Sunday, 1 February 2015

Thetford 2014 - Nick Moran

Thetford - PWC2014
Patchwork Challenge Year 2 had lots to live up to at the Nunnery Lakes and surrounding area south of Thetford. 2013 had started in style with the long-staying Black-bellied Dipper and an always-welcome patch Waxwing. It culminated with a fantastic late-autumn haul of Mediterranean Gull (surprisingly scarce in Breckland and a patch-tick for me) then better still, self-found Kittiwake and Green-winged Teal on consecutive days in November: true #patchgold! Winter 2013/14 proved to be a ‘finch winter’; the appearance of several Common Redpoll in early December was a fitting way to round off a great year, which saw me end on 130 species / 155 points. I managed a respectable 6th place – all ‘green’ a.k.a entirely non-motorised – in the incredibly tough Inland East Anglia mini-league, against some ridiculous competition: step forward Jamie Wells at Paxton Inland Sea and Ben Lewis along most of the Mid Yare Valley!

Vital statistics: 79 species/85 points; 1,356 BirdTrack records/35 Complete Lists; 7th in Points table
Celebrating New Year very modestly in Thetford (I’m getting on, you see) meant I was patch birding before first light on 1/1. By 10:30am I’d notched up an encouraging 61 species/62 points (every southern half of Britain PWCer’s favourite ‘tarty 2-pointer’ – Little Egret – bagged at the first attempt). As I arrived home, the ‘phone rang and fellow Nunnery Lakes patcher Neil Calbrade breathlessly informed me he was watching a Hawfinch 800m from my front door! About-turn, dash back out and the first quality bird of 2014 was secured on day 1! Common Redpoll began to appear at our feeder site as early as 3/1, with Peregrine (9/1) and Jack Snipe (31/1) both ‘January patch ticks’ too, and other great 2-pointers to register early on. Pochard (1/1), Wigeon (27/1), Yellow-legged Gull (28/1), a couple of Woodcock, Chiffchaff (doesn’t winter annually on my patch) and plenty of Brambling constituted the best of the rest.

Common Redpoll : I like frosties in the morning

If I stay really still.....Jack Snipe© Neil Calbrade

Scores on the doors: 86 species/93 points; 2,125 BirdTrack records/53 Complete Lists; 7th in Points table
After such a positive start, February ran aground somewhat. Red Kite (13/2) was the only 2-pointer and ‘patch month-tick’ to fall, with Goosander the next day the only other species of genuine note. Skylark belatedly came on board 3/2, with Great Crested Grebe following a week later. My earliest-ever returning Curlew showed up on 10/2 and the next returning breeding wader, Oystercatcher, appeared on 23/2.

Numbers up: 87 species/94 points; 2,723 BirdTrack records/66 Complete Lists; 10th in Points table
If February was on the quiet side, March was dead (though spending over a week of it in Morocco probably didn’t help). The only addition was Shelduck (22/3). I had to ‘let a crossbill go’ the same day; given the prevalence of rarer crossbills around the country at the time, it didn’t seem entirely sporting to chalk up Common Crossbill on the basis of a couple of calls and the briefest of flight-views. Ending the month 10th in the Points table would prove a sign of things to come.

Stat attack: 107 species/116 points; 4,227 BirdTrack records/98 Complete Lists; 6th in Points table
I’m not sure about other inland (or even coastal) patches but April is by far and away the most diverse month in the Brecks. With 111 species recorded on patch over the previous 4 Aprils, it was time to apply Positive Mental Attitude and hit the patch hard. The abundance of BTO nest-recorders and birders had the same idea, exemplified by the fact that at 8:05am on 3/4, I was the 4th person onto the Nunnery Lakes’ first-ever Red-crested Pochard! Good job there were no find-points at stake. Ring Ouzel was true star of the month though, with Reserve Manager Chris Gregory, Neil Calbrade and I laying claim to one each during the period 2–22/4 (all of which I managed to see). To put that into context, I’d never logged a spring Ring Ouzel in my previous 4 years on patch. Common Tern (28/4) was the other patch month-tick, though Green Sandpiper (2/4), Stone-curlew (3/4), Lesser Whitethroat (22/4), Whinchat (25/4) and Little Ringed Plover (28/4) are equally worthy of mention. The nature of the previous year’s breeding season probably accounts for why it took me until 29/4 to record Barn Owl!

Numbers game: 115 species/126 points; 5,056 BirdTrack records/121 Complete Lists; 9th in Points table
May started with a bang. My Number 1 patch bogey-bird, Goshawk, finally gave itself up on 4/5, while Little Owl and Wheatear the same day were new for the patch in May. Other new birds for both May and PWC2014 were Yellow Wagtail (13/5), Grey Partridge (14/5) and a Spotted Flycatcher (16/5), the lattering first appearing on my TV aerial! Late-returning migrants Swift (2/5) and Hobby (11/5 – a very late date by local standards) rounded off an encouraging month.
Spotted Flycatcher : Proper record shot

Déjà vu: 115 species/126 points; 5,251 BirdTrack records/126 Complete Lists; 9th in Points table
Siskin (7/6) and Little Ringed Plover (25/6) were ‘patch June ticks’, and it transpired that last month’s Spotted Flycatcher had hung around to breed close enough for me to ring one of its offspring in my garden! However, as far as PWC2014 was concerned, a dreaded ‘dot month’.
Spotted Flycatcher Jnr

And at the end of that round: 118 species/130 points; 5,755 BirdTrack records/140 Complete Lists; 7th in Points table
Although to all intents and purposes 2014 was a dire late summer/autumn for waders inland (in our part of the country, at least), I did manage Common Sandpiper (12/7) and patch-mega Whimbrel (21/7). Turtle Dove (2/7) is barely annual these days; sadly a species that’s becoming increasingly worthy of an upgrade to (at least!) 2 points…

Score: 120 species/132 points; 6,559 BirdTrack records/162 Complete Lists; 9th in Points table
Bird of the month was undoubtedly a Redstart (18/8) that I managed to bump into nearly a week after it was first seen by another BTO Nunnery Lakes regular. My other PWC2014 addition was Shoveler (27/8); that, the Redstart, the Spotted Flycatcher family and a Water Rail (30/8) accounted for my 4 patch month-ticks for August.

Stagnating stats: 121 species/134 points; 8,321 BirdTrack records/214 Complete Lists; 10th in Points table
Hmm. September. The time the coast goes crazy while the (my) inland patch goes to sleep. Fortunately another long-overdue patch-tick, Woodlark (9/9 and 21/9), came to my rescue; otherwise a Lesser Whitethroat (3/9) was my first autumn record on patch and Herring Gull (9/9) barely deserves a mention as a patch September tick.

Score draw: 121 species/134 points; 9,230 BirdTrack records/233 Complete Lists; 10th in Points table
See September. Demonstrating bus-like tendencies, Woodlark (3/10) made it onto my October patch-list. Otherwise my latest-ever patch Reed Warbler (4/10) was the sum total reward for my efforts. Away-patching (whatever happened to that?!) proved more profitable, with a self-found Olive-backed Pipit the highlight of a very enjoyable week on St Agnes, while Scolt Head Island yielded Red-necked Grebe, Great Grey Shrike and Pallas’s Warbler, to go with blythi-type Lesser Whitethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Wryneck the previous month.
Blythi-type Lesser Whitethroat : Coastal patch? Taking candy from a baby, more like ;-)

Countdown: 123 species/137 points; 10,316 BirdTrack records/256 Complete Lists; 9th in Points table
Like 2013, November trumped October. However, nice though they were, the 4 Bearded Tit (3/11) in the balancing pond between the Nunnery and my house and a female Goldeneye (10/11) weren’t in the same league as the heady delights of November 2013. Grey Partridge, Goshawk and Tawny Owl (!) were new on patch for the month.
Bearded Tit ©Neil Calbrade
Final Score: 124 species/139 points; 11,442 BirdTrack records/280 Complete Lists; 10th in Points table
Having presented him with a Bearded patch-tick in November, I was more than a little gripped when Neil Calbrade photo-IDed a flock of Whooper Swans over the Nunnery Lakes 2 days later while I was away at a meeting. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long for this much-craved patch-tick, as a lone Whooper Swan flew over my head on 1/12. And that was it; many more hours hard patch-graft, tails of ultra-rare pipits raining down onto other inland patches, but diddly squat to trouble the scorer in my neck of the woods.
On the plus side, apart from another fascinating year of green patch-birding, some smart birds and 4 patch-ticks along the way, I’ve knocked down my comparative score to something a little more attainable in 2015! Bring it on…

Species Accumulation and Species by Month graphs, generated using Explore My Records in

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyable read as ever Nick. Here on my Hawes patch in the Yorkshire Dales, according to my BirdTrack stats, August is (fairly surprisingly) the most diverse month over my 11 years of patching. April is a close second, although in 2014, my first PWC, these were reversed. Not quite as many different species as yourself though!