Monday 5 November 2012

Clerical Oversight and Elusive Ton

On 26 September 2012 I noted a lone Lapwing flying north over the fields near Poppy Hill Farm. I did not realise at the time that this was the first I had seen on my local patch this year and did not add it to my Self Found Year List (SFYL).

When the Self Found Year List (SFYL) challenge was made in March 2012 I decided I would concentrate on my local patch of Henlow Grange as I knew I did not have the time nor, possibly more importantly, the energy to compete with the big boys. By the time the challenge was issued, I had already recorded 70 species, of which 52 species had been found on New Year’s Day. I quietly set myself the target of 100 species, a target I hoped to reach by the end of the spring migration.

Henlow Grange is in east Bedfordshire, immediately east of Henlow village. My local patch includes the area around the Grange, stretching from the A507 in the south to Langford village in the north. The East Coast Main Line forms the eastern boundary while Henlow village and the River Ivel are on the western edge.. This area falls in atlas tetrad TL13Z and comprises two 1km squares TL1838 and TL1839. The River Ivel and its tributary the Hiz flow from south to north with disused gravel pits, now converted to fishing lakes, alongside. Sadly, none seem particularly attractive to waterfowl. There is some woodland in the grounds of Henlow Grange, not open to the public, and along the banks of the river including small conifer and poplar plantations. The fields east of the river are mostly arable, growing oil seed rape, wheat and barley with some areas of set aside and a few remnant hedges. This area supports a reasonable population of farmland species, including Corn Buntings, Yellow Hammers, Linnets and Yellow Wagtails.  Alongside the railway are some horse paddocks with short cropped grass which are favoured by thrushes and Starlings during the winter months and Wheatears and wagtails on passage. It is possible to walk a loop round Henlow Bridge Lakes in the south and another loop round the fields in the north, but there is only the one bridge over the River Ivel. I usually walk either the southern loop or the northern loop, preferring the latter as there is less disturbance from the traffic noise generated by the A507.

NERVOUS NINETIES: By early May I had recorded 90 species including most of the common summer migrants and was looking forward to notching the elusive ton. Another five species, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Sedge Warbler and Hobby were added in mid-May, all summer migrants that had been recorded elsewhere in the county up to 10-days earlier. A pair of Shelduck flying over and a single Spotted Flycatcher in the lime tree avenue leading to the Grange were the only additions in June. And then nothing new until the end of September. I tried hard to turn fly over gulls into the Yellow-legged variety but lacked the conviction to make a confident id. I scoured the remaining hedgerows hoping to turn up a migrating Redstart but to no avail. A pair of Ravens, cronking as they flew west took the tally to 98 or so I thought.   

Only when extracting data from BirdTrack to write an article titled ‘Nervous Nineties’ did I realise that the lone Lapwing had not been includied in my local patch total. This clerical oversight meant that the adult Mediterranean Gull seen on 25 October, which I originally thought was number 99 became number 100. Not a bad way to bring up the ton!

Highlights of the hundred have been the Woodcock flushed from beside the track on a snowy morning; the male Merlin perched on the wires, which I originally thought was a Mistle Thrush until I lifted my binoculars (my excuse is my glasses were misted with the rain); the spring passage of Wheatears on the horse paddocks with associated Whinchats and the pair of Kingfishers nesting along the River Ivel.

There are a few species recorded in previous years that I have yet to see this year, so hopefully still a few more for the list.

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