Plenty of optimism usually accompanies the arrival of the new year, and I was looking forward to my first full year's birding back in the Peterborough area despite the ongoing coronavirus restrictions limiting birding opportunities. New Year's Day saw me out on my bike around BLGP and Baston Fen for a green day list. By dusk I had clocked 84 species, all within a few miles of home, with highlights including two drake Smew (present since 28 December) at BLGP and a couple of Water Pipits at Baston Fen. There were, as ever, some glaring misses and I think a more concerted effort with a planned route could hit 90 species if the weather was kind.
Gulls and wildfowl dominated throughout the month, with 2 January producing three different Iceland Gulls in the Tanholt and Flag Fen area. Strangely, they 'disappeared' for much of the month until I saw the paler juvenile at Tanholt on 24th; after this, Chris Jones picked up two at Stanground Wash and they became regular there until the month's end. I decided to try my luck with bread at Fitzwilliam Bridge and it proved a bit of a success (see above blog post).
Meanwhile, Tanholt continued to produce a steady stream of Caspian Gulls throughout the month, with a mix of ages seen.
Whooper Swans have been reaching unprecedented highs on the local fen this winter, spread in several large flocks between Bourne South Fen and Deeping High Bank, with the biggest concentrations in the Deeping St Nicholas area. Bewick's Swan, however, looked to be set to endure another bleak winter – at least until mid-month, when colder weather took hold. My first of the year was a subadult among 70 Whoopers at Stowgate on 9th. Nicholas Watts rang with news of an adult among Mutes on farmland at Baston Fen on 13th. In fact, there were two present and they gave me my best-ever views of the species locally. They subsequently relocated to a large Whooper flock near Tongue End and were joined by three more by the month's end.
Weekly cycles to Tallington Lakes produced the continuing Greater Scaup, which was looking increasingly smart as each week passed and, by the end of the month, could easily have been overlooked as an adult were it not for the retained brown belly feathers. Diving duck numbers were excellent here; the site comfortably holds the highest concentrations of Tufted Duck and Common Pochard in our area (400+ and 80+ respectively), despite the ongoing construction of mobile homes around the lakes! Meanwhile, a count of more than 30 Goldeneye at Langtoft West End Pits was good by modern standards.
Quite a lot of Red-crested Pochard seem to have abandoned their natal home of BLGP and moved in at Tallington. Can't blame them, really, given the amount of shooting that takes place in BLGP in winter. They tend to be a bit tamer at Tallington, too!
Short-eared Owls could still be seen along the Welland and Glen on the calmer afternoons, but the cold weather towards the end of the month seemed to thin numbers out somewhat.
Passerines were a bit of a sideshow in January. The Siberian Chiffchaff was still at Stamford sewage works alongside several Common Chiffchaffs. A huge Corn Bunting flock at Stowgate was real surprise on 7th. I counted 120, eclipsed by an amazing (by modern standards) 162 on 10th. A total of 16 Crossbills were seen one crisp morning at Southey Woods. Finally, settled conditions early in the month allowed for some really nice looks at the local Bearded Tits, including this super male.
The musings of a wildlife enthusiast, usually armed with his camera.