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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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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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HARD WEATHER MOVEMENTS

Pendle regular Martin Naylor searching for Snow Buntings on the Downham slope

Pendle regular Martin Naylor searching for Snow Buntings on the Downham slope

The last couple of Sunday morning walks on the riverbank have been quite productive, last Sunday saw a record 59 species, including Little Egret. It is still present today ranging between Hothersall Hall and Lower Alston Farm and today was another respectable 50 species. Single Common Snipes have featured on both weekends too, both flying over, presumably displaced by the hard weather. Other birds on the move at the moment were Herring Gull (163 on 3 December - usually around 10-30) and Northern Lapwing (168 on 10 December). The Little Grebes continue on the river at Red Bank and up to three oystercatchers appear to be wintering on the same stretch. Another weather related record was a flock of 18 Meadow Pipits by the sewage works . In contrast, numbers of birds presumably pushed out by the snow have fallen like Goldfinch (41 week 46 to only 6 on 10 December) and Chaffinch (45 week 47 to only 14 on 10 December). I am planning to keep up the counts as long as I can this winter following the same route more or less and for the same length of time and it will be interesting to see the results.

After over 30,000 steps on Pendle Hill and only two Snow Buntings flying over I'd had enough. Well at least it was good exercise! A Meadow Pipit flying low over the summit on Monday morning was also part of the hard weather movements. They are rarer than Snow Bunting up there at this time of year.

Little Egret at Ribchester. Not much you can do at 8000 ISO!

Little Egret at Ribchester. Not much you can do at 8000 ISO!

Frozen Snow Bunting food in the dotterel area on Pendle Hill

Frozen Snow Bunting food in the dotterel area on Pendle Hill

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BACK ON THE RIVERBANK

Ribchester.jpg

A walk along the riverbank at Ribchester today produced a Little Egret, only my fourth sighting since I moved here six years ago but I suspect they are quite regular. It was feeding on the bank between Lower Barn Farm and Red Bank. The reasonable species total of 43 today included a few other interesting birds like bullfinch and jay, which were also my first sightings this year. The young Peregrine is still around, being mobbed by the local Carrion Crows today, effortlessly avoiding them and then turning the tables and buzzing them in return. It had a full crop and I am guessing that it is hunting the starlings, which are here in large numbers this winter. A big flock of c2500 gulls, mostly Black-headed, on the flooded fields opposite Red Bank included a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There are still a few Fieldfares and Redwings around there appear to be more Chaffinches and Blackbirds than usual. Regulars also included three Kingfishers, five Common Buzzards, a sparrowhawk and three Grey Wagtails. The pinioned escaped Trumpeter Swan was still on the river today, it must be more than 12 years old now as it has been in Rib as long as I have been in East Lancs.

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