May is an ideal time of year for a bird race with a good potential for Spring migrants and birds generally singing and announcing their presence! Filled with enthusiasm , Shropshire Birder teamed up with Feathered Friend to see what the County could offer….
The now traditional start at Venus Pool had one slight problem, it was 6.00am – thick mist! The middle island was barely visible and no visibility further than that, nevertheless, a quickfire 36 species got the day going. Useful birds such as Garden Warbler outside the main hide and Tree Sparrow at the feeder station, no great surprises otherwise!
Atcham yielded another 16 species including all four species of hirundine, Goosander, flyover Cormorant x 3 and another tricky one for the day – Common Sandpiper! The Wrekin held some key targets and Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper were most welcome followed by the bird(s) of the day – an unexpected brace of Spotted Flycatcher! We were later going to rue not seeing Nuthatch, Tree Pipit and Redstart – should have joined the Dawn chorus SOS crew! 59 species before 9.00 am! Things looked promising but the only predictable fact of bird racing is that nothing can be taken for granted!
A brief cruise in the Allscot area produced Yellowhammer, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and another tricky one – the same Lesser Whitethroat we found in April! A bit of time was lost due to us both catching a near definite burst of ‘reel’ from the car – not far from CJ’s but we couldn’t locate or get a repeat – Gropper was to be another ‘miss of the day’.
Whixall Floods had one remaining Black-tailed Godwit and a nice surprise Ringed Plover! We added Curlew and Hobby (at least three) but the Marshie and Merlin which had been seen that morning went missing. Herring Gull near Wood lane took the tally to 75 species. It was midday and the going was going to get tougher……
15 hours in the field is a bit like running a marathon – and those last few miles which are make or break. That early fast start lulls you into the false reality that huge totals are possible but then the surge of ticks turns into a slow trickle of hard work ‘singles’. Occasional moments got the adrenaline buzzing, Corn Bunting just as we were giving up at Moortown, then at Eyton we had Grey Wagtail and Sparrowhawk in quick succession but you might have guessed it failed to find Grey Partridge!
The Bridgnorth area produced Little Owl, Little Grebe, a long overdue Coal Tit and Peregrine but where’s a Green Woodpecker (another dip) when you need one!! OMG it was now 5.00pm, we were stuck on 83 and we hadn’t got to the Longmynd! Birds up there are not so easy late in the day but we added Red Grouse, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Wheatear and eventually Stonechat (numbers definitely down!) A second dipped dipper at Longnor as we raced back to check VP? This was an inspired hunch, as there were four Dunlin on the island – presumably fresh in plus a bonus Yellow Wagtail which took us up to 90! The only addition to this was a Tawny Owl at Haughmond, no Timberdoodle seen but we called it a day (or night) on 91 at 9.00pm.
The usual roller coaster day (if you’ve done one – you will know what I mean) and it would be easy to curse the missing ‘bogey birds’ (which you can almost guarantee to be conspicuous by their absence) but that’s what happens! Once again though, a decent daylist for Shropshire, some great birding, good laughs, awesome fish and chips and who knows – the ‘ton’ might happen another year?(just tot up the misses!) I think I will keep this monthly chase going though – just for the hellovit…..