By Pete Marsh
Spring migrants are on their
way. At least 6 records of
Stonechat during the last week and Sand Martins at Pine Lake (from 10/3).
Perhaps best classed as an early spring migrant is a Little Egret which
has been roaming up and down the Lune Estuary, favouring Heaton Marsh and also
the Conder Green area. Winter
visitors are starting to disappear with the drake Smew last reported on 12/3 and
the north Fylde Pink-footed Goose flocks dwindling and increasingly visiting the
fields/saltmarshes within the recording area.
This produced fun and games with a “small Canada” at Thurnham being
reidentified as a hybrid “Canada x
Barnacle” or even perhaps “(Canada x Canada) x Barnacle”.
Up to two Greenland White-fronted Geese accompanied the flocks and at
least one of these was on Aldcliffe Marsh (morning (but not afternoon) of 11/3)
The winter period itself was
characterised by persistently strong winds from a westerly direction but with no
major storms. Probably in
consequence, the flurry of early December waifs and strays petered out and the
winds produced more Kittiwakes, more Little Gulls but no major displacements
producing the likes of Little Auk. The
lack of any skua records was rather disappointing. The other major disappointment was the lack of Waxwings.
They just stayed where they were to the north and east of here.
As a result, the only chance to connect in this area was during the
initial arrival last November. The
Long0tailed Ducks remained from the late autumn influx with the Lune Estuary 1st
winter male joining the adult female off the Stone jetty.
They were quite elusive but fairly consistently seen around Baiting Knoll
on low spring tides (this skeer is not exposed on neap tides) and still present
in early March.
Three white-winged gulls
were available and I managed to fail to identify one by a matter of seconds and
miss the definite Glaucous and Iceland by a combined total of about 8 seconds!
The first was seen flying away from the observer as viewed from the
Business Studies Office at Morecambe High School (7/2)
and was either an Iceland Gull or a very similar leucistic “Hessing”.
The other s were a first winter Glaucous present elusively on the Kent
Estuary (14/2-19/2) and a first winter Iceland on the Lune/Lancaster Tip
(afternoon of 10/3). Mediterranean
Gulls comprised the usual two adults (the Sandylands bird of earlier in the year
did not reappear) with the Heysham one departing, as usual,, in early March and
the Stone Jetty one still present in full summer plumage at the time of writing.
A mobile adult was with field-feeding Black-headed Gulls on the Lune
Estuary during late February and there was a one-day second winter by Lancaster
Tip. Up to two Western Yellow-legged Gulls were on Lancaster Tip
during the winter along with a handful of argentatus
Passerine interest was
limited to chasing around the Lune saltmarshes on the high spring tides trying
to connect with at least two birds which appeared to be Water Pipits (as opposed
to littoralis Rock Pipits).
One (of these?) was well into summer plumage when seen on Heaton Marsh
(6/3). Bramblings were difficult to find and limited to ones and
twos in the inland valleys (e.g. Littledale).
There were disappointingly no Snow Buntings remaining from a promising
autumn passage in 1999. However,
the passage was early, contra 1999 when the arrival was very late in the autumn
and birds remained to winter.
The status of Scaup in this
area can be very difficult to determine. Why
does a flock of 30 suddenly appear off Bare in late January and reappear in
variable numbers and differing sex ratios (including total absence).
Presumably they are visitors from a core population elsewhere in
Morecambe Bay and not a series of passage flocks magically finding the same
feeding area. WEBS figures do not give much of a clue as to where this core
population is unless it refers to small numbers in the Leven Estuary.
Miscellaneous sightings/comments: Slavonian
Grebe off Heysham Harbour (13/1), huge
escaped Owl, probably Great-horned, at Sunderland Point (1/3),
Ruddy Shelduck at lane Ends (20/2), up to three dark-bellied Brent Geese
at Lane Ends (from late December only), wintering Spotted Redshank at the Stone
jetty to early Match with another on the Lune Estuary during February (at
least), Purple Sandpipers at Heysham and the Stone jetty throughout (but very
elusive) and a Ruff at Conder Green (26/2).
Very few Red-throated Divers with no counts of more than two to date and
'yellow-billed' swans were limited to the north Fylde (i.e. none on the Lune
Birdwatching trip reports