Many of us like to reflect back on the year as it closes. From a patch birding perspective I could have some complaints (it wasn’t exactly full of rare birds), but there was also a lot to celebrate; not least of which is the fact that 105 species of birds on the Patch is a year record for me.
But let’s book-end the year: 2017 is finishing much as it began: with a wintering Stonechat in the scrub by Cat and dog pond.
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) – January 2017
Stonechat – December 2017
Each winter we seem to get a female for a few months. Long may that continue. They are wonderful and enigmatic birds.
Back to the numbers. 105 total species of bird seen on the patch. But I want to break it down a bit. I saw five new species for the patch in 2017. This compares with 13 new species for 2016, albeit recognising this number cannot keep going up. But, when it comes to quality of new birds, 2016 still had the edge over 2017. In 2016 I saw Hooded Crow, Ortolan Bunting, White-fronted Goose, and found Yellow-browed Warbler. 2017 was the year of Hawfinch, Little Ringed Plover, and err… Pheasant.
2017 was the year in which two glaring omissions on Patch list finally fell: Bullfinch and Little Owl.
Little Owl (Athene noctua)
In terms of significant omissions remaining on my list, most notable now is probably the Woodcock. I am pretty sure if I put in some time in at the right places at the right times, I should be able to put this right.
In terms of gaps for the year, I was disappointed not to see Ring Ouzel this year and to go a second year without Red Kite. Most of my fellow patch birders got both of these this year.
But, whilst on the subject of disappointments, the lowest point had to be missing a singing Nightingale by a matter of minutes. The bird would only have been a few metres away from me, but deeply hidden and silent by the time I had to leave and catch a flight. Nightingale is one of my favourite British breeding birds – I know, I’m not exactly original! Outside of the Patch, I actually only managed to photograph Nightingale in the UK for the first time in 2017.
Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) – in Kent
Aside from being face to face with a Little Owl, highlights of the year for me included finding and photographing the year’s first (and only?) Pied Flycatcher…
European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)
And joining several of my fellow patch birders photographing the most obliging Redstart I have ever seen.
Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
We had some good quality visible migration, in particular the day in October when thousands of Wood Pigeon were joined by hundreds of Redwing, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, and a smattering of other stuff. That ‘stuff’ included nine Hawfinch, a few Brambling, and a Redpoll. Not a bad morning’s work.
And, of course, the Patch hasn’t all been about birds.
I saw 23 species of butterfly with highlights being Brown Argus and Purple Hairstreak, but missed out on Marbled White, Painted Lady, and – weirdly – Green Hairstreak (weird, given that I saw loads in 2016).
Ringlet butterfly (Aphantopus hyperantus)
And then, there were the galls. I started studying galls this year and recorded 58 on the Patch this year, including one which was new for Epping Forest (Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasp). Few are as impressive as Robin’s Pincushion.
Robin’s Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae)
I began 2017 planning to focus on survey work rather than year listing birds. Aside from galls, I didn’t do much surveying (my plans to do sparrow census were scuppered by the sheer difficulty and time required to do it properly), and instead I carried on with my patch bird year list.
And so looking forward to 2018… I will restate my resolution from last year: more survey work! I will support the first breeding bird survey on the Patch since 2015. I will also try to do a bit more work on galls. But I still won’t be slow to react if a good bird appears.