Friday, 14 February 2014

PWC 2013 Review - Thetford, Nick Moran

Nick Moran talks us through a year in the life of Thetford birding.....

Although I was 200 miles from patch on New Year’s Day, 2/1 provided a good start to the year with Shoveler (my first January record), Pochard and Goosander all present at the Nunnery Lakes. Relocating Thetford’s Black-bellied Dipper on 4/1 in a small tributary of the River Thet – where it went on to delight the crowds for the next 3 months – was a big relief, as was chancing on a Waxwing on 30/1. A cold snap mid-month produced a record movement of 35 Skylark and smaller numbers of Meadow Pipit, and a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the iced-over floods on 20/1.
81 species (80 for Foot It), 84 points

Here’s the Big Dipper. Everyone’s seen a gazillion pics of Thetford’s one – you really don’t need to see another, do you? © The Internet

With January’s Foot It competition only just over, Bittern (5/2) and Jack Snipe (10/2) both appeared in early February to taunt me but were welcome 2-point additions for PWC! My earliest-ever returning Curlew arrived on 15/2, though it was 2 weeks before another was recorded. A Barnacle Goose on 11/2 was surely category C (at best!) but good to get out of the way early in the year.
85 species, 90 points

The month’s additions began with Great Crested Grebe – very scarce in Breckland in winter – and Goldeneye on 6/3, before Herring Gull was belatedly added 12/3. Prolonged freezing weather in the second half of the month may well have had a hand in two local megas, both on 24/3: an obliging female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – my 150th species at the Nunnery Lakes – and an unprecedented flock of 15 Little Gull (flying over a housing estate)! A Stone-curlew hunkered down on the frozen ground on 26/3 looked even more grumpy than usual, while a Stonechat (30/3) probably wished it was elsewhere too.
93 species, 103 points

Shelduck and Red Kite started the month well on 2/4 but a fortnight in Spain mid-month meant it took until 23/4 before I recorded most of the returning summer migrants. A Nightingale – barely annual on patch now – piped up on 24/4 before going on to hold territory on our CES ringing site for the next 2 months. Other good migrants came in the form of Lesser Whitethroat (25/4), Whinchat (27/4) and Wheatear (29/4). Fellow patcher (though not PWCer – yet!) Neil Calbrade struck patch gold on 24/4 with Firecrest AND Long-eared Owl, both of which I was able to see. Sadly the latter appeared to have an injured leg, though that did render its choice of roost site unusually conspicuous.
113 species, 127 points

Long-eared Owl at the Nunnery Lakes 24/04/2013 © Nick Moran

May might be exciting on the coast but it marks the beginning of the summer doldrums inland. Little Ringed Plover (5/5) and Hobby (8/5) were the only additions though Siskin (1/5) and Snipe (2/5) were my latest-ever spring records. On the other hand, ‘May patch ticks’ of Herring Gull, Barn Owl and Sand Martin are as much a reflection on my lack of effort in previous Mays than anything else.
115 species, 129 points

Following on from where May left off, June was hard going. Still just about annual, Spotted Flycatcher (21/6) was a welcome new species for the year; less predictable and more welcome still was a cream-crown Marsh Harrier (25/6).
117 species, 132 points

The Nunnery Lakes offers little in the way of wader habitat but the floods were still wet enough to pull in Green Sandpiper and Greenshank (both 8/7). A pair of Turtle Dove – constituting a patch rarity these days – flew through on 14/7 and a family party of Common Tern, another less-than-annual species, hung around for a few days from 18/7. ‘July patch ticks’ featured such embarrassments as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and House Sparrow, showing how little effort I’ve put in during July in the past.
121 species, 136 points

The faint hope of more waders was just about realised via a Common Sandpiper (8/8), whilst a ‘summer’ Peregrine (14/8) was more of a surprise. Yellow Wagtail (23/8) was good, though a reserve record count of 5 around the feet of the cattle 6 days later was even better.
124 species, 140 points

As coastal patches began groaning under the weight of scarce and rare migrants from August Bank Holiday onwards, deep inland a birdless vacuum developed. The mood was not helped by me dipping an unseasonal Hawfinch found by a colleague, nor by ‘September patch ticking’ Wheatear. My one and only ‘dot month’.
124 species, 140 points

My PWC 2013 species accumulation via BirdTrack, showing just how poor early autumn can be inland!]

Another glut of migrants on the coast (except the Scillies, where I was) and another dearth of decent birds inland. The one addition did come with a story though: whilst filming a piece about BirdTrack for BBC Countryfile 29/10, a distinctive chacking drew my attention and sure enough, a Ring Ouzel shot from one impenetrable hawthorn thicket to another!
125 species, 142 points

Ring Ouzel at the Nunnery Lakes 03/11/2013 © Graham Clarke

Suddenly autumn penetrated 45 miles inland! An adult Mediterranean Gull on 2/11 was simultaneously added to my house list AND patch list (courtesy of a quick leap of the Nunnery Lakes reserve boundary fence at the bottom of my garden!). Gull action went up another notch mid-month with a patch mega: Kittiwake (19/11); there’s only one previous record! The very next day, November 2013 cemented its place in personal patching history when, in the worst weather I braved all year (there’s a lesson here somewhere!), a drake Green-winged Teal appeared in front of me! By PWC scoring standards that was only my second 6-pointer in 4½ years of trying (the other being Crane, far more likely round here). The month’s other new bird was Little Owl (4/11), finally secured following the longest-running tip-off ever – I was told about it by a colleague on 27/2!
129 species, 153 points

There was still time for one more: Common Redpoll (1/12)! Despite maintaining near-daily visits for the rest of the month (and taking the cumulative hours-on-patch past the 400 mark for the year), I couldn’t eke out anything else. Still, 130 equalled my best-ever Nunnery Lakes year list (though 3 species – Little Owl, Dipper and Waxwing weren’t recorded on the reserve itself) and 155 beat my record points total by 8! Needless to say, a Hawfinch turned up on 1/1/2014…
130 species, 155 points
And finally, two more graphs to summarise the year’s patchworking:

My PWC 2013 species by month via BirdTrack; 80 or more species recorded in all bar 3 months, 95 species recorded in April

A fairly consistent level of effort was only punctuated by April and October holidays. I managed 409 hours on patch in 2013

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