Thursday 24 August 2017

Birding the Ribble or "Birding with Birds"

Nuthatch Sitta Europaea
Tuesday 22 August

What a great late morning's birding in excellent company.  Lancashire and the local stretch of the River Ribble having driven over the moors from Bacup to Clitheroe to be greeted by the three Lancashire Lasses including the ever-smiling and delectable "Clitheroe Kid!"  Green grass, trees in leaf, babbling brooks; what was not to like - apart from the short showers just to prove we were in the north-west of the UK?  Talk about an away from home as a quartet of ABS members including Treasurer Janet Dixon, ex-committee member Linda Roberts, Kate Butler and yours truly set out to walk though the nearby woods, but no Dipper or Kingfisher on this occasion, and then on the main River Ribble.   Not every lucky chap gets to be escorted on a birding walk by three gorgeous girls!  And what birds we saw, both feathered and non-feathered.

Our ABS girls abroad: Linda Roberts, Kate Butler and Janet Dixon (Treasurer)
A quiet start picking up dozens of Woodpigeons and a small flock of House Sparrows before reaching the farm where we discovered a score or more of Barn Swallows and probably more House Martins. A young Robin, still all speckled, was hiding in a nearby bush but then the promised rain arrived.  In the barn for quick shelter, coats on and a change of plan, as the rain eased off, so back to a path which took us to the main river.  At this point we picked up a couple of Grey Heron and a two young Carrion Crows were perched in the top of a dead tree as their parents scavenged on the opposite side of the water.  We were seeing little at this point and the elderly gentleman standing up to his (almost) middle of the river was having equal success with his fly fishing.  I bet he felt wetter and damper than we did!

Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone
Whilst Barn Swallows and House Martins fed low over the water we noticed the arrival of a few Sand martins that had set up home in a shallow bank on the far side.  Walking on, with Janet trying to take a photograph of every different plant in sight, we came to the "kissing gate" that led to a small, overgrown path leading to the new caravan site.  Leaving food on the post tops, special brought for the occasion, we continued on our way to the "railway station" (but not before we noticed a pair of Blackbirds descend almost immediately to attack the seed with the male in a very advanced state of moult) where a few brave children were paddling in the shallow water of the river.  (They must breed them very hardy up here in the far north!)  And on the far side and also paddling around the middle up to a score of very dubious looking Mallard.  It looks like the pure mallards have no respect for their own having, judging by the markings, been rather bust with the farm yard ducks.

Time for some rather larger bird feeding as we sat on a bench then made our way back to our little feeding station to see what might have been attracted by the free meals provided.  As soon as we arrived a female Bullfinch made the briefest of stops then disappeared never to be seen again.  That could certainly not be said for the Nuthatches which returned time after time.  Difficult to say how many; whether a pair or family.  The pair of Blackbirds were still about and then they were joined by an adult Robin.

Our very friendly and cooperative Nuthatch Sitta Europaea
Not to be outdone, we then had both Blue and Great Tits and to make life a little more interesting a couple of Coal Tits which also decided it was time to fatten up whilst they had they had the opportunity.  Linda found our final bird of the morning; a little Wren actually seen rather than "just" heard on the outward walk.

Coal Tit Parus ater
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus watched over by the larger Robin Erithacus rubecula
Now the Robin Erithacus rubecula takes pride of place
Now well pas 2.30 so a leisurely walk back to Janet's delightful home where, unbeknown to we guests, she had even prepared a very tasty stew, local cheese and her own special hand-pressed juice.  Absolutely yummy.  And the fresh bread was something to die for.  And as if that was not enough along with the fresh coffee, Linda had brought chocolates with her.  Now that's what I call a lovely morning's birding in, as I said at the top, wonderful company and, but for getting back to Jenny and the new-born grandchild, all that was missing was the Spanish siesta!  A very big and special thank you to Janet, Linda and Kate.

Moulting young male Blackbird Turdus merula

Birds seen:
Mallard, Heron, Woodpigeon, Barn Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Wren, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Bullfinch.

Hours spent standing around in the rain with wet feet

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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