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!