CBC Foulney Outing

Yesterday I joined nine or ten other Cumbria Bird Club members for a walk onto Foulney Island. This trip report is written with people who don’t really know the area in mind.

Foulney is on the north west lip of Morecambe Bay. You access it from a car park half way along Roa Island causeway. If the tide is well out you can comfortably walk to the end of Foulney and back without being cut off. The alternative is to walk out before the tide comes in and get cut off by the sea for a couple of hours. That’s what we did. Other than our party there were only four or five others who did so, and that’s more than usual.

It’s largely shingle ridges with some vegetation. In the summer terns come to nest, usually Arctic and Little Terns. At that time there is a seasonal warden to ensure that visitors do not disturb the main tern nesting area, as terns are particularly prone to disturbance. They also monitor the nests of shorebirds such as Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover, the latter are struggling elsewhere as disturbance on the beaches they favour continues to increase.

At this time of year the wintering Brent Geese are still around. Unusually both Pale-bellied birds from Canada and Dark-bellied birds from Russia are found in good numbers. Our guide Mike explained that they tend to favour different sides of the Roa Island Causeway, and sure enough the Pale-bellied were most on the Walney Channel side and the Dark-bellieds were in the lee of Foulney given the northern component in today’s winds.

Out on the island the main ornithological interest was provided by the Eider flocks. There were several hundred present. These and the Walney bird were formerly the most southerly nesting birds in Britain, but more recently they are colonised North Lancashire. The males were giving their distinctly comic sounding calls to try and impress the females (think Frankie Howerd if you remember him).

Blurred Eiders, Rampside and the Lake District fells

These days there is also a healthy seal population in the sea around Foulney that haul out at Walney, and even breed there now. When I was living in Barrow seeing a seal was still something of a novelty but they are a real success story. Some people think that the massive Walney windfarm has helped the seals in that they feed on life that has formed on the turbine columns.

In terms of other birds seen on the outing there were Wigeon, Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes with or near the Eider flotilla. A good selection of waders included large flocks of Dunlin as well as Curlew, Knot, Grey and Golden Plover, Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Turnstone, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit. Whilst there was a biting wind it was wonderful to be able to see a range of species undisturbed on a glorious sunny day.

Brent Geese

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