Sunday, January 27, 2008

Local birding: GW Teal, Slav & GG Shrike - 27th Jan 2008.

A full day in the field with Gtr Manchester birders Phil Rhodes and Neil Tasker. Both were keen to see the Slavonian Grebe at Barrow Lodge and Great Grey Shrike at Hollins Farm, Higham.
Above: Great Grey Shrike, Hollins Farm, Higham - 27th Jan 2008.
Shortly after we set off on foot from the car parking area at Grove Lane Plantation, the pager alerted us to the presence of the Shrike at 10:08, only 15 minutes ago, but by the time of our arrival at Hollins Farm at 10:35 the GGS had dissappeared and it was over an hour later when Phil located the bird in the millenium planting at 11:45. After ten minutes of reasonable views, the Shrike began to move further up the long, northward extending belt of planting at which point we left bound for Barrow Lodge.
Above: Slav Grebe - Barrow Lower Lodge - 23rd Jan 2007.

Upon arrival, the 'big gun' photographers were out in force, and perhaps not surprisingly the Slav was maintaining its distance from the roadside bank of the lodge for the hour or so that we were onsite.
Now mid-afternoon, a decision was made to visit the Stocks area mindful of a significant arrival of wildfowl the previous day, and also in hope of perhaps a Hen Harrier or even the elusive Stocks Shrike.
First stop was the field opposite Dalehead Church and a walk up the road followed but no sign of the Shrike on any of the isolated Hawthorns. Next we stopped at the causeway where Margaret and Brian Breaks informed us of the scale of the wildfowl spectacle to be had further towards the bay following a further large overnight Duck influx to the site.
Viewing from the picnic area between the car park and first hide, it was indeed impossible not to be impressed with the number of Wildfowl present and a significant number of the 596+ Wigeon, 326+ Pintail and 540+ Teal counted earlier were on view with more Teal asleep on the far side of the reservoir. At 15:30, I had the good fortune to notice the vertical white stripe of a Green-winged Teal asleep and partially obscured on the far bank below Eak Hill. It wasn't until some 30 minutes later that the bird awoke and moved position revealing no anomalous features to suggest anything other than a pure GWT. In the poor light and at distance, the bird appeared to be an adult drake, unless any subsequent closer views indicate otherwise. The poor quality of the videograbs below reflect the poor light for videoing on 200x magnification.

Drake Green-winged Teal - Stocks Reservoir, Lancs - 27th Jan 2008.

Above: a fraction of the Wildfowl present on the open water. Just where do these huge mid-winter influxes of wildfowl to Stocks originate from, particularly Pintail?

Both drake Tufted x Pochard and female Ferruginous x Pochard hybrids were present today. A Common Buzzard heading to roost over the reservoir rounded off another excellent days birding in East Lancs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Local Birding: Slav Grebe, GG Shrike. 18th - 23rd Jan 2008.

The last five days has seen me covering local sites. Brockholes Quarry is as full as i've ever seen it. On the 21st Jan, the LWT staff had to evacuate their vehicles from the site as the River Ribble burst its banks submerging the access road outside the entrance gate. My visit on the 22nd saw the reappearance of the female Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid and my first Oystercatcher of the year at the site. Whilst watching the Oyc, I unwittingly flushed a Jack Snipe from bare mud, much to my utter frustration at another potential photographic opportunity missed! Also on the 22nd, an hour at Pleasington Old Hall Wood drew the almost predictable blank for Hawfinch.

Above: female Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid- Brockholes Quarry, Lancs - 22nd Jan 2008.

No Gulls of note have been located at the Fishmoor Reservoir roost despite daily coverage by up to six observers since 17th Jan, although a Bar-tailed Godwit flying amongst Lapwings during particularly wet and windy weather on the 22nd was a welcome bonus, and was from memory only my third mid-winter east lancashire 'Barwit'. Withnell Landfill Site has had virtually no Gulls so far this week and what Jackdaws are present appear to be spending much of their time on the inaccessible tipping area.

23rd Jan saw me put in 1.5hrs at Spring Wood, Whalley, location of the last ELOC Lesser Spotted Woodpecker sighting, and it predictably drew a blank for the target bird. It is now so long since I saw this species I'm beginning to feel psychologically beaten before I even enter woodland nowadays! I also revisited the Slavonian Grebe at Barrow Lower Lodge (my 3rd visit in recent days) and also the Great Grey Shrike which is still in residence by the River Calder east of Padiham, and was showing in & around riverside Hawthorns from 13:55-15:00 at least.

65 Pink-footed Geese > west over the GGS site - 23rd Jan 2008.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Local birding: Caspian and Glaucous Gulls - Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 17th Jan 2008.

Above: 1stw Caspian Gull. Although taken at distance, these images show the jizz, white headed appearance with obvious 'shawl' effect of streaks on nape, predominantly white underparts, pale borders to greater coverts with rather dark outers, 'thumbnail' tertials, good primary projection and long, dark, parallel bill. There was also a small area of dark smudging around the eye. Difficult to judge extent of grey feathering to upperparts, but certainly present. Long legged appearance in lower image.

Above: 1stw Caspian Gull. On the open left wing, a faint pale window to inner primaries, dark secondaries separated from main body of greater covert feathers by pale tips to the latter. Extensive pale underwing of right wing.

Above: 1stw Caspian Gull. Three images showing the broad, black tail band extending right across and of equal width, and basally white uppertail with some dark spotting. A dark line of barring on the uppertail can be seen just in from the tail band.
Above: 1stw Caspian Gull. Long-legged appearance.
This fabulous Caspian Gull was located halfway across the factory roosting roof to the south of the reservoir in difficult conditions with a constant, strong south-westerly in my face. In this wind my eyes were watering so much I had to hope that the camcorder/scope was clearly focused on the bird for much of the time I had it under observation. Any dog walker within earshot would have been able to clearly hear me swearing loudly at the wind to calm down as I battled the elements to secure supportive images before it could walk out of view on the roof or fly at any second. Mild panic would be an understatement but the Camcorder once again proved its worth!
As it happens, the wind actually played to my advantage, unsettling the Caspian Gull and allowing crucial features such as the pale underwing and tail pattern to be videod.
It was a large bird, noticeably larger than nearby argenteus Herring Gulls and was considered to be a big male Caspian.
Twice the Gulls flew up and scattered widely before eventually relanding. Following the second occasion the Gulls flew, I barely had time to 'blog' a 1stw Glaucous Gull as I desperately tried to refind the Caspian, but did not succeed in relocating it before darkness fell.
Above & Below: 1stw Glaucous Gull - Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 17th Jan 2008.

Finding and fully documenting my own East Lancashire Caspian Gull was my primary objective for winter 2007/2008. A magic and long awaited moment!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Moor Piece Ringing Session - 16th Jan 2007.

A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon was spent at Moor Piece helping the assistant warden of Fair Isle no less, aka Mark Breaks, as he conducted a ringing session in a private garden.

1stw male Great Spotted Woodpecker


Adult Robin

1stw Dunnock
Coal Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Mark Breaks extracts another Coal Tit from the mist net.
Of 49 birds trapped and ringed, c2/3 of the total was comprised of Coal Tits. Other birds seen but not ringed included 1+ Siskin, 1 male Brambling and Mark also saw a Woodcock fly through the garden.
Mid-morning saw a visit to Withnell Landfill, but the Jackdaws were not in the fields betwen the tip and M65, whilst a look through the Gulls failed to reveal anything of note. Enroute to Moor Piece I simply had to pay homage to the superb Slavonian Grebe present at Barrow Lower Lodge for the fourth day.

Nordic Jackdaw - Catforth, Lancs - 15th Jan 2008.

Stuart Piner kindly sent me these pictures of a Jackdaw showing Nordic features, one of two similarly marked birds present in a flock of c30 Jackdaw in fields by his home in Catforth, NW of Preston.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Local birding: Slav Grebe, Nordic Jackdaw & Iceland/Glaucous Gull - 13th Jan 2008.

News broke mid-morning of a Slavonian Grebe, a major east lancashire rarity, at Barrow lower Lodge adj to the A59, south of Clitheroe.
Whilst en-route, John Wright and I noticed a flock of c30 Jackdaw feeding on Pleckgate School Playing Fields, Blackburn, SD681303, which we felt compelled to check for the presence of any possible Nordic Jackdaw. The shock result in the dull light conditions was that virtually all the Jackdaw present showed traces of a half collar, the bird below being the most well marked of the flock.

At Barrow Lodge, the Slavonian Grebe put on a virtuoso performance for the inevitable gathering of many local birders, showing to within feet of the bank at times allowing good photos and simply stunning scope views.

Above: Margaret Breaks eagerly 'snaps' away at the Slav.

What a great bird......its been a long time coming!
The day ended on a frustrating note at the Fishmoor Reservoir roost, where in near darkness at 16:40 I briefly saw an adult Iceland/Glaucous Gull on the factory roof which evaded positive ID.