After enjoying my first year in the Patchwork Challenge last year I signed up for 2015 without even thinking about it. It turned out to be a pretty good year, with two patch ticks including a first for Sutton Bingham. Apologies in advance for the poor quality photos included herein, all are phone-scoped using my Samsung mobile!
A fairly quiet start to the year with nothing unusual found during the first couple of weeks, but a fellow birder did see three Egyptian Geese fly over one morning, there was no sign by the time I got to the reservoir after work! One evening visit produced sixteen Mediterranean Gulls in the roost and a Stonechat near West Pool was a nice find. Wigeon numbers just about tipped the one hundred mark, with Teal numbering slightly higher. Amazingly the 23 January produced a massive count of sixty-one Mediterranean Gulls, the highest single count ever recorded at the reservoir, in fact in the whole of Somerset! The end of the month produced three Barnacle Geese amongst the flock of Canada Geese, whilst hard to prove if these were genuine wild birds they didn’t hang around and were gone after a stay of just four days. 51 species of bird had been recorded by the months end.
Barnacle Geese – 28 January 15
A Little Egret early in the month was somewhat unseasonal and a fly-over Peregrine was seen on the same day. A pair of Reed Buntings were also new for the year and a Chiffchaff was seen near the Water Treatment Works. Another good count of Mediterranean Gulls mid-month with fifty birds being seen one evening and a count of one hundred and fifty Common Gulls was exceptional. A drake Gadwall was seen on West pool and was present for just a day. The reservoir year list had grown to 63 species by the month’s end.
A pair of Mandarin were present on 11 March and added a welcome splash of colour whilst Wigeon and Teal numbers started to drop off. A drake Shoveler was present for a couple of days, whilst a drake Gadwall and Tufted Duck were also brief visitors. Chiffchaffs were in song by the end of the month and my first Swallow of the year was seen on the 30 March, with the first Sand Martins a day later. The year list had risen to 69 species.
The end of the first week of April saw a flock of twenty-one Tufted Duck off the Canoe Club, the highest total for a few years, a further four were also on West Pool. A real rarity on April 10 with a female Merlin seen whizzing through, only my third sighting at the reservoir. The first Common Sandpiper of the year was recorded on the same day. Little Egrets were noted all month, with the highest count being ten birds. A single Great Black-backed Gull was a good find. I missed a couple of Whimbrel that flew through but did find three Oystercatchers! April turned in to a very good month as on 22 April I found a Great White Egret in trees opposite the Canoe Club, and twenty-four hours later I located two Little Terns (a personal first for the reservoir). Unfortunately, the Little Terns simply flew through the and Great White Egret was only present for a day. Three Green Sandpipers were also noted and the commoner warblers returned to the site at the end of the month. A hybrid aythya duck produced a little interest, looking quite like a female Ferruginous Duck at a first glance, it soon became apparent that it had some Pochard or even Red-crested Pochard influence somewhere in its DNA! A busy and productive month with the total of species having risen to 83.
The month started on a bit of a high with a very smart Arctic Tern on 2 May. A little bit more excitement on 14 May with a Hobby causing a bit of a stir over West Pool, my first (and amazingly only) Swifts of the year were seen the same evening. All in all May turned out to be a rather quiet month with the total rising to 87 species.
A real surprise on 4 June when I found a Knot feeding on the northern causeway, just my second record for the reservoir. Feeling rather pleased with this it paled in to insignificance two days later when an early morning stop on my way to work produced a Black-crowned Night Heron! Having missed a couple whilst on the Isles of Scilly a couple of weeks earlier this was a real unexpected find and the first record for Sutton Bingham to boot. The bird went AWOL all day before reappearing in the evening just before 9.00pm. The rest of the month was pretty quiet though two Lapwing passed overhead on 19 June. The month ended with two Common Terns off the dam and a Great Black-backed Gull at the Sailing Club. Steadily approaching the century, the year list was at 93 at the end of the month.
The Great Black-backed Gull present at the end of June was seen a few times in early July and juveniles of both Mediterranean Gull and Yellow-legged Gull were also seen early in the month. A couple of Redshank were seen on 9 July, an unexpected year tick, and then as the month drew to a close there was a spate of wader passage, somewhat surprising given the fact the water level was still pretty high. Common Sandpipers began passing through in varying numbers and then some quality in the form of three Little Ringed Plovers, another Redshank and a fly-over Greenshank. This little run of birds brought up the total to 96 species for the year.
Another juvenile Mediterranean Gull was present at the start of the month and a notable flock of twenty-two Common Terns passed through on 8 August. A Dunlin was present a few days later, but I missed it! However, I did strike lucky mid-month as in heavy rain a flock of eleven Arctic Terns dropped in and were joined by a Black Tern before they all flew south. A Common Tern was present a day later. As the month progressed more Common Sandpipers passed through and with just a few days left in the month I found a Whinchat on the fence line near West Pool with another two present a few days later. More wader action in the form of five Black-tailed Godwits that were present for a short while on the northern causeway and a Spotted Flycatcher was also noted. A bit more bad luck as I missed two Ospreys and a Wheatear at the tail end of the month, the patch year list had now risen to 99 species.
After failing on several visits I finally connected with Marsh Tit early in the month at the southern end of the reservoir. A juvenile Hobby was seen and another five Whinchats plus a couple of Stonechats were also present during the month. A drake Shoveler was a brief visitor whilst a few Siskin and White Wagtails were noted around the site. Highlight of the month was a fly-through Honey Buzzard on 13 September. The first returning Wigeon of the winter arrived on 27 September, the same day as a very smart Yellow Wagtail was present. A few species were added over the month bringing the total up to 102.
Whinchat – 20 September 15 and Yellow Wagtail – 27 September 15
A Stonechat was present around West Pool mid-month and a drake Pochard dropped in mid-afternoon on 11 October, the only one of the year, and just the third in the last three years. A nice flock of thirty Linnets was nice to see and a couple of Mandarin were also noted during the month. The gull roost started to gain numbers as the month progressed, with the pick being an adult Yellow-legged Gull on 16 October. Wigeon numbers rose at the end of October and the first Fieldfares and Redwings of the winter arrived. Not a lot added and the list was up to 103.
Pochard – 11 October 15
A couple of Pintail were a good start to the month with a sub-adult male and a female off the dam one morning, they took flight and headed south and were not seen again! A total of three Stonechats were present throughout the month and a few Snipe were back at the reservoir for the winter. The biggest shock of the month, and arguably the year, was the corpse of an auk (most likely a Guillemot) found on the water’s edge on 15 November. With the head and feet missing it made identification of the species impossible, such a shame it was not seen alive as it would have been a first for the reservoir. A flock of twenty Lapwing passed through with a further three birds a couple of days later with three Skylarks also moving overhead. Wigeon numbers peaked at over a hundred birds. The year list ended up on 104 species, just one added during the month.
The final month of the year and it was pretty much like November. The month started well when I found a Scaup amongst the Wigeon off the dam on a very windy evening. This was to be the last addition to the 2015 year list. Another flock of Lapwing passed through, this time some thirty-one birds and a drake Pintail was present on 14 November. A single Barnacle Goose was at the southern end of the reservoir on 20 December before relocating to the dam a couple of days later. This was the last quality bird of what was a very productive year at Sutton Bingham.
The final patch year list was a respectable 105 species, three species short of the 2014 total but six points higher!