Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Finished my maths exam today at 10:30 and since I had the rest of the day off I decided to get the train to Preston to search for a small flock of Waxwings which had been reported the past couple of days. The snow was falling as I stepped off the train in Preston, luckily the area the birds had been sighted in was only a 2 minute walk from the station and it didn't take long for the unmistakable trilling call of the Waxwings. I quickly located 6 of them sitting atop a tree on the junction with Corporation Street and Ring Way with a pair of Mistle Thrush, before they flew down and started to feed in a line of trees still fully laden with red berries. The light was terrible and they refused to come down to the lower berry clumps hence the shots I managed are reasonable but not great. After about 10 minutes watching these beautiful birds they took off trilling loudly and headed north-east and seemed to come down somewhere near Victoria Street (a favoured area for them) however a quick search there couldn't locate them so they may have continued to another part of the city. On the way home the train briefly stopped at Kirkham station and from my seat I could see a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Coal Tit in the adjacent wood.



Yesterday I recieved the information from the WWT about the neck-collared Pink-footed Goose IZX that I saw at Pilling at the weekend. As you can see the bird was ringed as an adult in 2000 in Iceland, but what is amazing is that it has been 9 years since it was last sighted, coincidently at the same site where I saw it. Wonder where it has been all these years! Click on the images to enlarge them.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snows Up

About 10 minutes after arriving home from Over Wyre last Sunday I got a text from Paul Slade saying there was a blue morph Snow Goose with the Pink-footed Geese near Cockerham, about a mile from where I had been that morning! To make matters worse I couldn't get there and so despite most other people successfully twitching it I was stuck at home, and there have been no reports of it this week, although that may be partly due to having some slightly dodgy weather and even a sprinkling of snow (a rare event here). Given that the Pink-footed Geese often split up into several flocks and have feeding grounds over several miles I was fairly confident that the Snow Goose would still be present somewhere out there, and so this morning I headed over to search through all the geese flocks I could find till I found the one with the white head. Fortune was clearly smiling on me as it turned out several thousand Pink-footed Geese were present in the fields right by Backsands Lane by the entrance to the lane ends car park. A jogger running around the edge of the field meant they were a little unsettled but I managed to pick out a single Barnacle Goose fairly close to the road, as well as a neck-collared Pink-foot (code IZX) for which I will post details of when I receive them.

After about an hour of searching I had a quick look out on the marsh to see if any geese were lurking there. Only 18 could be seen however I could see extra birds flying into the fields I had just been checking. A quick drive down and I started scanning with my bins when at the back of the field a white head popped up into view before the whole bird walked out of the ditch it was feeding in, my first Fylde Snow Goose. I text Paul the news incase anyone else needed to see the bird, and continued watching the bird between 10:25-10:57 when it flew inland with a small group of Pink-footed Geese. As it was always fairly distant my below photos are record shots only, however better photos from last week can be found on the Fylde Bird Club Flickr site.

Since I still had a couple of hours left to be out I headed up to Conder and Glasson to try see a couple of species I've missed on my last few visits. The creek at Conder help a nice flock of 23 Wigeon although there were few waders to be seen, in fact I only counted 4 Redshank on the whole stretch by the layby. Scanning down the creek for the final time before I headed back to the car a flash of the most brilliant blue caught my eye, it could only be one thing, a beautiful Kingfisher sat on one of the boats that are moored in the creek. These birds are starting to make a comeback after the harsh winters a few years ago, with several birds now being seen in the Fylde at their old haunts. Moving on to Glasson where I discovered the river was at the lowest level I've ever seen it, revealing parts of the bank I never knew existed! Despite this it was almost devoid of birds, although a Greenshank feeding amongst the rocks was my first of the year. In the afternoon a quick trip up to Fleetwood only produced a pair of Eider as new for the year, no sign of anything out of the ordinary at the Nature Park. 113 for the Fylde and Britain this year.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Rising Water

The first big tides of the year mean it's down to the marshes to see what species get pushed out by the rising water. Usually on a 10 metre tide I would go to Warton Marsh on the Ribble as this is the best site for Water Pipit in the Fylde, plus it can produce plenty of raptors and owls. However the lack of wind yesterday meant that the sightings list from there was disappointing, and with no change in the weather for today I opted instead to head Over Wyre and spend the morning cleaning up on a few yearticks and maybe try find something for myself. I started off at Cocker's Dyke where as hoped a large congregation of gulls was bathing and resting on the sand. In all I estimated 1500 Black Headed Gulls coming and going between there and the nearby pheasant rearing pens where they were stealing grain, along with c150 Common Gulls. I spent around 20 minutes scanning through them but couldn't locate any Med Gulls, partly due to being distracted by a mixed flock of Twite and Linnet feeding close to the seawall, the former my first of the year. I then moved slightly along the coast to Fluke Hall where a quick walk along the saltmarsh near the car park produced 4 Common Snipe being flushed and then me nearly stepping on 3 Jack Snipe in quick succession on the way back to the car, another year first. Heading inland we found the Bradshaw Lane feeding station devoid of seed, but a little further along the Eagland Hill feeding station had a full quota of food with a large mixed flock of Tree Sparrow and Chaffinch coming down the feed. As I was scoping the seed a white wing flashed into view briefly before moving behind a hedge, I didn't have to wait long for the whole bird to appear, a beautiful Barn Owl. It was hunting around the scrubby field by the track with the seed on, before crossing the road and heading off behind the car, where I managed to conceal myself and capture a few shots as it cruised closer on one of it's closest flypast. Another individual was seen hunting in the fields between Lancaster Road and Bradshaw Lane as we drove past.

A quick stop off at Pilling Lane Ends revealed that the tide was already right up the edge of the marsh, with the various creeks filling up nicely, so I decided to head up to Conder instead before the rising water covered the road there. The creek was already starting to spill over onto the surrounding marsh as we pulled up at the lay by by Conder Pool. I quickly located the 2 Spotted Redshanks feeding on insects escaping the rising tide, and a few Snipe were flushed from the marsh, including 1 Jack Snipe which flew low enough overhead for me to grab a couple of record shots. 3 Whooper Swans were in a group of 20 Mute Swans that flew onto the pools from the nearby fields, and 5 Little Grebe fished in amongst them as they came in to rest.

The tide had almost reached the road so I headed up to the top of Bodie Hill which gives a good view down over the lower reaches of the Lune. A group of 7 Bewick's Swans on the river completed my swan trio for the day, they were feeding near a large flock of Wigeon, around 600 or so although a quick search through them couldn't reveal any of their yank cousins. The final stop off was Glasson Basin where the Scaup appears to have moved on, but there were still plenty of ducks present including 12 Goldeneye, a male Pochard and 41 Tufted Duck. The Twite, Jack Snipe, Tree Sparrow and Spotted Redshanks take me up to 108 for the year, all in the Fylde.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bringing up the Century

The first few days of 2013 have been, in contrast to the end of 2012, fairly stable weather wise with not as much rain and even a few hours of sun! The 2nd was the only real washout so far so as such I stayed indoors and no knew birds were seen, however luckily the 3rd was dry so I decided to get the bus down to Marton Mere in the morning where the main aim was to see my first Owls of the year. When I first saw the Long Eared Owls at Marton Mere many years ago you could guarantee the bush to find them in and you could see up to 7 or 8 possibly if they were all sat in view. However a couple of years ago they were disturbed by some photographers trespassing into the area they roosted in and as such since then they have become more erratic with choice of roost, sometimes being completely out of view. It was with a slight sense of nostalgia then that I headed round the bridle path towards their old haunt, as just this past week they have once again taken up residence in their previous favourite bush, although as usual are never too easy to spot (as many who have tried to see them recently will surely testify!). That morning they were proving equally difficult and with the sun almost directly behind them I quickly gave up and headed round to the mere, planning to return later for another try. A Water Rail giving it's characteristic squealing call from the reedbed as I came up to the mere was my first of the year, and this was quickly followed by another songster of the reedbed at this time of year, one of the resident Cetti's Warblers. These little warblers have had a quite remarkable increase in recent years, from being barely annual visitors to the Fylde in winter the mere now holds up to 5 singing males in Spring and a similar number remain in full song throughout the winter. Over the next half an hour I did one full circuit of the mere which was packed with over 500 Teal and around 110 Wigeon, a very good count for the site which usually only holds around 10 at any one time, although recent weeks have seen up to 300 present. I had also added a few commoner species to my yearlist that I had missed on new years day, Reed Bunting and Pheasant were both coming to the seed at the feeding station, and 2 single Skylark flew high west calling as they went, quite where their destination was I'm unsure as the only areas to the west are Blackpool town centre and then the sea. At this point I got a text from Ash saying him and his Dad were arriving and going to look for the Owls so I headed round to meet up with them. Joining the path as it tracks away from the mere I noticed a medium sized bird flying towards me at some speed before banking round and heading back towards the scrub, a Woodcock. These birds roost in the undergrowth during the day and are rarely seen except for at dawn and dusk unless flushed from where they have settled for the hours of light, so I suspect a dog may have been let off it's lead and gone crashing around in the undergrowth flushing it in the process. The bird did 3 more fly passes as it looped over the scrub before eventually pitching into a deep patch of Hawthorn and Willow, hopefully to sit in peace till the coming of night. The below picture is I admit poor but is my first picture of the species.

I got to the right spot on the bridle path just as Ash and his Dad arrived from the other direction and together it didn't take us long to locate the 2 Long Eared Owls that have been recently sighted there. They were very difficult to spot with the sun behind them, branches obscuring the view in front of them. Ash managed to set his scope up on one bird which allowed for slightly better viewing, although given they were asleep and facing away from us it wasn't much to look at! The following photos were taken when they were being more co-operative in their choice of roost.

As the morning progressed the sky was reminiscent of a recent popular female book and so I decided to make tracks towards Stanley Park as it was on my way to the bus stop. The lake was fairly quiet with a pair of Great Crested Grebe and a nice flock of 13 Pochard the only things of particular note, so instead it was the woods that I turned my attention to as there was one particular species that was making itself rather conspicuous that day. If you say to most normal people that you have seen a Woodpecker they often sound very surprised as they think of them as rather rare and creatures, however if any of said people had been in the park that day they would most certainly had those ideas quashed as there were at least 6 Great Spotted Woodpeckers being very vocal in defending their territories. There were several disputes taking place including 3 birds at the north end of the lake by the heronry that were constantly calling and chasing each other for the whole hour I was there and didn't show any signs of their actions abating by the time I left. I also saw a couple of Treecreepers quietly going about their business, and a tiny Goldcrest in one of the conifers was the last yeartick of the day, taking me up to 89.

A quick hour in Fleetwood in what was the only spell of rain during the entire day produced another 5 yearticks around the marine lakes, and more shore/sea birds were to be had on the 5th when a short seawatch off Bispham whilst looking for the Purple Sandpipers produced a pair of Red Throated Divers, 4 Common Scoter and a Kittiwake offshore. The tide was too far out for the Sandpipers to be roosting whilst I was there, so instead of waiting for them to appear I headed off Over Wyre instead in the hope of seeing one or two more Owls. Pilling Marsh was looking rather bare as I scanned round from west to east, that was at least until I spotted the large flock of Pink-footed Geese relatively close in to the seawall. I love searching through flocks of these geese in the hope of finding something more unusual so I couldn't resist this chance and after 10 minutes of scanning I managed to draw a single Barnacle Goose from the throng of brown (c4000 geese in all). As it happened it was in the closest group of geese to the car park so allowed pretty decent views and I was able to direct a couple of other birders present onto the bird. A Raven lorded over the marsh from it's position on a fence post, there is often a Peregrine sat up on the same post but it didn't make an appearance today. As the light was beginning to fade I headed inland for the final stop of the day where on Pilling Moss I was treated to a brilliant showing of 4 Short Eared Owls and 3 Barn Owls as they hunted over the rough land between Bradshaw Lane and Lancaster Road. These combined with a few other species brought my yearlist up to 102, 2 days earlier than I manged to reach this milestone last year.

I am back at college tomorrow so unlikely to be getting out birding as much, and with exams coming up on the 11th and the 23rd I may not be posting quite so regularly.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Year

Tuesday morning dawned and for once the sky was a strange blue colour not seen often these past weeks. I was up bright and early to make the most of this, my favourite day of the year. My first bird for the new yearlist had been a Snipe that had called from from the fields behind my house just 10 minutes into 2013 as I was going to sleep, it didn't take long to add plenty more come morning however. Whilst my parents were still in bed I took a quick walk along the old train tracks behind my house to see if anything of interest was about. 6 Pink-footed Geese were already happily feeding away in one of the adjacent fields and a flock of 12 Redwing flew over but other than that it was surprisingly quiet. I had decided to focus more on specific hard to get species rather than go for a massive total on this day, so my first stop was Glasson where I quickly located one of the Scaup in amongst the Tufted Ducks on the marina. Several Goldeneye were feeding here, and even more were just over the road on the river along with thousands of waders which provided a fantastic spectacle as they spiralled around dodging the attacks of a Merlin that shot through and over the marsh. Down the road from there I decided to check the Mute Swan flock by Jeremy Lane to see if any other species were with them, and I was soon able to pick out a single adult Bewick's Swan.

From birding on the River Lune, the northern boundary of the Fylde, we headed south along it's eastern boundary the A6 towards Preston. Here we headed for Savick Park, one of the more 'reliable' places in the Fylde so Bullfinch which are restricted to just a few sites around Preston. Crossing the canal by the park I noticed 3 male Goosander feeding further along, and I pointed them out to Aaron, Ash and his Dad who were arriving from the other side. With all the recent rainfall it was no surprise parts of the park were underwater but we managed to find a way round and I headed to the hedgerow where I knew the finches were often found feeding. It didn't take long for a flock of 4 Bullfinch (3 males) flew in and started feeding, although as usual they were feeding towards the back of the bushes making viewing difficult. I called the others over and we all got decent enough views as they moved deeper into the vegetation. Ash then said "wouldn't it be good if a flock of Siskin flew over", at that exact moment we both heard the call of a Siskin pretty close to, and a quick search revealed a male and a female in the alder above our heads! Unfortunately when we tried doing the same trick with other species it wasn't so fruitful.

From here we parted company, they headed home and we headed along the Fyldes southern boundary the river Ribble to Warton Marsh where the Great White Egret showed distantly, rather sensibly hunkered up out of the gale that was making it hard to keep my already broken scope stable on the tripod. Our last stop of the trip was to see the 1st winter Long Tailed Duck that has taken up residence on Fairhaven Lake, which showed nicely although it never stayed on the surface for more than a few seconds before diving again. At this point we had to go pick my brother up and then drop him and dad off at the football, which gave me and mum a couple of hours left to go birding although the light was against us. The noisy Ring Necked Parakeets in Lytham Crematorium added a splash of colour in the fading light, and the last new bird of the day was a Buzzard sat in a tree in Singleton, my 74th species of the day.

Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, I was concentrating on birding so much my camera never left my bag! Future posts will contain more.