on Friday, but was pleasantly surprised to find a female on the fence posts by the cover crop on Slack Lane at Cockersand, the bird was still there on my return two hours later when I managed this nearly decent shot. 

Also around the cover crop was 18 Linnetat least 8 White Wagtail were in the flooded field again, few in number of Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit with a pair of Shoveler seen, close by 4 Whooper Swan were lingering with Mondays c.135 Mute Swan. Otherwise Cockersand offered little reward for the effort along the headland, but a male Wheatear never fails to be good, and 5 Twite had probably separated themselves from the flock in fields around the Lighthouse Cottage area recently.

Being I suspected they had all departed and gone off to breed, surprised to find a Little Grebe in fine summer plumage on Conder Pool, where I saw my first 2 Sand Martin briefly over the pool, 7 Tufted Duck and a Little Egret also noted, the Lesser Black-backed Gull pair looked menacing across the far side and were seen mating here on Thursday. In the creeks, 2 Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, and Common Sandpiper.

Along the coastal path to Glasson Dock, the only birds seen were 2 Robin and a Blue Tit. On the Lune Estuary at Glasson, 18 Eider was an exceptional count here, otherwise c.180 Redshank and 2 Dunlin were feeding as far as the eye could see to the Conder mouth, and a single Sand Martin flew downstream. 

Yesterday afternoon, a Raven gave an excellent show of aerobatics high over Bowerham in Lancaster.

Eyes down look in!

Dotterel. Cockersand 16 April 2013. Chris Batty.    

OK, it was 4 years ago, but I was reminded of finding this Dotterel amongst 275 Golden Plover in a field by Abbey Farm.

Thanks to Noushka for the amazing header image of the Marsh Harrier and Buzzard in aerial conflict.

A Hike Up The Pike.

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On Tuesday Mike and I started out on our 'Brilliant But Disastrous' day on Clougha Pike 413m (1355ft) above sea level.

Willow Warbler. Jan Larsson @ Vingspann  

In the car park on Rigg Lane 4 Willow Warbler were in song, one of which was seen off by the resident Robin, also noted, 2 Long-tailed Tit and a Blue Tit.

As we approached Ottergear Bridge we could here the song of a Mistle Thrush, but it took some searching to find the tree it was atop. The acoustics of the area this bird was in were such that the birds song was more resounding than I've ever heard a Mistle Thrush in full song before and carried on for up to ten minutes before it flew off....pure magic. 

Also magic once on the moorland, was the sight and song of the Curlew, with it's shivering wings and rippling trill on it's descending glide, conjuring up the evocative sounds of the moorland summer. 

A Buzzard was high overhead, with a Sparrowhawk arriving on the scene to mob the bigger bird, later a hovering Kestrel seen. Two Wheatear seen were a male on the east side, with a female seen on the west. A Raven over the summit of Clougha showed off it's mastery of aerial aerobatics to perfection....yet more magic. Interestingly, very few Meadow Pipit were seen, whilst 18 Red Grouse was a decent count.

Driving back to Lancaster, I glimpsed my first Swallow, a single bird in flight over fields along Little Fell Lane.

And a couple more tasty bits.

Thanks to AC for the text with excellent news of a pair of Avocet on Tern Island, Conder Pool Thursday at 11.15am, four weeks and two days earlier than in 2016. Also in an e-mail JW tells me of a pair of Stonechat on Barrow Scout, suspected to be going to breed there.   

Brilliant But Disastrous.

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Seven miles and five hours on Tuesday with good friend Mike who was looking forward to a brilliant day, with a walk up the east side of Clougha, across the summit and back down the west side. Of course primarily for me the object of the day was the Stonechat, which brought about a brilliant yet disastrous day in that not a single bird was found.

Stonechat. Ana Minguez @ Naturanafotos  

At the risk of repeating myself....This was a worrying discovery, that despite six years since the Stonechat population in the former stronghold of our area in the NW of England was reduced by the harsh winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 which may have caused considerable mortality. The Stonechat has never returned to Clougha in anything beyond the odd birds found on occasional visits on here since 2011.

I have drawn this conclusion before, now here I am again, disappointed that the migratory population of our Stonechat and their offspring, have'nt come back to Clougha to maintain and increase the population until the sedentary birds regain the advantage once more, and surely should have done so by at least 2014 three years after the severe weather of 2009-11.

Wherever the Stonechat is in the UK they are now back on territory, most first brood eggs will have been laid, and certainly all will have been by mid-April. But....It's not looking good on Clougha, and I'm not a happy man.

At least we have yet another excellent image of a male Stonechat on Birds2blog. Thanks Ana.... a little gem.

Spring Is In The Air….

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....not for me it ain't, and not that many 'spring' birds in the air on Monday either, or on the ground for that matter, though I've managed to squeeze three Wheatear into the book, but I've yet to find my first, Sand Martin, House Martin, or Swallow. 

OK, it's early days yet, but you see migrant birds reported here and there, which creates the impression it's all happening and time to get out and get a bit of the action for yourself, only to find there isn't too much of it about. 

But now I'm about to contradict at least a little of that....

Greenshank/Redshank. Conder Green 3 April. Pete Woodruff....Well I did try.

It was good to find a Greenshank at Conder Green yesterday, the first of it's kind here since I found four in the creeks on 17 October, at one point it was alongside the wintering(?)Common SandpiperOn Conder Pool, 24 Shelduck, 15 Tufted Duck, 12 Redshank, the summer resident Oystercatchers, and a Little Egret.

A huge concentration of 'gulls' on the Lune Estuary but very few waders, my notes consisted of 15 Black-tailed Godwit, with a Shoveler, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, and a Goosander all of which were drakes, a pair of Eiderand a Great-crested Grebe, two Buzzard were soaring high over the river and slowly drifted south.

At Cockersand, I found only 3 Whooper Swan, they were in a field with 135 Mute Swan. In the flooded field, at least 8 White Wagtail, with 35 Pied Wagtail, 15 Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, 3 Shoveler, and 2 Redshank. In the Abbey Farm field, up to 600 Golden Plover and 6 Dunlin, c.80 Twite were again in the Lighthouse Cottage area, a Dunnock was in the hedgerow, and I counted 16 Brown Hare again.

Even the Portland Bill Obs sightings yesterday 4 April started....'It's been a long time coming'.... 

Brimstone. Warren Baker @ Pittswood Birds

It was good to see a Brimstone butterfly on Sunday at Heysham Nature Reserve 

Thanks to Warren for the image showing excellent detail of the male underwing.