Monday, March 23, 2009

Patch Challenge Update

Time for the latest updates in our patch year listing challenge. Reader Mike Passman, who watches Thurlestone Bay, in Devon, is taking on our own Matt Merritt, who watches an area around his Leicestershire home. And it’s still Mike who’s setting the pace…

He writes: “On February 17th, we had 75 WIGEON on on the sea and marsh – one of the largest flocks of the winter – with COMMON SCOTER, BLACK-THROATED DIVER and GREAT NORTHERN DIVER in the bay. Among a large flock of 160 BLACK-HEADED GULLS was a full adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL, taking my patch total to 115.

“On the 18th the WIGEON flock increased to 116, with 11 SHOVELERS and five LAPWINGS on the marsh. In the bay there were five GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS (my site record) and a single BLACK-THROATED DIVER. On Monday 23rd February there were two MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, plus six COMMON GULLS and a RED-THROATED DIVER in the bay.

“A walk around Aveton Gifford (24th February) produced two GREEN and three COMMON SANDPIPERS with a YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (116), two MARSH TITS (117) and a single NUTHATCH (118). Last view over the marsh before departing on holiday saw a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT return.

“Next records were on 11th March, with two SAND MARTINS (119) flying over the marsh, two CETTI’S WARBLERS and a male BLACKCAP in full voice, and surprisingly a female BLACK REDSTART still visiting my garden. On the marsh amongst a party of 10 PIED WAGTAILS was a single WHITE, bringing my total to 120. Favourable weather over the next three weeks should see the start of the spring migration.”

Matt writes: “I’m still making very slow progress, this time with the excuse that I was out of the country for two weeks. Just before leaving, I did get my first SKY LARKS singing and displaying at Sence Valley Forest Park, and luckily don’t seem to have missed any outstanding rarities while I away, apart from a Bittern.

“I finally got back out around the patch last weekend, and added four more ticks. First, at Willington Gravel Pits, there were two adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS in breeding plumage, giving me almost a full set of gulls for the year (just need a LITTLE GULL now). On the Canal Pit there, REDSHANK was the only wader, but I’ll be going back over the next few weeks, because it’s a likely site to get a lot of passage waders.

“At nearby Foremark Reservoir, I finally caught up with the long-staying RED-NECKED GREBE, and then the following day, saw one of the RAVENS that frequent Swithland Reservoir mobbing one of the many BUZZARDS in the area.

“My total now stands at 94, but that includes a lot of species I wouldn’t have expected to get, and is still missing some that ought to be definites in one or the other winter period. If I can catch up with some of the rarer migrants (RING OUZEL, REDSTART and BLACK REDSTART are usually possible, with effort), then my target is in sight.”