Saturday, 26 March 2011

Goshawks today

March 26,2011:
During the past week or so, Goshawks have been seen displaying at several localities in the north of England. A four-hour watch this morning at one of these in an upland valley provided two sightings (plus another possible at extreme distance). One sighting was very brief but the other continued over a five minute period.

This was of what appeared to be a male which drifted in from the north soaring and gliding high above the woods on one side of the valley before passing almost overhead at considerable height and then returning in the direction from which it had come. The rounded ends and wide base to its tail and the bird’s much larger size than a Sparrowhawk was clearly seen as it flew with a few leisurely intermittent wing beats between gliding. Due to distance, the bird appeared only as a speck in the camera viewfinder and so the resulting photograph provides no more than a record shot. During the watch there were also many sightings of Buzzards, Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk whilst a Peregrine also put in a very distant appearance. Many Meadow Pipits seemed to be passing through and there was also a good view of a Stonechat by the stream. There were up to ten people watching the raptors for much of the time and these additional pairs of eyes ensured that little was missed. Allen’s presence, with his sharp-eyed and exceptional ability to pick out distant birds, was a great asset.

A return on the following day (27th) drew a blank other than several Kestrels and good views of the circling Buzzard (below).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Mediterranean Gull and Peregrine, Lancashire

March 24, 2011:
A short visit to the north of the county taking advantage of the continued warm weather provided good views of a Mediterranean Gull amongst many Black-headed Gulls and also a Peregrine staking out its territory.

The bird was not always popular with the neighbouring Black-headed Gulls though and eventually flew away.

However, other birds kept well clear of the Peregrine especially having seen its blood-stained breast feathers.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Whooper Swans at Brockholes Wetlands

March 21, 2011:
Coming down the M6 late this afternoon a group of white shapes could be seen on No. 1 pool as Junction 31 was approached. A closer inspection from under the motorway embankment showed they were Whooper Swans. Although viewed distantly there appeared to be about 12 birds, the majority of them asleep in the shallow water just off the island. No doubt they were resting up on their passage north; it was good to see them here.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Elegant Avocets at Marshside

March 14, 2011:
It was fortunate that other reasons led in the direction of Southport today as it also provided the opportunity to make a short visit to Marshside to see if the Avocets had arrived.

At first, the only sightings were two birds sleeping on an island plus a small flock at extreme range way out on the marsh with some Godwits. Soon, though, three new birds flew in and began to feed in the shallows nearby. Avocets are such elegant birds, delicately wading through the water in search of food and seemingly very careful where they place their feet.

All Avocets may not have impeccable manners but two of the birds on two separate occasions hurried out onto the bank to perform their bodily functions before immediately returning to the water to carry on feeding. Was this a conscious effort to avoid fouling the water in which they were feeding?

[The two well-mannered birds]

There were at least 20 Avocets here today and no doubt more to come in the next few weeks. Not many years ago just one bird would have caused a major sensation. Conservation work here is certainly paying off.

[Distant Avocets well out in the marsh]

[Typical wildfowl and wader habitat at Marshside, a result of conservation by the RSPB]

Monday, 7 March 2011

Waxwings in Lancaster

March 7, 2010:
Waxwings have invaded the country in huge numbers this winter and without doubt must be the most frequently reported bird at the moment. Very soon though they will be returning to Scandinavia so it was pleasing to see a small flock of about 20 birds today on the outskirts of the city.

They were perched towards the top of a very large poplar tree and were feeding on something different to their normal diet of berries. The tree was just coming into bud so presumably insects were present and attracting the Waxwings' attention.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Storiths Great Grey Shrike

March 1, 2011
Today’s beautiful spring-like morning, warm, windless, and with a clear blue sky, provided the ideal opportunity to search out the elusive Great Grey Shrike which yesterday had been reported back at Storiths in the Wharfe valley after a long absence.
[UPDATE: What is almost certainly the same bird was was reported 3km to the east by the old A59 road on March 3 & 4; it was back at Storiths on the 6th]

This bird had first been seen here at Storiths on December 8 last year where it remained until the 14th. It was not seen again until January 3 when (what was almost certainly) the same bird appeared at Grimwith Reservoir, some 10km to the north, and remained there until the 13th. A week later on January 20th it was seen briefly from Barden Scale Raptor Watch-point which lies between Grimwith and Storiths but since then there appear to have been no further sightings until yesterday (Feb 28) when it was back at Storiths. This was at a point a little above the hamlet in an area where logs were being stored prior to transport.
This morning, the chances of seeing it seemed slight because heavy machinery was active in the logging area at first. Thankfully though this soon stopped and after an hour's wait the Shrike suddenly appeared and perched on the top of a shrub for a few minutes. Then it was off again but this time despite a long search it couldn’t be relocated. Hereabouts, there is a large about of territory suitable for a Shrike and being a rural under-populated area the bird could be present but remain unnoticed for many days.

The small hamlet of Storiths at the centre of the Shrike's territory.

On the way home over the moors a Buzzard gave a nice view as it soared over Eastby Crags.