Another year, another slog around the patch for all the usual birds. I don't know why I do it really - after the excesses of last night, a lovely long lie in would have been ideal this morning, and everything I saw today I could easily see tomorrow. But that would be defeatist - all patch birders go out on their patches on New Years Day. Bradders for example went to Kent. So, patch it was, and I was out by half seven. The target, last year's 62. To cut a long story short, we failed miserably (we being me, Nick, Tim, Bob and Paul D). Best of the morning session was a fly-over GBB for a five Gull day, but on the whole today was about the birds we didn't see, as by and large we failed to connect with any of the birds that count as slightly hard. We couldn't find Firecrest and Nuthatch in Bush Wood, nor either of the (so far) two wintering Water Rails. Neither could we rustle up Little Egret, Bullfinch, Grey Wagtail or Kingfisher - all regular birds, if not quite in the omnipresent category. So we missed loads, but in a slight reversal of fortune, Great Crested Grebe was astonishingly present on the Basin - no bird has made it past December 31st for approximately 750 years. Despite this miracle, a disappointing start given the inevitable build-up of excitement. On the plus side it wasn't raining, and it was great to be out.
The best bird of the day was reserved for last knockings, and was inevitably found by Nick once we had made the mistake of letting him out of our sight. We had parted company in the Park some fifteen minutes previously, he heading off towards the Flats and home, and Bob and I off towards where we live. As we were mere seconds away from loving spouses and hot cups of tea, he called with the incredible news of a Little Owl near Long Wood. Nobody has seen one for almost two years, the assumption was that they had been eaten by the Bonelli's Eagles. Needless to say we hastened over there and managed to hear it yelping from the direction of one of the copses. A complete surprise, and almost rescued what has been a difficult day on the patch. I ended up on 57 species, with the nascent patch list on 59 - I missed Egyptian Goose and (somehow) Fieldfare. Still, not completely cleaning up on day one means there are still reasons to go out again before March and the arrival of the first Wheatears....
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