Mike Weedon assistant editor
It has been a record-breaking year for birds around Mike’s home city of Peterborough. Please indulge him while he fills you in
is asking your indulgence, while he recaps all the great birds he has seen near home in 2018.
We have reached the end of another year, and the start of a new year list. But it is still December as I write, and though like every year, there have been some horrible things, and friends have been lost tragically early, I can at least look back at my local birding year with pleasure and satisfaction. I will try to summarise my 2018 around my home city as succinctly as possible. Please indulge me. The year 2018 will go down as a record-breaking year in the world of Peterborough area birdwatching. Things got off to a great start immediately, when my dear son Eddie, birding pal Will and I broke the 10-year-old New Year’s Day record, racking up 98 species of bird on day one. That’s more than half the year’s list in a single day! And in early May, Will, my friend Hugh and I scored a 24-hour list total of 125 birds, just one shy of the record we set in 2017, and on a day with very little passage. There was something special about this year! My list of ‘self-found’ birds in the Peterborough area during 2018 currently stands at 168 species, just a couple short of my personal record, set in 2014 (but there are still four weeks to go). And, in terms of quality, this has been far away my finest personal ‘finding’ year, here, with Green-winged Teal, Cattle Egret, Pectoral Sandpiper, a flyby juvenile Goshawk, a flyby juvenile Gannet and, best of all, a singing white-spotted Bluethroat being the cream of the crop. I have added three new birds to my Peterborough Bird Club (PBC) recording area all time list: American Wigeon, Montagu’s Harrier and that Bluethroat. But there have been other massive highlights to my local birding year. The early freeze called the Beast from the East brought my third Red-throated Diver, which was at times just feet away. In the summer, I completed a set of all five regular British grebes in breeding finery (and the spring’s Slavonian Grebe was the first time I have seen a ‘summer’ individual in England!). Recently, a ‘winter’ Red-necked Grebe, less than two miles from the office, also showed to a few yards. After a slow start, it has been a great ‘shorebird’ year; I have seen 30 wader species around these here parts; with a Black-winged Stilt in the spring, two Temminck’s Stints (including my first local autumn bird), and Pectoral Sandpiper being real highlights. Some unusual accidental flooding on the Nene Washes during the long dry summer, brought four summer plumage Curlew Sandpipers together (my first local multiple occurrence) as well as the site’s first successfully fledged Avocets, ever (with 11 chicks!). Incidentally, the Nene Washes RSPB had its best Black-tailed Godwit breeding success for years and Cranes continue to flourish on the site. It is a real delight to have such a wonderful place ‘on the doorstep’. Then there were such treats as the outstanding Bittern display action I witnessed in the spring, with two males booming in full view and forming display postures I had never seen before. A singing Black Redstart hinted that these rare breeders could again be nesting in the city, which was once one of their strongholds. And birds such as Great White Egret, Cattle Egret and Raven have never been as easy to see as this year. Also, as the year reaches its end, there are two juvenile Rough-legged Buzzards on the Great Fen, making this a three Rough-leg year near Peterborough; something not many inland sites can brag about! The motivation to go out and see as many birds as possible has been spurred on by embracing the #My200birdyear challenge, even though I never expected to come close to the 200 bird target (189 being the PBC area record total since 2008). Just getting out and about birding has also brought some wonderful ‘other wildlife’ experiences: my best ever views of Otter and Badger by daylight, and the first baby Roe and Chinese Water Deers I have ever seen. And insect highs included an explosion of the local population of one of our most spectacular butterflies, the Purple Emperor. It is still the first week in December and my Peterborough area list for 2018 stands at 192 species (I recently added Crossbill and Red-breasted Merganser), smashing the old record. Who knows on what number this year will end? And then it all starts over again! Happy New Year!
Great White egret, cattle egret and raven have never been as easy to see
Above Red-breasted Merganser, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough; bird number 192 on Mike’s 2018 local year list