Saturday, 16 May 2015

Bird Race 2015 - the result!

Yes we can see you!
Male Backcap Earls Barton GP

Adult and juvenile Grey Wagtail
Weston Mill, Northampton

Common Tern
Weston Mill, Northampton

Yesterday (Friday) was spent completing the 24 hour county bird race which resulted in 111 species being detected. Although this is a little short of our target of 115 we were pleased with our efforts, particularly as the hoped-for waders didn't really materialise.

Seven species of raptor, five species of gull, three species of owl and ten species of warbler helped us on our way but as always we missed quite a few birds that simply didn't show or call at the right time. Despite two Mediterranean Gulls being in the Nene Valley currently, neither bird was seemingly present at the time of our visits to Stanwick and Earls Barton (presumably off feeding somewhere) and other birds in situ and singing only a day or two before couldn't be found on the day. Some of this is the time of day - you want to be everywhere early in the morning and by the time we visited some sites in the early afternoon, key species which had been active and singing earlier had fallen silent and couldn't be seen.

John Finlayson saw the best birds of the day with two Common Cranes overflying Thrapston GP twice in the morning and despite his 'phone call to us we didn't connect. We had been on-site only a short time before but had moved on the Stanwick when the birds showed.

Despite birding from Midnight to 10.30pm, there still wasn't time to visit a couple of spots in time and a couple of almost guaranteed birds would have been added if we had another hour or so of daylight. We didn't see or hear Ring-necked Parakeet, Barnacle Goose, Water Rail, Woodcock, Snipe, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Wheatear, Whinchat, Long-eared Owl or Corn Bunting. We ate and drank en-route to sites, and were mightily relieved when Helen Franklin met us in the early afternoon to offer up her cake-making and driving skills!

The first couple of hours listening for birds on a cold night provided us with just Tawny Owl and Grasshopper Warbler and then some time after 3am we heard Curlew, Sedge Warbler and Skylark. Not surprisingly various common song-birds began to sing pre-dawn and then of course it was all about picking out specific species within the dawn chorus proper.

In addition to Curlew, waders were restricted to Whimbrel, Greenshank, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Common Sandpiper.

My thanks to Bob Bullock for his excellent local knowledge, net-working and meticulous logging and preparatory efforts, Gary Pullan for his extraordinary spotting, 'scoping and identification skills, Phil Horsnail for initiating the effort and providing humour and excellent all-round naturalist skills to the day and of course Helen for putting up with a load of weary and wearing bird-racers!

Thank-you also to Steve Fisher, Mike Alibone, John Finlayson and others for trying to put us on various birds during the day and to many others who provided information on birds or their absence at locations around the county.


Neil M

Common Cranes over Thrapston GP
These birds were ringed and the observer
John Finlayson took images of the colour
ring sequence so hopefully we will
learn more of the origins of these birds.
Courtesy of John F.

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