6th January 2013 – early fog/drizzle then overcast SE1
The annual CBC Winter Bird Race proved to be a non-starter for the defending champions - the Walney Wanderers when, for the first time in 25 years, a team representing the bird observatory failed to cross the start line. Unfortunately several team members handed in sick notes at the eleventh hour and the substitute’s bench failed to provide any late replacements.
Consequently, at 0700hrs a Tawny Owl hooted to begin the day for the “last man standing” and this was swiftly followed by Barn Owl, Little Egret and Water Rail before a skein of Pink-footed Geese flew over during the first throes of daylight. However, visibility soon became negligible as a blanket of thick fog and drizzle descended on the island. Although the tallest trees on the island added Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit the meticulously planned route was soon abandoned and the island deserted for the woodlands of South Cumbria with a mediocre total of 34 species. Slowly the total began to build when a selection of wildfowl, including the only Pochard of the day, were added on Ormsgill Reservoir before further woodland species and a Dipper on a swollen local beck brought up the first 50 much later in the day than normal.
Heading back towards Walney Island both Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail were added to push the total beyond 60 and Rock Pipit and 120 Tree Sparrow added variety amongst a selection of wildfowl and waders which included a flock of 160 pale-bellied Brent Geese and a solitary Jack Snipe. A quick visit to Cavendish Dock added the anticipated drake Goosander while a juvenile Great Northern Diver on nearby Ramsden Dock was a bonus. Crossing back onto Walney Island with a total of 82 species it was evident that visibility was much improved and a much later than usual seawatch added Shag, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Razorbill and Kittiwake. Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Scaup then helped the total beyond 90 before both Stonechat and Raven both succumbed. The now rising tide provided a small group of Sanderling to bring up the century and four Purple Sandpiper quickly followed. The island’s flooded fields then produced Grey Heron, Reed Bunting and Skylark.
The time was just after 1500hrs and the lone survivor, ineligible to win the trophy, decided that a comfy fire side armchair and some much needed sustenance took precedence over the delights of Hodbarrow where Slavonian Grebe, Green-winged Teal and Gadwall were all likely additions. Although this left the final total on 104 species usual species such as Merlin, Little Owl, Linnet, Twite and Yellowhammer were all missed .