I only made it out on to the patch three times in March, recording 50 species of birds. Five of these species were new for the year, and one was a patch life tick.
The stunning drake Garganey on Jubilee Pond found by Rob S. on 31 March – my first full patch life tick this year.
Winning the local Wheatear sweepstake by correctly predicting 17 March as the first arrival. Seeing it perch up nicely after being found by Tony B.
Hearing my first Cetti’s Warbler (found by Marco J.) on Wanstead Flats (last bird being on the Roding) also on 17 March.
Spring being sealed on 23 March by singing Blackcap and first sighting of Sand Martin.
Whilst pleased to see some of the early Spring arrivals, I missed a few others that my colleagues picked up, namely a record early House Martin and Swallow.
Highlights from elsewhere were:
Adding a new bird to my French Patch list (albeit not the most exciting of additions): Mistle Thrush.
Other highlights of a week working my French Patch were: Griffon Vulture, lots of Golden Eagle sightings, courting Ravens, singing Woodlark, Black Redstart, Stonechat closer to the house than I have had before, Crested Tit, singing Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, and more Sardinian Warbler than you would know what to do with.
Summary: I made 11 visits on to the Patch during September and recorded a total of 70 species of birds; three less than in August. Simply put, September was disappointing and was the only month, along with famously dire June, when I have not found any new birds for my patch year list.
Tree Pipit flying and calling over Long Wood on 8 September was not a year tick for me, but it was one of only two recorded this Autumn by anyone on the Patch.
We have recently had some Autumn passage movement of Meadow Pipit adding to our small resident number, and I may have broken the patch record with 239 personally counted birds over out of a total day count of 257 on 22 September.
A single flock of around 70-80 House Martin (largest flock I have counted this year, by some margin) moved lazily through the Brooms on 12 September whilst the last I saw of our small flock of resident breeders was on 15 September.
Meanwhile small numbers of Swallow have trickled through on 7 of my 11 visits.
I also recorded Yellow Wagtail flying over on 7 out of 11 of my visits, but never more than a couple of birds compared to some of the flocks I had in August.
In an attempt to be ‘half-glass full’, I saw Wheatear on three of the patch visits and Whinchat on two.
Seeing my third different Yellow-legged Gull on the patch this year; an adult on 22 September.
Large numbers of Chiffchaff on the day of the Yellow-browed Warbler, (29 September) with also a few Chaffinch starting to appear in places we don’t normally see them.
Not getting stung by a hornet (see lowlight below).
The fact that for me, and others, it was a pretty poor September given that it should be a prime month for interesting finds. The westerly winds did not help matters.
Shockingly I didn’t see a single flycatcher in September, with this now likely to be the only year I have missed out on Pied Flycatcher.
Missing a Yellow-browed Warbler by minutes. A bird only seen briefly which passed through Long Wood without calling.
And missed a Green Sandpiper passing over head by being about 70 metres too far south and facing the wrong way (one of the most commonly seen birds that I still need for my Patch list).
Accidentally standing directly below a hornet nest in Centre Copse and getting hit on the head by one that launched itself or fell on me out of the nest. Miracle I didn’t get stung. (see highlight above).
Highlights from elsewhere were:
Feeling part of a burgeoning movement for change by joining the ‘Walk for Wildlife’ from Hyde Park to Downing Street on 22 September with the promotion of the new People’s Manifesto for Wildlife.
The bittersweet and extraordinary sight of seeing a Beluga Whale in the Thames.
My birding month in five pictures:
An obliging Kestrel
Yellow-legged Gull by Alex
On the ‘Walk for Wildlife’
A distant record shot of the Beluga Whale – a once-in-a-lifetime sight
Summary: I made nine patch visits in August (although a couple were for very short periods of time) as Autumn migration really kicked into gear. I recorded 73 species of bird in the month, including eight that were new for the year and one, very special, brand spanking new Patch tick (Red-backed Shrike). I also made one non-patch twitch.
Almost certainly the stand-out bird for the year will be a stunning, long staying Red-backed Shrike found by Nick in Pub Scrub on 28 August. I was lucky enough to have great views of it early one morning.
The return of the Willow Warblers with this species appearing in my lists for the first time since May and being spotted on almost half of my patch visits.
Yellow-legged Gull making an appearance for the first time on the patch for anyone this year in August with a recurring sub-adult found by Nick by Alex on the 12 August and a self-found juvenile loafing on the pitches on the 25 August.
An extraordinarily early returning Wigeon on the Roding on 12 August was almost certainly our earliest Autumn record.
Hobby and Peregrine have both clearly bred successfully in the local area and I have had several great views of both falcons.
Fantastic August for passage Yellow Wagtail, with a record patch high for me of 14 over on 30 August, and also my first view of them perching locally, with a flock of 8 that briefly perched in a Hawthorn in the Broom fields on 25 August.
Traditionally the best month for Spotted Flycatcher, although lower numbers than some years. I got my first on 19 August and a high of four all perched in the same bare tree in Centre Copse on the evening of 29 August.
I recorded Whinchat on three Patch visits with a high of five individual birds on 30 August.
A few Wheatear have been seen, but I only recorded one, a male, in the ploughed sections of the Broom fields on 28 August.
Seeing my first Redstart of the year in the Brick Pits. For three out of the last four years I have seen my first Redstart in the last week of August.
Hirundines have been more visible this month, although the breeding Swifts had all left before I got out, so they were not recorded this month. House Martin fed in low double digits around Jubilee in particular, and were accompanied by a Sand Martin (embarrassingly my first and only one for the year) on 25 August, and a few passage Swallow later in the month as well.
Flushing the first patch Snipe of the Autumn from the Brooms.
Missing the confiding Black-tailed Godwit on 4 August on Alex was gutting.
I was disappointed to be one of the only regular birders on the patch to miss Pied Flycatcher in August.
I was also unsuccessful in finding Garden Warbler or Sedge Warbler which both showed in August.
Highlights from elsewhere were:
Getting Stone Curlew on a late evening twitch to Bowers Marsh.
Also finding a Blacked-neckedGrebe at Bowers Marsh, both on 12 August.