Viewing entries tagged
East Lancashire

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WOOD WARBLER AT STOCKS

Wood Warbler, Stocks Reservoir 21 May 2018

THE ACCELERATING TRILL OF A WOOD WARBLER is one of the most evocative sounds of spring in East Lancs woodlands but it is sadly all too rare these days with usually only a maximum of 2 or 3 per year. Punctuated occasionally by 'teeoo-teeoo' calls similar to a bullfinch, a hissing trill reverberated through a small patch of birch woodland as I opened the car door at Stocks Reservoir early on Sunday morning. Bam! I was hoping for an interesting shorebird last weekend but this will do nicely instead. Wood Warbler's song is very familiar, having listened to it many times in Clockburn Dene near my home in Gateshead as a child. I've also heard it all over Eastern Europe, where it is happily still very common. It is even on my cumulative garden list, if you can have such a thing, with one singing from a railway embankment behind my flat in Hitchin, Hertfordshire in the early 90s. I have found a few in East Lancs since I moved here in 2005 but I don't see it every year as they have become very scarce across much of their range in England so every one of them is a real delight. Sadly this bird was gone by late morning so maybe just a migrant passing through? Just in case anyone is interested, particularly bearing in mind the attention the Olympus 4/3 set-up is getting, the file info for the photo above is: Canon 1DX, 700mm, ISO3200, f/6.3, 1/200 sec. (handheld).

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TWO DOWN, FOUR TO GO - COMMON SCOTER AT BARROW

Common Scoter, Barrow Lower Lodge

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!

Common Scoter, Barrow Upper Lodge

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FIRST SIGNS OF SPRING

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.

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MERLIN BRIGHTENS DULL DAY!

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.

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