After the rainy days at the end of November, a few bright, cold, crisp mornings in December were really welcome. Especially as it meant that I could venture out on my patch at Newchurch Common. In three morning visits in a week the patch was shown at its best in the last month of the year.
The star bird that always attracts the most visiting birders showed on all three visits, and always in West Bay on Sandiway Big Pool, namely the female Smew. She was often asleep but by being present at years-end it guarantees an influx of birders in January to add her to their yearlists. Other attractions on the pools were more sawbills in the shape of Goosanders. A maximum of 10 were seen including three stunning drakes. Other wildfowl included 2 drake Pochards, 4(1 drake) Shoveler, at least 1 Teal, 13 Greylag Geese and the ever growing numbers of Tufted Ducks, Wigeon and Gadwall. A really nice bird on one visit was a Kingfisher flashing electric blue across Big Pool. This species is seen only in winter here but this year has been a poor one for them, so it was nice to see one this week. Another species not seen very often but recorded this week was a Grey Wagtail which flew over on the north side of Big Pool. Other birds around the pools which are noteworthy here were a Lesser Black-backed Gull and two Herring Gulls, joining the usual Black-headed and Common Gulls.
One really welcome feature this winter has been an area of setaside on the north side of Big Pool. This is inaccessible but with patience birds can be seen as they rest up in hedgerows near the field. By patient observation I recorded 4 Yellowhammers, 7 Reed Buntings, 2 Bramblings as the star birds, but also seen were c.500 Chaffinches and numerous House Sparrows and Starlings all using this invaluable resource. 100 Siskins roamed the site, finding alders to feed on and attracting Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinches to these feeding flocks too. One of the special birds here is Green Woodpecker and 2 were seen in the horse paddocks where up to 40 Redwings and 30 Fieldfares were also seen. A real star find was a Woodcock which flushed out of an area of birch and alder. This constitutes only the second record on site for me over 5 years of recording, a welcome addition to the list of birds seen in 2019 here. Other birds recorded of note over the three visits were a Raven, a Stock Dove and a site rarity 2 Collared Doves!
This small patch of Cheshire, which before I took it on as a recording area was largely overlooked, now attracts birders from near and far. They visit mainly for the Smew but also want to see several of the other birds I find here. I have had the pleasure of guiding many visitors around ‘my patch’ and I always get a real kick out of connecting with birds that they want to see. If anyone wants to meet up and be shown round then get in touch through Focalpoint and if possible I will act as guide for the visit. As a picture to accompany this report I’ve added a clump of Sulphur Tuft Fungi, pretty common as a winter splash of colour as I walk round.