New Year Bird Race – Just beat the 60!

Though the inefficiency of the scribe made us think we were falling short!

The Fab Four, Nigel, Nige, Will & Val (plus Maya the collie,) met at 7.45 at the Downslink car park to the serenading of a Song Thrush, and headed off by car for Woods Mill, leaving the dog in the car there for a while.  At Woods Mill and Sands Farm we managed to tick off most of the more common species, plus the only Mistle Thrush of the day, which was singing beautifully, a group of 5 Bullfinches, a rather large flock of Stock Doves (c40) in one field at the farm.

After a quick tea/coffee break  we unloaded Maya and set off on our long trek.  Weather still a bit gloomy at this stage, then the wind got up  as we walked along the millstream, though we found Snipe, Skylark and Meadow Pipit along there. We joined the Downslink and headed south to Stretham. Will rested his knees for a while at the bridge and the others nipped down river for a Stonechat. A call from Will heralded a Grey Wagtail which was still sitting near the bridge as we returned; then a Raven flew low over the river.  Always worth going up to the overflow pit, and so it proved as a Green Sandpiper nipped up to show off its white rump!  Back to Stretham, the Downslink, and a squelch into the fields for a view of the ducks, not huge numbers but we got Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Pintail and Gadwall. There must have been 600 or more Lapwing a bit further west.  Sky was a gorgeous blue now, but it was still rather breezy.   Ticked off House Sparrow at South View Terrace and Greenfinches in my garden.  A Coal Tit was seen by Nigel & Will, but not by Nige, and Val was in the kitchen making tea at the time – it didn’t reappear, so didn’t count, as the rules say 3 out of the 4 must see the bird.

We hadn’t seen or heard a Buzzard all morning, which was rather worrying, but started off though the village and back to the Downslink. Wind easing by now and the sky still clear.   Just as we were about to head north, noisy gulls turned out to be mobbing a Red Kite, which was a nice bonus.  A lovely flock of Fieldfares (c30) and Redwings (c70) were feeding on the saturated ground south-east of Betley Bridge. Not until we got well on the way to Partridge Green did we finally get that Buzzard as one flew across by the wet area on the east side.  Dusk was beginning to fall as we wandered back along the river.  AKestrel was hovering, and a Barn Owl obligingly put in a brief appearance for us near Great Betley.  That was probably it we thought as we took the fishermen’s path to Stonepit Lane, but then a Tawny Owl hooted loudly from near the river.  We were slightly deflated as my log book only showed 59 species, and there were moves afoot to bribe the recorder to allow the Coal Tit!  However, a tot up of the species later in the evening, revealed that Jackdaws and Carrion Crows we had seen right at the start weren’t included so the final total was 61.  Definitely one of our better efforts, and without managing Yellowhammer, Goldcrest or – would you credit it – Pheasant!

Photos of Grey Wagtail, assorted ducks in the lovely blue water, and the evening walk back along the river.

When adding together all the species we have seen on our Races,  it comes to 86, quite remarkable really!