New Year Bird Race 2018

Intending to go out on Saturday, we foolishly watched the weather forecast which was promising rain most of the morning, and as we spend most of the day on foot, decided to rebook for Sunday.  Of course there was no rain at all on Saturday, but by Sunday a nasty north-easterly wind had blown up, making birds lie low, difficult to spot and hear.  Unfortunately the Fab Four were down to three as Will had been struck down by flu, so the sharpest eyes and ears were missing!

We did pretty much the same route that we have always followed. Met at 7.45 and drove to Woods Mill.  A couple of hours there & Sands Farm gave us a good start. David Plummer’s garden oak had a nice Great Spot in it as we went by.  We walked along the mill stream to the Downslink, finding a couple of Snipe and a few Meadow Pipits in fields on the way.  Down to Stretham where we saw the only Stonechat of the day.  Up river to the overflow pit was hard going in the wind, but we saw a lone Egyptian Goose.  From the fields by the Downslink we ‘scoped Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler … but where were the gadwall?  Great to see the 5 Bewick’s Swans were still there looking gorgeous in the sunshine. Before lunch we also ticked off Bullfinch and Goldcrest along the Downslink.  Lunch at mine gave us a delightful flock of Long-tailed Tits flitting on and off the feeders, plus Coal Tit and Greenfinch, which we didn’t see elsewhere.

Not many extra species after lunch despite hoofing up beyond Betley Bridge, finding a Coot on the flooded fields east of Brightham’s Farm.  Finally back down the river where a group of 7 Barnacle Geese were on the edge of floods.  There were also another 5 Egyptian Geese; when 2 more flew in the 5 waddled over to meet them.  Finally, an oddly marked and oddly behaving Buzzard briefly made us try to claim marsh harrier, but it was not to be – and neither was the hoped-for barn owl.

Arrived back at the Downslink about 4.30 after roughly 11 miles of trudging through varying degrees of mud, with a reasonable 54 different species recorded in the patch.  This year’s “Birds of shame” were stock dove, reed bunting, skylark and nuthatch – the latter 2 species heard by two of us but not the third!