Monday, 8 March 2010

Garden Lists

I would bet that there aren't many birders or birdwatchers that don't keep a list of some sort. Whether it is a garden list, a 'patch' list, county list or life list, most will keep one - even if they deny it. Some will be fanatical about their list(s) and chase all over the country to add another tick to their British list and dream of joining the '400 club'.

For me personally, it always has been the 'garden list' - any bird seen, or heard, in over or from, the house or garden. Back in the Cotswolds, my garden list was 107 species - which took over 40 years - but I was lucky to have a house on the end of a village with far reaching views. In fact, if I remember correctly, the last bird I'd added to the list there, was a Moorhen which was almost 2 &1/2 miles away. Seen through the scope, I thought it was 'fair game' and added it to the list. The list included 10 species of raptor, 4 species of owl. plus things like, Common Crane, Gannet (twice), Sandwich Tern, Corncrake and Quail.

Coming to Shetland, things obviously haven't changed much either. At our previous place 'The Bungalow' a mile from here, in just over 15 months my list was around 54 species - when I say 'around' that's because I know there are a few that I forgot to add to the list at the time and then couldn't remember what they were ! However, on the list were birds that by any normal standard were pretty good, birds such as  Barred Warbler, Yellowbrowed Warbler, Wryneck, Common Crane, Osprey and Hawfinch to name just a few, however this is Shetland and most of those would almost be expected. Probably the biggest surprise however, was a Great Spotted Woodpecker which I saw from the kitchen window one morning sitting briefly on a fence post  probably thinking, ' well, where are the trees?'

The Hawfinch turned up obviously attracted by the several dozen House Sparrows and similar numbers of Starlings that I fed daily on the drive outside, it remained for over a week and was a beautiful bird to see and watch. Once it had overcome its nervousness, it became quite bold and came close to the house. We also had Crossbills feeding on the 'Redhot Pokers' and had Curlew nesting within yards of the garden fence. 

View from 'The Bungalow'

Last November, we moved - as I said earlier - a mile down the road and slightly east of the village to near the old airport. This place is larger and now that I'm used to it, actually has better view. To the north-east we have cracking view over Balta Sound, to the south we have open fields and hills for 5 miles or more. This list, in just over three months, is already at 42 species, this is because we have a better - and much closer - view over the sound. Virtually the first two birds on the new list were Velvet Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, closely followed by Little Grebe and Whooper Swan. I don't think that it will be quite as good for smaller birds, I'll have to wait and see for that. The 42nd species was seen today and that was a Bean Goose in flight - the one that I mentioned recently in Baltasound.

Our new view over Balta Sound

 I've regularly seen Common Seals hauled out on the oyster beds at low tide and it won't be long before we see our first otter - although it will be distant. 


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