Leighton Moss & Conder Lake - 28th June 2009

A day without Reece today which was a shame as I got 2 lifers but now I know what I’m looking for I’m sure we’ll pick them up before heading off to Crete in 2 Weeks. Reece was busy playing rugby for Chorley Panthers against a team from Blackpool before the Blackpool vs Workington challenge cup match. Chorley Panthers won 64 – 0 though I will say their opponents were only arranged at the last minute (the original opponents pulled out) and only 8 of their players turned up so they ended up playing 10 vs 8.
Anyway back to my birding day. I was accompanied by Howard, a friend who joins us now and again on our trips out, first to Leighton Moss, then onto Conder Lake and a quick stop at Pilling Lane End before heading home.
First stop was the Allen hide with a few warblers sighted amongst the reeds on the walk up but only able to ID a Sedge Warbler and 2 possible juvenile Willow Warblers. From the Hide I saw Redshank 13, Gadwall 1, Little Egret 2, Lapwing, Black Tailed Godwit 100+, Shellduck, Teal, Oystercatcher and Heron. There was no sign of the reported Wood Sandpiper that was seen yesterday. Around to the Eric Morecambe Hide with some similar sightings but with the light not much chance for any photos. Greenshank and Spotted Redshank were the 2 lifers I saw from here, both hard to pick out due to the light. I spotted the Greenshank first at the far side of the pool feeding next to a Dunlin whilst the 2 Spotted Redshank had been no less than 10 meters away from us amongst some Redshank. It had taken a more observant birder than I to spot them, my excuse being they were hard to pick out in the light,as you can see in the photo. We got chatting to a fellow birder who told us about a place only ten minutes from us were he’s regularly seen a Short Eared Owl so hope to report from there soon. Further sightings from here included 3 more Little Egret, Redshank, Little Gull 2, Black Tailed Godwit, Black Headed Gull, Gadwall, Teal, Greylag, Cormorant, Pied Wagtail, Shoveler and 2 Greater Black Backed Gull.
Last Stop at Leighton was the public hide, I usually get good views of the Marsh Harrier from here but we only get a brief view of one as it landed between some distant trees. We also missed an Osprey that had been fishing successfully 30 minutes before but did manage a Sparrowhawk that was being mobbed by Swallows as it flew over and 4 Buzzard to the left of the hide in the distance. Not much else to report here but I did manage to see my first juvenile Black Headed and Greater Black Backed Gulls. As we headed back to the car we saw another Marsh Harrier, again only a brief view as it flew over the path and landed nearby but out of view.
We had planned to head down to Heysham but with time not being on our side we went straight down to Conder Lake to see what the high tide would bring in on the estuary. Again plenty of Redshank and a large flock of Starling plus a Greenshank and 2 Spotted Redshank but not much else to report. On the lake we faired a little better with again more Redshank, 2 Ringed Plover (1 Juvenile), Tufted Duck, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail and Black Headed Gull.
We did call in briefly at Pilling Lane End on the way back but with the change of weather and with just some distant Shellduck and Gull plus a Curlew overhead we joined the queues of traffic heading home along the M55.

Brockholes Quarry - 27th June 2009

Weather hasn’t been too good today but we decided to head down to Brockholes this evening as Reece is playing rugby in Blackpool tomorrow, so no chance of getting out.
We pretty much stayed on the main pit apart from a brief excursion to the viewpoint overlooking the east end of no. 1 pit where we saw 3 Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, 8 Tufted Duck, Rook, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Mute Swan, Coot and at leas 70+ Canada Geese.
Over on the main pit Reece spotted the Green Sandpiper that had been reported on the Brockholes forum earlier in the day plus 3 Teal (2 drake), Ringed Plover, 29 Black Headed Gulls, Coot, Heron, Lapwing, Moorhen, the usual Mallard, Reed Bunting and Magpie. I spotted a few warblers darting around the reeds on both pits but it was to dark and the sightings to brief to identify any of them. With the rain not seeming to want to stop and the light being poor we decided to head back early.

Preston Docks - 25th June 2009

After reading Neil’s post on the Lancashire thread on Birdforum we decided to head down to Preston docks for half an hour to get Reece another lifer. As soon as we walked down the apartment side of the docks we saw what we'd come to see as a Common Tern fly over us towards the Ribble beyond. Along the pontoons on the apartment side of the docks were 10+ Lesser Black Backed Gulls, 2 Coot, 1 Pied Wagtail and 2 Mallard families. We thought that was it for the Tern but it wasn’t long before Reece spotted another in the air and we watched it as it flew towards the exit of the docks and back around again until it eventually settled at the end of the pontoons on the other side of the docks. After shooting off a few distant photos Reece spotted the female on a nest nearby putting the count to 3 for the evening.
It was while deciding if we should head over to the other side of the docks to see if we could get some better photos the first Tern reappeared, landing half way down the pontoon on our side of the docks. Decision made we stayed put watching the other Tern chase off some nearby Gulls while the one close by sat preening. We finally found the 4th Tern on its nest not to far from were we were stood, how we missed it when we arrived I’ll never know but the female was quite clearly sat there and must have been the whole time we were there. A few more photos and we headed off, we’ll probably call back at the weekend to see if there are any chicks and try and get some better photos.

Cuerden Valley Park & Brockholes Quarry - 24th June 2009

What a gorgeously sunny day so a trip down to Brockholes in the evening was inevitable. First stop of the day though was a walk through Cuerden Valley Park with the dogs, not much chance of birding but we did spot a few things as we were dragged round. We entered the park via the Wigan road car park having walked up the A49 from Bamber Bridge and the usual Chiffchaff was singing from the top of one of the trees. We had intended to check out the Dragonfly pond which is just to the right of the path but having the dogs with us we didn’t think it was a good idea, but well worth a visit if you are in the area. On the walk around we noticed several flocks of Long Tail Tit families as well as Blue and Great Tit. Carrion Crow, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Swallow, Swift, House and Sand Martin were also around in numbers. We didn’t head up into the woods so none of the usual species we usually see when we visit. There is a small pond to the right as you approach the field with the picnic tables on that are worth a look if you’re looking for tadpoles and damselflies. We counted at least 4 species and will post the type as soon as we find out what they are.

Brockholes was another interesting night with two species we hadn’t seen in a while on the main pit. Reece picked out a single drake Wigeon feeding on the NE end of the pit while 2 Redshank were feeding on the edge of the islands. Plenty of Lapwing and Coot, still no sign of young though we did spot 2 young Moorhen towards the end of the night, one climbing a shrub! Only a single Heron tonight which is unusual along with a Curlew, a little ringed and ringed plover. Only 1 Cormorant on the No. 1 pit along with the usual array of Gulls.

In search of the Red Backed Shrike @ Brockholes Quarry 21st June 2009

We spent the afternoon down at Brockholes Quarry in search of the Red Backed Shrike that had been seen the previous night. Thanks again for the phone call Mike, but it was the only night I couldn’t drop everything as I was watching Russell Howard at Preston Guild Hall.
We searched the area it was seen along with 3 other birders between 13.30 and 16.00 to no avail, a shame because it’s a bird on both our wish lists. We’re off to Crete soon so may get the chance to them there, fingers crossed.
On Pit No. 1 were 9 Cormorant, 3 Oystercatcher, 12 Coot and a mix of 25 Lesser Black Backed and Herring Gull. On the Main Pit were 30+ Lapwing, 6 Oystercatcher and at least 3 Herron.
Other notable sightings in the area were Carrion Crow, Swift, Swallow, House and Sand Martin, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Long Tailed and Great Tit.

Red Backed Shrike courtesy of Mike Foley taken @ Brockholes Quarry 20th June 09

We also saw amongst the meadow several Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) pictured below.

Brockholes Quarry 19th June 2009

Spent an hour or so down at Brockholes Quarry again last night. The usual 4 Carrion Crow were calling as walked the approach road and plenty of Swift and the odd Sand Martin graced the air above. On the main pit amongst the usual sightings were 1 Ringed Plover, 3 Curlew, a drake Teal and a Kestrel in search of food.

I also took these 2 photos with my mobile through my scope. I’m struggling with the ID of the gull amongst the Black Headed, I first thought an immature Little Gull but it has been suggested an immature Kittiwake. Any help would be appreciated either via a comment or email (further down the blog on the right).

India Mill, Darwen - 15th June 2009

I was working down at India Mill in Darwen today and the guy I was visiting pointed out one of the resident nesting Peregrines perched on the top of the chimney. Not sure if it was the male or female as I didn’t have my binoculars with me. He wasn’t sure if they had hatched any chicks yet as usually they are quite vocal and he had heard nothing of them as yet. The Warton Crag chicks are reasonably advanced so I would thought if they haven’t hatched yet maybe they won’t be successful this year. I’m not sure how many young they have raised over the years but as they have been returning since 1989 I think it will be a fair few. Just shows what an adaptable bird it is though with all the pigeons around they wouldn’t go short of a meal.

South Stack RSPB - 14th June 2009

This was our first trip to South Stack, as you can see by the many lifers but I’m sure it won’t be our last. As we pulled up into the car park it was very misty and the hope of seeing anything along the cliff edges didn’t look to good. Not to be deterred we kitted up and headed down the trail towards the RSPB visitors centre to find out where the best viewpoints are. Amongst the heather and gorse we spotted both a male and female Linnet and soon after a Stonechat showed well enough to take a few photos. The mist had dispersed by the time we arrived at the visitors centre and we had good views of the nesting Guillimot and Razorbill. Plenty of Gull flying around, mainly Herring but also Lesser and Greater Black Backed could be seen on the cliff. It wasn’t long before we saw the first and second Chough of the day flying around the cliff next to the visitors centre with its unmastakable call. What we were really looking for though were Kittiwake and Fulmar, the kittiwake came first having heard there distinctive call we picked one out gliding along the edge of the cliff. The Fulmar came later; we climbed to the top of the cliff to another car park and took the steps (400!) down towards the lighthouse. There are plenty of places to stop on the way down to rest, I mean watch the nesting birds along the cliffs and it was here we found a nesting pair on the lighthouse island. We also saw a few gliding around the cliff edges and it was here where I shot my best photo to date. It might not be perfectly focused but to get the shot I did of the Fulmar on the wing so close was just amazing for me. As we descended further we spotted a pair of Puffin, another lifer for both of us and a bird I’ve wanted to see for a very long time. We didn’t cross to the lighthouse itself as we didn’t have to much time though it does look a good spot to watch the cliffs from so maybe next time. Back up the steps more Chough, a few photos and an ice-cream and we were back at the cliff edge watching the nesting birds flying in and out. It was here we saw the Raven trying its chances with the Guillimot and as you can see it managed an egg after about 10 minutes of trying and another Raven soon took its place soon after the first had flown. A quick look around the visitors centre and it was back to the car with a Rock Pipit in-between. The visitors centre is worth a look as they have live feeds of nesting Chough, a ‘today’s sightings’ board and plenty of wardens to chat to.

Brockholes Quarry 12th June 2009

An hour down at Brockholes on my own tonight brought sightings of 2 Little Ringed Plover and the Common Sandpiper on the main pit. There were 4 Carrion Crow as I walked down the approach road and 2 Pied Wagtail as I left but pretty much the usual across the 2 pits. A group of about 30 Coot congregated on pit no. 1 for about half an hour but dispersed as a large flock of Canada Geese flew in to roost.
Hoping for a trip over to South Stack cliffs on Sunday so watch this space for an abundance of lifers and other sightings.

Brockholes Quarry - 8th June 2009

We decided to put an Hour in at Brockholes Quarry this evening as there wasn’t any rain about and it might be he only time we get down this week.
On the main pit we searched for the previously thought nesting Little Ringed Plover and found it in the same area but not looking like it was nesting and no sign of its potential mate. Also 1 Common Sandpiper though it didn’t hang around for long, 1 Redshank, 4 Curlew, 15 Oystercatcher, 20+ Lapwing, 2 Heron and the usual mix of Swallow, Swift and Sand Martin. A brief look on the main pool brought us a immature Greater Black Backed Gull amongst 8 Lesser Black Backed but nothing much else to report.

Martin Mere - 7th June 2009

Well not a bad day birding by all accounts with a lifer for both of us and hitting the 50 different species target we had set ourselves at the beginning of the day. We decided to start early, well earlier than we usually visit Martin Mere anyway, by getting there for opening time at 9.30.
By the time we had walked down to the Ron Barker hide via the In Focus shop to see what was around we’d clocked up 14 species with Goldfinch, Wood Pigeon, Swallow, Mallard, Pochard, Moorhen, Coot, Shellduck, Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Long-Tailed Tit, Tree Sparrow and Collard Dove. We then joined the hardened birders (well most were dressed in full camouflage and had more equipment than most can afford never mind carry), who had no doubt turned up to find the Green Sandpiper and the American Wigeon.
We spent 2 hours hoping to catch sight of either to no avail though our count for the day increased to 36 with Avocet (including several young), Black Headed and Greater Black Backed Gulls, Pheasant, 3 Whooper Swan, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, Redshank (including young), Dunlin, Gadwall, Oystercatcher, Teal, Swift, Shoveler, Canada Geese, Lapwing, 30+ Black Tailed Godwit, Tufted Duck, Starling, Water Rail, Linnet and Carrion Crow. Hunger took over and we headed back to the visitors centre to grab a sandwich. After our lunch we headed down to the Marsh Harrier hide calling in the other hides on the way down. Our sightings increased to 49 with Blue and Great Tit, Greenfinch, House Martin, Little Grebe, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Skylark, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Wren and Jackdaw.
We thought we’d be stuck on 49 but a chance second visit to the In Focus shop and we saw the Green Sandpiper sat in front of the Raines Hide.
Having hit our target we headed home calling in at Meresands Wood for half an hour on the way back. Not much close to the car park but we did manage to see a family of Great Crested Grebe as well as a Jay and a Mistle Thrush that posed well enough for Reece to grab a few shots.

Brockholes Quarry 6th June 2009

Not much time for birding this week apart from the odd hour at Stags Lodge out with the boys, Jasper and Kiaser our Border Collies. Though it’s not a bad area for birding it’s hard to combine the two sometimes with throwing tennis balls and frisbee’s to try and tire them out!. Thanks to those who check in to see what we’ve been up to, it’s okay to say ‘Hello’ just use the comments box bellow the posts.
Up to Brockholes for an hour or so as the rain seemed to be holding off this evening.
Plenty of Swift as we arrived with 30+ feeding over the River Ribble along with the odd Sand Martin. Down the approach road and a Carrion Crow was perched on a fence post. We then spent an hour in the company of Mike who had been watching 2 Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper on the Main Pit but we only managed the Plover. It looked like they may be nesting as one was displaying and the other seemed to be settling down in the same spot, we’ll keep our eye out on the area to see what happens. Apart from the usual Mallard, though there does seem to be a few hybrid, Mute Swan, 20+ Lapwing, Canada Geese +3 gosling, and 50+ Swift there wasn't much else about.
We spent the last 15 minutes watching the banks at the east end of No. 1 pit and Reece thought he’d spotted a Mediterranean Gull amongst the Black Headed Gull but once we’d found the page in the book and checked back through the scope to confirm it’s markings it had gone. It did look slightly smaller than the Black Headed around it and had only slight markings on the head suggesting an immature bird but we haven’t marked it as a tick as we couldn’t totally confirm the ID. A single Greater Black Backed Gull was also on the banks but no sign of any Plover or Waders. Plenty of Tufted Duck, again more Swift and 20+ Canada Geese roosting on the far side but not much else to report from the No 1 pit.
Back for a quick look at the main pit before we left and we spotted a Curlew flying in. We’d heard one calling earlier in the evening and a quick sweep with the binoculars brought the count to two.
Off Martin Mere tomorrow hopefully to see the American Widgeon and the Greenshank as neither of us have seen them.