Turned Out Nice Again!

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Lucky for me, this lot just skimmed by as I was on the headland yesterday at Cockersand....


....to eventually create a rainbow spectacle, with some good long spells of sun, but still a cold wind off the sea on the headland at Cockersand where birds were hard to find to be honest, and the fields pretty much deserted. 

But all the effort needed to find anything was well rewarded when I saw the female Stonechat again on the tide wrack opposite the Caravan Park, 4 Greenfinch and a Pied Wagtail also seen. Up to 300 Curlew were of note on Cockerham Sands, and c.60 Twite were in the rough field again behind Bank House Cottage, 4 Stock Dove were seen in the field north of Bank Houses. I made no attempt at the Whooper Swan count, which has now moved further inland east in the Thursland Hill area.

Lune Estuary notables in view from the bowling green at Glasson were few in number, up to 380 Golden Plover145 Curlew, c.450 Wigeon, 3 Goldeneye, a pair of Shoveler, and 2 Great-crested Grebe. On Colloway Marsh, 18 Pink-footed Geese were on the south end, and on the canal basin, 16 Goldeneye.

Conder Green ended the days 'hard work' theme, with a Greenshank4 Goldeneye and 4 Goosander on Conder Pool, a Common Sandpiper and 2 Little Grebe were in the creeks.

Cockersand Transformed.

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Cockersand was completely transformed yesterday, where the fields had recently been crawling with waders by the thousands, they were deserted, birdless and silent, creating a sense of eerie about the place.

On the east shore at Sunderland Point, c.450 Curlew was a good count seen off Crook Farm. On Plover Scar, 2 humans and 2 mutts were trespassing as far as I'm concerned, 950 Wigeon and 7 Eider were off here. I found no Stonechat again today, but 6 Greenfinch, 3 Goldfinch and a Wren were on the tide wrack at the Caravan Park, with 4 Stock Dove seen, and a Stoat running ahead of me across Slack Lane.

The Barn Owl.


Barn Owl Brian Rafferty  

As I looked inland from Cockersand Abbey, I picked up a Barn Owl hunting a ditch east of Abbey Farm. The bird eventually perched on a fence post, and was joined by a Magpie, which soon became four Magpies. All four began to harass the Barn Owl continuously, jumping off one wire to the next, dropping to ground, then flying up toward the owl as if to stab at the bird with their bills. The owls head twisted and turned to watch all four birds, but otherwise ignored them and their antics, before having had enough and flew off.

As I walked along the headland I kept the hunting Barn Owl in view, until I lost sight as it flew toward the rough field behind Bank Houses.

Thanks for the image Brian, I reckon this could well be the very bird you photographed here recently. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull. Pete Woodruff.

On Conder Pool, all the three's was as good as it got, with 2 Goosander drake, 28 Mallard, 2 Shelduck, and a Lesser Black-backed Gull seen. In the creeks, 2 Little Grebe made it into the notes. 

A Merlin squat on Colloway Marsh was presumed to be the culprit for twice in 30 minutes causing a mass dread amounting to several thousand waders, most notable of which were, up to 2,750 Golden Plover, 170 Black-tailed Godwit, and 6 Goldeneye, 2 Shoveler and 2 Goosander were all drakes. I found only 2 Goldeneye on the canal basin, and on Jeremy Lane, 22 Whooper Swan.

Wednesday 24 January.   

On Wednesday I had to be in Morecambe mid-afternoon, but I had a couple of hours to spare, and went to see if I could find the Chough at Half Moon Bay. 

I watched the bird performing its impressive aerobatic skills in the windy conditions, before dropping down into a field for me to stalk it down to a few metres and get a couple of half decent shots as it displayed it's fearless character whilst worming. Later the long stay female Stonechat also offered good views for me down on the shore.

Estuary Business.

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Not too much business on Monday actually, and the visit to Cockersand was close to a disaster, with the cold howler rendering birding pretty unpleasant and hopeless, especially along the headland and looking out to the estuary. I actually made no notes in the book in two hours here, though the waders in the fields ruled my birding and continue to amaze. Golden Plover remained well into four figures and probably represents almost the entire bay population, also descending in number, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Turnstone, including up to 50 feeding on the headland close to the abbey, from where 4 Grey Plover were noted on the shore near high tide.


Tree Sparrow Crook Cottage Garden Cockersand 22 Jan. Pete Woodruff.

Calling in to see Mrs G at Crook Cottage, from the kitchen window I saw and made attempts to photograph Tree Sparrows visiting the feeders. I saw little else on the small bird front on the circuit, though a flock of finches distant and dropping into the rough field by Bank House Cottage were 'probably' c.50 TwiteFrom the three there recently I found no Stonechat, though AC reported to me later, the Cockerham Caravan Park female seen.

On to Conder Pool which held just 42 Redshank and 2 Goosander drake, whilst 120 Redshank and the long time no see Common Sandpiper was down the Conder channel, my first sighting of the bird since 5 December, despite eleven visits to Conder Green. 


Estuary waders and three mates. Pete Woodruff.

On the canal basin at Glasson Dock, 2 Pochard drake again, with a Great-crested Grebe noted. A new peak of 26 Goldeneye - a notch up of 5 on last Thursday's 21 - were seen as 18 here and 8 on the River Lune, where 450 Wigeon, 225 Redshank and similar Dunlin, 3 Red-breasted Merganser, and a Great-crested Grebe were all close in from the bowling green.

Windy, cold, and 'you must be mad' as deemed by another birder who saw me on the headland from his car, and who obviously knows what he's talking about....But a good time was had by all!

Happy Days.

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Black-throated Diver. Martin Lofgren @ Wild Bird Gallery 

As a mega for the location, I had to twitch the Blea Tarn Reservoir juvenile Black-throated Diver yesterday, after all it's on my doorstep, well about a mile away anyhow, and with a little elevation over the reservoir from the track to Middle Langthwaite Farm, the bird gave good views, and at one point obliged by keeping still whilst preening....Nice.

Smew. Jan Larsson @ Vingspann  

The perfect example of 'right place, right time' to find the mega diver there, and reminded me of a visit I paid to this very same reservoir 25 years ago on 5 March 1993, when I called there on my way to do my Saturday bit in the days of delivering car parts, to find a stunning drake Smew there, a scarce if not rare sight in our area today. 

Another record I came across, was that of up to 300 finches seen on 5 December 1995, my record reads....'A flock of Chaffinch and Brambling held up to 300 birds found below a Beech at Levens Bridge in Cumbria, the greater majority of this flock was of up to 250 Brambling with Chaffinch'....They were seen in a year when the beech mast crop was excellent, and when I had found eleven mostly local Brambling locations....Happy Days. 

Thanks to Martin and Jan for the excellent photographs.

Seen Any Butterflies Yet?

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I don't expect to see any for a while just yet, but as with with my birding motto....'what next and where'....I'm going to be looking for my first butterfly of 2018.

Red Admiral was spotted three weeks ago in two counties on New Years Day, and has been reported widely across the south of England since, the temperature in Plymouth yesterday was 12C/53F. A Peacock was also seen on 1 January, and since then, there have been reports of Brimstone and Comma, and nearer to home, a Small Tortoiseshell was seen at Banks near Southport on 7 January.

On the subject of butterflies....


Small Tortoiseshell. Pete Woodruff.

I took this shot of the ST in our garden in August last summer, but until I got the image up on my computer screen, I hadn't realised there was a moth to the right of the butterfly.


Even with a serious crop like this, I was only able to ID the moth as the difficult to seperate P.purpuralis or P.aurata, and certainly so with an image of poor quality like this, but according to the experts, the latter.

Back to birds today, but need the time to do the write-up.

Thanks to John Whittle for the excellent Dunlin in flight header.

Another Field Day.

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The field waders at Cockersand were reduced in number yesterday, but still a few hundred birds in all fifteen fields I checked there, including 420 Black-tailed Godwit which never fail to impress me, similar number of Curlew and uncounted Redshank, Dunlin, and Turnstone, with Golden Plover reaching four figures still in their favoured field viewed off Slack Lane, and of 3 Grey Plover seen, one was also unusually in a field, and 2 Snipe flushed out of the ditches.

Red-throated Diver off Plover Scar 18 January. John Whittle.

The bird of the day with Mega status at Cockersands, was the Red-throated Diver off Plover Scar around the high tide, excellent views though difficult to keep up to as it was diving constantly.

Up to 225 Oystercatcher were the only waders on Plover Scar at near high tide, and notably odd, not a single one of them made a move when a Sparrowhawk came on the scene over the scar, to cruise out across the estuary in the direction of Sunderland Point, 25 Eider and 2 Great-crested Grebe were off here. The Cockerham Sands female Stonechat was playing hard to find and I had to search half way to Bank End towards the east end of the Caravan Park, before finding it on and around the marsh minus any sign of it's mate the 1st winter male, nor did I find the male at the lighthouse end yesterday.

Other notes on the return route, 2 Tree Sparrow were at Bank Houses, in and around the fields, 7 Stock Dove, 7 Reed Bunting, 5 Skylark, and I watched at least 30 Meadow Pipit drop into a field, 3 Knot were seen on the shore as the tide dropped off by Crook Farm.

I had no intention of attempting to count again, but claim the swan herd - the nearest of which could be seen close by off Moss Lane, and the farthest down at Bank End - still stands at around 250 Whooper Swan. On Jeremy Lane, 4 Bewick's Swan were with 92 Whooper Swan.

The canal basin at Glasson Dock produced the 2 Pochard drake again, with a drake Goosander, and of the new peak count of 21 Goldeneye, sixteen were on here, the other five on the Lune Estuary. A quick check of Conder Pool on the way back to Lancaster, 62 Mallard, 25 Curlew, 20 Wigeon, and 12 Redshank.

The Barn Owl.

Brian Rafferty has been recently seeing Barn Owl again, in particular at Cockersand. 


Barn Owl. Brian Rafferty.

I had an interesting conversation with a farmer yesterday, in which he volunteered some info about a successful breeding season last year, in which five young were successfully fledged.

I'm grateful to John Whittle for forwarding me his image of the Red-throated Diver as promised, nice one and thanks again John. Also another big Thank You to Brian, for his excellent Barn Owl image, one of many he achieved recently in our area Here  

Be Amazed!

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The amazing and complex European Stonechat.


A recent post by Noushka showing images of the Stonechat feeding on a frozen lake in Spain has prompted me to look back on Birds2blog to find Brian Rafferty's discovery at Brockholes 8 years ago in January 2010, when he documented with remarkable images, the same behaviour of Stonechats feeding opportunistically in order to survive the severe weather conditions we were having in the UK during the winters of 2009/10 -2010/11.



I did research following this discover of the remarkable feeding behaviour of the Stonechat in harsh weather conditions, to find it not quite as unique as at first thought....'Stonechat taking food from water'....C.J.Hodgson British Birds 1978. However, no one could ever have claimed they would one day see the picture of a Stonechat diving into a hole on a frozen lake, and in this regard I still maintain the particular image above that Brian Rafferty achieved at Brockholes in January 2010 - along with several others he took - is unique.



Stonechats in the UK have been seen to hover over water and to pick up prey items off the surface, they will exploit a wide range of invertebrate species, and in the extreme a male observed in southern Israel was seen to take and eat a Scorpion estimated at up to 17mm, it was seen to throw the prey against a stone, retrieved and thrown again, then struck with the bill, and eventually eaten except for the claw. 

An African Stonechat was seen to dive and secure a 3cm Green-headed Bream, take the fish to a perch, and swallow it whole. On the other hand, there is evidence in a study which found parent birds avoided some insects such as Ladybirds, and revealed that none were brought back to young despite being available in huge number.

Image credits are to Noushka 1000-Pattes (top) and Brian Rafferty Stonechats-on-ice

Armchair Birding.

On Saturday, 3 Buzzard were seen as a social group over Bowerham, soaring together from our patio window. I found this interesting, although they do occasionally gather together both during and outside the breeding season, group soaring also occurs by birds from nearby territories.

With KT on Sunday, in addition to the female Stonechat seen, we had excellent views of the long stay Chough, which we saw come up off the shingle below Heysham Head, to come down into the sheep field north of Half Moon Bay, it then became quite mobile, including back down on to the beach, and around the rock's below the head again. 

The Chough is an often fearless, approachable, and highly vocal bird....

Birding Till Dusk….Again.

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Anchors Aweigh. Pete Woodruff.

Yes, birding until dusk at Cockersand again, and saw the FRI LAKE with pilot ahead approaching the lighthouse, sailing out of the Lune Estuary and into the Irish Sea during one of the west coasts famous sunsets. Meanwhile, I was watching the male Stonechat still foraging on the tide wrack near Crook Cottage in the half light of dusk.

Merlin. Cockersand 11 December. Pete Woodruff.

Also of note earlier, a male Merlin was on the old stone gate post opposite the first kissing gate near Lighthouse Cottage, also a Kestrel here was one of two seen, the second at Bank Houses. Up to 50 Twite were in the rough field by Bank House Cottage, and I found only the male Stonechat opposite the caravan park, with no sign of the female. Five Stock Dove were in a field from where I saw 3 Reed Bunting together, and c.1,500 Golden Plover were in the field they've  favoured in recent weeks off Slack Lane.

With the exception of a good number of Lapwing and Redshank, I saw nothing near three figure counts of any other waders on the Lune Estuary at Glasson, but noted 14 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Snipe, 4 Goldeneye, 3 Goosander drake, a Great Crested Grebeand the lone Whooper Swan still on the south end of Colloway MarshOn the Canal Basin, 2 Pochard drake were the 'mega' birds of the day, with 45 Tufted Duck.

At Conder Green, of 3 Little Grebe seen, one was on Conder Pool, with two in the creeks. Also on the pool, 32 Wigeon, and the same count of 32 Curlew, with a Dunnock by the viewing platform, a Greenshank was seen off the bridge down the channel.

Thanks to Richard O'Meara for the Reed Bunting header.

Birding Till Dusk!

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Low counts from the Lune Estuary at Glasson on Monday, 550 Wigeon, 350 Dunlin, 105 Curlew, 55 Golden Plover, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Goldeneye, a Great-crested Grebe, and the lone Whooper Swan seen again. A few noisy and flighty Redshank were on Conder Pool, with a Little Grebe and 46 Mallard. In the creeks, a low count of 80 Teal, I saw a Rock Pipit drop on to the marsh, as did a Sparrowhawk from the coastal path where I saw 4 Fieldfare.

Eider. Pete Woodruff.

There was some 'extra' interest at Cockersand for me in the there hours there, not least because I increased my estimate to 4,550 Wigeon today, with 550 already seen of Crook Farm, before finding last Friday's at least 4,000 off the length of the headland again. Just as interesting was the 8 Shoveler amongst the Wigeon, with 32 Eider in the mix, 4 Great-crested Grebe was also a notable count anywhere for me these days.

Waders in the fields included 1,500 Golden Plover, 750 Curlew, 255 Black-tailed Godwit, and uncounted Dunlin here and there. I made no attempt at the ratio of a flock of up to 40 Twite/Linnet with at least one Skylark all flighty over the field behind Bank House Cottage.


Tree Sparrow. Noushka @ 1000-Pattes

Two Tree Sparrow were in a bush toward Crook Cottage where I had found a good count of 22 in the garden on 22 December, Mrs G at the cottage was well pleased with that when I told her she was one of very few people who could claim Tree Sparrow in their garden. Snipe shot up out of a ditch ahead of me by the gate into a field north of the Caravan Park, where I found up to 1,550 Pink-footed Geese

I see no sign of any less in number of the Whooper Swan herd still distant and strung out to Bank End, 6 Bewick's Swan were still in the field by Clarkson's Farm, and 25 Fieldfare were seen along Moss Lane.

Birding till dusk....Brilliant, and good for the soul.

Thanks to Noushka for the Tree Sparrow.

Find One Get Two Three!

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Stonechats.

On the marsh in front of Lighthouse Cottage at Cockersand yesterday, it was good to see the 11 December 1st winter male Stonechat again. I saw this bird again twice 15/18 December, but if this really was the same bird again yesterday, it's been very successful in avoiding me despite three visits since 18 December. I also had excellent views yesterday of the 1st winter male and female Stonechat at Cockerham Sand. So three Stonechat again, and four in two days....In my book that's excellent.


Stonechat Female. Half Moon Bay 7 December. Pete Woodruff.

And on the same theme, having collected a tasty morsel, the female Stonechat at Half Moon Bay also showed well on Sunday, having tolerated a few hundred dogs and a few more hundred people since it's arrival here, it was accompanied by a Rock Pipit at one stage.

Barn Owls.

Also yesterday, as I arrived back at the Lighthouse Cottage about 4.00pm, a Barn Owl was quartering the field behind the cottage. A local who I saw minutes later, told me the bird has been around all year, and hunts all over the place, and with the home range of a Barn Owl extending up to 4km outside the breeding season, this Lighthouse Cottage bird, the Cockerham Sand bird reported, and my two records on Moss Lane, could well all be the same bird.

Interesting, that around the same time in early January 2016, a similar situation with the Barn Owl was happening in this same area See Here ....The harsh weather seems to be building up the same picture again in January 2018.

Thanks to AC for his contribution to this post.