Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A review of 2017

2017 has been a great year on patch with 149 species seen in total of which I managed 146.  This is a whole 10 species higher than my previous best of 136 in 2014 and included five patch ticks!

I've tried to capture the best birds below:

21 Barnacle Geese assumed to be part of a cat C population
moving around in the cold weather in late January
Only two Red-crested Pochard records this year - this one in February
A 2w Med Gull in February - fewer records than normal this year
This 1w female Ferruginous Duck appeared on 27th Feb
 - a self found patch tick for me, but still with BBRC
A scarce Brambling in March, only my 2nd on patch
The first of two drake Garganey arrived in March
Arrived during rain on the same day as the 1st Garganey in March
and stayed for only 5 minutes. Third record in 2 years, but still rare here
These two Little Gulls came through in late March
Surprisingly, my only Arctic Tern record of the year - in mid April
April 20th and this fantastic pair of Black-winged Stilts remained
all day for me to see them after work - not surprisingly a patch first

Conditions were right on April 30th for this Black Tern to pass through.
Two Little Terns and a Temminck's Stint also appeared that day,
all seen but not photographed.
More Black Terns passed through early on May 1st
My only Redstart was a late female in mid May
A summer plumaged Little Stint in mid May was just my second on patch - rare!
This pair of beauties in early June were just my second on patch

Mandarins are never easy here, but this female stayed a month during its moult
Yellow-legged Gulls started to appear in small numbers
post breeding in June, but numbers were down this year.
An unringed adult Whooper Swan arrived in late June and remained
until early October. Its origin is unknown, but I did not count it as suspected
 a feral bird.
An unexpected visitor was this drake Scaup in early July

By the end of July when it departed, it was looking quite tatty
For the second year running, Reed Warblers raised a Cuckoo.
It could be found in July calling loudly for its food.
My only Greenshank was in early August
I watched three Sandwich Terns arrive on Aug 6th. 
Amazingly, I had another fly through four days later.
This juvenile Spotted Redshank was a brief visitor on Sep 1st.
Another was present a week later - scarce birds here.
Only my second patch Marsh Tit was a surprise find in September
Ravens were much in evidence in September

Two Ruff in early September were followed by a fly through in October
Thought I'd missed Spotted Flycatcher this year,
until this beauty turned up on Sep 19th
Two more moulting adult Black Terns passed through in late September

My find of the year was this Yellow-browed Warbler,
from Sep 27th to Oct 2nd, a site first. Photo copyright Mike Wallen.
A site second Great White Egret was present briefly on a murky mid Oct day
Only one Caspian Gull in the 1st winter period, this 1w in mid Oct
was my second but has been followed by about four others including
an adult and 3w by year-end.
Usually very brief, scarce visitors, three Goosander stayed for 2 weeks
from late Oct and a further single stayed until late Nov 
Three Pintail were present for a day in late Oct and a further five
for a day in late Nov
Further good birds that weren't photographed included an Osprey that flew through in late March; a reeling Grasshopper Warbler briefly in late April was only my second on patch; a fly through Curlew in early August; a Firecrest in the same bush as the Yellow-browed Warbler in late September was only my second on patch; a single Hawfinch over south in October, followed a week later by a superb flock of ten birds over low south east were my second and third patch records; a patch tick fly through Merlin in early December and lastly a Jack Snipe in mid December.

So a great year in 2017, the pictures bringing back some fantastic memories.  Hopefully 2018 will be equally as good.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The end of 2017

Apologies for the lack of recent updates on this blog, I hadn't realised that my last post was so long ago!
Well 2017 has come to end as far as patch birding goes and I have finished on 146 species out of a total patch list of 149, completely smashing my previous best of 136.  My only misses this year have been Goldeneye, with just a single record way back on Jan 5th; two Cranes that were reported flying from or over the lake in May by local resident Steve Backshall; and a fly through Marsh Harrier on Oct 13th, so pretty good really.

I added two more species (though saw three!) since my last update in November, though November itself was a blank month and my only blank month of the year.  The first of these was Merlin, which is also a patch first for me and extremely scarce here nowadays.  I had been watching the gull roost on the December 2nd and just given up as the light was fading and making my way up the west bank when the distinctive silhouette of a Merlin flew low south down the west bank just a few yards from me.  I've no idea if this was a local bird that had been hunting the fields and was looking for a place to roost or just a lucky fly through, but whichever, it was a great addition to the list.  There were reports of possible Merlin on subsequent days, but nothing was confirmed.

The second and last addition to the year was on December 11th when I found a Jack Snipe huddled up on the spit along with 54 Common Snipe, though it remained separate to these birds.  It was a nice grip back, having missed a bird seen in January.  I didn't attempt a photo as it was quite distant when I saw it, but it came closer later on and Jim R managed this record shot:


My third new species was Grey Partridge, but as these were a tight flock of 12 amongst the game cover on Emmett's, I presumed that they were released birds and did not count them.  I can't help but think that most of the Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges that are seen and counted are from similar stock though, so maybe I'm being a bit harsh on myself.

I've added a few photos of other notable birds seen in November/December:

Dunlin on Nov 7th
12 of 14 Little Egrets on Nov 13th - good numbers still present
I last saw the regular Goosander on Nov 28th
5 Pintail were present for a single day on Nov 29th

Record of an adult Caspian Gull in the roost on Dec 2nd

A Cetti's Warbler is still around, but doesn't like his picture taken!
I found a nice, dainty adult Yellow-legged Gull in the roost on Dec 12th, but failed to take any photos. Jim R took a record shot here:


A trip to the roost yesterday, the 30th, found a Shelduck just in time for the new year! and still excellent numbers of Great Black-backed Gulls, with 143 counted, but any white wingers will have to wait for 2018.  Paul W had three Caspian Gulls, two 1st winters and a 3rd winter, in the roost on Dec 24th, so hopefully this species won't be too hard next year either.

So that's about it for 2017, an excellent year by all accounts.  I'll post a photographic summary of the highlights shortly.  Here's hoping 2018 is equally as good - or even better!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

More Hawfinches and incoming ducks

On 27th October, Paul W discovered three redhead Goosanders on the east side of the lake.  Unfortunately, I was at work with no chance of getting to see them before dark, so I assumed that this would be my second dip of this species this year.  I'd missed a male in March by a matter of minutes, as this species is prone to flying off fairly quickly from this site, so I held little hope of this current three staying overnight.

I was by the lakeside early on the 28th, not much after sun rise.  There was some low lying mist/fog rolling over the lake, not unusual for here, so I spent the first hour or so vismigging from the west bank, as the sky was relatively clear.  The most noticeable thing was a south westerly passage of Woodpigeons and 475 had passed over by 8:30, there were also 66 Fieldfare (over NW in three flocks), 63 Redwing, 11 Meadow Pipits, seven Lesser Redpolls and two Siskins.  Two Water Rails had a squabble in the reed bed in front of me and a third called from the base of the spit, so nice to see these returning for the winter.

Shooting had started up to the west of me, presumably on Randall's, as flocks of aythyas began to fly in from that direction.  They all flew to the east side and mostly out of view from where I was, but a quick scan revealed four Red-crested Pochards, two males and two females.  Only the second record this year, following a male in February.  I walked around the lake to get a better view, all the time searching in vain for yesterday's Goosander.  A Cetti's Warbler called from the south bank, the first time I've had one for a while, so nice to know at least one is still here.  The RCPs were never close, so I only managed record shots.

I had a good hunt for the Goosander, including Works Bay on the north east side where they were yesterday, but drew a blank, so it was a bit galling to see that they were reported again later in the day.  I can only assume that they were tucked in the small arm on the north west side at the time I was there, as I didn't check this small area.

I was at the lake again on Sunday morning, but not until relatively late at 9:30am.  I had just got out of the car and started walking the small road past the cottages to the lake when I heard some tzikking calls overhead, rather like a sharp Redwing.  Looking up I was amazed to see a flock of Hawfinches passing over.  They were very low, just above the height of the tallest trees and flew directly over my head in an ESE direction, passing over the back gardens of the cottages and then veered more south easterly to fly towards the lake.  Through bins, I had excellent views of their large bills, broad wings with large white primary bar, short tails and counted ten birds - an amazing sight.  This has been a fantastic influx and it's been great fun looking out for them passing through locally.  I've now seen 19 birds split between my garden and the lake.

This was a great start to my visit and it got better when I reached the lakeside and found the three Goosander were still present and were just off the spit.  It is quite surprising that these birds have decided to stay here for so long and in fact they were still present on the 31st, so that's at least five days so far.  They are all redheads, but I think they are possibly two juvenile males and a female.

I didn't see too much that was different on the 30th, though I did manage some reasonable views of Little Grebe, a species that is just occasional here - I think that the shot below is reminiscent of the style of an Ian Lewington painting.  I also found that a nice male Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid was here, presumably the same bird that here sporadically last winter.  However, I didn't actually see it, but found it in one of my Goosander photos when reviewing them last night!  I've cropped it out below and it was right on the edge of the shot and not in focus, so just a record.

Finally, yesterday, the 31st, I found three Pintail on the east side, a moulting male and two females.  Yet again, they found their way into Works Bay, which seems to be a favoured site for wildfowl. These are the first on patch this year and represent my 144th species for the year so far, a year that is breaking all my records.