Just back from almost six hours birding up the res. I set myself a target of 50 species for the day to start off the 2010 patchlistlist competition and comfortably beat that with 56 species. The first bird of the day was a gull flying around before dawn and although I suspected it was a Black-headed Gull I decided not to start the year off with a string! So it was a Crow a few minutes later that kicked the yearlist off. As I left the house in slightly better light (but still pre-dawn) I saw a real Black-headed Gull and followed this up with a few more common species but not the Robin I was expecting. They must have had a late night as I didn't get one until species number 7. I already had 11 species before arriving at the reservoir at 08.00 where a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. In case you're wondering how I got 11 species before I arrived, let me explain that I live in the recording area, just behind the dam to be exact.
There had been a light powdering of snow overnight and it was very cold but at least it was dry and bright so the birding was easy and I continued to notch up new species as I walked along the north bank towards the hide. By the time I reached the hide I'd already accumulated 35 species (the last being a Water Rail which called as I walked up the ramp to the hide) so I thought I was doing pretty well. I knocked off a few more species as I scanned the reservoir and as I looked through the roosting gulls, there it was, big red bill and dark streaks behind the eye - adult Med Gull! Fantastic, this was our regular wintering bird but it hadn't been around for several weeks so it was good to refind it today - number 41 and counting.
I was soon joined by another Brent regular, Andrew Verrall, and as he was catching up seeing the common species we both heard a Skylark flying over. Another good one, one year we had to wait until October before we recorded Skylark yet when I first starting birding at Brent they used to breed there. After a while we'd seen everything there so we went for a walk around the reservoir - literally this time, taking in the northern side, West Hendon Playing Fields, Silver Jubilee Park, going down Neasden Lane and in by McDonalds where a Pied Wagtail became species number 50, then behind the dam to look for the Little Egret (not there) and re-emerging at the reservoir on the south side on Neasden Rec. As we scanned the reservoir from here the Little Egret flew over and dropped behind the dam. Success! We may have lost Skylark as a breeding species but at least Little Egrets are regular now. We trekked back along the south side, out on the North Circular Road then back in at Staples Corner. Couldn't find the Chiffchaff flock I'd seen a few weeks ago so it was back to the hide to scan the skies. Eventually I picked up a Sparrowhawk that flew very low across the water, species 56 for the day. We tried again for Bullfinch, having just met another birder who'd seen 3 species I hadn't, one of which was Bullfinch. No luck so I decided to call it a day. Well almost, when I got home I saw the Little Egret again, this time from my window and I continued to look out from my window again for a while in case something else was about.