Monday, 25 January 2021

Dairy Farm Road

I had an appointment in Rainford this afternoon so I took the opportunity to take my daily walk at nearby Dairy Farm Road. I really miss these mosslands, I used to cycle around here two or three times a week a few years ago and it was great to be back today. I certainly chose the right day, there was a large flock of pink-footed geese on one of the fields, at least 4000 birds I estimated. I had no scope with me to check the flock for scarcities, but what a spectacle. Then I walked to the end of Dairy Farm Road and then onto the Old Coach Road for a few hundred meters where I came across another large flock of geese, this time consisting of about 1500 birds. I love these birds, I love this landscape, the air was full of the calls of geese and it's just a wide open huge area which makes the heart feel good in these days of constraint and lockdown.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Whooper swan migration over Lightshaw Flash

At 10:50 this morning a familiar distant whooping sound caught my attention as we walked along the canal above Lightshaw Flash and turning to look behind I could see a flock of whooper swans flying towards us in V formation. A flock of whoopers in flight is always an impressive experience especially on a crisp, freezing cold day like today, and we watched in awe as they passed overhead, 34 birds in total. 

Interestingly 46 minutes earlier a flock of 35 birds was recorded flying north over Bakewell in Derbyshire at 10:04 which is 42 miles south east from Lightshaw, if these were the same flock then 42 miles in 46 minutes equates to (42/46)x60 = 54.78 miles per hour. Whooper swans are said to fly at 55 miles per hour when on migration from Iceland to UK, so todays birds were flying at an amazingly accurate speed and presumably in a more or less dead straight line of direction. If they continued on that north west trajectory and at that speed then 21 miles later they would have arrived at Hesketh Out Marsh on the Ribble at precisely 11:11am.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Golden Plover

Everything seems to have been in black or grey and white recently so nice to see some gold, with a nice flock of 60 golden plover today on one of my survey fields in Nottinghamshire. Really smart birds, I don't see enough of them these days.


Friday, 22 January 2021

Ring-necked duck, Glasgow city centre

There's a drake ring-necked duck on tour around Glasgow at the moment. It's been seen at several locations, including Kilmardinny Loch where I saw it on 14th December, but this is about the closest it's been to Glasgow city centre and the closest to where I've been working, on Bingham's Pond today.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Ring-billed gull, Strathclyde Loch

The day after the former senator of Delaware, Joe Biden, became President of the US, it seemed appropriate that today I should reacquaint myself with the adult ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis at Strathclyde Loch near Glasgow. 

It's the perfect lunch break stop for me, with three hours driving behind me I just pull off the M74 and onto car park 4. From here if the bird is about I don't even need to leave the car. Fortunately when I arrived I saw it immediately, sitting just off shore with a few common gulls.

It's the same bird which I saw in 2017, but it's not been particularly easy so far this year. It was only seen for the first time this winter on about January 5th and although it's been reported pretty regularly since, it's often said to be distant or brief views.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Pennington Flash

The adult Iceland gull and adult Mediterranean gull were again in the roost at Pennington Flash this evening. 

I sometimes wonder why I bother with the roost, most of the birds come in at sunset when the light is fading fast and they're always distant. It's a race against time, you've got perhaps 20 minutes in wind or rain or icy temperatures to scan through 3000 large gulls in amongst 5000 black-headed gulls. It's a great spectacle for sure, to see so many gulls dropping on to the water and to watch the 2000 strong jackdaw murmuration at Sorrowcow farm, but it's very difficult to pick out anything other than white winged gulls and I have no expectation of picking out a Caspian or yellow-legged gull these days. 

There is always the chance of a glaucous or Kumlien's gull joining the throng, but I only need one dose of this medicine every week or so on a carefully selected evening, I certainly don't need to experience it day after day in all weathers, watching the same birds that I saw last night and the night before, birds which I know that I could see much better if I went to Cutacre CP or a local recycling centre.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Fog, frost and floods

A day of freezing fog at Pennington Flash meant that nothing much could be seen, but as is so often the case, it did seem to amplify every bird call. The thousand or so jackdaws which roost near Sorrowcow farm were still in the trees when I arrived at first light, perhaps reluctant to leave due to the fog, and they were very vocal and set the tone for the rest of the visit. A raven went by overhead, it's presence only revealed by it's loud cronk, redwings "seeped" in the woods and at least one water rail squealed in Rammies reed bed. A Cetti's warbler belted out it's song at the west end whilst robins and wrens were singing all around the flash, undeterred by the freezing conditions. 

From the smallest of birds to the largest, all played their part in the chorus, with the fine calls of goldcrest and long-tailed tits accompanying the horn section which was courtesy of resident Canada geese and visiting Great black-backed gulls, the latter standing in a small group on the ice.

So not much to see today, but still a very pleasant and atmospheric walk around the flash non the less.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Surveying around Glasgow

Photo: Barr Loch, Lochwinnoch RSPB

Today I was surveying in the Glasgow area, including Barr Loch at Lochwinnich RSPB. I've been here before, about four years ago there was a spectacular drake hooded merganser. It was another species of merganser which stole the show today in the shape of two drake smews. Unfortunately they were around a kilometer distant so not great views, but still, I don't see very many drakes so I was delighted to catch up with them. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

South Cumbrian coast

Photo: Curlew.

My first work trip of the year to the coast of south Cumbria and an opportunity to get a few year ticks which otherwise might elude me for a while during this period of lockdown. Quite a decent selection of birds, 150 ringed plover, 300 knot, 200 dunlin, 90 curlew, 50 redshank, 50 eider, 30 red-breasted mergansers and best of all a single jack snipe, in total 13 years ticks and a wonderful day from dawn until dusk.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

The frozen Flash

It started out a beautiful morning at Pennington Flash but the fog came down later. Two wigeon were on the open water at the west end and about 10 goosanders, also a couple of kingfishers. Around 30 Goldeneye, 30 great crested grebes, 20 little grebe and maybe 100 tufted ducks were in the ice free bits around the spit, whilst heard but not seen, Cetti's warbler and water rail. Also 10 meadow pipits on the ruck.

I'm afraid I can't see how the car park can remain open much longer, it was heaving again at 11am with streams of cars arriving all of the time. Plenty of groups of people walking around who clearly aren't one household plus one. Apparently the police helicopter has been over, it wouldn't surprise me at all if they move in and start issuing fines today. I was glad to be home for 12, it's only going to get worse this afternoon.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Pennington Flash gull roost

Adult Iceland gull in the roost again this evening. Almost as impressive as the the gulls, there is a jackdaw roost at the Flash with around 2000 birds.

While I was watching the adult Iceland gull I messaged a friend who was also at the roost but watching from the ruck and he replied that he had seen the bird. However, later in the evening he saw my video and got in touch to say that he had actually been watching a juvenile! He didn't see the adult and I didn't see the juvenile. Just shows how easy it is to miss birds in amongst the hundreds of herring gulls and with the light rapidly fading. 

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Pennington Flash

A bitterly cold morning at Pennington Flash, the coldest day of the year so far resulting in 90% of the flash frozen. A couple of hundred large gulls loafed on the ice and waterfowl congregated on the few remaining areas of open water, including a winter high of 38 goldeneye.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Whooper swans, Pennington Flash

Four whooper swans flew in from the west at 8:30am, circled around and then landed in the west bay.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

The start of another lockdown at the Flash

So here we go again, another lockdown which means that apart from work trips it looks like I'm going to be spending most of my time at Pennington Flash.

Today the dark looking juvenile Iceland gull came into the roost along with about 1000 herring gulls and 200 great black backs. Quite decent numbers but still well short of those before Christmas. 

Earlier there was water rail in the woods on the south side, plus a few other year ticks such as willow tit and treecreeper.   

Monday, 4 January 2021

Observations of a Little Ringed Plover nest

One of the highlights of 2020 for me was monitoring a little ringed plover nest on the yacht club foreshore at Pennington Flash during the coronavirus lockdown between April and early July. Initially taking advantage of unusually low levels of disturbance due to the lockdown, the pair was seen copulating, a nest site was chosen and four eggs were laid in an area which would normally prove impossible as a breeding site due to high levels of human activity. 

However, the easing of lockdown restrictions in May led to the reopening of the yacht club, which resulted in exceptionally high levels of disturbance from both yachting and open water swimming, as people seemed determined to make up for the lost weeks earlier in the year and were present in even higher numbers than those previously seen. 

I watched these birds daily from arrival to fledging and reported on their remarkable story in a previous blog post. However I struggled to find very much written at all in monograph form about the ecology of little ringed plover and as such decided to compile my sightings into a report in pdf format which is available to download should anybody wish to do so. 

To download, simply click on the "Pop out" icon in the top right of the pdf window, then, if you're using a laptop click on the download icon in the top right of the new window or alternatively if you're using a mobile device click on the three dots at the top right and scroll down to "Download". Simple!

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Juvenile Iceland gull, Pennington Flash

Another icey cold gull roost at the Flash today, with very few gulls compared to other recent evenings. No sign of yesterdays adult Iceland gull, but a juvenile did turn up and it appears to be the bird which has been seen regularly at Lower Rivington Reservoir over the past few weeks. A different juvenile has been seen at Cutacre country park at Atherton in the past few days, and the adult was also seen there today, but where these birds go when they are not roosting at the Flash is a mystery.

This juvenile Iceland gull is a lot darker and more coarsely marked than the bird which has been at Cutacre, and the dark mark behind the eye seems to clinch it as the Lower Rivington bird. Also the bill pattern looks different to the Cutacre bird.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Iceland gull, Pennington Flash

The adult Iceland gull was in the roost at Pennington Flash again this evening, but no sign of the juv. which was seen at Cutacre earlier in the day. Bitterly cold, I had to leave a bit earlier than normal, it really was painful standing there.

Last night there was no sign of any Iceland gulls, but there was an adult Mediterranean gull with an almost complete black hood.

A short video of the adult Iceland gull in the roost at Pennington Flash this evening. It still amazes me what you can achieve with modern phones, this bird was approximately 700m distant at 16:15, quarter of an hour after sunset and it was videod on my phone. Amazing. 

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