Saturday, April 07, 2012

Another Year on the Patch

Written by Gethin . . .

As you might already know, back in late 2009 my father and I took on our new Patch - a place to go birding without having to use the car and also to relax and escape from the women of the house. (DJJ: I honestly didn't write that!).

We wrote a report in January 2011 about our first year on the patch and here, better late than never, is the report about how we got on last year.

The Patch, in north West Cardiff, consists of all of the Forest Farm / Glamorgan Canal Nature Reserve and the land bordering it; the River Taff all the way up from Whitchurch to Tongwynlais and, on the other side of the river, the Taff's 'flood plain' to the east of Radyr.

The Radyr Flood Plain aka 'The Scrub'

Our first ever Year List for the Patch, in 2010, was 84 and we decided to try and break it in 2011 - but this time we would try a bit harder. I put in a lot of after school visits, especially in the autumn. This is how we got on . . .

First Winter

December 2010's big freeze brought in some 'scarce' birds for the patch and most of them hung around into January. Birds like Tufted Duck, Coot and Teal were all picked up without much effort on the River Taff. We caught up with a couple of Common Gulls, a Peregrine, small numbers of Goosander and a pair of Mute Swans. Sadly, some other good birds that had been seen in late December didn't hang around. The male Wigeon had gone, there were no fly-over Lapwings and the Bramblings had disappeared too. But, things were about to improve as Spring crept in.


As April arrived the list of birds began to grow as migrants started to arrive. An afterschool visit proved worth it when I found a Lesser Redpoll, and a couple of Common Redstarts in The Scrub joined the tally. But, the highlight, also at The Scrub was a Lesser Whitethroat rattling away. It wasn't heard again over the next few weeks so we don't think it hung around to breed.

Common Whitethroats were back in good numbers at The Scrub by mid-April and a Sedge Warbler - scarce here, and another bird that doesn't hang around to breed - was seen from one of the Forest Farm hides. As were a couple of pairs of Reed Warbler - which do breed. A Wheatear on April 20th was, surprisingly, the only one of the year.

The view from the 'doorless hide at Forest Farm.

The Summer

We didn't manage to add any Patch Year Ticks in the Summer, but we did manage to get confirmed breeding evidence for quite a few birds: Willow Warbler, Whitethroats, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Bullfinch were the best ones. Nothing special appeared until . . .

The Autumn

The irruption of autumn migrants began on 27th August when I found 3 Whinchats in The Scrub, along with 2 Redstarts and a Tree Pipit. (DJJ: Over the next couple of weeks we saw several different Whinchats and Tree Pipits). The next day the second Lesser Whitethroat of the year turned up and then on the 30th a Spotted Flycatcher was found in the middle of dozens of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. On the 31st I found the year's only Common Sandpiper on the river.

We finally got Linnet and Garden Warbler on 3rd September and Dad at last got his Sedge Warbler patch tick on the 4th (DJJ: finally stopping Gethin's constant gripping off) but a Grasshopper Warbler on the same day was a patch tick for both of us.

My how the Boy Birder has grown - see how much here

The next good bird was a really unexpected surprise . . . I flushed a female Pheasant on The Scrub! It didn't look in very good condition but it hung around for about ten days giving Dad a chance to catch up with it too. Not a bird to get excited about normally but, being a first for the Patch, we were more than happy to see it.

We finally broke last year's Year List record when a Crossbill flew over on October 16th. According to the Glamorgan Bird Club Database, this was the fist record for the patch since the 1990s - before I was born! We were doing high-fives when we also found a Stonechat on the same day.

The final patch tick of the year (number 87) was a Goshawk which flew over distantly on 29th Oct. From there on, we were praying for cold weather to bring in more birds, bit it never came.

So what did we miss in 2011 that we saw in 2010? The really bad one was Tawny Owl. We went looking for one several times and we can't believe we didn't hear one calling. It was one bird we were sure we were going to get. The other species we dipped on from 2010 were Wigeon, Bittern, Lapwing, Brambling and Pied Flycatcher. But, I have to admit I was lucky to get Pied Fly the previous year.

New patch ticks for both of us in 2011: Lesser Whitethroat, Whinchat, Treep Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher, Grasshopper Warbler, Pheasant, Crossbill and Goshawk.

For me: Lesser Redpoll.

For Dad: Sedge Warbler and Stonechat.

Our new Complete Patch List Total now stands at: 96

And our predictions for the future? Well, Red Kite and Marsh Tit have both been reported from the Patch lately. A passage Wood Warbler or Cuckoo would be good, as well as wintering Woodcock, Jack Snipe and Firecrest. Dad wants a Yellow-browed, but the bird I want most of all is a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

We've already had two new patch ticks in 2012, but you'll have to wait until 2013 to find out what they are!!


Wayne said...

What, you've never seen a Lesser 'pecker at the Canal!

SaraJeJo said...

Nice one, Gethin!

Jeff said...

A really nice account Geth,well done.
Keep your eyes to the sky,there's bound to be an Osprey passing up the Taff this week !!
Look forward to you breaking through the 100 barrier.