Right, to start off this new year I thought that I would do the old review of the year thing. It's not something I have done before but, I know some of my fellow bloggers do and I thought it may be interesting to give it a whirl. So here goes....
It's no secret to those that know me that I absolutely hate the winter, especially post New Year. Now don't get me wrong, I love the beauty of walking on a crisp frosty winters morn but sadly our winters are becoming increasingly grey and wet. I find that on the patch that I have already recorded and enjoyed winter finch and thrush flocks and, with having not much in the way of bodies of water other than a fishing pool, winter wildfowl isn't at a premium on patch. So this time of year I tend to go and visit other sites more to keep my birding fresh.
In early January I visited a local site to see roosting Tawny Owls. On this occasion there was only one showing but it was still great to see, it really is sight that I never tire of.
My next away day was to Chelmarsh Reservoir (Shropshire) with my old mate Tony. We had headed here to catch up with the long-staying Red-throated Diver and see what else was about. We were in luck as I spotted that a sizable flock of Graylag Geese were feeding in a field behind the Reservoir and after scanning through them we discovered a Tundra Bean Goose. There is nothing quite like self-finding birds, it really does give you a buzz!
Other local walks at Eymore Wood, Trimpley and the Wyre Forest added a number of interesting species to the month's tally including: Common Crossbill, Dipper and Mandarin Duck
Back on patch, well you know how I said about a lack of wildfowl, well actually Captain's Pool delivered with a ♀ Wigeon and a ♂ Shoveller present on the 17th January. Corn Bunting numbers peaked this month at 46 on the 13th January and on the 26th January the Linnet flock present along Heath Lane numbered around c.300 birds.
The month was rounded off with a trip to WWT Slimbridge with Mark P to see the vast array of wintering wildfowl and waders. A personal highlight was seeing the huge flock of Golden Plover wheeling about over the Tack Piece after a Peregrine went through but then I guess seeing the Bittern would be a close second
Other than a handful of days out in the Wyre and at Trimpley, and a trip into south Staffs to see the Firecrest at Penn, my time was mostly spent on patch with some good rewards for this time of year, including a patch lifer!
On the 2nd February a Barnacle Goose arrived at Captains Pool and stayed for 10 days.
On the 7th of February I found that patch lifer I mentioned, a ♀ Mandarin Duck. This was only the 2nd ever record for the site and was my first.
On the 16th February, at Barrs Lane, there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull present down on the fresh plough with c.400 mixed Gulls. Also on this date the flock of c.300 Linnets was still present at Heath Lane.
On the 21st February a ♀/imm. Merlin flew through Heath Lane and on the 27th February there were 31 Corn Bunting and 14 Yellowhammer present just off Stanklyn Lane.
At home, my back garden feeding station came up tops on the 13th February when it was visited by my first Blackcap of the year.
Things were starting to hot up on patch in March and an early highlight was seeing a pair of Little Owls back near to a known breeding site.
On Tuesday 8th March I recorded a new patch record count for Corn Buntings when a flock of 76 Corn Bunting was present near Summerfield. 12 Yellowhammer were also present in the area.
On the 17th March a single Curlew was present along Witch Lane.
Another patch highlight came at Witch Lane on the 18th March when a ♂ Merlin was present down on the deck feeding on what looked like a Skylark. This was my first male that I had recorded at Shenstone so I really was chuffed!
The first singing Chiffchaff of the year at Shenstone was heard on 20th March and on the 30th March my first patch Northern Wheatear of the Spring was recorded at Back Lane.
Captains Pool came up trumps again for wildfowl on the 4th of March when Tony S discovered a drake Pochard there. Yet another patch lifer for me, as they are very scarce birds on my humble patch duck pond!
On the 31st of March there were 4 Tufted Ducks (2♂) present at Captains, the first for 2012.
A handful of enjoyable away days were had in March which included a trip to Warnden to see the long staying Yellow-browed Warbler and a superb day up at Titterstone Clee with Mark P when we had cracking views of 3 Red Kites, 3 Peregrines and 5 Northern Wheatear.
Non-birding excitement was provided on the 27th March by 20+ Light-orange Underwing moths that were showing well along the main ride at Chaddesley Woods. A single Orange-underwing moth was also noted.