The final 'Full patch visit' of the month took place in absolutely dreadful conditions, it was dark all morning, with rain and hail showers on and off, which were blown in on a cold NE wind, thus ended a horrible month for being out and about!
I still had hopes of finding the 4 new species for the month to set a new February record, the likes of Grey Heron and Grey Wagtail hadn't yet been recorded this month, and a Brambling might just turn up, flyover Mute swans or Little Egret weren't an impossibility either, so it was with these species in mind that enthusiastically set off, despite the weather :-)
That enthusiasm quickly started to wane! As I waded through the deep, mud filled footpaths that now impedes any sort of dignified progress, keeping a watch out for birds was secondary to finding a decent place to put my boot down! Not that there was much to see, I had just six birds on the list as I entered the Wet woods, compare that to the 18 of yesterday!
A COAL TIT sang in the Wet Woods, a reminder that it was now nearer spring that winter, as did a MISTLE THRUSH which always seem to relish these weather conditions,two different GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS drummed, from opposite sides of the woods, and as I was exiting, I heard the chattering of SISKINS above me, looking up I found 4 on Alder cones - what else :-)
Once again whilst over at the lakes, my first job was to establish whether the COOTS had stayed another day, and yes they had, great stuff :-) Giving the rest of the water a scan was a real anticlimax though, as all I found was a pair of MOORHEN and 3 MALLARD, this was soon forgotten when a few minutes later 12 CANADA GEESE came noisily crashing in, but it wasn't till I was counting them, that I noticed a female GOOSANDER amongst them, had it come in with them or had I missed it earlier, must be the former :-)
The scrub walk was really hard work, and only begrudgingly did the likes of GOLDCREST, LONG TAILED TIT, NUTHATCH and BULLFINCH join the list, which for the first part of the walk ended on 33 species, not too bad an effort.
The second half of my walk over to the College grounds, via the Tree Nursery , Pub Field, and Migrant Alley had me continually pulling down my hat and flicking up my coat collar, trying to keep the chill wind from driving the freezing rain down my neck, however, I did bravely stick my eyes skywards on occasions, finding LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULLS going over, as well as two groups of GREYLAG GEESE, one of 3 and one of 5. I also counted, very quickly, 63 BLACKHEADED GULLS with 2 COMMON GULLS on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley. Being a work day, the College Grounds was full of students and workers, but it did offer some shelter from the elements, and also a sighting of a LESSER REDPOLL as it flew over calling. Not much else was added to the list, the KESTREL was seen hovering over the Greenhouse Complex, that made the list up to 44, average for a February day.
I was a bit disappointed to say the least, in not finding any of the target species that were mentioned at the start of this post, especially the Grey heron, this is the first month that I have not recorded one since I started watching my patch in 2002, thats a run of 109 months that it was consecutively seen in!
Later in the afternoon, as dusk was descending, some compensation was had in the form of a BRAMBLING (73,65) that visited my garden feeders, a year tick no less :-) so the month ended on a high after all :-)
That Brambling took the months total to 65, making it the second best February out of ten, just 2 behind the record that was set in 2009, and 5 better than last February.
The average number of species seen in February, over the ten years, is now 59.6, and the combined February species list remains on 79, as no new ones were added this month. Looking back at the end of February for previous years, it appears I have amassed the joint best ever year list of 73 species, along with 2009, thats good going considering the awful weather, if I do say so myself!! :-)