Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Long Distance Dowitcher

Too windy for ringing today but when I go birding there are just so many places I want to get to early morning that I often make the mistake of not spending enough time at any of them. And then unfortunately tempus fugit a bit too fast and I am left wondering what happened to the day.

So it was today when I started off at the sea wall west of Fluke Hall to find Chaffinches, Siskins and Greenfinches going over. Within 15 minutes of arriving I counted 48 Chaffinch in groups of eight to ten coming along the wall from the direction of Knott End before they continued into the wood beyond. Two flocks of Siskin, a seven then an eight also came from the same direction to disappear into the wood. Several Greenfinch were along the hedgerow, together with three Reed Bunting plus three or four Blackbirds that chased up and down. Below the ramp to the sea wall a Grey Wagtail and a Rock Pipit quarrelled a little but the wagtail won by chasing off the pipit further along the wall.

As usual, three Little Egrets were on the immediate marsh, as were several hundred Starlings newly arrived from a roost. I walked along Fluke Hall Lane through the wood where I saw and heard more Chaffinch and Siskin, potentially some of those I saw ten minutes earlier, but probably at least some of them extra. There was a large tit flock, numbering at least 20 Long-tailed Tit with several Great and Blue amongst them as I also disturbed a Sparrowhawk from the fence in the first cottage garden.

So ended my first mistake, as I motored on north to Conder Green instead of spending more time “vis migging” and/or “bush bashing” to find out more about what was happening.

But Conder was ok with plenty to look at by way of 8 Tufted Duck, 2 Snipe and 4 Little Grebe on the pool, the Grey Heron in the creek and a Spotted Redshank close by, even though it was playing at phalaropes and not wanting to show me its red legs.

A Reed Bunting hung about the hedge at the screen, as did the Robin and Wren. The Kingfisher appeared from just below and beyond the parapet wall where it seems to have an out of sight perch, then flew out across the pool in a semi circle to avoid the screen hide before heading back towards the creek. As I passed The Stork pub a single Redwing flew from the car park trees and across towards Galgate but I didn’t see any others today. Also up here nearer Lancaster I didn’t see any of the evidence of passerine movement I saw at Fluke Hall earlier on.

Up at the Victoria I counted over 1000 Lawing on the estuary together with 1400 Knot as they packed together prior to the incoming tide but the wagtails on the bowling green were flushed into the distance by a party of passing walkers.

At Cockersands I bumped into SP outside Lighthouse Cottage where he surveyed the mixed waders whilst hoping to find the dowitcher again. We both watched as the tide filled the channel but although there were plenty of Dunlin, Knot, Redshank and Ringed Plover, there was no sign of the dowitcher. In the way of passerine migrants, there were four Reed Buntings together in the field opposite the cottage and two others flew up from the marsh grass as the tide filled over it.

I should have known that if anyone could find the dowitcher it would be SP since he has eyes like the proverbial. So while I tootled around the fields of Jeremy Lane to see sweet FA, he more wisely spent some time up at the caravan park where he located the distant Long-billed Dowitcher across the still incoming tide. Eventually I joined him (thanks for the message SP) to have very long distance views of a pea on a drum as the bird made its way down to Bank End with roosting Redshank and Golden Plover. Not to worry however as I saw plenty of dowitchers in Canada, even if they were the short billed variety, and I have seen a few of the long billed in Britain. But if this bird stays around for the winter, it looks like high tide at Bank End may be an alternative to a low tide at Cockersands in being able to see it.

Meanwhile back at the car park by the caravans yet another Kestrel chose to pose obligingly for me today and although the light was far from perfect the picture does show how expertly the bird perched on the few available twiggy branches of the tree.

I just had time to call in at Lane Ends where the tide was full. Just enough time to clock 23 Whooper Swans out to the left at distant Pilling Water with 18 Black-tailed Godwit in the tidal pools not far out from the car park.

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