January is all about walking off the Christmas excesses and re- starting the only bird list I really keep, The Patch yearlist. Egged on by Brett Westwood's latest radio broadcasts, I have walked the patch with grim determination this month.
Surprisingly, the first month of the year often seems to yield a really good new patch bird, more so in fact than many migration months of late. January 2014 saw Woodcock and Merlin.
Whats always interesting is seeing how years compare. A real lack of finch flocks and no Siskins or Redpolls so far this year has also mean't no Bullfinch or Brambling being recorded. The Great Crested Grebes have disappeared, but I've had record Goosander numbers, a peak count of 30 on the 12th.
I rediscovered the Stonechat on the 11th, first seen on new years eve, and gratefully snaffled it onto the year list.
Despite adding nothing new for the year on my final two walks, and despite the many missing usuals, I had still managed to steal a march on last years total of 54.
On the 17th, I finally added a Great Black Backed Gull to my patch life list, One from the local large flock harbouring the Iceland Gull no doubt. Unfortunately, the Icelandic fella has yet to be seen crossing the patch boundary.
On the 18th, a second lifer for the patch, and probably the best bird I have ever found on it, a Dipper on the stream that rises near Belbroughton and enters The Stour near Wilden. Watched with astonishment for five minutes hopping on and off a log in the water before calling and flying over my head and going downstream.
Final January total 56. ( with a yearly average of c 80ish birds, I'm well into the business end of the list now ! )
Below, the dawn of another year on the patch.