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As a challenge for 2017, Steven decided to set himself the target of spotting 200 different species of wild birds in the UK, before the end of the year. Combining birds spotted during breeding and wintering bird surveys for Pleydell Smithyman Limited and also any species seen whilst bird watching outside of work hours. This is a challenging number to reach for anybody who isn't retired and will mean visiting a number of different nature reserves across the UK.
The challenge started off well in January, with the total number of species seen reaching 89 by the end of the month. Sites visited included Rutland Water, Slimbridge, Cannock Chase, Chasewater, Belvide Nature Reserve and Pleydell Smithyman Limited surveys at sites in Bedfordshire, Colchester and Burton upon Trent. The species recorded during January included most of the well-known common birds i.e blue tit, blackbird and robin, with rarities spotted including waxwing, bittern, great white egret, black-necked grebe and red-crested pochard. Also spotted during a wintering bird survey for Pleydell Smithyman Limited at a site in Bedfordshire were a number of first year species including corn bunting, red-legged partridge and lesser redpoll.
February was a key month for the challenge, as it was a good time of year to spot a lot of the winter migratory species. The month started off very well with a visit to Stow-on-the Wold to spot the very rare blue rock thrush, followed by a visit to Slimbridge on the same day with interesting species seen including black-tailed godwit and the first oystercatcher of the year. The month would continue to be productive with other interesting species spotted including great northern diver and scaup at Rutland Water.
Such is his enthusiasm for the challenge that on the 16th of Feb, Steven decided to get up at 4am to take a trip to Norfolk for the day to visit one of the best nature reserves in the UK, Titchwell Marsh RSPB reserve. This trip was highly productive taking the total to 118 species and adding a number of rarities including long-tailed duck, velvet scoter, common scoter, red breasted merganser, slavonian grebe, red-throated diver, bar-tailed godwit, grey plover, spotted redshank and a black-throated diver.
February continued to be a productive month with other species observed including a short-eared owl, kittiwake, gannet and fulmar talking the total to 126 species.
March was less productive, however a number of visits were carried out to Belvide nature reserve, Whittington sewage works, Grimley quarry pits, Brantson gravel pits as well as continued wintering bird surveys on sites for Pleydell Smithyman Limited. These visits added a number of rarities and wading species including yellow -browed warbler, american wigeon, little ringed plover, ringed plover, green sandpiper and common sandpiper. This month would also add two of the first migratory species chiffchaff and sand martin. The total by the end of March is 138 species, a very positive start to the year's target.
With the busy breeding season fast approaching, hopefully Steven can spot enough birds to keep himself on track to reach 200 by the end of the year.