Saturday 2 January 2021

Playing the game all over again

My record-breaking 121 species were not enough to secure the top spot from Nick, who wins the annual Wanstead competition for the 35th year running with a fine total of 125. Neither were they enough to even secure a podium finish on the Original Patch List Challenge - with such diverse patches this levels the playing field for all the competitors by taking the average last three patch list scores as the baseline of 100%. My 121 species equated to a magnificent-but-medal-missing 110.67%. 

But that is so last year - a warm welcome to 2021, and may it be a great deal better than 2020 please, for everyone. Yesterday the alarm was set and I was keenly inking in Robin (again) for the start of the new year. I met James in Reservoir Wood, he too with a spring in his step, and then Rob at Perch, and for the next five or so hours we bounded keenly around the patch chasing down new birds and bumping into a few friends along the way. Most patch birders have already been ticked off, and the other happy news is that all the quality birds from the end of last year had the good grace to stick around, and so Goosander, White-fronted Goose and Med Gull were all safely bagged, along with the long-staying flock of Redpoll in the SSSI. Other uncertain birds, at least for January 1st, included Peregrine, Stonechat, Reed Bunting and Great Black-backed Gull, all of which added up to a really decent start of 62 species before a late lunch - I love a good list and was able to look up all previous January Firsts - the best was also 62 in 2012. I quickly went out and secured a Stock Dove in Bush Wood. This sees me win the non-existent Wanstead January First prize. Stop the count!

I missed Teal, Water Rail, Kingfisher, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush and Grey Wagtail. Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Treecreeper, Firecrest and Woodcock are all also probably out there somewhere so there are still things to look out for throughout January. I will eke them out I think, over-achievement at the start of the month can lead to problems later. February is a different proposition altogether. Cold, dark and generally barren. Best avoided. I am probably living in denial but I am pinning my hopes on being able to go a little further afield next month. If that can happen it can can perhaps sustain me until March. And we all know what arrives in March!


  1. By all means stop the totally got that. Hope you fill in the gaps, till our liberty is secure it seems almost like way back burner to be working on my list, but hopefully after this week...Happy New Year Birding.

    1. Fingers crossed that by the end of this week it is beyond doubt. Happy birding!

  2. Happy New Year from Wisconsin! I can't help but be impressed by the sheer number of species that you can manage on the first day of the year - half your total for the whole of last year! Here, in the frozen north (south of you, but never mind) on Jan 01 I counted nine species. Nine! All at the bird feeder as well (and yes, I did go out). The birds will start to trickle back on to my patch mid-March.

    Meanwhile, thank you for your blog, always highly entertaining and informative. As a Brit abroad I enjoy hearing about our native birds - it seems wrong that American ones are now so much more familiar.

    Happy Birding!

    Jill in Wisconsin.

    1. Hi Jill
      Thanks for getting in touch, interesting to hear how far this stuff travels. I've been birding in the frozen north here in Europe and it is amazing how few birds there are in the miles and miles of forests- small clusters here and there with miniscule species diversity. Nine does not surprise me at all.
      Mid March for us here signals the beginning of "interest" again - as you will probably remember we can perhaps expect the first returning migrants in small numbers then - years vary but on the whole it seems to be getting earlier.

    2. Our problem is that we don't have any reliable open water. If I go a little further afield and find a river, as I did yesterday, there will be Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese and Bald Eagles. But at home, zip. I think that even the birds that are here are intent on conserving energy and basically hunkering down.

      I came across your blog a while ago when you wrote a rant about hides (I think) that was quite controversial and the fallout spread in many directions and somehow trickled down to me. I've enjoyed reading your views ever since.

    3. Ah yes, that hide post. As many people hated it as liked it, split down party lines as you would expect from internet drama.