Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Patch Birding and the Year That Is

1st Jan.  Sam and I began 2013 out on patch at sunrise, full of life and anticipation of what was to come in a new and fresh year.  Well OK, if you believe that you will believe anything!  We began a little later, but before noon.  I do always look forward to New Year’s Day on patch.  I do sense that some reading this blog may feel that patch birding is only worthwhile if you have what is perceived in birding terms as a ‘good patch’.  I’m not inclined to think that way at all.  It would I suppose be nice if everyone lived in picturesque areas where birds tumbled from the skies in flocks, but for most of us that isn’t the case.  Never the less I think if someone is willing to put in the effort to a local patch they will be rewarded wherever they live and the hard work and dedication can often bring rich rewards.  Forget the rare species and watch what you have on your doorstep.  If your not already doing so, why not give it a try?

I mentioned last year (doesn’t last year seem such a long time ago?) that 2012 was the Year of the Short-eared Owl.  Little did I know that Sam and I would begin 2013 with a Short-eared Owl on patch.  We had a very good sighting of one today and it definitely became bird of the day and set us off to a great start for the year.  It was a noticeably light coloured bird.

It is there!  Rather closer sightings were had especially when it lifted a few yards away.
A more mundane species began my day as I looked into the garden.  Wood Pigeon.  Well there isn’t any shortage of those on patch.  Things were a little more interesting down at the lake where we spoke with a couple of other New Year birders.  We noticed quite quickly that two Little Grebes remain and that the Shovellers were resting on the ‘floating thing’.  Once this is replaced Sam has another good idea for the lake which would be far better than more brick and concrete of which there is more than enough in Killingworth.  Goldeneye numbers remain high although only one Goosander was seen today.  As on our previous visit the light showed the birds at their colourful best, although not when close enough for decent photographs!  We took in all of the waterfowl and found a recently plucked Black Headed Gull before heading across the waterlogged fields towards the village.

We wondered if this had been a peregrine kill?

Keep getting the bird, but just need the light.
We weren’t able to find the Goldcrest in the church grounds so made do with Coal Tit and Long Tailed Tits et al.  Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch were all about in numbers.  The Sparrowhawk was spotted flying overhead.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed loudly and at length before flying off as we explored behind the village.  A Wren sang loudly, although I suppose a Wren rarely sings any other way.  There was no sign of Fieldfare or Redwing, but we did have good sightings of Mistle Thrush.

Once on the wagon-ways we had a flock of sixty plus Lapwing and large flocks of corvids feeding in the fields.  These corvid flocks have a beauty and interest of their own.  Kestrel, Grey Partridge and Linnet were amongst other birds seen.

Goldcrest was eventually found as we returned home.  I think we can both agree that it was worth getting out of bed before noon and heading out to patch.  We’d spent four hours out there and found forty-six species.  This is what I mean about patch birding from your doorstep.  We’ll make fifty the target for the walk we lead on Saturday just so that participant’s minds are set firmly on bird watching!  I saw my first Dunnock as I walked home and Sam had heard Song Thrush before we had met up.

Without doubt the Short-eared Owl was the days high.  The low was when I got home I was stuck tightly in my ‘Country Innovation’ coat that I paid a mint for a couple of years ago.  Not for the first time, as this has happened once before when I was on a pelagic, but that time I managed to get out a little easier!  The zip became firmly stuck and as I began to heat up to boiling point (in more ways than one) and I began to think I’d be stuck for life.  I eventually managed to get it over my head and the only way I could free the damn zip caused a small tear in the cloth.  A real designer fault in this coat and I intend to write to Country Innovation and tell ‘em.  Looks as though I already have an irritant for 2013!  Great New Years day birding despite the damn over priced coat!


  1. A nice start to the year (except for the coat, lol). Hopefully 2013 will be again the year of the Short-eared Owl (along with certain other species!).

  2. Hopefully Saturday may be a little warmer and I can dispense with the coat! Otherwise I may need to include 'risk of suffocation' in the risk assessment Mark! Although I think drowning may be a bigger threat! We have a good list of participants so hope Sam and I can control our colds! Seems like half the population of the UK has cold at the moment. Cheers.

  3. Yeah fingers crossed, it felt quite mild today, so hopefully this keeps up.

    I'm bringing the wellies, lol, but at least it looks like it will be dry on Saturday itself.

    It's good we have a high list of attendance, (they may have colds too, so you could be in good company, lol).