Saturday, 29 October 2016

Under Covered

Stonechat - Aldcliffe
I can't believe it's a month since my last post here. How negligent of me!
To be honest, I've barely been out on the patch in the past few weeks so it isn't entirely down to laziness for my lack of input.
And rather frustratingly, bird-wise this has been an amazing autumn so far; goodness knows what I've missed in the Aldcliffe area...

That said, I did abandon the patch in favour of more northerly charms at the beginning of the month when I spent a week on North Ronaldsay, in the Orkneys.
Along with my brother Dave, my chums Mark Witherall and Adrian 'Ziggy' Dawson, I enjoyed several days scouring the small island in search of exciting migrants and wayward vagrants. But while the Shetlands to the north of us seemed to be festooned with mouth-watering rarities, our little North Sea paradise appeared to be less attractive to scarce windblown birds.
Of course, it wasn't exactly dead. Multiple yellow-browed warblers were seen daily, little buntings were seemingly lurking behind every dry stone wall and in every weedy field while a dazzling red-flanked bluetail entertained the few birders on the island. Add to that grey phalarope, snow and Lapland buntings, bramblings, short-eared owl, hen harrier, merlin and purple sandpipers, among other things and it hardly seems like a total washout!

Once I got back to Merry Olde England it was back to work and wondering what I was missing at Aldcliffe. There were yellow-browed warblers all over the place and one was surely waiting to be discovered in Freeman's Wood or along the cycle track.
My first free weekend was already booked up - a couple of days celebrating my mate Rich Mooney's significant birthday in the Brecon Beacons (a fab time was had, for sure) and when Monday rolled around I forsook my chance to scour the patch in favour of a dash to the east coast.

Yes folks, I went on my first twitch in 13 years. I couldn't help it. The allure of a Siberian accentor near Spurn was just too strong to ignore. It was a world-tick and too cool a bird not to go and see. And while I was there, the discovery of a nearby Isabelline wheatear gave me a second British tick. Madness. Mind you, the 4.5 hour return journey reminded me why I don't like twitching...

Female stonechat - Aldcliffe
So, what about Aldcliffe? Well, I have made two or three visits recently, though despite at least two found by others on the patch, yellow-browed warbler has thus far eluded me there.
One of the most notable things is the amazing number of wigeon on Freeman's Pools - I can't remember ever seeing so many there. There are approximately 200-250 regularly on the pools along with the usual gadwall, tufted duck, teal and mallard.
Other interesting wildfowl concerned 8 barnacle geese in with the mass of greylags and Canada geese on Aldcliffe Marsh on 21st.
Other notable birds seen on my few visits include stonechat (one seen twice, two seen once; male and female pictured here), greenshank and of course the expected arrival of redwings taking full advantage of the glut of berries available.
A pair of crossbills flying over the FAUNA reserve on the morning of the 20th was a nice surprise.