Trip reports

Conder Green and Glasson Outing

Male wigeon swimming

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The 8th December 2010 was a day of bright sunshine, crystal clear visibility, and sub-zero temperatures. It seems that the latter, perhaps understandably, deterred many members from attending this meeting - in fact there were just two of us! - Andrew Cornell and myself.

With a spirit of stoicism we began our walk by at first crossing the disused railway viaduct that straddles the Conder estuary. Several redshank, curlew, a spotted redshank, and a solitary greenshank were busy feeding in the channel and its associated gullies that lay below us. By mid-morning the tide had started to rise and brought with it a party of about forty or so wigeon - the slurred whistling calls of the drakes and the gruff voices of the females carried well in the still air. Also drifting along with the tidal current were half a dozen goldeneye; then we saw another ten and over the next few minutes we had counted some thirty-six birds in all. The handsome drake goldeneye were showing well in the bright sunshine.

As we approached Glasson, a reed bunting, with feathers puffed-up against the cold, revealed itself when it perched on top of a clump of cord grass, and above our heads the characteristic "wink-wink" flight calls of pink-footed geese heralded the appearance of a skein that was heading in the direction of Thurnham.

Needless to say, Glasson Basin, Conder Pool and the Lancaster Canal were frozen over - not a single bird was seen on the ice. Consequently, we headed up Tithebarn Hill to view the Lune Estuary with Sunderland Point in the distance. From there we could see several mute swans and hear their musical wing beats as they took to the air. At Jeremy Lane we scanned the landscape with the hope of seeing some wintering Bewick or whooper swans in the nearby fields, alas, there were no birds to be seen of either species. Likewise, our endeavours to see brown hare also met without success, although the tell-tale tracks of these mammals in the snow clearly indicated that they still frequented this area of farmland. This disappointment was compensated for when we spotted a covey of some twelve grey partridge that were making their way in procession beneath a distant hedgerow.

We decided to return to Conder Green by the way we had come. By now the morning tide was at its height, all but the highest reaches of the salt marsh were submerged. On one of the few remaining dry areas, we witnessed a stoat that had seized a medium-sized bird (possibly a starling or blackbird). In a flash, and carrying the hapless bird in its mouth, the stoat scuttled up a plank and disappeared inside a derelict boat that was lying on its side. Our return walk also brought forth good sightings of some five tree sparrows, a flock of twenty-four chaffinches, more reed-buntings, several more curlew, a large flock of knot, several song thrushes, a couple of fieldfares a water rail and a solitary male kestrel.

Lunch was taken at the picnic tables that overlook the estuary. Here, a couple of robins that were tempted by the crumbs from our sandwiches, became quite tame and it was pleasing to have these birds at such close quarters. Our day was almost over when from the estuary we heard the strident alarm calls of curlew and other waders- we soon discovered the cause of this when a sparrowhawk flew in swiftly at low level. It was however, impossible to tell whether this raptor had caught anything, although this incident provided a satisfying conclusion to an interesting (albeit rather chilly) day's birdwatching.

Michael Gardner