17 March 2022

Winter summary: a hard, but not very cold winter


2021 ended with our record highest number of bird species we have ever recorded on the Patch:143. December saw 76 for the month. 2022 started much like 2021 with 78 species in January (the same as Jan 2021), but February was not aided by the cold snap we had in ‘21 and so we recorded a pretty paltry 71 species for the month compared with the outrageously high score of 85 for the same month last year. As February came to a close, the total number of birds recorded on the patch for 2022 is 79.

January 1st is always a special day on the patch as the local birders go out and year-tick Robin and Mallard. This year the team managed to compile 61 species on day one of the year (which compared with 69 on the first day of the previous year).


I don’t think it would be unfair to say that this winter has been rather dull in terms of birds of interest. 

I flushed a male Yellowhammer from the Brooms on 3 Jan. It flew up, circled around me calling and flew off East not to be seen again. That was probably the best bird of the month, partly because January didn’t see many spectacular birds, and partly because we haven’t had a Yellowhammer in January for a very long time.

Rob Sheldon found our seventh Red-crested Pochard on Heronry on 16 December; a female. Sean T found a drake Mandarin on Shoulder of Mutton on 12 Jan. This is the fourth record in a 12 month period which matches the number seen over the previous decade.

The best of the rest included:

  • Louis and Gosia had Short-eared Owl over the Flats on 10 Jan.
  • Simon had the only Treecreeper we have had since November also on 10 Jan in Bush Wood.
  • Also a good winter for Firecrest with 10 records across three locations and at least three birds on 13 Jan; a pair in Reservoir Wood and a single bird in the Dell.
  • The only Red Kite of the period was on 2 December.
  • The only year tick made in February was on the last day of the month - a flyover Shelduck from Nick, and our first since May of the previous year.

Duck numbers

I am pleased to report that some of our duck numbers seem to have recovered slightly from the atrociously low numbers the previous winter (we suspect this was due to local issues - likely to do with the water rather than any more sinister macro trends). Whilst nowhere near the peak of a few years ago, Gadwall numbers this winter reached high counts in November (133 peak) and December (126 peak). The numbers dropped in the new year with the peak so far being 31. Last winter, our peak Gadwall count was 42. Further:

  • November last year also saw the peak count for Shoveler (60) which compared with 28 last winter.  This year so far our high count for Shoveler was 45 on 31 Jan. 
  • Teal numbers are pretty consistent with last year, with high counts in the twenties. 
  • Pochard high count for the three winter months was also the same for this year and last: 7.
  • Tufted Duck high counts this winter and last both saw highs in the forties.
  • Note that we have not had any confirmed reports of Wigeon locally so far this winter.

Other trends and records of note 

Rather than comprehensive review of the data across species, I have attempted below to take a small sample where observations or comparisons can be made. I will leave the fuller species review data until the bird report (I have just started work on 2021 and believe Nick may be doing something for 2020):


It appears that our local Skylark population may have benefitted from the added protection of the fenced breeding areas last year. Across the three winter months, we had 54 recorded bird days and an average count of 3.5 birds compared with 2 during the same period last year. Our Skylark high-count of 7-8 birds this winter compares with a high of 5 last year. So, the data aren’t robust enough to draw too many conclusions, but at least the trend appears to be in the right direction. [Edit: a walk-over in March revealed 11 birds]

Meadow Pipit 

Meadow Pipit counts were also up a bit on last year with average counts of 7 (versus 4 last winter) and a high count of 25 (cf 18 last year), but counting Mipits is always a tricky business and so we have to be careful reading too much into these data. We will wait and see whether we get persistent singers and breeding success following the sad desertion of this species as a breeding bird last year for the first time.

Cetti’s Warbler

This winter we have nine records of the singing male on the Roding (none from in the Park). This seems to be very similar to the previous year. Let’s hope we get breeding success.

Siskin and Lesser Redpoll

Our winter flock around the tea hut and Perch Pond in the park was back again this winter with a high count possibly in the sixties. As previous years, we have regularly recorded a Lesser Redpoll flock in the SSSI, but the new addition this winter has been a regular flock of Lesser Redpoll (high count of 17) in the alders around Perch Pond with the Siskin.


Partly thanks to the evening diligence of Nick, we have had a likely record of 18 bird days for Woodcock in 2022 by the end of Feb. The regular haunt of the Roding to watch the crepuscular flyover has been reported early in Jan but somewhat overtaken by a regularly seen bird or birds in the SSSI.

Gadwall drake - Tim Harris

Meadow Pipit - Tim Harris

Shoveler - Tim Harris

Stonechat - Mary Holden

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