|A male Reed Bunting on the Ridge|
The other highlight from the 1st was not a species that is neccessarily rare here, but one that is extremely hard to see - Woodcock. In 2015 I didn't see any until November, and last year December, so when I flushed 2 from Phillimore, in Winkworth, I was particularly pleased. There are doubtless many out there, but they are so well hidden and have plenty of habitat to skulk in. A fine start to 2017 was rounded off nicely at Bonhurst Farm, with a calling Little Owl and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, that flew over west with a group of vocal Herring Gulls.
|2 Red Kites near Middle Copse|
By the time we'd reached the Ridge the 'big three' of patch specialities had all been seen - Red Kite, Raven and Red-legged Partridge. The latter, a group of 6 birds, were the first I'd recorded since December 9th - this species becomes harder to see in mid-winter, as they either try to avoid or don't avoid the shooters. Apart from a few gulls and many Woodpigeons, not much was moving in the skies, and the Bunting/Finch flock on the sacrificial crops was small, and mainly consisted of Reed Buntings. A sole Fieldfare chakked away here, one of just two seen all day (Redwing numbers weren't exactly high either). We moved on, via Junction Field and Gatestreet Farm, and passed through Wintershall where a sole Egyptian Goose was hanging around with an individual Canada Goose and two monstrous looking hybrid Geese.
|The female Crossbill at Juniper Hill|
We stopped for coffee and a sit down in Middle Copse Field, enjoying decent perched views of 2 Kites. This species was seen in numbers today - at least 8, no doubt the sunshine helping get a few birds up in the air. I hoped for Marsh Tit in Great Brook, but heard none, and Leg-of-Mutton Copse was also fairly quiet. Deciding to go a little off-piste, and through Juniper Hill, I was quickly stopped in my tracks by the sound of calling Crossbills. A picked out a pair, male and female, high up in the conifers, interacting and feeding loudly. Much to my surprise, the male uttered a few notes of song, something I have not heard on the patch before. We enjoyed decent views and left them to it. I was very happy to get Crossbill so early in the year. They turn up rarely, randomly and pretty much anywhere, and I had just 3 records last year. One of those sightings was from Leg-of-Mutton Copse in late November, so perhaps these birds have been about for a bit.
|New Barn Point - a new name, and possible new |
So, Crossbill joins Woodcock and Little Egret on the extremely-pleased-to-have-already-got list for 2017. 66 is a decent start, and I still have Little Grebe, Greylag Goose, Lesser Redpoll, Sparrowhawk and a few other fairly common species to see. A return of the Red-crested Pochard would be nice, and with a couple of very cold mornings forecast for this week Mill Pond will be worth checking