Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Tide Up

I headed down to the marsh this morning to watch the spring tide come in. I set myself up just south of Snipe Bog and watched to see what the incoming water would bring to Aldcliffe. 5 Goldeneye were the first birds drifting upriver and they were soon followed by at least 4 of both Great-Crested Grebe and Little Grebe, and then a cracking pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers which landed near the Golden Ball.

As the tide began to cover the mudflats large flocks of waders began to gather on Gull Bank, these consisted of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank; I was a little disappointed that no other species had been pushed upriver.  All 5 of the regular gull species were present and feeding as the tide began to encroach onto the marsh, eventually flushing 7 Common Snipe from Snipe Bog. 3 Little Egrets were also pushed off the marsh and headed inland as did a Grey Wagtail, whilst a small number of Meadow Pipits fed on the remaining patches of grass between the rising water.

The Greylag Goose flock was up towards Marsh Point and I was informed by another birder that the juvenile White-fronted Goose was still with them (a report of 2 on Birdguides today). A large number of Pink-footed Geese dropped into the fields on the other side of the river next to the road and a small flock of 30 were on the marsh.

Freeman's Pool had thawed slightly and held a female Goldeneye and a number of Wigeon and Teal as well as the 4 Gadwall again.

Patch yearlist up to 66 species (Great-Crested Grebe, Red-Breasted Merganser and Grey Wagtail the additions)


Monday, 19 January 2015

Cold Does The Trick

Cold weather usually brings about bird movements so I was keen to get down to Aldcliffe to see what effect this current cold snap has had on the local birdlife. The path along Freemans Wood was still frozen in the late afternoon and the Pool itself was completely ice covered save for a tiny patch next to the island that held a crowd of 2 Little Grebe, 4 Gadwall and c50 Teal. The woods were pretty quiet so I headed up to Marsh Point where a few Cormorant were feeding in the river along with 3 Goldeneye (1 male) and a female Goosander.

From here I could hear the familiar sound of geese, but not the Pink-feet that I've been hearing this last week, this was the Greylag flock which has been absent from the marsh for a couple of weeks. About 50 Greylag Geese were feeding in front of the Golden Ball along with 15 Canada Geese and about 20 Pink-feet. A few scans through the Greylags and bingo, a single juvenile White-fronted Goose, the cold weather had brought them back after all. There also seemed to have been an increase in Mute Swans on the marsh with about 40 dotted around, no yellow bills amongst them yet however.

The river itself held the usual wader species and a couple of Little Egrets, whilst he marsh was mostly frozen which probably explains why there were no Snipe in the area around Snipe Bog, just a small flock of Meadow Pipits. A small wader that flew past me when I was there was unfortunately too brief to get an ID on, but it sounded different.

For the first time this week there were no Pink-footed Geese on the Drumlins. 63 species for the patch year.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Third Time Not So Lucky

I took the short route around patch this evening, spending about 45 minutes around Pony Wood. The Linnet flock in the arable field numbered about 50 but were flighty as usual and disappeared after a while, whereas the Chaffinch flock was once again absent altogether other than 2-3 with the Linnets, meaning a third successive dip of the Brambling this week. For the first time this week there were no Pink-footed Geese on the drumlins to the west.

A male Kestrel was hunting the area throughout the evening and in the process flushed a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were loudly arguing across the gap between Pony Wood and Admiralty Wood, I stayed around the area to dusk but there didn't appear to be any owls at the latter site.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Weekend Wonders

Highlights from a few hours spent on the patch this morning included:
A single jack snipe at Snipe Bog plus 4 common snipe.
The increasingly wet fields around the Flood were teeming with birds - lapwing, curlew, redshank, dunlin, black-headed gulls and a few oystercatcher.
There were yet more lapwing, redshank & dunlin were on the estuary, plus good numbers of golden plover.
Other than a single lowly greylag there were no geese on the marsh.
There was a sizeable flock of redwing and fieldfare hopping around in the grass around Frog Pond, with 8 pink-footed geese there also.

There were 12 wigeon, 19 gadwall and 4 little grebe at Feeman's Pools along with all the other expected stuff.
A male kestrel was hunting along Dawson's Bank (pictured).

An early afternoon wander around the FAUNA reserve revealed c900 pinkfeet still grazing on the drumlins. Time spent watching the chaffinch flock on the edge of Pony Wood rewarded me with good views of the female brambling. There were 80+ linnet still feeding in the arable field.
A brown hare was seen in the Big Meadow.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Finch Frustration

I took the circular walk from my house, through the FAUNA reserve, up past Pony Wood and back along the canal this afternoon in the hope of connecting with the finch flocks in the arable field adjacent to the wood. Earlier in the day I had happened to glance out my window at the same time as a male Goosander flew over heading towards the canal, a yeartick.

The reserve was quiet bar a mixed tit flock which included my first Long-tailed Tits of the patch year. The Pink-footed Goose flock was again present on the hill west of Pony Wood, about 1500 were in view with an unknown number out of site over the brow, presumably the Barnacle Goose was with them as I couldn't locate it in the visible flock. A small flock of Redwings were flying around above the wood and they were soon joined in the air by the flock of c70 Linnet which were being very flighty around the field. The frustration alluded to in the title was directed at the Chaffinch flock which was always out of view on the other side of the wood, so I was unable to find the Brambling amongst them. A couple of Greenfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker around the wood were nice compensation and on the way back another male Goosander flew over, this time heading towards the town.

59 species for the patch year.


Monday, 12 January 2015

Debut Post

A quick introduction from me. My name is Jonathan Scragg, I am a 20-year old birder originally from Blackpool and I am now in my 2nd year studying Ecology at Lancaster University. Living in Lancaster means I now have the Aldcliffe area on my doorstep and so this has now become my local patch for the next couple of years. I am also using Aldcliffe as my patch for the Patchwork Challenge competition.

This afternoon was my first opportunity to visit Aldcliffe since returning to university (and getting very jealous of all the good birds Jon has been seeing!). The main target was the Pink-footed Goose flock that was occupying several fields between Pony Wood and The Flood. After a bit of searching the Barnacle Goose was picked out from amongst them. The whole flock appeared to be in excess of 2500 individuals.


The high wind meant there were few passerines to be seen around the arable field next to Pony Wood so I failed to find the Brambling or the Chaffinch flock it has been associating with. The Flood held 100 or so Redshank and smaller numbers of Oystercatcher and Curlew, whilst just 2 Common Snipe were at Snipe Bog.
The tide was in on the river so the waders and gull flocks were confined to the edges of the marsh, all the usual suspects were present but nothing out of the ordinary yet. An unseen Water Rail was calling from Reedy Corner and a trio of Grey Partridge and a Little Egret were in the field adjacent to Frog Pond. Freemans Pool held 2 each of Goldeneye and Little Grebe and I waited here till dusk in the hope of any owls putting on a show; not tonight but I'll be back again soon in search. 53 species seen, a good start to the patch yearlist.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

When The Wind Blows

Spent an hour or so being buffeted by the brisk winds this morning in the hope that I might find some oddment but unfortunately there was nothing apparent 'blown in'. Often in these conditions we can hope to get a stray kittiwake or little gull joining the regular Aldcliffe birds but not this time, it would seem.

Grey partridge
The number of pink-footed geese was up however, with around 800 new birds supplementing the 1000 or so already in situ. Due to the fact that many of the geese were feeding in the dips in the undulating fields, it was difficult to get an accurate count.
The barnacle goose was still in among them.
There were 22 gadwall were on Freeman's Pools along with 3 little grebe and a single goldeneye plus all the usual stuff.

2 jack snipe and 4 common snipe were at Snipe Bog.

A covey of 6 grey partridge (pictured, badly) were hunkering down in the fields to the south of the lane and another single bird was near Frog Pond.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Barnacle, Brill!

The monthly snipe count at FAUNA this morning yielded:
71 common snipe
4 jack snipe
7 woodcock
1 water rail

Snoozing barnacle goose with pink-footed geese
Before we commenced the count I had a wander up the path to Pony Wood.
In the fields to the west of the path there were again good numbers of pink-footed geese. I estimated the flock to contain around 1,000 birds. I only had my binocs with me so I couldn't be 100% certain that there were no further interesting interlopers among them beyond the trio of greylags and a solitary, though very welcome, barnacle goose.   
The female brambling was once again amongst the chaffinches in the hedgerow adjacent to the arable field.
There were around 100 linnet present in the area, plus 40+ fieldfare and a couple of dozen redwing.

Later, I had a walk down to Freeman's Pools and the cycle track at Adcliffe. The geese were up on the drumlins, and once again I picked out the lone barnacle goose (pictured) among the pinks.
A couple of goldeneye were on the pools but nothing much else of note. I bumped into Dan who was doing a survey connected to the Morecambe Bay Partnership and he mentioned that yesterday there was a drake pochard on Freeman's Pools, plus a greenshank and kingfisher nearby.


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Rambling and Brambling

I took a leisurely stroll through the Fairfield Orchard and up to the canal this morning. The linnet flock in the 'new' arable field continues to grow and there were around 120 feeding on the deliberately planted seeding vegetation around the field edges.   

Female brambling
Also of note was a female brambling in with c30 chaffinch at Pony Wood. I can't remember the last time we had an on-the-deck brambling in the Aldcliffe area so this is a great bird locally.
(The pic here is one of another brambling I photographed elsewhere last winter).
There were good numbers of redwing and fieldfare in and around the area too.
A flock of c400 pink-footed geese were grazing in the drumlin field to the west of the footpath leading up to Admiralty Wood.


Saturday, 3 January 2015

Jack The Nipper

It was much milder, calmer and drier this morning when I did my rounds of the Aldcliffe patch.
The clear highlight was the discovery of a pair of wee jack snipe with 5 common snipe at Snipe Bog. 

(L-R) 2 redwing, a mistle thrush & a fieldfare
The other main thing of note today was the number of thrushes around - not huge amounts but a good steady scattering. Blackbirds were particularly numerous while song thrush, mistle thrush, redwing and fieldfare were all present in varying numbers.

Once again the marsh drew a blank; there was no sign of any Canada or greylag geese and as a result no attendant white-fronts for the second day at least.
The 700 or so pink-footed geese were still in fields to the east of the river, though slightly further away on the drumlins.
A good flock of feeding waders around the Flood included 120ish curlew plus plenty of redshank and a few oystercatcher.
A sparrowhawk was seen carrying its breakfast and a kestrel was hunting around the maize fields.

I'm not surprised to see that Cetti's warbler is leading the charts in the 'Next New Bird for Aldcliffe' poll, though I'm surprised no-one has chipped in with any better suggestions than mine...
It's a pity the tip has closed down as we could have realistically expected a Caspian gull at some point. How about a flyover bee-eater? I've been expecting one of those to grace Aldcliffe airspace for the best part of 25 years!


Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy New Yearlist

Pink-footed geese
Welcome to the first post of 2015!

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that little poll thing in the upper right column of this page. I'm inviting everyone to make a prediction as to what the next 'new' bird for the Aldcliffe recording area will be...
Turtle dove was my first choice for a number of years and that species finally made it onto the list in 2014 (though much to the disappointment of the regular patch watchers it was only seen by a visiting birder who was here to twitch, unsuccessfully as it turned out, the woodchat shrike in the spring!).

My new choices are bittern and Cetti's warbler (the sensible money surely going on the latter) with hen harrier a well-overdue longshot. One could argue that if they never turned up when there were actually numbers of harriers breeding in England, what likelihood now? But then, you could have used that same argument for taking the ever-declining turtle dove out of the equation...

Please add your vote, or choose something that you think far more likely by simply adding a comment to the most recent post.

In The Pink 

My first bout of birding Aldcliffe for 2015 got off to a fairly slack start today. I was joined by Aldcliffe ex-pat Greg Potter who had traveled over from Leeds to see what was about.
Wildfowl numbers had changed slightly on Freeman's Pools with an increase in tufted duck (7) and goldeneye (5) but otherwise it was the same old same old.
3 little egrets looked somewhat incongruous as they stalked in the fields, joined by mistle thrushes and moorhens. 12 skylark were in the stubble fields.

More pinkfeet...
Around 700 pink-footed geese (pictured) were in the fields above the cinder track. A careful scan through revealed nothing else among them.
The steady, stiff breeze was keeping passerine activity to a minimum and the hedgerows were pretty quiet.
A dozen redshank were seeking shelter on the Flood.
We looked out over a seemingly goose-free marsh and headed along Dawson's Bank back toward Marsh Point. Other than a couple of reed buntings and a handful of goldfinch there was nothing feeding along the tideline. Out on the saltmarsh the regular mute swans were grazing away but only a lone Canada goose and 7 or so greylags were seen.
As to be expected there were curlew, redshank and lapwing, as well as the familiar gulls. A single female red-breasted merganser was on the river near The Golden Ball.