Finally back to a bit of local birding, and Saturday morning saw me hit the Flats, albeit it only briefly as kiddy duties called. But even my short wander was worth it, adding the female Wigeon that has been tempting me all week, ditto the Med Gull, and as a bonus, four Teal and seven Egyptian Geese, a record-breaking count. All of these birds were on Alexandra Lake, so I suppose you could say that the rest of the Flats didn't get a look-in. Still, it was excellent to be out and about, as the onset of winter is really quite excting.
This is one of the great things about birding a patch solidly, you get to see the seaons change before your very eyes. It's the same every year. Warblers suddenly get scarcer, until one day they're gone. Meanwhile the strong passage of Hirundines peaks and then declines to odd stragglers, and the winter Ducks begin to arrive. Small numbers of winter Thrushes also appear, a couple here, a couple there, until one day you realise that there are thirty Redwings flying around. Finches start moving strongly west, mostly Chaffinches it seems, but Siskin and Redpoll too.
At the moment it's the turn of Woodpigeons and Lapwings. I've been outside for all of about twenty-five minutes today, two opportune cups of tea, but in that short time I counted about four-hundred Woodpigeons in large flocks, all heading west. They were mostly this morning, after dawn, but cup of tea number two made headlines, at least for the garden, when mid-morning twenty Lapwing went over North, seen moments before by Nick out on the Flats somewhere. In context, I've seen exactly two Lapwing over the garden before. That makes a flock of twenty remarkable - though over eighty were seen yesterday on the patch, possibly some of them went over my house too, but I wasn't at home to see them. Shortly after the Lapwing went through, two Redpoll buzzed over before wheeling back. I'd seen two in my early morning stint, so assumed the same birds still knocking about. All of a sudden the whole sky was filled with buzzing and chirping, and from nowhere, a flock of perhaps fifty were wheeling around overhead. Nick, still on the Flats, had counted 38 a short while earlier, but I think there were more than that. The biggest garden count previously was 21 birds, back in December last year. To say I was stunned is understating things. Even more remarkably, from somewhere within the tumbling flock a Brambling made itself known. I've never known them assosciate with Redpoll before, or at least not that I recall, but I'm certain of the call. Nick picked up a larger finch in with the flock when they went back onto the Flats, but couldn't get anything on it.
I finished my tea and went inside, rather chuffed that I had got my timings spot on. Of course, who knows what went over when I was back indoors staring at the computer screen. Presumably a large flock of Golden Plover, a few dozen Brent Geese, and a couple of pale Swift sp, but you can't waste time thinking about what might have been. I'm more than happy with my haul. It's an exciting time of year. I need to think of a way to move my desk outside....