Sunday, 28 November 2010

Reed Buntings, Song Thrushes, and some more Waxwings near Preston

November 28,2010:
A short visit on a bright cold sunny day to Brockholes Wetlands was rewarded with sightings of many commoner birds, including Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Fieldfare. However, a text message from Derek to say that a flock of Waxwings had been reported nearby on the outskirts of Preston caused the visit to be curtailed. Unfortunately, the Waxwings were in a very mobile flock and weren't where they were supposed to be but, when on the point of abandoning the search in failing light, about fifty alighted for a few minutes in a tall tree by the roadside.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Iceland Gull at Preston Docks

November 20, 2010:
This juvenile Iceland Gull today spent much of its time perched on the pontoons. Occasionally it would take to the air and once was seen to briefly alight on the quayside to pick up a passerby's discarded snack. Its feathers were delicately marked in buff with the primaries almost completely white.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Grey Phalarope at Lytham Moss, Lancashire

November 16, 2010:
This storm-driven Grey Phalarope appeared quite settled in an isolated flooded field on the moss. It was feeding in typical phalarope fashion, spinning clockwise in shallow water in order to bring insects and other food to the surface. Occasionally it was harassed by a Black-headed Gull and once even by a Pied Wagtail. It was difficult to appreciate why this should be as it was obviously not in competition with either bird for food. Perhaps it was just a spiteful reaction to an intruder? In the rare intervals between long bouts of spinning, it would preen and even fly a short distance. It was very confiding and appeared quite unconcerned by human presence nearby.

[The flooded field habitat on Lytham Moss]

In summer plumage the Grey (Red) Phalarope is a striking bird. In its arctic nesting grounds the parental roles are reversed with the rather more showy bird being the female which leaves the rearing of the young to the male. Most Grey Phalaropes winter off the coast of South America and south and western Africa.

Below are photographs which I took in July 2008 of a male bird and the small chick it was caring for in an isolated fjord in Spitsbergen. Summer plumage birds are rarely seen other than in their arctic nesting area.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Great Northern Diver, Fleetwood, Lancashire

November 9, 2010:
Rough weather and very strong winds had persuaded this juvenile bird to seek refuge on the marine lake at Fleetwood. Even there conditions weren't good with large waves even on this small lake. None of it seemed to concern the bird which was happily diving and catching small fish. It was occasionally harassed by three Mergansers and a Black-headed Gull which presumably didn't approve of this invasion of their territory. When attacked or during the strongest gusts of wind it would adopt a low profile flattening itself almost to water level. Its orange-red eye can be seen in the above photograph.

[Flattened profile adopted when harassed or in strongest winds]

[A successful dive]

Pied-billed Grebe at Hollingworth Lake, Littleborough

November 10, 2010:
A bird first noticed here on the lake last week has now been identified as a Pied-billed Grebe which is normally found on the American continent. This is the first British record since 2002 and has created tremendous interest with hundreds of bird-watchers coming to see it today and with its presence commented on in the press and on television.

Slightly larger than the common Little Grebe its most obvious difference lies in its much thicker, heavier bill and prominent white eye ring. In summer the white bill has a black vertical band, hence its common name, but in winter the band is much less prominent and the bill can become slightly more yellowish. Its chin, although black in summmer, becomes white in winter.

The very strong sunlight and background reflections on the calmer water made photography difficult when carried out in certain directions

The bird occupied a small sheltered lagoon at the southern edge of the lake and seemed quite happy there diving for fish. On one occasion when the crowd of watchers became especially large, it took refuge amongst the overhanging branches on the opposite side of the lagoon but soon decided all was safe and came out and carried on diving as normal.

[Hiding from view]

[Habitat, an off-shoot of the main lake]

[Very small part of the large crowd]

(Media van]

[Just one more photo]

Friday, 5 November 2010

Great White Egret at Mitton, Lancashire

November 5, 2010:
Yet another scarce and interesting bird has turned up locally. This is the Great White Egret which was feeding on the banks of the River Ribble above Mitton Bridge this afternoon. So we've now had a Great Grey Shrike (still present today) and a Black Redstart (both on nearby Waddington Fell) and a large flock of Waxwings (at Barrow), all of these being within a radius of just a few miles. The Egret was first reported on the river about four miles upstream near West Bradford on Wednesday (the 3rd) and now appears to be gradually moving down river.

Being a large white bird it is very conspicuous even when at long range. It is almost certainly the same bird as was seen on Monday from the Oxenhope Moor (Bradford) Trektellen migration watch-point when flying in the direction of Skipton. The sighting is discussed at
(Also thanks Bill).

[Foreshortened view (bird centre) as seen from Mitton road Bridge]