Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Gulls and Geese

Taking advantage of some free time over Christmas I headed up to Heysham where there has been a first winter Glaucous Gull in recent days. It was high tide when I arrived and I walked down the sea-wall in front of the power station from the Red Nab rocks stopping to photograph some close Kittiwakes and a not so close juvenile Little Gull.  Another birder arrived and he continued towards the wooden jetty where he found the Glaucous Gull loafing with some other large gulls.  The glaucous briefly flew close while my camera was still in its bag before heading back out to the end of the wooden jetty.  Along with eight species of gull there was also a couple of Guillemots on the sea, at least two shag, two Red-breasted Merganser and a few Pink-footed geese which flew over. While chatting with the other birder he told me that eight White-fronted geese had been reported from Rishton Reservoir, so I decided to head home while there was enough light to call in at Rishton.

I arrived at Rishton with about 30 minutes of daylight remaining.  The white-fronts were all in clear view on the far side of the reservoir with the Canada goose. flock. There were six eurasion white-fronts (two adults and four juveniles) and two Greenland race birds which are likely to be the two present before Christmas, (and which I failed to see one Saturday morning).  It was very educational to see both races together; the Greenland race clearly darker than the eurasians with the bill differences clearly apparent, even with the dull and fading light. Of note, the adult eurasions frequently showed aggression to the Greenlands if they came too close, but not to any of the Canadas.

Some photos of the gulls and guillemot below.  The Little Gull was rather distant but I've included it because is nicely shows the upperwing comparison with the juvenile Kittiwake; the Little Gull showing a dark secondary wing bar and the Kittwake showing umarked white secondaries.

Glaucous Gull in flight

Glaucous Gull on Wooden Jetty


1st winter Kittiwkae

Adult Kittiwake

1st winter Little Gull

Saturday, 29 January 2011

January odds and ends

Family commitments and a bout of the winter vomiting bug kept me home most of the month but I managed a few free hours birding on Saturday 22nd January.  I headed for the Ribble marshes which were unfortunately severely fog bound.  An hour at Hesketh Out Marsh produced only an indeterminate number of Pink feet flying in an unknown direction which were heard but not seen, six Whooper swans, a few Teal, Wigeon, Curlew and redshank on the marsh, again mostly heard rather than seen.  The passerines around the car-park were limited to Linnets, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches.  With visibilty not much more than 50 metres I cut my losses and headed inland.

Calling in at Brockholes on the way home the day way rescued by a Barn Owl hunting by number one pit.  I only managed a dim photgraphic record shot in the murky dusk light. There were a few Redwing around the reserve along with about 100 Lapwing and small numbers of Pochard, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Mallard and Teal, as well as the ubiquitous coot.  Below is a photograph of the man made sand martin wall which is looking rather unattractive at the moment - a bit like the rest of the reserve it must be said. Still a few more weeks and all will be different.

On Saturday morning January 29th we had the pleasure of watching four foxes for nearly four hours close to home.  There appeared to be some sort of territorial behaviour going, with field boundaries being patrolled, and scent marking taking place. January is the peak of the mating season and also the time that last year's litter will be forced to disperse by the parents if they are still in the family group. There didn't seem to be any conflict between any of the four foxes but it seems likely that one of the foxes was a female attracting the attentions of at least a male.  Were the other two foxes last years litter or rival males?  Hopefully they will put further displays in the next few days and reveal more about their lives, maybe even revealing the location of this years den? 

Unfortunately one of the foxes was lame in the front right limb.  Although it wasn't apparent how serious the injury was, hopefully it will only be temporary.  The picture of the fox below in the field (not on the wall) is the lame one.

Visiting the in-laws later in the afternoon at South Shore in Blackpool seemed like a good reason to call in at Fairhaven Lake for the Red-necked Grebe that is still present.  It was duly found at the unfrozen eastern end of the lake where it did nothing for half an hour except drift round in the centre of lake out of range for any decent photos - it didn't even lift its head so I didn't even see its bill!  Most boring bird of the year so far!

The lame fox

One of the other three foxes

The soporific Red-necked Grebe

About six weeks before the new tenants arrive?