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Pendle Hill

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EAST LANCS NEW YEAR

THE NEW YEAR STARTED OFF VERY WET INDEED. I got soaked three times on New Year's Day taking part in ELOC NYD listing. Although I saw some interesting birds like Snow Bunting on Pendle Hill, Pintail and Pink-footed Goose at Stocks, Little Egret, Little Grebe and oystercatcher at Ribchester and finally a brief adult Glaucous Gull in horrible conditions at Fishmoor Reservoir I was still 20 behind the Breakses total as usual. The time taken on Pendle kills the chances of enough small birds and I was rained off twice when I planned to look for them. I caught up five on my first day back at work on 2 January including a male Brambling, which has been on the office feeders this week.

In contrast the first Sunday of the new year was freezing cold and icy. An all day effort produced a similar total between Pendle, Ribchester and Fishmoor. Highlights included two Snow Buntings over Pendle Summit in a freezing cold wind before dawn. I gave up taking landscapes when my camera lens frosted over. This never even happened in Ladakh!!! The wind chill was very severe indeed this morning. The walk around my BTO birdtrack location at Ribchester produced 52 species including Peregrine, 7 buzzards, 4 ravens, 10 oystercatchers, 3 Little Grebes, 4 Goosanders and record totals of Stock Dove (6!) and Long-tailed Tit (19). A skylark flew over the village calling, a scarce bird around Ribchester in midwinter. Finally the late afternoon Fishmoor gull roost in Blackburn produced a terrific 2cy Glaucous Gull by Mark and Jack and what was almost certainly an adult Caspian Gull in rapidly fading light by Pete.

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PENDLE HILL SNOW BUNTINGS

Snow Buntings are back on Pendle Hill, seen here in the shadows of the Downham Slope.

Martin Garner wrote in his Birding Frontiers Challenge Series Winter 'It's like having the Arctic Wilderness arrive on your doorstep'. That's exactly how I feel about Snow Buntings. I've been lucky to see them on their breeding grounds in both Iceland and Svalbard this summer and here they are back again in East Lancashire for the winter. A couple of Snow Buntings had been seen on Pendle on Friday and I couldn't resist a (now only occasional) hike up the hill today. After some searching of their favourite haunts on the hill I heard one call over the big end, this was followed by a second a few moments later. Not long afterwards I was delighted to stumble on a small flock of eight birds feeding grass seeds along one of the paths above the Downham slope. They were typically very shy and difficult to approach, feeding on the icy cold north slope, which does not see the sun by this time in winter. Northerly winds recently have probably aided their return to Pendle after an almost blank winter last year with only a couple of birds and I found quite a few droppings here and there suggesting they have been around for a while already. As explained in Martin Garner's book, the Pendle birds identified to race so far have been nivalis and are therefore continental European breeding birds but, wherever they are from, Snow Buntings are very uncommon away from the coast making the small numbers we get on Pendle very special. Also on Pendle today were golden plover (8), plenty of Red Grouse calling now and a woodcock in the car headlights standing in the middle of the road below the big end before first light.

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DOTTIE TIME AT LAST ON PENDLE

Eurasian Dotterel, Pendle Hill.

THE CONTINUING EASTERLIES BROUGHT MORE MIGRANTS TO EAST LANCS THIS WEEKEND. The highlights were a lovely Dotterel near the trig point on Pendle Hill (found by John Metcalf) and a Black Tern at Stocks Reservoir (found with James Bray) with further interesting additions to the ELOC little year in the form of a Grasshopper Warbler watched reeling near Barley and a Tree Pipit singing at Moor Piece (thanks to Pete Morris for this one). A hike onto the fells resulted in two singing Whinchats, which were also new for the year. Finally a Garden Warbler was singing near the new hide at Stocks and the Little Gull, which was first seen on Thursday is still present. A great moth outing on Saturday with Alexander and Pete, Jack and Josh Morris produced some Emperor Moths, all males except for one lovely female found by Jack. Well done!

ELOC year list. 125. Eurasian Dotterel 126. Grasshopper Warbler 127. Tree Pipit 128. Whinchat 129. Black Tern 130. Garden Warbler

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A RARE VISITOR TO PENDLE HILL

Alexander and his daddy on Pendle Hill, first time up!

ALEXANDER'S FIRST TIME ON PENDLE HILL went much better than expected. He simply walked straight up without a complaint until near the top. It will not be long until I can say 'I wish I had his energy!'. Three Ring Ouzels were on the rocky slopes from the landslide trail and at least four wheatears were in the same area. Spring is definitely here now! The only new birds for the year in the ELOC area in the last couple of days were a Blackcap singing near Bolton-by-Bowland, a pair of linnets at Green Bank Quarry, Longridge and an early whimbrel at Alston Wetland. 

ELOC year list: 108. Blackcap 109. Common Linnet 110. Eurasian Whimbrel

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