<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society Newsletter Sightings in the LDBWS area - mid May to mid September 2003
Newsletter of the Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society
Sightings in the LDBWS area – mid May to mid September 2003

Pete Crooks

Local Sightings
LDBWS Website
Newsletter Index

Two obvious highlights stand out from the long hot summer of 2003 - a short-staying Great White Egret and a far more widely enjoyed moulting adult White-winged Black Tern. The LDBWS area's first (and Lancashire's third) Great White Egret flew onto the Allen Pool at 0830 hrs on 5/8, then briefly visited the Eric Morecambe Pool before moving to the tidal creeks in 'The Flood' area. Unfortunately this didn't seem to be to its liking and it flew off south-east after c.1 hour, during which time only 12 local birders had managed to see it. By contrast the LDBWS area's sixth White-winged Black Tern, a superb moulting adult on the Lune Estuary, remained from 14/8 to 24/8. Somewhat unexpectedly it favoured the area of salt-marsh between Glasson Dock and Conder Green, with occasional visits to the recently excavated Conder Pool and proved to be somewhat adept at catching butterflies (mainly Small Tortoiseshells). The 'best of the rest' were probably the two Pectoral Sandpipers at the Eric Morecambe Pools - an adult on 10/8-11/8 and a juvenile on 12/9-14/9, with the latter bird also visiting Grisedale Mere, Leighton Moss during the afternoons of 13/9-14/9.

Two birds noted in the previous newsletter remained until late May. The singing male Savi's Warbler remained in reeds adjacent the Jackson Hide, Leighton Moss to 24/5, while the exceptionally long-staying 2nd summer Iceland Gull was last seen on the River Lune adjacent Lancaster Tip on 28/5. Other notable late spring records included 2 Black-necked Grebes at Leighton Moss on 17/5-18/5, a Black Tern at Heysham Outfalls on 17/5, a Turtle Dove at Coach Road, Warton on 29/5-30/5, 3 Little Egrets in the Eric Morecambe Pools / Leighton Moss area on 29/5 and an adult Little Stint at the Eric Morecambe Pools on 30/5-31/5. A male Blue-headed Wagtail found at Halforth in early June was paired with an apparent female Yellow Wagtail and both remained to 6/7, but then disappeared after the field in which they seemed to be nesting was cut.

Following a report of a Little Egret at Heysham Village Bay on 10/6, a scatter of records probably involving at least 3-4 different individuals was noted from late July onwards. Singles were at Leighton Moss on 27/7-2/8, 17/8 and 28/8, Sunderland on 1/8 and Jenny Brown's Point on 27/8, while at least 2 accounted for records at various sites between Conder Basin on the Lune Estuary and Pilling Lane Ends from 25/8 onwards.

Wandering mid-summer raptors included a Red Kite over Dunsop Bridge on 17/6 and Ospreys at Halforth on 15/6, Leck Fell on 6/7 and both Halforth and Leighton Moss on 22/7. Migrant raptors included Ospreys at Over Kellett on 7/8, Halforth on 23/8 and Red Nab on 25/8, while a probable Honey Buzzard flew south-east across Morecambe Bay coming 'ashore' at Fluke Hall at c.1020 hrs on 7/9. In addition, a report of 2 Common Cranes flying west over the Bowerham area of Lancaster at 1115 hrs on 3/9 reached the e-mail and pager bird news services - does anybody know who saw these birds?

Kent Estuary

Notable waders included a Little Ringed Plover at Halforth on 29/6 and a Wood Sandpiper at Sandside on 4/8-5/8, while up to 11 Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Greenshanks, 3 Green Sandpipers and 5 Ruff were present during August. Following 1st summer and 2nd summer Mediterranean Gulls on 20/7 and 26/7 respectively, at least 4 different birds (a juvenile, a 1st summer and two adults) were found in the evening gull roost during August. Four Yellow-legged Gulls were also noted - an adult and a 2nd summer on 27/7 and further adults on 2/8 and 12/8.

Leighton Moss / Eric Morecambe Pools area

The reserve's more 'high profile' breeding species experienced somewhat mixed fortunes. The Avocet population peaked at an impressive 23 adults during late June / early July and made 8 nesting attempts, but from the 15 eggs that hatched only 3 young fledged. Two pairs of Bitterns were thought to have bred though neither pair seemed to have been successful. A pair of Garganey remained throughout the summer, mainly in the vicinity of Grisedale Mere and although conclusive evidence of successful breeding was lacking, the appearance of at least 1 fully fledged juvenile during early August provided strong circumstantial evidence. Eight juvenile Marsh Harriers successfully fledged from two nests, while the Bearded Tit population continued to recover from the dramatic population crash in winter 2000-01, with 52 juveniles ringed by the end of August.

The Eric Morecambe Pools attracted 4 Mediterranean Gulls during the summer - the long-staying Belgium colour-ringed 1st summer (Green 36W) that remained to at least 29/6, single adults on 3/6 and 14/6 and a 2nd summer on 24/6. The autumn wader passage at this site commenced with a summer plumage Spotted Redshank present from 16/6 onwards. Other notable early autumn records included an adult Wood Sandpiper on 29/6-3/7 (part of a small nationwide influx of presumed failed breeders during late June), adult Little Stints on 24/7-30/7 and 6/8-9/8 and a moulting adult Curlew Sandpiper on 6/8-9/8. By late August the prolonged heat wave had greatly reduced water levels on these pools and the variety of species and number of birds present declined accordingly. Nonetheless some notable counts were achieved, including an impressive 51 Greenshanks on 22/8, plus up to 5 Little Ringed Plovers, 4 Little Stints, 9 Ruff, 3 Spotted Redshanks and a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper on 13/9-15/9.

Morecambe area

At least 6 different Mediterranean Gulls were noted in the Stone Jetty / Clock Tower area from mid July onwards. These including a Polish colour-ringed adult (White darvic 5HR) from 24/7 to 5/9 at least, a colour-ringed 1st summer (Green darvic, unread) on at least 3 dates between 11/8 and 24/8, a colour-ringed adult (Red darvic, unread) on 13/8, an ringed adult on 24/8 and 27/8 and at least 2 unringed adults.

Heysham area

With settled conditions persisting for much of the summer and early autumn there were few opportunities for sea-watching. The only notable records involved small numbers of Manx Shearwaters on 6 dates between 8/6 and 21/8, with peak counts of 38 on 10/6 and 35 on 19/6, 114 Gannets on 11/7 and 2 juvenile Arctic Skuas on 21/8. Following a long-staying 1st summer Mediterranean Gull that remained at Heysham Outfalls to 20/6, an adult arrived with a large post-breeding influx of Black-headed Gulls on 8/7 and remained to 29/7, while up to 4 juveniles were present during mid-late August, with a 3rd winter on 21/8. Other visitors to Heysham Outfalls included a long-staying adult Little Gull that remained from 21/7 to 14/9 at least and a juvenile Black Tern on 21/8.

The highlights of an uneventful early autumn for passerine migrants at Heysham Nature Reserve were a Nuthatch that flew south-west on 7/9 (only the site's fourth record) and a Turtle Dove that flew south-west the following day. An intriguing record concerned a "Blackbird-sized bright red bird with a crest" thought possibly to be a Northern Cardinal at Heysham Head on 7/9. This species is apparently rare in captivity within the UK and it follows a record of one "of unknown, but possibly wild origin" that briefly visited a garden in Portbury, Somerset on 27/5/03.

Lune Estuary

The first returning Green Sandpiper to reach the Aldcliffe Marsh Wildfowlers Pools arrived on 16/7 - about a month later than in previous years, though this was more than compensated by a record site count of at least 8 (and possibly 10) on 9/8. This proved to be a 'red letter day' for Jon Carter who's dedication to his local patch was also rewarded by a female / juvenile Garganey (the site's first record) and 2 Wood Sandpipers - 1 remaining to 13/8, the other to 22/8. In addition, a Snow Goose of decidedly dubious origin joined the assortment of feral Greylag Geese and Canada Geese at Aldcliffe Marsh on 15/8-27/8.

Although the recently excavated Conder Pool (SD457557) was 'put on the map' in late August by the White-winged Black Tern, local birders had already begun to appreciate the site's potential for attracting waders. Notable records from late June onwards included 27 Black-tailed Godwits on 15/8 and a juvenile Little Stint on 27/8, plus up to 3 Little Ringed Plovers, single Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper on several dates and up to 9 Common Sandpipers. The nearby Conder Creek, particularly the section on the estuary side of the coastal footpath also produced some notable waders, including up to 14+ Greenshanks, single Ruff and Spotted Redshank and juvenile Curlew Sandpipers on 20/8-21/8, 29/8 and 7/9. Further Curlew Sandpipers included perhaps the same moulting adult at Glasson Dock on 6/8 and Sunderland on 9/8, then up to 3 (another moulting adult and 2 juveniles) at the latter site on 31/8-7/9, with a juvenile Little Stint also there on 31/8.

The regular adult Yellow-legged Gull returned to the Glasson Dock / Bazil Point area for an 11th successive year on 8/7 and remained until at least 7/9. Four Mediterranean Gulls (3 adults and a juvenile) were in the same area on 12/9, with an adult at Ashton Hall Lake on 14/9.

North Fylde

A singing male Corn Bunting was in fields inland of Lighthouse Cottage on 31/5-1/6 and again on 21/6 (or perhaps throughout the intervening period), then 2 singing males on 22/6-6/7 with 1 remaining to 21/7. However no clear evidence of successful breeding was reported. Post-breeding dispersal produced a succession of Marsh Harriers - a female (?) at Pilling Lane Ends on 9/8, a male at Cockersands on 15/8, a juvenile in the Thursland Hill area on 17/8, a leucistic 'cream crown' at Pilling Lane Ends on 17/8 (presumably the bird subsequently seen on the south-west Lancashire mosslands) and a male at Pilling Lane Ends on 12/9. Other notable records included a Hobby at Pilling Lane Ends on 16/8, 2 juvenile Curlew Sandpipers at Bank End on 25/8 and the first returning Pink-footed Geese - 6 at Pilling Marsh on 3/9.

Other sites

A notable breeding record concerned 2 juvenile Long-eared Owls at Leck Fell on 3/7, while a scatter of mid-summer Common Crossbills were perhaps also indicative of local breeding. One was at Lord's Lot Wood on 8/6 and 29/6, with 10 at Foulshaw Moss on 29/6, 1 at Thurnham Hall Wood on 12/7 and 4 over Halton army camp on 22/8. Other notable records included 28 Sanderling at Teal Bay on 16/8, 3 Yellow Wagtails south over Caton Moor during late August, plus 1 at Sunderland on 26/8 and 2 Great Skuas off Jenny Brown's Point on 9/9.

Local Sightings
LDBWS Website
Newsletter Index