Monday, 6 January 2014

Kev Rylands Dawlish Warren PWC review of 2013

Having spent the previous two years UK and then Devon yearlisting I had already decided I needed to spend more time on patch in 2013. The combination of Patchwork Challenge and a move three miles closer were additional encouragement.  A good decision as it turned out as the Warren had a record year with 201 species recorded and I managed to connect with 184 (+2) of these (worth 295 Patchwork points) beating my previous best (182) set way back in 2001. Not only that I managed six patch ticks along the way - I’ll take that return any year!


The year started with a few welcome leftovers, Bearded Tit, Black-necked Grebe and Water Pipit, but you can’t get a better start than a patch tick on New Year’s Day (except perhaps two patch ticks…) so finding a male Serin with Greenfinch in Dead Dolphin Wood, the first at DW since 1991, was huge bonus. I managed 83 species on the 1st and broke the Patchwork ton, but maybe I had peaked too early as I then went on to miss three very good Warren birds; Yellowhammer, Goosander and Woodcock before restoring the balance with a Long-tailed Duck right at the end of the month. Running total 98/121


A relatively quiet month although it is always a relief to get the potentially tricky Black-throated Diver on the year list. Late in the month, a quick twitch for Gadwall showed how desperate I was to keep the counter ticking over…
Running total 104/129


Migrants took a long time coming and the first addition wasn’t until the 16th when a Red-necked Grebe pitched in offshore. The next day saw my first Wheatear and a record spring passage of Chaffinch that included a few Brambling. Another site record followed the next week with 70+ Chiffchaff seemingly everywhere but just single Blackcap and Sand Martin accompanied them. I had the last week of the month off but it was only the challenge that kept me in the field with Merlin,  Little Gull and an early Osprey standout birds until the equally cold, windy and unpromising morning of the 26th. On this date the first DW Stone-curlew since 1987 flew past me and landed on the golf course, a patch mega that unfortunately didn’t linger and even worse was only worth a miserly TWO points – surely that beats a Whimbrel?!!!
Running total 116/147


Despite the conditions and lack of migrants April opened with a twitch – a Hoopoe on Warren Point and a tick for most locals gripping back my 1993 bird. The month continued with most regular migrants turning up albeit in low numbers and highlights including singing Firecrest, a Long-eared Owl one evening post-work and on the 25th only my second ever patch Marsh Harrier pre- work. Both would likely have been missed without the Patchwork Challenge spurring me on. The next day saw my third patch tick of the year a Montagu’s Harrier – the 5th record and first on site since 1979! Pleasingly all the regulars were on site and were able to connect with this excellent patch record, a great end to the month, roll on May…
Running total 135/178


The focus switched offshore in May with terns and skuas in the offing, several cracking spooned Pomarine Skua were noted but the month’s highlight were a lingering group of Roseate Tern, peaking at a Devon record 20 birds. Also offshore the year’s first national rarity, a returning Bonaparte’s Gull roosting on the sea on several dates. Wader passage also picked up during the month with a smart brick-red Curlew Sandpiper, a lone Ruff (scarce on site) and a twitch for a patch mega, Temminck’s Stint, only the third record and first for 21 years - and so another blocker bites the dust…the same evening saw two Turtle Dove, a species that is no longer annual on site.  The month ended with another self-found bonus with a Short-toed Lark flying along the Dune Ridge before running around Warren Point for an hour or so, only the fourth Warren record and first ever in spring.
Running total 150/208


Midsummer and as expected a quiet month, the main target species Storm Petrel showed up mid-month otherwise Tawny Owl and an early Yellow-legged Gull were the only additions. However wader passage did produce at least five ‘Sanderbling’ from Greenland, Iceland and Ghana and the Slavonian Grebe was present for its sixth summer.
Running total 153/213


Even worse than June because as the autumn passage started expectations were raised only to be continually dashed in the field.  Common Sandpiper was the only new addition until a Balearic Shearwater on the last day of the month. Ringing recoveries did however reveal some interesting facts about the passage terns on site.  I managed to miss what turned out to be the only Long-tailed Skua of the year and started my autumn long quest to dip every Coal Tit found on site…
Running total 155/216


A mixed start to the month, connecting with Little Ringed Plover, but same day missing the only Crossbill of the year. Things remained slow (Zebra Finch dip aside) but midmonth the first Garden Warbler of the year finally showed up and I dipped another Goosander and three different Green Sandpiper (less than annual). Things started to look up again following a thunderstorm on the 25th which produced a Black Tern, two Wood Sandpiper and three Little Stint in a crazy ten minute period. The east coast fall just about filtered through the next day with a Pied Flycatcher on Warren Point and over the next two days a Whinchat and my only Tree Pipit of the year. These were eclipsed however by another quality find at the end of the month - my second ever patch Pectoral Sandpiper.
Running total 165/235


A quiet start to the month was broken by an early morning phone call on the 8th ‘Get up, Get up, Red-backed Shrike by the Main Pond now’.  I somehow managed to get out of bed and on to the bird before others actually on site when it was found! The first at the Warren since 1998 and a welcome grip back for me for a change J. The bird, an immature, remained for several days but was actually the start of a bad run as next day the site rangers suppressed a Lesser Yellowlegs (2nd record) and a group twitching the shrike had a flyover White Stork (3rd record). Normal service was resumed the next weekend though with a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and the first Golden Plover of the year, I came back to twitch the latter! Another twitch was required soon after with the sixth Rose-coloured Starling for DW present around the car park where a site record 154 House Sparrow were also counted. The month ended for me with an Eider close in offshore - a rare bird this year. The Warren wasn’t however done, whilst I was on Scilly for a week I missed Wryneck, Black Guillemot, Garganey, a Black Brant and some more Coal Tit.
Running total 170/250


October couldn’t quite keep up the hectic pace but the Black Brant did make a welcome reappearance and the national influx yielded at least three Yellow-browed Warbler on site. A brief run mid-month did see Cirl Bunting, Lapland Bunting, three Whooper Swan and Yellowhammer added on consecutive days but then October fizzled out and I had to scrape the barrel to get another year tick before the month’s close – Red-legged Partridge.
Running total 177/267


November lived up to its billing as one of the best birding months on the Warren, indeed I had my second most valuable day of the year, points-wise, early in the month.  For the most part autumn seawatching had been very disappointing but that was to change. On the 2nd, whilst hoping for a Leach’s Petrel, I had the (mis)fortune to find the site’s second ever November record of Storm Petrel. I compounded this mistake by dipping a real Leach’s Petrel (and the years only Snow Bunting) the next day. So with another front sweeping across the Atlantic I took the 5th off and waited… there were no more petrels but the site’s third White-rumped Sandpiper (first since 1998 and another patch tick) and fourth Great White Egret (first since 2002) did fly past over the course of the morning, and whilst this was going on two Black Redstart hopping around on the seawall were an overdue addition to my year list. Three species and 14 more points just like that. A week later, from the same spot, seawatching produced another unexpected patch tick when the first Warren Red-crested Pochard since 1999 flew south. Other highlights in November included a couple of Siberian Chiffchaff, a twitch for a drake Scaup that eventually drifted into the recording area, a couple of Velvet Scoter and an obliging White-fronted Goose whilst the Bonaparte’s Gull reappeared and another Lapland Bunting flew over.
Running total 186/295


As it often does in any year list December drew a blank, despite there being plenty of possible new ticks none were forthcoming. My biggest omission was Coal Tit (could record them daily if I counted beyond the boundary) but I dipped another 16 species whilst some (half)expected species such as Sooty Shearwater, Spoonbill, Pochard, Kentish Plover, Grey Phalarope, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and even Grasshopper Warbler simply failed to show. With some more effort, decent seawatching weather and any sort of autumn vismig who knows what score could have been reached…
Final total 186/295


Many of December’s rarities remained into 2014 with Bonaparte’s Gull, Siberian Chiffchaff, Velvet Scoter, Black Brant and Long-tailed Duck all still present (though I have yet to catch up with the latter two) however I don’t expect to hit the patch as hard this year so expect a 2014 score closer to previous averages of 170/240.

Thanks to all the regulars on site (one of whom actually beat my score) for sharing and finding many of these birds through the year and of course to the Patchwork Challenge team for all their work and for organising my year in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment