Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: February 2019

February was an exceptionally mild month, giving birds little reason to move from their winter grounds. Combined with high water levels throughout the month, this meant that highlights in February were few and far between.

Shelduck continued to visit occasionally in small numbers during the first half of the month, though shoveler (picture 1 below) were surprisingly absent during this time. They then started to build up in the second half of the month, just about reaching double-figures. Teal (2) were more consistently present, though only up to around a handful. There was plenty of activity amongst the great crested grebes (3) as two pairs continued to display, and were joined for a while by a fifth adult bird, so for a time there was as much fighting as displaying. The high water levels meant that there was little exposed mud, so most sightings of water rail and snipe (4) were in the area of flooded reed-bed close to the main entrance.

Unusually for a winter month, only the four most common gull species were seen here in February, with the most interesting gull news being another sighting of a common gull (5) bearing a darvic ring with the code JC462. This bird was fitted with the ring in western Norway and has been seen here regularly in winter over the last few years. Raptor news was similar to gull news, with just our most common two raptors, peregrine and sparrowhawk, being seen.

Amongst the smaller birds, chiffchaff (6) numbers increased markedly with at least one bird singing towards the end of the month. A male blackcap (7) was seen a few times, and there was one more sighting of a brambling (8). One species that had a good February here were reed buntings (main picture above), small flocks of which could be seen regularly feeding at the top of reed stems, and at least one male was regularly singing by the end of the month.

The total number of bird species seen in February was 57, illustrating how weather-dependant winter birding can be. The previous February (featuring ‘the beast from the east’) saw 65 species recorded here, with the total from February 2017 being 60.

[All photos by Chris Farthing]

Posted on March 19th 2019