Local Birding - 27th/28th march 2010

I didn’t travel to far this weekend with just a visit to the Quarry, Brockholes Wetland and 3 trips up to the Stags Lodge area of Cuerden Valley Park.

The Quarry was eventful as usual if not a little disturbing by the lack of Raven. The male Peregrine was on the cliff face and calling as we arrived as well as 75+ Jackdaw. Wandering down to the base of the quarry once the male departed we noted 3 Little Grebe, 1 Coot, 3 Moorhen, 4 Mallard, 2 Canada Geese and a Domestic Goose. We didn’t stop down there long with the cold wind whirling around and the Little Grebe out of shot of my camera even when fitted with the x1.4 convertor. On the way back up we noticed a large crow dead on one of the islands, Reece managed a photo of what we are hoping is a Carrion Crow and as soon as I can confirm its ID I’ll post it here. The both Peregrine returned, the male first and took residence back on the cliff face, fingers crossed they’ll be nesting soon if we’re lucky. Other sightings on our visit included Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tit, Goldfinch, Robin, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove and Black-headed Gull.
I spend a lot of time up at Stags Lodge (Cuerden Valley Park) walking the dogs and noting the resident birds. Of late after reading several local blogs and forums I’ve been hoping for a summer migrant and on the evening of the 27th we weren’t disappointed as a Chiffchaff sat in a tree less then 3 meters from us. We took the camera up the next day in hope of seeing it again but though we heard it in the same area we couldn’t pick it out. Other recent sightings at Stags Lodge include Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Mallard, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jay, Jackdaw, Song Thrush, Robin & Wren.

A brief visit to Brockholes Wetland today began with a 15 minute view over No1 pit in a very cold wind before returning to the shelter of the main pool. As I arrived I took a call from Mike (Don't forget to take a look at Mike's blog) letting me know there was a Mediterranean Gull on the island. I headed over and looked through the Black-headed Gulls finding 2 Med Gulls which certainly was an improvement over last weeks visit. Other sightings included Lesser Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher c30, Mute Swan, Coot, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Cormorant, Canada Geese and Lapwing.
Back on the main pit I picked out a Barnacle Goose that seemed to have befriended one of the many Canada Geese. There were 2 Little Grebe, several Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler in small numbers as well as 2 Curlew, Tufted Duck more Black-headed Gull and a couple more Mute Swan. No sign of any Summer migrants but with the clock going back and evening visit isn’t out of the question and just maybe some Sand Martin soon.

Ravens & Peregrine - 21st March 2010

Having a few hours free we decided to head up to our favourite patch at the moment and try and get a better look around. We arrived at 10.00 just as Chris Rea was leaving, Chris has been watching the area for more than a year now and we’ve bumped in to him on a few occasions at the quarry. We set up as normal at the top of the quarry scanning the area, checking out the known spots for the Peregrine to no avail. One of the Ravens did fly around the quarry landing out of view and called several times. We headed down the track to the bottom of the quarry to try and get a better look around and during our visit to the base both the male and female Peregrine flew over and disappeared over the back of the quarry. We had our best views of the water down at the bottom of the track and logged 2 Mallard, 4 Moorhen, 1 Coot, 2 Grey Wagtail and 3 Little Grebe. 2 of the Little Grebe seemed to be nesting and could be heard calling on and off throughout our visit. Back up at our normal spot at the top of the quarry we saw the second Raven and both the Peregrine returned and were still roosting on the cliff face when we left just before 12.00. Other sightings on our visit included 5 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, 1 Blackbird, 2 Woodpigeon, 2 Herring Gull, 2 Magpie, 2 Carrion Crow, 2 Mistle Thrush and 2 Buzzard.

Brockholes Wetland - 20th March 2010

We spent 2 hours down at Brockholes this afternoon with the hope of seeing the Med. Gull that were reported there on Thursday or even some of the returning Sand Martin. We pulled up into the layby and scanned the Main Pool from the car as the rain had just started again. Canada Geese, Shoveler, Moorhen, Coot, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal, and Grey Heron could all be seen. Then just as Mike pulled up Reeces eagle eyes went to work and spotted 6 Snipe with a 7th seen later. A Redshank flew over calling as well as a number of Oystercatcher and even though we searched through the Black-headed Gull in hope of seeing a Med we had no luck. We then crossed over to scan No.1 Pool and the large Gull roost containing Herring, Lesser-black Backed and Black headed. We added Goldeneye and Lapwing to our list before Reece again picked out 2 Little Ringed Plover on the top end of the pool. 6 Snipe were on the island but when we returned to the Main Pool Reece checked and the Snipe had gone so they had probably crossed over. Nick Green spotted 2 more Little Ringed Plover on the island before we moved on taking the count to 4 for the day. Reece saw Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Robin, Wren Blue & Great Tit and Pied Wagtail on a walk up the path. On returning to the cars Bill arrived and we chatted for a while and added Buzzard, Magpie and Carrion Crow to the days list as well as 3 Roe Deer that were flushed by a group of walkers at the for side of the pool. 

Quarrying in the rain! - 20th March 2010

I called into the quarry for an hour in the rain this morning having not had the chance all week and wanting to try out the new Kenko 1.5 teleconverter I bought earlier this week. The male Peregrine was calling for a good forty five minutes, moving throughout the the quarry and even chasing Jackdaw at times. 3 Mallard, 1 Coot and 2 Little Grebe were on the water with Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tit flitting oround in the Trees. 2 Woodpigeon, 3 Stock Dove and 2 Herring Gull flew over and eventually the Raven appeared. They seemed to disappear into the cliff face with only one returning and visiting another nest before making a sweep of the quarry and departing. Talking to someone who visited the site last year, this was last years nesting site. I've also been told the Peregrine pair have been seen mating on several occasions this week, so watch this space.

Tufted x Scaup Hybrid @ Caelaverock WWT - 16th March 2010

I was working up in Dumfries again today and with Caerlaverock WWT being less than fifteen minutes away it would have been rude not to call in, if only for forty minutes. The intention was to try and photograph the Tufted x Scaup hybrid that has been seen from the Peter Scott Hide. Again I arrived at feeding time so the hide was pretty full but I managed to chat with one of the wardens who had just seen it and pointed me in the right area. I managed a few distant shots before moving upstairs for a better view. It was a hard bird to pick out from upstairs amongst the other drake Tufted and the fact it kept diving but I eventfully managed a few reasonable shots off before having to head home. A you can see from the photos it favours the Tufted form but lacks the tuft and has the grey back of a Scaup. Another noticeable feature of this bird is the black tip is less pronounced than on a drake Tufted.
The American Wigeon was still showing well amongst the other Wigeon and the Whooper Swan are still there including a few Lancashire birds so I’m sure they’ll be heading north soon. The 100+ Barnacle Geese could be seen in a distant field, I’d missed them on my last visit but Mike had told me were to look and it was hard to miss them. The usual mix of House Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer Chaffinch and Greenfinch could be seen on the hedges and feeders on the walk back.

Martin Mere WWT, Brockholes Wetland & The Local Quarry - 14th March 2010

We arrived at Martin Mere at 9.30 on the dot and by the time we walked up to the steps of the Ron Barker hide the top section was full so down we went. When we usually look out of the Ron Barker Hide at this time of year we count 100+ Wigeon feeding on the grass embankments but today not a 1!! We did manage to see 4 Buzzard, Lapwing, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ringed Plover, Teal, Shellduck, Curlew, Greater Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Whooper Swan and a Merlin which sat obligingly on the fence right in front of the hide for around five minutes.


The American Wigeon did finally show when a large flock of Wigeon flew in but not as near as the one I saw up at Caerlaverock the other week but at least Reece got his life tick.
We then moved on down to Brockholes Wetland with hope of seeing the Little Ringed Plover that was reported twice earlier in the week but no such luck on this occasion. On the main pit we were Shellduck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Redshank, Canada Geese, Buzzard, Kestrel, Carrion Crow as well as Chaffinch and Reed Bunting on the feeders. Over on what we could see of No.1 pit were Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher and a pair of Goldeneye. As we walked back from No. 1 pit we spotted a Green Woodpecker flying from the stream over the woods and towards the feeders.
Last stop was the quarry where we didn’t have time to stop and record our sightings as usual. We did see the male Peregrine sat on the cliff face in an area we have seen it before and the pair of Raven flew in briefly before we left.

Meanwhile back at the Quarry................ 13th March 2010

The plan was to head up to the quarry for an hour with the hope of seeing the Peregrine and/or the Raven and then move on down to Brockholes Wetland for Reece’s first visit in a long while. Best laid plans and all that but we ended up spending the whole afternoon up at the quarry and Brockholes will have to wait until tomorrow. We arrived just after 13.30 and Bill whom informed me about the quarry, arrived soon after just to see if anything was about. Well at the time all that we had seen was the usual Jackdaw, 3 Moorhen, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Coot, 1 Carrion Crow and a Mallard. Robin who we have bumped into a few times down at Brockholes arrived as Bill departed to see 2 Raven fly over and a Male Peregrine drop down at high speed into the quarry carrying prey and alight on the cliff face opposite our position. We were then joined by a local guy who has been visiting the site quite regularly to watch the Peregrine and had even seen a pair displaying on the previous day. We continued to watch the male feed before calling and flying out of view to the opposite cliff face only to return again empty taloned. He took to the air on several occasions displaying speed, agility and a gracefulness in the air unmatched by any other bird I’ve seen.
We eventually decided to move further around the quarry to see if we could see the female but all we could find were a couple of sites were its prey had obviously met their end. The male didn’t look disturbed by our presence only taking to the air once before returning to the same ledge but we soon moved back not wanting to cause to much disruption. As we returned the Female appeared though from where we are not sure but it flew in and landed near to the Male. Getting back to our original spot we setup again to watch them preen taking to the air and calling on odd occasions. Bill returned and another birder called in just as the female departed. The Raven made several brief appearances at one time returning to what we have been informed was last years nest. A female Sparrowhawk flew in disappearing into some scrub and a Kestrel flew over before we departed.
We didn’t log any other birds in the area as we were so enchanted by the Peregrine but from what I remember it seemed very quite with only Chaffinch, Wren and Tit calls heard. Marin Mere early tomorrow with the hope of Reece seeing the American Wigeon then on to Brockholes and you never know we may even call back in to the quarry!

Quarrying again - 12th March 2010

As I finished early I picked Reece up from home and we headed up to the Quarry again in hope of getting some better views of the Raven and/or Peregrine.
We arrived at just after 16.30 and stopped until 17.45 but neither species turned up whilst we were there though this may be due to a dog walker who was there when we arrived. We’ve again increased the count on the number of Jackdaw in the area, estimating there are around 150. We disused this as we scanned the area and the amount of Jackdaw either roosting, flying around the quarry and those flying in and out would be very hard to carry out a proper and accurate count, so an estimate it has to be. Another large count on today’s visit was Black-headed Gull with 50+ passing over the area no doubt moving on to a local roost. Other species seen on this visit included 2 Mallard, 2 Moorhen, 1 Coot, 4 Chaffinch, 1 Bullfinch, 1 Greater Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, 8 Starling, 1 Pied Wagtail, 7 Wood Pigeon 1 Stock Dove, 1 Carrion Crow, 5 Rook, 2 Jay and 7 Magpie. We are hoping to call in at the weekend in hope that the Peregrine and Raven are still around so watch this space.

Raven & Peregrine - 9th March 2010

I took another visit to the Central Lancashire Quarry to see if the reported Peregrine was around and show Reece the site. We arrived around 16.30 and stopped around an hour logging all we saw as we scanned the area. Before we set up 2 Raven flew across the area and out over the top of the quarry. The Peregrine arrived soon after flying low over the base of the quarry and landing high on the opposite side to ourselves giving us good views with our binoculars and scope but a little to far out for either of the cameras as you can see by the record shot taken with the Pentax. The Peregrine remained for the hour we stayed even calling on several occasions and the Raven returned  several times though I think on this visit there was only one pair. We’ve put the count up to 50 for the Jackdaw as there were many roosting on the cliff face as well as mobbing the Raven and flying in and out the quarry. 9 Black headed Gull flew over as well as 2 Woodpigeon and 1 Jay. On the water the Little Grebe could be seen diving and 1 of the 2 Moorhen from the last visit showed as well as 2 Mallard and a Coot. In the scrub around the quarry we counted 1 Blue, 1 Great and 4 Long tailed Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Goldfinch and 3 Magpie.

Brockholes Wetland & Local Birding - 7th March 2010

It was getting late after Reece’s rugby match was put back because of a frozen pitch (well done for getting the winning try and getting promotion to the premiership next season), so I decided to head back out to see the Great Grey Shrike that has showing well in the Grindleton / Waddington Fell area. A quick text to Mike to find out if it had been seen came back with a response of no, and that he would be at Brockholes Wetland so I diverted to see how the place was progressing. Things have changed since my visit which was some time ago as those who read the blog will know. I only checked out the main pit but I do know the island height has been reduced to hopefully attract waders on No. 1 pit and at the far end of the main pit has been drained and sectioned off while the footings of the visitors centre are constructed.
I met Mike and we joined Bill a fellow birder I’ve met on previous visits to Brockholes. Scanning the main pit for around an hour I recorded c100 Black-headed Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull, Canada Geese, Grey Heron, 2 Redshank, 3 Lapwing, 1 Cormorant, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Shellduck, 2 Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Coot, Pied Wagtail, Buzzard and Reed Bunting.
Whilst chatting with Bill he informed Mike and I about a site local to me were both Raven and Peregrine have been seen so after saying our goodbyes we headed off.

As we arrived at the site 2 Raven could be seen departing the area so we set up in hope of their return. The Peregrine didn’t show whilst we were there but had been seen yesterday as confirmed by a visitor to the site while we were there. The Raven did return and it looks like there are 2 breeding pairs in the area as well as c30 roosting possibly breeding Jackdaw.
Other sightings included 1 Jay, 2 Moorhen, 1 Little Grebe, Robin, Blackbird and a flock of small brown things that were to far out of range to identify with our binoculars.

Our feeders have been doing well lately with a continuous influx of Goldfinch on the nyjer seed. The Blackbirds have started to stretch their vocal cords from the top of the tree including the white patched male. Blue and Great Tits drop in in small numbers and Reece spotted a Wren during the week which was a welcome surprise. Small numbers of Greenfinch have started to use the feeders, were they are coming from I’m unsure as I’ve not seen any in the immediate area.

Caerlaverock WWT - American Wigeon - 2nd March 2010

When I was told at work I had to make a trip up to Cumnock I thought early start and call into Caerlaverock WWT on my way home. For once everything slotted into place and I pulled up into the car park for my first visit to this wonderful WWT site just befor 2pm.
After a brief chat with the lady at the till I headed for the Sir Peter Scott hide to see what I could find. I settled down to what was at first a quiet hide, swan feed at 2 and it soon filled up with a party of German birders. I searched amongst the Wigeon and soon picked out the magnificent drake American Wigeon. Also on the Whooper pond were Mute and Whooper Swans, Greylag, Tufted Duck and Mallard.

Things were getting a little crowded plus I didn't have much time and wanted a little look around so I headed down to the Saltcot Merse hide. A single Barnacle Goose was in the field on the left with 5 more further down, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tit as well as one of my favourite birds as a child the Yellowhammer were all seen in numbers on the walk down.
From the hide I spotted Merlin, Redshank, Black-Headed Gull, Knot, Curlew, Redshank, Mute Swan and Lapwing. There were more Gulls about and waders feeding way out on the mud flats but I couldn't get a good view with my scope. As I left there were c200 Pinkfooted Geese feeding in one of the fields.
It's a shame I was limited for time as it looks a great place to visit and I'm more than sure I'll be back with Reece in tow.