Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brockholes Quarry - 29th Dec 2007

First attempt at video upload from my rather dated camcorder.

An enjoyable couple of hours at the local patch in rather inclement conditions produced a Green Sandpiper (above), 2 Jack Snipe, 1stw Peregrine, 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 160 Mallard, c80 Teal, 25 Shoveler, 30+ Gadwall, 10 Wigeon, 12 Pochard, c20 Tufted, 4 Goldeneye, 3 Little Grebe, 400+ Coot, 5 Redwing, 3 Skylark, 13 Meadow Pipit, 1 Reed Bunting and 1 Grey Wagtail. The numbers of Siskin are particularly worthy of mention, with 200+ in the area including a flock of c150 in the Alders at the bottom of Boilton Wood and at least 50 between Main pool and no1 pit.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stocks Reservoir, Lancs - 23rd Dec 2007.

A wonderful afternoons birding was had at Stocks Reservoir on a perfect winters day. Things got off to a flyer at 12:10, shortly after rounding the bend at St. James Church, Dalehead, when I noticed the wintering Great Grey Shrike atop a Hawthorn in the field opposite, but in the time it took me to reverse back along the road to park the car the bird had flown.

Whilst waiting for the bird to reappear, in the company of John Metalfe & Barry James, I noticed a blob low down in a Hawthorn on the rise of the field, clearly something interesting. Scoping it revealed a superb Short-eared Owl, a species that appears to be in short supply locally this winter and a very welcome bird. The Shortie was seen briefly in flight later whilst BJ and I attempted to relocate the Shrike following a second and final sighting of the GGS at 13:00. The views of the Shrike on both occasions were such that I didn't even have time to obtain an image of the bird for the blog.

Above: Short-eared Owl - Stocks Res, Lancs - 23rd Dec 2007.

Above: drake Green-winged Teal - Stocks Res, Lancs - 23rd Dec 2007.
At the island viewpoint overlooking the reservoir, it took some 20 minutes of determined scanning before the Green-winged Teal, found the day before by Brian & Margaret Breaks, was located.

Those familliar with the site will know the distances involved when looking from here towards New Close Bay, so I have to be happy with the record images obtained should the bird depart before any better photos can be taken. This is the third East Lancashire record, all of which have occurred at Stocks. The first in 2002 was found by John Metcalfe and the second was also found by the Breaks's.

Whilst at the viewpoint a skein of 34 Pink-footed Geese headed east - west.
JM and BJ departed for home and I was joined at the viewpoint by BB & MB before we both headed in seperate directions, with the Breaks's heading for the Hodder inlet area whilst I decided to look for the Shrike around Rushton Hill and the field opposite the church. No further joy was had in relocating this most mobile and elusive bird but a few Crossbill could be heard calling from a nearby Plantation.
Now gone 14:30, I made my way to School Lane car park where I found Margaret and Brian returning to their car. I was particularly interested in seeing the Tufted x Pochard hybrid and was told that the bird was present in the bay. I soon located it amongst the Aythya flock and what a splendid example of a drake Aythya hybrid it is.

Above: Drake, presumed Tufted x Pochard hybrid - Stocks Reservoir, Lancs - 23rd Dec 2007.

Now almost 15:30, I walked up the main path towards the new hide, pausing to watch and film this Green Woodpecker as it 'yaffled' from atop a tree. As i put the camcorder away I glanced towards the plantation to the right of the path, noticing a perched brown blob, a lovely Tawny Owl sat out in the open.

With barely another soul around, hardly a breath of wind, the chill of a winter evening setting in and a big moon visible in the sky, I loitered in this area, taking in the splendid isolation of my surroundings until the light had almost faded. This had the usual effect following time spent in Bowland by making the journey home to urban Blackburn feel even more depressing than usual!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dark Herring Gull type - Whinny Hill Tip - Dec 20th 2007.

I've struggled to find anything of note amongst the local Gulls this week although I've not looked every day. This very dark 1stw Herring Gull type being the best I could come up with. This striking bird was unfortunately too distant to shed any further light on the reasons for its appearance. Distance = difficulty of viewing for anything other than white wingers is going to be a problem at Whinney Hill Tip this winter. The 1stw Glaucous was last seen on 15th Dec and now looks to have moved on. The regular adult Med Gull continues to be seen in the roost.

Everything flushed and scattered for miles and the reason became clear soon after! - This Guy was letting off bangers then releasing the bird. I hope he's not going to be onsite daily!
Away from the Fishmoor Gull roost and local landfill sites, birding activity this week has seen me bring forward my 40th birthday by a couple of months so I could upgrade my Binoculars at Focalpoint, from a battered old pair of Leica 8x32 Trinovids to a pair of Zeiss 8x32 FL's. A three hour search for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at nearby Marbury Country Park in the company of Bill Berry and Tim & Janet Davie drew a blank although they are being seen with some regularity at the site at the moment. Janet did fortunately manage to see a Bittern in the Coward Reedbed however. It is now 12 long years since I last saw a LSW anywhere! - This must be remedied in 2008!
If visiting Brockholes Quarry, you can't fail to be impressed by the number of birds using the site at the moment with numbers no doubt boosted by cold weather movements from elsewhere, resulting in good mid-winter counts of 133 Teal and whopping site counts of 50 Gadwall and 496 Coot amongst a nice selection of waterbirds which also included a Ruddy Duck.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Snow Bunting - Bowland, Lancs - 13th Dec 2007.

Steven Flynn was keen to see a Snow Bunting, so He and I ventured into Bowland for a couple of hours from early afternoon with the intention of twitching one which had been present for a couple of weeks at the junction of Ringstone Lane along the Slaidburn-Bentham road. This smart bird now thought to be a female rather than a 1stw male (per coversation with Mike Watson) duly obliged feeding fairly close to the car whilst we remained inside. A Raven over and three Stonechat en-route were the only other birds of any note along Slaidburn Rd. A search for the Waddington Fell Great Grey Shrike on both the journey up and the return back to Blackburn proved negative despite seemingly perfect conditions for the bird to be showing, with just single Stonechat and Common Buzzard of any note. Nevertheless, it was great to be out in Bowland on such a glorious winters day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Local birding - 12th Dec 2007.

Above: 1stw Glaucous Gull - Whinney Hill Tip, Altham, Lancs - 12th Dec 2007.

Time spent on a very chilly day at the two local landfill sites eventually revealed both 1stw Glaucous Gull and ad Med Gull at Whinney Hill Tip, but both giving very distant views mid-pm.

c150 Pink-footed Geese flying west at 14:20 was a nice bonus. Neither of the Gulls were located in the Fishmoor Reservoir roost, but both would have inevitably roosted in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Local birding - 10th & 11th Dec 2007.

10th Dec: The 1stw Glaucous Gull came into roost at Fishmoor Res at 16:10, seemingly plummeting from the sky only to land out of sight on the roof. Fortunately the Gulls were spooked shortly after and it then flew to the water just before darkness fell.

11th Dec: Having turned down the opportunity of a lift to the Burniston Desert Wheatear, I spent from mid-morning birding locally. A fifteen minute scan of Clowbridge Reservoir revealed no sign of the Great Northern Diver. Seven Goldeneye and 5 Goosander were noted. The 1stw Glaucous Gull wasn't located at Fishmoor Res in the evening, and 30 minute (IE brief) checks of both Withnell Landfill Site and Whinney Hill Tip mid morning also drew a blank. Only the next couple of nights will reveal whether this bird has actually moved on. Just the beautiful regular adult Med Gull (above) of any note in the roost.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Local birding - 8th & 9th Dec 2007.

8th Dec: Called in briefly at Clowbridge Reservoir in poor weather to see the Great Northern Diver actively feeding along the far side of the reservoir. This was followed by a visit to Fishmoor Res just after 15:00 en route home to find the 1stw Glaucous Gull roosting on the former Corus factory roof to the south of the site in conditions so appallingly wet and windy it became impossible to view through the scope after thirty minutes onsite.

9th Dec: All night TV pay-per-view coverage of the Hatton v Mayweather fight did not finish until almost 06:30, so despite feeling tired I decided to stay up and go out at first light. First port of call was to check Fishmoor just before 08:00 to find 99% of the Gulls had already left the roost. Withnell Landfill was the next destination, but hardly any Gulls appeared to be present. The only other place likely to hold the Glauc was Whinney Hill Tip, a site sadly devoid of Gulls for the previous two winters for reasons put down to probable efficent bird scaring tactics. It was pleasing to see at least 100 Herring Gull over the site and the Glauc was soon located amongst them, but due to the lack of tipping on a Sunday the Gulls chose to spend much of the next hour largely out of sight, inactive, atop a large, high plateau area within the site, the Glaucous only giving three flight views and two views on the ground, all brief. Twenty Siskin flew low past me, 24 Meadow Pipit were present in the Tip and two delightful Goldcrest gave views down to three feet.

Above: 1stw Glaucous Gull - Whinney Hill Tip, Altham, Lancs - 9th Dec 2007.

I had hoped to spend a full day in the field but sadly fatigue took a firm grip soon after, so I returned home for a revitalising brew only to collapse on the setee in a prone position reminiscent of gallant Ricky in the 10th for the remainder of the afternoon!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Local birding - Glaucous Gull - 5th Dec 2007.

The 1stw Glauc was at Withnell Landfill Site until 13:00 at least, remaining in view long enough in an adj field for Bill Gregory to twitch what was a new bird for him all the way from Leighton Moss. Well done Bill! - The Glauc came into roost at Fishmoor Res from 15:20 in near gale force winds. Ad Med Gull also roosted at Fishmoor plus 19 Goosander and a Peregrine flew over.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Local birding - Glaucous Gull - 4th Dec 2007.

Decided to visit Fishmoor Res at first light to see which direction the 1stw Glauc would head off in; east towards Whinney Hill Tip, Altham or west towards Withnell Landfill Site off the A675 at M65 Jcn3, SD639239. I located the Glauc on the roosting roof at 07:45 (See above videograb), in thoroughly miserable drizzly conditions and it was not until 08:10 that it flew straight into the murk giving me no definate indication of flight direction, but a hunch that it had flown west.

I then left it until early afternoon before visiting Withnell Landfill and succeeded in locating the Glauc in an adj field where it remained for 25 mins with only a single Herring Gull for company in that particular field. A local Falconer, hired twice weekly by the owners of the site 'Biffa', appeared and duly spooked all Gulls onsite.

The next sighting of the Glauc was back on the factory roof at Fishmoor Res, c15:40 -dusk, but was largely out of sight. It appeared to have flown directly onto the roof instead of pre-roosting on the water first causing fellow East Lancs birders Bill Berry, Bob Ashworth and Tony Bennett to dip unfortunately. Bob & Bill Berry also had an adult Med Gull.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cumbria - 30th Nov & 1st Dec 2007.

A two night stay at a property named 'Cannon Close' at Storrs on the outskirts of Bowness-on-Windermere, SD398954, with Pam and my Parents unfortunately coincided with really miserable weather conditions. However some decent birds were had in between the squally showers and the Shops!
30th Nov: Up at first light and around the grounds of 'Cannon Close' which overlooks Windermere. From the bedroom window, c70 Tufted Duck, 3 Goldeneye, 1pr Red-breasted Merganser and 86 Coot were 'offshore'. I was disappointed that no Hawfinch were seen or heard around the grounds as on my previous two stays at the property, but weather conditions were not very conducive. There was also a Grey Squirrel in the grounds. I'm not sure as to the status of Greys in this part of Cumbria, but perhaps it's presence should be reported to someone?
Driving to Grasmere two female Scaup could be seen from the car with the naked eye as they fed close to the nigh-on-impossible to park along stretch of the A591 at Rydal Water. Nontheless I risked the chance of a multi vehicle pile up and managed to obtain a few photos without really being able to enjoy the birds before having to drive on.

Above: Two fem Greater Scaup - Rydal Water, Cumbria - 30th Nov 2007.

Keswick was the next destination after Grasmere. By now the weather was appalling so following another tour of shops I made the decision to drive to the coast in the hope that the weather would improve a little away from the fells. This proved to be the case, so a little birding time was had at both Maryport and Workington Harbours with the highlight being an adult Mediterranean Gull at Workington Harbour.

Above: Ad Med Gull & Turnstone - Workington Harbour, Cumbria - 30th Nov 2007.
Back at 'Cannon Close' before dark and a vigil at the Trees where I had seen Hawfinch perch in a pre-roost manner on previous visits again drew a blank. We had to vacate the premises by 10:00 the next morning and I was hell bent on not dipping on Hawfinch at the site where I had experienced veritable fests of up to 9 birds in the past!
1st Dec: Again up at first light with the aim of seeing a Hawfinch a priority, but despite two hours of scanning there was not a sniff of said Finch in and around the grounds. The weather had improved but was still showery, with some hail. 10:00hrs arrived and my Mum suggested we all take a final stroll to the waters edge at the foot of the garden. Upon arrival I noticed a bird perched prominently atop a tree a few gardens away. Through the 'bins' it was clearly a Hawfinch and I legged it back to the car for my scope and camcorder. Fortunately the Hawfinch was still present when I arrived back and I even managed to force everyone to take a look through the scope without too much resistance! Indeed, I had to forcibly remove my Mum from the eyepiece as she was holding up the queue!
Above: Hawfinch - 'Cannon Close' Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria - 1st Dec 2007.
Elated at having a Hawfinch finally under the belt and with my 100% record of connecting with this species at the site intact I was content for the remainder of the day!
See March and November 2006 archives for previous blog entries from this location.