Monday, 16 April 2012

A Bit of Casual Birding in Blighty

The River Wenning, with Hornby Castle in the distance.
I have just returned from a brief but very enjoyable trip back to the motherland to attend my brother Dave's wedding.
With only a few days at my disposal I had to do the unthinkable and put birding to one side in favour of spending time with family and friends. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but notice a few things here and there and I expect that most north Americans reading this would be quite content to see many of the species that I spotted as I went about my business.

My hometown Lancaster is in north west England (above Manchester, below Scotland, on the edge of Morecambe Bay and close to the Lake District) and is a fairly rural city, surrounded by easily accessed countryside and a wide range of habitats. Therefore, it's pretty easy to see plenty of common British birds without having to go to any great lengths.

Here's a list of the birds I saw and /or heard in the few days I was there:

Wheatear (pic by Dan, nicked off the Aldcliffe blog)
Little grebe, Great cormorant, Grey heron, Mute swan, Greylag goose, Canada goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Common teal, Tufted duck, Common eider, Goosander, Red-breasted merganser, Common buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Eurasian kestrel, Pheasant, Moorhen, Eurasian coot, Eurasian oystercatcher, Little ringed plover, Lapwing, Turnstone, Redshank, Spotted redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Black-headed gull, Common gull, Herring gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Great black-backed gull, Wood pigeon, Stock dove, Collared dove, Green woodpecker, Skylark, Sand martin, Barn swallow, House martin, Water pipit, Meadow pipit, Pied wagtail, Grey wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Northern wheatear, Song thrush, Mistle thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Great tit, Blue tit, Coal tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion crow, Starling, House sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfich, Reed bunting.

As well as Lancaster itself, I also visited Aldcliffe (my old patch), Hornby (where my parents live), the Conder Estuary, Dalton Woods, Dalton Crags and Morecambe.

The highlight was without doubt the water pipit. Not simply because of its relative scarcity, but the circumstances surrounding the sighting.
I was aware that a couple of the pipits had been present at a tidal pool by the Conder Estuary (a small river near the mouth of the much larger River Lune) for several days and as it happened the wedding reception was taking place at the the Stork Hotel, very close to this site. I casually mentioned this fact to my good pals Mark Witherall and Adrian 'Ziggy' Dawson (also wedding guests and fellow birders) and gauged their response to my suggestion that we could dash out during a lull in the proceedings. They both seemed agreeable. My brother Dave, the groom, had already been and seen the birds a couple of days previously so he wasn't to be diverted from his duties, but his blushing bride Steffi surprised the party by reaching under the dining table and grabbing her binoculars, adding "I'm coming with you, I've only seen one water pipit before!"
And so it was, that between the main course and dessert, the best man (me), the bride and two guests disappeared for half an hour as we walked briskly to the pools, spotted the bird and returned to join the celebrations.

A day to be remembered indeed... So, here's wishing Dave and Steffi a very happy future and many great birding moments together!


  1. [a]Did Ziggy wear a suit ??
    [b] Talking of wedding stories, a couple of years ago I went into the cafe in Williamson Park only to see a rather glum-looking girl in a complete wedding outfit sitting on her own at one of the tables.
    I gather that her intended had not turned up.
    Anyhow, she asked me if I would marry her.
    Actually, I was severely tempted to say yes, even if only for the holiday in some foreign place they had no doubt intended to fly to!
    But I did the right thing instead.
    Best wishes from Ray....

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  3. How come so many of your stories involve cafes? You need to get out and do more birding Ray...
    Oh and Ziggy, while not wearing a suit as such, was dressed very smartly indeed, you'll be delighted to hear.
    Enjoy the spring! (...and is there any truth to the rumour about a tower hide at Leighton Moss?)

  4. Well, it's a "viewing platform"... no roof. As to cafes, wait till you are 62 and a quarter Carter.... anyway, they are now called Beverage Outlet Hubs.