21 Feb 2015

21 Feb 15 - An Unexpected Reversal Of Views

A few years ago, if anybody would have told me I would be more excited about seeing a Coot on the Studland patch than a Great White Egret, then I would have laughed. But under the rules of patch Year Listing, these strange things which seem to defy the laws of normal Birding can happen. Coot used to be a species it was difficult to not see on a visit to Littlesea. They were mainly Winter visitors, with the numbers building up in the Winter to 50+, with my peak count being 140 individuals in Jan 2009. Come the Spring most would disappear, with just a handful hanging on during the Summer. But I haven't seen any on Littlesea since April 2011. In recent years, the numbers of very large Carp has been very apparent & I suspect they have largely been responsible for the removal of much of the water plants that the Coots used to dive for. As a result, the Gadwall which tended, to follow the Coots around have also gone (although a few still occur in Brands Bay). Not being a Diving Duck, they had to wait for the Coots to bring the weed up to the surface. But the Coot never seemed to be upset about feeding the Gadwalls. Since then I've only bumped into Coots on a couple of occasions in Spring 2013 on the South Haven lake, but I know at least one Coot was around the same area last year.
Coot: This takes me to 124 for the Studland/Ballard Year List
Given their massive decline, I was really pleased to see a Coot feeding unobtrusively on the water near the South Haven boardwalk. After a strong showing in Jan for the Studland/Ballard Year List, I wasn't expected to get any additional species in Feb. But the recent arrival of this Coot has saved the day. It's also a species I only gave myself a 50-50 chance of seeing for the Year List. 5 years ago I would have only expected to miss it on the first Studland visit of the year, if I didn't have time to look at Littlesea.
Coot: I'm sure there are a lot of Birders doing the Patchwork challenge who will get equally excited about seeing a good patch species, which is common away from their patches
In comparison, while I only saw my first Great White Egret on 8 Sep 2014, the Great White Egret dropping into the Eastern Lake (just after seeing the Great Grey Shrike) was my 21st Studland/Ballard sighting (although it was my first sighting for the South Haven sub-patch). How times change. Hopefully there will be a few more bonuses like this Coot to help me get to my target of 180 species for the patch Year List.
Coot: With a 50-50 chance of seeing this for the Year, then I went away happy, especially after the great views of the Great Grey Shrike (see the last Post).