THE COMMON SCOTER WAS STILL PRESENT ON BARROW LOWER LODGE near Clitheroe early this morning. Found yesterday, news was not spread widely until evening. I guess most people have seen tons of them in East Lancs already but to see one on such a small lake/pond is very special. Incredibly this is of course the second scoter species, which has occurred on this tiny water body, following the Velvet Scoter in Dec 2009/Jan 2010. It did not look too well early on but perked up when an endless series of dog walkers passed by, frequently swimming into the middle of the pond. Occasionally it swam right up to the crash barrier by the road, presumably checking out the Mallards and swans there. The light was terrible this morning with numerous sleet showers and as I crouched next to the McDonald's rubbish bin several folks chucked their dogshit bags in just inches from my head and one guy pulled up in a car and threw a pile of baby nappies in too. Well I guess I can't have it both ways as I often moan that people don't put their dogshit bags in any kind of bin but I felt like asking the nappy guy if he didn't have a bin of his own. [later we counted a combination of 20 dogshit bags and actual dogshits along the entrance track to Longridge Fell. What is wrong with these people? The dirty bastards. ] Anyway, back to the scoter. While we stood back away from the lodge it decided to take flight for no apparent reason and flew straight towards us, before veering around, crossing the A59 and landing on Barrow Upper Lodge, where it went back and forth from the main lodge to the small upper pond. Eventually, it flew off north and out of sight. Seven Goosanders, nine Tufted Ducks, a Great Crested Grebe and a cormorant remained on the upper lodge, which is being drained in connection with the housing development there. I thought the fact the lower lodge is now surrounded by houses, fast food franchises and industrial units would mean there wouldn't be another good bird there but clearly not, although another one of the remaining four scoter species seems unlikely!
Viewing entries tagged
THE CALLS OF CURLEWS ECHOED ACROSS THE VALLEY at Ribchester today, the first birds returning from their wintering grounds nearer to the coast. There have been oystercatchers around pretty much all winter as well as a few lapwings but I always associate the return of the curlews with the first signs of spring along with Snowdrops in the church yard and the earliest bird song. Today's walk along the river to Red Bank and back produced two new birds for me here. The first was Dipper, a long awaited prospect, one flew from the river up the stream past the Roman Bath House first thing. I know they have been see further up this stream but this is the first time I have seen one by the river. The second was a Greylag Goose, flying west down the valley (before today I had seen more Greenland White-fronts here than Greylags!). A Green Woodpecker calling loudly at Red Bank was probably a visitor from the woods at Hothersall Hall, where they are more regular. Oystercatchers have increased to 32 on the meadow by the river opposite Red Bank and other signs of spring were birds, which are now singing including Chaffinch, Dunnock and Wren. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers was in the wood at Red Bank, where the male was drumming. The morning's total was a very respectable 56 species, only 3 off my highest total and although some trickier birds like goldeneye, sparrowhawl and skylark put in an appearance other regulars like kestrel, Little Egret and kingfisher were missing.
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.
WHAT A WELCOME HOME THAT WAS! I got into WIFI range again yesterday in Houston Airport in Texas and was stunned to read news of a Pallid Harrier on my home patch in Bowland. After a relatively quiet month in the UK while I have been away in the US I was pleased not to have missed much until I read this. However, after a nervous flight home, happily I was watching it this evening with my Bowland birding friend Mark Varley. It is a bird we have often talked about as a possibility for the local fells, particularly with the increase in records in the UK/Western Europe in recent years but it still came as a shock. Even better that it is a male holding territory! It is a sign of the times that there was only one other person watching it this evening with me and Mark and we enjoyed some very nice views, although a little out of DSLR range as it quartered the hillside below the stone man in Whitendale. It even did a couple of sky dancing loops, upside down at the top of the loop while giving a high pitched chattering call. It also harassed a buzzard, which ventured within its air space, the cumbersome buzzard was quickly seen off by this tiny but aggressive ball of feathers. Interesting that it has chosen the same hillside that the Eagle Owls first used as a nest site and this was also a traditional nest site for Hen Harriers for many years previously. It must be an attractive situation. Dunsop Valley and Whitendale were alive this evening with Ring Ouzel, Common Cuckoo, Common Stonechat and Willow Warblers on the hillsides and White-throated Dipper and Common Sandpiper along the stream. A curlew sang its wonderful bubbling song in the background as the harrier graced the valley. Wonderful stuff! Massive thanks to the RSPB for deciding that the news of such a rare bird should to be broadcast as it may yet breed (even as a mixed pair with a Hen Harrier is a possibility). They would have been justified to keep it quiet and special thanks to the finder James Bray. He's already on the shortlist for my hero of the year award! Here's hoping that many folks will be able to enjoy the harrier over the coming days just like the eagle owls [the hike to the 'watchpoint' takes around one hour at a reasonable pace but is mostly on the flat].