Wee­don’s World

De­spite the bonus of an ex­tra day on this leap year, Mike looks to be fall­ing short of a record in his eter­nal quest for the best Peter­bor­ough an­nual list

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - MIKE WEE­DON’S

2016 has been a ‘funny old year’ for Mike and his quest for the best lo­cal list

WELL ANOTHER YEARLY marathon draws to a close. But, as I write, there is surely time to just add a few more surges and mini-sprints be­fore I col­lapse over the fin­ish line, wrapped in sil­ver foil. By surges and sprints, I mean one or two new birds; by yearly marathon, I re­fer, of course, to my Peter­bor­ough area year list; and by sil­ver foil, well, I don’t have an anal­ogy in mind… It has been what can com­fort­ably be called a ‘funny old year.’ No, I haven’t added any Peter­bor­ough area ticks, as such, but the qual­ity in depth has been im­mense for many groups of birds in our lit­tle su­per-patch, about a third of the size of the county of Cam­bridgeshire. But, in other groups of bird, there has been a sorry dearth of di­ver­sity, which pos­si­bly has scup­pered my chances of pip­ping the leg­endary to­tal of 189 bird species I recorded in the hemi-myth­i­cal year of 2008. This year has pro­duced such juicy lo­cal tit­bits as a Rough-legged Buz­zard, a cou­ple of Cat­tle Egrets, at least half a dozen Great White Egrets (which are be­com­ing so nu­mer­ous in the coun­try, they ap­pear to be go­ing the way of Lit­tle Egrets, which can only be a good thing), a few night-singing Quails and Spot­ted Crakes, three Com­mon Scot­ers, Tem­minck’s Stint, Black Red­start and more Red­starts than you can shake your tri­pod at. Also, this year I have seen young Ravens on the nest, newly-hatched Egyp­tian Geese (per­haps the first con­firmed breed­ing around here), and lo­cally reared ju­ve­nile Cranes. But, the glory has come from such tri­umphs as a clean sweep of six tern species, in­clud­ing self-found White-winged Black Tern. Then, there were the four wood­pecker species, in­clud­ing my sec­ond-ever Wry­neck and a grand slam of five lo­cal grebes, in­clud­ing my first Slavo­nian Grebe for five years and my first Red-necked for 11 years.

If an area so far in­land can turn up seven Yel­low-browed War­blers... how many tens of thou­sands have been in the coun­try?

I saw 13 species of war­bler, in­clud­ing my sec­ond ever lo­cal Dart­ford War­bler, third Wood War­bler and sec­ond and third Yel­low-browed War­blers. The Yel­low-browed War­blers were part of an un­prece­dented lo­cal in­flux in Oc­to­ber, which mir­rors the in­cred­i­ble na­tional ar­rival of th­ese tiny de­lights. Around the Peter­bor­ough area, there were at least seven in­di­vid­ual Yel­low-browed War­blers. If an area so far in­land, with such a lim­ited num­ber of birdwatchers, can turn up seven, it makes you won­der how many tens of thou­sands of Yel­low-browed War­blers there have been in the coun­try, this au­tumn! Per­haps the big­gest dis­ap­point­ment on my year list has come from the waders. Back in the record year of 2008, when we had such lo­cal wader havens as the pits at Maxey/et­ton, north of Peter­bor­ough, I recorded 30 species of wader. This year, when such habi­tats are a thing of the past (and hope­fully the fu­ture…), I have seen a rel­a­tively fee­ble 24 types of wader. So, here I am in early Novem­ber, sit­ting on a year list of 183 (another six waders and it would al­ready equal the record!). But, as I say, it ain’t over yet, I’m break­ing through the ‘wall’ and not giv­ing up the race. I can see the sta­dium in the dis­tance, but there is still hope of glory (and it is, as all we birdwatchers know, the hope that kills). Per­haps, a win­ter San­der­ling or a Knot may come down in bad weather, or maybe a Bean Goose will turn up, or a Scaup, or a Red-breasted Mer­ganser or a Long-tailed Duck will swim by. There is still time for a shrike or a diver. Per­haps the cold of win­ter will bring down Ice­land and Glau­cous Gulls. I could do with a Cross­bill or Firecrest. There has been a bit of a wave of Mealy Red­polls re­cently into the coun­try. And surely, we are at long last due that promised in­va­sion of Waxwings. By the time you read this, I may have tasted suc­cess. But more likely, I will have fallen at the fi­nal hur­dle of this (sud­denly strangely haz­ardous) marathon. Well, what­ever, there is al­ways next year. But then, again, it isn’t re­ally a race, it is a way of life. And bird­watch­ing as a way of life is far more plea­sur­able than any long dis­tance slog. In fact, let’s just for­get the whole marathon anal­ogy non­sense! Have a happy Christ­mas and a fan­tas­tic New Year, watch­ing and en­joy­ing birds.

Mike is an ob­ses­sive patch lis­ter and keen wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher in his home city of Peter­bor­ough, where he lives with his wife, Jo, and chil­dren, Jas­mine and Ed­die. You can see his pho­tos at weed­world.blogspot.com

BIRD NO. 179 More than a num­ber, this Slavo­nian Grebe was one of Mike’s key birds of re­cent weeks

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