Each year I make a list of birds seen in my home county of Lincolshire. With so many other things to do involving birding, like twitching national rarities, local patching and days out to places like Spurn and Norfolk, the list was never as big as it might have been. For 2016, I decided to go for it and record as many different species as possible, what a year it turned out to be.
A few things became very obvious in a very short time; (a) What a vast county Lincolnshire is, (b) I wasn’t going to see everything that was reported, (c) The county is massively under-birded, (d) It was going to be exciting.
The size of the County meant many thousands of mile were clocked up, just over 20K in fact! My old faithful motor only broke down once. At busy times I was using 5 or 6 tanks full of petrol per month. A new fan belt, a set of tyres, a replacement exhaust and new battery were needed along the way. My carbon footprint for the year must have been a little heavy, though I did do a lot of walking too, usually 15-20 miles a week. Am planning to do a bit more green birding in 2017. Where I live in Lincs usually means a good trip to get to the hotspots; Gib point 56 miles away, Donna Nook 66 miles, Alkborough 65 miles, Hutoft 60, Whisby 29, Frampton/Freiston 34.
Some would call it madness, but I was sticking with the old adage – the more you put in more you get out of it, and it repaid me with my most memorable year’s birding to date, in fact I added no less than 21 new birds to my Lincolnshire Life list, a couple of them being county firsts. County list now at 276 species.
More useless stats: (just scroll through to the birdy bits if you’re bored). I made the following number of visits during the year to these sites; Frampton 21, Freiston/Witham mouth 32, Gib 19, Anderby/Hutoft 15, Kirkby/Woodhall 16, Alkborough 6, Donna/Saltfleetby area 15, Grainthorpe area 5, Whisby 7, Norton Disney/Thurlby 10 and many other places. Locally I still managed over 120 trips to my local patch, Marston stw, and a twenty visits to Denton res. Learned of many interesting, little known sites that were new to me and met many birders along the way.
The under-birded situation could be a good thing with great opportunities for self-finding of birds. I’m lucky in having plenty of time for midweek birding but even at well known sites like Freiston, Gib point, Saltfleetby and others, full days were completed without seeing another birder. The number of rare and scarce birds that go undetected must be very high. Although Lincs is notably not as good as Norfolk and Yorks, birds are out there to be found. I did get lucky with a few self-finds during the year. Fondly remembered are common cranes at Gib, pec sand at Freiston, red-necked phalarope at Crook bank, Stumpy, the one-legged caspian gull at Norton Disney, (all co-finds with BW), that solitary sandpiper on my Marston patch, great grey shrike at Anderby and many other scarcities and good local birds.
The year started off with a pre-dawn start and a full dayer on the 1st Jan at Bardney and Nocton Fen. Stopping off en-route, the first bird on my list was a tawny owl that was calling from a wooded area near Marston. By the end of the day barn, little and short-eared had all made their way into the notebook. It was quite a productive day overall, with bramblings, whoopers and bewick’s swans, along with the best bird of the day, a great white egret. It turned out to be the only date of the entire year that I saw bewick’s swan. 60 species seen.
The following day saw me on the first of five visits to the Witham mouth during the month. Best birds were: little gull, slavonian grebe, kittiwake, little auk, merlin, black brant, pale-bellied brent, scaup and eider. A shag was a good bird on the 14th.
At Saltfleetby on the 4th, both a greenland and a eurasian white-fronted goose were with a pink-footed goose flock. Snow buntings and twite were on the shore.
On visits to my local patch at Marston, the obligatory green sandpiper and water rail hit the list. On the 5th, a Siberian chiffchaff had been found and a cetti’s showed itself.
Monday trips with my mate Ben Ward became a regular fixture throughout the year, sometimes we would visit many different sites during the day searching for good birds. It was on one of these days that we saw all five grebe species, on the 25th of the month. A smew showed up at Toft res on 27th.
By the end of January my total stood at 132 BOU species. (136, including several well recognised sub species).
It was hard going at times, not a lot was turning up in Lincs. Birds weren’t available to twitch, it was just a case of getting out there and searching for birds. A trip to Messingham resulted in willow tit and I finally got to see a bittern from the hide at Kirkby on Bain after spendind many hours waiting, both here and at Whisby. I also found a drake smew the same day.
Jack snipe was a good bird on my patch at Marston, mid month. Another local site, Belton park was an ever-reliable site for marsh tit and raven. Visits to the Rimac area of Saltfleetby resulted in good views of water pipit and lapland buntings. The final day of Feb. gave Ben and myself our only sighting of the year of a woodlark, followed by shorelark. It took three trips to Cleethorpes to see the shorelark before we connected. It was the only one in Lincs last winter, one of very few in the country. Little were we to know that come October, one of the best influxes for many years took place with as many as almost thirty seen at one site in Lincs.
My list was now on 143 BOU (147 with sub species).
Well, if February was hard graft, March was downright gruelling. No scarce winter wildfowl, no regular over-wintering scarcities like great grey shrike, waxwing, rough-legged buzzard etc. Stuff was turning up in other counties but not in Lincs. A whole day was spent searching for a Richard’s pipit on the 7th that had been found at Appleby the previous day, but no luck. One thing when doing a list like this is that you have to stick at it. I was out birding all month and added just seven new species. A very early garganey was at Willow tree fen on the 3rd.
A black redstart showed well at Freiston shore, good job I went for that one, as I never found or saw another all year. A drake scaup and a couple of pale-bellied brents were also on show.
In the last few days of the month house martin and sand martin appeared and a good day at Gib point on the 29th with BW gave up firecrest. Also we got lucky when we self found two common cranes and a black-throated diver.
Next month would surely see a huge surge in sightings as summer migrants begin to arrive and, hopefully one or two rarities.
The list was now up to a respectable 150 BOU (154 inc sub sp).
My next blog will cover the period from April to august, when things started to warm up a bit, weather and bird wise.