Happy new year everybody! New year means new year lists! My overall 2008 total is a pretty dismal 75 now, lets think of it as 3/4 of the way to 100...
But this year, I am starting a new list. Now, as I am getting to be a more and more keen patch birder I have decided to start a 2008 Nonsuch Park list... it would be easy to keep track of even if I didn't do it as I went along (I am anyway) because I can always access all my 08 Nonsuch Park records from Birdtrack and wouldn't have to go fishing for records from elsewhere like a British year list.
I made my first visit to Nonsuch of the year today, and it was a great start to the patch-birding year with a total of 30 species seen/heard in 3 hours and 50 minutes (so, obviously my 08 Nonsuch list is 30). It is hard to get much above 30 unless you bird for 4+ hours on a typical day.
I managed to get a few species that I needed for my overall 08 list today too, and I saw my first Nonsuch Siskins!
We left the car at 1:00 pm and the first species were Ring-necked Parakeet, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, an over-head Chaffinch and a Great-spotted Woodpecker.
I find Nonsuch a great place to practice common bird songs and calls, it is where I have learnt most of them and now I detect an awful lot of my birds through sounds only. A whole 13.3 % of my list today where heard only and exactly 50% were detected by sound before I saw them, if I saw them at all and 36.6% of all birds seen today where first noticed by song/call!
There was a large number of Black-headed and Herring Gulls over heard today, the Herrings were mainly 1st winters. No Lesser Black-backed Gulls where seen today.
Tits included Blue, Great, Long Tailed and a heard-only Coal. Long-tailed Tits where around the park in force today and Great Tits making unfamiliar calls created many unnecessary stops.
Stock Doves where mainly only heard but one was seen in flight and one was seen perched in the gardens.
Just behind the woods, at the small mixed plantation near the wood-chip dump in Cheam Park there was a flock of about 20 Goldfinches, I met a keen female Nonsuch birder in mid-December and she told me about Siskins she had seen, so I thought it was worth checking if there were any in the Goldfinch flock, and sure enough there were some! At first I only noticed one, a male then a pair, male and female and then 6! It was the first time I had ever seen them here, and a bird I don't see very often (Embarrassingly I didn't see any at all last year!).
It just goes to show that you should check ALL flocks and ALL birds that are not 100% usual at first glance because you WILL be rewarded with good birds... it works and that's how many good birds are found, and many good birds are found by keen patch birders.
Back to that nice woman- she said she had been birding at Nonsuch since the 80s and had seen 81 species at Nonsuch since then (I've seen 51 since 2004) and compiles an official report for the council to help in management for wildlife at the park... I was both pleased and a bit disappointed that my 'report' is now pretty worthless... but still a good visitors account of birding at the park.
Anyway... she said she found a Dartford Warbler at Warren Farm a few years ago and Stonechat winter there. She said Skylark are found there too and Tawny Owls can reliably be seen at this part of the park too! Warren Farm is not as bad as I thought it was- though when I checked most of the scrub there today there were no decent birds...
She also said that the Little Owl which I thought was a one off is a resident in the gardens and there is another near the mansion house too. According to her, there was a Woodcock a few years ago (shifting the possible I saw here briefly flying right past me a few years ago further towards the front of my mind). And perhaps most surprising is a pair of Teal winter on the ponds!!! I looked there today briefly but had completely forgotten about them so didn't put enough effort in and didn't see them.
Robins, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and only one Wren (usually alarm calling all over) where other passerines seen. And a female Kestrel flew around the gardens.
I went over to the far left side (mentioned in my booklet as a good but under watched area) at half three (intending to be back at the car by four but ended up back at five for reasons explained further on). The dyke was very high today and I had to cross a tiny bridge before getting to the good scrubby area where there was a Great Tit making a strange call (not being familiar with Marsh Tit calls I got a bit excited) and I spent ten minutes locating the source and confirming the ID as only a Great Tit. There was a Song Thrush singing as I struggled through the thick mud in my school shoes and a Fieldfare (one of the day's targets) flew into a high tree, giving just good enough views to confirm the ID. Five minutes later I was suddenly alerted to the loud, high calls of Redwings right above me, about 10 went over (Another target), when I thought that was it and carried on 10 I heard it again and about 15 flew over! I then continued only to hear them again and see about 10 more in bushes right next to me- great views too. By now it was getting dark and the Crows where at their pre-roost assemblies. I saw Ring-necked Parakeets on the ground for the first time, about ten were drinking from the huge puddles at the 3rd no-dogs area near the Ewell and and running along side the long, narrow concrete track through the grassland towards the mansion house. I went into the no dogs area and over to the gate leading to the path- great... it was really deep around there and water was filling into my shoes a couple of metres away from it. I went back to the dyke and found a shallow, narrow part and jumped over- I now had this huge thorny bush to deal with- I took a whole ten minutes getting out of this particularly large bush with huge, thick twigs with nasty thorns digging into my coat as it wrapped right around my back! Eventually I got throught and was on my way home. Now it was ten minutes from full darkness and loads of Crows were on the ground together before they go to the trees away from foxes to roost.