Sunday 1 January 2012

New Year's Day Birding - RKH

On New Year's Day I try and get my year list off to a good start by trying to see as many species within 10km of home. The limit was an attempt to reduce amount of time spent driving and increase time in the field. Home for the last 10 years has been the village of Henlow. I started the day at first light on my local patch with several Robins singing under the street lights. Two species of owl performed nicely with both Tawny Owl and Little Owl calling, although a bat patrolling the edge of a small plantation was more unexpected. As the sun rose, the birds became more active: both Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush were singing and Great Tit was my 20th species at 07:55. The fields to the east of Poppy Hill lakes produced the hoped for Corn Buntings and Yellow Hammers but there were no Linnets. I usually hope for 50 species on this circuit but was well short of this total when I returned to the bridge of the River Ivel. Thankfully, the birds responded and I added 10 species in as many minutes. A Kingfisher called upstream from the bridge and disappeared in a flash of blue; a Little Grebe in winter plumage fished downstream and a Grey Wagtail wandered along the waters edge. A small mixed flock moved through the riverside trees including Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Treecreeper and Nuthatch while where the River Hiz widens out into pool behind the Grange was a single Green Sandpiper. The Little Egret which I see regularly was conspicuous by its absent as it always sems to be on New Years Day! House Sparrows in a neighbours garden, seen as I returned home for breakfast, were the 54th species of the morning. Out in the car later I drove via Stanford, Southill and Swiss Gardens to Broom gravel pits. At Stanford, I had my biggest dip of the day. As I was closing the car door, I thought I heard a Raven cronk, but it never called again so that was one that got away. Southill Park Lake held more waterfowl than I can ever remember seeing there before including Pochard and Wigeon, while a Red Kite drifting over Warden Warren was a nice bonus as was a covey of eight Grey Partridges in a field north of the Old Warden - Caldecote road. At Broom, I added all the usual waterfowl but no Lapwings, Snipe nor Jack Snipe. As I was leaving Broom, it began to drizzle which slowly turned to rain and I called an end to my day's birding having recorded 72 species. With a more productive afternoon session, which probably means more species staked out, it should be possible to get more than 80 species within 10km of Henlow on a winter's day.

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