The two reservoirs, with College at the top end and Argal on the lower
So onto the patch...the area I have chosen comprises two bodies of water called Argal and College Reservoirs. Argal Reservoir is primarily a fishing lake, and plays host to a hectic circulation of dog walkers throughout the year. The combination of the two (although the toxic algal waters through summer probably play a part!) means that waterfowl aren't in abundance here. However, the willows and patchy areas of woodland and scrub rimming the reservoir provide promising habitat for migrants and warblers alike. I have already had some great days observing 'vis mig' over Argal, with brilliant movements of thrushes, woodpigeons, larks and finches in the autumn last year. Firecrests are a regular occurrence and the odd Goosander and Great Crested Grebe grace the lake surface- it has plenty of potential, and I am sure some oddities will turn up.
Great Crested Grebe
College Reservoir is a more attractive ecosystem in itself, with a body of water that is home to a great variety of overwintering wildfowl, such as Wigeons, Teals, Tufted Ducks, Coots, Goosanders and a handful of Shovelers. Surrounding College is a superb deciduous woodland of sessile Oak and Holly, which supports countless feeding flocks of tits and warblers in the winter, and will no doubt prove productive come spring-time. Areas of damper willow and alder thickets provide shelter for skulking rails, and a few pockets of Bulrush look perfect for Bittern, even if none have appeared thus far. The mature woodland is home to countless feeding flocks of tits and warblers at the moment, the largest of which I've encountered had over 25 Long-tailed Tits, 15 Great Tits, 15 Blue Tits, Firecrest, 5 Goldcrests, 4 Coal Tits, Marsh Tit and a collection of thrushes too! College Reservoir also has the advantage of being slightly less visited by dog walkers, and thus benefits from lower disturbance levels; it also contains a couple of ringing locations which I hope to utilise in the coming months.
The pathway around College reservoir, along with an abundance of vegetation like Hard Ferns
So far this year, I have managed to record 61 species between the two lakes, amounting to a total of 64 points. I haven't discovered anything vastly unusual so far, but it has been nice to see the odd Firecrest around College, along with an occasional Marsh Tit amongst the tit feeding flocks; a handful of Goosanders have taken up residence among the local wildfowl on College, and as many as 23 Cormorants have been gathering in a single Oak tree at the northern end at times.
So there we are- a brief overview of my year's patch! I look forward to seeing what I can find, and monitoring the changes in bird populations that occur through the season. I'll be entering all my counts and species lists onto the online Birdtrack recording scheme, which I would highly recommend any other patchers doing too! Regular and standardised counts - even of common species - over a prolonged period can be a valuable data set, no matter how small the recording area.
It isn't just about the birds on my patch...here are a few of the other cool things I have seen there so far...
Zebra Jumping Spider (Salticus scenicus)