January – February 2020

The weather was wild, wet and windy, but the birding was generally quiet; nevertheless there were a few highlights.

Observations

January – February 2020

Yellowhammer in the hand
Yellowhammer (Daniel Whitelegg)

January and February are normally quiet times of year ornithologically speaking, if far from quiet this time around from a meteorological viewpoint; with mild, wet and windy weather predominating. Consequently site coverage also suffered, and of course those who did venture out found small birds in particular harder to find as they sheltered from the tempests.

Wildfowl numbers were largely unspectacular, though a female Pintail and a pair of Goosanders flying over livened matters a bit. There were also up to ten Jack Snipe counted during drag-netting operations.

In the past forty years or so, raptor records have changed more than any other species group; who would have predicted that Red Kite and Peregrine would now be our commonest recorded raptors in any two month period! Besides these, and the usual mix of Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels, a young male Marsh Harrier paid a visit at the end of February.

Records of Barn Owl in the First Meadow on three dates led to speculation that this bird is roosting locally, and hopefully may breed at or near Rye Meads.

Counts of crows are uncommon at Rye Meads so counts of 68 Carrion Crows and 54 Magpies are noteworthy. Two Ravens ticked a few year-lists in January!

Goldcrests have been scarce this winter and a maximum of only four was achieved. A single Coal Tit was seen and heard on two dates, and a pair of Bearded Tits were sporadically recorded.

Up to nine Chiffchaffs in January and four in February were joined on a couple of occasions by a tristis type bird.

Maximum counts of 20 Fieldfares and eight Redwings hide the general paucity of both species so far this year. Stonechats have been continually in the Meadows with one or two usually recorded but a count of four in February was probably more representative of the true population.

A single Water Pipit was seen on two dates but Meadow Pipits have been scarce with maximum counts being below 20 in both months.

Up to 20 Chaffinches and 59 Goldfinches were counted, but aside from a handful of Bullfinch and Greenfinch records there were no other finches.

On a more cheerful note, roosts of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting peaked at 65 and 21 respectively. That’s now the highest Yellowhammer count for 32 years!

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