Sunday, 19 March 2017

Chough, a new English tick

After a failed attempt yesterday to see a chough in Stanley Park, Blackpool in dismal weather, Ray Banks and I decided to try again this afternoon following more reports on Birdguides today. Initially the weather wasn't much better than yesterday, with heavy, soaking drizzle making viewing and especially photography virtually impossible. To make matters worse, the corvids on the golf course were very flighty, with any movement towards them, even at 100 yards distant seeming to spook them or perhaps they were just naturally flighty.

However we were lucky because another birder had found the chough just before we got there, and though it was out of sight when we met him, we at least knew roughly the area it was in. We waited for about 30 minutes and had occasional brief views of the bird before the heavens opened and we headed for the cafe from where I posted a few very poor photos on facebook and twitter.

By the time we had finished our cup of tea and a scone, the rain had stopped and the sun had even decided to show its face. We headed back to the golf course for a second look at the bird, and this time had more success. The chough unexpectedly flew over my head calling, circled around a few times with the jackdaws and then landed low down in a tree allowing me to fire off a few much better photos, before once again the whole flock flew off to the far end of the golf course.

The bird has no rings, which I think is quite interesting. Almost every bird I see in Wales has a leg full of coloured rings. This is the first chough I have ever seen in England, and is probably the same individual that was seen on a high school playing field at Marshside, Southport a couple of weeks ago. The species has expanded its range in North Wales in recent years, with several pairs now on the Great Orme at Llandudno where just a few years ago there were none, and I guess that it's not inconceivable that this bird flew from Llandudno to Formby and then made its way north via Southport to Blackpool. On the the otherhand choughs are also on the Isle of Man, which is not that far away either, so it could have originated from either of these populations. I believe it's about the 9th record of the species in Lancashire.

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