November – December 2017

From Whoopers to Hawfinches, with the spice of more detailed counts of our everyday birds, the early winter period was not without its interest!

Observations

November – December 2017

We conducted the Wetland Birds Survey (WeBS) counts as usual in November and December, but in a new initiative we are now extending the counts to cover a full census of all birds on site through the winter period – our so-called Dry land Bird Survey, nicknamed DriBS (see our blog on the first count in November). This for many species has constituted the first full counts since the Group participated in the BTO Winter Atlas Project in the three winters between 1981 and 1984.

Waterfowl counts were largely disappointing compared with previous winters, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Site conditions may be partly to blame, although numbers seem to be down generally through the region. Thus for example we recorded maxima of 22 Tufted Ducks compared with typical early winter counts into three figures.

Noteworthy counts included 23 Greylags in December, but the best was a short stay by two Whooper Swans in November. Lapwings as usual flocked on site with up to 140 on the RSPB lagoons, and the first Jack Snipe returned at the beginning of November. One Yellow-legged Gull was recorded in the November WeBS count.

Other non-passerines included a Barn Owl on one date in November, up to six Ring-necked Parakeets, and five Great Spotted Woodpeckers in December.

Goldcrests peaked at 35 in November, and there was also a Firecrest caught and ringed, which stayed for two days. A Yellow-browed Warbler was heard but not seen, and there were up to ten Chiffchaffs – ringing suggests these were passing through rather than remaining on site. Single Blackcaps were recorded on three dates.

A single Raven in November was followed by a pair a week later. Records of two and three Treecreepers were unusual. The murmuration of Starlings reached a total of 930; Redwings peaked at 101 and Fieldfares at 30. There was a single Mistle Thrush found on one of our census counts.
Following only one or two Stonechats in November, the finding of four in December was a surprise – had they just arrived or been lurking unseen since late October? A Water Pipit was seen on three dates in November.

Chaffinches peaked at 35, the same as Goldfinches, and there was a maximum of 26 Reed Buntings. Smaller finches were scarce with only two records of Siskin and Redpoll flocks during the period never exceeding six birds. Seven Yellowhammers flew to roost in December. Finally, Rye Meads joined the Hawfinch festival with two flying over in December!

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