Saturday, 28 February 2009

Eared 'ere

Had a trawl around the Freeman's Pools area this morning and noted the following highlights:

Male stonechat
14 snipe
A flock of 10 goldeneye flew into the pools, only to leave again 10 minutes later thanks to some bloke who insisted on throwing his labrador's ball into the water for it to fetch. Despite the miles and miles of open access land and footpaths in the immediate area he decides that the one fenced off area with signs saying No Unauthorised Access is the best place to exercise his dog. Genius.
2 gadwall, 5 wigeon plus the usual mute swans, coot etc.

Then I discovered the Holy Grail, or more accurately, the long-eared owl roost. Comprised of 2 birds the spot is in a rather difficult area as far as public access is concerned, so as long as the bird/s continue to show in the evenings then I'd rather not make it public knowledge. Sorry if this bothers anyone but the birds' welfare comes first.

Single little egrets were on Frog Pond and the Wildfowlers' Pools.

I then went to check through the pinkfeet that were feeding in the fields. Approx 1500 birds were visible and despite a thorough grilling I couldn't string anything else amongst them. Two collared birds were present - TZN and THZ.

Text from Steve Wallis at approx 2.20pm - green sandpiper and short-eared owl showing.

Will be back late afternoon for more owl spotting - I'll post later...

6.30pm update

Short-eared was initially putting on a good performance but soon settled for sitting on a fence post and doing little but looking pretty. A long-eared too was showing very well around the pools and adjacent fence-posts in good light while the barn owl was the last to show up, but made up for this by being very active.
As Dan H put, the Aldcliffe owls appear happy to give a good show early on but seem to be a bit afraid of the dark...

Thanks to Guy for the pics.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Tyto's oot for the lads!

At last it's Friday and a 5 o'clock finish.
After only seeing the short-eared owl on Wednesday evening (it was a bright day and the light just about held on) I managed to get to Freeman's Pools before 5.30pm today where I soon met Pete Crooks. I cycled on ahead to get to the vantage point at the top of the pools while he walked up.
When I arrived I could see the short-eared sat on the fence near its favoured hunting area. Shortly Pete appeared and looking round I could see with the naked eye what I thought was the SE flying around, and told Pete that it was showing. As we both looked at it through bins we realised that it was way too pale for SE and - bloody hell! - it was a barn owl! Yet another long overdue and very welcome Aldcliffe tick! Two patch owl ticks in 6 days... this is getting silly!
The barn owl performed well, at distance, while the short-eared simply sat on the fence. Then Pete picked up a smaller, darker bird hunting along the edge of the pools - it was the long-eared. We then watched it as it flew along the water's edge finally coming to rest near the main gate (at the crossroads).
After a while we headed down but failed to relocate it - though we were still getting good views of the barn owl. Bill Myall then arrived, passing on his way home from work, and soon got a decent look at it too.
Both Bill and Pete then left and I decided to try up the path again and soon came across the long-eared which kindly sat on a branch staring at me for about 30 seconds. I didn't want to bother it so I left it to get on with the job of hunting. Stunning stuff!

Monday, 23 February 2009


Met up with Guy at Freeman’s Pools and within minutes we were getting excellent views of long-eared owl (as snapped by Guy- inset). Dan turned up and joined us. Before long the SEO was also on show making it a double spectacle, fantastic. What amazed us three birdwatchers when talking to the local dog walkers who, after a quick howdoyoudo, informed us that they had been witnessing this event every evening since December, maybe a slight exaggeration but hey ho we had to laugh at the irony of the situation!

Also in the area this afternoon: 940 pink-footed geese spread over Aldcliffe and Colloway marshes, four little egrets, and a LEO-listing Pete Marsh.
Dan H.

Tuesday 24.02.09
Rather damp and murky evening, SEO showing well, LEO was on the track though lost sight of it. Jon turned up and we had another search but by this time it was just to dark to see clearly. Earlier saw 2 male great spotted woodpeckers along track to Marsh Point. All the usual on Freeman’s Pool.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The long and short of it...

Following on from yesterday's owl-chat, I decided to go down to Freeman's Pool late afternoon for a chance of bagging the short-eared. I arrived to find Guy turning up with exactly the same idea.
A spotted redshank was calling from behind us and soon appeared over the pools but continued on its way.
We checked the most likely area for the owl but after a while I decided I'd better set off (I had a chicken to put in the oven). As I cycled down the path from the Marsh Point end I flushed what I took to be a sparrowhawk. As soon as I stopped by the gate overlooking the pools Guy called to say he'd just spotted the SEO on the opposite side of the pools.
I could just see it sat on a fence post and decided the chicken could wait. Cycling back to the top for better views of the owl I once again flushed the 'sparrowhawk' - which now it quite clearly wasn't. It was another owl. This one was hunting from the edge of the wooded path and was dark brown with gingery patches on the forewing! Having got a few more glimpses of this bird I met back up with Guy and told him I thought there was a long-eared present too. Meanwhile the SEO was visible hunting in typical, leisurely, SEO fashion over the area of rough ground behind Keyline.
The 'LE' owl briefly showed again and returned to the edge of the heavily vegetated path where I could just about see it. Guy decided to go down and see if he could either get a look at it or flush it out so that I could get a look at it. He did both!
Clearly darker than the SE, this bird had a far more direct flight and would quickly returned to cover (once with a vole). It briefly landed on a post just once, with the back of its head toward me but ear tufts were clearly visible. Head on, in flight, I couldn't see pale irises at all. This surely was a long-eared.
Guy returned and having also noticed visible ear-tufts he too was quite sure of its identity.
This constitutes the first known (though long overdue) record of long-eared owl in the Aldcliffe area to my knowledge.
A familiar dog-walker soon appeared and a chat with him revealed that both birds have been around for at least a couple of weeks and they typically behave as they did this evening.

Highlights from the morning's walk included a green sandpiper at the Wildfowlers' Pools, a couple of thousand pinkfeet on the marsh and a little owl at Admiralty Wood.

If only the tawny had stayed at its roost I could have had a four-owl day on my local patch!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Geese galore

Took a a leisurely stroll around the Parish this morning and noted the following highlights:

Freeman's Pools
3 goldeneye, 4 little grebe, 14 wigeon, 4 gadwall, 19 coot & 10 snipe (roosting on the island).

Frog Pond
c20 wigeon

Aldcliffe Marsh
Little egret and another at Snipe Bog (plus a further 2 at least on Colloway)
220 pinkfeet
Spotted redshank, 1 on the saltmarsh pools (this is the first time, to my knowledge, that this species has wintered at Aldcliffe. Although just about annual on passage, I have never known birds to be in residence during the winter months).

Approx 2000 pinkfeet were visible from the upper track, as they fed in the raised fields toward the canal. The usual favoured fields have been 'goose-proofed' with white flags - which certainly seem to work. Without a 'scope I wasn't able to pick anything else out. A further 5 pinkfeet were in the stubble field.

A grey wagtail was in Lucy Brook by Freeman's Wood - where a bullfinch & jay were also present.

Once again received unambiguous news of a short-eared owl which appears to have been seen by a number of Aldcliffe dog-walkers lately at the Marsh Point end of Freeman's Pools.

Also of note: a stoat in about 1/3 ermine

Late breaking news....

Returned with 'scope in the afternoon to check the geese. They were initially in the trig-point field (as viewed from Willow Lane) but soon flew off toward the estuary. When I got there I bumped in Guy and we soon relocated them in the stubble fields. Couldn't find a single other species amongst them. In total, including the ones off the marsh, there were about 4000 pinkfeet in total including a single collared bird which, true to form, remained as far away as possible thus rendering it unreadable.
c20 skylark at the back of the field.
Guy also mentioned an adult Med gull he'd had off the end of Lune Rd - presumably the darvic-ringed P96.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Green sandpiper puts on a good show

A walk around the patch with Jenny early afternoon and it was much the same as yesterday with the exception of around 450 pinkfeet on Aldcliffe Marsh.
Freeman's Pools - 6 shoveler, 5 wigeon & 3 gadwall were the wildfowl highlights.
A little egret was flying over the marsh and there were still 50 or so greylag near Bank Pool while the bulk of the birds (c200) were by the Wildfowlers' Pools. A green sandpiper was showing well here, as viewed from the gate on the cycle track.
40ish fieldfare and a few redwing were in hawthorns along the upper track.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Time, tide and geese wait for no man

Following the exciting sightings made by others in the past week I couldn't wait to get down Aldcliffe this morning, my first opportunity in nearly 2 weeks. I was particularly hoping that some of the several thousand pinkfeet in the area would be present for me to grill. They weren't.

Highlights otherwise as follows:
Frog Pond - 63 oystercatcher, 34 Canada geese, 27 greylag and 1 measly pinkfoot.
Wildfowlers' Pools - c250 greylag, 4 teal & 9 skylark over. A green sandpiper was flying noisily around.
Aldcliffe Marsh: very quiet with just 22 teal on the river of note plus a flock of 34 skylarks.
Bank Pool: 50 greylag, 1 Canada goose
Freeman's Pools: 1 little egret, 2 tufted duck, 3 gadwall, 3 shoveler & 7 snipe (on the island). I was pleased to see that the spotted redshank was still present on the top pools along with a single common redshank.
5 goldeneye were on the Lune at Snatchems.
No sign of the tawny owl in Freeman's Wood, though I heard one hooting merrily away from there yesterday evening. Pretty quiet all round with just bullfinch of note.

Bumped into Pete Crooks near the Spar shop (glamorous eh?) who reported the waxwing still present in his front garden. I'm on my way there now...

Waxwing seen upon arrival! It was in the top of a tree behind the house opposite the Rowan - easily accessed by a footpath off Leighton Drive which allowed me to stand directly below the bird as it preened (and indeed defacated - the waxwing, not me).
Decided to have a quick look round Admiralty Wood where I soon found 2 little owls. Hundreds of redwing and fieldfare were in Pony Wood and the immediate area.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Think Pink.....

Met up with Dan and had a chilly trawl through the Parish, worth the cold feet for the aerial displays, as the Pink Footed-geese were in the fields, 1500 or so, they eventually took flight and joined another couple of thousand over the marsh, very impressive. Also highlights today were 8/9 Rock 8/9 Meadow Pipits, Peregrine, Reed Bunting 2. Dunlin flock of 10 flying over shortly followed by 8 Golden Plover and 5 Bewick’s over the far side of the marsh. The high tide brought many waders and gulls onto fields. The 155 Linnets seen yesterday by Dan were not around today, though a smaller flock of 14/16 at the dung heap were present. Freeman’s Pool saw Shoveler 9, Wigeon 2 and Gadwall 2. The Tawny Owl is back at the usual roost. The Abraham Heights Waxwing again around Leighton Drive- as 'artistically' photographed by Dan.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Any ansers?

Steve W called yesterday saying that there were around 2000 pinkfeet at Aldcliffe and Guy McC today posted the following on the LDBWS wesbsite.

4 European white fronts associating with the greylags on the field next to the new sea defence. I later saw only three in the Lune. c. 2000ish PFG's in the improved fields. These were later flushed and moved across the Lune to the bypass area.
8 rock pipit, 6 meadow pipit, 1 grey and 1 pied wag and 4 snipe counted along the high tide mark. 12 linnet counted along cycle track. 1 merlin and 1 little egret near Bank pool.
4 shoveller and 2 gadwall in one small area of the Freemans pool. Goldcrest in Freemans.

A conversation with Pete Crooks last night revealed that there were/are apparently also 3 barnacle geese consorting with the pinkfoot flock. On top of that, a waxwing has been visiting his garden which just about falls into the 'parish' boundary... what a weekend for me to go to Cornwall to see my old mate Ziggy!! Bet there's nowt left by Saturday...

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Winter thrushes return

A pair of raven were displaying over my house this morning - moving between the Castle and Aldcliffe.

Not too much to report from a leisurely stroll around the patch with Mrs C today.
The main thing was the annual 'late-winter' re-appearance, right on cue, of the large numbers of winter thrushes around the Admiralty Wood fields.
At least 200 redwing with smaller numbers of fieldfare (60 or so) were in the usual field to the immediate west of the wood. A GS woodpecker was here too but I couldn't see any little owls today.
110ish pinkfeet were flushed off Aldcliffe Marsh by a passing helicopter. Otherwise the marsh was quiet.
Good numbers of lapwing, golden plover, BH gulls were feeding in the fields along with a few curlew and common gulls.
A pair of gadwall and 12 coot were on Freeman's Pools along with a few mallard and single Canada goose.
A male bullfinch was seen in Freeman's Wood.