SINCE I LAST droned on about my eternal quest for a record Peterborough area year list, things have a taken a turn for the insane. Each year, I step back at the end of March and take account of how the list is getting on. This year was the ninth I’ve done this review and the total of 127 species ranks as a moderate fifth. But, I figured, that if I really went for it, I could add 30 species in the 30 days of April and really kickstart the year. There are plenty of summer migrants which appear in April and it is a good month for scarce wader passage, chats and so on. Things started slowly and nearly a week in Poland (see June issue) meant I missed at least eight ‘elite’ birds while I was absent. However, as Jo picked me up from Peterborough station on the afternoon of 14th, I heard tell of a newly found Spoonbill on the Nene Washes at Eldernell… Well, you’d have done the same, wouldn’t you? The next day, while cycling in to work, I found a Little Gull at Ferry Meadows CP. At lunchtime, while photographing the same gull, I got a call telling me of a Turnstone (rare around here) on the other side of the lake! On 17th, I twitched a Redstart at Eldernell on the Nene Washes. Things were taking off and on 20th a speedy cycle to catch a typically brief Sandwich Tern at Ferry Meadows really booted the list into action. The next day there were Arctic Terns, and the common migrants were coming in. A Bar-tailed Godwit turned up on 22 April at March Farmers (Nene Washes) and two days later there was a Whimbrel there and a Spotted Redshank. The next day brought a Wood Warbler (my third ever round here) at Bainton Pits and on 26 April a twitchable Ring Ouzel; the 30 from 30 days was really looking possible. And a Little Tern at Ferry Meadows on 28 April (found by former BW editor David Cromack) kept the dream alive. On the last day of the month, I added Caspian Gull, Garden Warbler and Reed Warbler, found a pair of Black-necked Grebes on the Nene Washes, and twitched a small gang of four immaculate spring male Whinchats at Woodwalton Fen NNR. I ended the month on a breathless 161 species, 34 in 30 days! But year lists must go on and we are now halfway through the ‘best’ month. The last couple of weeks have been almost as mad as April. I added Hobby, Long-eared Owl and Corn Crake on 1 May and on 5th jumped on a national bandwagon, finding a neat flock of eight immaculate Black Terns at the Baston and Langtoft pits in south Lincolnshire. The next day, I twitched a beautiful Red-necked Grebe at Crown Lakes CP, which serves the fenland village of Farcet. And the same evening I found a Temminck’s Stint at Baston LUNCH TICK This humble Turnstone was a key player in the growth of Mike’s year list in a crazy April and Langtoft pits. Oh, and the next day, I was back on the Nene Washes finding a black-bellied Grey Plover. So things stood, until last weekend (14th May) when I was back at the Nene Washes. I arrived at March Farmers, scanned a flooded field and immediately saw Black Terns (plural). I set up the scope and counted 15 of the beauties. They soon flew off, heading west, but settled after a few hundred metres. So, I scoped them again for a recount, a tad against the light. Now there were 16 birds and one of them surely had paler wings and tail. A White-winged Black Tern? I started jogging to catch the flock up before it moved on. Luckily, they stayed roughly together and I could confirm that I had a UK find-tick in White-winged Black Tern. As I was calling out the news to a friend, though, a second bird flew into view! I was alone with arguably my best ever local find and the birds were ‘antsy’, about to leave any moment. The first recruit came running along the bank, Hugh Wright, with his barely year-old son on his shoulders, no scope. I rushed to meet them with my scope, but the terns had gone. Luckily, Hugh picked them up again perhaps a kilometre east of us. A decent quorum of birders came to see those terns, that evening. And while we watched them, three Short-eared Owls, Hobby, two Whimbrels, Garganey, Arctic Tern and a fly-by Bittern provided decent back-up entertainment. Later that evening, my terns were almost forgotten, as the first Cambridgeshire Great Reed Warbler for 34 years was found at Paxton Pits. But that is not the Peterborough area, so what do I care? I’m rather pleased with my find and have clocked up a round 170 for the year, so far! What’s next?
As I was calling out the news to a friend, though, a second bird flew into view. I was alone with my best ever local find