Monday, 23 January 2017

2016 Review - Sutton Bingham Reservoir by Tim Farr

Patchwork Challenge 2016 - Sutton Bingham Reservoir
Report by Tim Farr

I had a pretty good year in 2015 and honestly thought I would be heard pressed in beating last year’s total, but I guess hard work pays off and 2016 turned out to be a real cracker of a year with four patch lifers and some quality rarities to boot. As always my apologies for the photographs…I rely on phone-scoped record shots!

Not a bad start to the year with a January 1st visit producing a drake Shoveler amongst the regular wintering Wigeon. A Stonechat kindly stayed in to the New Year and got added to the list alongside Kestrel and Little Grebe. Just a couple of days later I found a small flock of Lesser Redpoll, a species I’d not seen on patch for a couple of years and a week later I added Marsh Tit, a species which took eight months to get on to the year list in 2015! Some annoying news was received on 14th January as a fellow birder had flushed a Jack Snipe, despite trying a couple of times I first patch dip of the year, and unfortunately not my last! A spontaneous lunchtime visit on 21st, always a bit of a rush, turned out to be an inspired decision with a group of eight Pintail and three Shelduck present off the dam. An adult Mediterranean Gull was a mid-month highlight, as was a female Gadwall. A pretty respectable 64 species of bird had been recorded by the months end.

Pintail – 21st January 2016

The month started late with my first visit being on 7th but that did produce a Peregrine. Despite some nice birds being seen, nothing was added to the year list for a week when a flock of Golden Plover flew through heading north, a real unexpected bonus with it being several years since the last time I’d seen this species on patch. On the morning of 19th I spent a bit of time working an area that I thought may get me Jack Snipe back, and the birding Gods were with me as I flushed a single bird, that made up for missing this species in January and was only my second ever patch Jack Snipe! A couple more common species were added before the end of the month. Eight species added to the year list, which was now at 72 species.

A Shelduck early in the month was a surprise, not an annual visitor to Sutton Bingham, so two records (of four birds) in a year is pretty good. Then is all happened on 19th March when a quick pre-work visit produced my first patch tick of the year with an Avocet seen on a pontoon off the Sailing Club. Unfortunately it was flushed by sailors shortly after I left and only one other local birder got on it. The end of the month produced the expected Swallows and Sand Martins as well as my first Chiffchaff. The year list had risen to 77 species.

Avocet – 19th March 2016

The first of the month produced the first Willow Warbler of the Spring, a handful of “late” Fieldfares and a fly-over Yellow Wagtail. A week later and the first Blackcap was back on territory and a day later a couple of adult Great Black-backed Gulls were present. Six Common Cranes on 9th provided a little excitement, though being from the Somerset Levels reintroduction scheme I didn’t add them to the list! A couple of days later and widespread news of Little Gulls moving throughout the UK meant I had to stop off on my way home from work, and sure enough two adult Little Gulls were present, my first at Sutton Bingham since 2001. Another Shelduck passed through and two drake Mandarin were noted and the first passage Common Sandpipers arrived on exactly the same date as they did in 2015 and peaked at 25 birds on 17th. Four Whimbrel were seen mid-month followed by another individual a few days later, the latter on the same pontoon as March’s Avocet. Finally, a Northern Willow Warbler was a new sub-species for me at Sutton Bingham. A busy and productive month with the total of species having risen to 89.

Great Black-backed Gull – 8th April 2016
Whimbrel – 27th April 2016


With trips to the Isles of Scilly and visits to friends in Essex and West Sussex meant little time on patch, just two species were added during the month with a Hobby a nice addition to the patch list. I did however dip an adult Black Tern that lingered for less than an hour and had gone by the time I could nip out during my lunch break. All in all May turned out to be a rather quiet month with the total rising to 91 species.

Rather embarrassingly a Feral Pigeon produced my 100th Patchwork Challenge point of the year, and I missed a Pochard early in the month. I managed to finally add Little Egret to the patch list and a couple of waders added a bit of class, Redshank is expected annually but a couple of fly-through Curlew were an unexpected bonus. Steadily approaching the century, the year list was at 95 at the end of the month.

Little Egret – 18th June 2016

Things really took off during July. Two more Redshanks turned up and yet another Shelduck, both good birds but not year ticks. Up to three adult Great Black-backed Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull were present during the course of the month and then a touch of class with a summer-plumaged Dunlin near the dam. A patch lifer in the form of a Fulvous Whistling Duck failed to make the list, despite it being a rather smart bird! My first patch Sandwich Tern for fifteen years was found on 13th July, but it was gone the next day. Another wader in the form of a Greenshank was added to the list with a second bird a few days later. These were soon followed by a Green Sandpiper and a couple of fly-through Common Terns. Hearing an Oystercatcher whilst collecting my son in East Coker spurred me in to zooming down the road “just in case” and sure enough it had landed at the reservoir, right time and right place, and another quality patch year tick in the form of a Black-tailed Godwit (I’d missed two earlier in the year) rounded off the month. Patch lifer number two of the year came in the form of a female-type Black Redstart present on the dam one morning. No idea what that was doing there or where it came from. This was a long-awaited addition to my patch list, though I was always thinking one would turn up in the winter! A really productive month brought up the total to 103 species for the year, matching my entire 2014 total.

Sandwich Tern – 13th July 2016
 Yellow-legged Gull – 26th July 2016

 Black-tailed Godwit – 29th July 2016
The month continued as July had ended with a few quality birds on patch, starting on 4th when I found a very smart summer-plumaged Spotted Sandpiper! Stupidly I had left my phone in the car so the best record shot I got was a few days later. Arguably the bird of the year, though as it spent most of the time in an inaccessible area of the reservoir arranging access was a headache with many visiting birders ignoring instructions and a few trespassing…it makes one think twice about sharing bird news! The month continued with a fine supporting cast as another Shelduck appeared, this one staying for nearly two months. Two more Oystercatchers dropped in and my first patch Lapwing of the year was a one-day bird on 15th. An early Teal popped in mid-month and fly-through birds included a Tree Pipit and a female-type Garganey.  A couple of Green Sandpipers and a hand full of Greenshank were also noted during the month, which ended on another high with an Osprey being present. Another great summer month had pushed the year list to 108 species which equaled my previous year list record, set in 2015…and still four months to go!

Spotted Sandpiper (honest!) – 8th Aug 2016
Oystercatcher – 11th Aug 2016

Shelduck – 9th Aug 2016
The summer continued in to autumn with another half a dozen species added during September. The Osprey popped up on 1st but that was it whilst a day later my highest single count of Black-tailed Godwit as a flock of fifteen flew south. On 3rd September in heavy rain I found a Pectoral Sandpiper, present just until the rain cleared at lunchtime, when it did a bunk, this was my second for Sutton Bingham, the previous one was also found by yours truly back in 2001. The first of a hand full of Whinchats turned up on 4th and my first patch Wheatear for several years was seen on 10th. A little bit of excitement a few days later with three Lapwing on the West Pool and a female Blue-headed Wagtail was in a private area of the reservoir (where a Yellow Wagtail had been earlier in the month). The first Wigeon of the winter arrived on 15th and a few White Wagtails were noted. Another couple of year ticks were added nearer the end of the month with three Spotted Flycatchers and my first patch Garden Warbler for an age both logged. The end of the month yielded a Stonechat and the patch year list had grown to 114 species.

Lapwing – 14th Sept 2016

Spotted Flycatcher – 18th Sept 2016

Blue-headed Wagtail – 14th Sept 2016
A Pintail was seen at the start of the month, and spent a few days on and off at the reservoir during the month, though it was more often absent than present. A couple of Green Sandpipers were loitering at the start of the month and a Redshank passed through on 7th. Another patch dip on the 12th, this time I missed a Red Kite, still a very scarce bird at Sutton Bingham but a Siberian Chiffchaff, a nice vocal and showy example to boot, a couple of days later was some consolation. Wigeon and Teal numbers steadily grew as the month progressed and the first Mediterranean Gulls of the winter were noted. A birthday day present came in the form of a calling Red-legged Partridge, just my third patch record for this species. October ended with a mini Goose-fest. A first winter Eurasian White-fronted Goose dropped in on the evening of 26th with a flock of Canada Geese, and amazingly a Barnacle Goose also dropped in. A Common Sandpiper was still lingering to the end of the month also and a drake Goosander flew through on 28th. The patch year list was now standing at 118 species.

Green Sandpiper – 5th Oct 2016

Common Gull – 16th Oct 2016

White-fronted Goose – 26th Oct 2016

The month started well with a female Goldeneye seen on 5th, but that proved to be my only addition for the month, but a small grey and white wader seen in flight could have been good if only it had been close enough to identify. That being said there was a little bit of quality with the Barnacle Goose being seen on a couple of occasions and another Goosander, this time a redhead, being seen (followed by another drake at the end of the month) A pair of Shoveler were noted as were a couple of Mandarin, a drake Gadwall and a pair of Pintail but I missed four Egyptian Geese that didn’t linger long enough for me to try during my lunch break. That single addition rose the total to 119 species.

Barnacle Goose – 6th Nov 2016
Stonechat – 23rd Nov 2016
Goosander – 9th Nov 2016
It was a slow start to December, and to be perfectly honest I was not holding out much hope of adding anything to the year list, but with patch birding you just keep going. Rather unseasonal, a Great Black-backed Gull and Little Egret were one-day wonders and a sub-adult Peregrine kept an eye on things from a regular perch atop a pylon. A few nice winter plumaged Mediterranean Gulls were as ever a delight. Then as if from nowhere on the morning of 19th a quick stop before work produced patch lifer number three of the year and great little gem to break the December duck…a Firecrest! Only the third record of Firecrest at Sutton Bingham and the first for thirty years. Things crept along quietly for the rest of the month but I did manage one final visit on 31st to end the year. This proved to be an inspired decision as I found another patch lifer, this time a winter-plumaged Black-necked Grebe. What a way to end the year, and to add a little dusting of New Year joy a female Pochard completed the year list for 2017.

Black-necked Grebe – 31st Dec 2016

Mediterranean Gull – 20th Dec 2016
I ended up with a great total of 123 species in 2016, smashing my previous Sutton Bingham year list record. Just goes to show that hard work pays off, but I feel I will be hard pressed to match this total in 2017!

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