Pennyghael, Mull – Bryan Rains
Doing the patchwork challenge adds a bit more interest to the local birding
and hopefully I can dig out the odd rarity here and there. The patch is just a
stretch of road from the house but it covers the area in the photo above. Mull
is certainly under-watched and most of the rares tend to hit the other islands
but it does turn up the odd surprise now and again.
The annual count is a marathon and not a sprint so I started the year the easy
way by picking up a Barn Owl at 01:30! An odd mix of birds through the rest
of the day were, in order of seeing, Chaffinch, Raven, Blackbird, Robin, Blue
Tit, Hen Harrier, Hooded Crow, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Golden
Eagle, Redwing and a Tawny Owl at 22:30. So, 14 species on the first day
and 16 species on the second gave a reasonable tally of 30. I never expected
to get something out of the ordinary so soon but on Jan 3rd I went to check the
sea for any divers and noticed something small and black close to shore. The
black dot disappeared, could it have been a bit of seaweed? It soon came back
up and revealed itself as a Little Auk! It’s the first one I have seen on the patch
and the first on Mull for me. What a great start to the year.
Three main targets set for today, and I reckoned by concentrating
my efforts on them a lot of other species would be found - perhaps.
Jack Snipe - have bounced them off small pools just above the high
tide line on a number of occasions in the past. With over seven
miles of stumbly rocky shoreline to cover I may be in with a chance.
Blue Tit - one has been seen on and off in The Hope (St Margarets
Hope) recently - much more off than on . . . .
Purple Sandpiper - never seen one on the patch, but with all the
rocky shore and a boulder spit where all the waders in Widewall
Bay roost at high tide, should be in with a chance - shouldn't I ?.
Waiting for the first inklings of dawn at 08:00 hrs. In position for
Woodcock returning to roost from their nocturnal feeding forays.
Unfortunately this isn't Africa, where it gets light at a set time,
and then gets dark at a set time.
Woodcock "dawn" on the 31st Dec was 08:15 here, on the 1st Jan
09:20 . . . no sign at all - maybe still at the Hogmanay party ?
Trudged out to Knockhall Point in order to start my long and
laborious trek along the shoreline, hoping for a Jack Snipe.
Fifty yards in - RESULT !!! One sprang from no more than three
feet in front of me and away towards Burray - the stripes on its
back gleaming like freshly applied gold leaf in the early morning
On to The Hope - Blue Tit beckons. All the gardens had been
surveyed and mapped for active bird feeders in the previous week
(sad, I admit) and all are checked religiously throughout the day –
no sign of Mr Caeruleus at all. However I did find a couple of gardens
that may well produce something
later in the year - maybe a Garden Warbler . . .
Toying with the idea of putting a WANTED - BLUE TIT poster
in all the shop windows, and now in the midst of a massive
personal ethical debate on whether I should be attempting to
tape lure him/her ( ie will anyone find out ??). . . are there any
patchwork rules on tape luring ???
Off to Widewall Bay - a site I have seriously under-watched in the
past, but not this year.
Got settled in a nice sheltered spot, giving scope views of the wader
roosts and across the bay. Shoveler was a bird I was glad to find,
and then a drake and two duck Pintail flew in and landed in front
of me - Bonus bird, really expected to have had to put a lot more
work in for this one, and what a cracking bird it is in the late
I continued scanning through the waders on the rocky spit –
hundreds of Curlew and lots of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Knot
and Bar-tailed Godwits etc. After an hour I was still trying to
find a Ringed Plover when a movement caught my eye, re-focus
the scope, and there it was, my first ever Purple Sandpiper
on the patch - result !!
So, the day ended with 60 species on the patch and 71 points
I have found some little sites/vantage points etc that I didn't know
existed and am really looking forward to the patchwork year.
Liam Curson, patch Cuckmere Haven to Splash Point
my first day of the year was a pretty good one- the gull flock at Cuckmere Haven contained an absolute stonker of an adult Caspian Gull, plus a possible 3rd-winter that I only saw briefly before it disappeared among the masses of Lesser Black-backs. I also managed to see a flock of 16 Barnacle Geese, a pretty decent bird for sussex, that had been hanging about here for a while. What made it all the more impressie was that I saw them flying out to sea, never to return! Since the Casp has not since reappeared either, I was very, very glad I made the effort to get out on New Year’s Day! I managed 48 species on the day, while my next two visits were sadly of very little note, only adding four species. To give you an idea of their ‘quality’, one was Woodpigeon and another was Moorhen!