This time last year I had just finished writing my end of year summary for 2015; ‘A Year to Remember’. As much as 2015 was indeed a year to remember, a record year in fact, with 136 species being recorded in the borough, this year could almost be seen as a year to forget, coming home with a poor 125, plus Cetti’s Warbler which was heard only.
Just one borough tick was added during the year compared to five in 2015. Quite frankly it was a bit of a boring year birding Basingstoke and Deane, with the same birds being seen at the same sites week after week. That’s not to say these birds don’t have merit, of course they do, all birds do. To be fair It wasn’t all doom and gloom and there were a few surprises I suppose, but nothing like the excitement of the previous year.
Of course, if I had added the likes of Glossy Ibis, Montagu’s Harrier, Honey Buzzard, just one Yellow-browed Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Pied Flycatcher, Wryneck, Sandwich Tern, Bearded Tit etc, then it would have been a truly unbelievable year..
There were however some excellent county ticks to be had, including the Stilt Sandpiper at Keyhaven, the Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Titchfield and of course the superb Pallid Harrier in November; all memorable birds.
Here’s a brief summary of how the year unfolded…..
JANUARY was as usual spent ticking off all the common stuff. Notable local species observed during the month were Golden Plover, Stonechat, Green Sandpiper, Shelduck, Lesser Redpoll, Short-eared Owl, Common Gull, Barn Owl, Raven, Chiffchaff, Brambling and Grey Partridge. There was no sign of any Jack Snipe at The Vyne, but I still finished the month on 81, which was actually an improvement on the previous year; it didn’t continue! At Titchfield Haven I managed to dip the Penduline Tits yet again, and never did catch up with them.
Short-eared Owl – Overton, 19th January 2016
FEBRUARY saw the progress slow, but Woodcock, Kingfisher, Tawny Owl, Peregrine and Woodlark were among the additions and Willow Tit was noted at two separate locations. There was still no sign of any Jack Snipe at The Vyne but a Water Rail at the same site was year tick 91 and the final tick of the month.
Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) – Basingstoke and Deane, 26th February 2016
MARCH actually began positively with two Hawfinch seen briefly at Weston Common; my one and only borough life tick of the year and one which was long overdue. A Great Great Shrike (now almost annual in the borough) eventually showed at Laverstoke; always a thrill to see. A singing Cetti’s warbler on the Duke of Wellington’s estate at Stratfield Saye was a first for the site, but try as I might I just couldn’t get a glimpse of it, not even when I obtained permission to visit the following day. The increasingly scarce Little Owl showed at my one remaining reliable(ish) site and later in the month the first Swallows, Wheatears and Stone-curlews took the total to 98. Still no sign of Jack Snipe……the writing was on the wall.
APRIL was a good month, as it invariably is. Firecrest along with the first House Martins, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were added to the list. As in the previous year, four Ring Ouzels graced us with their presence at Beacon Hill, Highclere, AND were seen at the first attempt! Migrants were now flooding in, with Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Sand Martin and Common Sandpiper all noted. A pair of fly-over Oystercatchers were very welcome on the county boundary and a female Redstart was also a surprise, as I don’t usually record this species locally until the autumn. Cuckoo was the final tick of the month as well as the 110th borough species of the year. This was my one and only sighting of Cuckoo in the borough this year, with three more being heard only, one of which probably being the bird I observed.
Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) – Basingstoke and Deane, 26th April 2016
MAY saw the rest of the common warblers mopped up, along with Swift and Hobby and I was delighted to again record Turtle Dove in the borough. Long-eared Owls bred for the third successive year, raising two young and were my 119th borough species of the year.
Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) – Basingstoke and Deane, 6th May 2016
JUNE was as usual very quiet, but as in the previous year the month produced Spotted Flycatcher; a breeding pair in fact, near Overton. Nightjar was the only other year tick during the month. Towards the end of June much of my time was spent monitoring a local Peregrine breeding site, where two out of three of the youngsters had fallen from their pylon nest. The full story can be found under the post titled ‘Referendum Day Rescue’.
Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) juv male – Basingstoke and Deane, 24th June 2016
JULY saw a little (a very little!) return wader passage. A Redshank turned up unexpectedly on a private pond and mud was starting to show at The Vyne; I had everything crossed for a good autumn! A single Dunlin was the first customer at The Vyne……….and the last, in fact the only wader tick of the autumn and the final wader tick of the year; such a contrast to the previous year. A highlight of the month was seeing three young Barn Owls which had hatched in a disused grain silo; it was a bit hairy climbing up there though!
Redshank (Tringa totanus) – Basingstoke and Deane, July 18th 2016
AUGUST was disappointing with just Yellow Wagtail added to the list.
SEPTEMBER was just as bad; Whinchat coming in at 124. Stone-curlew numbers peaked at 23 on the downs on 6th September and is always a highlight in itself; my highest ever local count was 26 in September 2013. These gatherings are always in remote locations and would not be possible to observe (or sometimes find) without the help of estate owners.
Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) – Overton, 25th September 2016
OCTOBER was dismal; no Avocets at The Vyne this year……no nothing in fact; anywhere. Away from the borough there was some consolation in the form of the cracking Shore Lark at Eastoke Bay, Hayling Island.
NOVEMBER turned out to be magnificent……I actually added a year tick! A drake Pintail turned up at Ewhurst Park; Hooray!!!
Pintail (Anas acuta) – Ewhurst Park, 6th November 2016
DECEMBER what can I say….I finished the year on 125 plus the heard only Cetti’s. If only I could have caught up with all those local rarities……
The complete list can be found at http://www.goingbirding.co.uk/hants/listbreakdown.asp?year=2016&observer_id=24&name=Barry Stalker&type=1
As in previous years, I’d like to thank the various Estate Managers, land owners and gamekeepers for allowing access to otherwise inaccessible locations and providing so much important feedback.
I’ve of course been involved with the usual survey work…………
BTO Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts at four sites (some months up to eight), the BTO Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), monitoring of local Red Kite roosts and the Thames Basin Heath SPA Breeding Bird Survey to monitor Annexe 1 species for Natural England on Tadley and Silchester Commons.
I completed my second official season as part of the RSPB Wessex Stone-curlew Recovery Project Team and again held the Natural England Schedule 1 Licence for the species. The project involves locating nests, measuring and weighing eggs to determine hatch dates to aid farming operations, monitoring chicks and assisting at ringing sessions. My focus is the north Hampshire Downs, but I also helped out a bit on Salisbury Plain this year. Across the Wessex region it was another successful year for the species and I’m already looking forward to the 2017 season.
On top of that, I was again involved in writing species’ accounts for the Hampshire Bird Report.
And of course there’s my role as administrator for the Hampshire news service ‘Going Birding’, involving the day-to-day monitoring of the website, following up on unusual records that are posted and exporting and editing the records before sending to the County Recorder.
My final birding of the year was taking part in the Hampshire/Surrey Border Christmas Count, now into its 23rd year. As in previous years, I covered the River Loddon from Hartley Wespall to Stratfield Saye and the Stratfield Saye Estate. This year I was joined by former County Recorder John Clark. No real surprises, but 217 Teal, 37 Wigeon and 97 Mandarin Ducks were notable counts on the duke’s estate.
Thanks to everyone who has followed the blog throughout the year (despite the lack of posts!); I hope you’ve found it interesting.
Looking forward to tomorrow so I can actually tick something off!!
Wishing you all a very healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!