Friday, February 27, 2009

The Great List Challenge 2

Mike Passman, who has taken up our year list challenge, is watching his local patch of Thurlestone Bay, Devon, and so far is showing up Features Editor Matt Merritt's efforts on his Leicestershire patch.

Mike writes: "I returned from looking after our Grandaughter on Saturday, January 31st, and withdrawal symptons were quickly overcome with the sight of a DARK BELLIED BRENT GOOSE on South Huish Marsh, to increase the list to 103. On the morning we left - January 20th - a quick visit to the sea watch car park produced an immature male LONG TAILED DUCK whilst number 102 was MUTE SWAN, which I had omitted to count on January 2!

"February started out very good with two BLACK REDSTART in the garden - one a stunning male - two PURPLE SANDPIPER in the bay whilst a ringtail HEN HARRIER quartered one of the local fields in mid afternoon - she had been seen by other local birders whilst I was away.

"3rd February started the cold weather spell. While parts of Devon were to be enveloped in up to a foot of snow, our little area of the South Hams didn't even get a covering. Seawatching on the 3rd for two hours with a favourable force 5 south-easterly wind paid dividends. GANNETS started passing, and two FULMAR were quickly followed by a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER with a single BALEARIC SHEARWATER all flying east. On the sea a SLAVONIAN GREBE took the total to 108. At least 30 auks and 15 KITTIWAKE also passed through. Late afternoon saw the largest flock of LAPWING - 150 - this winter with 50 GOLDEN PLOVER and 35 FIELDFARE on South Huish Marsh - further evidence of cold weather movement.
Thursday 5th February, whist not adding to the year list, was notable for very good views of the ringtail HEN HARRIER, flocks of 15 SKY LARK AND 25 REDWING at South Milton Ley, with 14 CHIFFCHAFF still surviving the cold weather and a CETTI'S WARBLER calling.

"Saturday 7th February started very well with my early morning scan of THURLESTONE MARSH (from my bedroom window). Suddenly all the ducks took flight and at least 15 SNIPE were flying around, all the commotion caused by an immature female MARSH HARRIER which spent 15 minutes quartering the reeds before departing in a SE direction. Walking back from the village shop, a single female SISKIN became No. 110.

"After a period of very heavy rain the local marshes were flooded with standing water, and on 11th February I awoke at 6.30am with a TAWNY OWL calling from a tree in the garden, with the early morning scan of the marsh producing a very nice male PINTAIL. With clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine I decided to walk round Soar Mill Cove valley and was rewarded with three male and two female CIRLBUNTING - one of the special birds of South Devon – and a FIRECREST, taking the total of 114.

"There a very few birds known to be on the patch that I haven't managed to find - the most elusive at the moment has to be BARN OWL."

That's great going from Mike, and Matt's struggling to keep up. He writes:

"A week or more of heavy snow during February curtailed my local birding, but in between times I've taken my total up to 89, and added quite a few more 'elite' species. Best of all were the gulls at Albert Village Lake, a flooded former opencast pit. I didn't find the MED GULL reported (I won't sweat it, though, because I'm confident there'll be more), but I did mop up GLAUCOUS, ICELAND, YELLOW-LEGGED and CASPIAN, plus a single OYSTERCATCHER.

"It's also getting so that, although it's still too dark to actually go birding before or after work, there's enough light as I leave home and get back to get a few ticks from behind the wheel. So, in the last couple of weeks there's been LITTLE EGRET, LITTLE OWL, and several SPARROWHAWKS (including, twice, a bird flying virtually across the bonnet while I was stopped at junctions). Other ticks have included GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, GOOSANDER and SHELDUCK, and as I write the first CURLEW and RINGED PLOVERS are going through, so they're my next target. Oh, and although I got them on January 1, the local PEREGRINES have been hunting spectacularly.

"Finally, I did a bit of off-patch birding at Great Easton, near Eyebrook Reservoir, last week, and saw four Short-eared Owls (very rare in Leicestershire) and, in a nearby tree in broad daylight, two Tawnys."

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