Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lots of Gulls - No little Grebe

I recently took part in the Chorley Bird Race. The main reason is to get a snapshot of the birds in Chorley Borough. We start at mid-day one day and finish mid-day the next. We started in the east and soon had swallow, sand martin, and buzzard. Whithnell scrapes was very quiet, but there was a teal, a grey heron and tree sparrows. An unexpected bonus came in the gift of some jelly babies offered by some walkers going in the opposite direction. A visit to a local quarry enabled us to see peregrine and raven.
Cuerden provided us with dipper and bullfinch, but the little grebe was not to be seen. At White Coppice, a common redstart serenaded us but observing him proved impossible. As the afternoon and evening progressed the temperature fell as did the amount of birdsong. The lack of some commoner birds seen or heard was a little frustrating. We were encouraged by the sight of a single little gull, whose very close flypast allowed us to see its diagnostic underwing. We still had not seen dunnock, grey wagtail or house sparrow but as we approached Belmont village, a short eared owl flew almost right over the top of our vehicle. A search for Mediterranian gulls in the hundreds of black headed was made uncomfortable by the almost Arctic blast, but my partner at least saw a snipe. Dusk was now quite close so a quick visit to Roddlesworth woods for woodcock was our plan. Once seen and heard, we did not hang around. We could be judging some folk, but there were several "suspicious" characters in the car park.
 The next day, a wet start had cleared by 0530, which enabled us to hear tawny owl and grasshopper warbler. Not five minutes later we heard a yellowhammer sing " little bit of bread and no cheese" and saw a grey partridge flying away from us. 

Our next stop was where the River Yarrow meets the River Douglas. We listened and scanned the hedgerows and saw corn buntings as well as a single red legged partridge. The distinctive call of a redshank by the rivers alerted us to not only that bird, but also shelduck and two common sandpipers. Just outside Croston is a reed bed where a sedge warbler and a lone house martin added to our growing total. Not too far away a few wheaters gave a good impression of being lapwings. Not too good as to confuse us however. A trip to Birkacre was quite productive having seen kingfisher and mute swan, but still no tree-creeper. Mid-day was approaching far too quickly and we still needed a few more birds. We only saw one more species however, but it was a good one, actually two. A pair of ring ouzels among the rocks at Black Coppice proved to be our final addition. 82 birds for the day. Not good enough to beat the 87 discovered by one of the other teams.

 The addition of some stitchworts and an orange tip butterfly brought my challenge list to 351

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