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Swallows At Last

More cold north-westerlies didn’t bode well for this morning’s circuit but I did get Swallows into double figures, picked up a few other summer migrants and ended up with a decent tally of birds. 

First stop was Gulf Lane where the winter set-aside crop now lies flat as a pancake awaiting this year’s plough. There must still be some food in there, probably the legacy of our feeding regime to catch Linnets. I found 9 Stock Dove searching the ground, 10 Linnet flying around and a single Wheatear. 

I rather like the Stock Dove, a bird which to most folk is just a bog-standard town pigeon that pecks around their feet while pooing a lot. Look closely. The Stock Dove is an attractive and rather subtly coloured bird by way of the overall bluey cast, the green ear patch, neat black wing bars and those ruby red legs. It’s a birder’s bird. Unfortunately, in the shooting season this smart little dove suffers from both looking a little like and often hanging around with its bigger cousin, the Woodpigeon. 

Stock Dove

There was another Stock Dove at Conder Green, a single bird that arrived to feed on the bare ground around the islands as I scanned across the water. After a wet winter there’s a lot of water here and this makes the pool rather deep for both waders and dabbling ducks. There was no sign of recent Avocets with waders and wildfowl limited to 16 Redshank, 14 Oystercatcher, 12 Shelduck, 4 Teal, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Curlew, 1 Little Egret and a pair of Tufted Duck. 

The “tufties” bred here last year with their ten or so youngsters reduced within a few days to one or two still fluffy balls.  Who would be  parent nowadays?

Tufted Duck

As I drove towards Glasson Dock a single Swallow flew across the road, and then a little further along I spied a hovering Kestrel. Singing Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff at Glasson Dock where a pair of Swallows fed around and about the roadside and lock gates. 

I took a drive down Hillam Lane towards the marsh. The local Sand Martin colony swarmed with martins with my best guesstimate around 200+ birds plus four or more Swallows. Andy and I are hoping to ring the martins this year, but once again it looks like the little beggars are nesting too high up the quarry face for us to reach them. We may need a Plan B. 

Down at Cockerham Marsh it seemed to be mostly White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits with counts of circa forty of each and just 2 Pied Wagtail. A couple more Swallows rushed through and two more around the farm. 
White Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

I pulled off the single track road and onto the soggy marsh to let an ambulance pass by and on its way back to Lancaster Hospital - best not to bounce the passenger from their stretcher.  I’d heard the wail of the siren earlier as the ambulance rushed along the main road and down Hillam Lane to collect yet another casualty from the nearby Black Knights Parachute Centre. I do worry about that place. I’m sure there should be an apostrophe in that name. 

Time flies when you’re having fun but I had enough minutes left for a quick look at Fluke Hall. Here at least two each of both Blackcap and Chiffchaff, a Canada Goose lurking on the pool and a roadside Kestrel. Oh, and more Swallows. 

Maybe spring isn’t too far away? Next Tuesday - if those weather folk are right.

Linking today to Anni's Birding Blog in Texas.