Chris Farthing’s Woodberry Bird Highlights: November 2018
Although November is generally a month of little bird movement, we did have a short period in the middle of the month which provided some of the major highlights of the year here. On the 16th, a winter-plumaged black-necked grebe (main picture above) was found over the road on the west reservoir. Although strictly just outside the site boundary, the bird could be viewed from the coal house café roof or the terrace alongside the café, and stayed for two full days during which a good number of birders came along to see it. There are reckoned to be around 120 of this species in the UK during the winter, making it the rarest bird seen here this year. Although we had a pair in the summer of 2016 just after the reserve opened, the previous sighting was more than ten years earlier.
On the second day of the black-necked grebe visit, a short-eared owl (picture 1 below) was seen flying high over the site in a southbound direction. This is another bird which is only seen here around once every ten years. On the same day a visitor to the site reported seeing a bullfinch on the feeders along the woodland trail. The last good sighting of these busy few days was a lapwing (2) which flew a couple of circuits around the site on the 18th but decided not to land, presumably because of the high water level and consequent lack of mud. This was only the third record this year for the species.
Outside of the few days around the middle of the month, the remainder of November was more run-of-the-mill, with persistent high water levels meaning there was a distinct lack of mud-loving birds. The lack of any records for snipe during November was especially unusual.
No particularly unusual ducks or geese were seen this month, though both teal and shoveler (3) were seen in small numbers all month. Water rail (4) sightings were low but increased following some clearance of the reed-bed near the main entrance at the end of the month.
We had to wait until the last day of the month to see a great black-backed gull (5), with both an adult and a younger bird being present. The regular yellow-legged gull (6) was seen many times through the month, in its clean winter plumage.
November was a good month for thrushes, with both song thrush and mistle thrush being heard singing, and regular flyover flocks of both redwing and fieldfare (7), with these species occasionally being seen in the trees. There were enough sightings of chiffchaff and blackcap (8) to suggest that these species will join the Cetti’s warblers to make three overwintering warbler species here.
The total number of bird species seen in November was 60, one lower than in the corresponding month of 2017, and a few below the 64 of November 2016.
[All photos by Chris Farthing]