Sometimes you just need a little luck. Mine occurred at about 4:30pm yesterday evening as we approached the village via Cuddesdon Mill. Gratifyingly, I had just said to my wife that conditions were perfect for a Barn Owl: mid-winter, sub-zero, little wind, the sun down but the light not yet gone, when a ghostly pale form drifted over the hedgerows, crossed the road in front of our car and floated off towards the river. This is only my fifth record of Barn Owl around Cuddesdon, there are about one per year and all the records are between early December and early February. I have also found two dead birds. This species also marked the 91st species for 2014 and the realisation that the all time record of 92 species recorded in 2011 was within reach.
Feeling suddenly determined I was up before sunrise to scour the woods for Woodock, the species I was most likely to add to the 2014 year list. Sub-zero sunrise:
The Great Haseley windmill in the early morning mist:
The woods were cold...
..but frustratingly without Woodcock. I headed out to the east of the village and after 362 days without a seeing a single Lapwing, this flock of 8 were good enough to fly north:
Species number 92 for the year: the record is equaled! Then the Lapwing floodgates opened. 130 flew north over the village...
.. followed by several hundred more. From none in 362 days to nearly 300 in 90 minutes.
The cold weather had also brought in more winter thrushes, at least 200 Fieldfares fed to the south of the village...
..which was worringly close to the inhabitants of this house. Honestly, exactly how many cats are too many? Do any pet owners ever consider the consequences of their actions for the local wildlife?
Here are the 14 species of bird that I have seen in Cuddesdon, but not recorded this year, followed by the total number of records of that species:
Green Sandpiper 1
Yellow-legged Gull 1
Common Gull 4
Turtle Dove 2
Little Owl (annual until this year, when the breeding tree was felled)
Sand Martin 1
Ring Ouzel 1
Garden Warbler (annual, but none this year!)
Nuthatch (annual since 2010, but about 1 record per year, usually in spring)
Tree Sparrow 1
There are no floods, so no chance of Shoveler or Green Sandpiper; Turtle Dove, Sand Martin, Ring Ouzel and Garden Warbler should all be in Africa in December (though there was this Whitethroat in January). Realistically Woodcock, Nuthatch, Little Owl and Common Gull are the only species that I am likely to come across in very late December. 3 days to go, this could be tougher than I thought. Especially as I am at work during daylight hours for the next two days...
92 species for the year.