2015 was my second year of PWC so the competition for the comparative league title was a real added incentive to get out in the field this year.
January started quietly but I managed to pick up most of the regular resident and wintering species. Pick of the birds were Green Sandpiper, Redshank and Grey Wagtail giving a January total of 64 species.
February’s highlight was undoubtedly Water Rail, a long anticipated first record for the parish.
But the second patch sighting of Goldeneye and the first winter record of Little Egret were also noteworthy. A cracking flock of 200+ buntings got all the common species ticked off and February also turned up Oystercatcher, Siskin and wintering Blackcap pushing the list to 72 species.
March is the best chance of finding Whooper Swans here as they move up through the Vale of Mowbray but with no standing water on the patch it’s mainly a matter of luck so a group of nine flying over was a bonus. A flock of Thirteen Goosander, Shelduck, Barn Owl and the first summer migrants, Chiffchaff and Wheatear, helped push the March total to 78 species.
April was productive with this typically skulking Grasshopper Warbler a new patch tick for me.
A pair of Little Ringed Plover on a small field pool were #patchsilver and Red Kite and Cuckoo (depressingly my first patch record for almost a decade) as well as a number of regular summer migrants pushed me on to 89 species by the month end.
May added Whinchat, a very scarce migrant in the parish, and the first of a record number of Hobby sightings (chasing Swallows around the church). With the rest of the summer migrants ticked off I was up to 99 species, 10 ahead of the equivalent point in 2014, a further spur to getting out there…
It then ground to a halt with no new year ticks in June or July although searching for them gave me a good picture of the breeding birds on the patch including the best ever year for Barn Owl and at least 10 singing Corn Buntings.
Apart from Chiffchaff and Blackcap most summer migrants were noticeably scarce although it was better than recent years for Spotted Flycatcher.
August got me back on track with some good local finds including another patch first in the form of three Mandarin, a Yellow-legged Gull amongst hundreds of large gulls loafing by the Swale and Common Sandpiper on the river. In late August a day of torrential rain dropped my first and second patch records respectively of Tree Pipit and Stonechat into the same field. Together these moved me on to 104 species.
September added Osprey and my first Lesser Redpoll of the year and for the first time I crept ahead of Steve Ward in Wensleydale, literally my nearest rival. A skein of 100 Pink-footed Geese and a cracking Peregrine over the house in October kept me in top spot in the Inland North Comparative League.
The second winter period was dominated by floods but despite good numbers of common birds I only managed to add Wigeon to my annual tally in November and Steve leap-frogged me into first place.
So it all came down to the last month. The floods attracted record numbers of Teal and over 1000 Golden Plover but more importantly from a PWC point of view the first parish record of Shoveler, my first winter record of Greenshank and only my second patch record of Gadwall…
Giving me a final total of 112 species/120 points. Enough to finish a hair’s breadth ahead of Steve.
With Steve in it again and Chris Knight entering a patch in the neighbouring village, 2016 is hopefully shaping up to be another year of enjoyable birding and intense if friendly rivalry…