Corn Buntings, Lincolnshire

Older birders often lament the loss of birds which used to be common. In fact, some waterbirds have increased significantly in the recent past, and climate change (so far) has had mixed consequences. Yet it is undeniable that agricultural intensification and loss of habitat have decimated populations of species which were a familiar part of the landscape of our youth. The current EWBS may help to give us a clearer picture.

Occasionally there are pleasant surprises. The week before last I heard a report of a roost of 100 Corn Buntings near the Lincolnshire Wash. On a subsequent visit I went to look, and after some searching found a flock of 27 then a different flock of c70 – the largest concentration I have seen in Britain for many years. The birds are likely to have bred within 20 km of their wintering site, so there is hope. At the same time, it is hard not to feel concern about what might be next to slide from common to scarce.

Reed Bunting, Lincolnshire. Here today, gone tomorrow?

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Water Pipit, Lincolnshire

Since my previous post I have mainly been concentrating on studying the individual variation of Wigeon at Eyebrook Reservoir (some photos have been posted on my Twitter feed), and beginning to upload some recordings to xeno-canto.

The presence of a small flock (8+) of Water Pipits at Baston Fen, Lincolnshire, was too good an opportunity to miss so I spent yesterday morning there. Although they were quite obliging, they called infrequently and I had forgotten how quiet many of the calls are; it took about three hours before I obtained any audible recordings.

Goosander, Lincolnshire

Burley Wood 2019 – does anyone know what the new metalled tracks are for?

For those of us who live in Britain, and elsewhere, 2019 will be a year of significant change. We could be forgiven for feeling that the threads of Fate have become tangled, and that our destinies are spinning out of control. Yet even as individuals we can take small steps to help improve the environment. My New Year resolution was to plant a tree – what was yours?

A highlight of our walk in Pickworth Great Wood at New Year was a flock of 50 Lesser Redpolls. Since then, we have had a Blackcap in the garden and there has been an influx of ‘sinensis’ Cormorants. A second visit to our EWBS square at Brooke, on quite a dull day, was enlivened by a Peregrine with prey; this is one of several species which has increased this century and is now a regular sight in Rutland.

Displaying Gadwall, Rutland

Double-figure temperatures have persisted through December, with the result that our lawn (which was parched in midsummer) is still growing – unprecedented.

Notable birds this month have included American Wigeon, escaped Bufflehead, four Shags, Little Gull and two Snow Buntings at Rutland Water; Bewick’s Swan, up to nine Smew, and an interesting ‘dark-breasted’ variant Canada Goose at Eyebrook Reservoir; and a few wintering Chiffchaffs (all resembling collybita).

Teal, Rutland

Goshawk, Berlin

My three chosen highlights from this year are:

A juvenile Goshawk in Berlin in June – looking wild Goshawks in the eye is a rare and elemental experience

A Purple Emperor on my car in Rutland in July Рthey have spread locally in the last three years, but this is the first time it has felt like the Fermyn experience

A Booted Warbler on Out Skerries in August – the only rarity I found on Skerries during my regular spring and autumn visits, and in the good company of Pete Ellis and Glen Tyler

Purple Emperor, Rutland

Booted Warbler, Shetland

Jay, Norfolk – with so much going on, how often have you noticed the small dark ‘eyebrow’?

The last two weeks of November have brought the escaped female Bufflehead to Rutland Water, a flock of seven Bewick’s Swans to Eyebrook Reservoir, and the regular Long-eared Owl roost to Deeping Lakes.

We spent the last two days of the month in north Norfolk, where highlights included Hen Harrier, a small flock of Twite, Pallas’s Warbler, and a small flock of redpolls which included both ‘Lesser’ and ‘Mealy’. On the way back we called in at Eldernell where a pair of Cranes were displaying in the sun.

Twite, Norfolk – numbers wintering in England have declined tenfold in my lifetime

Rough-legged Buzzard, Holme Fen

Since returning south it has been good to catch up with Great White Egrets and impressive flocks of wildfowl at Rutland Water, a returning wintering Whimbrel and Corn Bunting (rare nowadays) on the Wash, and Red Admirals still flying in mid-November.

Two visits to Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire have been rewarded with prolonged views of Rough-legged Buzzard, as well as Raven (which I have not seen previously in the fens), Short-eared Owl and Marsh Harrier. The Great Fen project is a refreshing example of what can be achieved for wildlife if we have the collective will.

Teal, Norfolk – always worth studying the tertial patterns of female Teal