Saturday 31st December 2016

The only bit of birding I did in the final week of the year was on 28th December, when I called in at the Fauxquets to have another look at the Cattle Egret flock since I was passing, especially since I'd heard the day before that there were now an amazing 12 birds present. I drove past the field down at the bottom where I saw then earlier in the week but they were not there, so I circled round to scan from the top of raptor ridge. I couldn't see any cows, never mind egrets, but just walking ten yards further down the road, I found a hidden herd and saw that there were Cattle Egrets with them. Getting a little bit closer, I managed to count a minimum of 15 birds wandering amongst the bovine beasts in quite a tight little group. Another record count for the island!

 14 out of 15 Cattle Egrets - Raptor Ridge, Fauxquets - 22 Dec 16

14 out of 15 Cattle Egrets - Raptor Ridge, Fauxquets - 22 Dec 16


I have been a keen supporter of the Patchwork Challenge "competition" since it started and it has really given my local birding quite a helpful boost. Before 2013, I had quite a nonchalant attitude to bird recording, barely even writing down what I'd seen most of the time. But now I have something specific to focus on, I record many more of my sightings, not just on my patch, but elsewhere too. The map below shows the extent of my self-allotted patch area. I suppose, from a Guernsey perspective, this is a series of smaller 'patches' but it encompasses the area that I genuinely go birding more than anywhere else on the island.

Below is a graph showing my efforts during the last three years - (I sort of did it in 2013 also but I didn't record in enough detail to put on the chart). As you can see, with 147 points, 2016 was my best total so far, just 4 points more than in 2014. I don't know what the hell I was doing in 2015 - walking around with my eyes shut maybe! But it does go to show that, when you have a patch which is almost totally reliant on migrant species, luck and weather play a huge part in the number of species recorded. In 2015, spring seemed OK, just a few points short, but the autumn of that year was terrible (and I think it may have had something to do with changes to my work times if I remember rightly, which took me a short while to adapt to).

Below is the list of species I recorded on the patch during 2016. The birds in light blue are the four species new for the patch, where I have been birding for almost 16 years now on and off. Greylag Goose was more of a technicality, since it has only recently been countable (as a Cat C species here), although I have only ever seen them a handful of times on patch, since they do not move very much. Coal Tit was part of a small influx into the island and something I particularly looked for in the pine woods of Le Guet. Shoveler was overdue - despite the lack of lakes and ponds, I'd have thought I'd at least have had a flyover by now, since they regularly winter just off the patch. Number one best bird was the Kentish Plover though - a much declining species and the first in Guernsey since 2003.

I did quite well for 6-pointers this year with four species - (six-pointers are "nationally scarce" species that you have found yourself) - the aforementioned Kentish, a Yellow-browed Warbler in October at Rousse, a Wryneck at Pulias in September (I would be disappointed in not finding a Wryneck during the year) and a Short-toed Lark at Fort Hommet in September. This is now the third ST Lark I've found on the patch. Other highlights for me were finding a Lapland Bunting, a Merlin which I haven't seen for ages on patch, only my second patch record of Bullfinch, and the fact that Ravens are suddenly really easy to see here after years of just one or two records.

 Photographed highlights of the patch in 2016 - Coal Tit, Short-toed Lark, Shoveler, Kentish Plover, Yellow-browed Warbler, Lapland Bunting

Photographed highlights of the patch in 2016 - Coal Tit, Short-toed Lark, Shoveler, Kentish Plover, Yellow-browed Warbler, Lapland Bunting

Although I achieved my record score in points, I did not get my best ever species total, being one short of the 107 I recorded in 2014. This year, apart from a Snow Bunting, I found all the species myself. What I could do with is a few other people weighing in with a few species that I can twitch!

Below is a list of the species that I have recorded on the patch since I have been doing the PWC challenge but did not record in 2016. Some of these it is not surprising since they are proper rarities on the patch (eg Coot). The biggest miss was Tree Pipit probably as I don't usually find it a problem to get a few going over both in spring and autumn. Disappointing to miss Fulmar, Balearic Shearwater and Redstart too.

Below is a list of species that I have seen on the patch in the past but not in the last four years of doing the PWC. Some of these are proper rarities, but others you may find surprising. It is obvious that I don't get much seawatching done on the patch due to the few records of stuff like Manx Shearwater and Arctic Skua. The problem with seawatching is that there are offshore rocks that keep the birds very far out and also I do not have the time to sit there scanning for long. If I do get enough time in NWerly winds, then it would be daft to seawatch from the patch when I could be seeing the birds much better and closer from Jaonneuse. Reed Warbler should be more regular and I have no explanation. A lot of these species (eg Lapwing, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare) are only likely when we get a harsh cold snap and we haven't had one for a good four years now.

So, to 2017 and another attempt to beat my record. Hopefully the weather and the birds will be kind to me.