Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Spotted Drake

Eclipse drake garganey
After making a declaration that the garganey at Freeman's Pools yesterday was either a female or juvenile bird I am now pleased to say that it was neither!

I checked the pools this morning but could only find a single female tufted duck and the two common teal that the garganey had been with the previous day. Assuming it had flown to some other glamorous destination I continued my rounds of the patch.
The three ruddy shelduck were remaining faithful to the Wildfowlers' Pools and there were now a trio of green sandpiper present, along with a juvenile little ringed plover. A couple of snipe were feeding in the long channel.
It was good to see fledged broods of both linnet and greenfinch here.

I had a quick look on The Flood and low and behold - there was 'my' garganey. From the upper cinder track I was able to get far better views than I did yesterday and even managed a couple of snaps through my 'scope.
Having ruled out a juvenile bird, I was fairly happy that it was an adult female - until it briefly stretched its wings and showed the distinctive upper wing pattern of an adult male. So, it would appear in fact to be an adult drake in eclipse plumage. Ta-dah!

A cursory look at the river from the mouth of the The Channel revealed little of note bar a fishing common tern, a lone common sandpiper and multiple little egrets.
The highlight was seeing my first Lune shelduck brood of the year - a pair with 7 young duckling on Colloway Marsh.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Wild Duck Trumps Ruddy Interlopers

A lovely juvenile / female garganey was at Freman's Pools this morning. It was in the company of a couple of teal on the upper pools. It's always a pleasure to come across these attractive and scarce summer migrants on the local patch.
There wasn't much else going on at the pools, just a few moulting mallard and the usual coot, moorhen and little grebe. A little egret dropped in for a spot of fishing but didn't linger.
The ruddy duck trio were again at the Wildfowlers' Pools along with a green sandpiper, a couple of snipe and a juvenile little ringed plover.
There wasn't much going on at the Flood, and a check on the estuary revealed little beyond the expected gulls, greylags, cormorants, lapwings, herons and little egrets, etc.

Ruddy Shelduck

A few people have asked about the provenance of the visiting shelducks, but the real answer is that (as with most 'rare' wildfowl) we really don't know for sure.
This species is a regular visitor to Britain, especially in the summer months. The perceived wisdom is that these birds originate from feral populations in Europe, though in some years it is possible that genuinely wild birds may account for an influx.
Clearly, one of the Aldcliffe birds is of captive origin due the presence of a red plastic ring on its leg. That doesn't necessarily mean of course that the others are from the same source. Escaped wildfowl will often hook up with wild birds of the same, or similar, species.
In theory a fence-hopper may fly around on its own for ages before finding others of its kind. They may come upon a large feral population in Holland while on their travels, or spot a couple of free-range wanderers as they pass overhead in Nimes, Namysłów or Nantwich. Who knows?
Given that ruddy shelduck isn't even on the current 'official' British list, it's all a bit academic really! Nonetheless, they're an attractive bird and the sight of these ruddy shelducks certainly brightens even the dullest Aldcliffe morning.


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dan's Week in Pictures!

Chiffchaffs--particularly juveniles-- numerous

2 or 3 Gatekeepers seen- relatively uncommon at this site.

Lots of Hirundines Friday--including 'percher' Swallows like this one plus a few Sand Martins

Escaped Ruddy Shelducks including pinkish bangle of shame

Monday, 20 July 2015

Gulls Med My Day

Common sandpiper
I spent a good three hours or so rooting around the patch this morning.

First I checked Freeman's Pools where 40 or so of the recently returned greylag were busily and noisily bathing. Among this group were a couple of orange-collared birds from the Windermere project (both were present last winter).
In the past week up to 300 greylag have reappeared on the Lune estuary; this large post-breeding flock returns each year, along with Canada geese, having spent the summer in the Lake District. I managed to read another 2 collars later on, on birds on the marsh.

A single common sandpiper was on the main Freeman's Pool island, while another was in the company of a green sandpiper on the upper pools.
A single little grebe chick was my first sign of any successful breeding here this year. 
A fox was making the mute swan family very nervous indeed... It soon scarpered once it spotted me watching it.

Ruddy shelduck, Wildfowlers' Pools
Having heard nothing of the ruddy shelducks since I came across them on Friday, I'd assumed they'd disappeared but I was pleased to see that they were again at the Wildfowlers' Pools.
I managed to dash off a couple of shots through my 'scope, just for the record. 4 snipe were feeding in the muddy channel but there wasn't much else present bar the usual bits and pieces. After a while the shelduck took off and headed toward Freeman's Pools, where I assume they came down.
An hour and a half or so later, as I walked along Dawson's Bank, the trio came up from the Wildfowlers' Pools again but this time headed out to the estuary.
They appeared to go down somewhere in the Gull Bank area.
I checked previous records for ruddy duck at Aldcliffe and I can only find reference to the pair that I saw flying down river in July 2009.  

Adult Mediterranean gull
Talking of Gull Bank, I had a check to see if anything interesting was on the river and found 3 Mediterranean gulls among the black-heads.
One was an adult moulting out of summer plumage while the other two were second calendar year birds (one of these was metal-ringed).

2CY Med gull (metal-ringed)
Nearby, up to 5 common sandpiper were feeding along the shore. Lapwing, redshank and curlew numbers continue to build but other than a small flock of black-tailed godwit flying around near the pylons there weren't any other waders to be seen.
The expected cormorants, goosanders, grey heron and little egrets were all busy fishing away on the incoming tide.

At Marsh Point I 'scoped through the large gulls gathered in the river and came across a ringed adult herring gull. It had a yellow darvic on its left leg. After some time I managed to read the digits on the ring - I'll post the info on here when I get it.

Narrow bordered 5-spot burnet.
Despite the lack of sun, there were a few butterflies around. A couple of commas were along the path by Freeman's Wood while a single painted lady was seen along the bunds.
As always there were loads of meadow browns around and I came across a lovely 5-spot burnet (now confirmed as narrow-bordered 5-spot burnet - thanks Pete & Jonny) along the seawall path.
Dragonflies were conspicuous by their absence, just 2 emperors and a single female darter sp. were seen.



Friday, 17 July 2015

Ruddy 'ell!

Something of a surprise today was the discovery of three ruddy shelduck at the Wildfowlers' Pools. The smart trio were feeding in the channel to the south of the main pools and visible from the cycle track gate. Off the top of my head, this is only the second time that I've ever seen this species on the patch so it was quite a pleasant find (despite their rather sketchy provenance...). I gave Dan a call to let him know about these dodgy ducks, so hopefully he got down and got a snap or two to post on here.
In the meantime here's a shoddy shot I took of one at considerable distance in Lesvos a few years back...
Also at the pools were 2 green sandpiper and at least 3 common snipe.
In other news, a notably clamorous reed warbler (note I am using clamorous as an adjective and am in no way reporting a Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus) was singing away in the willows by Lucy Brook at the end of the Freeman's Wood path, where it emerges onto Willow Lane. Somewhat odd habitat for a singing reed warbler in mid-July perhaps, but there was nothing in its song to suggest that it was anything but that species. 

Highlights from a very soggy search on Monday (13th) morning included a pair of green sandpiper and a lone adult little ringed plover at the Wildfowlers' Pools, but not a lot else of note.
Two stock dove were at Freeman's Pools.
A lesser whitethroat was singing half-heartedly along the cycle track, as was a sedge warbler, while a couple of common whitethroat belted it out in the persistent rain.
I 'scoped through the increasing numbers of black-headed gull on the Lune but once again found no Med gulls. 12 goosander were fishing just north of the pylons.


Friday, 10 July 2015

Dan Here


Now that my spring offensive blog is shelved till next March I thought I'd share some of my Aldcliffe sightings from the past two days and inflict some midsummer pontifications on you all.

I don't know whether Jon would agree but I reckon the Aldcliffe warbler scene has been a bit odd this year. We've had Reed Warbler gains: two territories (about 500m apart) have been occupied all season and song still emanates in them to this day. Have they bred in previous years?

Blackcaps were numerous earlier in the season but seem in very short supply in recent weeks.

A Grasshopper Warbler was singing yesterday evening, in roughly the same spot as earlier in the year.

Chiffchaffs are common and still singing strongly with at least 4 males along the main drag today. However after a typical Willow Warbler arrival in April and May I haven't seen or heard one for four or five weeks.

Active Sedge Warbler territories include 1 at N end of wildfowler's pools and 1 or 2 at W end of Freeman's Pools.

Three recently fledged Lesser Whitethroats were seen today and 2 or 3 adult commons were in song too.

I saw two Lapwing chicks (from separate broods) today which is better than nothing after a worrying year. In other wader news an adult LRP was around today and a Greenshank was calling.

Signs of post-breeding dispersal and/or southbound movement comprised 3 Sand Martins knocking about yesterday, a further 8 southwest today and a Kingfisher at the Wildfowler's Pools.

Darter Pool was rammed with Blue-tailed Damselflies this afternoon (c500) and 2 Black-tailed Skimmers were on the wing for awhile. Emperors there seemed to comprise of 3 males and an ovipositing female (pictured).

I'm a little concerned that Darter Pool is not going to be around for too many more years ...with much willow encroachment and less open water yearly. Perhaps I should descend with a chainsaw one day...the farmer won't mind I'm sure!

                                                              DH (Whitethroat by J Bradley)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Green Day

A quick look around late morning revealed a fine adult greenshank on the river, just off the Channel and a single green sandpiper on the Flood.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Wading In

I couldn't find any green sandpipers on the patch this morning but other common waders were much in evidence.
Along with the increasing number of presumably failed breeding adult lapwings gathering on the Lune, flocks of curlew are returning to the estuary too. From Cadaver Corner I counted 8 common sandpiper feeding along the muddy shores and a single moulting black-tailed godwit was on the opposite bank.
Around the ponds the first 'post-breeding' snipe was probing in the wet grass by the Wildfowlers' Pools while the lone lapwing chick remains on The Flood with its parents.
At Freeman's Pools the pair of oystercatcher were still keeping a close eye on their two fledged youngsters. Meanwhile the mute swan cygnets had dwindled to three birds.
A thorough scan through the ever growing black-headed gull flocks on the river failed to dig out any Med gulls. A group of 10 eider comprised adult females and juvenile birds. Nearby 5 goosander were resting on the sand.
A welcome sight came in the form of a pair of common tern fishing on the river, and then on the Aldcliffe Marsh pools. Since the catastrophic collapse of the Colloway nesting colony, these lovely seabirds are quite a scarce sight on the patch these days. I expect these were the Conder adults out foraging for their growing youngsters.
Little egrets and grey herons were all over the place, as is to be expected at this time of year.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Green sandpipers return

 There were 4 green sandpipers on the Wildfowlers' Pools this morning - a sure sign that for some birds the breeding season is well and truly over.
The only other highlights were the appearance of emperor dragonflies on at least three of the pools and black-tailed skimmers on Frog Pond.