Trip reports

Visit to Upper Lune Estuary

Male goldeneye
RSPB images

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Upper Lune Estuary walk on the 3rd February 2018

Our wildlife watching walk along the Lune Coastal footpath from New Quay Road to Aldcliffe Lane is now a regular event on the Lancaster Local Group calendar. So it was that nine of us, all well wrapped-up against the winter chill, set off on the first stage of this two mile walk. Our first stop was at Freeman's Pool, an area of open water created as a result of the flood defences that were excavated a few years ago, and it was there that we enjoyed good views of dabbling and diving wildfowl. Here were several wigeon, the males of this species uttering their slurred whistling calls. Likewise, several handsomely plumaged drake tufted duck and and goldeneye duck were diving in search of food only to resurface and return to view many seconds later and several yards away. As we made our way along what was the course of the old railway line we could make out two brown hares chasing one another across a distant field- no doubt a preliminary to the start of their mating season. In the near distance, a large mixed flock of greylag and pink-footed geese were grazing in the company of several curlew. It seemed that the cold damp weather had discouraged passerine birds from making much of a showing that morning, although we did see the occasional wren, blackbird and chaffinch. Farmland birds such as wintering redwing and fieldfares were absent.

At Aldcliffe Lane end -the halfway point of our walk, we caught up with Jon Carter who was carrying out his regular survey of the estuarine birds. With the aid of his telescope, Jon pointed out to us a flock of grey plovers and golden plovers on the opposite bank and mentioned that we had just missed a peregrine falcon that was passing over a few minutes earlier. We returned to our starting point by way of the footpath on the river embankment. By now the tide had started to rise causing several flocks of waders to be flushed off the mudflats.

Our tally of birds for the day was as follows: carrion crow, goldeneye, coot, wigeon, magpie, Canada goose, pink-footed goose, robin, little egret, curlew, oystercatcher, redshank, blackbird, shoveler, moorhen, teal, starling, curlew, shelduck, lesser black-backed gull, lapwing, cormorant, pintail, black-headed gull and herring gull.
Mammals observed were: grey squirrel and brown hare.

As a footnote to the above it has to said that during the return leg of our walk, our party was dismayed at the presence of large amounts of plastic waste that had been left or washed up up on the Lune riverbank - enough to fill several waste skips !

Michael Gardner.