Saturday, 30 October 2010

Waxwings at Barrow, Lancashire

October 30, 2010:
There has been a large influx of continental Waxwings into the country during the past week and by yesterday this flock in the village of Barrow near Clitheroe had rapidly built up to about 80 birds with more joining today. They appear to be early this autumn because when last here in 2008 they didn't arrive until mid-November. As was the case then, the great attraction is the line of heavily fruiting rowan trees running along one side of the village street.

The flock tended to split and re-form frequently with birds settling to feed greedily in the rowans for only a minute or two before wheeling away to perch for a while in taller trees elsewhere. Then they would be back again circling the area with a rather fluttering, distinctive flight whilst deciding in which rowan to feed. However, although most trees had abundant berries only a few were selected, presumably the birds knowing which were at the correct stage of ripeness. Occasionally they appeared to take flies whilst in the air. Today there were masses of fruits but one hundred-plus Waxwings will soon alter this and then move on elsewhere.

In the bright sunshine this morning the Waxwings were watched by a small group of people and even a local House Sparrow seemed to be impressed.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Reinforcements for the Bramblings, Bowland, Lancashire

October 27, 2010:
Last week's Brambling flock has increased several-fold and there must be up to a hundred birds there now with a few Chaffinches mixed in. Feeding hungrily on the ground on the fallen beech mast they are difficult to see amongst the golden brown leaves already starting to drop, the birds' plumage providing excellent camouflage. They seem to have learnt traffic sense since last week as the majority fed away from the road on the grass verge although the few that still risked it left it late when escaping oncoming vehicles.

The dim light under the trees and their rapid movement when feeding made them difficult to photograph satisfactorily and it was especially difficult to get them into sharp focus. When disturbed by noisy traffic the entire flock, Chaffinches included, would fly off in a tight group and take refuge in one of the nearby trees. However within less than a minute the first brave individual would be down again feeding and almost immediately the whole flock would come tumbling after it.

A nearby ditch came into use as a bathing pool with up to thirty birds in the icy water at one time, all happily splashing and preening.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Kingfisher and Greenshank, Leighton Moss salt-marsh, Lancashire

October 23, 2010
Two Kingfishers were patrolling the Allen pool today. One of them came reasonably close, fishing off the fence posts and barbed wire. When the waders and wildfowl were disturbed by a Peregrine, the Kingfisher appeared unconcerned.

Nearby, a Greenshank waded through the shallows searching for food.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Bramblings and a Black Redstart in Bowland, Lancashire

October 20, 2010:
In the Trough of Bowland this afternoon there was a mobile mixed flock of Bramblings and Chaffinches. The birds were mainly feeding in the road under overhanging beech trees, the wheels of passing traffic having broken open the fallen seed shells for them. This is quite a busy minor road and the birds would continue feeding almost until the cars were upon them.

Unfortunately, one young Brambling left it too late and was hit. I picked it up immediately but it was bleeding badly and obviously dead. I'd never previously been so close to a Brambling and it was saddening to see such a beautifully marked small bird, buff and white on its undersides, in such a state.

Shortly afterwards three Red-legged Partridges came down on the road to feed. These are relatively large birds and were clearly visible to the car drivers. One or two slowed down to avoid them but one drove straight and fast and directly at them killing one. How can anyone do that? Sickened, I departed.

[Red-legged Partridge, a survivor but for how long?]

On Waddington Fell a Black Redstart was feeding from a fence and drystone wall on the moor. From the point where it could be seen, a Great Grey Shrike (see the following posting) was also visible perched in a tree on the opposite side of the road. It was most unusual to see two scarce birds at the same time and from exactly the same place.

[Black Redstart]

It had been a good day apart from the carnage.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Great Grey Shrike, Waddington Fell, Lancashire

October 18, 2010:
Apparently first sighted yesterday, the Great Grey Shrike was still on the fell-side this morning. It is presumably the same bird which spent much of the late winter here earlier in the year. Today it was very mobile, occasionally hunting from post tops along the wall crossing the moor to the west of the road but often it would disappear over the crest of the hill for long periods. It never came within less than 200 metres so that any photographs had to be taken at extreme range.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Common autumn birds on Heysham north harbour wall

September 22 - October 19, 2010:
Passage birds and residents can be found in the north harbour wall area. At this time of year the winter-visiting Twite were still to arrive but small passage flocks of Linnets, Goldfinches and Meadow Pipits and a few Wheatears came and went whilst the semi-resident Mediterranean Gulls and Pied Wagtails lingered. When the tide was low Curlew flew out to visit the mudflats and Turnstones and Oystercatchers fed on exposed mussel beds, the latter gathering en masse when pushed back by the incoming tide. Also at this time of year with very strong westerly winds, passing Leach's Petrels can be pushed to within 200 metres of the shore and may be readily watched from here. Eight were seen to pass in a 2-hour period around mid-day on September 20.



[Meadow Pipit]

{Pied Wagtail]



[Mediterranean Gull, both above]


[Oystercatchers, both above]

Saturday, 16 October 2010

White-winged Black Tern, Inner Marsh Farm, Cheshire

October 16, 2010:
A Whiskered Tern reported here a few weeks ago has now been followed by a White-winged Black Tern. Together with the more frequently occurring Black Tern, all three are marsh terns and quite closely related and of similar general appearance. They nest in in marshes and by lakes in central continental Europe and spend the winter in Africa. Could this be the same as that earlier identified as a Whiskered? This bird is a juvenile and lacks the dark breast patch and the light tips to the wing feathers of the Black Tern. White-winged are much rarer visitors to Britain than Black Terns with annual records often only just reaching into double figures.

Today it spent much of the time high in air, flying amongst Black-headed Gulls and taking insects from above a distant pool and band of trees. It could easily be separated from the gulls by its very accomplished aerobatics and smaller size. However, it never descended low to skim insects from the water surface in the manner of the Black Tern.

It only settled for short periods on the exposed mud to preen amongst Lapwings, Golden Plovers and gulls. Each time this was always at a distance.

[Alighting amongst Lapwings and gulls]