Monday, 18 February 2013

January round ups

Yvonne and Ian – January in Askernish

Why the Patchwork Challenge? Well, I started off the year by declaring that in 2013 my new year’s resolution would be to bird longer and bird harder. When I heard about the Patchwork Challenge it fired my imagination and has given me the incentive to get off my butt, out from behind the computer screen and get out there.
Ian and I have birded this patch since August 2010 and it’s great because it’s accessible from home and the 3 sq km includes a variety of habitat including our garden (and all the gardens in the township), crofts, lochs, golf course, dunes, beach and shore.

I think Ian and I are in probably in competition with each other as much as anything!

No doubt about it the bird of January (and probably the year!), for us, has to be the Gyr Falcon that turned up on the 10thJanuary, at least it hung around long enough for me to get out of the loo, cycle down the road, see it and for Ian to get some photos. Patch gold!! Full write up and photos in a previous Patchwork Challenge blog post:-

I can’t really pick out anything else on the patch that I would class as outstanding or unexpected; there has been a fair smattering of wintering birds, mainly waders and wildfowl. There was a small flock of 20 Snow Bunt’s hanging out on the beach and a small flock of between 21 and 24 Greenland White-fronts regularly on the croft down the road. My patch list for January is here: for viewing (extracted from my Bird Track data).

I ended the month on 57 spp / 71 points which equates to 53.33% of last years total. Ian had to leave unexpectedly mid-month and is still down on the mainland. He ended the month on 53 spp / 74 points – he got a whopping 12 points for finding the Gyr.

Ben - January on Bardsey Island

January wasn’t too bad on Bardsey this year, considering that it is by far the quietest month of the year bird-wise. It started off pretty slowly, and by the end of the 1st I had only managed 42 species!

A couple of days later I managed a half-decent seawatching session from the Northern hide, and saw a Mediterranean Gull, 24 Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a few Common Scoters. I can struggle to see these species in the winter some years, and so it was good to get them down. Unfortunately, the next day I had to leave the island to go and do three AS level exams! This took a week-long chunk out of my birding, and so I returned on the 15th somewhat annoyed at my absence.

Thankfully the day after returning, a cold spell enveloped most of Wales and parts of the UK, which meant lots of birds for me!! The days following saw maximum numbers of thrushes and other passerines reaching 600 Redwings, 100 Fieldfares, 100 Song Thrushes, 15 Skylarks, a Reed Bunting and 40 Meadow Pipits. Waders also arrived in pretty good numbers, with 100 Lapwings, 37 Golden Plovers, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and 10 Snipe recorded over a couple of days. 20 Teals and a pair of Wigeons were also good to see during the cold spell.
Thrush flock

After the 20th things got a lot quieter; over-wintering island-scarcities such as Jack Snipe, three Whimbrels and the male Firecrest were all nice to see when the weather got grim. By the 27th I had reached 69 species- not bad for January. After this high seas and strong winds enveloped the island (not quite literally!), and saw the first Gannets moving past at sea in high seas.

Chough, on Bardsey

So there is January in a nut shell! The last few days have been alright to begin February, most notably being a Long-eared Owl (we struggle to record them on the island some years, even though they used to breed), and two Grey Plovers.

Roll on the spring!!!

Ian Mills – January at Whitburn

It's been a fairly predictable month on my NE coastal patch, Whitburn to South Shields, with a moderate return for lots of hours in the field. As a site which relies heavily on summer/autumn seawatching and migration, particularly in the autumn when goodies can turn up (remember the South Shields Eastern Crowned Warbler), I don't expect to be in the leading contenders for some months yet.Best birds have been self found Iceland Gull and a very unseasonal Sooty Shearwater with a single Lapland Bunting.
Lapland Bunting

Andy J – January from Sandy Point

January’s highlight at Sandy Point was a flyover waxwing on 17th (only my 6th record). The cold snap also produced woodlark (bringing up the 100 on 21st), ruff and goldeneye (none of these recorded last year), amongst record numbers of fieldfare (up to 600). Other notable 2-pointers included red-necked and black-necked grebes, purple sandpiper, marsh harrier, short-eared owl, little gull and merlin. Overwintering birds include up to 5 each of Sandwich tern and jack snipe, three great northern divers, and single black redstart and firecrest. Month-end total: 102 sp., 126 pts.
Black Redstart

The Tall Twitcher – January, Ogmore Estuary

As someone who works in the Highways Sector, this month has had me seeing a fair amount of work, and unfortunately not a lot of birding.

So far I have managed just three visits to my patch, but am delighted with the 62 points accrued so far, especially as it represents almost two thirds of my overall score in the previous two years.

The highlight without a doubt must be the Bonaparte's Gull that turned up on the Ogmore Estuary in my patch on the 5th January, whilst I was unfortunately away!! Thankfully it has remained and I managed to find it on the 6th amongst the several hundred of Black-headed Gulls that it was associating with.

Other highlights must be the Water Pipit that remains on the Ogmore Estuary, and the pair of Chough that habitats the local cliffs in Southerdown.

So, with the snow behind us for a little while at least, let's hope that February brings a few more species, before I find that Mega in March !!!

Richard H describes January in Morton Bagot

It’s been a good month in terms of numbers of species. My total of 69 is one more than my previous best Jan (2011), and I see that in 2010 and 2012 I was only on 62 by the month end. However, all three years ended up with about the same total, so I’m not going to get carried away.

In fact, in terms of highlights it’s been slightly under par. The nearest I’ve come to a patch tick was a Gadwall on Jan 27, which was the first here since 2010. While the best bird was probably the Barn Owl on Jan 20, notable partly because they are just great birds, and partly because I have never seen more than one per year.

My only two-pointers were Peregrine (pretty regular here to be honest), and up to six Jack Snipe on Jan 5 and 6. This latter species is present most years (but I missed it in 2010 when the site dried out), but until this year has been an autumn speciality.

Having slightly maxed out on the regulars, I fear the rest of the winter and the back end of the year could be a bit of a tick-desert.

You never know though.

January round-up – Stornoway

Tristan ap Rheinallt

As previously reported, the year started quite well in Stornoway, with an Iceland Gull and an unexpected Pintail on New Year’s Day. In a typical year, that Iceland Gull would have been the first of several – but not so in 2013. I saw no more white-winged gulls on my patch during the whole of January, and there seemed to be very few elsewhere on the island. Also missing (nearly) were winter thrushes: Redwing just scraped onto my list by virtue of a single individual that spent about ten seconds in my garden, but that was it. Even Song Thrushes seemed unaccountably scarce, and Stornoway Castle Grounds – never the most exciting place at this time of year – were almost a dead zone in January 2013.

On the plus side, I did manage one or two difficult species such as Moorhen and Grey Wagtail, together with just about all the ‘two-pointer’ seabirds I could hope for at this time of year. The weather was pretty good for the most part: not too cold, not too wet, and not too windy. But we had a big storm on 29th and 30th, with hurricane-force winds reported from the Butt of Lewis area. The 31st, though, was sunny and calm so I decided to have a good look round just in case the bad weather had moved things around a bit. It was good to see a Grey Plover, quite a scarce bird up here, and I also finally caught up with Kittiwake and Goldcrest for my list. But the best bird of the day, and probably the month, flew past my kitchen window as I was preparing lunch. Although it was distant, I could see that it was very big and moving very slowly. A Grey Heron? No way! I grabbed my bins and rushed upstairs, where I was able to enjoy the sight of a rather tatty immature White-tailed Eagle circling over the Castle Grounds for several minutes before drifting off to the southwest, with a bunch of gulls in hot pursuit. So that was six points (and a house tick) to round off the month nicely.

My final tally was 75 species, which for a gull-less January isn’t too bad. At the start of the year I reckoned I should have about 80 by the end of February, so I’m well on course to meet that target.

Gary White at Trimingham

Apart from seeing everything I would of expected in the extremely cold conditions I got two patch lifers which after about 15 years of looking around Trimingham was only down to the patchwork challenge getting me out when I would normally find something warmer to do indoors and wait for the spring.

The first bird which was at the start of the easterlies was a Rock Pipit on a day where Fieldfare flocks were coming in off the sea and I saw two Waxwings also, the Rock Pipit was a real highlight.

The second bird was a Long-tailed Duck which I saw on a different day in between hail showers with 4 Common Scoter. This was the first time I had ever seen a Long-tailed Duck on the patch but this year is the first time I have seen a flock of 60+ Common Scoter that seem to be hanging around offshore.
Barn Owl

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