Jan 1st 2013 and the time honoured tradition of a bird race to kick start the New Year! Teaming up with Yvonne, it was a Dawn start at Polemere (the RC Pochard would have been useful!) It wasn't there sadly but Wigeon, Common Teal and Tufted Duck were amongst 18 species on view, none of which would not normally get a mention, suddenly becoming valuable 'finds' for the new year list!! There were no surprise pulse racers here and with the sun just 15 mins old, we set off for VP adding four more ''garden ticks' in Hanwood.
The approach road to VP is worth lingering along, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit and Goldcrest were noted here plus three Goosander flying overhead. VP started with a flurry of ticks, Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard on the pool, plenty of Common Snipe plus a tricky one (when you need one!) Sparrowhawk, mobbed by a Crow fly through. There were no Brambling in the feeder station but Nuthatch and Treecreeper here saved us doing a woodland foray later. The top field wasn't spectacular but nice to see a big flock of Linnets, the odd Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer plus a distant Green Woodpecker in the Cound Stank area. The vantage point overlooking the fishery pool proved to be very worthwhile, nothing 'mega' but Kingfisher and three Green Sandpipers nearly produced high fives, Great-crested and Little Grebe were here too!
Another linger on the drive out this time produced House Sparrow (yay!!) to bring the 50 up plus a female Bullfinch! No Whoopers at the pull in overlooking the floods before the Riverside Inn but Heron and Cormorant were added before a five star bird race species was gratefully taken here, a Red Kite lazily flapping it's way along the roadside! The initial euphoria then, as ever, started to wear off as the going got tougher. Tractor disturbance at a normally productive Shirlett, merely yielded a solitary Mistle Thrush.
The drive to Chelmarsh produced Redwing, Pied Wagtail and Kestrel and then another struggle for ticks with hopes of Black-necked Grebe dashed we came away with just Herring Gull, Water Rail and Siskin added. We were half way through the day, on 62 species (I quipped the 120 is on!) but....as ever the afternoon was going to get much tougher! Never mind 120 after another hour of travel and birdless sites, 70 was looking a tricky proposition?!
With Red-legged Partridge the only new bird seen in over 90 minutes we needed a boost. It came at Priorslee Lake in the shape of Great Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and phew, the drake Scaup gave itself up!!
Bird race then took on a literal meaning, where had the time gone? Rubber was duly burnt getting over to Wood Lane for any one of a dozen or so Shelduck, a face saving Goldfinch and yesssss a Redpoll! The Mere predictably produced quite a few Common Gulls to bring the 70 mark up plus double figure Goldeneye. It was now after 3.30 with just one more venue - Whixall Moss.
The one duck to have eluded us, was a welcome sight on the roadside floods. Two drake Pintail :-) We knew from folk departing the Mosses it was going to be tough out there! It was a worthwhile flog however as two Ravens cronked in flight overhead and then another big prize for the day as we watched the ringtail Hen Harrier in flight low down, for about 30 secs before it dropped down to roost. No Shorties this time but a pretty respectable 74 species for the day! We could have done better but in reality, with no pre-race recce, that's a decent start to the year.... Despite a stake out at several spots in the Haughmond area, no Owls :-(
the tally would have been 75 had, I been in the car with Yvonne later, yeah, she
had a a post race bonus Barn Owl on the drive home......