Today I had all day to myself, as my wife was having a day out in London. So I was off and out at 06:30, with the intention of finding 60 species for the day, something that I have never achieved on my patch.
I decided to walk the woodland part of my patch first, heading up Ashes Lane to get the YELLOWHAMMER, and REEDBUNTING which were feeding in the wild bird crop. On the way I added 17 species, JACKDAW, STARLING, COLLARED DOVE, 120 FIELDFARE perched in a line of poplar trees, ROBIN, DUNNOCK,GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, HOUSE SPARROW, CHAFFINCH, MISTLETHRUSH, WOOD PIGEON, REDWING, WREN, GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT, CARRION CROW and GOLDCREST. A good start, I worked my way down to the small holding, and heard a COAL TIT calling, and saw a pair of MALLARD on the wet parts of a grass field, where in the distance 2 MOORHEN were also feeding. The small run off pool for a small set of greenhouses came up with a surprise, when I found a pair of TEAL on it, the first this month. A lonePIED WAGTAIL flew over whilst at the small holding, and a pair of LONG TAILED TITS were in a bramble thicket, maybe looking to nest there. I looked for the Little Owl at his tree hole, but couldn't find it, I needed that species for sure if I want to reach 60.
Onto the wet woods, but just before I entered a JAY flew past me, and a GREEN WOODPECKER called loudly. In the woods itself I quickly added BLACKBIRD, and TREECREEPER to the list, and was especially pleased to find both the MARSH TITS again, the first time I've seen them this month. Getting nearer the lake area I could hear the CANADA GEESE, but a total surprise was in store when I got there, as a male POCHARD (75) was on the lake. An excellent record for my patch, only the second sighting I've ever had, the first was in November last year. Also on the lake I picked up a pair of CORMORANT. Whilst at the lake I decided to go round and pick up some common species at the feeders in the garden of the adjacent house. GREENFINCH, SISKIN,GOLDFINCH and MAGPIE were all added, but as I turned to go, another nice suprise - 4 MUTE SWAN flew low over, all bill to tail in an equidistant formation, a species not seen this month thats four to add for March.
Next stop was the Tree nursery, where I only added SKYLARK, SONGTHRUSH and a pair of NUTHATCH that were in an old apple tree, in an adjoining garden. By now, it was 08:15 and I was ready for breakfast, so I made my home for a quick drink and snack, but added HERRING GULL to the day list on the way, as two flew over the greenhouse complex.
As I munched away, I thought about what spcies I might yet record, I had got 42 on the list already, but a few more were possible, Bullfinch and Pheasant hadn't been seen yet - may be a problem! By 09:00 I was out again, and heading for Migrant Alley, I found a single MEADOW PIPIT amongst 250 Fieldfare, and 25 Redwing, also 2 LINNETS and 8 STOCK DOVES with a dozen ROOKS all on the Maize stubbles. After that lot, I moved on towards the College grounds and Stream, but yet again a surprise was in store, before I had reached the end of Migrant Alley, I had the first sighting this month of the PEREGRINE, it flew over quite high, and as I followed it, I saw it go into a shallow dive, I watched it all the way, and where did it go ? Staight in to my garden Feeders! I watched all the birds come up and scatter. I have recorded the Peregrine from my house but not in the garden, I can't really count it as a garden visitor, as i wasn't actually there, blast!
Well so far it had been a day to remember, a year tick, and a good one at that, plus another four species for the month, but could I get 60 species in a day? Number 48 was soon on the list when 3 BLACK HEADED GULLS flew over as I entered the college grounds, but the next species was a real bonus, my 3rd FIRECREST of the year! Incredible, I would not expect to see one of these annually, and a real wierd coincidence is that, the 3 records were on the 7 Jan, the 7 Feb, and today the 7 Mar, roll on the 7th Apr! (My Birthday!). I was well chuffed with that, but had to keep alert for the 50th species, which turned up by one of the college ponds, a GREY HERON. 10 more species to find, and still I hadn't got a Bullfinch, Pheasant or any more rapters, maybe the 60 was on!
After the college grounds I went and sat on the horse jump, at Migrant alley, and scanned the fields and sky, but didn't come up with anything new. After 20 mins or so one of them stupid para glider things flew over, real low, what an idiot! I decided that as it was 11:30 I would head off home, and have an early lunch. I walked passed the Raspberry canes hoping to find a Bullfinch, but was disappointed, however that was short lived, as I heard a 'Greenfinch like' twittering from a Blackthorn bush, I looked up and saw a group of REDPOLL, most of which immediatly flew off, but 2 birds remained, which looked very pale, and may have been Mealy (common) Redpolls, more research will have to be done, and advice taken! still, it's good one for the day list 51 now!
By midday I was out again, and I Headed for the tree nursery to find a Pheasant, but it was not forthcomming, so I went back to migrant alley for another sky scan, again passing the Raspberry canes, and this time there was a pair of BULLFINCH in the Blackthorn tree that I had seen the Redpoll in, 52 just 8 more! Forty minutes of scanning the sky and fields again didn't get me another species, so I took just one more walk over to the lake area. The Pochard had gone, and little else was seen, and my legs now ached! Home beckoned, and it was now 13.30, I left for home via the tree nursery and was pleased to see 2 male PHEASANTS flying in to the remaining shrubs there, 53! but I wasn't going to get 60 not today, the only birds I could resonably add were Sparrowhawk, kestrel or maybe a flyover Greylag goose. I watched the pair of Nuthatch that were still in the apple tree, and heard a commotion from the bare field, Pied wagtails were upset by something, I looked around the sky and found a SPARROWHAWK at long last! So the day ended for me on 54 species, I had failed to get 60, but in truth i never really expected to get there, maybe I will do better on a May day. All in all though, it was a day to remember i'd say, coincedently the March species list now stands at...........60!
Above: Only my second record of Pochard on my patch. (sorry for the pic quality, it was early, and I was excited!)
Below are 3 Photo's of one of the Redpolls. This was a pale bird, and I thought it may be a Common (mealy) redpoll. The Redpoll races are a nightmare to sort out!