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
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