Monday 29th JanuaryBirding in the Falklands
Checklist of the Birds of Lancaster & District 1989-1999
Copyright Lancaster & District Birdwatching Society, 2000
Part 3: Pigeons to Buntings
Pigeons, Doves, Cuckoos, Owls, Nightjar, Swifts
Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Woodpeckers
Larks, Martins, Swallows, Pipits, Wagtails
Waxwing, Dipper, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstarts, Chats, Thrushes
Flycatchers, Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper
Starling, Sparrows, Finches, Buntings
Pigeons, Doves, Cuckoos, Owls, Nightjar, Swifts
Feral Pigeon Columba liviaStatus: Common breeder in the large, older buildings of Lancaster and Morecambe. Scarcer elsewhere, though often found around farm buildings, although appears to have declined in this habitat as arable farming has been phased out.
Stock Dove Columba oenasStatus: A thinly distributed breeding resident, rare or absent in coastal areas, but common on the slopes of the eastern fells and to the north-east of Carnforth.
The Atlas quotes a similar pattern of distribution in other areas of the North of England. The species favours old buildings and trees for nest sites, hence coming into competion with Jackdaws and Owls, but takes readily to nest boxes. The numbers of Stock Doves surveyed on CBC plots are low, but agree with the National CBC results, with no change over the last 10 years.
Woodpigeon Columba palumbusStatus: A very common breeding resident found all over the area except for treeless regions. Increases in built up areas are taking place, with fear of humans diminishing.
The national CBC figures show an increase of 27% between 1988 and 1997. This increase has been apparent for at least 25 years. Migration remains poorly documented in this area. This is because there are no observers covering inland valleys or passes on a regular basis ‘which should produce large numbers’ (Pete Crooks pers comm. based on observations in the Sheffield upland areas). Very few pass over Heysham but they have, on occasion, been recorded in some numbers just inland from there over Lancaster itself. For example; 300+ on 8/11/92 and 100+ on 12/1/92. Flocks of up to 500 can be found on the north Fylde agricultural fields in winter.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaoctoStatus: Widespread breeder in our area, but not as common to the east. Some evidence of migration over Heysham, but rather difficult to analyse.
National CBC results show a 38% increase between 1988 and 1997, local censuses cannot verify this because there are too few records in rural areas. Common in suburbia. Recent attention given to this species at Heysham suggests that there are small, but significant, movements in April and September/October. Ringing returns from elsewhere suggest there are still few long distance movements, mainly on a north-south axis, for this species.
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turturStatus: Rare and declining visitor, most records in late spring.
Following a generalised statement of ‘scarce and irregular … most records in May’ (Hague 68 Checklist), 9 were seen 1969-78, 16 during 1979-88. Observer coverage during the period under review probably similar to 1979-88.
1990: Perhaps the same early individual reportedly at Morecambe Golf Course on 21/4 and Leighton Moss on 26/4. One near Forton Motorway Services 17/5 and one at Arnside 17-19/5. One at Halforth 29/9-1/10.
1991: Perhaps a returning bird at Arnside on 2/6. Immatures at Sizergh Castle 3/10 and Morecambe on 17/10 (at feeder on two occasions).
1992: One flew in from the south west and landed briefly before continuing north east at Heysham Nature Reserve on 16/5. One Carnforth Inner Marsh 28/5. One along Moneyclose Lane, coinciding with easterly winds and two Red-backed Shrikes, at Heysham on 28/9.
1993: One Sizergh Castle 2/10.
1994: One reported near the Allen Pool on 17/5. One on Warton Crag on 4/10.
1995: One north-east at Heysham on 26/5.
1996: One north along the seawall at Heysham on 9/6.
1999: One flew north-east past Heysham Observatory/Head on 4/5.
Cuckoo Cuculus canorusStatus: Uncommon breeding bird, most readily seen and heard around the higher ground in the east of the area where the Meadow Pipit is its chief host.
Nationally, CBC results show increases for farmland of 9%, with woodland plots showing a loss of 13% in 1996/97. However, there has been a slight decline in numbers over the last 10 years, with problems in the wintering areas in Africa the cited cause. Given the distribution in this area, it is perhaps not surprising that it is a very rare coastal migrant, with one/two per year at the most at Heysham Observatory.
Barn Owl Tyto albaStatus: Irregular breeding bird and wanderer.
Only one published breeding record during the period, in SD46. This area may be no longer suitable because of road developments. Still recorded annually, mainly in the Heysham area or along the southern boundary of our area. This latter site is close to a successful nest box scheme just outside the area. There have also been occasional records from elsewhere but some at least, including the 1997 sightings at Leighton Moss, were probably of dubious origin.
Little Owl Athene noctuaStatus: A widespread but local resident of farmland and river valleys below 250 metres.
The Atlas survey suggested a total population of 50-70 pairs within the area.
Tawny Owl Strix alucoStatus: Common breeding resident of woodland, well timbered farmland and urban areas below 250 metres. The Atlas survey shows the Tawny Owl to be widely distributed throughout our area where suitable habitat exists. Most woodlands and river valleys are occupied, as well as suburban tetrads in the Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham areas.
Long-eared Owl Asio otusStatus: On the basis of submitted records, its status is that of a rare breeder and visitor.
Breeding was confirmed during the Atlas survey in the Bowland area and possibly at one other site. Previous breeding records were from the same area. Many of the fell-side plantations in this area are private and this difficult species needs persistence to establish breeding, so it is probably under recorded. May also breed in the Silverdale area, with an old April record and a fledged young on 28/8/97. The only roost site reported was in the willows at Leighton Moss. This site has not been recorded annually and usually single birds have been located, but in March 1996 2-3 roosted and 2 were in the same area in December 1996 and into 1997. This species would repay closer study. The only migrant reported in recent years was disturbed from the copse on Middleton Industrial Estate on 24/10/99.
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeusStatus: A fluctuating breeding population persists in the Bowland area.
During the Atlas survey, breeding was proved in 10 tetrads, but the population was assessed at 5-7 pairs with more during a good vole year, such as 1988, when 18 pairs were located. It appears to have declined as a wintering bird, although it seems always to have been subject to marked fluctuations. In early 1992 there were as many as 7 on the Lancaster Rubbish Tip and 3 there late in the year. In the same winter there were 7 other records spread along the coast from Pilling to Carnforth Marsh. Since 1995 there have been no winter records and just a handful of spring or autumn records.
Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeusStatus: Formerly bred, vagrant status since 1983.
During the period under review the only record was of a single bird flushed in Barbondale on 2/8/91 (IW et al.). This compares with nine records during the previous 10 years, with a possibility of breeding in 1983. Used to breed regularly in small numbers and in the 1968 to 1972 Atlas period was recorded in five 10 km squares.
Swift Apus apusStatus: Common summer visitor.
The distribution, as revealed by the Atlas survey, of this common summer visitor, closely mirrors that of human settlement. It is absent as a breeding bird from the Bowland fells, the well wooded areas, and the intensive agricultural land around Cockerham. Older buildings are favoured as breeding sites, as these have more suitable holes than modern structures. Lancaster has more colonies than Morecambe, with many of the larger colonies in church towers. Common passage migrant late July/early August with several hundreds per day noted at many sites. During wet or cold weather during the breeding season, large numbers feed over inland waters such as Leighton Moss or Dockacres and along the Lune. The only ringing recovery involved typical site fidelity, with one on Middleton Industrial Estate in 1998 being retrapped there in 1999.
Alpine Swift Apus melbaStatus: Vagrant. One record.
One at Caton during the evening of 25/5/92 (DB) was presumably the bird seen high above the centre of the village with Common Swifts in extremely poor light at the end of the day (‘squared-off’ white belly patch visible but size assessment difficult) (PJM). Accepted by BBRC.
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Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Woodpeckers
Kingfisher Alcedo atthisStatus: Scarce breeding resident, possibly an autumn/winter visitor from nearby areas.
The total breeding population has been estimated at c.15 pairs, with breeding on the rivers Lune, Greta, Keer, Wyre, and Conder. Population trends tend to mirror the severity of the winter, with the Lune Waterways Bird Survey data showing a population varying between 1 and 6 pairs on the river between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale. Outside the breeding season it is regularly seen at other water bodies, especially Leighton Moss, Carnforth Inner Marsh and the saltmarsh creeks.
Kingfisher - River Lune Waterways Bird Survey
Bee-eater Merops apiasterStatus: Vagrant. Two previous records, one involving a flock of four.
One reported near Lancaster Castle on 29/9/91 (JGG). One on Arnside Knott for a few minutes before flying off to the south on 12/7/96 (P R Colston). Accepted by the Cumbrian Records Panel.
Hoopoe Upupa epopsStatus: Very rare visitor with ten documented records in total, all but two in ‘spring’. Three were pre-1979; three were between 1979-88, with the remainder below.
A chance encounter as it flew across the road in front of GD’s van led to many people obtaining excellent views in the Potter’s Brook area of Forton on 9/5/92. Supposedly glimpsed on 10/5/92. One around Crag Cottage, Witherslack, on 19/6-20/6/93 (AFG et al.). One Arkholme 5/4/95 (Mrs Lowndes et al.). A well-watched individual at Halton, along Mill Lane, 10/10-23/10/98.
Wryneck Jynx torquillaStatus: Very rare visitor with seven previous documented records and two ‘probables’.
One was photographed at East Lodge, Aldcliffe (SD603469) on 3/9/89 (AD et al.). 1st winter ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve at 1110hrs on 20/9/95 (TW et al.). One Langden Valley, Bowland, just above the reservoir, at 1030hrs on 15/9/96 (WA, AMcC & Lancaster YOC group).
Green Woodpecker Picus viridisStatus: Local breeding resident.
The Atlas survey showed this bird was well established in the well wooded Arnside/Silverdale area and the Keer Valley and parts of the Lune Valley. It was very scarce south of Lancaster with a few pairs along the Bowland Valleys. Very occasional records away from these well established haunts.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos majorStatus: Common and widespread, this is the most successful of woodpeckers found in most broadleaved woodland. Rather scarcer in the east and relatively tree-less south-western areas.
Hague (68 Checklist) reported it as rather scarce, but since that time numbers have increased. This increase was assessed as ‘3.5 times’ between 1968 and 1989 and ‘25%’ between 1994 and 1997. An example of consistent breeding density can be found at Potts Wood, with 3 pairs in 12.7 hectares since 1985. ‘Migrants’ are trapped and ringed at Heysham on a regular basis in late October/early November, with no obvious evidence that they refer to anything more than post-juvenile dispersal.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minorStatus: Status uncertain, presumably a breeding resident in extremely small and scattered numbers.
Sorting out the status of this species requires a concerted effort by all rural LDBWS members. The Lancashire Atlas and LDBWS Atlas were carried out in a manner which did not allow for the detailed searching (and luck) required to locate this species. By the end of the period under review, records were still scattered, suggesting isolated undiscovered breeding pairs, but very few and far between.
During the first five years of the period under review (1989-93), recorded on at least one occasion at:- Sizergh Castle, Levens Park, Lawson’s Wood (nr. Caton), Thurnham Churchyard, Leighton Moss, Forton, Underley Hall (nr. Kirkby Lonsdale), Deep Cutting (Lancaster), Lower Dolphinholme, Melling, Scorton, Fox’s Wood (Wyreside fisheries), Halton, Arkholme. Breeding sites italicised. In addition, a few generalised records from the ‘Arnside and Silverdale area’. During the second period (1994-98), recorded on at least one occasion at: Leighton Moss, Wyreside fisheries, Woodwell, "Lune Valley site", Levens Park, Quernmore Park Hall, between Crag Foot and Warton, Sizergh Castle. Mainly single sightings with no confirmed breeding records. In addition, perhaps the same wandering individual was seen on a peanut feeder in Borrowdale Road, Lancaster, on 24/11/98 and Bolton-le-Sands on two occasions in December 1998.
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Larks, Martins, Swallows, Pipits, Wagtails
Woodlark Lullula arboreaStatus: Vagrant. The previous sighting was in 1945.
One was heard calling, then quickly discovered progressing in a southerly direction over Heysham Nature Reserve at 1040hrs on 23/3/96 (PJM). This was the first of a trio of rare fly-overs at Heysham during 1996. Many hours have been spent documenting ‘vis mig’ at Heysham over the last 20 years with the ‘reward per hour’ rather scant (Honey Buzzard, Serin and two records of Richard’s Pipit) until 1996. The beneficiaries were also the two who have spent the most time during those 20 years recording ‘vis’.
Skylark Alauda arvensisStatus: Declining breeding resident.
A Red Listed, declining breeding resident, present in only 50% of tetrads in the Atlas. Nests at sea level and on Ward’s Stone at 654 metres. Spring passage migrant in small numbers and regular autumn passage migrant. The autumn birds at Heysham Observatory contain a mixture of birds heading north to south and those arriving from the east and heading south-west. Major component of cold-weather movements, notably early February 1996. Sizeable numbers winter in any available stubble fields.
Like the Song Thrush, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush, there was a sharp decline in the late 1970s and a slow decline since. Recent BTO work has shown figures of 6 breeding pairs/km2 on arable land and 4 pairs/km2 for marginal uplands. These figures are exceeded at Caton Moor, with 8 per/km2 and 6 per/km2 at Jubilee Tower. Therefore, reasonable numbers in the upland areas. Local CBC farmland has not had any since 1987 at Mount Vernon and since 1993 at Coat Green, with just one pair at Sunderland. In contrast, Halton Park CBC held 6 pairs and Thurnham CBC held 7 pairs in the late 1970s. Nationally, the decline has been 50% between 1989 and 1995, and 81% between 1983 and 1995. No really dramatic movements at Heysham during the period under review. An excellent stubble field materialised at Cockersands during winter 1998/99 and held up to 300 birds during November/December.
Shorelark Eremophila alpestrisStatus: Vagrant with two previous records, both from Carnforth Slag Tips.
Immature remained very elusively around the stock car track and nearby Carnforth Slag Tips 2/4-9/4/97 (JB, MJD et al.). One was similarly unco-operative on Carnforth Slag Tips on 22/11/98 (RG, MP et al.). Found during the late morning, it was probably the ‘passerine spp.’ seen flying high towards Jenny Brown’s Point in mid-afternoon.
Sand Martin Riparia ripariaStatus: Summer visitor.
A summer visitor, breeding in large colonies along the banks of the River Lune and its tributaries. Less regular breeding has occurred on the Rivers Keer, Wyre and Dunsop, and sporadically at gravel extraction workings near Carnforth. Breeding has also been recorded from a Nether Kellet quarry. The following table shows the fluctuating numbers of nests found on the River Lune between Skerton and Kirkby Lonsdale, recorded as part of the BTO Waterways Survey.
Sand Martin - River Lune Waterways Bird Survey
Intensive ringing of Sand Martins took place on the River Lune between 1961 and 1966 as part of a BTO national enquiry and this provided valuable information about migratory movements in Britain, France and Spain. However, no ringed birds were reported in their wintering quarters. In 1992 a ringing programme was started on the River Lune to complement an intensive ringing initiative of European migrants being carried out in Senegal at Djoudj, one of the Sand Martin’s main wintering areas. In late summer, a bird was controlled on the Lune which had been ringed earlier in the year at Djoudj. This was our first sub-Saharan control of this species. Subsequently, a female and a juvenile ringed on the Lune in June 1992 were controlled at Djoudj in November 1992 and January 1993 respectively. This was followed by a male ringed at Djoudj in January 1993 being controlled later in the year in July on the Lune at Caton. From this ringing we now have good evidence of where our locally breeding Sand Martins over-winter. On arrival in spring and before departure in autumn, large roosts of Sand Martins build up at Leighton Moss.
Swallow Hirundo rusticaStatus: Common summer resident and passage migrant. Occasional arrivals in March, with the main arrival from mid-April, often leaving abruptly in September. Rarely recorded as late as November.
Observations from Heysham Observatory have recorded some heavy passage of migrants e.g. 250 north per hour on 10/5/93 and a minimum of 1,275 south-east in three hours on 21/9/97. However, this species is generally under-recorded at Heysham, owing to their habit of flying low along the coast or even parallel to the coast some distance out to sea. Breeds throughout the area, with some evidence of an increase in recent years. Several study farms are close to full breeding capacity with no unused barns and as many as 13 pairs fledging up to 106 young. Triple brooding sometimes recorded, but is not common this far north and when its occurs, some young can fledge as late as mid-October. 1991 was notable as the area received much reduced numbers of breeding birds. A cold, late spring, with persistent northerly winds, was thought to be to blame, with many birds ‘giving up’ migration and breeding further south than normal. Autumn roosts can be large, especially at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, where numbers can often reach 10,000, with 15,000 recorded in 1989. Other notable roosts include Helton Tarn, erratically at Pine Lake and the reed-fringed ditches at Cockersands. Birds ringed locally as pulli during the period under review were controlled at autumn passage roosts at Fleetwood (2), Warrington, Staffordshire and Icklesham (Sussex) (2). In addition, one was ringed as a pullus at Knaresborough on 3/7/91, caught on passage at Spurn on 25/8/91, then caught as a nesting adult at Slyne on 19/6/93. Finally, the only ones ringed by Ted Ponting involved a brood of pulli at Arnside in August 1998. One of these was subsequently caught by a ringer at Rio Guadalfeo, Granada, Spain on 18/10/98.
House Martin Delichon urbicaStatus: Common summer visitor.
Absent from the upland and well-wooded areas, and the Atlas suggested inland areas are preferred to the more exposed coastal strip. Colonies can fluctuate in size, but no long-term study of population changes has been made locally. Regular on passage in spring and autumn, with the largest numbers usually in late September and early October. There are two old wintering records but no recent ones.
Richard’s Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiaeStatus: Very rare visitor. One previously documented record (1980).
Two at Pilling Lane Ends 27/9-29/9/92 with one remaining until 3/10/92 (many observers). One south over Heysham Nature Reserve at 0910hrs on 18/10/92 (PJM). Two over Heysham on 9/10/94 and a singleton flushed from Ocean Edge foreshore by a dog walker on 16/10/94 (and was presumably the bird at Rossall the following day) (PJM). One Pilling Lane Ends and area from late January until at least 4/2/95 (many observers). One appeared to be forced off the saltmarsh by a high spring tide and land in a field near the eastern end of the Eric Morecambe Pool on 25/10/95. It was then disturbed by a major sheep round-up and appeared to return to the inner saltmarsh between the Eric Morecambe Pool and the River Keer (PJM, SM, JS, TW).
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestrisStatus: Vagrant. This is the first record.
A calling individual, flying low enough in reasonable light to allow some plumage features to be seen, south-east over Heysham Nature Reserve at 0955hrs on 4/9/96 (PJM, TW). One was recorded at Walney Island a few days previously and logic suggests that they were one and the same.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialisStatus: A declining summer visitor.
The Atlas found that it was most frequent in the wooded valleys of Bowland, particularly Littledale, Roeburndale, Hindburn, Dunsop and Langden Beck, with some on the limestone crags of Warton and Hutton Roof. Warton Crag is the only CBC plot to hold Tree Pipits. The population has declined from 5 pairs in 1989 to 1or 2 pairs annually in recent years. Also a decline on passage, probably in the range of 40-50% since the early 1980s.
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensisStatus: A common breeding summer visitor, from coastal marshes to above 500 metres on the eastern fells. More abundant on the fells, with estimates of 50 pairs/km2. Abundant diurnal passage migrant at both seasons.
There have been some reductions in numbers in lowland areas in the period under review, due to changes in habitat. The National CBC results show a slow decline over 25 years, with statistically significant reductions of 6% between 1994 and 1997. The Meadow Pipit is a summer visitor to the fells and is an abundant diurnal passage migrant, especially during late March to early April and in September. At Heysham Observatory in 1998, 3,267 birds were counted flying North between 5/3-22/4 (maxima of 1,500 on 6/4). Record numbers of grounded birds occurred on 29/3, with 379 counted on Ocean Edge foreshore. In autumn 1998, 4,016 flew South/South East between 15/8-2/10.
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinusStatus: Vagrant.
Due to mislaid descriptions, this record has only recently been re-submitted to BBRC. A calling individual flew south along Moneyclose Lane, Heysham at 1235hrs on 14/10/96 (TW). The call was definitely traced to a small pipit but no plumage details could be seen.
Rock Pipit Anthus petrosusStatus: Winter visitor to coastal sites.
This species is as much a winter visitor as the likes of Whooper Swan and Brambling. However, it is rarely recognised as such in arrival/departure tables or displays on the ‘winter visitor’ theme. This is undoubtedly due to its elusive nature whereby it frequents the relatively inaccessible lightly-grazed saltmarsh creeks on the likes of the outer Lune Estuary and numbers can only be truly assessed as they are forced out by high ‘spring’ tides. It does not appear to favour heavily sheep-grazed marshes and as such has declined on Aldcliffe Marsh as well as being scarce on the RSPB saltmarshes. Obviously the new groynes complex off Morecambe offers theoretically suitable winter habitat and there was evidence that a single bird wintered around the Battery groyne 1998/99. One was on territory on Heysham Head, seen ‘parachuting’, on 29/3/91 only.
The most comprehensive survey of the Lune Estuary saltmarshes took place in late January 1992 and produced c.10 Sunderland/Overton, c.15 Aldcliffe-Conder Green, c.5 Heaton-Colloway (SPC). The Heaton-Colloway figure was probably an underestimate due to chronic access difficulties and indeed there have been casual counts of 12-15 in that area during WeBS. In the region of 10 winter between Bank End and Fluke Hall. Only single figures on the RSPB saltmarshes. Spring and autumn passage migrant in small numbers through Heysham with up to 10 at each season, mainly over or around Red Nab. At least two records of littoralis including a colour-ringed bird at Bank End on 27/2/98 and a summer-plumaged individual at Sunderland on 10/4/98.
Water Pipit Anthus spinolettaStatus: Occasional winter visitor to Leighton Moss, vagrant elsewhere.
Overall, in the ‘rare’ category. Just the two summer plumaged individuals during the period under review, therefore identification of the remainder, apart from the trapped individual, is a little subjective.
1991: Scattered single-date sightings, possibly not ruling out Scandinavian Rock Pipit, at the Allen Pool on 19/1, Aldcliffe Marsh on 7/11, Conder Green on 17/11 and Overton Marsh 26/11. Perhaps the same bird for all Lune sightings.
1992: One in full summer plumage on the ‘flood’ (eastern end of Eric Morecambe Pool) on 4/4.
1994: One in summer plumage at Wyreside Fisheries on 2/4.
1995: One at Jenny Brown’s Point on 21/11. One on Colloway Marsh on 26/11 and 22/12.
1996: One Bazil Creek and area 14-15/12. One, thought to be this species, at Leighton Moss on 8/11-14/11 and 27/11.
1997: Single, probably the autumn 1996 bird, at Leighton Moss 2/1-18/3. First winter trapped on 29/10 remaining until at least 5/12.
1998: Single (unringed) at Leighton Moss 27/1-28/2 and one from 6/11 into 1999. One reported at Glasson Marsh 8/11/98.
1999: At least one around Leighton Moss in the first winter period, last reported 12/2. Two, probably this rather than littoralis Rock Pipit, on Colloway Marsh in November. One trapped and ringed at Leighton Moss in mid-November. One Leighton Moss on 20/12 and 27/12.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flavaStatus: Declining and increasingly rare summer visitor.
This summer visitor has declined so much in the district under the review period that it must claim to be rarer than the Bearded Tit. The Waterways Bird Survey from Kirkby Lonsdale to Skerton has shown a dramatic decrease from 38 pairs in 1982 (the 1981-91 mean was 25 pairs), to 4 in 1998.
Yellow Wagtail - River Lune Waterways Bird Survey
Spring passage on the coast has numbered less than 3 birds in most years, 1995 was a better year with 12 recorded. A male on the Lune at Arkholme on 24/3/96 was the earliest by far, the passage period during April and May is now long and sparse with males not showing territorial behaviour until late May. Over the review period the Bird Reports show a continual decline in breeding locations, indeed the 35 tetrads found to hold territories in the 1977 LDBWS survey were revisited in 1997 and only 4 held pairs. Riparian pairs suffer from a lack of arable land and early silage cutting. Pairs breeding on sparsely vegetated riverside gravel are frequently flooded, successful pairs average 3 young from a clutch of 6 eggs. Autumn passage is understandably poor with 1996 being outstanding with 23 birds between 21/8 and 4/9. Despite more conscientious recording of visible migration, which only further highlights the decline shown by the count data, only ones and twos have been recorded over Heysham during the last five years, compared to 5-10 in the early part of the period under review and 20-30 in the early 1980s.
Grey-headed WagtailStatus: Vagrant. This is the first record of this sub-species of Yellow Wagtail.
Male on the ‘flood’ (eastern end of Eric Morecambe Pool) on evening of 14/5/92 (PJM). It eventually flew off towards Carnforth Slag Tips.
Blue headed WagtailStatus: Vagrant.
A male on 5/5/91 at Aldcliffe and a subsequently breeding male at Halford on 5/7/91 raised two young. A male again at Aldcliffe on 24/4/97.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinereaStatus: Breeding bird with fluctuating and decreasing population.
During the 1980s the population showed a steady increase on most riparian stretches in the district, averaging some 14 pairs on the River Lune, a good recovery after some harsh winters. The Waterways Bird Survey in the 1990s indicates a fluctuating and decreasing population with major losses between Mears Beck and Leck Beck:
Grey Wagtail - River Lune Waterways Bird Survey
No other systematic breeding or distribution data has been recorded for the species in the area. Heysham observations indicate a very weak coastal passage in March with 1-3 birds usually in mid-March. The southerly passage is very apparent with 112-168 birds recorded during late August to October.
Pied Wagtail Motacilla albaStatus: Still a common breeding resident in river valleys, urban areas, along the coast and the uplands.
The Waterways Bird Survey (a) does show a decline from a high of 85 in 1984 and a 1981-90 average of 79 pairs: Carnforth Marsh (b) also shows a decline, but some recovery in the last year for figures are available.
Pied Wagtail - River Lune Waterways Bird Survey
(a) Waterways Bird Survey
Spring passage up the Lune Valley can average up to 128 birds/hour moving in small flocks in mid-March and coastal movements at the same time can be up to 63 birds a day. During this period, roosts at Leighton Moss, Heysham, Sizergh, Dockacres, Forton and Pilling can each hold between 50 and 400 birds totalling perhaps 1,000 birds. Autumn passage is highest in early October with over 200 birds a day at Heysham. Concentrated ringing in August at the Pine Lake roost has given recoveries of birds breeding the following year in Scotland and Greater Manchester and a Tarnbrook ringed pullus was controlled wintering in Southport. Despite the apparent widespread distribution and the common to abundant passage occurrence, this species warrants more attention as a breeding bird, which may be more apparent in the next review using Breeding Bird Survey data for the district.
White WagtailStatus: A regular, but variable spring passage migrant from late March until early May along the coast and sparingly up the Lune Valley, with almost a complete absence of autumn records for the district.
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Waxwing, Dipper, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstarts, Chats, Thrushes
Waxwing Bombycilla garrulusStatus: Irregular winter visitor.
Far more than usual during the ten year period, with two major irruptions (one a ‘left-over’ from 1988) and the slack years producing quite a number of records. As a result, recorded in eight of the years under review compared to just four in the previous ten years.
1989: Minimum of 139 at 8 sites January-March, with the largest numbers being 38 at Heversham on 9/2 and 40 near Temperance Crossroads, Quernmore, on 14/1.
1990: One at Arnside 1-2/1. Two at Gatebeck 2-3/2.
1991: 16 at 5 sites January to March, all in Carnforth or within south Cumbrian part of the recording area. 56 November/December from 9 sites, mainly a combination of small numbers around Lancaster itself and by far and away the largest count of up to 33 on Arnside Knott.
1992: 41 at 5 sites January-March.
1993: 6 at Storth 31/10 and at least 3 still there on 1/11. One Silverdale 19/12.
1996: Huge influx early in the year beginning with one at Overton on 7-8/1. Recorded from 62 different sites, some of them very close together. In consequence, very difficult to be certain of the number of individuals, but probably in the region of 265-300. Small influx in November/December producing 12 at 4 sites.
1997: One at Woodwell on 19/1. Two at Torrisholme on 11/3. Two north-east over Heysham on the late date of 12/4.
1998: One, possibly two, near Glasson Dock on 2/12.
1999: One reportedly around Ashton Hall garden centre on 26/2. One in Bowerham area of Lancaster on 13/11. Another at Leighton Moss on 18/11.
Dipper Cinclus cinclusStatus: Now a scarce breeding resident with a rapidly declining population, despite a run of mild winters, previously thought to be a limiting factor.
The Lune population is probably the best documented over the period and has decreased by 50%. Prior to 1989, 11 pairs were located between Skerton and Kirkby Lonsdale.
Dipper - River Lune Waterways Bird Survey
Other waterways (such as the Keer, Bela and Conder) in the area have been recorded as holding 1-3 pairs with a noticeable winter roost of 9 birds under the motorway bridge at Scorton on 9/10/89. The stronghold for the species must be in the Bowland Fells, where little data has been gathered over this period. Nine singing birds were recorded between Whitewell and Dunsop Bridge on 16/1/90, indicating a strong population. This species deserves a thorough investigation in the coming years.
Wren Troglodytes troglodytesStatus: Common and widespread breeding resident. Passage migrant.
The Atlas showed it absent only in the higher fells, even here it can be found up the small gills wherever scrub occurs. Susceptible to cold winters, of which there were two during the period under review. Passage migrant in variable numbers through Heysham Obervatory, with the largest numbers in early October.
There were two spells of cold weather during this 10-year period. In 1990/91 it was very cold in January and February. As a result, National CBC results showed losses of 36%. In this area, Warton Crag saw a 60% reduction and Mount Vernon a 16% reduction. In 1995/96, the winter was even colder, with arctic conditions after Christmas. National CBC figures gave losses of 34%, but local plots averaged 40%. The numbers at Mount Vernon and Potts Wood have still not reached pre-1995 levels. The small spring passage at Heysham Observatory included an individual captured during a large Willow Warbler fall in late April and re-captured the following spring in Cheltenham! The ringing data (wing length etc.) indicated that there was no way it could have been a paperwork mix-up with a Willow Warbler and the finder reported it as a Wren! It would have been very interesting to have known its natal site. Passage during late September/early October produced very few re-traps, indicating rapid passage, but national Wren recovery data suggests that this is a relatively short migration, with the Cheltenham individual being exceptional. In this respect, an individual wintering in the reedbed at Heysham was found during the following breeding season at Broughton-in-Furness.
Dunnock Prunella modularisStatus: A common breeding resident throughout the area, except on the fells where there is lack of cover.
National CBC results show this species was at an all time low in 1996. The cold weather of winter 1995/96 did not seem to affect the local numbers on CBC plots. However, over a longer time period, Warton Crag numbers have fallen from 9 pairs in 1989 to 3 pairs in 1998. Coat Green numbers increased from 8 pairs in 1993 to 12 pairs in 1998. At Mount Vernon, numbers remained stable at 7 pairs. A few migrants at Heysham in spring and sometimes quite large numbers during September. It is likely that most of these are relatively local in origin and destination, apart from the occasional lightweight bird trapped at first light in October, in association with thrush falls, which may just be of Scandinavian origin.
Robin Erithracus rubeculaStatus: An abundant breeding bird throughout the area, absent only in moorland in the east. Significant autumn passage migrant, as determined by data from Heysham Observatory.
The winter of 1995/96 and further cold weather in 1997 affected numbers on local CBC plots.
Robin - Common Bird Census Survey Results
National CBC results indicated reductions of 8% for farmland and 11% for woodland referring to 1995/96. Heysham Nature Reserve has a small spring passage, with no ringing recoveries. In autumn, the passage is much higher. In 1992 there were large numbers, notably on 18/9 when 51 were trapped and 100+ passed through. This fall coincided with reports of large numbers on the gas rigs in Morecambe Bay. Most of the large numbers from late August to early October are presumed to be of north British origin and this is borne out by ringing recoveries. Birds ringed on autumn passage have been found in winter as far away as Haverfordwest (Dyfed) and Banbury (Oxon). During October, there are small arrivals of ‘orange-breasted, greyer’ birds of presumed continental origin. However, there have been no ringing recoveries to prove this, partly because the winter residents are then in situ and chase away most of the new arrivals before they enter the trapping areas.
Thrush Nightingale Luscinia lusciniaStatus: Vagrant. One record, the first for Lancashire.
What appeared to be an adult was trapped and ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve on 25/9/93 (PCa, PJM et al.). It unfortunately proved rather uncooperative in the field and disappeared into the nearby housing estate. Probably the most unexpected record of the decade.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecicaStatus: Vagrant. Just two acceptable claims during the period under review, the second and third records for the area.
Male videoed in a Kirkby Lonsdale garden on 17/5/94 (F Helme). Accepted by Cumbrian Records Panel. One, perhaps an immature male, seen well by two experienced observers near the Allen Pool on 11/11/98 (the late PB, LC). Accepted by Lancashire Records Panel.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrurosStatus: Annual, usually as a spring or autumn passage migrant, a few winter records and occasional summer records including one constituting confirmed breeding.
Most records from around Heysham Power Stations including one multiple record of autumn passage migrants. Female/immatures unless stated.
1989: An early adult male (probably summered?) Langden 1/8. One Ocean Edge, Heysham 15/11.
1990: Singles Sunderland Point on 21/10 and Heysham Power Station non-operational land on 25/11.
1991: Adult female and at least one recently fledged young at Hala, Lancaster, in early August. Single Cockersands Caravan Park 9/11.
1992: Adult male Middleton riding stables on 8/4.
1993: One Heysham Nature Reserve on 4/4. One around the black barn along the access track to the eastern end of the Eric Morecambe Pools on 23/4. One Heysham Nature Reserve 3/10. One wintered near the Greyhound Road Bridge in Lancaster, first seen about 25/12 and remaining elusively into 1994.
1994: Good year. The Greyhound Bridge bird remained until 5/3. Male at Jack Scout, Silverdale 27/3. Singing first summer male(s) at Heysham Power Station on 7/5 and White Lund Estate on 11/5. Singles at Red Nab, Heysham, on 9/10, Heysham Nature Reserve 5/11 and southern boundary of Ocean Edge Caravan Park, Heysham, on 12-13/11. Adult male wintered in the south west corner of the Power Station land, Heysham, remaining into 1995.
1995: The Heysham wintering bird remained until 24/2. One alongside the Keer by Cotestones rubbish tip 25/3-27/3. Male reportedly at Jenny Brown’s Point on 21/4. Singles at Heysham Nature Reserve car park 22/4, the derelict ICI site at Middleton 15/10-16/10, Heysham Power Station 16/10. Adult male Jack Scout Quarry 14/11-15/11.
1996: The best year on record. One just north of Heysham Head on 11/2. 1st winter male Cotestones Farm, Warton 31/1-4/2. Singing 1st summer male southern end of Heysham Power Stations property on 14/5. 4-5 around Heysham Power Station/Harbour on 26-29/10, mainly around the Visitor Centre. One Crook Farm 27/10. One by the Heysham seawatching hide 9/11.
1997: Two at Fluke Hall at least 2/2-16/2. Almost certainly different singles at Heysham Nature Reserve/Red Nab on 18/3, 21/3 and 23/3. One Cockersands Caravan Park on 21/10 (JWB). One Heysham Red Nab/non-operational land 1/11-3/11.
1998: The only record was a 1st summer male at Heysham Power Station non-operational land on 28/3.
1999: Female/immature near Our Lady's High School, Skerton, on 25/3. Female Cockersands caravan park entrance on 13/5 was seen to fly high to the north-east just before dusk, before 'dropping like a stone' back onto the rooftops.
Redstart Pheonicurus phoenicurusStatus: Regular passage migrant and summer visitor in small numbers.
Regular spring passage migrant to Heysham Observatory (up to 17 ringed) and other coastal sites, especially during south-east winds in late April. Some September/October migrants at Heysham, associated with easterly winds, were probably of Scandinavian origin.
A summer visitor breeding away from the coast, mainly in oak wooded valleys. They nest in cavities in trees and walls, and also use nestboxes, but prefer entrance holes of slightly larger diameter than those used by tits and Pied Flycatcher. The following data relates to nestboxes in six woods in the Lune Valley continuously monitored by K Woods over the 10 year period.
Redstart - Lune Valley Nestboxes
The breeding population appeared to peak in the early 1990s, but following national trends, it has fallen in recent years. As a scarce passage migrant, it is sometimes recorded along the coast and at Leighton Moss. A nestling ringed in a nestbox in the Lune Valley in 1991 was reported killed in April 1993 in Morocco, probably on its return migration from south of the Sahara.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetraStatus: Summer visitor.
Chiefly confined to the bracken-covered slopes of the lower fells, completely absent as a breeding bird from the coastal strip and the limestone areas. It does, however, occur in these areas as a passage bird. The largest passage numbers usually occur in autumn, although the largest concentration reported during the survey was 23 on Aldcliffe Marsh on 4/5/92. Other regular passage sites include Heysham and the Allen Pool field. No evidence of declines on the breeding sites, but some evidence of a decline in passage numbers.
Stonechat Saxicola torquataStatus: Very early spring passage migrant, often in some numbers at the peak time in mid-March. Less numerous in autumn. Former coastal breeding bird, still one or two breeding pairs in Bowland.
Apart from a pair at Heysham in 1989, no definite breeding records and it has been suggested that we have overlooked breeding pairs in our area of Bowland (J Callion pers. comm.). In this respect, data from 1999, suggests 4 breeding pairs in Bowland. However, good coverage by competent RSPB staff, with mainly negative results, strongly suggests that this was not the case on the extensive North West Water land during the period under review. One or two winter records in most years including a presumed returning pair. Between 2 and 8 per spring, apart from 1994, which produced at least 20 at a wide range of sites and 1996, which produced at least 8 at Heysham (6 together on 12/3), out of a grand total of 12. Confirmed breeding at Heysham in 1989 (but the young appeared to be predated soon after fledging) and Catlow Fell in at least 1994. Breeding season records comprised a pair at Sunderland "doing nothing" on 8/5/94 and a strange record of a juvenile at Leighton Moss on 16/7/95. Winter records comprised about 12 during the period under review. Half of these were pairs, including an apparently returning pair at Middleton (Heysham) Industrial Estate 1997/98 and 1998/99. Some were only single dates in areas receiving poor coverage and another was a female, which appeared for about a week at Heysham Nature Reserve during cold weather end of December 1995. This was definitely not previously overlooked in the area so it does suggest an example of a cold weather movement, even if only from an unwatched site a few miles away.
Wheatear Oenanthe oenantheStatus: Rather thinly scattered breeding bird on upland areas with exposed rocky outcrops in the east of our area.
Long-established small population on Carnforth Slag Tips, always low single figures. Passage fairly well-monitored at Heysham in recent years, this was not the case during the early part of the period. As expected, most of the later passage migrants during May/early June are large birds presumably heading for Iceland and Greenland. Autumn passage for all shapes and sizes takes place throughout August-October, with no clearly defined period for larger birds.
No quantitative data on upland breeding birds was available; they are probably scarce enough to warrant a survey (less than 100 pairs?). A notable passage count from early in the period was 53 on Aldcliffe on 4/5/92. All the likely sites in the Heysham Observatory area have been systematically covered from 1996 to 1998. 1996 produced 249 between 30/3 and 31/5 with a maximum of 54 on 15/4. In autumn, just 26 between 17/8-24/9. 1997 produced 228 between 12/3 and 18/5, and 43 between 25/7-30/9. 1998 produced 282 between 13/3 and 1/6, with a maximum of 46 on 29/3. In autumn, 58 between 3/8 and 21/10. Several early November records during the period under review.
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatusStatus: Scarce breeding bird and passage migrant.
This species is not very well recorded in this area. For example, intensive coverage of the Dunsop Valley in 1997, inspired by a Rough-legged Buzzard, revealed a significant number of passage birds. A passage through upland areas had never been documented before, but is obviously logical. Similarly, breeding data consisted of ‘bits and pieces’ with only one comprehensive set of data. Coastal records are few and far between, but do include some late birds of presumed continental (Scandinavia or further east) origin at Heysham, in association with other migrant thrushes. We received two reports during the 1995/96 winter, in association with several other records throughout the country, during a cold weather influx of thrushes.
Breeding records included an assessment of 20 pairs for the ‘whole of Bowland’ in 1989 and two estimates of 10 pairs for the North West Water land (Langden, Croasdale, Whitendale etc.). The maximum passage count during spring 1997 was 6 males together at Whitendale on 1/4. Most records of passage birds were from the Heysham area. There were 6 spring records ranging from 31/3 to 1/5 and 10 records in October. The wintering records comprised a female at Sunderland Point on at least 29/1/96 and one "at Silverdale around the same time".
Blackbird Turdus merulaStatus: Widespread breeding resident, absent only from the high fells. Passage migrant and winter visitor.
Large numbers of migrants from northern Europe pass through late October-early December, with a very concentrated return passage in mid-March.
The national CBC results show similar long-term trends to the Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush. There has been a 33% loss in 25 years and the species is on the Amber List and is of medium conservation concern. Some local sites, however, have shown increases, probably due to management resulting in more nest sites. Warton Crag increased from 15 pairs in 1989 to 28 pairs in 1998. Large numbers of continental migrants have been ringed at Heysham, with breeding-season recoveries in southern Norway and southern Sweden, and passage recoveries in the Netherlands and on Heligoland. Rather surprisingly, no mid-winter recoveries from Ireland, but two from the Isle of Man indicate on-going east to west movement in autumn.
[Black-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis
A male reported from Mill Lane, Bolton-le-Sands during hard weather (2/2 and 7/2/96) was given quite a bit of publicity at the time and published in the North West Regional Bird Report. Unfortunately, no descriptions have materialised, even from the two (unknown) birders who were supposed to have seen it. It was definitely not a Fieldfare, so we may unfortunately have lost a good record here.]
Fieldfare Turdus pilarisStatus: Winter visitor and passage migrant, mainly in autumn in variable weather and berry-dependent numbers, very often with Redwing and other thrush species.
Flocks of c.250 are not uncommon at Leighton Moss in winter and there were 1,500 roosting there on 13/10/93 and 1,000 in early November 1993. There were similar numbers in 1994. Large numbers appeared during the cold spell in 1995/96 and there was a cold-weather movement of at least 400 at Heysham on 27/1/96. Autumn passage is mainly in October/November. Peak counts involved a total of 2,781 recorded on migration over Heysham in autumn, with maxima of 572 on 2/11/94 and 543 on 6/11/94 and 1,793 during autumn 1997. In 1998, all the passage was concentrated into early November, with 8,057 recorded between 7/11 and 17/11. The spring passage occurs during mid-February to early May and was not recorded in large numbers during the period under review.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelosStatus: Breeding resident in reducing numbers. Passage migrant.
A declining species on the Red List for conservation concern. The Atlas showed it to be well distributed, except for the higher land in the east of our area. A significant autumn passage migrant at Heysham Observatory.
Like the Blackbird, CBC results showed a downturn in numbers in the mid-1970s, and a smooth decline since, giving a 60% loss over 20 years. However, there appears to have been a small upturn during the 1990s. The Integrated Population Monitoring Unit is carrying out a great deal of research regarding the possible causes of this decline in numbers. Preliminary results show that the poor survival of first year young may be the cause of the decline. Examples of the decline: Williamson’s Park held 19 pairs in 1973, reducing to 5 pairs in 1986. Halton Park had 26 pairs in 1971 and 13 in 1978. Thurnham held 15 pairs in 1972 and 11 in 1977. The present situation shows Mount Vernon at 4 pairs in 1989 and 5 in 1998. Warton Crag held 3 pairs in 1989 and 10 in 1998. An increase in breeding birds during the last three years has also been noted at Heysham. These last results agree very well with national trends and are encouraging. Passage at Heysham starts in mid-September and small numbers pass through for the remainder of the month. These are considered to be of British origin, as exemplified by a bird ringed as a pullus at Hexham, Northumberland. Early October sees the arrival of ‘wilder’ more olive continental birds in association with Redwings. This category often produces three or four times as many bird/days for the species as the rest of the year put together. Up to 20/30 new birds per day during October/early November occur in a good year, such as 1998. These influxes, as in 1998, are often pallid reflections of huge numbers on the east coast. Very little evidence of spring passage in this area, they appear to fly straight over during one or two mid-March nights (nocturnal calls).
Redwing Turdus iliacusStatus: Winter visitor and passage migrant in variable numbers. The largest numbers are recorded on autumn passage, usually from early October to early November.
In the period under review, notable movements were recorded in 1989 on the nights of October 8th-9th and 10th-11th when ‘enormous numbers’ passed over. From dawn on October 29th 3,725 flew west across the Kent Estuary in 1½ hours. In 1991, large numbers occurred each morning at Heysham from October 11th to 22nd. Spring passage is normally much smaller, but on March 14th 1991 there was a large fall at Heysham during foggy conditions. Autumn passage birds regularly roost in large numbers in the willows at Leighton Moss, but as the leaves fall they move on. Winter roosts are usually in evergreens with rhododendrons often favoured.
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorusStatus: Breeding resident and passage migrant.
A common and widespread species, needing a larger territory than the Blackbird, therefore not as abundant. The Atlas demonstrates its preference for farmland with adjoining woodland. It is also well-distributed on the lower slopes of the Bowland fells. National CBC trends showed a steady decline, but in 1998, significant increases were revealed. Local CBC counts were too few to be meaningful. High-flying individuals/small flocks heading in a south-westerly direction are a feature of most autumns at Heysham Observatory, for example, 1998 saw 30 south/south-west on 19-20/10. Numbers are always small.
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Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cettiStatus: Vagrant. Two documented records during the period under review.
An apparently unringed male appeared on Leighton Moss public causeway on 28/10/95. One was then trapped and ringed near the Griesdale Hide on 30/10/95. There then followed a period of claims from both sites! To cut a long story short, it appears that the Griesdale claims were mis-identified Wrens and the fact that the causeway bird was seen to be ringed during observations in late November/December strongly suggests just one individual was involved. Singing male along the public causeway at 0730hrs on 27/10/96 (Mr Tucker). Description provided including evidence of familiarity with the species. This record was followed by some atrocious weather (remember Bonfire night 1996!) so the lack of further reports is not as surprising as it might seem.
Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naeviaStatus: A scarce and declining summer visitor.
The Atlas survey proved breeding in only 3 tetrads in the nine 10km squares surveyed. At the moment it appears to be restricted to Helton Tarn with up to 3 pairs, Leighton Moss with perhaps 5 singing males and Heysham Moss with 1 or 2 singing males. All these sites have seen a decline and had perhaps double their present population in the 1980s. There were also former reports from other areas, especially Bowland, but there are no recent records. Passage birds are also infrequent, with small numbers at Heysham Observatory in spring and autumn.
Savi’s Warbler Locustella luscinioidesStatus: Vagrant. One previous record which is quite likely to have referred to two birds.
As was the case with the previous record(s) in 1979, a southerly airflow in mid-April produced a singing male at Leighton Moss. Present near the Griesdale Hide from 14/4-24/6/91 (many observers).
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenusStatus: Locally common summer visitor, especially along the coastal strip and the Lune Valley.
Leighton Moss supports the largest population, with normally 90-100 pairs, while c.20 pairs breed at Helton Tarn and the Heysham Golf Course and Nature Reserve. These populations are similar to those recorded in the 1980s. This is a common spring and autumn passage migrant at Heysham Observatory. Ringing has shown that many of the birds passing through this site are from the Scottish breeding population, with 5 records from the east coast as far north as Orkney. By contrast, the larger numbers ringed at Leighton Moss appear to be mainly locally bred birds, with only one recovery in south-west Scotland. Autumn passage mainly takes birds through south-west England, with 8 reports from Dorset, 3 from Cornwall and 4 others in the south-west. There are 6 records from the south-east (Kent and Sussex). The movement overseas can be traced, with 8 records in France, 2 in Spain and one each in Morocco and Senegal. The latter is the only one from the wintering area.
Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustrisStatus: Vagrant. One previous record.
A singing male was in the dense willow/nettle scrub near Red Nab, Heysham, on 15/5/90 (PJM et al.). It was found at 1100hrs and sang until the onset of a heavy rain shower and blustery winds at 1630hrs. Identification was a problem as it was ‘impossible’ to see, the pace of the song and the mimicry appeared to be more akin to Blyth’s Reed Warbler on the Birdwalker tape, two visiting birdwatchers were adamant it was an Icterine Warbler (!) and the early date did not help confidence. It was seen briefly but well at very close range at 1615hrs and this clinched the identification. A further singing male was published for early to mid-June 1992 at Skerton Weir. Further information casts some doubt over this record and it should be deleted.
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceusStatus: An abundant breeding bird at Leighton Moss, where ringing studies suggest a population of approaching 300-400 pairs.
Scarce elsewhere, with usually under 5 pairs at each of the following sites: Helton Tarn, Heysham Nature Reserve, Pine Lake and Haweswater. A recent breeding record from Conder Green. Although the first arrivals are reported each year at Leighton Moss in mid-April, ringing returns suggest a prolonged arrival period, with some birds still arriving in late May. Ringing also reveals some interchange both between local colonies and some even further afield, such as one in Northumberland. Recoveries on migration through Britain suggest a southeast movement, with 5 recoveries in Sussex. Abroad, there are recoveries from Belgium, France, Spain and Morocco (2). Whilst many of the late autumn Heysham records were thought to be of eastern/northern-European origin, the capture of a Swedish-ringed juvenile in late August at Leighton Moss (1997) was most atypical. It does suggest that all Leighton Moss Reed Warblers during the late August-late October period need their wing-formulas etc. checking!
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceusStatus: One previous record (1964) which has been accepted by BBRC but not at the county level; an unsatisfactory situation.
Atrocious weather prevented more general observation/hearing of a singing male at Leighton Moss (alongside public causeway) on 4/6/91, 8/6/91 and 13/6/91 (JW, JnW et al.). Accepted by BBRC.
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglottaStatus: Vagrant. One previous record (Heysham Nature Reserve 1988).
First winter trapped and ringed, and subsequently seen well in the field, at Heysham Nature Reserve 0855hrs-1135hrs on 6/9/96 (TW et al.).
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillansStatus: Vagrant. These are the first two records.
Male at Freeman’s Wood, Lancaster, on 9/5/89 (DCa, AD). Male in bushes along the old railway line near Milnthorpe sewage works on 12/4/93 (DB, HH, CS). Unfortunately, in both cases, the dense vegetation meant that only the finders, or birders living close-by, were able to connect. Both accepted by BBRC.
Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoriaStatus: Vagrant. Three previous records; two at Heysham and one at Leighton Moss.
Juvenile trapped and ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve on 30/8/97 (JAG, PJM, JR et al.). It followed large numbers in the Northern Isles.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia currucaStatus: Locally distributed summer visitor.
A locally distributed summer visitor, mainly restricted to the coastal areas of Arnside/Silverdale and the Lune and Conder estuaries, with only occasional inland records, although this species can be easily overlooked because of the brief song period before pairing. Recorded on passage at Heysham in fluctuating numbers, largest numbers have occurred in years with easterly winds in the first two weeks of May.
Whitethroat Sylvia communisStatus: A well distributed, but still rather scarce, summer visitor.
The Atlas showed its main areas to be the Heysham/Lune Estuary area, the Arnside/Silverdale area and inland to Kirkby Lonsdale, but absent as a breeding bird from the Eastern Fells. The CBC plot on Warton Crag RSPB Reserve has held a stable population of 8 pairs, on average, right through the period, at a density of 3 pairs per hectare. A fairly common spring and autumn migrant at Heysham Observatory.
Garden Warbler Sylvia borinStatus: A common summer visitor in the Arnside/Silverdale area, the Lune Valley and Bowland valleys, but rather local elsewhere and absent from the high fells.
The 16-21 pairs on the RSPB Warton Crag Reserve, at 7.5 pairs per hectare, is the highest density recorded by the BTO and testifies to its abundance in the area. A fairly common migrant at Heysham, mainly early May and late August/September.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapillaStatus: Summer visitor and passage migrant. An increasing number of wintering birds.
A common and well-distributed summer visitor to our area, but scarcer on the eastern fells. Complex migration pattern with late autumn passage of Scandinavian birds followed by arrival of prospective wintering birds, ostensibly from central Europe (but no ringing recoveries from this area). Significant increase in recent years, both as a breeding bird and the numbers of migrants of British origin at Heysham Observatory.
The BTO CBC results over 25 years show a strong increase in numbers i.e. > 100%, with the local CBC plots following this upward trend. The 1997/98 CBC results showed a statistically significant increase of 19% for woodland and farmland, with the population at Constant Effort Sites at an all time high. The Atlas notes that increases are probably due to its tendency not to cross the Sahara on migration and therefore there are higher winter survival rates. Comprehensive local wintering records have been collated over the last few years and show a concentration of records around the Arnside/Silverdale area, with few in suburban Lancaster and Morecambe. A maximum of 60-64 was recorded during the 1998/99 winter. At Heysham Observatory, there is a small spring passage, sometimes including a significant number during May. Autumn passage consists of significant numbers of birds of British origin during late July/August. Spring and early autumn passage, involving mainly or exclusively birds of British origin, has seen a threefold increase during the last three years (this includes 1999). There is then often a gap, with most birds in early/mid-September being retraps gorging themselves on the local blackberries. Late September/October sees further passage birds and significant numbers sometimes pass through during the first half of November. Many of these are assumed to be of Scandinavian origin, in association with thrush falls, heading for southern European (?) wintering grounds. An unknown proportion of the later birds could be passing through to wintering grounds within the UK and Ireland.
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloidesStatus: Vagrant. This is the first record.
Singing male Arnside until 1450hrs on 9/6/92. Found by an Essex birder on holiday and ‘twitched’ by John Gregory travelling from Manchester, as well as Ronnie Irving from Kendal. Due to a complete communication impasse (e.g. closed Leighton Moss, PJM in Scotland), not one LDBWS birder saw it! Accepted by BBRC.
Pallas’s Warbler Phylloscopus proregulusStatus: Vagrant. The first two records for the area and the first and third (out of four) Lancashire records.
One in the quarry, Jenny Brown’s Point, 24/10-26/10/89 (DAS et al.). This bird remained in quite a restricted area allowing many observers to see it. One frequented the railway line sycamores alongside Heysham Golf Course on 5/11/95 (TW et al.). It became elusive after late morning and was last seen flying towards Heysham Nature Reserve accompanying Long-tailed Tits.
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatusStatus: Rare autumn ‘reverse migrant’, apparently exclusively first winter birds.
Regular since the first in 1985, involving about 20 individuals in total. Sightings at Heysham have declined in recent years, almost certainly due to the difficulty of location in the maturing dense screening planting around the perimeter of the Power Station property.
1989: Two very early birds at Heysham during classic weather conditions (easterly winds just prior to a warm front approaching from the south) on 15/9. The individual on the reserve remained until 18/9 and was ringed, the other was a one-day bird in the golf-course copse.
1990: One in a private garden at Jenny Brown’s Point on 7/10. One Heysham Nature Reserve on 11/10 and presumably another in the railway line sycamores and the Heysham Golf Course copse on 18/10.
1992: One reported in the same bush as a Common Rosefinch near Jenny Brown’s Point on 10/10. One at the western end of the public causeway at Leighton Moss 10/10-15/10/92.
1993: One in bushes at the inland end of Happy Mount Park on 27/10.
1994: 1st winter, probably female, trapped and ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve on 22/9.
1996: One accompanying a tit flock near the Lower Hide, Leighton Moss, on 29/9. 1st winter trapped and ringed at Fluke Hall on 19/10.
1998: One ringed near the Lower Hide, Leighton Moss, on 27/9. One trapped and ringed at Pilling Lane Ends on 18/10.
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatusStatus: Vagrant. One record, the first for Lancashire.
A first winter was trapped and ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve on 4/11/94, during south-easterly winds which produced several other records throughout the country (TW et al.). It was trapped at 1215GMT and a few glimpses were obtained in the field before a clear night saw the departure of most of the migrants.
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrixStatus: Summer visitor to the upland broad-leaved woodlands.
During the Atlas survey, Wood Warblers were recorded in 36 tetrads, compared with only 22 tetrads during the 1984 Wood Warbler survey. Small numbers have irregularly bred in the Arnside/Silverdale area, but the main population is found in the riverside woods of Littledale, Roeburndale, Hindburndale and the woods above Claughton and near Ingleton. Spring passage birds occasionally sing for short periods in unsuitable woodland. Very few autumn records from well watched sites such as Heysham and Leighton, suggesting that birds remain in the breeding sites until embarking on migration.
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybitaStatus: A widespread and locally common summer visitor, the Atlas shows it only absent in the higher ground to the east, and coastal areas without trees.
As with Willow Warbler, there are some fluctuations in numbers from year to year, but long term, the figures for Chiffchaff are more stable. Mount Vernon (73.3 hectares) has one pair breeding, Potts Wood on Warton Crag (12.7 hectares) has 3 pairs. Common passage migrant during both seasons at Heysham Observatory. Some of the late autumn birds are obvious abietinus and there have been a few records of birds resembling and calling like tristis. Ringing recoveries have included a bird ringed in Orkney in late October and controlled at Heysham in late November. Even though this was probably Scandinavian in origin, and gave a ‘lost chicken’ contact call, its plumage was indistinguishable from collybita, showing that the racial divisions are not clear-cut.
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilusStatus: Abundant and widespread summer visitor, only absent from high fells and isolated pockets of agricultural land. Significant passage migrant at Heysham Observatory, especially during south-easterly winds in late April.
Nationally, CBC results show fluctuations in numbers, presumed to be related to the weather in the wintering grounds. Locally, some plots have had reduced populations. For example, Mount Vernon reduced from 26 pairs in 1984 to 19 pairs in 1989. Warton Crag RSPB fell from 54 pairs in 1989 to 31 pairs in 1998. The former reductions may be due to sheep grazing in woodland, the latter due to management for butterflies. Falls of up to 500 per day have occurred at Heysham during late April. In contrast, autumn numbers have been very poor in recent years. Several ringing recoveries have indicated Scottish breeding birds.
Goldcrest Regulus regulusStatus: A common, widely distributed breeding bird, found nesting mainly in coniferous woodland, but also spills over into deciduous woodlands when populations are high.
Significant double passage migrant, as monitored at Heysham, with evidence that many of the October birds are of Scandinavian origin. As might be expected, the species which shows the most dramatic fluctuation in numbers in relation to hard winters, especially cold weather after the turn of the year. Local CBC results give fairly low, stable numbers. Nationally, CBC results show little change over 25 years, but last year there was an increase of 27%. This result has to be treated with caution because of the low number of plots with Goldcrest present. The cold winters of 1990/91 and 1995/96 reduced numbers, but the Goldcrest’s ability to lay 10 eggs and start laying again when the young are half grown soon makes up for these losses. The Heysham ringing totals give a good idea of the population levels in the northern part of Britain during the period under review.
Goldcrest - Heysham Ringing Totals
A number of informative ringing recoveries have emanated from Heysham over the years. Some indicate the rather leisurely nature of the passages, with ‘lateral’ movements to and from Walney and the Calf of Man at the same season. A very odd example of this was ringed at Heysham, then controlled at Spurn in the same autumn! Winter destinations have been indicated by recoveries in, or controls from, Greater London, Warwickshire and Dorset. No Scottish recoveries during the breeding season in the period under review, but there is one previous recovery from the Mull of Kintyre. All these are considered to refer to the passage of birds originating in north Britain and wintering in southern England or perhaps northern France. Heysham has also received further influxes during October and these often follow a major arrival on the east coast and are ‘obviously’ (but note the Spurn recovery!) of continental origin. Therefore their arrival at Heysham is presumed to have been a result of east or north-east to south-west overnight movement. A good example demonstrating this was one ringed during a north-easterly airflow on 18/10/97 which was controlled on Anglesey the following morning! By far and away the largest influx of presumed continental birds occurred on 27/10/90 when over 150 were present on the reserve.
Firecrest Regulus ignicapillusStatus: Almost annual passage migrant (mainly Heysham) and occasional winter visitor. The increased level of occurrence since 1982 was maintained during the current period.
Heysham records again predominated.
1989: Male at Sizergh Castle 29/10-30/10. Male in Heysham railway line sycamores/golf course copse 14/11-16/11.
1990: Heysham records:- juvenile female ringed on 27/9, unringed bird along railway line 29/9, one in the south-east corner of the golf course on 15/10 and one on the reserve on 17/10. Two at Jenny Brown’s Point on 25/11.
1992: One at Over Kellet on 6/11/92.
1993: 1st winter male trapped at Fluke Hall on 31/10.
1994: Female Heysham Nature Reserve 17/10 and 19/10. Another Heysham Nature Reserve 29/10. One in the nearby Heysham Golf Course copse on 14/11.
1996: 1st winter male ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve 0750hrs on 14/10 and seen intermittently until midday. 1st winter male ringed at Fluke Hall on 26/10.
1997: One at Heysham Nature Reserve on the late date of 20/5. More typical record there on 1/11 and presumably the same on 7/11. One reportedly multi-observed at Leighton Moss on 14/12.
1998: One at Westgate, Morecambe, 7/2-8/2. 1st winter female trapped at Heysham on 19/4. One along Moss Lane, Silverdale, from ‘just before Christmas’, then seen well on 31/12 and by all and sundry in early 1999!
1999: The Moss Lane individual was last reported on 26/2. A very early individual was seen at Jenny Brown's Point on 7/9. It, or another, was with a tit flock there on three occasions in mid-late October. One was at Fluke Hall in mid-November.
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Flycatchers, Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striataStatus: Widely distributed summer visitor, much less common now than formerly. Becoming scarcer as a passage migrant at Heysham in both spring and autumn.
The Atlas estimate is of 100 pairs in our area. Widely distributed in open broad-leaved woodland, farmland copses, large gardens, parkland and churchyards. The lack of records in recent summers suggests that the breeding population has collapsed to very low numbers. The highest number of spring migrants at Heysham was a minimum of 17 in 1991 and the lowest number was four in 1994 and 1998. There was an average of 8 per year between 4 May and 8 June, the mean arrival date being 15 May. Numbers on autumn passage have invariable been low, with a maximum of 22 in 1992, including a minimum of 15 on 19th September in exceptional weather conditions, with drizzle approaching from the SW. The lowest numbers involved just singletons in the autumns of 1995 and 1996. There was, on average, 8 per autumn from 2 August, an exceptionally early date, with most records occurring in October. This suggests that most autumn birds are not of British origin.
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parvaStatus: Vagrant. This is the first record.
1st winter trapped and ringed at a private site (within SD35) at Fluke Hall on 12/10 (RED et al.).
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleucaStatus: Summer visitor, breeding in the Lune Valley.
This summer visitor, wintering south of the Sahara, breeds mainly in oak woodlands in our river valleys. It is occasionally seen as a passage migrant, particularly in coastal areas. There have been very few records of breeding taking place in natural sites, but because Pied Flycatchers readily take to "tit" type nestboxes in suitable habitats, a breeding population has built up in the Lune, Conder and Wyre valleys, where nestboxes have been provided. Breeding in nestboxes was first recorded in 1966 and now, on average, up to 50-60 pairs breed annually.
The following data relates to nestboxes in six woods in the Lune Valley continuously monitored by K Woods over the 10 year period.
Pied Flycatcher - Lune Valley Nestboxes
Many nestlings and breeding females have been ringed, and controls and recoveries have shown that many return to the same or nearby woodlands in successive years. Others reared in our area have been found breeding in Wales, Cumbria, North Yorks and south west Scotland. In 1993, a female breeding near Castle Douglas was ringed and the following year it was found breeding at Winder in Roeburndale. Two years later the same bird was controlled at a nest at Selside, Cumbria.
Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicusStatus: A well established colony at Leighton Moss which has been censused annually by mapping and a ringing study.
The estimated yearly population is detailed below :-
Bearded Tit - Leighton Moss Population
This compares with 15 to 40 pairs in the previous 10 years. The population first became established in 1973. The birds are resident, but in some years there is some eruptive activity. This has, however, become less as the population increased. Ringing in the 1970s produced winter recoveries from South Yorkshire (3), Coventry and Bolton. The much more intensive recent ringing has only produced 2 at Blackpool and a spring recovery in Cleveland. The only report in our area away from Leighton Moss during the period was 10 at Pine Lake in October 1991.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatusStatus: Well distributed but rather local breeding bird, restricted to woodland, scrub and large gardens. The population has remained high because of the run of relatively mild winters during the period.
Numbers have increased on passage at Heysham as a reflection of the high post-breeding population. This species is usually considered sedentary, but the Heysham birds have included two ringed at Forton and most remarkably of all, 2 ringed on 25/9/93 were controlled at Edzell (Grampian) on 13/11/93.
Marsh Tit Parus palustrisStatus: Fairly common breeding resident in the limestone woodlands of the Arnside/Silverdale area and inland to Kirkby Lonsdale.
CBC monitoring has shown that the Arnside/Silverdale area has one of the highest population densities of Marsh Tits in the country, with the Grubbins Wood population fairly stable at 1.21 pairs per hectare. Other local areas follow the national CBC trend of a long term shallow decline, with Potts Wood averaging 0.58 pairs per hectare during the period; Grubbins Wood 0.42 pairs per hectare and Warton Crag 0.11 pairs per hectare. Elsewhere, this species is very local and sparsely distributed. A fairly sedentary species, with only one spring and five autumn records from Heysham.
Willow Tit Parus montanusStatus: Vagrant with no recent records.
This species appears to be extinct in north Lancashire. During the early part of the period under review there were reports from Scorton Picnic Site (1989/90), Street Bridge and Whitendale (1989) and rumours of presence at Cleveley Mere (1991).
Coal Tit Parus aterStatus: Generally distributed breeding bird and irruptive (mainly autumn) passage migrant. Monitored systematically at Heysham Observatory since 1980.
The LDBWS Atlas revealed a general distribution throughout the wooded areas, with absence in the Overton peninsula and north Fylde lowlands and predictably on the treeless fell-tops. Since 1985, irruptive behaviour has been a feature at coastal sites such as Heysham. Whilst never reaching the c.500 recorded there during autumn 1985, the period under review includes a mixture of fairly notable passages interspersed with virtually blank autumns. It would be logical to correlate this relatively recent irruptive behaviour with the colonisation of upland conifer plantations and the increasingly inhospitable nature of these during the autumn, but as far as I am aware, nothing has ever appeared in print analysing/refuting this. One ringing recovery just prior to the period under review supports this: Hamsterley Forest (Durham) to Lancaster University (for its first winter). In spring, small numbers of ‘obvious’ migrants have been recorded on northerly passage at Heysham during most years. The data from Heysham Observatory giving approximate numbers of migrants is given below. A majority of the spring records were in March/April and autumn records from late September to mid-October:
Coal Tit - Heysham Migration
The 1989 passage was especially concentrated, with 60 of the total comprising one high-flying flock on 29/9!
Blue Tit Parus caeruleusStatus: Common and widely distributed breeding bird.
Despite National CBC results showing a very stable population for both farmland and woodland, the population at present appears to be at its lowest ebb, as determined by nestbox records and ringing data from Heysham and Leighton Moss.
Although cold winters do not seem to affect numbers to a great extent, many deaths in local nest boxes were caused by cold, wet late spring weather, especially in 1998 (and 1999). Local CBC plots give a steady rise in numbers over the last ten years. At Heysham Observatory, passage has been fairly carefully monitored throughout the period. Up to 20 unringed birds pass through in late March/April, therefore the site is not important during spring passage. Late May-early August sees small flocks of ‘yellow-cheeked’ juveniles, obviously of immediately local origin. More hyperactive irruptive behaviour usually commences in late September and tails off in mid-October. Several hundred have been estimated to pass through at this time (e.g. 1996) but, in contrast, there was no evidence whatsoever of any movements in autumn 1998 and 1999. Ringing recoveries from 1996 suggest that the irruptions originated from all directions, with returns from Clifton Marsh (Ribble), Lancaster University and Grizedale Forest (Cumbria). The only distant recoveries involved a bird from Lancaster University found at Sedbergh and a June-ringed local juvenile from Heysham in Shropshire in February 1994.
Great Tit Parus majorStatus: A common breeding bird, widely distributed like the Blue Tit, with the upland area showing similar absences. Numbers nationally have been very stable.
The local CBC results follow this long-term pattern, with some reductions after poor breeding seasons e.g. Potts Wood (Warton Crag) fell from 17 pairs in 1996 to 10 pairs in 1998. Despite its status as a partial migrant in some parts of the country, there has been no evidence of any major irruptive movements through Heysham Observatory (compared to Coal, Long-tailed and Blue Tits).
Nuthatch Sitta europaeaStatus: An increasing resident, which became really established in 1985 and has continued to spread, especially in the Arnside/Silverdale area and the Lune Valley.
The Atlas survey suggested a total population of c.12 pairs in the period up to 1991. Since then it has continued to spread and a repeat survey of the Arnside/Silverdale area in 1997 suggested a population of at least 30 pairs in that area alone. They first bred at Leighton Moss in 1993 and increased to 2 pairs by 1995. Potts Wood (Warton Crag) increased from 1 pair in 1993 to 6 pairs in 1999.
Treecreeper Certhia familiarisStatus: Widespread breeding resident.
A well distributed and fairly common resident of all wooded areas, but is absent from most of the eastern fells and much of the built up areas of Morecambe and Lancaster, as well as the intensive farmland around Cockerham. Occasionally a few migrants at Heysham, usually accompanying irruptive tit flocks.
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolusStatus: Vagrant. Excluding a recently received, but unsubstantiated report of an adult male at Warton Crag in late spring 1986, these represent the first records since 1964.
Female/immature just inside our recording area by the railway line at Meathop on 22/7/90 (GA). Coincidentally, one was also seen at Killington Reservoir, just outside the area, a few hours earlier. A singing adult male was present at the western end of Heysham Moss wood at 0830hrs on 22/5/92 (BVH). It was relocated by RAC and TW at c.1115hrs, but was extremely elusive. Evening visits drew a blank.
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Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurioStatus: Vagrant. One previous record since 1959, historical status uncertain.
Two birds arrived during misty conditions and easterly winds at Heysham Nature Reserve on 28/9/92 (SPC, PJM, AR, TW et al.). The first had set up a temporary territory by the time the second one appeared and the latter was chased off and ended up on a fence at the back of the golf course. The first bird remained on the ‘tank farm’ all day and excellent photographs were obtained by John Leedal et al.
Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitorStatus: Rare visitor.
Approximately 16-20 previous records involving passage birds and winter visitors, with possible duplication regarding a returning individual in the Leighton Moss area in the mid-1960s. No other hints of possibly returning individuals.
1990: One was located at Red Nab, Heysham, at 1100hrs on 24/10 and gradually worked its way inland before flying over the golf course at 1315hrs (DT et al.). See Lapland Bunting.
1991: One just south of Hutton Roof (SD573770) on 17/2 (per BNW) and presumably the same between Burton and Dalton Park Wood (SD540755) on 24/2 (PM et al.). One in Freeman's Wood, Lancaster, 5/12 into 1992 (R&MG et al.).
1992: The Freeman’s Wood bird was seen on 10/1 (JC). One at Helsington Moss, Lyth Valley, just within our recording area 22/3-6/4 (birdwatcher on holiday et al.). One was seen briefly, but well, at Blea Tarn Reservoir on 26/4 (GS, DT).
1993: Adult at the eastern end of the Eric Morecambe Pool on 27/4 (CB, JW et al.).
1998: One on isolated willow bushes in the reedbed as viewed from the Jackson Hide, Leighton Moss, at 1130hrs on 20/10 (PE et al.). Then some atrocious weather seriously hampered attempts to relocate. Part of a major influx of this species into (and subsequently mainly through) Britain during October 1998.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senatorStatus: Vagrant. The second record for the area, following one in spring 1988.
A juvenile frequented the hedgerows and fence posts just to the west of the Allen Pool on 28/8/99 (several observers).
Jay Garrulus glandariusStatus: Resident breeding bird.
A shy, fairly common bird in deciduous woodland containing oak in the north-west of our region. Elsewhere it is very patchy in distribution, with few records in the lightly-wooded south-west. Some evidence of passage birds at Heysham Observatory – there are no breeding birds within 10km of there.
BTO/CBC work shows a long-term stable population, with some slight fluctuations. There was a loss of 7% from 1987 to 1996, with an increase of 20% for 1995 to 1996, an irruption year. Local CBC results over 6 years indicate a stable population, with some ‘impressions’ of an increasing population in the Silverdale/Woodwell area. Significant movement through Heysham in 1996 (also noted at Fluke Hall and other usually Jay-less coastal sites), with ones and twos in 1997/98.
Magpie Pica picaStatus: Very common breeding species, even in suburbia, but absent from well-keepered moorland areas. There are several large local roosts in the area in winter.
CBC national figures show a fairly stable population over the last 10 years, following an increase of 300% in 25 years. Locally, there was a small increase of 4% between 1987-96. Very occasional southbound and high-flying birds over Heysham Observatory on clear days in October. However, there is a large resident population fudging the issue. More clear-cut evidence of very small October movement through Sunderland Point.
Jackdaw Corvus monedulaStatus: A common resident, breeding in large colonies in the used and unused limestone quarries in the northern half of the recording area.
Smaller numbers nest in urban and suburban areas in woodland, church towers, old barns and chimneys, and it is only absent as a breeding bird from the higher fells and the intensive agricultural areas around the Lune Estuary. May possibly have increased with the formation of new quarries, especially those in the Kellet area. Southerly movements occur at Heysham on clear days in October, with a smaller northerly passage in late March and early April.
Rook Corvus frugilegusStatus: Common resident.
Most rookeries are in or adjacent to farmland, especially in the Lune and Keer valleys. Rookeries are almost entirely absent from the heavily wooded Arnside /Silverdale area and the moorlands. There has been no complete census during this survey period. The last full census in 1985 suggested a population of just over 2,000 nests in 78 rookeries. Recent sample counts in the Carnforth/Milnthorpe area suggest a similar population to 1985. Many rookeries are in traditional sites, but tree felling and maturing planting has resulted in movements in many areas. Very rarely recorded on migration at Heysham and then only in small numbers.
Carrion Crow Corvus coroneStatus: A common and widely distributed breeding bird, moving into towns and only absent from the eastern fells. Significant autumn passage migrant along the coast, as documented at Heysham Observatory.
From CBC national results, figures show an increase of 44% between 1987 and 1996. Locally, Mount Vernon shows a 100% rise since 1989! The other farmland plot at Coat Green is keepered and ‘few birds are reported’. The largest non-breeding season flocks comprise 100+ scavenging at Lancaster rubbish tip. Non-breeding flocks have also been reported during the summer months, e.g. 20-50 at Quernmore. Always scarce in spring, the autumn passage at Heysham Observatory peaked at 159 south between 17/9/98 and 20/10/98, with a very large count of 62 on 3/10. No Hooded Crows or hybrids recorded in these movements, therefore the origin is not mid/north Scotland.
Hooded CrowStatus: Vagrant.
Very rare visitor with fewer records than there used to be, especially when allowing for increased observer coverage. Interestingly, the large Carrion Crow movements over Heysham in autumn have never included any hybrids or apparently pure Hooded Crows.
One in Croasdale during June 1997 (NM). One north along the foreshore at Heysham Red Nab at 0610hrs on 29/4/98 (LT).
Raven Corvus coraxStatus: A scarce, but increasing resident.
There are at least 6 breeding sites within the area, compared with only one during the 1980s. This resulted in a marked increase of sightings over the period, especially in the well watched Arnside/Silverdale area. Here it has become a regular winter visitor, with usually 1-3 together, but occasionally up to 5. A similar increase has been noted in the Dunsop Valley. There has been an increase in sightings in the Bowland area, but no breeding records.
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Starling, Sparrows, Finches, Buntings
Starling Sturnus vulgarisStatus: An abundant and widespread breeding resident, passage migrant and abundant winter visitor.
The Atlas survey showed it to be one of the most widely distributed breeding birds, being absent only from much of the higher Bowland Fells. Despite its abundance, there are signs that it is in decline. The only CBC plot in the area to support numbers of Starlings is Mount Vernon and the population here declined from 8 to 4 pairs in the early 1990s and remains at this level in recent years. General impressions among members are that it has also declined in many suburban and urban areas. Large roosts are notorious for moving, the most regular being in the Leighton Moss reedbeds. In recent years this has peaked at 25,000-50,000 in autumn, perhaps half the peak of the 1980s. The roost is usually almost deserted by mid-winter, only to build up again in late spring to a few thousand. The former large roost on Morecambe Central Pier disappeared after the pier was burnt down! Smaller transitory roosts can appear almost anywhere there is cover, especially in late summer and autumn. A numerous autumn passage migrant at Heysham Observatory, with birds moving from the north-east to the south-west, and most numerous on cloudy days. No major spring passage.
House Sparrow Passer domesticusStatus: Common breeding resident, though declining. Seriously under recorded.
The decline noted in the 1980s seems to have continued in the 1990s, mirroring the national trend which prompted the BTO to assign House Sparrow to its "high alert" list. No one cause can be identified. Its disappearance from Heysham Power Station coincided with the appearance of Sparrowhawks on the nearby Heysham Nature Reserve, but could also be attributed to clearance of its former nest sites. More generally, a lack of crop fields in the recording area could be a factor in the House Sparrow’s demise. Mostly found breeding wherever there is human habitation. Occasionally, small southbound high-flying flocks are noted at Heysham in October.
Tree Sparrow Passer montanusStatus: Now a very localised breeding bird, except in the southern coastal areas where it is increasing in numbers.
Recent Atlas work has revealed a marked decrease, probably linked to the decline in arable areas. For example, it no longer breeds in SD47, where the local Atlas recorded breeding in four tetrads in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a decline mirrored in other areas. Now mainly single pairs are recorded, large colonies are a thing of the past. Some populations have been maintained by garden feeding in winter, with the Lune Valley being the most favoured area. Early in the period, wintering flocks of up to 150 were being recorded, but these have also declined and the largest recent winter flocks of up to 50 have occurred at College Green near Heversham, Fluke Hall, Cockersands, and the Lyth Valley. Occasional passage records from Heysham and more often at Sunderland Point.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebsStatus: Abundant and widely distributed breeding bird, passage migrant and winter visitor, only absent from the higher fells.
National CBC results show a very stable population and this is reflected in the local surveys for both woodland and farmland, with minor peaks and troughs noted at Warton Crag and Mount Vernon. Heysham Observatory reveals two types of autumn passage. A low-level north-south passage, mainly during the latter half of September is thought to comprise short-distance British migrants, possibly from the Lake District. In this respect, large-scale winter roost ringing just to the south of the area by the Fylde Ringing Group suggests quite a few originate in the likes of the Lake District and it is logical that these are the birds passing through our area in September. During October/early November, the passage largely consists of high-flying groups arriving from the east, then heading south-west on reaching the coast. These are assumed to be of continental origin and are often accompanied by Bramblings and occurring in association with winter thrush arrivals from the same source. Counts at Heysham are not as large as at some of the Ribble visible migration sites, suggesting that the Ribble Valley is a much more significant funnel for east-west movement than the Lune. However, there is little/no observation of vis. mig. through the Trough of Bowland, other than the fact that it was obviously a major flightline for Crossbills in late June 1997.
Brambling Fringilla montifringillaStatus: Winter visitor and passage migrant in very variable numbers. The number overwintering depends on the size of the beechmast crop.
As in the previous ten years, there were 3 winters with over 100 birds recorded, over 200 in the winter of 1990/91, over 1,500 in 1992/93 and over 1,000 in 1995/96. In other winters there have been as few as 13 records. Sizergh Castle is the site where overwintering birds have been most regularly seen. Few birds are recorded on spring migration at Heysham. The main autumn passage is in October, with some birds moving through in September and in November. The highest autumn total was only 264 in 1995 with 142 of these on 30th October and the lowest total four in 1998.
Serin Serinus serinusStatus: Vagrant. This was the first Lancashire record at the time.
One flew SSW at electricity pylon height, calling continuously, over Heysham Nature Reserve at 0750hrs on 8/10/90 (PJM, TW). It landed in bushes at the south end of Moneyclose Lane, but only TW was able to follow it up due to mist net duties. Brief but very close views suggested a female or dull first winter male, before it rose into the air and flew off high to the north-east. The first county record.
Greenfinch Carduelis chlorisStatus: Resident, passage migrant and winter visitor.
‘Resident’ includes quite a bit of movement within a 20 km radius, producing lots of movements between the likes of Heysham and Fluke Hall. Evidence of two sorts of passage, north to south and east to west and this has been reflected in the ringing recoveries. However, only a very small proportion of the population undergoes such lengthy movements. Since Hague (68 Checklist), most of the farmland within the recording area has become unsuitable as a food source and there has been an increase in the numbers at garden feeders and, not surprisingly, in the breeding population in suburban gardens, especially where cover has been provided e.g. tall cypresses.
Examples of ringing recoveries involving east/west movements included a bird of the year ringed at a winter roost at Quernmore which was found at Nottingham in the breeding season and one ringed on passage through Heysham in October which was recovered at Driffield, Humberside, the following spring. This was almost certainly a visible migrant having a short landfall. Did it winter in Ireland? A clear-cut example of north/south movement was a juvenile female, just out of the nest, ringed at Heysham in June and found at Market Drayton (Shropshire) the following February. One of the most bizarre recoveries ever received by the BTO involved a Greenfinch ringed at Warton on 18/2/1960, the ring of which was found at Arkholme on 7/7/1991 … by a metal detector! Migration at Heysham revealed up to 120 different birds per spring at the feeders, but little evidence of obvious visible migration. In contrast, visible migrants were conspicuous in autumn, especially late October/November. Many of these appeared to come from the east and then turn south/south-west on reaching the coast, similar to the continental Chaffinches and Brambling moving at the same time. Up to 60 per day have been recorded, more usually maxima of 20-30.
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelisStatus: Widespread and locally common breeding bird, absent only from parts of the well-wooded Arnside/Silverdale areas, the more built up areas and the higher Bowland Fells.
The 68 Checklist records this species as having increased considerably. There is no mention of a further increase in the 78 and 88 Checklists. There is some evidence for a further recent increase. At Leighton Moss and along the edge of Carnforth Inner Marsh it has increased from 2-3 breeding pairs in the 1980s to 10-12 pairs in the late 1990s. Whilst off-passage flocks have hindered accurate counts of visible migrants at Heysham, the trend has been of a general increase in numbers, especially in autumn 1998 when 521 were recorded moving south. Wintering birds are widely distributed, with small parties frequenting weedy or neglected areas.
Siskin Carduelis spinusStatus: Passage migrant in variable but generally increasing numbers. More regularly noted during the breeding season, although some records (as demonstrated at Heysham) are late spring and very early autumn (July) passage migrants.
There has been an increase in summer records in conifer plantations in the north of the area and in the Dunsop Valley, but the only confirmed breeding record was in Lord’s Lot Wood in l992. There has been a continued increase in overall spring and autumn migrants, but numbers can vary widely from year to year. At Heysham, for example, visible migrants during March, April and May were as few as 3 in 1991 and as many as 298 in 1994. In autumn, August to November, the lowest number was 11 in 1995 and the highest 802 in 1993. Passage birds have been regularly recorded in gardens on peanut feeders in March and April. Elsewhere, there was a flock of c.200 at the Langden Intake on 23/3/91. In winter, flocks of up to 40 birds occur, commonly feeding on alders. There have been a number of recoveries during the period of birds ringed on spring and autumn passage, mainly at Heysham or at garden peanut feeders in spring. The only bird definitely recovered during the breeding season was at Dalmally, Strathclyde. Others were found at Golspie (April), Carlisle (April), Braithwaite, Cumbria (April), Ridley, Cheshire (September). Birds captured within the recording area were ringed at: East Grinstead, Sussex (April); Reculver, Kent (December); Antwerp, Belgium (March).
Linnet Carduelis cannabinaStatus: Declining breeding resident. Passage migrant.
The Atlas shows the Linnet as a thinly distributed, mainly coastal breeding bird, with none present in the upland areas to the east. Hague (68 Checklist) described it as common, but subsequent Checklists suggested a decline and at the well-monitored Heysham area this was most apparent from about 1988. In recent years Linnet have become very scarce/absent in winter and this has accentuated the sometimes very marked spring and autumn passages along the coast.
National CBC results show the Linnet’s decline over many years and it is now on the Red List as of Conservation Concern. Local CBC records are too few for comment, but annual ringing totals at Heysham were in the 200-350 region in the early 1980s and are now barely double-figures, with large roosts a thing of the past. BTO Constant Effort Sites work has reported that these losses were probably caused by the reduction of weed seeds on farmland and in some areas there have been recent increases, perhaps due to the set aside scheme. In contrast to the ‘doom and gloom’, the highest spring passage counts at Heysham Observatory were actually in 1998, with 511 north between 29/3 and 13/5.
Twite Carduelis flavirostrisStatus: Declining breeding population, possibly extinct in 1999 as a breeding bird. Passage migrant.
An enigmatic and elusive (perhaps former) breeding bird on our eastern fells. Evidence of a decline in relation to recent observer effort e.g. no apparent sign around Burn Moor where it was tolerably regular in the early 1980s. All recent Bowland records from within the area could be attributable to spring passage birds. In contrast, an increasingly regular and consistent winter visitor to coastal areas to the south of Sunderland, most regular around Bank End and Fluke Hall. Irregular in small numbers on visible migration over Heysham Observatory and Sunderland.
Breeding suspected in two areas of Bowland in 1989. At least two singing males in Croasdale in 1990, but no ‘follow-up’ information received. No other records suggesting breeding. Wintering flock of between 40 and 110 around Lane Ends/Fluke Hall and up to 70, probably 2-3 flocks, around Bank End/Cockersands/Sunderland. Usually single figures at both seasons over Heysham, but a flock of 40 flew south along the seawall on 8/11/92. Reports from north of Heysham very sporadic, mainly ones and twos at passage times from the RSPB properties. One was on the Upper Kent at Ulpha on 17/4.
Redpoll Carduelis flammeaStatus: Breeding bird in decreasing numbers. Passage migrant and winter visitor.
A declining species to the point of being classed by the BTO as ‘red alert’. Based on visible migration counts, and therefore not relevant to the local breeding population, there appears to have been a slight upturn in numbers in the last two years. One major irruption of Mealy Redpolls, which was quite pronounced in this area. Unfortunately, an appeal to check as many birch copses etc. as possible produced a very poor response. Therefore this irruption was considered to have been very badly recorded in this area, compared for example to East Lancs. The only possible Arctic Redpoll was a composition of various bits of what may not have been the same bird on each occasion at Williamson’s Park!
One of the surprises of the work at Heysham has been the strong spring passage of this species. This also acted as a monitor and counts reflected the considerable decline in fortunes during the mid-1990s. Despite it still being on ‘red alert’, there has been evidence of an upturn in numbers, especially just outside the period under review in spring 1999. Local CBC work has not provided any statistically significant data, as the plots are not in prime Redpoll habitat. They are also very difficult to monitor accurately due to CBC-unfriendly extensive song flights, resulting in a lot of lines entering and leaving your field map! The winter of 1995/96 produced the largest ever invasion of the nominate Mealy Redpolls to the British Isles. Most records refer to ‘obvious’ Mealys in flocks of ‘redpolls’. Close examination of the remaining birds suggested that many were in fact ‘less obvious’ Mealys. In this respect, the invasion coincided with a very low ebb in the British A. f. cabaret population. Maxima were at least 15 (along with a probable Arctic) at Williamson’s Park at least 23/1-9/4 and probably a fair proportion of a flock of 50 in Knots Wood on 25/1 (although only 3 obvious ones were claimed during the very brief views). There were several passage flocks recorded at Heysham Observatory during late November/early December 1995 and early 1996. These included a late bird trapped and ringed on 21/4/96. Visible migration of A. f. cabaret over Heysham Observatory saw low numbers during the 1990s, in line with national trends, compared to similar observer effort during the previous decade. However, if we are allowed to creep outside the period under review and mention the 1999 spring passage, there has been an upturn in numbers during the last three years. Data suggests that this stemmed from a successful 1997 breeding season which produced a record 161 on autumn passage following an unremarkable 57 in spring. 243 were recorded on spring passage in 1998 (268 in 1999). These figures were more than double all other counts in the period, other than 176 in 1995.
Crossbill Loxia curvirostraStatus: Passage migrant. One breeding record.
Occasionally recorded from conifer plantations or as a ‘fly-over’. The only really good year during the period under review was in 1997 when large numbers passed through the area during a very short time-period at the end of June. There was a small reflection of the 1990/91 irruption.
1989: Male Whitendale 25/5. ‘One or two’ over Storth in July.
1990: Sizergh: 26 on 26/6, 4 on 4/7, 8 on 16/7, 8 on 13/10. Heysham Observatory: 4 south-east on 26/9, one east 22/10, 8 north and one west on 26/10. Langden/Dunsop Valley/Trough of Bowland area: 9 on 16/6, flock heard on 14/7, 2-3 on 24/7, 12 on 29/7, one on 8/11. 2 Aughton on 30/9. 4-5 Kitridding in early December.
1991: 15 in the Dunsop Valley on 14/4. Sizergh: 2 on 27/3, 2 on 17/6, 2 on 5/7, 10 north on 8/7, one on 23/7, 2 on 26/7. Single at Heysham Observatory on 1/9 and 14 south there on 28/9.
1992: Sizergh: immature male on 29/5, flock of 26 west on 8/11. 3 over Aldcliffe 25/9. One Helsington Barrows 29/4.
1993: Two north over Heysham Observatory on 26/10. 9 west over Sizergh Castle on 5/11.
1994: A ‘few’ over Storth in late summer.
1995: One briefly at Sizergh Castle on 12/8.
1996: Male and three females briefly on the conifers at Heysham Nature Reserve before flying NW on 3/4.
1997: Pair on 30/3 and c.10 on 31/3 in Dunsop Valley (note excellent coverage at time). At the end of June, large numbers were recorded in the Trough of Bowland (Tower Lodge area) peaking at c.130 on 27/6 with apparently none after 29/6! c.30 were in the Langden area at the same time. Up to 6 were recorded at the following sites on single dates between 1/7-19/7:- Leighton Moss, Five Lane Ends (Quernmore), Gaitbarrows, Warton Crag, Williamson’s Park, Heysham Observatory. Higher counts comprised 8+2 south-west over Heysham Observatory on 3/7, 10 east there on 20/10, 11 at Kitmere on 22/11 and up to 18 at Sizergh Castle. This left Helsington Barrows as the only site which retained any. Up to 70 were recorded during the 1997/98 winter.
1998: This was accidentally left out of the 1998 LDBWS Annual Report. Low double-figures were seen around Helsington Barrows during the first winter period. 20 in the Trough of Bowland on 29/5/98.
1999: Pair and three young observed at a private plantation in Bowland during the early summer. One grounded briefly at Heysham Observatory on 18/8.
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinusStatus: Vagrant. These are the first records for Lancashire.
An extraordinary sequence of events led to the discovery of a first winter in a mist net on Heysham Nature Reserve during the late evening of 29/9/92 (TW et al.). After a relatively migrant-free clear morning, a weather front arrived in late afternoon and deposited a number of Chiffchaffs, Spotted Flycatchers and a calling, mystery pipit spp., which dived into the belt of willows below the classroom. This prompted an attempt to mist net the pipit, which was unfortunately never seen again. However, one last look along the willow edge pushed a Common Rosefinch into the mist net! This was followed by a report of a female/immature in the same bush as a Yellow-browed Warbler at Jenny Brown’s Point on 10/10/92 (SJR et al.).
Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhulaStatus: Breeding bird of woodland and scrub areas. Autumn passage migrant.
Less common in our area than 10 years ago, this species has shown a decline nationally of 50% or more and so has been assigned to the BTOs list of species of high conservation concern. The exception to this has been in the Heysham area, where the 1990s has seen the establishment of a small isolated breeding population after a pair of autumn arrivals overwintered. At the end of the period under review, there were at least three pairs in SD45E and SD46A, with possible breeding on Heysham Moss. As implied, autumn migrants have always been regular at Heysham Observatory, usually late October/early November. Heysham ringing recoveries/controls prior to the period under review suggest that these are of fairly local origin, with one autumn passage bird ringed at Forton and a Heysham ringed bird found dead at Freeman’s Wood, Lancaster.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustesStatus: Breeding resident in the Arnside/Silverdale area.
This easily overlooked species resides in the wooded areas in the north west of the region. The most regular sites are Woodwell (Silverdale), Sizergh Castle, Witherslack and Dallam Tower. There have been no reports from the Lune Valley in recent times. One was recorded at Heysham Nature Reserve in 1996.
Lapland Bunting Calcarius lapponicusStatus: Very rare late autumn passage migrant, with one record of overwintering. About seven previous records, one involving two together.
A calling individual flying south at Ocean Edge on 24/10/90 appeared to land somewhere near Potts Corner (PJM). The unsuccessful dash round included unknowingly driving right past the Great Grey Shrike perched on the Moneyclose Lane anemometer! Immature, probably female, at the southern end of Ocean Edge foreshore during the early morning of 27/9/97, before being flushed by dog-walkers (PJM). One in identical plumage at the identical spot for c.30 minutes on 6/10/98 before being disturbed by a JCB (LT, PJM). It was relocated by at least one observer in the afternoon. Probable male, Cockersands Abbey stubble field, accompanying Skylarks, from at least 28/11-4/12/98 (TW et al.). Cockersands Abbey stubble field held a male in winter plumage and at least two, probably three, immatures during approximately 20-25/10/99. Is this a prelude to more regular occurrence as coastal stubble fields receive greater attention in autumn?
Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalisStatus: Mainly passage migrant in extremely variable numbers with occasional wintering birds, usually on Carnforth Slag Tips or along the Cockersands-Lane Ends coastline.
Almost certainly overlooked on the fell tops during passage, but wintering birds have been searched for at likely sites such as Ward’s Stone. No mid-winter cold weather influxes during the period under review, the last was in January 1984. See article by Paul Cammack in February 1999 LDBWS Newsletter, which suggests reasons for a decline at coastal sites. To his analysis, I would add the word ‘disturbance’. For example, the excellent habitat at Cockersands Point is continually disturbed by unleashed dogs; birds rarely remaining for more than a few (very flight-orientated) days.
1989: Two early year: Ocean Edge, Heysham, on 5/3 and Carnforth Marsh on 11/2. Unprecedented numbers on autumn passage, mainly through Ocean Edge. Present from 5/11-27/11, reaching a maximum of 25 on 19/11. However, behaviour suggested numbers of birds passing through, possibly as many as c.50 in total.
1990: Carnforth Marsh: one on 7/1 and two on 29/3. 3 south at Lane Ends 27/1. In autumn: one south over Heysham Nature Reserve 13/10, 3 south over Stone Jetty 21/10, one Ocean Edge 13-14/11, 6 Cockersands Abbey 2/12 at the same time 3 were by Cockersands Caravan Park. Heavy snowfall on upland areas may have been responsible for one at Red Nab 8/12, one Bolton-le-Sands 9/12 and one near Claughton 8/12.
1991: Two at Hest Bank ‘in February’. 4 at Sandylands 27/3. 3 at Lane Ends 26/10, 2 at Cockersands 9/11, one there on 17/11.
1992: 5 at Crook Farm 4/1. One Stone Jetty 14/3. One Halforth 29-30/10.
1993: Heysham: one south 16/10, two by heliport 5/11. 5 at Cockersands on 30/11.
1994: One Heaton Marsh 2/11, 3 there 19/11. 4 by the Stone Jetty 6/11. One Pontin’s Middleton 7/11. Up to 3 around Jenny Brown’s Point and Carnforth Slag Tips from 7/11 into 1995.
1995: Just 2 left on Carnforth Slag Tips with one remaining until 19/3. Singles there on 28/10 and 5/11 with 2 there on 14/11. 2 at Crook Farm/Cockersands 29/12.
1996: One Carnforth Slag Tips 11/3, 3 there on 25/10 and 2 there 2-3/11. Up to 9 at Plover Point, Cockersands, 27/10-19/11. One Heysham north harbour wall 6/10, different one Red Nab 19/10, different Ocean Edge 24-28/10. One Heysham Head 14/11. Single visit to Ward’s Stone produced 15 on 14/11, none later in the winter.
1997: One north over Heysham 11/3. One east over Aldcliffe 21/3. Singles Carnforth Slag Tips 19-20/10, Halforth 13/11, Heysham Head 23/11, Whitendale 28/11, Langden Head 30/11.
1998: None early year. Singles at Heysham 29/11, Cockersands stubble field 4/12-7/12, Carnforth Slag Tips 6/12. Four at Cockersands stubble field over high tide on 7/12.
1999: Good numbers. Up to 13 along the Lane Ends-Cocker Estuary seawall during at least January. Several records from the Cockersands area during October/November involving at least two birds and a flock of 6 was there in early November. One south over Heysham Observatory on 29/10.
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinellaStatus: Now a rather scarce and declining resident. Spring vagrant and very rare passage migrant at Heysham.
Still found in the limestone areas of Arnside/Silverdale and Farleton/Hutton Roof. The decline is well documented by the Atlas surveys. During the 68-72 Atlas period, birds were recorded in all nine 10km squares, with definite breeding in seven. By the 88-91 survey, they had disappeared from three and definite proof was only obtained from four. Another survey of 123 tetrads in 1977 found 14 occupied, but by the early 1990s, only 3 were occupied. On Warton Crag RSPB Reserve there were 5 pairs in 1988, but by the late 1990s they had ceased to breed. It is now a rare bird in winter. The origin of the passage migrants is completely unknown. The same passage migrants have, on one occasion, also been recorded at Sunderland Point.
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclusStatus: Well distributed breeding bird along the coast and inland up the river valleys, especially the Lune, Keer and Conder.
The largest breeding concentration is at Leighton Moss, where it has declined from 100+ pairs in the 1980s to c.60 pairs in recent years. The decline is probably due to changes in the wintering area, for almost the whole population leaves Leighton in the winter, returning in February. The ringing recoveries below show how far some birds move. Has also declined on the Lune, from 13 pairs in 1990, to only 7 by 1996. A regular diurnal passage migrant at Heysham Observatory in September and October and March/April. Wintering birds are regularly found in the spartina marshes on either side of the Lune estuary and along the tidelines of Sunderland Point. Ringing recoveries include: 1st winter female ringed at Leighton Moss 17/8/95, controlled Dorchester (Dorset) 2/11/95 and an adult female ringed at Attenborough (Notts.) 19/1/91, controlled at Pine Lake 5/9/92.
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandraStatus: No recent winter records, but still breeds just south of Glasson in small numbers.
Since 1997, it has been a summer visitor in very small numbers (under 5) to one barley field just south of Glasson Dock. However, sizeable numbers still present just outside the recording area in the Eagland Hill area. No records in the north of the area since 1996. Early in the period there was: one pair between Slyne and Halton in l991 and l992; up to 4 birds present on Heversham Moss in July 1991; one singing male near Halforth in July l993, 1995 and 1996, with a possible second bird in 1995. There were also one or two birds in the Allen Pool grain field in February l991 and one on Carnforth Marsh in November 1991.
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Notes, References etc.
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