With plenty of leave left left to use up at work before the end of the year, I had quite a birdy December locally. Weather was changeable, with some very chilly spells intermixed with much milder and more unsettled days, and there was plenty of evidence of movement well into the month.
One of the talking points of the final weeks of the year was the large influx of Russian White-fronted Geese into the south-east of England. BLGP and its hordes of Greylags have always been a hot-spot for pulling in this species. Two, an adult and juvenile, arrived on 30 November and lingered to the following day, but then left. Then a superb flock of 21 appeared on the frosty morning of 6th, but were lost to view as fog rolled in and were never seen again. I had three fly over me at Thurlby Fen on 15th and it really felt like we were going to have a fruitful winter for sightings ... but that's where the records dried up, with none again by the end of the year.
As I mentioned in my last post, Pink-footed Geese seem to be showing up in the Peterborough area with ever-increasing regularity – and in big groups, too. A total of 475 birds moved north-west over the BLGP area on 22 December, including a group of more than 280. A handful of birds remain among the local Greylags, although they aren't always seen.
The big revelation of the month came after investing in a thermal monocular. They're not cheap, but I can already see why so many are raving about them – finding and observing Jack Snipe being the classic midwinter example, but it's also been amazing for watching Woodcock feeding at night, as well as finding elusive species such as Water Rail and Long-eared Owl, plus mammals including Badger. I couldn't have dreamed of seeing Jack Snipe so well before this month, and now each one gives walkaway views.
The Siberian Chiffchaff at Baston Fen was still around at the beginning of December, and I picked up a second bird at Stamford sewage works on 17th. It lingered for a few days, but on the final day it called. Initially it sounded like a perfect tristis, giving the typical peep call, but then seemingly went through a phase of giving a quiet hueet call, like a collybita. It responded quite strongly to tristis playback, though.
Stonechats remained numerous. Birds were easily encountered at several sites throughout the month, including two to three pairs at Baston Fen and up to four birds around the BLGP area.
I saw the male Hen Harrier again at Baston and Thurlby Fens on 22nd. This wide-ranging bird has been seen as far away as north of Spalding and south to the Nene Washes. It's amazing how far these raptors will rove in search of food throughout the winter.
Gull numbers built up at Tanholt throughout the month, with at least 10 different Caspian Gulls seen in the week leading up to Christmas. The festive season means that the tip is closed for days at a time, and the same applies around the country. Therefore I always find that this time of year can be very dynamic for gulls, with big turnover in both numbers and makeup as birds traverse the country in search of food. This was certainly the case after Christmas; three days of a closed tip saw the Casps clear out, but 30th produced the first two Iceland Gulls (juvenile and second-winter) of the winter, as part of a push of the species through interior Britain.
And so a strange old year came to a close. Back in those pre-lockdown days in February and March, I'm not sure I would have believed it if you'd told me I'd have moved back to Lincolnshire on a permanent basis by the end of the year. It looks like another lengthy lockdown is on the cards for the opening days of 2021, but hopefully there's light at the end of the tunnel as we head into the spring and beyond.
The musings of a wildlife enthusiast, usually armed with his camera.