I had all day to myself today, and so I did what I love doing best, birding my patch - all day :-)
I decided I would try and record 60 species in a day, a feat only ever achieved once in the nearly nine years of recording on my patch, here's how I did, you better have a cup of tea ready this may be a long post :-)
I left at 06:30, in foggy conditions, which didn't bode well, and the list started agonisingly slowly, WOODPIGEON, BLACKBIRD, PIED WAGTAIL, ROBIN, GREENFINCH, JACKDAW, BLUE TIT, CARRION CROW, SWALLOW and CHAFFINCH all went on the list as I walked down Ashes Lane, and walking through the Greenhouse Complex I only added WREN, GREEN WOODPECKER and WHITETHROAT. Entering the sheep pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley was just a wall of fog, but directly above I could see blue sky. Walking around the fencelines and hedgerow, only ROOK, LINNET, and STARLING were added to the list, I was not going to get 60 species at this rate, not even 50!
I came out of Migrant Alley, and recorded COLLARED DOVE and HOUSE SPARROW whilst passing the College Stables, but as I neared the College Grounds to walk along the Steam, a bonus species in the form of two HOBBIES were seen flying low over. Along the stream things livened up a bit as the fog started to lift, both NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER were heard, and a CHIFFCHAFF sang, while overhead a group of HOUSE MARTINS wheeled about. I crossed the stream into the College Grounds, and was pleased to get SPOTTED FLYCATCHER on the list, at least 6 were seen, two families again. Nearby GOLDCREST and COAL tit fed in a tall fir tree and a MOORHEN called from one of the small ponds.
I still only had 27 species on the list, where I would expect around 35 by this time, it wasn't looking good. I left the College Grounds and went back through Migrant Alley which was now clear of fog, but there were no Whinchat or Wheatear today, both species that I could have done with, however 4 more species did turn up in quick order, all flyovers HERRING GULL, GREYLAG and CANADA GOOSE, but best of all a YELLOW WAGTAIL, a scarce passage migrant, a good one for the list!
Walking the final length of hedgerow at Migrant Alley, I was trying to find a Dunnock of all things, should have seen one ages ago, when I heard an unusual call coming from the direction of the ditch over at the NW boundary of my patch, I stood still and listened, again it called, this time obviously in flight, once again it called, and I picked the bird up in my bins as it flew off to the SW, the bird was a GREENSHANK ( 128, 99, 75) !!!!!! A patch tick !!!, I was utterly elated at this find, any wader is a bonus on my patch, but this is one that I never thought I'd see here - a most definite bonus bird for the day list !
As I feverishly sent text to all my birdy mates, I could here one of my favourite birdsongs coming from the Greenhouse Copse, a WILLOW WARBLER, another migrant Species, things were looking up, 60 species might just be possible today. Two SKYLARKS flew from the sheep pasture, and GOLDFINCH, MAGPIE, SONGTHRUSH, GREAT TIT and YELLOWHAMMER were recorded in the boundary hedge of the Greenhouse Complex and Migrant Alley. The next species was the 40th for the morning, a SPARROWHAWK that flew over the Greenhouses. Two more species were added as I neared home for my mid morning break, a Flyover BLACK HEADED GULL and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER.
I was back out after ten minutes, and walked over to the Lake and scrub area, via the Wet Woods, in which another good species for the list was found, a MARSH TIT, good because it's the only one on my patch :-) Also i the woods a JAY and BULLFINCH were seen. On the lakes 15 MALLARD were dabbling around, and in the scrub a couple of BLACKCAPS were seen, a STOCK DOVE was good to get on the list, I don't see them everyday. Other than that I was disappointed by the scrub area, no Long Tailed Tit, Garden warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and still no Dunnock!
I finished the full circuit of my patch, by walking through the Tree Nursery, then up the side of the maize crop in the pub field, which produced just a KESTREL for the day list. As it was only 11:45 I decided another trek round the paddocks would be my best bet, the list was on 49 so i had still a lot of species to get, and not a lot of usual birds were left, just Long Tailed Tit and that Dunnock!
I knew the boundary Hedgerow held Dunnocks, so i walked up and down it until finally DUNNOCK was found, number 50 :-). I then sat on my seat and watched for flyovers for 15 mins. A good move, as both MISTLE THRUSH, and SWIFT were added to the list, which was now in rarley visited figures 52! This was incremented by one more when a COMMON BUZZARD went over, just creeping into the north of my patch.
Hunger now set in, and at 12:30 I went home for lunch, adding no more species on the way, 53 species in 6 hours was looking quite good, 60 was beckoning. As I ate lunch I thought about what species would make up the 7 more I needed, Long tailed Tit should surely be found, a flyover Lesser Black backed Gull, a Peregrine perhaps, Grey Heron and Cormorant may go over, and possible Lesser Whitethroat and Garden warbler might be found with another visit to the lakeside scrub.
An hour later I was back out, I did another quick trip around Migrant Alley, and bingo, straight off, a LESSER BLACK BACK GULL went over, followed 5 mins later by a PEREGRINE, thats the FIFTH raptor species for the day, a feat in itself ! Just 5 more species to go now, and a trip over to the lakes and scrub to find a Long Tailed Tit was in order. I didn't need to wait long, and got more than I had bargained for, at least 15 LONG TAILED TITS were in the lakeside vegetation, and with them were a whole host of other species Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Goldcrests,Treecreepers, and most frustratingly a possible Wood Warbler, this would represent just the second record ever for my patch, but the vegetation was so dense I got just fleeting glimpses of it, and despite following the flock for some 40 mins, couldn't locate it again.
I spent another half hour searching for a possible Garden warbler or Lesser Whitethroat but failed, and with the list on 56 for the day, I decided to go and have some tea, and write out this blog post. I will resume my search for the 4 species needed later this evening, and let you know how I did tomorrow!
Even if I fail to reach 60, today has to go down as one of the top ten birding days on my patch ever :-)
Photo's for today :-
Foggy spider web first thing
Below one of three Hobbies seen today
Below one of two Kestrels seen today, this one was keeping away the Whinchats at Migrant Alley :-)