Friday, May 15, 2009

Three’s company: The patch list challenge continues…

Our patch list challenge has gathered pace, what with the arrival of the spring migrants, and of another challenger.

Mike Passman, who watches Thurlestone Bay in Devon, has been the pace-setter so far, and on May 5th he wrote:

“April certainly lived up to expectations, particularly some of the days spent sea watching. First addition to the total was Manx Shearwater (132), with a total of 52 flying east (6th) along with 110 Sandwich Tern and 43 Common Scoter. The same day, a single Cuckoo flew up the valley (133). Walking through Soar Mill Valley (8th) produced a male Dartford Warbler (134) along with two Tree Pipits and three male Cirl Buntings, while in the bay, a single Common Tern (135) was amongst the 23 Sandwich Terns.

“A strong southerly wind (9th) produced two new birds – five Whimbrel (136) and a dark phase Arctic Skua (137), while in the bay were 178 Sandwich Terns, 107 Common Scoters and 242 Manx Shearwaters.

“Early morning (11th) brought two Reed Warblers (138) singing in Thurlestone Marsh, and the following day both Garden Warblers (139) and Sedge Warblers (140) arrived. Monday (13th) produced the first Grasshopper Warbler reeling in South Milton Ley, while a single Whitethroat (142) was singing on the coast path. Next day a partial summer plumage Spotted Redshank (143) spent the day on Thurlestone Marsh while amongst the passing Manx Shearwaters was our second record of Balearic Shearwaters.

“April 16th saw south-easterly winds and as usual the passing seabirds produced most interest – a new site record for me in the shape of a single Great Skua (144). Next day a group of waders at high tide in the bay consisted of two Purple Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper, five Turnstone and a single Sanderling (145). On 18th a male Yellow Wagtail (146) spent the day amongst the sheep on South Huish Marsh, and the next interesting record (22nd) was a Hobby (147) observed coming in off the sea.

“The 23rd saw the start of two days of good sea passage, including 107 Bar-tailed Godwits (148) with 133 Whimbrel. The 25th saw the largest movement of Gannets - 660 in three hours, plus two Arctic Terns (149), 101 Fulmars, three Great Skuas and a Black-throated Diver. Monday the 27th produced a new site record – an adult Little Gull (150) in the bay. On the 29th, a walk round East and Middle Soar provided 20 Whitethroats and a single Lesser Whitethroat (151). Early evening saw a drake Garganey on South Huish Marsh. Early on 30th the first Swift (152) flew through.

“The target of 175 by 31st December is looking more achievable – there are a few target birds for May which should get the total towards 160, leaving the autumn migration to produce the main thrust towards the target.”

Gavin Black, who birds a Gloucestershire patch, has risen to the challenge too, and writes:

“My list for a 12-mile radius now stands at 118, with about eight others beyond 12 miles and 37 of them seen at or from home, including a Peregrine, a Goshawk and a Woodcock.

“I have had three life ticks within 12 miles – Long-eared Owl, American Wigeon and one which I found for myself, a Cattle Egret. Woodland birds are quite easy to find as I live in the Forest of Dean. I have had Crossbills, Hawfinches and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, and there are 40-plus Bramblings in the garden every day and also Siskins (now starting to dwindle) which did total 100-plus. Ravens and Buzzards are over the house virtually daily.

“A friend and I had the county’s earliest ever Swallow on March 14th while carrying out a WeB survey on the river Severn. However, I hardly ever get House Sparrows at home (only twice in 26 years) and last week I had my first ever garden Collared Dove in that period. I visit RSPB Nagshead throughout the breeding season to check nestboxes and I shall certainly be adding Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler to my list very soon!”

Finally, features editor Matt Merritt has been trying to make up for lost time, and writes: “My first House Martins were seen on the way home from work (April 15th), and the same evening, I picked up Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Common Sandpiper at Swithland Reservoir. It all kicked off the next day, too, with a single Avocet at Wanlip Meadows, along with Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and a brief visit by several Dunlin. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling at Kelham Bridge later that evening, but it was the Avocet – one of my target birds for the year – that was the biggest thrill.

“The 17th brought a single Yellow Wagtail and a Sedge Warbler at Cossington Meadows, and the following day a trip to Willington Gravel Pits brought more Ringed Plovers, plus Whimbrel, Willow Warbler, and a single Curlew (surprisingly elusive this year). The 19th brought a Red-crested Pochard at Watermead CP, a Whitethroat at Kelham Bridge, and my first Cuckoo of the year, on the pit bank at Snibston Grange (actually heard while playing cricket, rather than birding!).

“I was away for a week, and returned to find that all hell had broken loose! I dashed to see the Pectoral Sandpipers at Cossington Meadows (one was still left), then back over to Willington for two Whiskered Terns (a patch first, it goes without saying) and several Arctic Terns. There was a hiatus then until May 5th, when I managed to pop and see a Wood Warbler in Victoria Park, Leicester, found by Dave Gray.

“Last weekend, I mopped up Tree Pipit at Beacon Hill, and finally got my first Swifts, with loads at the cricket ground (there was a Garden Warbler on the pit bank, too) and a pair returning to the regular nest next door but one to my house. Kelham Bridge had plenty of Reed Warblers, then on the 12th I added a Lesser Whitethroat at Thornton Reservoir, plus a flyover Turtle Dove.

“Finally (14th), I saw two small groups of Black-tailed Godwits at Willington GP, plus a Wood Sandpiper, both good patch ticks and enough to give me hope that the 160 target is more than achievable. I'm now on 133 - it's tantalisingly within sight.”