So, its 12th May, approaching the end of spring migration. How is the patch doing?
By this time last year I'd seen 85 species. So far this year I've seen 79. Birds I saw last year that I haven't seen so far this year are Pied (and White) Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Black Redstart, Egyptian Goose, and Cuckoo. Birds I've seen this year but not last are ... Ring Necked Parakeet.
So on the face of it this year has been quite dismal. Basically, its the birds I saw last year, minus some interesting ones. However, as all us birders know, the list doesn't tell the full tale. In my view, its been a good year.
Part of the deal when you take on a patch is that the local is more important than the wider or national. It is a commitment to look out and record the ordinary. Every bird has the same status, irrespective of whether its an everyday commonplace or a national rarity; they are all unique on the patch.
Take today. I will admit I had high hopes; don't we all have every time we go out? but today in particular after seeming weeks of cold northerlies had produced a late and sporadic migration, finally the wind has turned and damp southerlies looked set to ring migrants flooding through. I set out mid -morning and headed for the pond where the recent lack of rain has produced some muddy fringes. No waders here but there was a Little Egret picking its way through the shallow edges, and a Reed Warbler finally showed itself after singing half-heartedly away. a Male Reed Bunting sang. Over head there were, for the first time this year, good numbers of Swifts - about 50 over the full panorama - and about 10 House Martins slowly drifting south.
Down to Feakes Lock, a small oasis of rural perfection, and once again it delivered; a pair of Grey Wagtails on the lock fence, a Buzzard drifting overhead, and a Cetti's Warbler singing from the undergrowth. Back along the path via an active Blue Tit's nest and home.
Other times this year I've had Barn Owl and Little Owl much more frequently and with better views than last year, Kingfisher around more often, more Cetti's Warblers, more Buzzards, more Shovelers, and a new place for House Sparrow, a species whose movements round the patch are intriguingly mysterious. So it has maintained interest on almost every visit.
I popped out shortly after to the Park to walk the dogs and of course birds that avoided me in the previous walk now came out; a Jay flew over, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler sang and a Lesser Whitethroat rattled from a distant hedge. Of the Swifts and Martins, however, no sign. Birds riding the winds on their route to some distant place, just passing through.
From this point on last year there was not too much to add. Turtle Dove undoubtedly the highlight, and then a quite poor autumn. So there's still plenty of time.