Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Urban Birding 2014

I patchwork in urban North Leeds and I know that I will probably never find a National rarity and thus get mega points and a chance at the top points spot. However that wasn't the main reason for me joining Patchwork Challenge last year, for me the big attraction was the Comparative Minieague. This is where you compete against yourself, or rather last year's version of yourself. Can you see as many birds and score as many points as you did in previous years? This levels the playing field somewhat and allows the birder with a relatively poor patch (like me) to compete with the lucky birders at hotspots such as Spurn Point, Cley or Portland Bill.

Last year my final tally of 67 species gave me 69 points, which was a higher count than my records going back 20+ years indicated I should expect. So there's my target for 2015 - beat 69 point. So far from 3 visits I've amassed over 60% of last year's total so there's every hope that I will have a healthy 100% or more in the Comparative League at the end of the year.
Eccup showing the low water levels

Just recapping on 2014 on my patch, it was a bit of a mixed bag really, if I'd known about the engineering work being carried out at Eccup Reservoir I might have chosen differently. The work there had lowered the water levels quite dramatically and allowed for a big increase in vegetation at the margins. This meant very restricted views of the water, a lack of decent wader habitat and low numbers of duck. As the works finish in March 20105 I am expecting the duck population to grow as the water level rises and hopefully this rise will drown some of the waterside vegetation. Due to this I only made a handful of visits to the Reservoir during 2014.

Looking over the fields to Adel Dam
 Adel Dam performed well during last year, I scored with all the expected species bar one, couldn't find Lesser Redpoll on the reserve at all, which was odd as I'd seen them during the latter half of 2013. An unexpected species from last year was the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that took to visiting the feeding station during late October and November. Sadly even though I spent almost 20 hours over 3 days I dipped on the bird. 

 Breary Marsh is a small carr woodland on the other side of Golden Acre Park to Adel Dam, a stream flows from here down through the park and into the Dam area. The species list for this area is pretty similar to that of the Dam, although I did record a new one this month, first Song Thrush for the patch.
Gt spot hiding from Sparrowhawk
Highlights from 2014 include watching 500+ Black-headed Gulls drop onto the lake at Adel Dam to spend 5 minutes there before taking flight and disappearing completely, having a female Sparrowhawk catch a Great Tit on the feeders right in front of me, being able to photograph a stoat in the reserve and best of all seeing the Peregrine glide over the trees at Adel before it zoomed up into the atmosphere - a patch first. 

Running down the species list I had 12 waterfowl, including a site first Shelduck, 4 raptors, 4 gulls, 3 warblers, 4 tit, 5 corvids, 1 owl, 4 finches, 3 thrushes. Missing from the list Reed Warbler, Sparrows, Green Woodpecker and Pochard all of which I found in 2013.

Mandarin duck - another 2 pointer
 So far this year as I said earlier I am well on way to matching last year's total and have scored with 2 more patch firsts, namely Song Thrush and Golden Plover. The latter species being the first time for 15 years or so that I have recorded them inside the Leeds boundaries. I have just heard that the lesser 'pecker is being seen again so I can foresee several more hours spent at Adel.

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