As a 15 year-old working a patch isn’t always easy. For most of the year I’m limited to birding only at the weekend which of course means I often miss birds on my local patch at Druridge Bay. I decided to do Patchwork Challenge in 2015 to try and get even more pleasure out of seeing the common birds, and as a way of getting a bit more motivation to get out birding.
My patch covers part of the Northumberland coast south from Hadston Carrs to Hemscott Hill including the nature reserves of East Chevington and Druridge Pools. In the end I had a pretty good year in the bay despite there not being many ‘proper’ rarities…
The year got off to a surprisingly good start with self-found Green-winged Teal and Black-necked Grebe on my first day on patch. The Grebe lingered into March and was later joined by an adult Black-throated Diver and a Long-tailed Duck, all on the same pool! The next highlight was an early February passage of Little Auks when I managed a count of 87 in two hours. 73 Whooper Swans on one pool at East Chevington were also great to see.
The weekend of the 12th of April saw the arrival of quite a few summer visitors along with a Great White Egret. Early May provided me with a welcome and long-awaited patch tick in the form of a Black Redstart at Hadston Carrs and was followed by an influx of waders including good numbers of Wood Sandpipers, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits. An adult Little Stint also made an appearance along with the first of three Garganey and a flock of four superb Temminck’s Stints.
Two Spoonbills were a welcome addition to the year list at and a Cuckoo provided some brilliant views. Having missed them in Northumberland on numerous occasions, I was extremely pleased when a Hobby flew low over East Chevington. My highlight of the year came on the 10th of September when the first-summer male Red-footed Falcon found the previous day at Hemscott Hill reappeared and stayed just long enough for me to see it.
The first of three Yellow-browed Warblers arrived later in the month. Another highlight was finally managing a good view of a Bearded Tit on patch when a male gave itself up at East Chevington. Taking part in #patchday I saw a total of 84 species including two year ticks in the form of Bittern and Great Northern Diver.
Two adult Greenland White-fronted Geese joined the Pink-feet in early December. The same day also produced three unseasonal Little Gulls and a couple of Short-eared Owls. My first patch Merlin for three years put in a brief appearance, and three days later I saw my first ever Water Pipit on the patch along with two further patch year ticks on the same day; Kingfisher and Slavonian Grebe. Finally the Long-billed Dowitcher which had been present just of my patch appeared briefly at Druridge Pools, providing me with my first ‘4-pointer’. There were also 3 Water Pipits the same day!
In the end I accumulated a total of 179 species for a total of 249 points. Am I glad I did Patchwork Challenge this year? Absolutely, I feel like I’ve got a lot more out of my patch than I would normally, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. A target for my second year will be to improve on my measly score of 6 bonus points! Bring on 2016…