Last year I changed my birdwatching habits and switched from travelling around the county, visiting all the popular spots to a more relaxed and environmentally friendly patch based birdwatching concentrating on the area around Hethersett. at the end of 2015 I had seen 65 different species of birds. The challenge for 2016 was to improve on this figure. The first of January saw a ‘garden birding’ start to the yearly count. No point going mad when you have had so little sleep from the night before.
The first days garden list was 1. Black-headed gull a regular winter flyover bird 2. blue tit 3. chaffinch. 4. Collared dove 5. Great tit 6 House sparrow 7.Jackdaw, 8.Robin 9. a flyover Rook, 10. starling and lastly 11. woodpigeon. After the short, half hearted first day I managed to catch up with a few more garden regulars over the next couple of days including 12. blackbird, 13.dunnock, 14.wren and 15. Magpie.
It wasn’t until January the 5th that I had a chance to stretch my legs around the village and I headed East to the Hethersett Hall. On route I picked up 16. herring gull and the ever present 17. carrion crow. In the woods around the hall followed 18. Jay and 19. singing song thrush. The slopes near the halls lakes revealed 20. mallard and 21. moorhen and 22. Egyptian Goose. The lake itself was to hold my first recorded local 23. goosander and 24. gadwall making a great early start to the year with two locally rare ducks. The day also saw my first 25. longtailed tit and 26. goldcrest the villages smallest bird.
A couple of days later on the outskirts of the West of the village saw a raptor fest. After the stroll initially located 27. pheasant and 28. goldfinch A calling 29.buzzard closely followed by 30. sparrowhawk and 31 kestrel. Last but not least was one of many 32. grey herons to be seen throughout the year. The next week saw the addition of an outstanding 33. green finch and another visit to the lake produced 34. little grebe, 35.green woodpecker and 36 mistle thrush.
Standing tall at 32. Grey Heron
The 17th of January saw an unexpected pair in the garden with a 37. nuthatch and 38. tree creeper both entertaining in the space of a few minutes. A couple of days later and a singing 39. tawny owl made its present well known. The last bird of the month was one of a pair of male 40. bullfinches eating buds and brightening up a cold grey end to the month. February saw me picking up some stragglers in the form of 41. greylag goose. 42 common gull and 43 great spotted woodpecker . Last for the month but a surprising rarity for the village with very few records was another success on the Hethersett Hall Lake 44. mute swan.
The beginning of March brought about a couple of birds I had missed earlier in the year in the form of 45. Canada goose, 46. coal tit and 47. pied wagtail. The next birds were a couple of winter specialities and not always guaranteed locally in the form of 48. fieldfare and at 49. and my first for a couple of years the delightfully acrobatic siskin which roamed the area in good sized flocks for several weeks.
March was a varied month starting with some firm favourites in the form of 50. stock dove and 51. my first lesser black-backed gull. Next was one of my favourites and by no means guaranteed although they seem to be increasing in number year on year 52. a red kite. At 53. was one of the areas barnacle geese on its stronghold at the great Melton Reservoir and march saw the last of the winter visitors with 54. redwing. April saw both the Norfolk BIrd Race and the return of the summer migrants with 55. chiffchaff, 56. blackcap and 57. lesser whitethroat all back and ready for a mixed breeding season. May saw another first for me locally although it was not to be the last in the form of an 58. oystercatcher which nests at Great Melton.
May also saw the return of other summer visitors with 59. swift, 60. house martin, and 61 Swallow. Other traditional summer highlights included singing 62 yellowhammer, fishing 63. common tern. By mid June there were still a couple more to see whilst out walking, whenever I got the chance, including a long awaited 64. whitethroat and 65. little owl. July saw my second ever 66. village barn owl despite hearing them constantly they rarely show themselves. Those who have been paying attention will also note I had beaten last years score and it was only July. August brought another outstanding bird at 67. a Cormorant.
And after August that was that with nothing else new to add. The early success of the year dooming the end along with a couple of notable exceptions including the worst year for willow warblers and no sign of my local bogey bird the kingfisher. Also missing but on last years list marsh tit and no sign yet for me of a few others from the birds of Hethersett parish list. In part my failing to add any others was also down to my inheriting new local WEBS sites patches at Marlingford and Algarsthorpe. New years resolutions will include maintaining the momentum of this year and adding to the Photographs page and sorting out a videos page as my collection of trailcam videos grows.
I shall leave you with a slightly fuzzy but tranquil shot of early morning pheasants on a misty Winter solstice (I forgot to set date and time) accompanied by the sounds of local rooks and a wren and wish you a relaxing and bird filled new year.
Any further sightings this year will be unexpected enough to warrant their own post so watch this space.