Saturday, 25 November 2017

Rutland 25th Nov

I wasn't sure whether to do some local birding today, perhaps looking for some winter grebes or divers, or whether to go further afield to Rutland. In the end I opted for the latter as I'd been to Oakham earlier in the week and fancied a bit of a session round there. Also a Great Northern Diver had been knocking about all week, and the ever-elusive Red-necked Grebe which I always dip had also been regularly seen in the South Arm.

I started by walking the Dam from north to south, stopping every so often to check for the diver, but it didn't appear to be there, and I hadn't seen any recent reports of it... The 3 Red-breasted Mergansers that have been present all week were still there, so that was some recompense, and there were several Goosander about too. It was quite windy and very cold, so I didn't stick around for too long.

I then parked at Old hall and had a look for the Red-necked grebe... another dip. The light was pretty poor and so I could have missed it in the glare, but there was plenty about, including 11 Great white egrets on the south shore, and a flock of 40+ Red-crested Pochard, as well as a few Redshank. Again, it was cold and windy so that eventually forced me to retreat to check out the North Arm. There wasn't much from the small fishermans carpark just outside Hambleton, but the area by Burley Fishponds was crammed with birds, including another 3 Great Egrets. There was a flock of 40 or so Pintail and a fair few other smaller groups, always nice to see, and there was a huge raft of mixed wildfowl, mainly Tufties and Wigeon, which unfortunately didnt hold any hidden gems. I was hoping for a Slav or Black-necked grebe around here, but it wasnt to be, and after a quick check for Smew at Burley fishponds (there weren't any), I went home - a little disappointed for the lack of year-ticks, but it was good to get out nonetheless.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Last coast trip of the autumn?

At the end of October, I engineered a cunning plan to both go on a little break with Michelle and the Dog, Abbie, as well as cram in a bit more Lincs Coast birding. We were staying on the Lincolnshire riviera, in a chalet in Mablethorpe, a short walk from some dunes and the beach, and only a quick drive to some other birding spots.

We arrived on the thuerday and had a quick wander down the beach, picking up a few Sanderlings but little else (still a well overdue year-tick). Much more interesting however was a bird hopping about just in front of the dunes. Without my bins i was a bit unsure, but it allowed close approach and turned out to be a Snow Bunting, a first for me, so not a bad start.

The next day I drove up to Theddlethorpe mid-morning and had a wander round the dunes at crook bank for a couple of hours. Although not completely dead, there was little of interest in the scrub, just lots of Goldcrest and a few tit flocks. An unfamiliar call sparked my interest and I staked out an area for some time, but it came to nothing, I still have no idea what it could have been. However, intermittent Pink-footed goose flocks kept it going, with around 220 going over in small skeins and a group of 100 or so feeding in a rape field.

The next day I spent some time in the morning partaking in a short seawatch - an activity I'm very inexperienced in - but it was quite pleasant sat at the top of the beach and there was a bit of activity. Small flocks of Shelduck were moving North, and there was a frequent passage of Auks and Gannets. Year ticks were provided with a group of 25 Common Scoter and several Brent geese, and it was nice to see a drake Eider moving north. Only one diver was seen, but was too distant to ID.

With the wind strengthening from the northwest, I didn't hold much hope for the dunes,so spent another hour watching the sea on the Sunday before taking Abbie out again. It was a lot quieter than the day before. A lot more Auks were passing, all North, and there were more Gannets about too. Another unidentified Diver flew south and 3 Eiders were seen and that was about it.

So a quiet end to a quiet autumn, but I'm happy that I got myself familiar with some of the sites on the Lincs coast. Whether i get out there again before the end of the year, I don't know, all depends on free time!

Obligatory in situ scope shot

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Another Lincs coast Trip

Yesterday, Pete and I took another trip over to the Lincolnshire coast, leaving poor Ian behind feeling a little unwell. Continuous westerlies and a lack of reports of any significant falls of migrants made us a little concerned that it may be a little quiet, but we remained optimistic of at least finding one or two birds of interest.

We had decided that it would be worth scouring the dunes and scrub of the Rimac reserve south of Saltfleet, a place Pete had visited several times with some success. Getting out of the car to the sound of calling Chiffchaffs gave us hope and 3 in one bush was seen as a glimmer of hope. We walked the seaward side of the dunes, but the vegetation was largely quiet apart from some tit flocks with the odd Goldcrest. More encouraging was the continuous light passage of finches, buntings and Meadow Pipits. A few Siskin, Redpoll and Yellowhammer were of note. A small skein of 11 Pinkfeet also flew north.

At Sea view farm, we overlooked the scrub and managed to pick out a few bits, including a couple of Mistle Thrush, a Tree Sparrow and several Redwing, whilst 3 Snipe flew north. Walking back towards the farm, Pete thought he'd heard a Yellow-brow but we never heard it again. After that it was more of the same, the landward side of the dunes were extremely quiet, in the whole walk back to the carpark and then the further walk south of the carpark, we failed to really pick anything other than the occasional tit/crest flock. 2 Stonechat by the main gate were nice, and we got exceptional views of a very confiding Water Rail in a small reed-fringed pool, but it migrant-wise it was a bit disappointing.

Before leaving, we drove north to the 'Paradise' carpark at Saltfleet to check the pool and channel there for waders. The tide was in however, so no waders at the channel, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Long-billed Dowitcher that had been present for several weeks was still about, sitting with around 30 Redshank and 5 Ruff on the Pool. We hadn't expected to see the Dowitcher, as it hadn't been reported since the Monday before, so that was a bit of a result. With strengthening winds and not much faith left in the possibility of finding anything else in the dunes, we called it a day.

Paradise Pool

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Scotland - May/June 2017

I've had photos just sat on my computer doing nothing, from various holidays/trips away that I had intended to blog about. The most recent is when we went away to Scotland at the end of May this year to go and experience the Isle of May in the summer, with all its seabirds, as well as a trip to the Cairngorms to see if we could find a few Scottish specialities.

We drove up to Anstruther on the May bank holiday, and arrived there after around 7 hours of travelling (Edinburgh at rush hour is not the place to be). Michelle was unaware of where we were going so was confused as to why we were travelling for so long. She hadn't even cottoned on when we got to the Library Hostel in Anstruther, nor when I told the staff that I'd been before. I let her know that we'd be watching Puffins the next day, which resulted in much excitement.

Puffins above the Brae

We got the boat to the Island the next morning, on a flat calm sea in beautiful sunshine. As we approached, seabirds slowly began appearing, with the odd Guillemot and Puffin creating a sense of anticipation. The boat passed before the looming West Cliffs, an unforgettable experience, with hundreds of Auks in the sea, and birds plastering the rocks above.

Puffins atop the West Cliffs
We docked at Kirkhaven and were allowed around 3 hours on the Island. It was great to return here after seeing it in such a different light last October. Whereas then it was covered in Goldcrests and Thrushes, this time they had been replaced by Terns, Rock Pipits and Auks. Arctic Terns were nesting at the south of the island, and as we walked up Fluke Street and onto Palpitation Brae, more and more Puffins were seen, ever alert to the presence of the Gulls keeping an eye on them. Eider mothers were seen either on their nests or with creches of ducklings, again striving to keep their young safe from the hungry gulls.

Eider Family, Isle of May
We sat atop the Cliffs for some time, enjoying close views of Razorbills and Kittiwakes, and with Fulmars riding the breeze above us. I retraced many of my steps that I had taken the Autumn before, endlessly pointing out features to Michelle and recalling the many migrants that I had seen. It was nice to see Low Light again as we walked to the north of the island. 

Much of the rest of the time was spent on the Eastern side of the island, where we sat and simply enjoyed the sights and sounds of scores of Puffins, and the cool breeze coming in from the North Sea. Great to be here again, and it certainly made me want to return... perhaps for another autumn spectacular! 

The East of the Island

The next 3 days were spent at Aviemore, where I had a few plans to go looking for birds, but only in between just enjoying the area (it wasn't supposed to be a birding holiday!!). I had intended to 'go high' for some montane species like Snow Bunting, Dotterel and Ptarmigan, but I never really got the chance. We opted instead to go on more low-level walks round some of the woodland and lochans around the area. These were beautiful and not without some ornithological interest. 

The first day we walked round some of the Rothiemurchus estate, where I heard the only Wood Warbler of the Trip, shortly before seeing our first of many Red Squirrels. A brief, distant raptor appeared to be a Golden Eagle but I didnt count it as the views were so terrible. We wandered through some beautiful woodland, surrounding Loch an Eilein, where I managed some reasonable views of Crested Tits, as well as a number of Redstart, Spotted Flycatchers and a Tree Pipit. It was nice to see Goldeneye on the Loch too, as I'm so used to only seeing them in the winter back home.
Red Squirrel, Glenmore

The next day we followed some directions to try and find Capercaille, near Grantown-on-Spey. We were unsuccessful, but enjoyed the silence of the ancient pine forest, and had great views of a Spotted Flycatcher, as well as a few Red-breasted Merganser and a Dipper on the river, and Curlews on the opposite bank. 
Spotted Flycatcher, Grantown on Spey
In the afternoon, we attempted to see Golden Eagles up near the Findhorn Valley. This was typified by lots of wrong turns and driving down unlikely single track roads, but I think we eventually got in around the right spot. Unfortunately we were tired and grumpy by then so we didnt stay for long, but it was a beautiful area and well worth another visit, and whilst there we did see plenty of Common Sandpipers and families of Oystercatchers.

A bit more walking the next day didn't really result in any more exciting birds, although the beer garden at the Old Bridge Inn was a good place to watch Common Sand on the river, and Spotted Flycatchers were in the trees around the picnic benches too. I tried for Slav Grebe at Loch Vaa early on the Saturday, and tried from a viewpoint about halfway up Cairngorm to see Black Grouse (both without success), and late we tried for a 'rogue-male' Caper at a site on the way back home. We staked out the area for some time, but it was clear that it wasn't about (if it was a 'rogue' then I think it would have quickly tried to see us off), but it was nice to add Cuckoo to the trip list, with many singing in the area, and a couple more Red Squirrels too.

Although I failed to see almost all my target birds in this area of the country, it was good to experience this beautiful area, and get a bit more familiar with where to go to see certain things. It's certainly my intention to return and really give it some effort to successfully find some of  these highland specials.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Newark Adventure

I was meant to go to Lincolnshire again today, mainly to look for migrants around the dunes again - with the added draw of the Long-billed Dowitcher that has been present for a few weeks. However I was unable to get out til mid  morning and decided it wasn't worth a 3-4 hour round trip for just an afternoon - especially as the winds werent especially favourable. (Looks like i missed some YBWs and a Barred warbler but not too fussed!)

Instead, I went to have a little look around a few sites around Newark, always productive, and I like to pay the area a visit a few times a year!

I began at Collingham, where vegetation and water levels meant there wasnt much in the way of wader habitat, but I did pick out a couple of Pintail on the pit north of Ferry Lane lake. Speaking to a couple of birders later it seems i missed a Black-tailed Godwit here. Otherwise there wasn't much of note, and i failed to pick anything up along the hedges and farmland around ferry lane.

Mons pool was more productive with up to 200 Wigeon knocking about - but no American compardres. 4 Curlew were sitting, soporific on one of the islands and a couple of late Swallows also flew through.

I had a Collingham Co-op Special lunch (cheese pasty and a packet of crisps) and decided i would visit Langford Lowfields. I don't normally visit here as I find it a bit restrictive, only being able to properly bird in the public areas, but it occasionally comes good. I noted a Ringed Plover on the walk down to the main part of the reserve, and a nasal-saddled female Pochard provided some interest, but i failed to read the code on it, hopefully it will be picked up by someone else on site.

On the main part of the site it was initially a bit quiet, but things picked up when I noted a smart male Stonechat knocking about in one of the reedbeds. Walking up to the viewing mound, a Water Rail popped out of some reeds and skitted about for a bit, a cracking adult male Sprawk bombed through and a Common Sand was bobbing about in the distance. Another group of about 20 Swallows flew through too. Not much else of note though, and I didnt really want to linger, so i soon moved on.

I popped in to Kilvington for a bit on the way home, and as usual there were good numbers of large gulls. Mostly lesser black backs, but an adult Yellow-legged Gull was new for the year for me. Lots of other birds about but the only other notable birds were the 5 Ringed Plover that had been reported the night before.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

American Wigeon

Following a couple of uneventful visits to the patch, where its getting difficult to visit after work these days, I decided to go further afield again at the weekend. One of my field trials at work is in Oakham and I needed to visit it so i coupled it with a visit to Rutland on Saturday morning. I usually pop my head into the North Arm when I'm in the area, and I've picked up some reasonable birds whilst visiting in the past.

This time I decided to have a look in at the Egleton reserve, as an American Wigeon had been knocking around there for a few weeks, and I haven't been for some time. I quickly picked the bird in question up, feeding with a good sized flock of Wigeon in front of the Grebe hide on Lag 2. Also around were a good few Pintail, and a Great White Egret - now a common sight in the area, amongst the other numerous wildlfowl.

I didn't stick around on the reserve for too long, but did have a look at Lagoon 4, as its usually good for waders, but there was only 2 Greenshank and a Ruff, as well as another Great Egret. Another 15 or so Pintail were about too, nice to see in numbers.

Before heading home, I poked my nose in at the North Arm, as a Little Stint had been reported here. Scanning the banks, I only managed a couple of Ruff, 7 Dunlin and 8 Ringed Plover. Just before giving up, I had another look at the Dunlin and suddenly picked up the Stint, running round amongst them, though pretty distant, but always nice to see, and a new bird for me there.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Lincs coast expedition

Each year I tell myself that I'm going to go to the Lincs coast to have a crack at some autumn birding, but never really get round to it. However this year I've been encouraged to do it more, as I now have a companion to spur me on, namely Ian Blackmore-Allen, a friend and a recent returner to the world of birding after a brief hiatus.

On sunday we joined Pete Leonard and Nick Crouch, and I drove us to Gib Point to work the Scrub and Sand Dunes to see if we could pick up any migrants. Winds on the coast haven't exactly been favourable, but a few breaths of north-easterlies overnight gave us some hope.

We pitched up at 7am and worked the west dunes and around the Sykes Farm area til around mid-morning, but it was quickly evident that there hadn't been any sort of influx of birds, with very little moving around, aside from the odd Chiffchaff and small numbers of Goldcrest. Whilst we were watching a group of Swallows I picked up a Pied Flycatcher, sat in elders by the Roadside Pond, where there seemed to be a hive of activity, but it soon disappeared and wasn't picked up by anyone else. After watching a Kingfisher for a time, we decided to relocate to the East dunes, working our way from the field centre, back towards the car. Aside from several Reed Buntings and Mipits by the Obs and 9 Pink-feet flying over (relocated by Tennysons Sands later), there was very little to see, the dunes being very quiet indeed

Tennysons sands held some wader interest, holding around 250 Black-tailed Godwit, as well as c30 Avocet (including a colour ringed bird), several greenshank and a pintail. After this we headed back around Sykes Farm with no joy, and tried unsuccessfully to see some reported Yellow-browed Warblers at Aylmer Avenue.

After some chips at Skeg, we recced Chapel Six Marshes and Wolla Bank, a couple of sites further up the coast. Both were quiet, but Wolla Bank in particular seemed like it had potential and I managed a Wheatear on the beach, as well as a very close-in Guillemot on the sea (about 30m out!). Pete and Nick had a good explore and it was agreed it was certainly a site to consider in the future.

Looking forward to exploring more of this coastline, I'm hoping to get out there again in two weeks time, hopefully with some more easterlies and some more birds!

Sunny birding over the Saltmarsh

Monday, 1 May 2017

Patchwork 2017 update - March

Its already May, I don't have a clue where the time has gone. And as usual my blog-posting has taken a back seat, although the weather and birding have been that atrocious that I probably should have been able to find the time to do it.

Anyway - March!

Species 94
Additions - Black-necked Grebe, Yellowhammer, Skylark, Chiffchaff, Cattle Egret, Sand Martin, Siskin, Little Grebe, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, Barnacle Goose, Red kite, blackcap, knot, Grey Plover

March is usually reasonably quiet, apart from the first few early migrants turning up, but again, i was pleasantly surprised by how productive it was. The month started well with a Black-necked grebe appearing on the A52 pit, which I picked up after it had been there a few days. The first migrants arrived with a singing chiffchaff on the 11th, when I got the first yellowhammer of the year too.

I was away in York on the weekend of the 17th-19th, but a text on the way home on the friday night had me rushing to the patch before it got dark to lay eyes on the Cattle Egret that had decided to drop in. I got pretty crap views but it was brilliant nonetheless, my first in the UK and a cracking bird for the patch. I'd got my first Sand Martins of the year that morning too, i wonder if I'd missed the Egret that morning? I managed to get back to the patch on the sunday evening and got much better views of the bird, and finally added Little Grebe to the patch list too, as well as LRP and Dunlin.

A group of 6 Barnacle geese one evening were a nice addition, likely to be feral birds but good to see, and a distant Red Kite was a welcome addition too. The final birds of the month were seen on a glorious saturday morning, which began very foggy but ended up being very warm, The first singing blackcap was seen early on, and later a Knot was seen (found the night before) and a Grey Plover which was very elusive and only really seen in very poor light.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Patchwork 2017 - February Update

Species 79
Points 85

Additions this month: Fieldfare, Reed Bunting, Woodcock, Redshank, Curlew, Coal tit, Barn Owl, Mistle thrush, Feral pigeon, Oystercatcher, Jack Snipe, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Linnet, Stonechat.

I had expected February to be pretty dry if I'm honest, as I was away the first two weekends, but a few early evening visits and a full 8 hours on patch on the 19th meant a mega 15 additions were made this month! A lot of these were easy ones that I hadn't picked up in January, like Fieldfare and Greenfinch, but there were a few unexpected ones in there too...

Fieldfare and Reed Bunting came first on a quick visit to look for roosting Whooper Swans (without success!) on the 3rd.

An evening ringing session on the 7th resulted in Woodcock being flushed in the darkness, as well as several Snipe and calling Redshank were heard too. Another Redshank was seen on the 19th, feeding on Blott's pit most of the day. Woodcock are often around but not always easy to catch up with, so I was happy with that one,

Another evening visit on the 14th, after working nearby, resulted in my first Barn owl on site since 2015, and a flyover Curlew was a nice early addition to the list. Incidentally another Curlew was present most of the day on the 19th too, perhaps the same one?

The 19th was a mega day, as I clocked up a personal record of 64 species on site (8 year-ticks), after a mammoth 9.5 hours on site. The morning was spent leading a volunteer work party in which we put up around 30+ snipe (including a flock of 23, which were later seen at Netherfield), as well as 2 Jack snipe, another bird that must be present all winter, but is rarely picked up. Also around were the aforementioned Redshank and Curlew, as well as a Shelduck. The afternoon was spent wandering round, being filmed for a NWT film about Skylarks Nature Reserve. This resulted in more species being clocked up, including only my 2nd ever Stonechat for the site.

A good session on the last weekend of the month failed to produce any late additions. There are still a number of 'easy' targets to go for, such as Siskin, Little grebe and Skylark, but with a few unexpected birds this month, I'm pretty pleased, and well ahead of my usual score for this time of year.

March sees the first proper migrants, obviously, and perhaps there's still time to pick up on a few wintering birds before they disappear for the summer. Looking at my calendar, it looks like I'm pretty busy again which will limit my visits, but at least those evenings are getting lighter!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Patchwork 2017 - January Update

Species 64
Points 69

Not a bad start to my 4th Patchwork Challenge year at Holme Pierrepont. I didnt get on patch until the 14th, due to a busy start to the year (and terrible weather on new years day), but it was a good first visit, with a Great White Egret patch-tick to kick things off.
The next weekend bumped the numbers up considerably, with the Sibe Chiff and Smew helping things along nicely, as well as some interest in the form of a wintering Common Sandpiper and an early Shelduck.

My final visit to the patch (only 4 visits this month!) was last Sunday morning, which was a rare treat as I actually got to go out first thing. A decent session, starting with another Smew, and another (presumably the same) Great White Egret, back after a 2 week absence. Only 3 additions to the yearlist however, which was a shame, but it was still a productive morning. The downside was later in the day, hearing that 2 Tundra Bean geese had dropped in with a Pink-footed goose. I had mentioned Bean geese in my previous post, but sadly I was otherwise engaged. Its all part of patch-birding though, you can't see it all, even if you wish you could!

I think with a few extra visits, I could have ended with a better total, but its still the usual mid-60's mark I have come to expect by the end of January. Still plenty to go for, including some easy ones like Little Grebe, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and Reed Bunting. I'd say i could get close to 100 before the spring migrants return, but it all depends on how much time I put in during February, and as I am away for the first two weekends, things aren't looking great!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

2017 begins

Not had a bad start to the year at HP so far, apart from not being able to get down there properly until the 14th, when a Great White Egret was found and reported about midday. I had planned to be there by about then, but a management meeting about the nature reserve went on longer than i expected, so i didnt get down til mid-afternoon. Luckily the egret was still there, a long-overdue patch tick, but too late as they have been demoted to a lowly 2 points! 

Aside from the egret, it was good to get on patch but not a great deal else of note was seen, but a gulling session on the A52 Pit was nice, although there were no scarce gulls but all the commoner species were seen. A volunteer session the next day added to the weekends total which ended on a reasonable 47 species.

This Saturday, I gave the patch a good 3 and a half hours, knocking up a decent day total of 54 species, including a patch-first Sibe Chiff (a handy 3 points) and the sometimes elusive Treecreeper. A Redhead Smew finally gave itself up on the eastern edge of the A52 pit and an early Shelduck was also present. It was nice to get the wintering Common Sand again too, taking my running total to 61 species, so pretty good really. Only one weekend to go this month, but hopefully there will be time to knock a few of my pre-spring targets off, and who knows maybe more birds of interest - a nice Bean Goose or some scarce duck would be nice...

Thursday, 19 January 2017

2016 Patchwork Review

Owing largely to a bumper spring and autumn, mainly in terms of waders, I managed my best yearly total again in 2016 at Holme Pierrepont. It has got better every year, I think because of more familiarity with the site, coupled with more effort on my part and habitat improvements on certain parts of the site. 2014 saw me getting 106 species on site, whereas 2015 was much better, with 115 seen. This year I ended with a reasonable 128 species, totalling 147 points for the Patchwork Challenge. (EDIT - Actually 129 species/149 points after a re-count!). A good number of scarcer birds gave me a good few '2-pointers' whilst a brace of Temminck's records gave me a nice 3-pointer for the year (alas without the finders' bonus!)

A bonus of regularly visiting the patch means that I've continued to accrue new species for the patch, and I added 18 species I hadn't previously seen on site. Again, more knowledge of the site and more hours spent on patch have really paid off and meant that I can start ticking off some of those scarcer species. A few were even notts ticks for me and there was even one lifer in the shape of a Purple Sandpiper, so its been a good year.

There's plenty still to play for too, as the final tally for the site in 2016 (as far as I can tell) was 155 species, meaning I missed out on 27 species. There were several records of Whooper Swan and Common Scoter, but they eluded me, and other relatively 'easy' species I missed included Wheatear, Garganey, Red Kite, Arctic Tern and Barn Owl, plus a few tougher ones.

Here's a quick round-up of how I did.

Species - 67

My best start to a patchwork year, with 67 species seen. Highlights included a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls, a Treecreeper early on (a surprisingly scarce species on site) and a patch-tick in the form of 22 Golden Plover.

Species - 73

A bit of a quiet month, which started with me discovering the Starling roost at the old Skylarks reedbed. Quite a spectacle and a popular one too, I was definitely late to this particular party. Only six additions this month, but a very distant speck of a Goosander over the A52 pit on the 19th was nice, my first record in a few winters. Some of the wintering Redshank on site finally gave themselves up to me this month too, as well as the first returning Shelduck.

Species - 83

A decent month with 10 additions. Highlights were a trio of patch-firsts. A Curlew on the 12th kicked things off, and the next weekend a Grey Plover decided to stick around all day on blotts pit. Finally the weekend after got me a Stonechat on the fenceline on the neglected East side of my patch. Otherwise some early migrants such as Chiffchaff, Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover found their way onto the list, as well as some of the other common residents i hadn't previously seen.

Species - 103

As expected, the species list shot up in April thanks to a good number of migrants moving through, even with a week away in portugal! The month started well with a couple of scarce locals, Grey partridge and Nuthatch being added, as well as some early migrants. A couple of Lapwing begun nesting on site too, the first breeding waders of the year. After returning from portugal on the 15th, I then proceeded to add a number of waders to the list, notably Whimbrel and Avocet, while passerine activity increased too, including small numbers of Yellow Wagtails (but nothing on the mega passage of 2015). A Cuckoo and Grasshopper warbler provided some interest at the end of the month.

Species - 113

10 additions in May, including some good quality birds. 4 Ruff got things going nicely before an influx of Black Terns over the weekend saw over 50 being seen on the A52 pit on the 8th. I got in on the action but only managed to see a few, as I was viewing into the sun with just my bins, making for difficult viewing, but I could certainly appreciate the number of birds involved!
A good week for waders across the county followed, and a rainy day mid-week lured me down in the hope of picking a few bits up, and a personal site-record count of 18 Redshank was made even better by a Turnstone and a summer-plumage knot with them. 2 Temminck's stints proceeded to have a 6-day stay on blotts pit later in the week, before things went a little quiet, with just a few commoner species being picked up throughout. Another Avocet on the 17th (the 5th bird of the year) kept things going.

Species - 115

Things just ticked over quietly in June, apart from a couple of additions. A June Black-tailed Godwit was nice - perhaps an early returner, or just a hanger on? who knows? The only other addition was a pair of Black-necked Grebes which only stayed a couple of days. Otherwise, numerous Hobby and Cuckoo sightings kept things interesting. The waders had a tough time, with lapwing and oystercatcher nesting, but all getting bothered by crows, foxes and even nearly getting trampled by territorial swans. Its hard to say whether any fledged, but well grown juveniles of both species were seen. Strangely, no known LRP nested successfully this year.

Species - 116

As can be expected, July was reasonably quiet, although wader passage kicked off again, and I missed two decent species, Sanderling and Wood Sandpiper. I recorded up to 5 Black-tailed godwit this month, as well as a few Greenshank, Green Sandpipers, and a few other bits. The only addition was a Red-legged Partridge, heard near the Grange whilst ringing there.

Species - 121

Some quality additions this month. I spent the 1st week away in Scotland and missed another Wood Sandpiper, as well as a Knot, both of which stayed a few days. Luckily I got back in time to catch up with a Little Stint that spent a few days on Blott's Pit. The increased footfall on site due to the Stint resulted in more eyes looking for birds, and as a result a Purple Sandpiper was found on the evening of the 16th, a nice lifer for me and one which drew even more birders to the site. On the same morning that was found, Mark Dawson found 5 Sandwich Terns on Blott's, a decent summer record. Luckily, I was working near my house that morning, and checked facebook before leaving the house, so managed to get down in time to see all 5, before seeing 4 fly off a few minutes after arriving. The remaining singleton stayed most of the day.
A good number of other waders provided a supporting cast to all this chaos, including up to 4 Greenshank, several Ruff and Black-wits and many more. It was a great couple of weeks.
I also added Bittern and Tawny Owl this month.

Species - 121

No additions this month, which was a shame, and I missed Garganey (despite searching several times) and a brief Spotted Redshank. I didn't spend a great deal of time on the main part of the patch this month, but did plenty of dog-walking over near the watersports centre, allowing me to attempt to see some passerine migrants, but largely failing - other than lots and lots of chiffchaffs! The undoubted highlight of the month however was when I was failing at seeing the Garganey, moaning to myself about a lack of decent birds, when a group of 18 Grey Plover flew in from the west and circled Blott's pit for a few minutes. Probably the highlight of the year for me. A peak count of 14 Little Egret was decent too, though I think there were up to 25 on site at some point.

Species - 126

Another visit to Scotland, ringing on the Isle of May, meant less time on patch, and again I struggled to get out regularly apart from walking the dog. I did manage a few new species though, including a Peregrine over the watersports centre while out with the dog. A Slavonian Grebe was found on the A52 pit on the 22nd, though I didn't end up seeing it until the 28th, after missing it a on the 26th (but picking up a Woodcock in the process). I also got a lucky Raven flyover when briefly ticking the Slav on a speedy visit before work one morning. I also managed to grip back a Spotted Redshank, after missing one in September. The only regret is missing a Yellow-browed Warbler early in the month.

Species - 128

An addition of a Med Gull in the pre-roost on Blott's pit one Sunday evening was what I thought to be my only addition this month. However in going through my records, it seems I forgot to add Jack Snipe, after one was flushed, along with several Common Snipe, during a work party on Blott's. Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet month, although I mainly spent time on the Watersports Centre side of the patch. Here I had decent Mute Swan counts, peaking at 147, and up to 8 Little Egrets on the Ski-tow along with reasonable numbers of wildfowl. A few wintering Chiffchaffs added some interest too.

Species - 129

Another quiet month without any exciting wintery additions, but with only a small number of brief visits. I was away most of xmas so couldn't get down, and a final visit of the year on New Years Eve didn't get me any last minute points. Some interesting sightings included a couple of Dunlin mid-month, more wintering Chiffs and a Common Sandpiper that seems to be wintering around the Ski-tow and Skylarks lake.The only addition was a Yellowhammer, my first on site since I have been properly patching - I used to see them when I was an irregular visitor several years ago, but in the last few years I just don't see them... strange!

So there we go, a decent year, with 129 seen out of roughly 155 species seen on site. I think a little more effort in the last 3 months could have got me a bit more, but life sometimes gets in the way! Looking forward to another decent year on patch, and hopefully i'll finally find something decent of my own.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Patchwork 2017

As expected, I quickly lost interest in doing my patch updates on the blog last year. Managing to get to May was quite a surprise, but as usual, being too busy to get on the computer and blog was my downfall again. I kept meaning to do my updates, so I will do a little yearly review when I get some time and then try and keep it up again.
I actually mapped out the area I cover this year, i remember doing it ages ago but forgot how it looked, and it was quite interesting from my point of view. The green area is everywhere I regularly go either on foot, car or bike. I do occasionally go onto the A52 area while ringing, and do sometimes view from other areas, but its basically that shape. Birds are counted from anywhere within the green area and also birds that are seen outside the area whilst I am in it, so birds scoped on the A52 pit are countable!
Last year was my best ever - 128sp, 147points... it keeps getting better every year (though my coverage was pretty intense last year). I doubt it'll be as good as this year as there was just so much to see, but i'll just have to wait. I haven't even been on patch yet this year, looking forward to the weekend!