Monday, 9 September 2013

Migrants On The Move

I had my first real taste of autumn birding at Aldcliffe, since my return to the UK, this morning. Initially it didn't seem too birdy and I struggled to find anything of much note for the first hour or so of being out.

Little grebe and chick
Feeman's Pools were pretty uneventful with just the usual suspects on show; tufted duck (1 fem), grey heron (7), little grebe (6 + chick), coot, moorhen, etc.
A decent gathering of lapwing were assembled on the Lune mud off Marsh Point along with a scattering of gulls.
There were plenty of swallows milling about with quite a few house martins mixed in.
3 wigeon were on Darter Pool and a reed bunting was calling from the surrounding maize.
There was a farm truck rounding up sheep at the Wildfowlers' Pools as I arrived, causing 40+ teal to take to the air but I didn't notice anything else coming off the site.
The Flood was well and truly flooded, but unfortunately no passing stints, ruff or other common-ish passage waders had dropped in. A pair of green sandpiper were present as were 14 snipe.
Along the cycle track a few chiffchaffs and a couple of willow warblers were seen and heard along the way. I checked Stodday sewage works but all was quiet, and I couldn't see much on the river by the pylons, beyond the usual stuff.
I then noticed a few meadow pipit coming through, calling overhead. As I cycled back toward Aldcliffe Hall Lane I spotted a wheatear out on the marsh near Snipe Bog. I stopped and noticed a further half dozen. And yet more meadow pipits continued to pass over. Soon I had counted at least 26 wheatear - things were seemingly on the move!
A phyllosc flitted into the hedge by Walled Meadow and I checked it out - chiifchaff. Then a larger bird came into view, a juv/female redstart! As I scanned along the hedge I could see several more chiffchaffs and willow warblers and the a cracking spotted flycatcher. Within a couple of minutes another 2 spot flies had joined the gang along with at least 2 whitethroat. I spent the next 40 minutes grilling the area but didn't add anything to the tally. I wonder what, if anything, lurked unseen...!

On a less thrilling note, some kind soul (arse - soul?) deposited a fine collection of old fridge freezers on the cycletrack. Magnificent.        

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Pigeon's Off The Menu

Today I visited Dearne Valley, Old Moor RSPB reserve in South Yorkshire for the first time. I only had an hour or so to spare on the reserve itself but did manage to see a good selection of birds while there.
The place was alive with waders and wildfowl. Among the former were green and common sandpiper, greenshank, spotted redshank, ruff, ringed plover, golden plover, dunlin and even a turnstone.
The in-residence spoonbill put in an appearance, as did a little egret and I even got to see the back of a juvenile night heron's head. This bird has been around for a few weeks now and has been frequently playing hard to get, so I was pleased to have even shoddy views of the bird during my whistle-stop tour!      

Once again I spent a good few hours trawling around the patch yesterday morning in the hope of turning up something autumnal. Unfortunately the blustery westerly winds were doing their best to make it feel like a total waste of time.
And to be honest, it just about was.
I could only find 2 green sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pools and none elsewhere around Aldcliffe. A few snipe were spotted here and there but otherwise it was a relatively wader-less vista. Of course the lapwing and curlew numbers continue to build up on the marsh and a handful of golden plover can be found here and there but there was no sign of anything off-passage.
There were still good numbers of phylloscs moving through and both chiffchaff and willow warblers were seen and heard all along the cycle track hedgerows.
The only thing really of note was a kingfisher that flew out from the trackside ditch near reedy corner and onto the Wildfowlers' Pools.
Up at Freeman's Pools coot numbers have started to increase notably, and wildfowl included 4 wigeon along with the expected mallard and teal.

A vehicle parked at the bottom of Aldcliffe Hall Lane (I've seen it here a number of times) had the sticker seen here proudly displayed in its rear window. Aside of the rather laughable and naff rhyme, it struck me just how misinformed and dangerous this piece of anti-raptor propaganda is. Imagine if normal people read this and actually think that there is some validity in it? No sooner have birds of prey recovered from decades of persecution than certain elements feel the need to start killing them en masse again, simply to protect their minority past time.
It's a shame that mere anecdotal 'evidence' and a lack of basic predator/prey relationship understanding can help influence such Draconian thinking. If you wish to see just how keen this lot are on saving songbirds, have a look at their website and see what scientific papers and extensive research you can find to support a nationwide cull of raptors (good luck).
I'm not against pigeon racing particularly, nor am I especially for it, and I appreciate that it must be galling to have a prize bird scoffed by a wild predator but I find using the rather disingenuous argument that raptors are responsible for the decline in songbirds extremely frustrating. Not only does this theory have more holes in it than a secondhand dartboard but it also tries to patronisingly disguise the real reason that the RPRA are calling for the destruction of wild birds of prey; to protect their precious pigeons.