One of the things about birding a site like Collingham Pits is the way it changes within, and between years, partly due to ongoing extraction and restoration works, and partly due to water levels. The year started with water levels the highest I’ve ever seen them, following flooding at the end of 2012, and Ferry Lane Lake was full to the brim. Water levels gradually receded during the spring and summer with the aid of a pump, and extraction recommenced mid-July. As a result, some passable wader habitat had reappeared within the new workings area by late summer. As usual, water levels on Mons Pool fluctuated unpredictably, to the detriment of both passage waders and breeding species, although this site did host the county’s first breeding Little Egrets during the year.
Species added = 76
Running total = 76
My year started with a visit on 5th, which produced 58 species. There were no real surprises during the month, but a Med Gull on Ferry Lane Lake with small number of BHG’s on 27th was my only one of the year. Decent winter birds included Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Brambling, Pink-footed Goose and Goosander. A decent, if unspectacular, start.
Species added = 7
Running total = 83
I actually rather neglected the patch in February, with gulls at Cotham Landfill proving too attractive, and a holiday in Majorca also getting in the way. However, the first Whooper Swan of the year was added, along with a party of 6 Bewick’s Swans (on Smithy Marsh, scoped from Meering) and one of only two Merlins recorded during the year.
Species added = 5
Running total = 88
March was rather slow, but targeted searching for Woodcock eventually paid off, with one flushed at Besthorpe Warren, and a Grey Plover on the Silt Lagoon was the first decent wader of the year. Although not a new addition, a herd of 40 Whooper Swans in the field west of Ferry Lane Lake was notable for its size.
Species added = 20
Running total = 108
An LRP on 1st heralded the arrival of spring, and my visit rate duly increased. Most common summer migrants were recorded during the month, along with two sought-after raptors – a patch-tick in the form of a Red Kite, and a more expected Marsh Harrier (which I chased from Girton as it flew south). April also brought the first Black-tailed Godwit of the year, and a pair of Avocets which briefly took up residence on Mons Pool.
Species added = 9
Running total = 117
Several more summer migrants were added, including Turtle Dove (whose reappearance at both Mons Pool and Meering was a relief). Two new wader species were Turnstone and Sanderling, with three of the latter during the month, and a Yellow-legged Gull was the first of several. Visits at the end of the month were curtailed by a week in Scotland.
Species added = 3
Running total = 120
June was a rather slow month, but Red-legged Partridge, Peregrine and Barn Owl were new additions. Two Avocets made a brief visit at the start of the month (probably the pair present at the end of April and which had relocated to Langford Lowfields), and another 3 Sanderling turned up mid-month.
Species added = 2
Running total = 122
Another week away, this time in France, limited visits at the start of the month, but two new species, both waders, were duly added - the first Greenshank of the autumn, and 3 Whimbrel on the Silt Lagoon at the end of the month.
Species added = 4
Running total = 126
At the start of the month, a Wood Sandpiper on Mons Pool became the best wader of the year so far, whilst towards the end of the month, a Ruff finally made appearance and an Egyptian Goose took up residence for a short time on Mons Pool. A Spotted Flycatcher on Carlton Ferry Lane was the first I’ve seen on the patch (they breed in Collingham village itself) – no Pied Flycatchers though, despite one just up the road at Dunham Lagoons and good passage elsewhere.
Species added = 6
Running total = 132
September was a fairly productive month; a Ring-necked Parakeet (127) which flew through the site on 5th was also a patch tick, and after lots of searching I finally tracked down a Garganey (128) on Mons Pool. Two Little Stints (129) on Ferry Lane Lake were a welcome find (after dipping a bird earlier in the year), and I finally located my one and only Water Rail (130) of the year. Two drake Red-crested Pochards (131) were my only non-self-found birds of the year, and my final visit of the month paid dividends when I found a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper (132) on the old Eon Lagoon at Meering Marsh; with several birds elsewhere in the county, it was good to get in on the action.
Species added = 0
Running total = 132
October was my first, and only, blank month of the year, not helped by time away on Scilly at the start of the month and in Norfolk at the end, although the Pec Sand remained at Meering at the beginning of the month.
|Pec Sand and Ruff|
Species added = 1
Running total = 133
Having not been onto the patch for two weeks, a morning visit on 9th produced the most memorable moment of my birding year (not just on the patch), when I found a Pied Wheatear (133). This bird stayed until the following day and was well twitched. Not only a first for Notts, this was also the first ever inland county record, and a very welcome reward for a lot of time spent on the patch (and not just this year). A moment to savour! And maybe even a challenger for the Patchwork Challenge Best Find prize...
Species added = 2
Final total = 135
I have to admit I was slightly losing motivation at this stage, partly due to the lure of gulls again at Cotham Landfill. However, a nice adult Caspian Gull (134) just before Christmas was a welcome addition. My last visit before Christmas was made on the 23rd, and after time back in Suffolk with my family, I squeezed in one more visit before the New Year, when I finally added Tawny Owl (135)!
In summary, I visited my patch on 116 occasions during the year; some were flying visits, others longer, and sometimes I covered all areas (Collingham Pits, Mons Pool, Meering Marsh and Besthorpe Warren), and other times I checked choice locations. Sometime I even managed two visits in one day. Things like holidays and hockey matches meant I couldn't always visit when I wanted to (or should’ve done), but nevertheless I clocked up a total of 135 species during the year, and 166 points.
So what did I miss? Well, with the last-minute addition of Tawny Owl I had no glaring omissions. However, birds I know of that were seen by others during the year were Black-necked Grebe, Common Scoter, Osprey, Rock Pipit, and Spotted Redshank. No doubt there are a couple of extras too. Other birds I might reasonably have hoped for include things like Whinchat and Stonechat. So 140 would be do-able. And hopefully I'll have some local competition in 2014 - John Hopper would give me a run for my money at Hoveringham!
Postscript: checking my totals, it became clear I'd somehow missed Common Sandpiper off my list, so my final total was in fact 136 species, and 167 points.