9 February 2016
The MEGA year that was... 1996.
It's now twenty years since that epic year in the county and in recent days I've been reflecting on how good that year actually was and how things have changed, both in birding & in my personal life (mortgage, wife, dog & a child weren't anything I ever wanted really but shit happens).
The first highlight for me that year was a flock of 9 Brent Geese that flew over King's Mill Res' on 4th January followed by a White-fronted Goose half hour later. Ten days later at the same location, a single Bewick's Swan went NW followed by four Whoopers 43 minutes later. A Waxwing flew west over the site on 3rd February. The next day 11 Goosanders were present and 3 Corn Buntings (now very scarce/rare at the site). The same day I visited Nottingham to soak up some of the Waxwing invasion & bag a Ring Ouzel too in a 'rest garden' in the city centre. On the 11th I went to Norfolk and amongst good numbers of scarcities (that just doesn't seem to happen nowadays), I also connect with 8+ Arctic Redpolls & a Serin!
March 13th was the day I finally managed to get round to seeing the drake Redhead at Gibsmere & on the 19th I slipped over the border to see a Hoopoe in D*rbyshite.
April 1st I found a male Ring Ouzel in Sutton-in-Ashfield, only a few hundred yards from my house at the time. The 15th saw a drake Lesser Scaup at King's Mill Res (only the 2nd record for Notts at the time). I did some UK twitching too in spring but I'll omit these birds as I'd like to keep this post about Notts or close to Notts.
April 21st saw 2 Whinchats & 5 Wheatears at KMR (Wheatears being seen daily to the months end at least here - again, it doesn't happen anymore). On the 23rd I again sloped over the border for a mega Red-throated Pipit in D*rbyshite at Poolsbrook CP.
On the 5th of May I saw a Black-throated Diver at Bestwood CP & on the 9th 9 Dotterel & a LEO were seen at Gringley Carr.
On the 3rd of June, I decided to go on a bike ride with another local birder to the Dukeries (on a mountain bike with no brakes!). Species seen in those few hours included Pied Flycatcher, Redstarts, Marsh Harrier, Honey Buzzard and NINE Wood Warblers (2 males & 1 female feeding 6 young at a nest site in Church Warsop). On the 10th I dipped a Savi's Warbler at Attenborough.
The next Notts highlight was on 27th September when I visited Netherfield Lagoons. Here 7 Little Stints, a Little Gull, 9 Ruff & a Curlew Sand were witnessed (the Little Stints were part of a class influx with as many as 100 seen in the county during September, 26 being seen at Girton on 25th).
October was spent personally chasing mega's all over the UK (Waterthrush, Indigo Bunting, Great Knot, Little Bustard etc) but Notts also played ball too when a Long-billed Dowitcher rocked up at Lound & I saw on the 25th. A Grey Phalarope at Netherfield on 7th November continued Notts good run but that was the end of my personal sightings for the year.
Glancing thru the Nottinghamshire Bird Report for 1996, it is with no doubt that Notts had never seen a year like it and hasn't still, twenty years later. Birds recorded that year included - All three Divers, the three scarce grebes, Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, White Stork, 6 Little Egrets (they were rare back then), loads of Bean Geese & White-fronts, the aforementioned Redhead & Lesser Scaup. unfathomable numbers of Red-breasted Mergs by modern day standards with, up to 16 seen in Feb & 12 in Dec alone. Montagu's Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Cranes, Purple Sandpiper, The Long-billed Dowitcher, Grey Phal, Arctic Skua, Bonxie, Ring-billed Gull, White-winged Black Tern, Red-rumped Swallow, two Richard's Pipits, Cedar Waxwing, the incredible Waxwing invasion, Savi's Warbler, Wood Warblers reported from 13 sites(!) & 17 Pied Flycatchers recorded (both now ultra rare in the county), 4 Arctic Redpolls & 2 Lapland Buntings. I very much doubt Notts will ever experience a year like this, especially due to the general lack of experienced county 'Birders' nowadays and folk's general mindset to piss off to the coast when conditions are perfect instead of hammering their patch's. I guess they might actually lack the skills to find their own stuff & instead require others to point them out to them and let's face it, north Norfolk or the Yorkshire coast are normally dripping with such types.