Friday, 15 January 2016

Birds of Earlswood 2015

I guess this is better late than never. Earlswood finished on 129 species reported during 2015 (subject to confirmation), the highlights of which were:
  • Cetti's Warbler - a bird in reedmace around Terry's Pool, found late one evening in the autumn (MPG), the 1st record for Earlswood. I've been cautious with this record given that it was heard-only but can't think what else it could've been!
  • Goshawk - one over Windmill Pool (P. Fitzgerald), a potential 1st for Earlswood though there are a couple of other unconfirmed reports from previous years.
  • Yellow-legged Gull - a first-winter visited for 3 days during the autumn (MPG, J. Oates, J. Sirrett et al.), a long-overdue 1st for the lakes, and the 2nd record for Earlswood.
  • Caspian Gull - a second-winter visited the lakes early in the year (J. Chidwick, B. Philp, T. Philp, MPG et al.), and returned in third-winter plumage during the autumn (J. Oates et al.) and has just about made it into 2016, there only being one previous record of this species back in 2003.
  • Short-eared Owl - one over Manor Farm (J. Oates), the 3rd record for Earlswood.
  • Ring Ouzel - a male at Gypsy Lane (MPG), the 3rd record for Earlswood.
  • Red-breasted Merganser - a pair seen flying over the lakes (A. Archer), the 3rd or 4th record for Earlswood subject to confirmation.
  • Hawfinch - a bird seen flying over the lakes and later seen in a yew tree at Manor Farm (MPG), the first record for Earlswood since 1949. Being both a finch and a county rarity, and me having only seen the species once before in the Forest of Dean, this was the top patch bird of the year for me! Sorry gulls and heard-only birds!
  • Firecrest - a male briefly around Terry's Pool (MPG, J. Sirrett), the 4th I've found at Earlswood!
  • All 10 species of gull on the Earlswood list being recorded during the year, this including Kittiwake, Little, Mediterranean and Great Black-backed besides the above two.
Other birds noted in 2015 which haven't occurred annually in recent years were a Goldeneye, long-staying Pintail, 4 Red Kites, a Dunlin, Greenshank, Little Owl, Lesser Spotted WoodpeckerTree Pipit, 2 White Wagtails, a few Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Marsh Tits, a few Bramblings and a Crossbill. Another personal highlight for me was closely watching a Cuckoo eating caterpillars along Springbrook Lane, my best views ever of one and the first time I've seen one feeding. A Rock/Water Pipit which flew over the lakes calling frustratingly didn't land and would've made I nice round 130 species.

The systematic list of birds recorded at Earlswood has now been updated for 2015.

I finished the year on 120 species, adding 4 new species to my Earlswood life list: Caspian Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Cetti's Warbler and Hawfinch. This was marginally better than the 119 species I had in 2014 (although of the two new ones I had that year, one was a Yellow-browed Warbler!). The species I missed were:
  1. Red-breasted Merganser (A. Archer) - pair seen in flight from causeway early morning if I recall correctly - if only I'd got up early that day! Fortunately I saw the previous one in 2003.
  2. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (J. Chidwick) - one calling around Terry's Pool, the 1st record since 2013.
  3. Whimbrel (J. Sirrett) - a flock of 4 flew over the lakes in the spring. Especially disappointing to have missed these as I'd managed to see this species for 4 consecutive years!
  4. Crossbill (J. Oates) - a fly-over so not twitchable.
  5. Greenshank (J. Oates) - one flying around the lakes so not twitchable. A bit of a bogey species for me at Earlswood, as I think this is the 3rd recorded at the lakes since my one and only sighting ever in 2011.
  6. Redstart (J. Bowley) - one along Braggs Farm Lane during the autumn. I'd seen birds at Earlswood every year since my first in 2010, but Gypsy Lane just didn't deliver this species in 2015.
  7. Little Owl (J. Oates) - One around Engine Pool was the 1st record since 2012 but sadly appears not to have stayed in the vicinity.
  8. Short-eared Owl (J. Oates) - I was at Earlswood at the time and John rung me up quickly but the bird simply didn't hang around.
  9. Goshawk (P. Fitzgerald) - yep another fly-over, that's six!
Even so, 2015 was my 3rd best year on patch for quantity of species, not bad considering I made much fewer early morning starts than previous years and for that reason I could've done much better. To be honest, I lost some enthusiasm, after facing a moral dilemma early in the year, in which by doing the right thing for my conscience I really hurt myself emotionally and it's taken a long time to accept what happened, clear my head and move on; I won't go into detail but I've largely recovered from this now. Also, I've been studying part-time at university since October, which with coursework and lectures has kept me away from Earlswood for days at a time and will continue to do so for the next 3 years. I must make sacrifices and prioritise though, as uni will hopefully help me to get a job I love with a better wage than my current one, and to ultimately achieve what is now my number 1 ambition of buying a house at Earlswood. 2015 has shown me that I'm happiest when I'm around people, places and things I love, and I am dead-set on living on my beloved patch.

Many thanks to everyone who has tweeted, emailed, texted or phoned their sightings to me. May 2016 bring you good fortune, in birding and life in general :-) x