A quick spin round Collingham Pits this morning produced a female Scaup on Ferry Lane Lake and a redhead Smew, found by John Eillis, on Mons Pool. The latter is a species which has eluded me since I've been doing Patchwork Challenge, whilst the former has turned up each of the last four years. Together they put me on 86 for the year on the patch.
I got to Cotham Landfill on Saturday a bit later than planned, and had already missed the mornings waste arrivals; there were few gulls around, but one of them happened to be the juv Glaucous Gull, so it wasn't a complete washout.
Glauc, into the sun as usual
On to Girton, and the 7 Eurasian White-fronts, 2 redhead Smew and juv GND were all present and correct on the Sailing Lake - not a bad haul. Spalford Pit held a whopping 28 Shelduck, plus a Dunlin amongst the Lapwings.
Today, and a session at Meering produced 3 Goosander, but little else, perhaps not helped by a gang of guys with spades and dogs (rabbiting). A brief look at Ferry Lane Lake was similarly unspectacular.
When news emerged last night of a 'probable' 2nd winter Thayer's Gull at Cotham Landfill, I decided that a visit there was necessary this morning; I'd been planning a mid-week visit anyway, so it seemed like a sensible thing to do, even when the (dare I say it) less than convincing photos emerged - although in their defence, one thing I've learnt is not to write-off birds on the basis of poor photos. A 'few hours before work' turned into me taking the whole morning off (thank you flexi leave), which proved to be a good decision; despite the initially awful light conditions (looking straight into a low sun), several of us down there enjoyed juvenile Glaucous Gull, juvenile Iceland Gull, and multiple Caspian Gulls - my personal tally was one adult, a 3rd winter and two 2nd winters. A single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Grey Wag were additions to my yearlist.
Smew are always difficult birds to catch up with at Collingham, for some reason - they never seem to stay more than or day. And so it proved to be the case once again: with two redheads on Mons Pool late afternoon yesterday, there was no sign of them there, or on Ferry Lane Lake, this morning. A fly-over Peregrine was a small consolation.
Rather embarrassingly, I haven't seen a Serin in Britain; and despite several hours at Fen Drayton today, I still haven't seen a Serin in Britain... Basically, I spent three and a half hours on site, arriving 20 minutes after one sighting, and leaving an hour before the next. Hmmm. I spent the last half hour of daylight at Girton. Mark Dawson had found a Great Northern Diver here earlier, which I relocated on the sailing lake. However, there was no sign of any non-Greylag Geese; the 7 Eurasian White-fronts had been here earlier, and 3 Tundra Beans had also been reported. Confusingly, 3 White-fronts had also been reported from Smithy Marsh - and no Pink-feet. A great Starling murmuration rounded things off, maybe 10,000 birds or more strong, wheeling and morphing, and reminding me what it's all really about.
I had been intending to go and do some voluntary conservation work this morning at East Leake, but after an incident leaving Newark where my car first got side-swiped, and then had its wing mirror smashed off whilst I was getting the details of the first driver, I changed my plans; after gaffer-taping my wing mirror back onto my car, I went to Cotham Landfill, where I saw... no gulls. Mark Dawson and Tom Malarkey had got there earlier, and had seen the juv Glauc, and a probable 2W Casper. Cutting my losses, I headed to Collingham, bagging 4 Goosander and 7 Siskin as new for year species. The Silt Lagoon was wader-central, with 10 Curlew, 12 Redshank and a Green Sand. Onwards to Meering, where there wasn't much, but after a third scan of the Greylag flock on Smithy Marsh from Meering I noticed a Pink-footed Goose. I decided to get a closer look, venturing off-patch, and in doing so, came across a party of 7 Eurasian White-fronts - 2 adults and 5 juvs - and a second Pink-foot. I back-tracked to the raised bank at Meering so I could get the White-fronts on my patch list! Very nice.
A quick stop at Rufford Country Park this morning with Carl C, en route to a meeting in Edwinstowe, got us both a Hawfinch for the year, sat up in the lime tree avenue, as per the norm. In addition, a Marsh Tit was calling in the woodland, and there were a few Goosander on the lake.
A quick wonder around Meering this afternoon added two more species to my Patchwork Challenge total for 2016, and quality species they were too; Canada Goose and Red-legged Partridge. In addition, a couple of Lesser Redpoll were in the hedge along the eastern access track. A quick scan of Ferry Lane Lake at dusk failed to produce any gulls/sawbills/little auks.
This morning started with another visit to Cotham Landfill, where the juv Glaucous Gull was present again, but nothing else of note (there was no tipping going on).
I then went to Collingham, adding four more species to my tally of 73 from yesterday; Egyptian Goose, Pintail, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Pied Wagtail. My previous best for January is 81 species, so that's got to be under threat already.
2016, how did that happen? I marked the event by spending the day on the patch, notching up 73 species. It was actually a very good day, with several surprises; best was a Cetti's Warbler calling and showing briefly at the southern end of the Fleet in Besthorpe, where there is ideal habitat for this species - but just the second patch record (the first was in 2014).
Other highlights included:
Barn Owl - one at a 'traditional site' on the patch
Chiffchaff - at least one (and possibly a second) in the hedges around the Silt Lagoon
Curlew - 2 on the Silt Lagoon, along with 4 Redshank
Green Sand - one on Ferry Lane Lake with another in the new workings on Northcroft Lane
Grey Partridge - a covey of 3 in fields south of Ferry Lane Lake
Jack Snipe - 1 kicked up at Meering
Pink-footed Goose - a skein of c.100 flew over West
Ruff - 2 flew south over Meering with c.280 Lapwing; another 2 flew south on their own a while later. Unpected, and presumably caused by some long-awaited cold weather?
Woodcock - 3 at Besthorpe Warren, exactly where I hoped to find at least 1
Another interesting bird was a very pale juvenile Common Buzzard which I haven't seen around before; this was sat up in an ash tree to the west of Mons Pool, dropping down out of sight a couple of times; I only saw it in flight briefly. Structurally, it did appear to be a Common Buzzard, but had dark carpal patches on the underwing, largely white underparts and face, lots of white feathering in its upperparts, and a white rump and very white tail, but this bled down the centre of the tail to the distal end, meaning that there was no clear dark bar.