Friday, 22 February 2013

even more January tales

James Spencer, Barmston

It has been an incredible first month on the patch with some great birds and a few surprises. I managed 6 visits which is slightly modest but I was also taking part in the Foot It challenge so focused on that a little more initially. Despite this I dredged up 63 species, not too bad on a slightly barren bit of coastline in the lee of Flamborough.

By far the headline bird and the one which has been attracting twitchers from across the county has been the first winter Kumlien's Gull which I relocated on my first visit (it had been seen a fortnight previously at the same location and in Bridlington). It is a subtle example with little barring but the dark markings spreading to both webs of the primaries appears to have some heavy backing by respected gullers on both sides of the pond. It is apparently the first twitchable example of this variable taxon for Yorkshire after a 1 day bird seen by a handful of observers plenty of years ago.

The supporting act has been none too shabby with heavy snowfalls helping eminently. A Water Rail on the beach on my second visit of the month proceeded to spend the next week living at the entrance to a farm drain. Snipe numbers grew in the reedbed as the snow deepened and eventually I was rewarded for my tramping with a Jack Snipe. At the northern most extremity of the patch a family group of 8 Pale-bellied Brents are a local scarcity and had apparently been in the area for a few days. More expected was the Dark-bellied Brent on the flashes but its companion, a juvenile European White-fronted Goose couldn't have been more of a surprise.

A wintering flock of Snow Buntings vary in number and location in the northern half of the patch but they were often very approachable with a max count for me of 7 birds despite 30 being recorded before Christmas. After the snow a quick check of the woodland revealed weather driven Woodcock with half a dozen birds fleeing as I attempted to avoid the dog turds.

The sea has been generally disappointing thus far with a handful of Red-throated Divers and a single adult Little Gull the sum total seen although a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers wizzing past inland were a bonus. The waders have all been pretty standard and I am still missing Purple Sandpiper despite occasional birds being present on the rocks during the month.

Looking forward to February I hope that some wildfowl movement brings a few ticks and the first few seabirds that are seeping back to Bempton give me a chance to connect with them. Who knows - maybe another rare gull awaits?

Ian Roberts, Samphire Hoe

It was a very interesting January down here on the south-east coast at Samphire Hoe. A cold snap is a patch-worker's heaven and so it proved to be here, with me finding two new species for the site - Jack Snipe and Egyptian Goose (the 212th and 213th species for the country park). The snow also brought in a large number of thrushes, mainly Redwings and Fieldfares, and some other useful patch year ticks like Lapwing, Snipe, Dunlin and Curlew (despite being on the coast there is little habitat for waders and these are typically limited to fly-bys). There was also a massive movement of Wigeon (1,230 flying west on the 17th) which was a site record.
Remarkably there were two other site record counts, and these were probably unrelated to the weather, with an exceptional influx of auks leading to day totals of around 2,000 Guillemots (on 10th) and 4,500 Razorbills (on 11th). There was also a large easterly movement of 1,750 Brent Geese on the 12th which was the largest total ever recorded in January.
Other handy year ticks included Little Grebe (not annual), Velvet Scoter, Little Gull and Great Skua, and last (but definitely not least) a House Sparrow - a real patch rarity (only my 4th at the site) - true patch gold!
Overall, 68 species in January (83 points) - a good start and 11 species more than my end of January average. 

Kev Rylands, Dawlish Warren

January has been a decent month with my tally of 98 coming from a total of 109 species recorded on site. This missing 11 include easy species such as Black-tailed Godwit and Great Northern Diver, as well as some decent patch birds such as Tufted Duck, Cirl Bunting and Brambling. However worrying dips already include Woodcock, Goosander and Yellowhammer; the latter two I have not seen on patch for a couple of years.

2013 started in the best way possible for any patchworker with an unexpected patch tick on New Year’s Day; a male Serin sat with Greenfinch in Dead Dolphin Wood, I was able to share this with one other local but unfortunately it didn’t linger. The rest of the day almost seemed an anti-climax but Short-eared OwlAvocetBlack-necked Grebeand a host of easy 2-point coastal species allowed me to break the patchwork ton with a species tally of 83.

Because of this flying start, the rest of the month was a slow affair in terms of new ticks but the reappearance of Bearded Tit and Water Pipit added a couple of quality Warren birds. The cold weather largely missed the far southwest but did produce some winter thrushes on site, these don’t usually trouble the patch list until late October. The month ended well when the Long-tailed Duck wintering at the top of the estuary finally came south for a couple of days.
David Elliot, Druridge Bay
My patch stretches from Druridge to Hauxley along the dunes. Sea-watching is best at the Hauxley end. Sand dunes and scrub (in the dune slack) can be good for the odd migrant. Most of the pools are too deep for waders and lack proper management. The ever expanding reedbed at Chevington brought my bird of 2012 when I witnessed the arrival of five Bearded tits (also still present into 2013). The mixed woodland, pine plantations and bird feeders of the country park make the patch very productive. January total: 98 species and 113 points. (Bittern, Crossbill and Kingfisher all difficult to see birds on the patch were thankfully recorded in January.)

Alan Tilmouth, Newbiggin

as expected, highlights were  a single Waxwing, a photogenic Jack Snipe and Common Buzzard. I missed both of the last two in 2012, despite Buzzards now breeding within 2 miles of the patch. The Jack Snipe was presumably a cold-weather movement. Ending the month on 79 species leaves me plenty to get motivated for in February with Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Linnet and Knot for example still to fall.

Mark Lewis, Girdle ness

It's been about as good as could have reasonably been expected really! I've notched up all the usual suspects but, if it's a good patch year list you're after, its all about scoring those harder to get species. Top of the list, highlights wise, were waxwing (easy enough in Aberdeen, but not this little corner of it), the potentially awkward little auk, and best of all, a cracking black-throated diver from the office window on the 18th, which is one that is certainly less than annual for me here. Supporting these goodies were a selection of species that could only water the mouth of a patch birder, such as shelduck, coal tit, mute swan, and slightly more glamorous, a long lingering short-eared owl.

Lets hope that February continues to deliver!
Colin Bushell, Hesketh out marsh
A few years back Hesketh Out Marsh (HOM) was just a wheat field by the Ribble Estuary. Coastal realignment project with the help of the RSPB and the Environment Agency amongst others changed all that. Seawalls were breached, channels and pools were excavated and nature was left to its own devices (namely the tides). After a very productive 'transitional period', HOM is now a fully fledged saltmarsh.

HOM is a pretty uninspiring place in winter. Cold and bleak at best in blustery conditions, Recent hedge laying, albeit necessary has taken many of the perches used by small birds making the site less attractive to finches and buntings of late too.

Patchwork points should come with the onset of hard weather (raptors hunting larks and pipits), gatherings of local Pink-footed Geese (always good for a scarce goose) or a 'big tide watch' (when the marsh is completely flooded).

January started poorly. Wet and windy was replaced by murky - bad news for the estuary birder. The first 'freeze' failed to produce either Jack Snipe or Woodcock, birding during the first big tides of the year was unremarkable; had I chosen the wrong patch on the wrong year? Then it started to pick up - the 'resident' estuary Spoonbill and Great White Egret could be seen from the patch on the first clear day I was able to visit HOM and a Goosander on the pool was only my second HOM record.

The Whooper herd finally produced a few Bewick's Swans and a single European White-fronted Goose with the Greylags made up for the lack of Pink-footed Geese on the deck to scrutinise (I've normally picked out at least a Barnacle and a Greenland White-front by now). Things were starting to go my way at last! Hen Harrier and Merlin in the bag; Water Rail, Shoveler, Lesser Redpoll and Jackdaw (all tricky HOM birds in winter, at least) done 'n' dusted.

I've left it pretty late to write this January summary now it's well past mid-February. Why? Well, I'm 'off patch' until March now (unless I sneak one in tomorrow, but it's unlikely) and I've reached the dizzy heights of 75 species and 90 points. A week ago we had a red-letter day at HOM when we found a Richard's Pipit on the seawall. What's more it was twitched too! A self-found 'scarce' and a six pointer no less. Up there with last year's Montagu's Harrier and the Common Crane a couple of years before that. It's only February - I still haven't seen Red Kite at HOM (at least two previous records), so that'll do but I'll accept better ......

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