Saturday, 27 March 2010

Great Grey Shrike at Waddington Fell, Lancashire - still there

March 28, 2010:
The Great Grey Shrike was still on the fell and seen (always at quite a distance) by several watchers from near the convenient lay-by on the B6478. When it was first sighted over a month ago it favoured a territory about 1 km to the east but for three weeks now it seems to have preferred this limited area.

If not initially visible it will usually soon appear at one of its look-out points on the power-lines, so patience is generally rewarded with a sighting. Early this morning it was reported to be singing/calling and someone else saw it take a vole and hang it in a nearby tree for a future meal. The bird is very active and from its many perches incessantly turns its head from side to side watching for prey movement below. It never seems to rest, so perhaps food is hard to come by? Unfortunately, it will probably be gone fairly soon now.

Avocets and other birds: aerial activity at Marshside, Lancashire

March 26, 2010:
Although the Avocets perhaps provided the main interest today there was also much activity in the air from waders and wildfowl. A group of Shelduck flew close by.......

Black-tailed Godwits frequently circled the marsh.......

Tufted duck frequently changed position.......

.......and, just occasionally, an Avocet took to the air.

Avocets at Marshside, Lancashire

March 26, 2010:
Now well into March and the Avocets are returning to the north-west. Not so long ago their arrival would have been a sensation, Norfolk being the only place to see them. Now they turn up here and at other Lancashire sites each Spring and attempt to nest, although with only limited success due to predation.

At Marshside today there were at least nine birds which spent most of the time searching for crustaceans in the shallow water.

Sadly, one bird (below) had an injured leg and, although it could fly, it was only able to hop and so spent much of its time asleep. Its future seems rather bleak unless it recovers quickly.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Twite at Heysham harbour, Lancashire

March 19, 2010:
There was a flock of more than fifty Twite, very active and mobile, close to the harbour at Heysham this afternoon. They were mostly in the sea-wall area but rarely stayed in one place for more than a minute or so.

They frequently perched as a tight group on the metal railings and fence posts and, on one occasion, high up on the liquid gas storage tanks. Occasionally they would come to the ground to feed but didn't stay down for long. They seemed nervous and easily disturbed but occasionally were approachable to within ten metres or so. Some of them were ringed much of which will have been done locally but other ringed birds may be from further afield.

One of the Heysham-ringed birds (below) with the pale blue ring

Monday, 15 March 2010

A short detour near Pilling

March 15:
On a Monday afternoon short detour through the Fylde country lanes, there was the sight of three species of dove happily feeding together on a patch of grain: Collared Dove, Stock Dove and Wood Pigeon.

Meanwhile, not far away, a Little Owl sat out in the sunshine thinking himself invisible close to a dark tree trunk.

Friday, 12 March 2010

American Wigeon at Martin Mere

March 12, 2010
Just like buses, none for a long while and then two come along! Having made a longish journey three days earlier to Caerlaverock to see the American Wigeon, it was a much more convenient one today to see a second one at Martin Mere, near Southport. This bird was amongst one of several large flocks of Eurasian Wigeon but could only be viewed at considerably longer range than at Caerlaverock (it never came within 100 metres and was often much further away). It was nicely marked but perhaps not quite so finely plumaged as the Caerlaverock bird (which was still there today so there was no doubt about there being two). Along with the other Wigeon this one spent much time feeding on rough grassland although the whole flock seemed nervous and was frequently disturbed for no obvious reason.

(Below) Part of the flock containing the American Wigeon. The bird is left of centre in front of two Greylags. It can be clearly seen by zooming in should that possibility be available.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

American Wigeon at Caerlaverock

March 9, 2010:
There have been reports of two separate American Wigeon (both males) in north-west England/south-west Scotland since the start of the year. The American Wigeon is a scarce bird and in a normal year there are only usually about 10+ reports for Britain. They nest in Canada and usually winter on the Atlantic coast of the Gulf of Mexico or on the Pacific coast of North America. The first bird seen in the area was at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway) on January 17 but was only present for two days although reported elsewhere within the general area during the following weeks. A second bird was sighted several times on the Lune estuary in late January/early February before disappearing but one arriving at Martin Mere in early March could be the same one. The Dumfries/Galloway area bird returned to Caerlaverock on February 15 where it has largely remained since.

I saw it there on March 9 on the lake frequented by the Whooper Swans, a place it seems to favour. There were also many Tufted Duck and Eurasian Wigeon on the lake and it was with the Wigeon that it was usually associated and tolerated.

It is a very handsome, finely marked bird, its white crown and broad green irridescent eyestripe (which appears black at some angles) readily separates it from the commoner species. It spent short periods asleep, drifting aimlessly on the water. At other times it scooped up water to drink and occasionally scoured the bank for food amongst other ducks.

The male hybrid Scaup x Tufted Duck reported earlier in the year appeared not to be present that day but it might have been overlooked as attempting to identify it amongst constantly-diving Tufted Ducks wasn't easy.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Velvet Scoter at Barrow Lower Lake, near Clitheroe

January 1, 2010:
This appears to have been the last day that the Velvet Scoter was seen here. It had been present since just before Christmas amongst a large flock of Mallard on a very limited area of unfrozen water close to the stream inlet.

The bird was quite approachable and was seen and photographed by many people. It fed on large freshwater mussels which it swallowed without difficulty. At times when diving, its bill became snagged with nylon fishing line but it always seemed able to discard it eventually. This was a very rare inland record for a bird usually found well out at sea and was possibly only the third such for Lancashire. In the increasingly harsh weather the lake completely froze over and this was almost certainly the reason for the bird's departure. The Mallard, however, just sat it out on the ice awaiting the thaw.

Common Buzzard with injured wing by A59 at Whalley

I first saw the injured Buzzard on New Year's Day when it was perched on a tall lampost above the busy A59 Whalley by-pass. It was holding its right wing very awkwardly and semi-outstretched but when it saw me it managed to fly a short distance into a nearby tree. The ground had been frozen and snow-covered for at least a week already and the bird was probably hoping to find an easy meal from road-kill victims. In some of the photographs its drooping right wing can be clearly seen.

It was in the same limited area on January 15 and 24, its right wing still hanging somewhat but again was quite able to fly. On February 4 it perched on a fence-post by the first roundabout but flew off with ease as I approached. On February 10 it was reported at least four miles further along the A59 near Worston, again by the roadside, so it was obviously recovering nicely and could fly longer distances. On February 19 it was back again by the first roundabout at Whalley where it perched on the fence for a while. When finally disturbed, it flew off at a leisurely rate before becoming lost to sight after 200 metres. This was another encouraging sign suggesting it was well on its way to a full recovery. It was last seen by me on February 23, perched on a fence post near the first roundabout, being harassed by two corvids.

Barn Owl in the Fylde

March 1, 2010:
In bright sunshine in early March, it was perhaps a little surprising to see this Barn Owl freely hunting over fields near Stakepool

A few minutes later it settled on a fence post by the roadside, so giving an opportunity to take a photo from inside the car before it spotted me and immediately took off.

One week later, I saw the bird again in more or less the same place where it was hunting over rough fields before finally perching on an isolated post.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Great Grey Shrike on Waddington and Grindleton Fells

March 6, 2010:
After a single sighting near Chipping some weeks ago, this same (or another) bird was reported from the fells and conifer plantation above Grindleton on February 22. It was seen there by several people during subsequent days before moving about 1.5km to the west onto the Waddington Fell area a week later. There it has since been active on both sides of the road above the Moorcock Inn, perching on trees, broken walls and overhead wires. This is roughly the same location where a bird had also been seen in past years and is quite possibly the same one.

A local resident from Grindleton told me that he had seen the shrike in the Grindleton Fell plantation area as far back as the hard weather around Christmas time. Occasionally, the bird moves back to the original area above Grindleton.

Four days later on March 10, I again saw the Shrike in the same area on Waddington Fell, to the east of the road where it was hunting from scattered trees and later from overhead power-lines (apparently quite unaffected by the current passing through them!). The three photos immediately above were digiscoped.