Wednesday, 4 January 2017

2016 at Collingham and Besthorpe

So, 2016 was memorable for many reasons. I got married and moved house; a mass-duping of just over 50% of the British population occurred; someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (aka a lunatic) won the US elections; and lots of famous people died. And it was also a pretty memorable year at Collingham and Besthorpe:

Patchwork Challenge

Whilst again (surprise surprise) there was no repeat of 2013's events, I finished on 153 species and 193 points, smashing my previous records of 139 species (in 2015) and 167 points (in 2013). I’d known that breaking the 140 species barrier was more than possible. However, fully retiring from hockey this year meant I could devote as much of my Saturday's to patching as I wanted (normally), instead of grabbing an hour or two before a match, at best. And this undoubtedly helped...


Running total: 86 species
Number of visits: 9

The year got off to a decent start, with 73 species notched up on the 1st of January, including a Cetti’s Warbler on The Fleet, a Barn Owl in its usual spot, a Chiffchaff by the Silt Lagoon, a Jack Snipe at Meering, a skein of 100 Pink-footed Geese over west late morning, 4 Ruff with Lapwings (which were unexpected) and 3 Woodcock at Besthorpe Warren. Other useful bits included Green Sandpiper and Lesser Redpoll. Visits over the following two days allowed another six species to be added, including Pintail and Egyptian Goose. The highlight of the month came on the 16th with 7 Eurasian White-fronts (a patch tick) in with the feral geese on Smithy Marsh, viewed from Meering, which subsequently moved to Girton Pits just to the north. Goosander and Siskin were added the same day, whilst Scaup and redhead Smew on Ferry Lane Lake were added at the end of the month, the latter a species I had dipped earlier in the month. 

Redhead Smew


Running total: 94 species (8 additions)
Number of visits: 8

A Red Kite on the 5th flying west was my only one of the year, whilst the ever-elusive Little Owls reappeared in one of their favoured spots near the Silt Lagoon. Having struggled with Smew in previous years, it was pleasing to see 2 further redheads on Ferry Lane Lake on the 18th, increasing to 3 by the 28th. An Oystercatcher on the Silt Lagoon on the 13th was the first 'migrant' of the year, whilst a Stonechat by Ferry Lane Lake on the 22nd was good, given how thin on the ground this species is at the moment as a wintering species in Notts. Also on the 22nd, 2 Whooper Swans were in with Mutes on the opposite side of the Trent. At the end of the month, a female Marsh Harrier passing North over Mons Pool on the 28th was the first of several seen during the year. 

Red Kite


Running total: 105 species (11 additions)
Number of visits: 19

An Avocet on the 1st necessitated a quick post-work twitch to the patch (also adding Dunlin); in the end, this proved to be unnecessary, with 2 present on the 23rd, 3 on the 25th-27th, and 4 on the 28th. The 3 redhead Smew remained, noted on the 3rd, 6th and 11th, replaced by a 2cy male on the 19th and 21st. The 11th saw a Kittiwake appear briefly in the gull roost before flying east, a species I have only connected with once before on the patch, with an impressive 95 Whooper Swans flying over north-west in a single group shortly before. The following day, a juvenile Great Northern Diver on Ferry Lane Lake was presumably the bird that had been just up the road at Girton Pits, relocated, which remained until the 19th. On the 13th, 4 Whoopers were on Ferry Lane Lake, with 2 remaining until the month's end. A Little Ringed Plover (plus 12 Dunlin) on the 18th was the first of several passing through, with additional birds on the 21st, 24th, and 4 on the 26th. A notable 95 Pied Wags by Ferry Lane Lake on the 19th harboured just a single White Wag, and had reduced to 4 birds by the 21st. The first 3 Sand Martins flew north through Ferry Lane Lake on the 23rd, with 13 on the 27th and 85 on the 28th, along with the first 3 Swallows. The 28th also produced 3 Little Gulls, on a day when birds were appearing at various sites across the county. However, the best bird of the month waited until the final day, when I located a Water Pipit, nearly in full summer plumage, feeding along the southern shore of Ferry Lane Lake - a first for the patch, and county tick. 

Great Northern Diver
Little Gulls
Water Pipit


Running total: 122 species (17 additions)
Number of visits: 9

After a patch visit on the 1st, which added Blackcap, I didn’t manage another visit for the next two and a half weeks, largely due to spending a fortnight on honeymoon on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsular (described here, here and here). This resulted in a missed Black-necked Grebe, but I would've agreed to that as a trade. As a result, I had a glut on new additions on my visit on the 19th, with Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and my only Whimbrel of the year, on Ferry Lane Lake, which Ken Lomas tipped me off about. Sedge Warbler was added on the 22nd, whilst the 23rd brought Swift, Cuckoo, and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, my first of the PWC era. Common Sand, Hobby, Wheatear, Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler were all added over four visits across the last five days on the month. Also during this period, 2 Avocets were present throughout, rising to 5 on 24th, as were a pair of Egyptian Geese. A Cetti's Warbler was noted in song on 22nd (and subsequently) near Northcroft Pit, whilst the fields south of Ferry Lane Lake proved attractive to Yellow Wags, with 4 on the 23rd, 5 on the 25th, 18 on the 26th, 30 on the 27th and 20 on 29th. 3 White Wags were also noted on the 27th and the 30th. 



Running total: 132 species (10 additions)
Number of visits: 21

A Green Woodpecker at the Silt Lagoon on the 2nd was my first on the patch for over a year, after a strange absence. More migrant additions came at the start of May, with a Greenshank over Parish Field on the 1st (with a peak count of 4 on Ferry Lane Lake on the 9th). A Ringed Plover flew over over the Silt Lagoon on the 2nd, whilst a ‘blue-headed’ wagtail in the fields south of Ferry Lane Lake on the 4th did me out of some PWC points by virtue of the fact that it was in fact a Channel Wagtail - but at least bringing some southern flavour (if not flava) to the patch; this bird was last seen on the 6th, when 2 interesting female-types were also present. Also on the 6th, a fine drake Garganey was on Ferry Lane Lake in the evening, and a Spotted Fly was in the big ashes along Northcroft Lane on the 7th. The first Turtle Dove was purring away near Works Pit on the 9th - it's always a relief when these reappear - and a couple of days later, my only patch Knot of the year was on Mons Pool, on the 11th. The following day I finally got in on the Black Tern action that was happening nationally, with two birds on Ferry Lane Lake. More tern action came on the 13th, with an Arctic Tern in with Common Terns; 4 were then present the following day. The rarest bird of the year for the patch came 10 days later, on the 24th, in the form of a Glossy Ibis. This bird had been seen the previous day at Attenborough, and Mike Warren had then seen it fly north over Langford Lowfields in the evening (a rival patch just to the south); after a slightly desperate search I tracked it down first thing on Mons Pool, and then had it briefly at Meering, before it continued north (then being seen at Lound). Obviously I couldn’t claim finders points for this bird, unfortunately…

Channel Wagtail
Black Terns
Glossy Ibis


Running total: 134 species (2 additions)
Number of visits: 10

June, as is normally the case, was fairly uneventful, with two exceptions – a female Mandarin on Cow-wath on the 25th, and better yet a Sandwich Tern on Ferry Lane Lake on the 26th, found by John Ellis; another patch and county tick. 

Mandarin, with Mallards
Sandwich Tern


Running total: 142 species (8 additions)
Number of visits: 17

A 3cy Caspian Gull on Mons Pool on the 3rd was also seen on the 30th, whilst a trickle of waders began to pass through the site from the beginning pf the month. A Quail calling from the opposite side of the Trent at Meering on the 11th was the first I've had in the general area for quite some time, and a patch tick. Other new birds were a female Red-crested Pochard on the 22nd on Mons Pool (remaining into August) and a long-overdue Black-wit on Mons Pool on 24th. The 26th produced two new additions. The first was a juvenile Wood Sand on Mons Pool (found by Ken Lomas), which required two visits; caused a smashed car window; brought up the much-anticipated 1-4-0 mark; and in the end remained until the month's end. The second was an adult Yellow-legged Gull in the field west of Ferry Lane Lake on the 26th, as species which proved to be rather scarce this year. Two further species were notched up before the month was out, with a juvenile Med Gull flying south through Mons Pool on the 30th (and which was presumably one of two juvs that Mark Dawson had had on the Silt Lagoon on the 27th), and a Great White Egret, also on the 30th, which flew north over Ferry Lane Lake and dropped into Mons Pool, having been at Langford Lowfields earlier in the day (again, no finders points claimed). 

Caspian Gull
Red-crested Pochard
Wood Sandpiper
Great White Egret


Running total: 144 species (4 additions)
Number of visits: 10

August failed to bring any new waders, although both Sanderling and Little Stint were dipped, as was an Osprey on the 2nd, 29th and 31st (and 1st of September) . However, Whinchat and Tree Sparrow were late additions, on the 30th, both within the space of a few minutes of each other at Meering. Other noteworthy records included a juvenile Little Gull and the 3cy Caspian Gull again on Mons Pool on the 13th, a big group of 260 Mallard on Mons Pool on the 16th and a juvenile Black Tern on Ferry Lane Lake on the 30th. 

Little Gull


Running total:147 species (3 additions)
Number of visits: 8

Spending the latter half of the month on Shetland rather limited my options during September, in what would have been the optimum period to find a Yellow-browed Warbler. However, earlier in the month my patch nemesis, Tawny Owl, gave itself up (a species I missed in 2015), with two calling at the Parish Field during a dusk visit on the 3rd. I also clawed back Osprey, finding a bird perched on a post in the middle of Mons Pool on the 8th, along with a Great White Egret which allowed me to claim finder’s points. Unfortunately a Temminck’s Stint the following day didn’t bring the same benefits. Also of note were 2 Garganey on Mons Pool on the 10th. 

Great White Egret no.2
Temminck's Stint
2 Garganey with Teal


Running total: 151 species (4 additions)
Number of visits: 8

A one-day Curlew Sand found by Ken Lomas on the 4th was another wader miss, but my first patch visit since mid September, on the 6th, produced 2 Brambling with Chaffinches in the field west of Ferry Lane Lake, and better still a Rock Pipit which flew from Northcroft Pit towards the Trent, also seen on the 8th. Later in the month, there were 3 adult Yellow-legged Gulls in the Ferry Lane Lake roost on the 20th, and the following morning a Slavonian Grebe, a quality first for the patch, and my 150th species of the year. Then on the 28th, a squealing Water Rail finally revealed its presence, with several birds subsequently heard around the site to the year's end. 

Slavonian Grebe


Running total: 153 species (2 additions)
Number of visits: 6

The fields north of Meering again proved attractive to swans, with 16 Whoopers on the 6th (and smaller numbers on and off subsequently to the end of the year), bettered by 2 Bewick's Swans there on the 20th. A Stonechat was at Meering on the 6th, and only my second Black-wit of the year on Ferry Lane Lake on the same date - a species which has been unusually scarce this year. A late afternoon visit on the 11th delivered a long-awaited patch tick on the form of a Raven in a small corvid pre-roost at Mons Pool.

Bewick's Swan with Whoopers and Mutes


Running total: 153 species (no additions)
Number of visits: 6

And so to December, and hopes of adding a Merlin, or maybe a Bearded Tit (with several at Langford after the county’s first breeding) gradually faded. A 1st W Med Gull was in the roost on the 3rd, and the last good bird of the year was yet another redhead Smew, on the 31st. And so that was that - 153 species for 193 points! 
Having missed Black-necked Grebe, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, and Redstart (all confirmed by others over the year), plus potentially SEO and Waxwing (via a non-birder), I could've reached 200 points barrier with a little more luck. Maybe in 2017..?

Med Gull

2016 patching vs previous years

This will probably be of no interest to anyone but me, so skip to the next section of that's the case!

Across all four PWC years, I have recorded a total of 167 species; however, of these, only 119 have been recorded as a constant in each year. Most of these are as would be expected, but include Garganey and Spotted Flycatcher which could readily be missed with some bad luck. Looking more closely, I have recorded:
  • 14 species in three out of four years (those in italics were not recorded in 2016) –Bewick’s Swan, Brambling, Glossy Ibis, Jack Snipe, Mandarin, Med Gull, Merlin, Red Kite, Sanderling, Scaup, Siskin, Stonechat, Tawny Owl and Wood Sandpiper.
  • 11 species in two out of four years (those in italics not recorded in 2016) – Arctic Tern, Black Tern, Caspian Gull, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Scoter, Great Northern Diver, Great White Egret, Little Gull, Turnstone, Whimbrel and Whinchat. 
  • 23 species in one out of four years (those in italics not recorded in 2016) – Bar-wit, Gropper, Grey Plover, Kittiwake, Knot, Little Stint, Nuthatch, Osprey, Pec Sand, Pied Wheatear, Quail, Raven, Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Ring-necked Parakeet, Rock Pipit, Sandwich Tern, Slavonian Grebe, Smew, Temminck’s Stint, Water Pipit, White-front, Willow Tit.
There are also 11 species on my patch list which I haven’t recorded during PWC – Black-necked Grebe, Crossbill, Curlew Sand, Green-winged Teal, Honey Buzzard, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Spotted Redshank, Tree Pipit and Waxwing. 

And now for some graphs!

2016 vs previous years - species and points

 2016 vs previous years - points per bird

 2016 vs previous years - species cumulative total by 10 day period

2016 vs previous years - visits per month

2016 vs previous years - total visits

Breeding birds

One of the good things about patching is regular visits mean the status of breeding species can be closely monitored. This year, I reckon that 71 species either bred or probably bred, with a small number of additional ‘possibles’ as well as a few non-breeders (e.g. summering Wigeon). Highlights were as follows:

  • Cormorant - I counted 54 apparently occupied nest at Mons Pool on the 8th of May.
  • Little Egret - having colonised the heronry at Mons Pool just a couple of years ago, there were an incredible 34 nests this year. 
  • Egyptian Goose - a pair hatched 9 chicks, the first breeding at Collingham.
  • Tufted Duck - a female raised 5 ducklings at Meering.
  • Grey Partridge - a pair with three chicks were on the track by Besthorpe Meadow during the summer.
  • Avocet - having seen birds on and off during the spring, I'd assumed that these were birds coming up from Langford Lowfields (where they also bred) to feed. However, when two small young appeared on the Silt Lagoon on 12 July it became apparent that they'd bred at Collingham, but completely under the radar! I think they must have nested in the new workings and then walked the young over to better feeding grounds. They then moved over to Mons Pool, and both young fledged successfully, with one of the juvs lingered until 29 August. Only the second breeding here. 
  • Little Ringed Plover - a pair bred in the new workings, although the outcome is unknown. 
  • Common Tern – two pairs laid at Meering, but both nests were predated. 
  • Turtle Dove - at least 2 on territory at Collingham Pits/Mons Pool; however, this species was absent from Meering during 2016 for the first time, so hopefully not the beginning of the end for this species locally. 
  • Cuckoo - a male was heard on several occasions in May and June.
  • Cetti’s Warbler- a bird held territory over the summer. Although I didn't see any young, there were several birds calling in different places around the site during the autumn and winter, so I suspect breeding happened, for the first time.  
  • Grasshopper Warbler - one on territory over the summer and presumed to have bred.

Adult and juvenile Avocet

So all in all, a pretty good year. We'll see what 2017 brings!


  1. Excellent blog, and fortunately not above me, so will help me get to know the area better. Brilliant. Thanks. Doug Aston.