After a headline grabbing January due to one bird, February was most definitely back to earth with a bump!
The beginning of February saw me on the mainland where I remained until the 24th of the month while my wife, co-patcher and friendly rival remained at home which enabled her to continue “patching”. Stress and anxiety levels would rise and fall during our daily telephone conversations as I awaited with baited breathe what she had seen in my absence.
I was fine with the Short-eared Owl, Dunlin, Moorhen and Meadow Pipit, but the text that informed me that she had found a Bonaparte’s Gull was not! I consider myself unfortunate not to have seen the bird but mightily relieved to hear that it was NOT on our patch.
Subsequent patch finds in my absence were Fieldfare, Hooded Crow and Rock Pipit. The pipit is a bit of a bummer as they occur infrequently on our patch and I will be lucky to find another this year and the Hoody is not a given.
We are fortunate that our house resides within the patch so we can “patch” almost every daylight hour. During the 4 days that remained of the month , a short walk every day and a constant vigil through the window, I managed to add 8 new species. This included the Hoody which had escaped the attentions of the local keeper, Fieldfare, Dunlin and Meadow Pipit. I also found Gannet, Merlin, Little Grebe and Black-headed Gull, all 4 species not yet seen by my competition.
So March still sees me slightly ahead due to “that bird” with 61 species and 85 points compared to Yvonne’s 62 species and 78 points. Our species lists are interesting as I have recorded 4 that Yvonne has not seen (Black-headed Gull, Little Grebe, Gannet, Merlin) and Yvonne has 5 on me (Eider, Water Rail, Rock Pipit, Short-eared Owl, Moorhen) Not a problem for Yvonne but Water Rail and Rock Pipit?????
John Bowler, Tiree
Having topped the Scottish coastal mini-league scores in January, February was a damp squib on my Balephuil patch, adding just 5 species (of which 3 were actually on 1st March....). Spending half the month in Sinai didn’t help. My bird of the month was Olive-backed Pipit, which although a potential “first” for Egypt, was nowhere near my patch!”
So, after 2 months I have seen 70 species (for 73 points). Definitely not brilliant but then not too bad for an inland site which is as about as far as you can get from the sea in England and with no large area of water. Most of the points were accumulated in January - February was very quiet with none of the expected birds delivered by hard weather movements. This has meant that so far this year there has been no Brambling, Jack Snipe, Woodcock, Golden Plover, rare patch ducks (Wigeon, Goldeneye, Goosander), or geese (other than Canada - yes, not even a Greylag which is rare around here). Infact, so far this year there has been nothing unexpected which in itself is a little unexpected (although I have missed the much wanted flyover Ravens and a Peregrine). Pre competition, I spent several days agonising over the final shape of the patch so I now have an odd sausage shape patch, roughly aligning with the (Upper) Lee Valley and which includes a modern sewage farm, water meadow, woodland, fields, hedgerows and my garden. The many habitats have helped to build the list up with the expected common birds but now things are going to be difficult. However, being in a valley, I should pick up some less common migrants (there was a fly over White-tailed Eagle last year!) and we will have the summer visitors soon. But I am going to have to be very lucky to see 100 species this year on the patch! Highlights so far, a brief Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (in good breeding habitat but not relocated) and a pair of very beautiful Grey Partridge which will hopefully breed. No sign of Marsh Tit, which appears to be extinct in the area, and where have all the Yellowhammers gone? - none so far this year. An interesting, although not particularly exciting start to the patch year.
Mark Nowers, Sutton
Stutton - if only someone else seeing half a bittern counted.
Well you are never going to see much if you don't get out there are you? The only outings in February of any duration were restricted to a couple of early Saturday mornings and a WeBS count at the high tide roost (Stutton Mill). It didn't help that it snowed on both of the Saturday mornings I was out. The WeBS count came up trumps with my first linnets of the year, a couple of raids by a Peregrine (which didn't assist with counting) and at last, the Long-tailed Duck that had been around for a couple of months.
An unexpected bonus came in the form of a summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gull that flew over the patch whilst I was on a barge trip out on the estuary. Med Gull is a tricky bird at the western end of the Stour. Birds winter off Harwich, but this was only my fourth in ten years up this end. It still didn't trump the Hungarian-ringed one seen at Mistley in autumn 2011.
I was able to pull up and overlook Alton Water on quite a few occasions, but the hoped for Goosander and White-fronted Geese did not appear, nor did a hoped for American Wigeon deign to join the 70-or-so Eurasian Wigeon that regularly graze by the dam end.
There were a few 'Grips' in February. A Velvet Scoter was bobbing about for a week or so; a Short-eared Owl pops up every now and then and perhaps most tantalising of all, what was thought to be a Bittern dropped in to the small reedbed at Stutton Mill last week. Omissions that should come by now still include Kingfisher, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Golden Plover, Pintail (no idea why I have not seen one yet) and Grey Wagtail.