Wee­don’s World

Find out how Mike fared on his 2016 Peter­bor­ough year list record at­tempt

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - 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

IT IS AL­WAYS ODD to be still go­ing on about last year, when this is the Fe­bru­ary is­sue of Bird Watch­ing. But that is the na­ture of mag­a­zine sched­ules, and it is only the first week of Jan­uary as I write. And I’m sure you are all on ten­ter­hooks won­der­ing what hap­pened to my at­tempt on the Peter­bor­ough year list record, and that old sta­ple, the New Year Big Day. Well, even if you aren’t, I’m go­ing to tell you. My 2016 Peter­bor­ough area bird list was on 183 species when I last re­ported (six shy of the all-time Peter­bor­ough record set in 2008). The Waxwing flood­gates never re­ally opened down here in Peter­bor­ough, but I was lucky enough to grab a flock of six on a mis­er­able day in mid-novem­ber. These birds dis­ap­peared al­most as soon as they ar­rived and were the only ones in the Peter­bor­ough area un­til a flock of three were seen on 28 De­cem­ber (by an­other birder) be­fore also im­me­di­ately van­ish­ing. On 20 Novem­ber, an­other bit­terly cold, rainy, windy day saw me twitch­ing a dark-bel­lied Brent Goose on the Nene Washes for bird num­ber 185. And a few min­utes later, I found a long-craved Knot at the same site: 186. It looked like this would be my fi­nal score un­til, just be­fore Christ­mas, I found a sin­gle tun­dra Bean Goose (a lo­cal ‘find tick’, for me) and, the very next day ‘twitched’ an Ice­land Gull on the lo­cal tip: 188. And this is how my birding year ended, tan­ta­lis­ingly close, just one shy of the ‘all-time’ record, with my se­cond best ever score (and this in the post-ruddy Duck era, of course). But 2017 is a fresh start, a clean slate. And, luck­ily, the New Year Big Day was go­ing to smash all records. A mix of plan­ning, rec­ces, think­ing and more plan­ning, com­bined with the power of the spread­sheet, had proven that we couldn’t fail to get a to­tal well over 100 species. The birds were in place, ready to be seen, ticked, and left to get on with their busi­ness. It was go­ing to be oh so sim­ple. The spread­sheet told us we could nar­row the whole op­er­a­tion down to three main sites; the num­bers would take care of them­selves. Our team, con­sist­ing of me, my chil­dren (Jas and Ed) and my friend Will, would re­turn with tri­umph guar­an­teed. Glory was ours for the tak­ing. It was all there in the palms of our hands. In­deed, hav­ing ex­am­ined my stats, Will had sug­gested we needn’t even bother go­ing birding, as we could do it all by spread­sheet. In our fam­ily, it is well known that the sun al­ways shines on mine and my chil­dren’s birth­days (in Oc­to­ber for me and Ed and April for Jas). But it is also writ­ten that New Year’s Day will pro­vide ap­palling bird­watch­ing weather. The Met Of­fice had kindly warned us that the first day of 2017 would de­liver a greater than (or equal to) 95% chance of a con­tin­u­ous tor­ren­tial down­pour, through­out each of the few day­light hours. Will was ill, Jas too busy with home­work, so it was left to Ed and I to em­brace the New Year chal­lenge. I’m not re­ally sure why we both­ered. The weather fore­cast was an­noy­ingly ac­cu­rate. But the strength of the spread­sheet’s la­tent truth drove us on. And, re­ally, we didn’t do too badly, con­sid­er­ing; es­pe­cially as we didn’t (or more ac­cu­rately, couldn’t) visit a cou­ple of key sites. A day to­tal of 81 bird species is not ter­ri­ble in pour­ing rain. And we had high­lights in­clud­ing Cat­tle Egret, three roost­ing Long-eared Owls, two Short­eared Owls and a Barn Owl chanc­ing their arms out hunting in the rain; plus three Green Sand­pipers, a win­ter­ing Chif­fchaff, a cou­ple of sneaky drake Man­darins and the de­light­ful spec­ta­cle of 15 Cranes fly­ing into roost. And when you fac­tor in that we didn’t see such ridicu­lous low hang­ing fruit as Green­finch, Canada Goose, Red Kite (a very easy bird around here, in the mod­ern epoch), Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit, the list looks quite de­cent, taken with a pinch of per­spec­tive. It would have been even bet­ter if we had taken Will’s ad­vice and wrapped up warm at home and sim­ply ticked ev­ery bird on the all see­ing spread­sheet. Maybe next year (weather per­mit­ting).

It was left to Ed and I to em­brace the New Year chal­lenge. I’m not re­ally sure why we both­ered...

YEAR ON ICE This first-win­ter Ice­land Gull (right bird) was the fi­nal bird added to Mike’s 2016 list

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