Saturday, 28 January 2017

Todd's Canada Goose in Lancashire

I've found the title of the blog dictates how many views it receives. When my titles don't include a bird name at all, it receives less views. The bigger and rarer the bird, more people read the blog. So tonight Matthew, I've gone with Todd's Canada Goose! Lets see if this gets more views than this blog with only 41 views which was my least viewed blog of last year. 

Anyway, the end of January proved to be quite an exciting time. with a few bits and bobs turning up. CJW was working the weekend of 21st January, so I decided on a short trip. After Westport, I popped up to Llanddulas where two SURF SCOTERS had been seen the previous day. As soon as I scoped up and saw how distant they were, and when you can't see the yellow on the drakes bills or even tell the drakes from the ducks, then you know you don't stand a chance. I scanned for about an hour and then gave up. (They were found later in Colwyn Bay). 

And with no mention at all of the WOOD SANDPIPER at Radford Meadows, all my plans were scuppered. As I headed back along the A55, a message came through from Lancashire about the RED-BREASTED GOOSE. That will do I thought so I reset the sat nav and headed up to North Lancs.

What followed was quite an amazing goosing session. And Grizzly turned up on his way back home from the Pacific Diver twitch. Following conversations, I found that in North Lancs (Cockerham / Pilling etc), there are this year c25,000 Pink-footed Geese. As we stood there, flocks of 500+ were dropping in. There are amazing numbers up there. In the fields in the area by Sand Villa, I saw Pink-footed Goose, 21 White-fronted Goose with which the Red-breasted Goose was associated with, a Taiga Bean Goose, two Tundra Bean Goose and a Barnacle Goose. But best of all was the Todd's Canada Goose. It was easily identified as it was the only Canada Goose in the flock. As to why it was a Todd's, I'll get back to you on that. (This bird may possibly not feature in my end of year review). Seven species of goose and no Greylags can't be bad!

Taiga Bean Goose Lancs
Red-breasted Goose with White-fronts
The following day, with confirmation that the Lincs White-billed Diver was still present, I couldn't resist the opportunity and headed over. It was only a couple of hours drive, and following a 15 min walk up the river, the White-billed Diver showed an absolute treat. I had heard many stories of the Lincs bird in the 90s, and so it was nice to finally see the modern version.

The river by Woodhall Spa

White-billed Diver, Woodhall Spa, Lincs

At virtually the same time the White-billed Diver had been found, a PACIFIC DIVER had been found in Northumberland. Along with the nearby BLACK SCOTER, it was proving to be a popular location to visit, and with a potential two tick day for CJW, we decided to head up as soon as was feasibly possible. It was a 4am start, and we hit the rush hour traffic in Newcastle. Not our Newcastle obviously. We ain't got one of these...

We lost about half an hour due to the traffic, and as we parked up in the Druridge Bay CP, we received news that the juvenile Pacific Diver was still present. We walked down to the lake side, joined the small group of birders present and enjoyed decent views. It was diving quite actively, and made photography interesting. 
Pacific Diver Druridge Bay CP by CJW

We soon headed off for our second target bird of the day, the Goswick BLACK SCOTER - a potential England tick for me having only seen the returning bird off Llanfairfechan previously. Our luck was in, and in was reported a mile south of the Golf Club, off the Beachcomber House. The journey north took nearly an hour, but when you are driving through Alnwick, Bamburgh and with Holy Island and Lindisfarne in the distance you don't really mind. We parked up by the golf clubhouse and headed off south. 

For the next two hours, we scanned every bit of sea off the Beachcomber House, and standing on the beach we were well aware the tide was coming in and there was the potential for being stranded on a sandbank and cut off. Now imagine that blog (but we were well aware and retreated to higher ground in goodtime). 

The sea was full of stuff. We had 30+ Long-tailed Duck, a large flock of Common Scoter, 30+ Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and a Black-throated Diver (which meant all five British divers seen in three days), a couple of  Eider, a Slav Grebe, Razorbill. It really was a good seawatch. As we went into the dunes, three Short-eared Owls were hunting.

But there was no BLACK SCOTER. The large flock of Scoter offshore stayed well out. You could just about tell the females from the males, but you couldn't see the yellow on the beaks. We then stumbled across two posh birders sat in the dunes. They asked what we had seen, and then they told us the BLACK SCOTER was in fact further up the coast off Cheswick. Apparently, you just walked out from the car park, and the flock was immediately in front of you just offshore. Our spirits rose and we made the long walk back to the car at the golf club house. 

It was now mid afternoon. We never thought that it would take this long to see the Scoter. We drove up to Cheswick, parked in the car park, walked through the dunes, found the flock just offshore, found a few nice drake Common Scoter, several RBM's, at least 30 Red-throated Divers around the flock of 50+ Common Scoter, and we scanned, and scanned, and just couldn't see the BLACK SCOTER. It was all a bit strange.

From our vantage point, we could see a small group of birders a little further down the coast. We drove back to the golf course club house, and walked out from here. Then we met some returning birders who finally told us it was still offshore from here. We walked out again onto the beach. We were flagging at this stage. We had been looking for this Scoter for almost six hours now. 

We joined a small group stood on the beach. I followed directions, found a small flock of 20 or so Common Scoter and there was one with a huge yellow beak. It stood out like a sore thumb. I tried to get CJW onto it but he couldn't find the flock. There was silence....the flock was drifting further out as the tide went out....I lost sight of the Black Scoter

We walked further down the beach. It was now a race against time and tide. In the end I let CJW look through my scope. The wait was agonising. Then....he saw it.

It had been a good day, but there was so much more to see along this coast but we were let down by poor information on site. If we'd known it was straight out from the clubhouse, we would have walked straight out in the first place. Oh well, two decent birds, 16hrs out of the house, mustn't grumble.
On the long journey back home from Northumberland, and after listening to the same old stories about how CJW visited his Aunty Hilda quickly every Autumn on Scilly, and how he used to play football with Roger Hunt on the Garrison, and cricket on the East Bank of Cley with Richie Richardson, blah blah, heard all the stories before, I told him I was going to put a tune of the next blog. A good song I said. So readers, turn your speakers up to full blast and appreciate this next tune. Till next time my friends...its been a long blog and I didn't manage to tell you about the next gen birder we saw who looks like Spencer from Phoenix Nights. Oh well...