With an exam every day from the 9th to the 12th this month, I’ve spent the last few days getting my head down with revision, and so haven’t had much time for blogging. But, I’ve decided to take a break for an hour or so to write about what I’ve been up to so far this year.
New Years Day, 6:30 am. My alarm has just gone off, and I’m getting ready to go out birding around Cambridgeshire to get the 2017 year list off to a good start. It’s raining outside, and it’s due to be raining all day. Should be fun!
First up, Grafham Water. I get out of the car, eyes peeled and ears tuned in for birding! I quickly rack up the first twenty or so species: various finches calling in the trees, ducks, grebes and gulls on the water, and best of all 6 Bewick’s Swans. I have to look harder for the next species, but I eventually pick out one of the wintering Great Northern Divers near the dam. I scope the water hard from two car parks to try and find the elusive Red-necked Grebe (present somewhere!) to no avail. Ah well, onto Paxton Pits. It doesn’t take long to get my target species: the long-staying female Ring-necked Duck, and Great White Egret. Potentially troublesome day-ticks such as Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers all fell easily!
I then visited Fen Drayton, where the highlight was two 1st winter male Scaup. It was then on to Needingworth Lakes, the coldest and muddiest venue of the day. It was hard work, but trudging half a mile or so through the half frozen mud yielded 7 Smew, including one beautiful male! The last two sites were Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen. A break in the rain meant for an excellent end to the day overlooking the reedbed at Woodwalton. Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, and a male Hen Harrier all made appearances, whilst a Cetti’s Warbler sang, Water Rails squealed, 45 Corn Buntings circled above the reeds, and a Bearded Tit flew across! I finished the day on 87 species, just 8 off the county 1st January record. Not bad for such a rainy day!
I apologise for the lack of photos so far. It was too rainy, and I’m rubbish at taking pictures of birds.
The next day, I went out with Brian Eversham for some less birdy fieldwork. The plan was to look at bryophytes, and see what invertebrates we could find along the way. We started at Flitwick Moor, a wet woodland/grassland Wildlife Trust reserve in Bedfordshire. The reserve is renowned for its Sphagnum bogs, containing over 10 Sphagnum species, including several for which it is Bedfordshire’s only site. Unfortunately, nearly all of it was frozen! The only Sphagnum we (mostly Brian) could identify in the field was Sphagnum squarrosum. At last some pictures! Of Flitwick Moor, and a patch of the moss Polytrichum commune growing amongst the Sphagnum.
Throughout the rest of the day, we keyed out as many bryophytes as we could in the field, but had to bring a few tiny Liverworts back for microscopic identification. The smallest of all was found at nearby Cooper’s Hill nature reserve completely by accident! Brian found it initially whilst examining an already fairly small (10mm tall) Campylopus moss. Under the hand lens, a small strand of the Liverwort could be seen. The leaves can’t have been more than 0.2mm, and some were much less! We managed to key it to Cephaloziella sp. using the field guide, so the specimen remains with Brian for a definitive ID.
Including a few galls and a couple of fungi, I managed twelve pan-species lifers for the day (my only ones of the year so far).
Speaking of pan-species listing, I spent a little while setting myself some pan-species targets for next year. I’ll stick the big boring table (which I enjoyed making quite a lot) in full at the end of this blog, but in short, I’m aiming for 1000 new species this year!
|Group||2016 Total||2016 Ranking (out of 192)||2017 Target|
|Slime Moulds||2||Joint 45th||4|
|Lichens||5||Outside top 50||50|
|Fungi||101||Outside top 50||150|
|Annelid Worms||12||Joint 18th||20|
|Platyhelminth Worms||4||Joint 11th||8|
|Springtails etc.||1||Outside top 50||2|
|3-tailed Bristletails||3||Joint 11th||5|
|Odonata||25||Outside top 50||30|
|Butterflies||34||Outside top 50||40|
|Remaining Insect Orders||14||47th||40|
|Birds||248||Outside top 50||290|
|Mammals||35||Outside top 50||40|