Gull Roosts - 30th December 2009

Late afternoon we decided to head over to Rishton reservoir to try and get some better record shots of a Black Necked Grebe that has been showing well for nearly a week now. As is usual when we turn up at any site hoping to see or photograph anything of interest the Black Necked Grebe decided it didn't want to make an apperance even though whilst there we were reliably informed it had been showing well earlier in the day. Never mind 5+ Goosander, 9 Cormorant, 3 Tufted Duck, 50+ Canada Geese, Lapwing and a Sparrowhawk that we breifly saw taking an interest in a Mallard kept us entertained in the cold. Oh sorry forgot to mention the large Gull roost there also, as you may well know we arn't the best at Gull identification but Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed, Common and Herring Gull were certainly amongst the 500+ roosting.
Next was on to Mcd's for a warming coffee then up to Fishmore reservoir to see if we could pick out the 1st winter Glaucous Gull that had been seen the previous evening. Having doing a little reading we thought it would be reasonably easy to pick it out from the other Gulls roosting but after nearly an hour scanning the area we couldn't pick it out, if it was there at all this evening. There must have been at least 3000 Gulls roosting and more coming in as we left. Also sighted was a small flock of Canada Geese which disturbed a large area of Gulls as they flew in and 3 Goosander. We've decided to invest in a good Gull id book (have you seen the price!!) and hopefully improving our identification skills.

Fish 1 Cormorant 0 - 29th December 2009

The plan was to visit Barrow Lodge to get some more photo's of the still resident Velvet Scoter (yes the pentax was fully charged!), then head on up to Pendle Hill to see if we could find the Snow Buntings. Well the lodge was thawing so even though it was still present it was out of reach of the Pentax and its 300mm lens and the top of Pendle Hill wasn't visible so we decided not to risk what would have been our first journey up to the sumit.
So where did we go?? Having read both Jonny's and Zac's blogs I thought a trip over to Fleetwood to try and pick up on some lifers in the way of  Tundra, Taiga Bean and a White Fronted Geese but not not knowing the area and not having a grid ref there was no way of finding them, (also missed the Ring-Necked Duck at Thornton ICI we drove right past the place!!).
We parked up near the docks and had a quick look around with the usual Gulls, 200+Oystercatcher and 50+ Redshank. Next stop was Fleetwood boating lake with 3 Merganser and a single Tufted Duck the only thing of note.


Driving between Rossall and Bispam Reece spotted Pinkfooted in a field so it was about turn to check if anything else was feeding with them. All we could find were a Whooper Swan, Lapwing and 100+ Pinkfooted with more passing over head.
On to Fairhaven Lake first checking out the waders on the shore with Redshank, Curlew, 8 Snipe and 100+ Shellduck. Round the lake (and to the thread title) we looked out for the reported Shag (though it was a while ago) but all we could find were Cormorant. As we walked around the lake a Cormorant pulled a very large flat fish onto the side of the lake and attempted to consume it. A family walked up behind it, one of them taking a photo with his phone, Reece was also attempting to photograph it with the Pentax but as it works slightly different than the Lumix....................... Well having taken a photo the family continued towards the feeding Cormorant scaring it off then proceeded to throw the still live fish back into the lake. Reece wasn't to happy and Im sure the Cormorant wasn't either!


Our sightings on the lake (apart from the Cormorant) included Tufted Duck, a Female Goldeneye, Moorhen, Mallard, 3 Fieldfare, Jackdaw (not on the lake), the usual Gulls and a Little Grebe.



The last stop was Newton Marsh and at first glance there seemed to be nothing around but with a look through the binoculars we counted 100+ Curlew and 40+ Lapwing with a Buzard and 10 Golden Plover being added once we scoped the area.

Marton Mere (the bogey bird gets ticked) - 26th December 2009

The plan was to head over to Marton Mere to see the roosting Long Eared Owls and then walk around the mere to see what else was about. Well having only found 1 of the Owls (there have been reports of 3) and watching 2 Fieldfare feeding on the nearby apple trees and also bullying the local Blackbird population we headed around to the container hide.


Having counted off 120+ Teal, 4 Canada Geese and several Cormorant I saw a bird fly through my binoculars slightly out of focus. Reece shouted Bittern as it headed into the reedbed and out of view, high fives all round and finally we tick the elusive Bittern.
Birds on the mere included 2 Goldeneye, 10 Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Water Rail, Moorhen, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull, 2 Greater Black Backed Gull and Mute Swan.


Around the mere we spotted Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Long Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Carrion Crow, Magpie and Redwing. We finally in ended up in the feeder hide and added Greenfinch, Pheasant, Dunnock, Coal Tit and Reed Bunting to our list for the day.

Before leaving we recieved a text from Mike saying there was 20 Snow Bunting on Pendle Hill but with both cold and wet feet we decided to give the climb a miss, maybe later in the week?

Barrow Lodge, Clitheroe - 24th December 2099

After an email from Mike on Tuesday about the Velevet Scoter we finaly headed down to Barrow Lodge hoping it was still around. After parking in the snow at the bottom of the lodge I stepped out and found it pretty much straight away on the small unfrozen section of the lodge. There's a path running up at the back of the lodge so we headed up standing next to the bin and geting superb views of what looks to be a female. I pulled the Pentax out and readied it for what should have been some great shots but alas the battery needed charging and it would not come to life!! Luckily Reece had the Lumix and took all the photo's on the blog for this visit. If it stays around for a few more days I might head over again with a fully charged Pentax and get some more photo's as to see a Velvet Scoter at such close range and inland is a rarity indeed.


Other sightings from the lodge included Heron, Mallard, Black Headed Gull, Grey and Pied Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Wren, Robin, Blue and Great Tit.



Back Yard Birding - 21st December 2009

We only topped up and increased the amount of feeders we have in our back yard two weeks ago but we've had numerous visitors especialy since the recent cold snap. Blue and Great Tit are regular visitors as well as a large flock of Goldfinch on Sunday. Reece spotted a Robin this morning and we also have Blackbird, Magpie and Collard Dove. A recent visitor has been the Blackbird (photographed below), it's not the first Blackbird with white markings we've had in the area as we had one last year but with white chest markings. We wondering if anyone has had any Blackbird sightings with similar markings as this is the only area we have seen them.

Martin Mere in the snow - 20th December 2009

We spent a couple of hours back up at Martin Mere paying a brief visit to most of the hides. We started as usual at the Ron Barker hide and worked our way back paying our usual visit to the cafe for a coffee and a bacon and sausage sandwich to help take the chill off, well it would be rude not to!
Sightings on the walk down included Dunnock, Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird, Tree Sparrow, Pheasant and Wood Pigeon, so nothing out of the ordinary there.


The hides were quiet with the weather being so bad but there were plenty of Pinkfooted and Whooper Swan on show as well as Wigeon, Greylag, Shellduck, Teal, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Pintail, Shoveller and a single Ruddy Duck.

The surprise was the mostly white, and what we think is a Ruff amongst other Ruff feeding in front of the Raines Hide.



Other sightings included Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Siskin, Song Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Pied Wagtail and Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

Cottam Brickworks, Preston - 12th December 2009

With some better directions (thanks Mike) to the feeder at Cottam Brickworks we decided to head out and see if we could catch up with the Willow Tit. First stop was to get some wellies for Reece after getting wet feet wandering around last week.
After arriving I followed the directions as I thought them but again ended up in the wrong area so after retracing our steps we soon found the feeder and set up camp waiting for the Willow Tit to make an appearance. Frequent visitors to the feeders while we waited were Great and Blue Tit as well as Chaffinch and a couple of Blackbirds feeding on the ground. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker turned up behind us but didn’t venture onto the feeder. After around half an hours wait it made a very brief appearance and Reece missed it but he wasn’t disappointed for long as it made two again brief returns the longest behind the feeder making photo opportunities non existent.


Having seen what we came for we decided to put the wellingtons to good use and trudge around the area as we did last week. Other sightings included more Magpies than we could count, Black Headed Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, a flock of 40 Long Tailed Tit, Dunnock, Wren and Robin.

A Morning of Threes at Cuerden Valley Park - 12th December 2009

Not a bad walk up at CVP this morning with a few sightings I haven’t seen in a while.

The 3’s included Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Roe Deer, Nuthatch, Jay and Treecreeper the latter being part of a very large Tit flock that included 25+ Long Tailed feeding within meters of me (one of those days I wish I’d taken the camera!)
Other sightings included a Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Robin and fewer Wren than I normaly see/hear.
On the lake was the usual lone Canada, Mallard, 30 Black Headed Gull, Coot and Moorhen, no sign of the Great Crested Grebe but with a guy fishing from the bench I usually look from I only had a quick look.

Martin Mere WWT, Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB - 11th December 2009

I decided to take the day off work and with the wind and rain holding off (but not the cold) I dropped Reece off at school and headed over to Martin Mere.

On the walk down to the Ron Barker hide there were the usual mix of finches, Tits, Tree Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird and a female Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Upstairs from the hide were a large mix of birds but nothing much out of the ordinary and the only raptor showing was a single Buzzard. Pinkfooted Geese were in large numbers in a distant field as well as 10 Barnacle Geese, Whooper Swans flew over in small numbers also as I watched. Ducks included Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Shellduck while waders were restricted to Lapwing and a 10 Black Tailed Godwit.

 A couple of Heron, Pheasant, Cormorant and a Greater Black Backed Gull that flushed the Teal and Wigeon were the only other birds of note. My fingers were going numb with the cold so I decided to head for a coffee calling in the other hides briefly as I made my way back. Other sightings included a good number of Pintail, Greylag, a few Pochard and the surprise of a Ruddy Duck from the Swan Link hide. After a feed and a warming coffee I headed over to Marshside and just the Sandgrounders hide as I struggled with the sun from the viewing screens. It’s a while since I’d been here and was surprised by the sheer numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Black Tailed Godwit and Golden Plover. Pochard and Shoveler were around in small numbers as well as Pinkfooted Geese and the only raptors on show were 2 Kestrel, 1 being mobbed by 2 Magpie on the hedges to the left of the hide.
It was time to move on and with the weather being bright I decided to head down to Hesketh Out Marsh to see how the new RSPB reserve was doing after its opening.
Not surprisingly I was the only person around though before I left I was joined by 2 ‘grumpy old men’ who were visiting for the first time and a local birder who passed on his recent sightings from the site. I sat watching for several hours taking advantage of the lack of wind and rain but was slightly disappointed with the lack of species here, though maybe a walk up the flood defence wall would increase this. Redshank were on show in small numbers briefly taking to the air as they moved from pool to pool with their unmistakable call, also a few Curlew were apparent in the distant and became quite vocal as the sun began to set. Shellduck were around in small numbers and a flight of 6 Whooper Swan flew over mid afternoon. Robin, Wren, Lapwing, Cormorant and a large flock of Goldfinch took the species almost to its limit.
I’m undecided about my favourite sighting here, the toss up would be watching a flock of 8 Pied Wagtail and 6 Meadow Pipit feeding very close to the viewing platform throughout the afternoon or the Merlin that flew in several times (once almost taking a Redshank) in the last half hour before I left.


Later in the evening whilst taking my usual walk with the dogs I heard the local Tawny Owl calling from the Stags Lodge area of Cuerden Valley Park.

Lancashire Birding - 6th December 2009

Well the plan was to try for a few lifers as we hadn't been out for a few weeks and with the Willow Tit in Preston, Hawfinch up at Sizergh Castle, the possibility of the Slavonian Grebe still being at Pine Lake and a grid reference for 2 Short Eared Owls things looked good.

First stop was Cottam Brickworks, Preston to try and find the Willow Tit. We'd been told there is a feeder on the other side of a pond where it had been seen and some directions on how to find it. After an hour of trudging around the area and only a Jay, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits making any sort of appearance we decided it was time to give up and move on. As we headed back to the car we bumped into 2 separate birders and one had heard it the weekend before and was willing to let us tag along to the area. Another hour was then spent searching for the pond with the feeder but again to no avail. The bigger disappointment was that whilst wandering around we flushed a Woodcock but was seen by neither of us so nothing to add to the life list. We did manage 2 Snipe and as we left for a second time a small flock of House Sparrows. We've had a little more information via the Preston Society forum so hopefully this time next week we may have seen it.

Next stop was Pine Lake and hopefully see the Slavonian Grebe for Reeces list. I haven't seen it reported on rare bird alert but was hoping it was still there. Again we were disappointed but we did see Goldeneye, Goosander, Coot, Pochard, Tuffted Duck, Cormorant, Greater Black Backed, Herring and Black Headed Gull.

We then moved onto Leighton Moss and the Eric Morecambe hide, the area was quite flooded and very windy so our hopes weren't very high when we arrived. 40+ Redshank were sheltering at the far side of the pool as well as Wigeon feeding on the bank. Teal and Shellduck were around in numbers, 2 Merganser on the Allen Pool as well as c1000 Oystercatcher. Several Little Egret battled with the wind and c400 Lapwing took to the air as we left.

Driving away from Leighton Moss we both remarked on the lack of raptors around until Reece spotted a Kestrel which kindly landed on a telegraph pole so he could get a couple of shots off.

The last stop was the coast just north of Morecambe, we've spotted Eider before whilst driving past so this time we decided to pull over and have a proper look. Another large roosting flock of Oystercatcher sheltered on what was left of the shore along with the odd Redshank and Lapwing were also in small numbers. Out on the sea itself we spotted 3 Scaup (1 Male and 2 Female), 2 Merganser and 20 Eider.

Curden Valley Park - 5th December 2009

With Reece’s team playing away the last few weekends and work being busy there’s been no time for any birding, though every Saturday morning I take a walk up to Cuerden Valley Park with the dogs for an hour or two. I also trek up there most evenings but with the nights having drawn in all I see is the odd restless corvid at the large roosting spot and the sound of the resident Tawny Owl.

Today was quite dry but having the dogs with me its not always easy to follow up on some of the woodland calls but there was plenty to be seen none the less.
Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Magpie and Jay made up the corvids and it was unusual not to see Rook feeding in the fields amongst the sheep. Tit flocks included Long-Tailed, Great and Blue, nothing out of the ordinary as hard as I looked (I have seen Goldcrest here but not this year so far). Chaffinch were in numbers as well as a single flock of Goldfinch. Robin and Wren scattered across the park the latter heard rather than seen. The Lake didn’t pop up any surprises with 2 Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and a single Canada Goose. Also near the lake feeding amongst the pine trees were a flock of 30+ Siskin, close by in the woods were 2 Nuthatch and 2 of the 3 Greater Spotted Woodpecker that I saw on the walk around.
A home match tomorrow so fingers crossed we’ll be out tomorrow afternoon even if it’s only to find the Willow Tit reported in Preston over the last week or so

Southport Shorelark - 14th November 2009

With Reece lagging behind in the lifer stakes we decided to head up to Southport to see if we could find the Shorelark. Luckily we'd had a call from Mike who was already up there saying it was still showing well and that he'd hang around to point it out to us, thanks again. Light was poor but we did get some close views whilst we spent an hour and a half watching it. The top six photo's were taken by Reece with the Lumix and the rest with the Pentax by myself.

Update: After going through our life lists we found we hadn't seen Twite before and after seeing a flock 50+ whilst watching the Shorelark it was a supprise boost for Reeces list.