Several species of bird reached peak numbers this month, with Teal and Mallard reaching the one hundred mark and Gadwall reaching thirty. There were also twenty Cormorants, but a cold spell with frosts, mid-month, kept the Golden Plover numbers low. An adult winter Mediterranean Gull was a lucky find for one observer on the 5th.
As February warmed up the Golden Plover numbers rose too, reaching 1,000 by the middle of the month. The Gull numbers got higher too and a first winter Glaucous Gull roosted on the slurry lagoon on 14th, 21st and 22nd with the Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls. Two Peregrines were present on the 21st (one had some primaries missing) and three Stonechats were around for most of the month. On 15th a lonely Brambling flew through.
At last some signs of spring with Ringed Plovers passing through and Lapwings displaying over the nearby fields. The first Chiffchaff arrived on the 8th while two Redwings seemed to be setting up a territory, with the male singing from the same bush for several days. On 1st of March a strange dark bird joined the Stonechats, its appearance suggesting a Pied Bushchat. Could it really have been one or just the result of the over active imagination of a poor deluded patch watcher?
On the 4th a Black-necked Grebe arrived for a prolonged visit, annoyingly leaving the evening before our first patch-watch on 28th. The first Wheatear was seen on the slurry lagoon, three weeks later than last years first bird. On the 11th a stunning male Red-breasted Merganser put in a brief appearance and the end of the month saw two male Ring Ouzles and our first ever Pied Flycatcher. The patch watch on 28th was coincidentaly a very good day for finding migrants, the early morning rain downing Ring Ouzle, Whinchat, Redstart and Wood Warbler and the afternoon sun and wind coaxing a Marsh Harrier and a Hobby to pay a visit.
The beginning of the month saw a lot of passage activity through the reserve with 57 Arctic Terns going through between 1st and 13th, joined by a Black Tern on 12th and 13th. A Nightingale took up residence near the railway line from 7th to 11th, singing almost continuously but not showing as it kept in deep cover. Morning showers on the 10th again did the business for migrant watchers and a “fall” occured over the slurry lagoon. Some of the birds recorded were, Grey Plover, Knot, 6 Sanderling, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, 16 Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpiper, 2 Turnstones and 11 Little Gulls. What could top this incredible day ? A Little Swift. On the morning of 25th an unusual swift was noticed over the slurry lagoon and identified as a Little Swift. Not only did the bird perform well for its thousands of admirers all day long, but it then went to roost on the railway bribge and spent an amazing three days on the site. The presence of so many birders for so long innevitably turned up more good birds and the site’s first Little Egret was seen as well as two or more Honey Buzzards and the first sighting of the long staying Argentine Blue-bill.
June could not match up to the excesses of May and was a very quiet month for birds. The orchids all flowered in their prescribed time slots and showed over all gains in numbers, even the Pyramidal Orchid doubling up.
Most of the birds were settled down and breeding and the sight of a Little Ringed Plover brooding three eggs was very heart warming. They were first noticed on the 6th and were hatched on 28th. On the 13th a batwatch was held, recording four species and also turning up the sites second record of a Little Egret, which attempted to roost with the gulls. Also noticed during the darker hours was the continual reeling of five Grasshopper Warblers. On the 30th a Red Kite was watched for twenty minutes over the slurry lagoon by one lucky observer.
Garganey and Spotted Redshank both put in a double appearance this month and a Black-necked Grebe also briefly reappeared. Merlin, Pintail and Spotted Flycatcher were also added to the sites species year list. There was also some interest amongst the gulls as a juvenile Mediterranean Gull spent some time on the slurry lagoon and a tentatively identified Caspian Gull was noted among the larger gulls.
A very early Whooper Swan was an unexpected find on the 8th and two other species of wildfowl broke site records this month. First the Grey-lag Goose flock topped 250 on the 8th and then 15 female pintail touched down on the slurry lagoon briefly on 29th. With the Pintail came other migrants as the autumn passage got under way.
The passage really took off during the first few days of the month with 865 Meadow Pipits being counted up until the 11th, the observer only counting for approximately one hour on each of the mornings, so very many more birds must have gone through. Over 100 Siskins were also counted passing over during this period. The month started well with an overnight gale bringing in a Grey Phalarope, which stayed from 1st to 4th and the Black Swan took up more pemanent residence and was joined by its mate between 3rd and 8th. There was a third visit from a Little Egret on the 17th and there were seven Common Scoter on 23rd. The month was topped off by another new species when three Bearded Tits were seen going through on 24th and 27th.
After so many good birds the year now started to wind down a little though a Merlin and a Jack Snipe on 4th provided one bright spot. The Golden Plover peaked this month on a dissapointing 2,000, but six Water Rail on 17th was a good count.
Cold December days were livened up by the presence of the Stonechats around the deep pit and occasional visits by a Peregrine. Common Gulls reached a high count of 80 on the 3rd, but the Common Snipe eclipsed that with 92 on the 16th rising to 200 by the 30th. On the 24th the Pochard/Tufted Duck hybrid returned to the site for its regular winter break.