Monday 30th OctoberWaderquest
Rick and Elis Simpson
Checklist of the Birds of Lancaster & District 1989-1999
Copyright Lancaster & District Birdwatching Society, 2000
Part 1 : Divers to Raptors
Fulmar, Petrels, Shearwaters, Gannet, Cormorant
Storks, Ibis, Spoonbill
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellataStatus: Regular spring passage migrant and winter visitor in variable but apparently declining numbers.
The relatively high vantage point at the end of Heysham wooden jetty undoubtedly assisted documentation of this species in the late 1980s, as they floated in and out along the line of the Kent channel. This was only accessible during the early part of the period under review and subsequently there did not appear to be any lengthy vigils from the north harbour wall during calm conditions. In consequence (?), the highest counts for the early part of the year were only 37 on 3/2/96 and 35 on 16/1/94. Numbers were particularly poor during the autumn, with no daily counts above 10, apart from 30 on 8/10/89. Unprecedentedly low numbers have been a feature of the last two winters and there has been some evidence to suggest that birds are being flushed out of the Bay by speedboats taking anglers to fish the mouth of the Bay on the incoming tides. In contrast, the Great-crested Grebes are already in the Bay by the time these boats set off. The spring passage has been well-recorded during the 10 year period, a consequence of generally increased spring seawatching from Heysham and the Stone Jetty. This involves northbound birds heading into a cul-de-sac and evidence suggests that they land on the sea and float out with the tide on reaching the likes of Jenny Brown’s Point, before resuming their journey up the Cumbrian coast. No evidence whatsoever of overland migration, although one flock on one occasion flew out and appeared to take a short cut over Barrow-in-Furness. Flocks are a feature of the spring passage and were especially noticeable in 1996, including one group of 35 in full summer plumage.
Black-throated Diver Gavia arcticaStatus: Rare visitor. Considerable difficulty in documenting the offshore records due to inadequate descriptions.
1989: One off the Stone Jetty 13/2. One on the Lune near Glasson Dock on 31/12.
1990: One in full summer plumage on the sea off Heysham on 16/4.
1991: One off Bare on 1/1, then Heysham on 3/1.
1992: Two off Jenny Brown’s Point on 25/10, one (of these?) Heysham village bay on 29/10 and one again at Jenny Brown’s Point on 29/10.
1993: One off the Stone Jetty on 17-19/2 and presumably the same in Heysham village bay on 27/2.
1994: Dead first winter found at Sunderland Point on 15/1. Two off the Stone Jetty on 16/1.
1996: One close inshore in Heysham village bay on 7/1.
1998: A winter adult or immature close inshore off Heysham Head on 21/3.
1999: One off Jenny Brown's Point on 26/10 (TWh).
Great Northern Diver Gavia immerStatus: Very rare visitor over the years, as many on inland waters as offshore.
1991: One flying out of the Bay as seen from Heysham wooden jetty on 3/4. Adult flying into the Bay off the Stone Jetty on 19/11.
1993: One flew into the Bay off Heysham on 6/4.
1995: Juvenile/1st winter Pine Lake 30/10 into 1996. It commuted to Morecambe Bay (see 1996).
1996: The Pine Lake bird became increasingly irregular there and the answer was provided when a) it was seen to fly into Pine Lake from the direction of the Keer Estuary on two occasions and b) it was located off the Stone Jetty on 20-21/2. A first summer, presumably not the same bird, flew/landed/floated out of the Bay off Heysham on 22/4.
1997: One off Jenny Brown's Point in late October.
1999: Two, one of which was an adult moulting out of summer plumage, off Jenny Brown's Point on 26/10. Coincided with an influx at several coastal sites in the British Isles.
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Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podicepsStatus: Vagrant. This is the first record for Lancashire.
One in summer plumage at Dockacres (and unknown site(s) during rather frequent absence) 24/5-8/6/97 (unknown observer, JAG et al.). It was probably the bird which ended up at Skelton Lake, West Yorkshire, for much of the summer.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollisStatus: Summer visitor to several sites in the area, winter visitor to different sites, mainly the rivers Lune and Bela.
The breeding sites are evacuated during the winter and it is not known to what extent the wintering birds represent local breeding birds and offspring. Spring and autumn peaks at Leighton Moss suggest some passage through the area. The number of breeding pairs appears to have decreased from 8-10 pairs to a maximum of 6. However, they can be extremely elusive, breeding on small ponds not deemed worthy of recognition on standard Ordnance Survey maps (e.g. Middleton Industrial Estate). In recent years, following colonisation in 1993, the Middleton complex has supported up to three breeding pairs. Records of breeding pairs from elsewhere in the area since 1992 have been very few. There is a widespread autumn dispersal, followed by records of about 20 birds per winter, mainly on the rivers Lune and Bela.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatusStatus: Breeding bird in small numbers. Common winter visitor.
Great Crested Grebes are increasing in our area as a breeding bird, being found on most of the gravel pits (Dockacres, Tewitfield, Borwick Lake and the Wyreside fishery complex) and a pair was recorded breeding at Glasson Dock in 1998. Part of the private Cleveley Mere is in our recording area and birds are certainly present there in the breeding season, but no accurate information is available. Though difficult to count accurately, under ideal conditions approximately 230 Great Crested Grebes frequent the Outer Kent Channel each winter, with 50 or so south of the Stone Jetty. The peak population is in December-February, with a steady build-up from mid-September and just single figures left by April/May. A rapid departure of birds can occur from February onwards in mild springs and this may account for the apparent slight reduction in numbers of Great Crested Grebes on the WeBS counts in the last 10 years.
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegenaStatus: Rare visitor.
Documentation of offshore records has been poor and this checklist has been ruthless in removing unsubstantiated reports. Far more reports (17) during the previous 10 years, only eight of which were due to the cold-weather influx in early 1979. A majority were inland, not ‘dubious’ offshore records, therefore a decline, however temporary, has taken place during the current 10 years.
1994: One apparently multi-observed off Jenny Brown’s Point 8/10 and 11/10 (TH et al.).
1996: One in the Kent Estuary off Ulpha on 18/2 (J Lishman). 1st winter toured Half Moon Bay before flying south on 21/2 (DC, DJH, PJM – photographed), then reports off the Stone Jetty on 5/3 and 28/3. Perhaps just one bird responsible for all records?
1997: 1st winter Pine Lake 13/1-14/1 (RAC, TW et al.).
Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritusStatus: Scarce, possibly rare visitor, mainly on the sea. Some documentation problems over the years, leading to vague status.
1989: 3 together in Half Moon Bay, one of which was well-advanced into summer plumage, on 15/3 (JAG), an unprecedented record. One off the Stone Jetty on 14/11.
1990: One Heysham village bay on 6/1.
1991: One in partial summer plumage was surprisingly easy to locate as it roamed around off Morecambe/Heysham 26/3-31/3. The first of only four multi-observed individuals during the period, the remainder were all in spring 1996. One off the Stone Jetty on 18/11.
1996: One on Wyre Lake, Wyreside fisheries, 28/2-26/3. One close inshore off the Stone Jetty 11/3 then 15/3-18/3. One, almost in summer plumage, Half Moon Bay/alongside Heysham north harbour wall 15/4-18/4. One in the Kent channel floating out of the Bay on 23/12 (probably the bird at Rossall on 24/12).
1997: The WeBS count vigil on 12/1 produced a single off the Stone Jetty floating into the Bay.
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollisStatus: Rare visitor.
Formerly an irregular visitor off the Stone Jetty during the 1960s and 1970s. Just two acceptable offshore records since then. However, in conjunction with increase as a breeding bird in the north of England, spring passage to inland waters has become a feature of recent years. Note also the first inland winter record of this species. 1999 produced the first records of rapid-transit juvenile dispersal, reflecting the increasing population in northern England.
1990: One close inshore by the Stone Jetty on 17/11.
1992: Three in summer plumage at Leighton Moss on 21-22/5 with one on 29/5 and two on 6/6 which may have been different birds.
1993: Pair in front of Lilian’s Hide, Leighton Moss, on 22/4. One full summer, one almost full summer.
1994: Two in summer plumage at Leighton Moss irregularly from 30/4 to 10/5. One on Foxhouses Lake, Wyreside fisheries, 27/3.
1995: One close inshore Heysham village bay 2/11.
1997: Two in summer plumage on Babydoc (now known as Tewitfield fishery) 17/5. Immature associating with the Coot flock on Pine Lake 18/10 and 21/10 may have been the bird that was recorded there in 1998.
1998: One on Pine Lake 11/1-12/3 (see above). Two at Leighton Moss from 6/6 to 26/6.
1999: One on the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools 5/4-22/4. Juveniles at Leighton Moss on 22-23/8 and on Dockacres on 29/8.
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Fulmar, Petrels, Shearwaters, Gannet, Cormorant
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialisStatus: Regular wind-blown visitor.
Most records April-mid-September, usually scarce March and mid-September/October (but note the highest daily count was on 18/9/90), rare in the winter months. Most records from Heysham vantage points. Many birds in mid-September 1997 were dead or dying at inner Bay sites (e.g. Kent Estuary), the only ‘wreck’ during the period.
1989: 88 on 17 dates March-October.
1990: 1,674 on 28 dates March-October, maxima of: 350 on 1/7, 100 on 15/8, 288 on 6/9 and 560 on 18/9.
1991: 443 on 29 dates April-September, maximum of 137 on 10/6. Also 5 on 6/1 and one on 22/12.
1992: 585 on 28 dates March-September, maximum of 102 on 8/9. Also singles on 2/1, 6/2 and 19/11.
1993: 324 on 20 dates April-September, maxima of 70 on 31/5 and 66 on 10/9. Also 3 on 24/1 and one on 19/12.
1994: 294 on 23 dates March-September, maxima of 143 on 28/8 and c.100 on 10/9. Also one 8/12 and 2 on 30/12.
1995: Just 50 on 12 dates March-September, with 2 on 1/10.
1996: 95 on 14 dates April-September. Also singles on 4/11, 6/11, 2/12 with 2 on 9/11.
1997: 354 on 16 dates April-September, maxima of 150 on 29/8 and 70 on 14/9. Also 3 on 13/2 and a ‘dark’ bird on 29/8.
1998: 91 on 17 dates March-October. One on 5/1 was the only record from the inner Bay.
1999: 103 on 13 dates between April and August and one on 1/10.
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinusStatus: Regular, but extremely unpredictable wind-blown visitor, mainly during midsummer.
Most records from Heysham vantage points. Apart from 12/7/98, very rare in the inner Bay. No winter period records.
1989: 101 on 6 dates May-September, maximum of 93 on 12/8. Also one on 22/3.
1990: 333 on 15 dates May-September. Also one on 4/10.
1991: 97 on 12 dates June-September.
1992: 94 on 9 dates April-September.
1993: 40 on 6 dates May-September.
1994: 28 on 6 dates June-September.
1995: Just 13 on 7 dates May-September.
1996: 93 on 5 dates May-August, maximum of 71 on 4/7.
1997: 90 on 12 dates May-September, maximum of 44 on 6/9.
1998: 70 on 8 dates June-September, apart from 12/7 which produced unprecedented numbers e.g. 286 off Jenny Brown’s Point and quite possibly a different 200+ off Heysham. Poor visibility hampered documentation.
1999: 123 on 7 dates between May and August, maximum of 88 on 22/5.
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicusStatus: Rare visitor during the summer months.
In the previous period under review, there were a few records associated with late autumn Leach’s Petrel influxes (notably 1983). All records from the Heysham vantage points. None in 1989, 1997 and (really surprisingly, given the weather conditions) 1998.
1990: All flying out off Heysham: one on 1/7, 2 on 8/7, 9-15 on 9/7, one on 10/7, one on 16/8, one on 17/8.
1991: c.5 on 13/6 and c.18 on 14/6; either flying out or briefly feeding around Heysham outfalls.
1992: Two off Heysham outfalls all day on 4/8 and another flew out of the Bay at 1315hrs. One south on 30/8.
1993: Flying out of the Bay or around Heysham outfalls:- one on 8/7, at least 22 on 26/7, 2 on 27/7, 4 on 28/7.
1994: Three out on 28/8.
1995: One off the end of the outfalls on 23/7.
1996: One flew into the Bay on 31/5. One at the end of Heysham 2 outfall before following a boat out on 4/7.
1999: Unprecedented numbers in late spring. 6 off Jenny Brown’s Point and 2 off Heysham on 22/5, one Heysham and Teal Bay 23/5, one Heysham 25/5. One following the Seacat in on 28/6, then there was an influx of 12-15 off Heysham (all flying south out of the Bay) on 21/7, when other seabirds were conspicuous by their absence!
Leach’s Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoaStatus: Regular storm blown visitor during September and October onshore gales, very rare at the end of August and early November, vagrant in winter.
Most predictable from the third consecutive day onwards of WSW-WNW gales, rarely on the first day of a blow. The period under review was not particularly good for this species and compares unfavourably with 435 recorded during the previous ten years. A majority of the records from Heysham vantage points other than 15-16/9/97, when many were in the Kent Estuary/off Jenny Brown’s Point. The first late-spring records for this area occurred in 1999.
1989: 2 on 24/10, 2 on 29/10. Following a ‘wreck’, mainly confined to south/south-west Britain, one was found dead at Yealand Conyers on 27/12.
1990: 25 on 8 dates 6/9-6/10.
1991: One 16/9, 2 on 22/9, 3-5 on 24/9 and one on 1/10.
1992: 42 bird/days 30/8-15/9 (some duplication during constantly fresh/strong winds).
1994: One 10/9, c.58 on 11/9, one 30/12.
1995: 12 on 4 dates 24/9-2/10. Also one found dead in Lancaster, where the A588 crosses the canal, on 27/9.
1996: 2 on 4/10, 2 on 6/10, one on 6/11.
1997: 128 bird/days from various sites, including the Kent Estuary, 6/9-16/9 with a maximum of 40 (off Heysham) on 14/9. Probably quite a bit of duplication between sites. One inland at Leighton Moss on 16/9.
1998: 3 on 28/10 and 3 on 29/10.
1999: An unseasonal influx to western coastal sites, most marked off the Outer Hebrides, produced at least one off Jenny Brown's Point and one inland at Borwick Lake on 22/5, and one off Heysham on the morning of 23/5. No suitable weather conditions in autumn.
Gannet Morus bassanusStatus: Regular wind-blown visitor during March-early September, very rare during late autumn/winter gales.
Most reliable in the early morning during onshore winds (occasionally even calm conditions) in April/May when this coincides with an incoming tide.
1989: 304 on 14 dates May-October, maximum 169 on 11/8.
1990: 224 on 17 dates May-October, maximum 70 on 1/7. Also one on 25/2, 2 on 26/2.
1991: 150 on 14 dates April-September, maximum of 60 on 21/8.
1992: 416 on 25 dates April-September, maximum of 120+ on 26/4.
1993: 160 on 15 dates April-September, maximum of 73 on 6/4.
1994: 233 on 18 dates March-September, maximum of 156 on 28/8.
1995: Just 48 on 10 dates March-September.
1996: 380 on 17 dates April-October, with all but 8 prior to 31/5! Also one on 6/11.
1997: 164 on 19 dates March-September, maximum of 90+ on 29/8.
1998: Just 58 on 12 dates March-September.
1999: Just 66 on 9 dates March-August.
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carboStatus: Common winter visitor, small numbers inland throughout the year.
Present all year, but only a relatively small number of immatures (25-35) during the summer months, mainly offshore Morecambe/Heysham or in the Lune Estuary. In general, the peak numbers are as follows:- autumn - offshore; mid-winter - on the estuaries; early spring - at inland sites (especially Dockacres). Small numbers are regularly recorded inland on the River Lune thoughout the year. The distribution and numbers of Cormorants depend on roosting sites and the tipping over of the North and South Bell towers led to the loss of two of these. Ringing recoveries are mainly from Grune Point (near Silloth in Cumbria) and Puffin Island, Anglesey. There is no evidence in this area of birds from a more southeasterly origin (unlike Seaforth, which has had several, ringed at Abberton Reservoir).
All reports of sinensis prior to 1999 were based on rather subjective observation of 'white on the head of adults'. These should be discounted. However, recent identification articles on the separation of sinensis from carbo were put into practice during late 1999. This was due to a darvic-ringed bird from Rutland Water taking up residence on Glasson basin. This colony is 'approximately 60% pure sinensis x sinensis, approximately 40% sinensis x carbo, with no apparently pure carbo x carbo pairs. Applying the identification criteria suggested that the darvic-ringed bird was a 2nd winter sinensis along with one other bird (at least 24/11/99). We are obviously still right at the start of the learning and distribution curve with respect to sinensis in this area.
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelisStatus: Scarce visitor with most records being storm-blown first winter birds in autumn.
Autumn birds sometimes remain for the winter period or even longer. Much harder to find since the main roost (the North Bell off Heysham Harbour) toppled over into the sea in autumn 1994. One inland record and another on the Lune in central Lancaster.
All records from Heysham unless stated.
1989/90: Quite difficult to document during the first two years due to several birds being in semi-residence around Heysham. Two were inherited from 1988 and a further 3 appeared during 1989. At least one of these remained into 1990 when there were 3 more juveniles in autumn. Another 1st winter appeared during late December, remaining until 6/1/91.
1991: See above. Following strong winds, a first winter appeared on Pine Lake on 9/1/91.
1992: Adult flying out of the Bay on 8/9 was the only record.
1993: 1st winter Stone Jetty 22/11, adult Heysham 16/12.
1994: Two first summers from at least 21/8-28/9, after which the roost fell over! 1st winter off Morecambe 22/10.
1995: Breeding plumaged adult Heysham Harbour 30/1-2/2 and another there 24/9.
1996: One off Jenny Brown’s Point on 17/4.
1997: 1st winter Heysham Harbour 13/9.
1998: Breeding plumaged adult Heysham Harbour 30/3-1/4. Influx during gales at the end of October/early November produced: 1 st winter Heysham 27/10-6/11, 1st winter Kent Estuary early November, 1 st winter by the Greyhound Bridge, Central Lancaster 5/11, 1st winter corpse on the tideline at Middleton 8/11.
1999: Adult off Morecambe Stone Jetty, 30/11.
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Bittern Botaurus stellarisStatus: Rare/Uncommon resident.
Recent radio tracking information and census work using voice-prints of booming males at Leighton Moss suggests that males are much more mobile than had been thought and that previous census data based on territory mapping had over-estimated the population of this difficult species. Census work using voice-prints throughout the period showed a decline of booming males on the reserve, from 4-5 males early in the period, to 3-4 recently. Numbers seen at Leighton in winter suggest a small influx of probably continental birds at this time. Is mainly confined to Leighton Moss with only three sightings away from the reserve during the period, at Borwick Lake, Haweswater, and Pilling, all in winter.
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutusStatus: Vagrant, this is the second record for the area.
Male in front of Lilian’s Hide 23/4-2/5/93 (J Horabin et al.). Its appearances were few and far between and a lot of patience was required.
Night Heron Nycticorax nycticoraxStatus: Vagrant. A rather surprising six records (at least two of dubious origin) during the previous ten years.
A tired first summer on the rocks at the Near Naze (by Heysham heliport) on 18/3/90 (WC, PJM et al.). As this individual coincided with a corridor of southerly winds, producing at least 18 others throughout the country, it was completely untainted with escape possibilities. It was flushed from the rocks, just as one local photographer was about to click, and disappeared over Heysham Head. There was a report of a ‘small brown heron’ from a Heysham Moss farmer at ‘the end of March/early April’ 1990. Two adults seen in flight up the Dunsop Valley during the evening of 25/5/97 (MJA). Both accepted by BBRC. Two adults roosting alongside the River Wyre near Cleveley Bridge 5/4-7/4/98 (couple from Preston); accepted by BBRC. Adult, Gilpin Bridge, Lyth Valley on 16/5/99 (DBT et al).
Little Egret Egretta garzettaStatus: Rare but increasing visitor.
Just five records prior to the period under review. An increase in records during the middle of the 1990s, but some suggestion, taking the north of England as a whole, that the propensity to wander at the end of the breeding season declined during 1996-98, despite consolidation, including breeding records, in southern England/Ireland.
1989: Adult Leighton Moss and nearby saltmarsh during the afternoon and evening of 12/5.
1993: Single(s) on Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools 13/8, Aldcliffe 14/8, Sandside 18/8. Two then appeared on the Leven Estuary outside our area. Presumably these were subsequently seen at Arkholme on 29/8 and on the Lune Estuary intermittently from 30/8-6/10. Quite possibly just the two birds involved throughout.
1994: Single(s) at Leighton Moss 15/5 and 28/5. Adult Halforth, Kent Estuary, 6/8-8/8 and 12/8. Adult on the Lune between Stodday and Aldcliffe 19/8-10/9. Adult Foxhouses Lake 24/8. There is a possibility that all autumn records could refer to the same bird.
1995: Adults at Leighton Moss and area 5/5-12/5 and 4/6-12/6 with 1-2 on the Kent Estuary on three intervening dates. One NNE over Heysham Power Station at 1800hrs on 6/5. One NE over Heysham Nature Reserve on 20/8. One at Hest Bank 5/11-8/11 and then Lune Estuary sites (late) 8/11-11/11. Another, frequenting the Wyre Estuary, visited Fluke Hall in early November.
1996: Adult Carnforth Marsh 6/5, presumably the same at Sunderland, Lune Estuary, 7/5. One Jenny Brown’s Point/Carnforth Marsh 18/5-20/5. One Arnside Marsh 12/7. Lumped as one individual by the North West Region Bird Report. We disagree as the sightings were too spread out during migration time.
1998: One in the Stodday area of the Lune Estuary 17/5-21/5 presumably moved to Carnforth Marsh. Apparently different singles on Carnforth Inner Marsh (in the tidal creeks rather than the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools) 22/5-25/5, 28/6-1/7 and 11/9-21/9.
1999: One or two birds 9/5-22/5: recorded at Leighton Moss (on four dates), flying over Heysham Head (one date) and on Aldcliffe new pools (at least one date). Adult Sunderland area 20/8-21/8. Juvenile/1 st winter Heaton/Aldcliffe (salt) marsh 23/8, until frightened off by water sports activities on 27/8. On one occasion, it was roosting amongst the large gulls on the mudflats next to the rubbish tip.
Grey Heron Ardea cinereaStatus: Breeding resident.
There are eight heronries in the area of varying size; the two largest and perhaps longest established are at Dallam and Tunstall. The Tunstall heronry moved 200m south between 1992 and 1995, from New England Wood (SD623745) to the conifer plantation at Churchfield House (SD619743). In the 10 year period, one small heronry has been abandoned at Thrushgill. On the other hand, three new small heronries have become established: Melling Copse (1991), the Snab (1995) and Bolton-le-Sands (1997). Also, it is understood that there is a long standing, stable heronry at Ellel, containing approximately 4-5 pairs, but access for close examination has not been possible. The table below gives the occupied nest counts of the heronries which are monitored as part of the Heronry Census, the BTO’s longest-running population monitoring scheme.
Grey Herons are widely distributed in the non-breeding season, being found especially on the coast, estuaries and inland wetland sites. Migratory behaviour has been observed over Heysham in most years, but no obvious patterns have emerged.
Purple Heron Ardea purpureaStatus: Very rare visitor.
Adult at the northern end of Leighton Moss 23/4-7/5/96 (RP, DJS et al.). This is the first record since an unsubstantiated claim in 1980, which followed a veritable spate of records from Leighton Moss in the 1970s, perhaps involving as many as nine or ten individuals.
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Storks, Ibis, Spoonbill
Black Stork Ciconia nigraStatus: Vagrant.
Adult present on Carnforth Inner Marsh from the evening of 10/6/89 until the first thermalling opportunity mid-morning of 11/6/89 (finder unknown). It disappeared high to the north-east. Thankfully, this and the Red-footed Falcon were the only records during the decade involving avoidably poor communication; the Greenish Warbler was just unfortunate. A lot of observers were able to watch an adult soaring over Leighton Moss car park before flying off north-west on 21/6/90. Adult recorded by a farmer at Ellel during the morning of 24/4/95 and described as ‘an Oystercatcher on steroids’! It was then completely independently recorded by PW flying over Blea Tarn Reservoir towards Caton and the Lune Valley at c.1200hrs on 24/4/95. These are the second to fourth acceptable records for the area; a good track record!
White Stork Ciconia ciconiaStatus: Vagrant with five previous records; one in 1961 and the rest evenly spread since 1976.
One in a field near Arnside Tower (seen from train) on 27/4/92 (Mrs M Whitelegg) and anonymously reported early morning of 28/4/92 (via BNW). Linked by BNW to sighting in Dumfries on 1-2/5/92. Adult in a field near Sizergh on 7/5/93 pre-0900hrs. It flew off at 0945 and was last seen at 1130hrs near Gilpin Bridge (per IK). What was presumably the bird was seen during late April at various Cumbrian sites, as close to our recording area as Greenodd, flew over the M6 near Junction 33 on 4/5/96 (anon) and then north, gaining height as it was being mobbed by Carrion Crows, over SD503617 (near Moor Hospital) at 1620hrs on 7/5/96 (JR). On 4/5/99, one was observed over Lancaster at 1015hrs, then over Leighton Moss at 1200hrs and 1500-1520hrs (many observers).
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellusStatus: Vagrant. This is the first record for the area.
Two flew over Fluke Hall towards the foreshore at 2010hrs on 20/4/97 (RED). The following evening saw them flying over the seawall between Lane Ends and Fluke Hall at 2016hrs, flying out to roost on the mudflats at least half a mile offshore. Obviously a pattern of feeding inland and roosting on the shore. Subsequent dawn and dusk observations saw the birds departing between 0540 and 0555hrs and arriving back between 1945 and 2035hrs. However, it was not possible to locate the day-time feeding area(s). Finally, on 29/4, the birds departed the roost at the much earlier time of 0515hrs and were never reported again anywhere in the British Isles or the northern half of Europe.
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodiaStatus: Rare but fairly regular visitor to coastal marshes.
Following a lean spell from 1979 to 1991, which only produced five records, an annual visitor, mainly to the Allen/Eric Morecambe pools. There were at least 10 records during 1969-78. One might have expected a gradual increase in records during the last thirty years, in conjunction with the national status. Rather surprisingly, and unlike Little Egret, it has never to our knowledge been recorded ‘enroute’ through this area, despite known movements around the Birdline North-West recording area. This suggests that arrival and departure has involved circling up or down from a great height and this has in fact been observed on one or two occasions.
1989-91: None for the second to fourth years running.
1992: Adult Carnforth Inner Marsh 21-28/4. One there briefly 16/5 (later at Walney).
1993: Two flying over Leighton Moss 28/6. Adult Eric Morecambe Pools 16/7 & 24/7. Adult and immature Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools 30/7-2/8, adult there 7/8-8/8. Adult 10/8, joined by another on 11/8, both staying to 21/8.
1994: Adult(s) responsible for the following records around Leighton Moss/Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools: 3/7, 5/7, 17/7, 15/8-16/8 and reportedly on 22/8.
1995: Adult Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools from 5/5, joined by another 21/5 and a third 3/6. One disappeared on 5/6 and the other two on 10/6.
1996: Difficult to evaluate and this is different from North West Region Bird Report, for example. All Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools: adult 19/4 to at least early July. Adult 19/5-20/5. Two adults circling Leighton Moss before flying off north on 30/5. Four sub-adults flew in from the north-east on 31/5. One bore a colour ring which was not possible to trace, although it was almost certainly Dutch. One of these flew off almost immediately and collided with wires after flying around Killington Lake. The other three remained until about 18/6, two until 21/6 and one until about 8/8. The colour-ringed bird reappeared on 25-26/6 along with another sub-adult. Sub-adult reported from Sunderland Point on 15/6.
1997: All Leighton Moss: Adult 15/5, two adults on 24/6, adult 7/7-16/8. All three records were linked with other north-west sightings (see 1997 Annual Report)
1998: All Leighton Moss: Adult from 18/5, joined by two sub-adults from 4/6. One left on 26/6, the remaining two on 27/6. Two returned 10/7-18/7. One in flight over Jenny Brown’s Point on 6/9.
1999: Perhaps the same adult at Leighton Moss 1/5-31/5 and 20/6.
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Mute Swan Cygnus olorStatus: Breeding resident. Wintering flocks on Aldcliffe Marsh and Pine Lake.
Since 1988, the North West Swan Study Group has undertaken a colour ringing study of Mute Swans. The young of an average 16 breeding pairs per year have been ringed within the recording area. In 1997, a maximum of 20 pairs were ringed. In total, 650 individual birds have been ringed. In addition, there are several pairs which breed each year, but the Group are unable to ring due to access problems (particularly for river breeding swans), as well as pairs in discrete locations which do not come to the Group’s attention. The Lancaster Canal is well populated by breeding pairs and, in recent years, the Wyreside fishery complex has held several pairs each year. Substantial wintering flocks continue to frequent Aldcliffe Marshes and there is also a regular flock at Pine Lake, Carnforth.
Ringing recoveries indicate that as well as wintering at local sites, many swans from the district winter on the Marine Lakes at Fleetwood and Southport. More distant movements include birds seen in Greater Manchester (70km), Workington (77km), Leeds (83km), Shrewsbury (148km), Caernarvon (156km) and Berwick on Tweed (205km). The latter was one of a brood of 7 swans ringed at Holme in 1992, 4 of which moved to the North East, with another moving to Bowness.
Bewick’s Swan Cygnus columbianusStatus: A winter visitor and passage migrant in variable numbers, which have increased over the past 20 years.
In the 88 Checklist it was possible to include a full annual account of all records. This took barely half a page; to repeat this for the past 10 years would take well over a page. This alone shows the increase in records over this period and only a summary is included this time.
However, numbers are extremely variable. The largest population is just outside our recording area in the north Fylde, especially around Cogie Hill. However, these birds have sometimes been recorded on the mudflats of Pilling Lane Ends and therefore 'count' for our area. Up to 80-100 have been recorded, but numbers during 1998/99 and 1999/2000 have been very low. The most consistent site within the recording area is on Aldcliffe Marsh, where at least ones and twos and sometimes quite large numbers can be found accompanying the Mute Swan flock. They are most frequent after the turn of the year. The largest counts from Aldcliffe were in late winter 1997/98. Reading of darvic rings indicated that this was not a stable population, with much interchange with other Lancashire sites during the period from January to March 1998. The numbers peaked at 65 on 15/2/98 but, as implied, the total number of birds using the site was probably much higher. At least one record during the period under review indicated return passage from Ireland (e.g. Loch Foyle), via our area. Occasional records of spring passage flocks in rapid transit through the area e.g. 51 far out on the sandbanks off the Stone Jetty, Morecambe, on 14/3/91.
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnusStatus: Regular winter visitor and passage migrant.
Birds occur from late September until early April, most commonly on the saltmarshes and fields surrounding the Lune and Kent estuaries in parties of up to 20, but more usually less than 10. Small parties or individuals may stay for several weeks. Other sites include Leighton Moss/Carnforth Marsh and very occasionally Dockacres, Pine Lake, the Lyth Valley and the Lune Valley near Caton. Birds winter in increasing numbers on Cockerham and Winmarleigh Mosses just south of our area and sometimes stray northwards to Pilling Lane Ends, where up to 48 have been seen (12/1/97). Migrant birds may be seen in spring and autumn at coastal sites e.g. 29 over Jenny Brown’s Point on 4/10/89 or inland e.g. 12 over Lancaster University on 10/3/92.
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Bean Goose Anser fabalisStatus: Scarce visitor.
Scarce visitor with one unexpected flock of fabalis on Aldcliffe Marsh, the rest of the records being scattered individuals on the fringe of the recording area with the north Fylde Pinkfeet. By far the most interesting record was a flock of 13 fabalis which remained on Aldcliffe Marsh from 9/1-27/1/90 (AD et al.). Very difficult to be certain, but it appears that about 5-6 other individuals during the period under review, mainly rossicus, entered the north Fylde part of our recording area. These two races are likely to be universally regarded as separate species before long.
Pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchusStatus: Winter visitor in variable, but increasing numbers.
This abundant winter visitor has changed its status somewhat during the period. The main feeding area remains the farmland in the Pilling/Cockerham/Winmarleigh area, but the use of Colloway and Aldcliffe Marshes has increased, especially in February and early March, when up to 3,000 have used the area. The sandflats of the south Lune Estuary remain the main roost area. The first birds arrive in September, with flocks flighting over many areas during early October, most are bound for the south Lancashire mosslands. Numbers within our area are usually only a few hundred until the turn of the year, when numbers increase quickly, with the peak population usually in February. Peaks have been variable, but 8,000–9,000 is the recent maximum, somewhat up on peaks of 5,000–8,000 during the previous decade. Small groups are often recorded elsewhere, especially on the Inner Carnforth Marsh and the Lune and Kent Valleys. Occasional small groups of summering birds of doubtful origin around Pine Lake and Leighton. Recent information from sightings of neck collars suggest that our birds move from Iceland to Tayside in Scotland in autumn, then to South Lancashire, before a mid-winter move to Norfolk. By late winter, many are back in Lancashire and make the return to Iceland via Tayside in spring.
White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
European White-fronted GooseStatus: An uncommon visitor, mainly to the north Fylde, but significant numbers on occasion accompanying the apparently wild Greylags on Carnforth Marsh/Kent Estuary.
Some claims of ‘immatures’ have undoubtedly referred to Pinkfeet and Greylags with bits of white around the base of the bill and these may not all have been sifted out. A few feral birds around the area. No double-figure counts from the north Fylde where the maximum was 9 in early 1996. The largest counts were on Carnforth Marsh: 11on 6/12-10/12/95 and 12 on 31/1/96. Maximum of 7 at Halforth, Kent Estuary, on 7/10/89.
Greenland White-fronted GooseStatus: A scarce visitor, which has not been reported annually in recent years.
Records almost exclusively accompanying Pinkfeet in the north Fylde and when the same flocks visit the Lune Estuary saltmarshes in late winter. Up to 10 in the north Fylde during January-March 1989. Subsequently 1-4 reported there January-March 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999. One Overton Marsh, Lune Estuary, 14/2/98.
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropusStatus: Vagrant. Two records, one an apparently genuinely wild bird.
A first winter was discovered on Aldcliffe Marsh on 22/11/91 (AD et al.). It had been ringed and was part of the attempt to reintroduce the species into north Sweden. It remained until 5/4/92. Unfortunately, it then ended up with Canada Geese etc. on the Cheshire/Shropshire/Clwyd meres, where the last report we have is from Fenn’s Bank Mere (Clwyd) in summer 1997. Adult near Pilling with Pinkfeet on 8/12/91 was thought to have been the bird previously seen at Martin Mere and prior to that in Norfolk.
Greylag Goose Anser anserStatus: Established feral breeding bird.
The feral breeding population is now well established with 20-25 pairs during the period, with Leighton Moss the main centre, with small possibly irregular breeding at the Scorton and Dockacres gravel pits. At Leighton, the nests are mainly on drier areas close to the reed/water interface, with usually 70-80 young reared each season. There is also a non-breeding population of usually 50-70 birds each year. Behaviour after the breeding season varies from year to year, with almost all birds leaving almost immediately after fledging to an unknown destination in some years, while in other years they remain in the area, with a marked movement to Carnforth Marsh. An element of the wintering population has always been truly wild birds of Icelandic origin, but accurate estimation of their numbers is difficult, as the increasing feral population mix with the wild birds. Early in the period, the wild population regularly moved in late winter and spring to the Lune Valley around Claughton, Arkholme and Melling, but in recent years they have remained on Carnforth Marsh or on the Upper Kent Estuary around Halforth. The mid-winter population in recent years has been around 300-400 birds.
Snow Goose Anser caerulescensStatus: Vagrant. About 5 previous records which may have been of wild origin (accompanying Pinkfeet).
A Greater Snow Goose appeared with what are still presumed to be genuinely wild Greylags on Carnforth Marsh on 5/11/90. It was then unfortunately shot there on 24/11/90. A Greater Snow Goose was accompanying north Fylde Pinkfeet 17/11-1/12/91 (seen in the recording area at Thurnham) and during the 1996/97 winter. In 1996/97, it was seen flying over Woodwell on 26/10/96, then in south Lancs, then in Norfolk, then flying over East Lancs before appearing in north Fylde 28/2-30/4/97. It visited Colloway Marsh on 8/3 and also definitely roosted in our recording area off Pilling Lane Ends, latterly with the Glossy Ibises. The late departure date is due to association with a group of equally late Pink-footed Geese. A probable Greater Snow Goose of unknown origin was photographed at the Snab in early 1989. An escaped Lesser Snow Goose was at Leighton Moss on 4/5/93 and an equally ‘plastic’ individual was located with Canada Geese at Bazil Point on 6/10/94, before joining the menagerie at Dockacres/Pine Lake and Carnforth Inner Marsh and last seen on 27/10/95, perhaps put out of its misery by the Dockacres shooting syndicate.
Canada Goose Branta canadensisStatus: Increasing feral population. A few records of ‘small birds’ accompanying Pinkfeet may be of wild origin.
Introduced at Leighton Moss in 1957, the birds departed and bred on the Lune from 1958 in increasing numbers, from where they spread to the local gravel pits and returned to Leighton Moss. A few pairs breed high on the Bowland Fells, a habitat similar to their natural breeding areas. Increasing in winter. Numbers breeding on the Lune have generally decreased during this decade with the Waterways Bird Survey revealing a population of between 4 pairs (1989) and 12 pairs (1992). During this time, the numbers breeding on the local gravel pits and Leighton Moss have increased. At Leighton Moss, for example, the second breeding record was in 1994 when 1 pair reared 1 gosling, the numbers increasing steadily to 4 pairs and 10 goslings in 1998. Total numbers in the area peak in January, being as high as 666 and averaging 330. Numbers totalling between 300 and 400, occasionally about 500, are common in all months from August to February. A ringing recovery which came to light in 1993 shows that a bird shot at Claughton on 5/9/85 was moulting in the Beauly Firth, Inverness on 7/7/84, having been ringed originally as an adult at Gailey Reservoir, Cannock, Staffordshire on 26/6/80. A hybrid Canada x Greylag pairing in 1994 (only) reared at least three young. At least one of these is still around at Pine Lake. All breeding records involving hybrids have been with Canada Geese. Birds of one of the small races (minima/parva) were present at Pilling from 24/2-10/3/91 and on 22/11/91 and in north Fylde on 19/1/97 with Pinkfeet.
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsisStatus: Scarce, but regular autumn overshoot, some remain in winter.
The term ‘regular’ should be used for status classification. However, this species is highly irregular with good years followed by almost complete ‘blanks’. At least ones and twos can usually be found with the North Fylde Pinkfeet during January-March/early April, providing the only records in poor years. This excludes feral individuals, prominent early in the period, but perhaps absent (certainly from the Dockacres/Leighton Moss area) from 1997.
The largest counts all involved presumed Svalbard birds overshooting their winter haunts on the Solway:- 26 north Jenny Brown’s Point on 7/10/90, up to 20 around Carnforth Marsh and 32 at Halforth in early October 1991, up to 40 in North Fylde late November 1994, 15 Foulshaw 21-22/10/95 and up to 13 Carnforth Marsh and up to 19 on the Kent Estuary (including two with Svalbard neck collars) in the second half of October 1997. In contrast, there was just a single record of dubious origin in 1989, 1-3 with the north Fylde Pinkfeet in 1992, 1994 and 1998 and up to 7 North Fylde and Colloway in 1996.
Brent Goose Branta bernicla
Dark-bellied Brent GooseStatus: A resident wintering flock varying between 2-3 and 19 on the saltmarsh off Pilling Lane Ends since 1991. Scattered records from all coastal sites, usually involving ones and twos.
By far the most significant records were in early February 1991. An influx produced 43 on Cockerham Marsh and 7 at Lane Ends on 2/2. Presumably these were responsible for 20 at Lane Ends on 10/3, 12 at Sandylands (Morecambe) on 10-12/3, 28 at Hest Bank on 14/3. It might not be a coincidence that the first of the regular winter residents (re?)appeared at Lane Ends in autumn 1991. This flock reached maxima of 19 during the 1993/94 winter, 14 (including two pale-bellied) in the 1994/95 winter, but, rather worryingly, the last two winters have only produced up to 3 individuals. There were a few late spring records, but one at Foulshaw 3-4/7/93 was very unseasonal.
Pale-bellied Brent GooseStatus: Rare visitor, usually single birds accompanying either the north Fylde Pinkfeet or latterly the dark-bellied Brent Geese at Lane Ends. Two records of tame immatures from the Dockacres/Pine Lake complex.
Singletons recorded with the north Fylde Pinkfeet on 18/11/90, January-March 1993 and 1994. Possibly other records we have not received. Two accompanied the Lane Ends flock for part of the 1995/96 winter and one similarly in the 1996/97 winter. Single immatures at Dockacres/Pine Lake on 4/10/94 and 24/1-6/2/93. The second bird was very tame.
Black Brant GooseStatus: Vagrant. Given the small number of Brents in this area, we were fortunate indeed to receive this individual.
One off Lane Ends 17/12/96-24/2/97 (CB et al.).
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacusStatus: Vagrant/escapee. Just one previous record, of four on the Kent Estuary in spring 1988.
Pair Dockacres 25/4-16/9/90, apparently just the one bird during the last few days. Visited Leighton Moss and Allen Pool.
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Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferrugineaStatus: Feral/escapee.
Just one previously documented record, from 1987. No evidence to suggest any of the records during the period under review were other than feral origin.
1992: Single(s) Kent Estuary 22/2, 22/3, 13/6-7/7, 21/7.
1994: 2 Kent Estuary during the summer months.
1995: One north at Heysham on 14/5. Similar escapees/hybrids not eliminated. Two on the Kent Estuary.
1996: One Meathop 20/4.
1997: One Babydoc 8/6, one present for 2-3 weeks in June/July at the Snab on the River Lune (KW), one off Pilling Lane Ends for a few days from 21/9.
1998: One on the Eric Morecambe Pool 17/6. At least one reported from the Kent Estuary.
Shelduck Tadorna tadornaStatus: Common breeding bird.
A common breeding bird along the undeveloped coastal strip and also inland, especially along the Lune Valley and other river valleys. On the Lune, the Waterways Bird Survey data suggests a stable population of c.30 pairs on the area covered, with the main population around Arkholme. Inland breeders usually take their young to the coast and large creches are frequently seen, especially in the Lune Estuary from Colloway Marsh to Sunderland Point. The well known moult migration takes place in June and July and the Keer Estuary remains one of the favoured gathering and departure points. Birds return in numbers in September and October, and this period has usually seen the peak population along the coast, with counts usually exceeding 3,500 with a peak of 4,887 in September 1991. The wintering population has remained stable, between 1,800 and 2,800 on average, about 500 more than the previous ten years.
Wigeon Anas penelopeStatus: Abundant winter visitor. Small number of summering birds.
Small numbers of summering birds have been regular throughout the period, especially on the Allen and Eric Morecambe Pools. Some are certainly injured birds, but there has been no proven breeding in the area. Mainly a winter visitor, with numbers arriving in September. Mid-winter peak has usually been between 4,000-5,000, an increase of c.1,000 on the average for the previous ten years. The major part of the population is coastal, with the Lune Estuary and especially the RSPB reserves being important. The numbers on Carnforth Inner Marsh section of the RSPB reserve have doubled, to average a peak of c.2,100 in recent winters. Inland numbers are very variable, with peaks ranging between 265 and 1,275 during the period, depending to some extent on weather conditions at the time of the count. The major inland sites are the Lune near Hornby and Arkholme, and Leighton Moss. Numbers have increased at Leighton Moss, with 100-150 now regular, compared with under 50 in the previous ten year period. The former wintering population of around 250 on the Kellet TV mast pool has disappeared after drainage of the pool.
American Wigeon Anas americanaStatus: Vagrant.
Following the long-overdue first for the area, other records quickly followed, although there was no evidence whatsoever that the same bird was responsible for all sightings. Elusive male on the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools 9/12-19/12/94 (AS, JS et al.). A male seen at Leighton Moss by several eminent observers between 6/10 and 23/10/95 has unfortunately not been submitted to BBRC. Male, quite possibly a first winter, around Heysham outfalls/Red Nab (low or neap tides) or Middleton foreshore (high spring tides) 12/1-16/2/97 (PJM et al.). Adult male on the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools 8/11-19/11/98 (P Morris et al.). Adult male appeared at Red Nab, Heysham, on 23/10/99 (AJD, LT) and 9/11/99 (WC, SJD, PJM et al.). At this time of year, the numbers at Red Nab from day to day are extremely variable and are thought to be different splinter groups from a (nocturnal?) pooling of much larger and elusive numbers around the Lune Estuary/North Fylde. There is obviously a possibility that this was the same bird as in early 1997.
Gadwall Anas streperaStatus: Still scarce and irregular away from Leighton Moss/Carnforth Marsh. Irregular breeding bird at Leighton Moss.
Small numbers have summered each year at Leighton Moss, with breeding suspected in several years and unfledged young seen in 1998 and 1999. At Leighton Moss, numbers have increased from a peak of 46 in October 1988 to 102 in early December 1997 and 120 in November 1998. Numbers build up from late July onwards, to reach a peak from September to early December. Numbers decline with the first frost and some move to Carnforth Inner Marsh or Dockacres. The wintering population has been around 30-40 in most recent winters. Despite the increase of the population centred on Leighton, there are only occasional records from elsewhere in the area, with a few recent records from Heysham and the Lune Estuary.
Teal Anas creccaStatus: A local and scarce breeding bird. Common and well distributed winter visitor.
The breeding population was estimated at 10-12 pairs in three areas; Leighton Moss, the Lune between Crook o’Lune and Kirkby Lonsdale, and the Bowland Fells. It is a secretive breeder, so the population may be greater and more widespread than the Atlas survey showed. Numbers start to build up in late summer and remain until late April or early May. Peak numbers usually occur in the December to January period, with usually 800–1,450 on the coast, mainly Carnforth Inner Marsh and the Lune Estuary, while inland at Leighton Moss and the Lune floodplain 750–1,200 are regular. Its status remains similar to the previous decade.
Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensisStatus: Very rare visitor with 5 previous records, all at Leighton Moss in spring and all since 1979.
Male reportedly off Pilling Lane Ends on a date in December 1991 was perhaps the bird there on 22/3/92. Male intermittently at Leighton Moss/Allen-Eric Morecambe Pools 18/4-26/4/94. Male on the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools 26/2-6/4/95. Male Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools 9/3-12/3/97. Male appeared to commute between the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools, and parts of Leighton Moss not readily viewable, 4/12/98 into 1999. One seen for a brief period in front of Lilian’s Hide on 4/1/99, after being disturbed from a site within the reedbed by management work. A different male was seen intermittently in the Leighton Moss/Carnforth Inner Marsh area, mainly on the 'flood', 3/4-10/5/99.
Mallard Anas platyrhyncosStatus: Common and widely distributed resident.
The Lune breeding population, from Lancaster to Kirkby Lonsdale, has increased from 110 to 130 pairs in the last decade, to 200-285 during the last five years. Breeding populations at Leighton Moss have remained stable at around 100 pairs and it is well distributed as a breeding bird in many other areas, including the canal and other river valleys. On the inland waters, the peak count of 2,000-3,000 is usually in late summer, with 1,500 to 2,000 in mid-winter. Large numbers of partially feral birds frequent the Lancaster Canal, with recent January counts averaging 1,550. On the coast, highest numbers occur in mid-winter, with recent counts ranging between 1,500 and 2,200. These figures suggest that the total population is similar to those of the last decade.
Pintail Anas acutaStatus: Winter visitor.
Occasional birds, usually males, have summered at Leighton Moss and Carnforth Inner Marsh, but there is no proof of breeding. Only small numbers usually occur inland, with counts in autumn of 25-27, but occasionally larger numbers occur for a few days in autumn at Leighton Moss, before moving on. On the coast, numbers are now usually in the range 1,300 to 4,300, although a majority of these are often outside our area between the Winster and Humphrey Head. The largest concentrations are found on the Kent Estuary, Hest Bank and the Lune Estuary, although numbers can fluctuate rapidly in the course of a winter. The WeBS counts suggest that numbers have increased markedly, for peaks in the period 1979–88 rarely reached 1,000.
Garganey Anas querquedulaStatus: Regular spring and irregular autumn visitor to Leighton Moss. Has bred on occasions and one bird overwintered in the 1980/81 winter.
During the period under review, bred at Leighton Moss in 1996 (1 pair), 1997 and 1998 (2 pairs) and possibly in other years, but definite proof is always difficult. Females disappear for long periods, then suddenly reappear, while the males often remain in view. In years when breeding takes place, birds are present from March/April through to September. During the checklist period it appears to have increased slightly both at the regular haunts of Leighton Moss and Carnforth Inner Marsh and at other sites, with records from Dockacres (4), Scorton (1), Snab (1), Cockerham/Pilling (2), Halforth (1), the pools at Sunderland (4). The largest group away from Leighton Moss was a lengthy stay by up to three juveniles at Bowie's Pool, Sunderland, in September 1999. This compares with only 2 records away from Leighton Moss in the previous ten years.
Shoveler Anas clypeataStatus: A regular breeder at Leighton Moss and the adjoining saltmarsh.
The breeding population has remained stable at c.20 pairs. Small numbers breed erratically on the Dockacres complex and possibly the Lune around Arkholme. Outside the breeding season, Leighton Moss holds the largest numbers, with peaks, usually in autumn, of 140-205. The coastal populations are usually more erratic and the largest numbers usually occur when Leighton Moss is frozen. Peaks have recently been in the range 50–90, with almost all birds on Carnforth Marsh or at Hest Bank. These counts suggest a small decline in recent years, with the peak population in the previous ten years averaging around 250.
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufinaStatus: Escapee.
Probable escapees, despite wishful thinking in some quarters. Surprisingly, none reported during the previous ten years, with ‘a few presumed escapes’ being the pre-1979 status. Adult male Leighton Moss/Dockacres/Pine Lake late September-31/12/94. Given far too much credibility when it resided with the Pochard and Lesser Scaup during December – it did not arrive with the Pochard (at Leighton on its own in late September). Female Leighton Moss 15/9/96. Female reportedly at Leighton Moss on 22/10/95.
Pochard Aythya ferinaStatus: Common winter visitor. Breeds at Leighton Moss.
Another duck species whose regular breeding population is restricted to Leighton Moss and the adjoining Carnforth Inner Marsh pools, although birds have also summered on the Dockacres complex. The breeding population is usually between 10-14 pairs and is of national importance, being c.3% of the national population. The increase recorded in the previous ten years has continued. The all-time peak count then was 210. During the period under review it has increased threefold to 615 in October 1995. There is a marked movement between the Dockacres complex and Leighton Moss, with the former being a mainly nocturnal feeding area, and when water sports or shooting disturbs these gravel pits, they flight to roost at Leighton Moss. There has also been a further change in status during the period, as formerly the peak population occurred in spring, now peaks are in autumn. Recorded in small numbers at Street Bridge and many other lakes, tarns and gravel pits.
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collarisStatus: Vagrant. These are the first three records for the area.
Eclipse male Dockacres 20/9/89 soon moulted into more recognisable plumage and remained until 5/11/89 (PJM et al.). It regularly commuted to Leighton Moss with the main Pochard flock. Quite possibly the returning East Lancs. bird which, during this period of its lengthy stay, was mainly seen at Stock’s Reservoir. A female appeared with the autumn influx of Pochard on 26/10/90 and commuted between Dockacres, Pine Lake and Leighton Moss until 22/4/91. It was then seen intermittently at Leighton Moss until 26/5/91 (R Homan, PJM, TW et al.). Male on Foxhouses Lake, Wyreside fisheries, 21/5/94 (the late Stan Craig, RS – photographed). This last record was accidentally left out of the Annual Report. The male which appeared for several winters in the Scrogg's Lane, Kendal, area was never actually seen within our recording area.
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyrocaStatus: Vagrant. Four or five old records, the last in 1978.
Whilst the records from the old Heysham Lake were undoubtedly genuine, none of the others appeared to have ruled out hybrid possibilities. The caveat ‘of unknown origin’ also applies to many claims of this species. The individual(s) during the period under review was as likely as any to be of wild origin. An unringed and wary adult female was present on Dockacres/Pine Lake and Leighton Moss, accompanying the Pochard flock, from 17/10/91 to 1/1/92 (SPC, PJM et al.). Identical bird Babydoc/Leighton Moss 25/10-28/10/95 (TW et al.). Once again, the arrival coincided with a major influx of Pochard. Identical bird (and unringed) Skerton Weir 21/4-26/4/96 (JR et al.), relocated at the Leighton Moss Lower Pool 28/4-1/5/96 (JWr et al.). The same individual throughout?
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligulaStatus: Although still a scarce breeding bird, it has been slowly increasing, helped by the formation of new pools for gravel extraction or fishing.
The local breeding population consists of up to 13 pairs at Leighton Moss, 3-5 pairs each on the gravel pit complexes of Street Bridge and Dockacres and single pairs on several of the smaller fishing lakes and also Abbeystead Lake. Outside the breeding season, it is widely distributed on almost all waters and larger rivers, with the largest concentrations on Leighton Moss and the gravel pits. The population has increased substantially, with peak counts of 300-400 in recent years, compared to 150-200 in the previous ten years.
Scaup Aythya marilaStatus: Winter visitor and passage migrant.
Regular late-winter visitor to two favoured sites; off Morecambe Town Hall/Teal Bay and Jenny Brown’s Point. Highest numbers usually during cold winters. Also flocks irregularly appear in the Kent channel off Morecambe, perhaps these are wanderers from the Newbiggin area on the other side of the Bay. No winter semi-residents were seen in 1989 and only one intermittently in winter 1991/92. Ones and twos fairly regular on inland waters and it is an irregular spring and autumn passage migrant to various coastal sites.
The largest numbers recorded off Morecambe: 11 in January-March 1991, 19 on 23/12/92, 24 on 24/1/93, 15 on 27/3/95, up to 32 from 26/12/95 to at least March 1996. The only double-figure count from Jenny Brown’s Point was 11-15 during January-March 1997. Inland records reached a maximum of 11 during cold weather in early 1991 and showed a decline in the last three winters, possibly due to mildness, but possibly also due to the reduction in Pochard on the Dockacres/Pine Lake complex. The most noticeable passage occurred during April 1992, when apparently different flocks (sex/age ratios) were recorded off Morecambe as follows: 9 on 18/4, 5+7 on 19/4 and 8 on 21/4. One or two summer records, notably a male which remained off Jenny Brown’s Point from 12/7 until late November 1998.
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinisStatus: Vagrant. This is the first record (but see text).
A first winter male was located in the large Pochard flock on Dockacres by Billy Aspin and John Wright on 18/12/94 and remained until 30/12/94. It commuted to Pine Lake but was never located at Leighton Moss, unlike previous companions of the large Pochard flock. It appeared to be completely absent on a few dates, and this unknown locality was assumed to account for the lack of sightings between 30/12/94 and the discovery of an almost full-plumaged male (but still obviously first summer) on Dockacres on 5/3/95 (SJD, PJM et al.). In view of the extreme rarity at the time, no-one questioned the documentation of the 5/3-18/4/95 record as the same individual, especially as both sightings were aged as first year. Subsequent occurrence patterns, as the species has become more regular, have cast some doubt over this. This is due to an increasingly well-documented passage of Nearctic diving ducks during March/April, sometimes involving quite lengthy stays. The source of these may be linked to northbound spring movements related to increased winter regularity in the likes of the Canary Isles, but in truth we really have no idea of the origins of these birds. Bearing this in mind, the 1995 record should be changed to ‘ probably, but by no means definitely, the same ’.
Aythya hybridsAdult male Tufted x Pochard on Leighton Moss/the gravel pits during the winters of 1989/90 and 1990/91. It, or another, was on Dockacres 12/4-13/4/91. Presumably a different one was at the same sites winters 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98. A female Aythya showing features which suggested Ring-necked x Tufted Duck was present on the gravel pits/Leighton Moss 26/11/95-2/2/96 (AD et al.).
Eider Somateria mollisimaStatus: Occurs all year, but most regular in spring and least regular in mid-summer.
In comparison to previous ten year periods, there was a levelling off in numbers during the period under review. The only difference was the appearance of small numbers, including pairs, in the Sunderland area of the Lune Estuary. However, there are no obvious breeding sites and no behaviour suggesting breeding has been noted. If anything, numbers have declined off Morecambe, especially in spring and this may be partly due to the large–scale mussel extraction which took place in the mid-1990s and, more recently, the closure of the Sandylands sewage outfall (which has really affected Goldeneye numbers). Remains a difficult bird to find in this area during mid-winter and mid-summer. The largest numbers have occurred during late autumn/early winter onshore gales.
Counts during gales off Heysham included: 70 on 15/12/89, 221 on 29/12/90, 150 on 23/12/91, 70 on 2/1/92, 44 on 10/11/93, 47 on 5/11/96. A few sizeable counts from Jenny Brown’s Point included: 35 on 22/5/90, 27 on 23/5/94 and c.70 on 12/5/97. The spring influx between the Lune Estuary and Morecambe involved between 13 and 27 individuals. There was one inland record; a pair on Pine Lake on 13/5/97.
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalisStatus: Scarce visitor.
Exceptional numbers 1991/92 winter, but otherwise declined during the period under review. The following statements do not apply to 1999, where records were included after most of the text had been completed. The disappearance as a wintering bird off Morecambe during the latter part of the period under review coincided with a reduction in Goldeneye numbers and the closure of sewer outfalls. However, there was a similar absence in the mid-1980s and it is too early to make definitive statements on long-term trends. The absence from inland waters during the second half of the period is a little inexplicable.
1989: Female at Leighton Moss 1/1-20/3. Up to 2 Kent Estuary 8/1-9/4. Stone Jetty: female 13/3, 1st winter male 9/4.
1990: Female off Heysham 25/3. Female Sandylands/Stone Jetty during November.
1991/92: 1st summer male off Morecambe 20/1-13/4. Female/immature off Stone Jetty 7/11, 3 there 15/11, up to 6 end of November/December, up to 4 until 2/3/92. 1 st winter male Dockacres 5/11-29/12. Female/immature on Lune by Overton 26/11-29/3/92. One on Glasson Basin or canal 11/12 into 1992. One on canal at Skerton from early December to about 6/1/92. One at Lane Ends, Pilling 24-26/12. One Leighton Moss 19 and 29/12. Two off Jenny Brown’s Point 19/10 may have been related to 3 off Arnside Marsh 24/10 with one there 26/10. These could have been the birds subsequently off Morecambe. One at Jenny Brown’s Point on 21/1/92 and a late female off Morecambe on 17/4/92.
1993: Male off the Stone Jetty on 11/3. 1st winter female off Morecambe last week of November into 1994.
1994: The wintering bird off Morecambe remained until 4/4. "Glued" male on rocks at Morecambe 5/1. 1st winter male off Morecambe late November into 1995. 1 st winter male Halforth 19/11-7/12 and from 31/12 into 1995.
1995: 1st winter male remained off Morecambe until 12/4 and the 1st winter male remained at Halforth until 17/2.
1996: Two off Meathop on 31/3.
1998: Reports of singles off Morecambe on 1/2 and 24/3, were passed on to the Lancashire Bird Report by unknown observers.
1999: A small influx in late autumn. An adult female took up residence off Morecambe Stone Jetty from 27/10. There were four other records of transitory immatures during November, including a 1st winter male on Middleton Marsh 10/11, one at Sandside and two reported at Leighton Moss.
Common Scoter Melanitta nigraStatus: Mainly a spring passage migrant. Rare winter visitor.
Temporary residence off Morecambe during the winter months used to be a regular feature; during the period under review this was not the case. Most regularly recorded as a mainly spring passage migrant with the vast majority of birds flying into the Bay and then out again without landing.
Largest passage flocks seen (all off Heysham):- 103 on 30/10/89, 34 on 10/4/92, 110-120 on 9/5/92, c.120 on 21/5/96, 45 on 25/5/96. Also 37 off both Jenny Brown’s Point and Heysham on 10/8/98. Up to 8 per day were noted off Morecambe/Heysham during January 1994 which had been affected by the "glue" discharged by a boat off Blackpool (see also Long-tailed Duck). Inland waters:- Male on Lancaster Canal at SD472568 on 12/1/91, female Pine Lake 23-26/12/91, juvenile Dockacres on 8/9/92, male Dockacres 20/4-25/4/94, 8 females on Pine Lake 25/11/94, 2 at Leighton Moss on 26/11/94.
Velvet Scoter Melanitta fuscaStatus: Vagrant.
Just one record during the previous ten years. Perhaps overlooked in the Scoter flocks which used to occur off Heysham pre-1960s. Two males flying out of the Bay as seen from the end of Heysham wooden jetty at 1000hrs on 2/3/91 (TW). Female off Morecambe, usually just to the north of the Stone Jetty, 6/12-20/12/91 (PJM et al.). This long-stayer was a Lancashire ‘tick’ for many observers, reflecting the elusive, usually offshore and transitory, status of this species in the county. Adult male at Hest Bank 18/8/92 (R&MG). Male on the sea off the Stone Jetty before flying out of the Bay on 20/4/93 (R&KM). Two males on the sea off Heysham before flying into the Bay on 26/4/95 (PJM). A juvenile was present off Morecambe on 9/11/99, but only subsequently seen once (off Grosvenor) before appearing off the Stone Jetty daily from 5/12/99 to at least 18/12/99.
Goldeneye Bucephala clangulaStatus: Winter visitor, with some birds remaining for the summer.
Winter visitor to many inland waters in small numbers, with most on the Lune. Larger numbers in the Bay, but numbers much reduced after the closure of Sandylands outfall in 1997. Occasional birds remain for the summer. Occasionally one or two birds return in August and September. Small numbers are regular in October, increasing through November into December. December maxima of 112 on inland waters in 1997 and 250 in the Bay in 1995. Numbers normally rise in January and peak in February. Maximum inland was 129 in January 1996 and 400 in the Bay in February 1994. Numbers decline steadily through March and April with the occasional single birds lingering into May and sometimes remaining through the summer at Dockacres and Leighton Moss. A juvenile was present at Dockacres on 24/8/92. One pair was reportedly present at Capernwray in summer 1998.
Smew Mergellus albellusStatus: Regular but uncommon winter visitor.
Formerly an irregular winter visitor during cold spells, sometimes involving small flocks. Regular winter visitor during the period under review, although arrival was sometimes not until early December. A male, which arrived as a first winter, returned for each winter period from 1990/91 to date. It initially favoured Dockacres, but in later winters the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools and even Leighton Moss itself were included in the repertoire. There was some evidence to suggest that some of the other birds arrived with this individual, notably winter 1998/99. There is a possibility that some of the redheads were returning birds e.g. 1992/93 and 1993/94, 1997/98 and 1998/99.
1989: The only records were single redheads on the Lune at Aldcliffe on 8/1 and Colloway on 28/3.
1990: Apart from a report at Leighton Moss on 1/12, the only record was the subsequently returning male which arrived at Dockacres on 5/11.
1991: Returning male to 29/3 and from 3/11. Also visited the Lune near Skerton Weir and even the Goldeneye flock off Morecambe! Influx during cold weather in February. Two redheads above Arnside viaduct on 7/2. Redhead at Leighton Moss on 8-9/2. Redhead south past Jenny Brown’s Point with Red-breasted Mergansers on 9/2. Redhead Crook o’Lune 15-21/2. (Additional) Redhead reported at Dockacres at least 17 and 22/11.
1992: Returning male to 4/4 and from 22/11. Two redheads Leighton Moss 10/11 into 1993.
1993: Returning male to at least 11/3 and from 28/11. Redheads at Leighton until 19/3. Perhaps the same two from 18/11 and 2/12 but very mobile, e.g. seen off Morecambe Broadway on a few occasions. Additional redheads off Arnside Marsh intermittently 25/11-26/12.
1994: Returning male to 7/3 and presumably one of two adult males appearing in early December. The mobile redheads last seen on 27/3 and 13/4. During the last month of its stay, the second bird commuted regularly between Dockacres and the dwindling Goldeneye flock by the (now former) Sandylands sewer outfalls; on one occasion taking exactly 5 minutes to complete the journey. Additional adult male from mid-December, favouring Borwick Lake. Redhead Foxhouses Lake 12/3-2/4. Redhead intermittently in Halforth area 6/11-9/12.
1995: Two adult males to 12/3 with what was almost certainly the returning bird arriving in eclipse plumage on the Eric Morecambe Pools on 12/11 before transferring to the gravel pits from 9/12. Redhead Leighton Moss 8/11 to at least 18/12 then perhaps the same off Morecambe Town Hall (inland waters frozen) on 26/12. Redhead on Foxhouses Lake, Scorton on 27-28/11.
1996: Presumably the usual returning male to 26/3 and from 29/11. Influx during early January of an additional male and two redheads from 5/1. These were highly mobile and were often in the company of the regular male but there were no sightings of redheads after 12/1 or additional male after 21/1.
1997: Usual male until 4/2 (then to Killington?) and from 14/11. Redhead Borwick Lake from 29/11.
1998: Male remained until 12/3 and was presumably one of two males and a redhead which appeared in early December and remained into 1999 commuting between the gravel pits and Leighton Moss/Allen-Eric Morecambe Pools. The redhead remained on Borwick Lake until late January, then transferred to Leighton Moss until 30/3. Possibly the same returned to Leighton Moss 28/11 and remained into 1999.
1999: The Borwick lake redhead transferred to Leighton Moss and remained until 10/4. The group of two males and a redhead remained until 25/2, with one male until 14/3. An additional redhead (not the Borwick Lake/Leighton Moss individual) joined the group on 10-11/2. A redhead appeared very early at Lilian's Hide on 10/9, remaining to 29/9. What was probably a different redhead was on Dockacres/Borwick Lake from 30/10.
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serratorStatus: Mainly a winter visitor on the sea, with much smaller numbers on inland waters. A few birds remain in summer on the River Lune and offshore. Occasional records of breeding pairs.
A pair held territory near Skerton Weir in 1991 and near Arkholme from 1993-95, breeding being confirmed in 1994. Occasional summer reports from the Hodder tributaries which are within our recording area. In winter, small numbers are seen regularly on the northern gravel pits and the Allen/Eric Morecambe Pools. The numbers increase during onshore gales. Occasionally, single birds remain on the gravel pits throughout the summer. Much larger numbers are recorded in the Bay, up to 7 in the summer months, increasing from September through November/December to about 100 individuals. The maximum recorded was 165 in November 1994. A gradual decline from c.90 in January to about 60 in April and c.20 in May. This is a decline in numbers from the previous 10 years when the winter population was estimated to be 150-170. However, there has been no obvious further decline since the closure of Sandylands outfall in 1997.
Goosander Mergus merganserStatus: Increasing as a breeding species, with broods found on the Lune and its tributaries, the Wyre and the Bowland rivers.
The Waterways Bird Survey from Kirkby Lonsdale to Skerton on the Lune has recorded the following number of breeding females:-
Winter numbers on the river inland waters and canals are variable in relation to cold weather movements from Scandinavia, but January Wildfowl Counts give an average figure for this period of 80 birds. Skerton Weir has held over 50 birds in December 1990 and October 1991. Post breeding flocks of mature and immature males move through the Lune Valley in mid-May, with a flock of 53 at Arkholme on 14/5/94, the normal figures being about 20.
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensisStatus: This introduced species has occurred annually from 1984 onwards, mainly in spring and autumn. At the end of the period under review c.5 pairs were breeding at Leighton Moss, with other breeding records from Street Bridge.
Has a long breeding season, with young being seen as late as October at Leighton Moss. Breeding first occurred at Leighton Moss in 1994. The Leighton population moves away in autumn, although small numbers remained for the first time in the 1998/99 winter. During the previous 10 year period it was only a rare visitor.
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Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorusStatus: Vagrant. Two records prior to the period under review.
One over Meathop Moss for 5 minutes on 16/6/92 (SJR). Incorrectly credited to SJD in 1992 report. A dark morph juvenile flew low over Heysham Nature Reserve at 0910hrs on 27/9/94, heading ESE (PJM). Phone calls to south Lancaster observers included a connection with TW, who was able to dash out and intercept the bird as it continued the ESE heading over the A588 by Ashton Hall. It was last seen heading over the south of the University campus. One was apparently multi-observed and photographed (record shot) as it flew north over Leighton Moss on 18/5/95. One north over fields east of the A6 and south of Milnthorpe at 0800hrs on 15/5/97. It then circled high over Milnthorpe and flew west over Dallam Park (DAS). One flew south over Leighton Moss on 13/9/98 (GP). Not assessed yet by the Lancashire Records Panel. Excellent description received of a north-west bound bird over the Allen Pool on 23/5/99.
The problem with this species is that it is known that they breed in south Cumbria and a certain proportion of observers think they should be seeing them on passage and, if/when a sighting is claimed, the "tie–in" with south Cumbria means that "descriptions are surely not needed". Unfortunately, they are still very scarce, albeit increasing, in Lancashire and we urge observers to still treat this species as requiring careful descriptions.
Black Kite Milvus migransStatus: Vagrant. There were four sightings during 1989. Just one of these was submitted to and accepted by BBRC. Three strong claims in 1999 have yet to be assessed by BBRC.
Probable adult, Dunsop Valley late afternoon of 30/4/89 (AD, PJM, MR). Watched for over 10 minutes, including views of the upperwings. A sighting over Brennand Fell on 1/5/89 (PI) was not submitted to BBRC. The first record for this area and, at the time, the first county record. Claims from Leighton Moss on 2/5/95 have been rejected, although there remains a possibility that a bird which flew straight through to the NE at 0915hrs was the genuine article … but evidence is needed! Confident claims were made in 1999 as follows: north over Aldcliffe Marsh on 21/6 (JC), west over the A6 at Hampson Green, flying towards Dolphinholme, on 1/8 (D & I Wrapson), and later on 1/8 near the Trough of Bowland at SD595550 (Martin Bishop, Nick Hayes et al.). All have been submitted, or are in the process of being submitted, to BBRC.
Red Kite Milvus milvusStatus: Vagrant, some, if not all, records involving individuals from the reintroduction schemes.
Rumours and very indirect reports outweigh confirmed sightings, leaving the following: one just east of Abbeystead village on 14/10/94 (per Abbeystead Estate keepers). One soaring above the Brennand Valley at 1200hrs on 26/10/95, but no opportunity to see whether it was wing-tagged (JM). An untagged bird in the Trough of Bowland on 3/3/97. Wing-tagged individual frequented Langden/Whitendale very irregularly from 16/4-20/4/97 (NM et al.). One 'around Bowland' October to 15/11/97. One flew around Lane Ends and Fluke Hall, before heading north towards Lancaster during the afternoon of 16/10/99 (P Bainbridge et al.). It was then independently sighted later in the afternoon in Littledale (per JC). No tags noted.
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosusStatus: A regular breeder in the period covered by the checklist and passage migrant in small numbers.
After the first breeding pair in 1987 at Leighton Moss, the population has slowly increased and by the end of the period there were annually 3 or 4 nests, although only 2 in 1999. In only three years since the colonisation have there been bigamous males. Passage birds are now much more difficult to detect than formerly and at times are chased off by the breeding birds. The hunting birds roam widely and have been seen up to 5 miles from the Reserve. Records from further afield within the area are unusual. Birds arrive at Leighton in late March and the last ones depart in early October. There is only one winter record, a female from January 12th to February 9th 1996.
M = Number of males
F = Number of females
Yng = Number of young
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneusStatus: A regular breeder in the period covered by the checklist and regular winter visitor to coastal sites.
Bowland is the most successful breeding area for this bird in England. Numbers have increased since the 88 Checklist, when 18 young had fledged over 7 years, to the position where that number has been equalled or exceeded in each of the last three years. While there is still some evidence of disturbance, much has been achieved with the help of RSPB summer wardens and RSPB volunteers, together with increased co-operation with keepers and landowners. It will be interesting to see if this can lead to a wider and more even distribution as a result of the recommendations of the Langholme Report. The majority of birds leave the hills over winter and there are occasional sightings of birds outside the breeding areas, mainly along the coasts of the Fylde and Morecambe Bay. Birds are regularly reported from the RSPB reserves at Marshside and Lytham, as well as Leighton Moss. The use of patagial wing tags, in an attempt to gain more sightings and information about the movement of the Bowland Hen Harriers, was started in 1988, when 22 juveniles were ringed and tagged. This has resulted in over twenty sightings and reports of birds found dead, from areas ranging from the Scottish border to the east and south coast. Two of the females ringed as fledglings in 1998 returned as successful breeding birds in 1999 and a tagged male was on territory early in the season but did not remain. 21 of the 24 juveniles that successfully fledged in 1999 were ringed and wing tagged, with one being found emaciated and dead in the Fylde six weeks later.
Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargusStatus: Vagrant with just the two previously documented records.
There were no fully documented records during the period under review, although a ringtail which flew up the Kent Estuary off Arnside Marsh at 1545hrs on 10/5/97 (DAS) was ‘probably this species’. The record from Bowland published in the 1989 LDBWS Annual Report never reached the county bird report and should be deleted.
Goshawk Accipiter gentilisStatus: Resident at one or two sites, including Bowland, but there is little evidence of breeding success.
Occasional sightings of single birds at Leighton Moss in February-April and more frequently in September-November. One at Pilling Lane Ends 1/9/93. There appears to be very little change in status since the previous 10 years.
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisusStatus: Well-distributed breeding bird in woodland areas and in small copses. Small coastal movements in spring and autumn.
Increasing visitor to gardens where small passerines are feeding. The breeding population appears to be increasing, particularly in the south-west of the area. There have also been increasing records of migrants at Heysham including 5 together heading north-east on 4/5/90. Maximum of 14 migrants in total were recorded in spring 1991 and 16 in spring 1992. In autumn, smaller numbers are recorded with low single figures per autumn. Up to 5 birds, but more usually 1-2, have been seen at the Starling roost at Leighton Moss in autumn/winter. Ringing recoveries have included a rapid and rather early 100km westward movement by a young male ringed as a pullus at Savin Royds Wood (North Yorkshire) on 7/7/97 which was found at Heysham on 11/8/97.
Buzzard Buteo buteoStatus: Continuing increase in breeding population in woodlands and small copses, mainly north of and in the Lune Valley. A significant increase in Bowland during the ten years, especially in the Dunsop Valley.
Recorded as definitely breeding in 5 tetrads, with probable breeding in 4 and present in 15. There appears to have been an influx, together with Rough-legged Buzzards, in 1994. Thereafter, the bird/days at Leighton Moss rose from 325 in 1994 to 953 in 1998. At the same time there was a marked increase in the breeding population. After the breeding season, as many as ten birds can be seen together.
Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopusStatus: Vagrant. Three previously documented records.
Of the sightings during the period under review, two related to the influx in the 1994/95 winter and one was a presumably returning wintering individual to Bowland 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98 but not 1998/99. One east over Jenny Brown’s Point on 22/10/94 (TW et al.). Presumably the same over the Cringlebarrow area of Leighton Moss on 26/10/94 and over the southern end of Warton Crag on 27/10/94 (RMH, PJM et al.). One watched for four hours at Sykes’ Nab, near Langden on 1/1/95. Following an unsubstantiated report in late 1995, a first winter was seen in the Dunsop Valley on 30/3 and 2/4/96 and rumoured at other times (MJ et al.). What was presumably this bird (as a second winter) was then located at Langden on 23/3/97 (L&GPo) and was subsequently seen by many observers, favouring the rabbit-laden eastern slope of the Whitendale Valley. It was last seen on 20/4/97. It returned (as an adult) by at least 17/11/97 (NM) and remained into 1998, but was rather elusive in the adverse raptor-watching weather (mild, wet and windy). It has subsequently come to light that the bird had perhaps summered in its first year (1996), frequenting the Whitendale/Croasdale area (per keepers/RSPB).
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetosStatus: Vagrant with three previous records in this area.
Immature south above the Langden Valley at 1300hrs on 25/3/97, then landing briefly for 3-5 minutes (JWB, BT). Accepted by the Lancashire Records Panel. No details have been received on claims of an adult north up the Dunsop Valley on 31/3/97.
Osprey Pandion haliaetusStatus: Scarce, but increasing, spring and autumn passage migrant.
Although still subject to poor years, this species is on the increase in the three main categories: early spring rapid-transit, presumably Scottish breeding adults; more leisurely immatures later in the spring; and birds on autumn passage. This takes it out of any of the rarity categories into ‘regular’, with probably in the region of 120-140 separate sightings of individuals seen in this area in total. What is not known, of course, is the extent to which spring passage birds use tried and trusted routes and therefore some sightings are the same individuals in successive years. More colour ringing needed. Although this increase could be partly attributed to observer coverage in the likes of the Dunsop Valley, the Leighton Moss data strongly suggests that it is genuine. It has to be said, I’m afraid, that the data for this species really brings home the fact that (apart from Kevin Briggs’ visits) there is no consistent coverage during the migration periods in the Lune Valley. This should, in theory, be the major flightline for this species. There have been quite a few second or third-hand undated reports from there via members of the public, which were unfortunately too vague to publish or include in this analysis.
At Leighton Moss, 15 were recorded on spring passage 1989-93 with a maximum of four in 1992. In contrast, 25 were recorded 1994-98 with a maximum of 7 in 1994 and just the one in 1995. A bird colour-ringed as a nestling near Aviemore in 1995 was seen at Leighton during 2-3/5/98. About 8 spring migrants in 1999. The most dramatic passage count of the period came from the Dunsop Valley in 1997. This was partly due to observer saturation, all of whom were checking the skies for the only twitchable Rough-legged Buzzard in the country and Goshawks. 10 were recorded between 30/3 and 15/4 and presumably others passed through later as observer numbers rapidly declined. As implied, the number of accurately reported and dated records from the Lune Valley was very few, yet a single observer carrying out fieldwork (not staring up into the sky all the time like the Dunsop observers) managed to record three at Arkholme in spring 1998. There were only three other fully-documented reports from the Lune Valley during the 10 years! Spring passage sightings from elsewhere totalled about 20 individuals with 9 of these reported during 1998. The Wyreside fisheries complex was a favoured site, assisted by the presence of Ralph Lockwood for prolonged periods. In autumn, Leighton Moss was again favoured with a marked contrast between just four records in total 1989-93 and 20 during 1994-98 with 3-5 per year. Following singles at Leighton Moss on 9/6 and 28-9/6, at least 7 were seen in autumn between 11/7 and a late individual over Heysham on 27/10. Elsewhere, there were just 9 autumn records, the most unusual of which was seen flying south at Sunderland Point on 17/10/93, then remaining in the Scorton area until 27/11/93, by far and away the latest date for this area.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculusStatus: A well-distributed breeding bird in all areas, but apparently declining. As well as natural sites, nests occur on buildings, pylons and in nest boxes. A scarce passage migrant at coastal sites.
The LDBWS Atlas recorded definite breeding in 48 tetrads, probable breeding in 25 tetrads and ‘presence’ in 41 tetrads. The most obvious migratory movement involved 10 north at Heysham on 1/4/89. Much smaller numbers during the other years under review, with a maximum of just three in spring (1998) and four in autumn (1995). However, only high-flying individuals have been counted as migrants and there remains a probability that some of the more leisurely low-flying individuals were also migrants. The largest concentration was 30-40 feeding close together at Langden in late summer 1989.
Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinusStatus: Vagrant. Two acceptable records prior to the period under review.
Adult female Crag Foot, near Leighton Moss, from the evening of 27/5 to the early afternoon of 28/5/94 (several observers). Accepted by BBRC. The Gait Barrows record on 23/5/97 was not accepted by BBRC and all Bowland claims have either not been submitted or rejected by BBRC.
Merlin Falco columbariusStatus: Good numbers breed on the private grouse moors in the Trough of Bowland. A rather scarce and thinly scattered winter visitor to lowland sites, most regular on extensive saltmarshes.
Merlins have bred successfully throughout the Bowland area, though circumstantial evidence suggests that egg theft and other disturbance results in some broods being lost. The population in the area has improved from the 88 Checklist, and will normally be in excess of twenty pairs, but can fluctuate from year to year as a result of poor weather at critical times for breeding. This increase is also noticed at lowland sites during the winter, as indicated from the RSPB logs at Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay. However, it must be remembered that these are the result of daily sightings, with 1 to 2 birds being present in most years from late August until early April.
Hobby Falco subbuteoStatus: Unknown; probably one or two pairs nesting within the recording area which may have been responsible for tolerable regularity in late summer/early autumn at Leighton Moss. Many undescribed claims.
This species was left until last (by PJM), due to some difficulty in how to tackle the available data. A decision was then taken to respect the confidential nature of some of the reports, even though what were quite probably the same birds were reported ‘as usual’ by other observers. From one regular source: ‘It is likely that the Lune Valley held at least one breeding pair during the period under review, with Sand Martins taken at colonies providing at least some of the food’. Confidential reports from two different sources at two different times during the period under review suggested breeding at another site, although it was possible that the Lune Valley Sand Martin colonies were within the catchment area of this site, therefore ‘the Lune Valley held at least one breeding pair’ is incorrect. The observed departure route from the Lune Valley Sand Martin colonies supports this opinion. Records from raptor specialists suggest that at least one other area of breeding activity lay within our recording area.
The other main category of occurrence involved virtually annual late summer sightings of both adults and immatures at the Leighton Moss hirundine roost. Several of these claims were undescribed (as required by the Lancashire Records Panel/County Bird Report), but several were multi-observed over a series of evenings by reliable observers. Late autumn claims have invariably involved on or two observers (out of many others present) at times of regular Merlin activity. About five additional claims from other sites during the period under review.
Peregrine Falco peregrinusStatus: Resident and breeding in increasing numbers. Almost ever-present at coastal sites from late summer to early spring, especially around high tide wader roosts.
Breeding pairs have increased from c.6 to c.10 during the period under review. Numbers of bird/days at Leighton Moss/Morecambe Bay Reserve have virtually doubled since the previous ten year period. 802 bird/days were recorded 1989-93 and a similar 843 from 1994-98. The highest numbers are seen in late summer and winter, mainly young birds on the saltmarshes. These figures suggest that saturation level may have been reached during this ten year period. A pullus ringed at Caton on 3/6/96 was found dead in suspicious circumstances at Beckwithshaw, Harrogate, North Yorks. on 24/3/97.
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Part 2: Grouse to Auks
Part 3: Pigeons to Buntings
Notes, References etc.
Map of the Area Covered by the Checklist
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