A FEMALE MERLIN DASHED ACROSS THE RIVER heading north over Boat House, with the trajectory of a missile, in hunting mode, its fast wingbeats powering it on. Only the second I've seen in Ribchester (the first was over the house) but the first I've seen on my regular birding walk, which takes me along the riverbank from St Wilfrid's School to Red Bank and back via Boat House and Lower Barn. Today's total was 57 species, 7 over par for this winter's walks and although it did not include some regulars it also included another two new ones for this winter - Canada Goose (a small flock of 33 that flew over the village and was later feeding on the fields opposite Red Bank, which also included a Pink-footed Goose) and Tawny Owl (calling from Hothersall Hall in mid morning).

A Peregrine was screaming at a buzzard by the power lines above Red Bank, I think the large number of starlings has attracted it and so far Peregrine has featured on over half of my walks. Eight buzzards were logged today, as well as a pair of Ravens, two kestrels and the (?) Little Egret. A Teal flying upstream at Red Bank was only my second record this winter, only one Little Grebe was seen at Red Bank but the Kingfisher was back by the school in Ribchester. A major feature of today's observations was a southward passage of Woodpigeons, totalling 134 and easily my highest total of the winter, maybe ahead of the cold front on the way later today. Starling numbers had increased to c.740 and Fieldfares to 73 and Black-headed Gulls were also up at c.960.

Goosander was absent again and the general lack of sightings might be owing to persecution. I've only seen it on 4 out of 7 counts this winter. This figure used to be 100%. The bailiff tells me that RADAC has a license to shoot them and cormorants. It is a shame that the aims of one group of conservationists is at odds with that of another. I am sure they do some good work in maintaining habitat along the banks of the river but I wish they would not shoot birds.