For me 2013 marked the best year yet for my little patch at Stobswood, Northumberland. Though still in its infancy the site holds a good mix of habitats including open agricultural land, mature forest and a number of relatively new pools created as part of an opencast reclamation scheme subsequently attracting a diverse range of species. Constantly commuting between university and home this year has certainly taken its toll on my patching efforts however resulting in me missing a few rather good birds with Kittiwake, Long-Eared Owl, Little Owl and Brambling to name a few. This in mind I still managed a final score of 110 points for 103
species with some memorable and extremely enjoyable encounters along the way, not bad for such a new site!
Jan-April was spent at university (and in the Gambia) resulting in very little time spent on the patch with only conspicuous and common species noted during this time including the usual tits, finches and corvids though Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Lesser Redpoll in the garden at least gave me something interesting to look at.
Finally managing to get back for some serious birding I quickly upped the year list to 64 species picking up some patch scarcities such Gadwall, Shoveler, Barn Owl and Stock Dove as well as a pair of patch firsts in the form of both Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail. The highlight of the month however defiantly goes to the Avocet located on a temporary flash just up the road from my home, great birds.
70 species noted this month (my highest count for any month in 2013) with new birds including Tawny Owl, Grey Partridge andBuzzard alongside a couple of new wader species with the most surprising of these being the lone Black-Tailed Godwit noted on the north pool mid month. The usual summer visitors of Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Sand Martin, Chiffchaff and my first Cuckoo of the year also made for a interesting month.
Common Sandpiper and Greenshank provided new ticks in July alongside an out of season Short-Eared Owl and most welcome of all a male Marsh Harrier which loitered at the site all month undoubtly making use of the plentiful Mipits and Skylarks breeding on the reclaimed grassland. Elsewhere only a wayward Sanderling provided anything new.
Little Stint and Little Ringed Plover where the highlights of this month providing me with a few welcome points and renewed sense of hope whilst other patch ticks came in thick and fast in the form of Green Sandpiper, Snipe, Lesser Whitethroat and Tree Sparrow though most surprising of all was the Great Crested Grebe that put in a brief but no less enjoyable appearance on the 15th. Golden Plover and Peregrine topped off what had been a very rewarding 30 days on the patch.
Back to university so very little seen in the way of new birds though more widespread species such as Yellowhammer, Bullfinch,Sparrowhawk, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dunlin and Wigeon were all noted on my infrequent visits home.
November marked the appearance of my first ever patch Whooper Swans as well as the new additions of Pink-Footed Goose and Cormorant though the highlight of the month was without a shadow of a doubt the lone Snow Bunting found feeding around the outskirts of the west pool during a practically dreary mornings visit. With these winter beauties cropping up just down the road at Druridge I had expected at least one to turn up but this made encounter no less species when it finally did occur! Elsewhere only a few Jay and Goldcrest were of particular interest.
The final month of the year turned up a host of common winter migrants with Redwing, Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush all boosting the years tally somewhat whilst lingering Golden Plover, Redshank, Pink-Footed Geese and Curlew entertained me somewhat as I frantically dashed around in search of one last year tick. Two days before Christmas I got my wish in the form of a handsome drake Goldeneye located on one of the shallow (surely fishless) pools to the east of the site. Not a rarity by any standards but still a welcome and somewhat surprisingly addition to the year list.
So there you have it, nothing particularly rare but a few nice scarcities noted in the form of Snow Bunting, Marsh Harrier, SEO, Avocet and Little Stint I can hardly complain! Birding is about the enjoyment after all and I have certainly enjoyed participating in the PWC this year and am greatly looking forward to 2014 and whatever It may bring.