Recent Sightings mid-March to mid-June
This spring will be remembered not for its extreme rarities but the atmospheric quality of the scarce species which chose to visit our area. The first example indicated that ‘close views are not the be-all and end-all’, especially if the habitat resembles a pen at an open-plan zoo. Therefore a first summer Common Crane (1/4-18/4) rooting around among sheep droppings, surrounded by the woolly maggots and an assortment of fences, did not show the species at its best, despite the often point-blank views. Two adults dancing and ‘bugling’ on the sand-flats half way between Jenny Brown’s Point and the Stone Jetty at sunset (27/4) were another matter. Well worth a Gordon Yates catchphrase! A decision to call at the Stone jetty after work (14th), to see if the northerlies had held up a Slavonian Grebe in the low-tide channel, was rewarded with a superb displaying pair. How often do theories really work out? Mark takes up the rest of the story later on in the Newsletter. The Natland Wryneck (4/5-8/5) was equally atmospheric and was an enjoyable diversion for many of the locals, not the ‘village put to siege’ scenario of the suppression brigade. It was an absolutely superb year for Arctic tern passage (or just well-recorded?) with a flock of 750 off Jenny Brown’s Point, again at sunset, quite a spectacle. Then we had an excellent, if a little frustrating, year for Dotterel. The lowland birds, just outside our area, are mentioned elsewhere in this Newsletter. Ward’s Stone produced: 3 on 27/4, 5 on 30/4, 2 on 3/5, 8 later 3 on 7/5, male on 11/5. A pair were on Langden Head (by Hawthorthwaite) on 27/4. A drake American Wigeon, currently our most frequent ‘BB rarity’, graced the Jackson’s Pool at Leighton Moss on 8/5.
Second half of March
The strong passage of Stonechats continued and an early Sandwich tern was off Jenny Brown’s Point (12th). The Heaton Marsh Little Egret was last seen being chased by a dog (16th). A 2nd summer med. Gull appeared on the Borwick Lane pits (15th), transferring to become a fixture for the whole spring on the public hide, Leighton Moss. In the meantime, the Stone Jetty adult remained until (22nd), joined by a 1st winter on the last date. A 1st winter Little Gull remained on Heysham outfalls (to 15th). Kittiwakes remaining from the winter gales numbered c15 in the Heysham area mid-month but had dwindled to 3 by 31st. Contrary to the last newsletter, the drake Smew remained around the northern gravel pits until about (25th). Therefore it overlapped with a pair of Garganey which began a lengthy stay at Leighton Moss Griesdale hide (from 19th). A flock of 21 northbound Whooper Swans flew over Heysham (19th). Passerine movement began in earnest on 22nd & 23rd, including large numbers of Meadow Pipits and including a Snow Bunting which was grounded (and fed!) at Heysham north harbour wall (23rd-25th). It was not seen by any birders until 25th! The 23rd also produced a Short-eared Owl flying south off Heysham head, being mobbed by all and sundry. The 22nd saw a female Marsh Harrier return to Leighton Moss, with a male (from 29th). The 24th produced a fly-over Common Crane at Leighton Moss which appeared to return and land in the reed-bed although viewing and therefore proof of this was obscured. Lengthy vigils drew a blank. The first Osprey of the spring flew north at Arkholme (27th) with two Little Ringed Plover at Hare Tarn on the same date.
The fools day produced a Ring Ouzel in a Torrisholme garden and a pair of adult Mediterranean Gulls at Leighton Moss (to 2nd). Ospreys moved on the 8th with two in quick succession at Dockacres, one of which may have been an earlier bird at Wyreside fisheries. A rapid detour to Lancaster Tip (9th) would surely connect with the Iceland Gull on the pager. Unfortunately, tipping had stopped, the birds had been spooked and most of them were in large kettles half way to the next planet in a ‘glaring’ sky. Last chance for this year, I suspect. Migrants trickled rather than rushed in during the first half with Willow Warblers especially late. The 15th produced a few migrants, notably a small fall at Heysham as a light easterly became a sea breeze mid-morning (a change in wind direction seems to produced these small falls during migration time, especially if the winds are relatively light). This comprised a handful of Wheatears and a 1st summer male Black Redstart. All were typically restless new arrivals and rapidly ‘melted away’ inland. Ring Ouzels featured on 16th with one at Cockersands and an absolute minimum of 5 in one small area of Farleton Knott. The best period of the spring occurred between 18th and 30th April, some of the highlights have already been mentioned. Virtually all the summer migrants raced in with huge numbers of some species (notably Sedge Warbler at Heysham ) and a dearth of others (notably Redstarts at Heysham). The long-staying pair of Long-tailed Ducks off the Stone jetty were joined by a third female (19th-22nd) whence all three departed overnight. Eider were also in record numbers with 68 together on Baiting Knott off the Stone jetty (22nd). The 21st saw rapid journeys in the direction of a superb male Blue-headed wagtail at Milnthorpe sewage works and a pair of Black-necked Grebes on the public mere at Leighton Moss. A Grasshopper Warbler performed exceedingly well at Red Nab, Heysham (22nd). The 23rd saw a just about twitchable Osprey at Leighton Moss and the 24th saw the only Corn Bunting of the spring in the Cockersands area. One was seen south of Braides Farm on the fringe of our area on a few occasions (e.g. by Crane twitchers). A Red-throated Diver appeared on the Lune off the Golden Ball (28th) and this spent most of May on the Lune before transferring to the Kent (Arnside) where it was captured by hand (13/6) and found to have an irreparable left wing. It was put back as it was obviously managing to survive. This period also saw unprecedented numbers of Sandwich Tern in the inner Bay with up to 32 around JBP (27th) with several seeming to be in semi-residence around the groyne. A darvic-ringed Mediterranean Gull graced Dockacres (from 29th) and was ringed at Stellendam in Holland. The 30th saw the arrival of two Spoonbills on the Eric Morecambe pool and a passage Purple Sandpiper with the Turnstones at Heysham.
After the ‘perfect blocker’ (15/4), the 2nd gave ‘catch-up’ possibilities with the appearance of a female Black Redstart at Red Nab and area from 0855-1200ish. The Spoonbill surprisingly departed (4th) with no others to date. Good numbers of Arctic terns were recorded at coastal sites with several examples of flocks rising high and flying inland to the north-east (e.g. 141 together at Heysham on 3/5). One of the tightly-packed northbound flocks (7th) gave an instant reminder of the saying ‘black sheep of the family’ as it contained a Black Tern performing in perfect synchrony. This was the cue for further Black terns at Leighton (2) and perhaps the same later on at Pine Lake. The latter were accompanied by a nice pink adult summer Little Gull. A Spotted Redshank was at Hest Bank (7th). A Quail was calling at Fell End near Croasdale (9th) with a Marsh Harrier up the Dunsop valley on the same day. Things then began to quieten down enlivened for some by a Wood Sandpiper on the Eric Morecambe pool (evening of 14th) and a reasonable seawatch (17th) which included 100+ Manx Shearwater off both Heysham and Jenny Brown’s Point and an adult light morph Pomarine Skua off JBP at 1123hrs. The previous day (16th) had seen a flock of 60 Common Scoter off JBP. A distant dark skua off Heysham (18th) was probably an Arctic. An Osprey was seen during a seawatch off JBP (19th). A Turtle Dove was reported at Jenny Brown’s Point (20th). What was probably just the one Spotted Crake was calling after dark outside the Jackson hide, Leighton Moss (from 30th). A single 1st summer Kittiwake remained on the pipe in Heysham harbour for most of the month.
The Spotted Crake was still calling (1st), but no subsequent reports.
An immature Pomarine Skua was seen well off Heysham (1st) and a 1st
summer Med. Gull graced the nearby outfalls. A Hobby was reported from the
Tim Jackson hide, Leighton Moss (2nd). There were a few Gannets
and Fulmars irregularly recorded on windy days, but the afternoon of (6th)
saw a marked influx of 27 Manx Shearwaters and 14 Fulmars, all in the space
of a half an hour during mid-afternoon. An Osprey graced the island mere at
Leighton Moss for a short time on (13th) and first summer Little
Gulls in the Leighton Moss area increased to 3 (15th). Finally,
does the difficult-to-decipher note in the Leighton Moss book (14th)
really say four L-S Woodpeckers near Leighton Hall.