Trip reports

Upper Lune Estuary

Short-eared owl sitting on the ground

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The upper Lune estuary was the venue for our birdwatching walk on the 10th March. This event was organised jointly by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB Local Group and the Lancaster & District Birdwatching Society.
Some twenty people participated and we were led by Dan Haywood.
After meeting at the end of Lancaster Quay, we stopped first at Freeman`s Pool - an area of water created a few years ago as a result of the excavations made when new sea defences were created. On the pool a pair of handsome goldeneye were displaying in the company of teal, tufted ducks and black-headed gulls. Soon after, a large flock of pinkfooted geese flew over the pool uttering their familiar "wink -wink" calls - these birds, had been disturbed from their nearby feeding fields.
Having crossed the footpath that links Willow Lane to the river bank, we joined the footpath and cycleway that follows the course of the old Lancaster to Glasson railway track. From this footpath, some more pinkfeet came into view - some six hundred birds in all, and probably part of the smaller flock that we had seen previously. Further along, looking towards a flooded depression known locally as `Wildfowler`s Pool`, we enjoyed good views of several teal, whilst on the muddy periphery of this area were three dapper-looking pied wagtails. From the hedgerow behind us the drowsy song of a pied wagtail was heard. Nearby, four fieldfare were seen- yes, only four!. This handsome continental thrush has been rather scarce in Britain this past year, (perhaps owing to milder weather in Scandinavia?).
During our lunch break at the Stodday picnic site, several of our party set up their telescopes and trained them on the opposite river bank. Looking towards Overton, we saw what at first appeared to be a raven being mobbed and harassed by several other birds. On closer observation our `raven` turned out to be a short-eared owl and proved to be the highlight of our day. By midday the tide was at its height when a large flock of golden plover were seen settled on their roost, meanwhile, several black-tailed godwits flew past and a flock of distant redshank were identified by their familiar piping calls.
Returning to Lancaster Quay our party split into two groups, one taking a route along the river embankment, the other taking the more direct route along the old railway track. I took the latter route, and along with my fellow birdwatchers, I saw a solitary buzzard perched some distance away on a farm gate- this species, I understand, is now much more commonplace in this part of the estuary. Nearing again the `Wildfowler`s Pool` a party of shelduck appeared to be engaged in courtship display - lots of neck stretching and head bobbing was seen - another sign that spring 2012 is on the way!
Finally, I would like to thank Dan Haywood for providing us with expert guidance.

Michael Gardner