Sunday, 5 January 2014

Patchwork Challenge 2013 Final Score

My first year of Patchwork Challenge is over with a final score of 122 species and 141 points although my challenge really ended in November when my last new bird was added. December was a nearly month with a distant small falcon which could have been a Merlin and a distant small passerine which could have been a Stonechat but both too far away to be anywhere near certain.
The year started in fine style with a Bittern from the bedroom window, an excellent patch tick, and a trip to the outer limits of my patch also brought me 6 points in the shape of Rough-legged Buzzard and Great White Egret on Haddiscoe Island. The Rough-legs have returned this year so will hopefully soon be on my 2014 list although it would have been better if they had chosen the more traditional location of the marshes behind the house! A lunchtime twitch from work added an unexpected species, Great Crested Grebe and a tramp in to the neighbours marshy wood gave me another irregular bird, a Water Rail. January ended on 78 species, an excellent start.
Things slowed down a little in February with the addition of 7 species but one of those was House Sparrow, a rare visitor to our garden, which required a trip to another outer boundary to get on the list. Two subsequently turned up in the garden in the spring for a week or so but despite our numerous bird feeders providing ample quantities of food they never stay.
March added just 3 species, the highlight being 2 records of Bewick's Swan. Getting the first required a hard slog along the Haddiscoe New Cut but once they were safely on the list, a small flock flew up the valley, viewable from the comfort of home! Grey Partridge also suddenly appeared to pop up everywhere! March also marked the onset of a sustained spell of bitterly cold easterly winds that continued in to April delaying the onset of spring. Our Barn Owls, which had taken a battering during the snowy winter, completely disappeared. Summer migrants were late returning and resident birds, noticeably our Blue and Great Tits whose nests I was monitoring in our 30 or so nestboxes, were also late in starting to nest.
 April added 15 birds to my total, most notably a Black Redstart which graced our outbuildings for an evening, and also the years first record of Feral Pigeon! May arrived and with it came the first Hobby of the year scything across the marshes, and an unexpected Garden Warbler singing in the plum hedge at the end of the garden. There was however an increasingly anxious wait for what was once a spring fixture with the first distant singing Cuckoo not heard until the 15th and only a couple of occasions after. By the end of May my list had made it to 109 species.
Another local breeder was even later than the Cuckoos in returning but when the Turtle Doves came back in June they came back with a bang, purring from the roof of our house and on the wires above our sheep paddocks, a real privilege in this day and age. I've got everything crossed that they return in 2014. June also gave me a splendid drake Garganey on the neighbours marshy pools.
From June onwards, further additions to my list were few and far between. Whinchat was the highlight in August but seemed to be the only migrant that penetrated this far inland from the large falls on the coast 8 miles away. Ruff and Wheatear were Septembers new birds apparently attracted by the ongoing work on our new scrape and hopefully a promise of things to come this year. October only added Jack Snipe, a good local bird, and the final new species of 2013 was Grey Wagtail in November.
So what did I miss? The glaring hole in my list was Lesser Whitethroat, normally annual and a not infrequent breeder on my patch but my husband, who has the advantage of not having a full-time job, also saw Osprey (2 points), Crane (3 points) and Med Gull (2 points) so my final score could have been nearer 150.
2014 will be interesting with the new scrape ready and waiting for passing waders and waterbirds. The neighbours scrape attracted Avocet and Spoonbill amongst many others during its first year. I also need to do a bit of work on the gull flocks that gather in the arable fields on the edge of my patch and try and pick out the Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls that must be there! And, of course, another River Warbler would do just nicely.

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