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February 1st, 2018 in Notice Board by admin



This is a review of 2017 – a spectacular year for birds at Stanford Reservoir.

A few short visits got the patch list off to a good start with the red-head smew and a bonus Iceland gull in the roost on 23 February, a patch tick and little did I know the first of many in 2017!

The first dunlin of the year appeared on the 14th March followed swiftly by a redshank on the 17th, 4 little ringed plover on the same day and the first black tailed godwit on the 18th. This little spurt of waders got me thinking what else we would get as we moved full into spring.

April fool’s day came, as did the arrival of our first oystercatcher of 2017 taking the year list at that stage to a healthy 100 species.

Some time away in Norfolk in early April proved to be costly with a 2 common crane arriving on the 9th April, staying for around an hour before disappearing. Plans were already being hatched to do an early morning return from Norfolk the following day if the birds had stayed but unfortunately they didn’t. Whilst disappointed, they were still a great addition to the Stanford Reservoir list. A red-necked grebe also paid a brief visit whilst I was away. I was back on patch again on the 13th April with little ringed plover
numbers increasing, along with a green sandpiper.

The long tailed duck continued to perform (present since 27th December 2016) and the first swallows began to arrive. On the 19th April a small group of black tailed godwits went through, leaving one bird behind. This turned out to be my first bar tailed godwit at the reservoir (and the first of at least 25 birds to arrive during the spring).

The next day I was up early to have some physio in Stoneygate. I decided to go straight there rather than doing a quick 6.30am check of the inflow end. I arrived at the physio at 7.25am and was back in the car 10 minutes later having a received a message that 3 BLACK WINGED STILTS HAD BEEN REPORTED AT THE INFLOW END. I was home and on the patch enjoying this first for the site at 8.15am. What a fantastic addition to the Stanford Reservoir list and a county tick for many birders from both Northants and Leicestershire. The birds lingered all day along with bar tailed and black tailed godwit and the long tailed duck still performing further up the reservoir – a pretty good day in Stanford terms! I soon discovered in a patch listing year that the arrival of a rare bird on your local patch was fantastic but it also meant that more birders showed an interest in the site (certainly more than normal), with Severn Trent reported a surge in permit sales. I started to see more new faces at the reservoir than I have in the last 10 years. Psychologically I also convinced myself that I needed to “up the ante” in terms of “time in the field” to avoid any big misses – not all birds were going to be as obliging at the black winged stilts especially on spring passage.

A 5.45am visit the following day confirmed that the stilts had departed, the barwit was still present along with at least 20 white wagtails.

I had just put kit in the car on the afternoon of the 23rd April when Mike Alibone messaged to say that 2 black winged stilts had been reported again. As per the other day, the stilts were showing very well at the inflow end and were enjoyed by many visiting birders that afternoon. A whimbrel was a new addition that day, with the long tailed duck still hanging around.

The first greenshank of 2017 arrived on the 25th April in the same area as the stilts, along with 7 ringed plover, 5 dunlin and the first hobby and whitethroat. We reached a total of 10 greenshanks as the next few weeks unfolded.

I had my first wheatear on the 26th April – 1 of only a very small number this year at the reservoir. A message from a fellow birder on the 27th April that he had at least 50 arctic terns that afternoon I was heading down to the patch. After a couple of hours of carefully checking the terns, we reached a conservative total of c110 birds (but probably more). The largest single group ever recorded at Stanford – amazing! April ended with the first little and black tern of the year along with another 8 bar-tailed godwits.

The 1st May proved to be a fantastic day – 3 black terns, little tern, 5 greenshanks and then the arrival of some mid-morning rain delivered a very showy wood sandpiper and grey plover (these two waders taking the patch list to 124 species).

4 ruff arrived on the 3rd only staying for a very short time. I received a message on the 5th saying that a turnstone had been found – the first for 2017. By the time I had reached the turnstone 2 cracking summer plumage spotted redshanks and a grey plover had also been discovered. The waders were now arriving thick and fast. On the morning of the 6th I found the first 2 sanderling of the year, taking my list to 130 species. An unseasonal jack snipe and whooper swan were found in May, with the jack snipe sticking around to the month end, often showing very well on the Leicestershire bank.

More rain on the 17th May meant new arrivals – 27 ringed plover, 18 dunlin and 13 sanderling all together in one flock was an amazing sight at Stanford Reservoir. The first osprey arrived on the 29th May along with spotted flycatcher.

An early morning visit on the 1st June made sure the jack snipe set another record – not only the latest ever spring record in Leicestershire (previous best was May 2nd 1962 at Eyebrook Reservoir) but now the first to be seen in June. June continued to deliver waders including more grey plovers, over 30 black tailed godwits (including a singe flock of 27 birds) and an avocet on the 27th – a pretty rare bird at Stanford and a patch tick for me. The end of the month finished with grasshopper warbler and 2 more little terns.

My general view was that July is normally a fairly quiet month. However, waders continued to arrive in really good numbers – c25 black tailed godwits, a group of 12 common sandpipers, 12 little ringed plover, several greenshank, 2 turnstone, green sandpiper, 3 more ruff and a sanderling towards the end of the month.

1st August was very windy and having done a quick check earlier in the day things looked pretty quiet.

However, I decided to return and walk along the Leicestershire side after work and this turned out to be a very good decision indeed. On arriving at the area known as “the islands”, I started to check through the little ringed plover that had been present for several weeks. However, my attention was immediately drawn to a very delicate, long winged wader looking uncomfortable on the end of one of the stoney spits, as it was buffeted by the strong wind. My initial reaction was either Baird’s or white rumped. As it didn’t look particular settled I concentrated on getting some phone-scoped images, video and some brief field notes. This was a good decision as less than 10 minutes later, it flew towards Blowers Lodge Bay and was not seen again. The bird was a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER – a first for Stanford and a third for both Northants and Leicestershire (last recorded back in the 90’s). The only disappointing part of this was the fact that other birders didn’t connect, with two Stanford regulars missing the bird by minutes. From a patch listing perspective it proved to me that you never know what is around the next corner and the frequency of visits does pay off. This took the patch list to 139 species for the year.
Patch ticks for the year were now becoming scarcer, however with Autumn just around the corner there surely had to be a chance to increase this further and maybe get close to the all time record of 151 species in a year at the reservoir.

Black tailed godwits, greenshank and dunlin continued to pass through the reservoir during August. The total number of black tailed godwits moving through during 2017 finished up in excess of 130 birds (2 of which were colour ringed), an impressive total away from Rutland Water. Unfortunately, autumn wader passage looked like it was going to more challenging at the water levels started to rise and the mud began to disappear.

The autumn’s first whinchat gave itself up on the 20 August followed by a specific target bird of mine, redstart, and the autumn passage didn’t disappoint. The ringing group caught 15 individuals and I was fortunate to see at least 3 of these taking the patch total to 141.

Another patch tick was added on the 7th September in the form of a stunning marsh harrier, which stuck around for a couple of days (total 142). They are normally a fly-through at Stanford so the fact that this one stayed was a bonus.

Strong winds hit the county around the 12th September though the best I could muster was a juvenile arctic tern which I found on the found on the 13th, staying until the 17th.

On the 17th I set my stall out to search for stonechat in an extensive weedy field on the Northamptonshire side. Whilst scanning for stonechat I found a ringtail hen harrier quartering the field. The bird lingered for most of the day and was seen on and off by a number of birders – a real bonus taking the 2017 patch list to 143. On the 20th I continued my search for stonechat in the same place, finally finding one and moving the patch list to 144. The end of the month delivered another Stanford regular in the form of 2 red-crested pochards, patch list 145.

October arrived along with great expectations. Perhaps a firecrest, yellow browed warbler or something else? An Egyptian goose paid a brief appearance early in the month taking the patch list to 146 with the red crested pochard, a greenshank and black tailed godwit lingering on what was left of the islands area. An early morning check on the 19th produced very little and the same was evident on the ringing front having met with Mick Townsend whose return had been pretty poor for the time of year. I returned home and a couple of hours later received a text – the message was from Mick and it only said “dusky warbler”. I raced from the house trying to call Mick but it was going to voicemail (not knowing at the time that his battery had died). I made it down there in double quick time to witness a great birding experience, a dusky warbler in the hand AT STANFORD! My first view photographs were shaky to say the least as I tried to contain my excitement – It was the last bird that Mick had taken from the nets that morning. It was decided to release the bird in the best place for visiting birders to have a chance of seeing it. It was seen twice after release but not subsequently. One of the rarest birds ever recorded at the site (patch list 147).

The 23th delivered patch tick number 148 in the form of a ring ouzel with a group of fieldfare along the disused railway track on the Northants side. I moved my attention to vismigging during the end of October and whilst this delivered nothing unusual the experience itself was very rewarding with good numbers of commoner species on the move. The 29 October delivered 3 great white egrets (patch tick 149). The ploughing of the fields adjacent to the Leicestershire bank on the 31st attracted good numbers of gulls moving between the field and the inflow end. Having managed to miss med gull on at least 3 occasions earlier in the year I decided to turn my attention to searching through the gulls. I drew a blank on the med gull but did find an adult little gull (a bird I had missed earlier in the year). My 150th species of 2017.

I have to say November proved to be hard work at the reservoir but I continued to persevere with regular visits. With the list at 150 I was really targeting specific species now such as med gull, common scoter, scaup and woodcock. I decided to check the dam end on the afternoon of the 24th November and was pleased I did.

The first bird I got on to was a great northern diver, showing extremely well in calm conditions just off the dam. This was a patch tick for me, which moved the 2017 list on to 151. The bird was still present the following morning but soon moved on. This was the third ever record at the reservoir.

I finally added woodcock on the 12 December moving the list on to 152. The rest of December proved to be pretty quiet for me despite a number of visits. I rounded off the year with another jack snipe on the 31st December. So in summary, a fantastic year with a number of highlights (for me and the site):
• Number of individual patch visits made – c260
• Total number of species recorded at the site in 2017 – 159 (previous best 151)
• Total number of species recorded by me at the site in 2017 – 152 (96% of the total species in 2017)
• New species for the site in 2017 – common crane, Baird’s sandpiper, black winged stilt and dusky
• New patch ticks for me in 2017 – 13 taking my overall site list to 183
• My top 3 birds – Black winged stilt, Baird’s sandpiper and dusky warbler
• Jack snipe – latest ever spring record in Leicestershire on 1st June
• Arctic tern – 110+ in one flock (one of the largest ever recorded in Northants)
• Wader species recorded at the site in 2017 – 26
• Black tailed godwits – over 130 recorded

Chris Hubbard For all the latest sightings visit:

Author: admin

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