My local patch may not be able to offer any Golden Eagles (more’s the pity) but that’s not to say there hasn’t been plenty of interest since our return from Mull. We’ve had two Red Kites overhead, Long-tailed Tits and Goldfinches in the garden plus a rather extraordinary collection of life centred on a small strand of Beech trees. I’ve mentioned previously that the patch isn’t exactly overflowing with wooded areas so this small collection, together with a neighbouring group of Silver Birch and Pines, has always been worth a look. Green Woodpeckers used to be a regular sight for instance (though their population seems much diminished of late) but nothing has ever come close to the quantity of species currently feasting on a bumper crop of Beech mast.
I spent a couple of hours up there on our first Saturday back (11th) and probably had one of my best patch outings to date. First up were a flock of at least six very noisy Goldcrests, a new year tick, closely followed by a family group of five Bullfinches which more than doubled my previous highest patch count. Two Jays swept through though didn’t stay long whilst a supporting cast of Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Song Thrush and Blackbird were all observed at very close quarters. There were even a couple of Squirrels, another local rarity, whose antics were sending yet more Beech mast tumbling earthwards.
A week later and the feeding group remained fairly similar with the remaining Goldcrests being a particular delight. I’ve seen them in the same area once before so can’t be sure if this is a resident family which has become more visible now that the leaves have started to fall or if they are a roving group simply taking advantage of a feeding bonanza. Either way I hope they stick around. There were also a couple of new additions with Mistle Thrushes overhead and a superb Nuthatch making one hell of a racket. Not only was the latter another new year tick but also the first time I’ve recorded the species on patch since a garden visitor several years ago. I’m sure their population is greater than my meagre sightings suggest but for some reason they have proven incredibly elusive.
Moving up onto Bryn-bach-Common the open grasslands there initially seemed deserted in comparison to the hive of activity just a short distance away. A little searching however soon started to turn up the goods with a Common Snipe in one flooded area (it’s been very, very wet since our return) and at least three more Mistle Thrushes. Both resident Stonechats were still around plus a smattering of Meadow Pipits but most of the action seemed to be taking place in a neighbouring field. There a large flock of gulls had gathered, presumably blown inland during the overnight storm, which included a single Lesser Black-backed, four Herring and remarkably twenty or so Common! I admit to doing a double take and even went out of my way to obtain a better vantage point as Common Gull would be a brand new patch tick. Identification confirmed there was nothing else for it but to acknowledge a stellar start to my autumn birding.
Dropping down to the valley floor delivered a couple of Buzzards and another two Mistle Thrushes who seemed to be in the middle of a pretty serious disagreement. Their chase took them literally through the vegetation of a large Holly though who the ultimate victor was is anyone’s guess. After that pickings became rather slim on the ground until a family group of four Bullfinches, perhaps the same as last week, welcomed my arrival back amongst the trees. Having had so much success I fancied my chance at finding a Treecreeper but alas I once again drew a blank. I’m sure there must be one out there as the habitat looks perfect but to date there’s not even been the hint of a sighting. Still, there’s a good couple of months left to go before years end so plenty of time to nudge my tally a little higher.
58 Species / 59 Points