There have been numerous accounts over the years of birdwatchers achieving the magic 'ton' - 100 species seen in a day. These have normally been well planned affairs entailing the participants starting before dawn and finally collapsing at the door of a suitable hostelry well into the evening of the same day. The optimum time of the year seems to be late April or early May, the location invariably some favoured spot on the east coast, although I recollect an account of 100 species in a day seen in Cheshire being published in the County Bird Report some years ago. Some may fondly recall the annual pilgrimage to Lindisfarne in 1976, our collective score being 101 in a 24 hour period.
Nevertheless if people are prepared to set their sights just a little lower it is surprising what pleasure can be had nearer home keeping a tally during a stroll through one's, favourite local birding area. I well remember an occasion in early April 1977 when a friend and I set off for a Sunday morning's birding in Tatton. He was a relative newcomer to the hobby, looking every inch the part with a pair of well polished hiking boots and a new Greenkat jacket (especially recommended for birdwatchers by Robert Dougall). Clutching binoculars in one hand and with a notebook and copious supply of pens in the other it would have been a sin to miss such an opportunity, we decided to list every species seen during the day. Here I must point out that ideally this should be done as a matter of course on all occasions, but very few people (me included) manage to do this!
Early April is one of the most eagerly anticipated periods of the year for the majority of birdwatchers. The worst of the winter lies behind us and a combination of warmer weather and the thought of being the first person In the county to record a particular species gives an added edge to every outing. We entered Dog Wood shortly after 8.00 am, the morning was chill, with little or no wind and as we made our way down to the mere at its junction with Knutsford Moor, the first page of my companion's notebook rapidly filled: Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Song Thrush, Starling, Jackdaw, rook and Crow, all fell victim to his flashing ballpoint within the first few seconds. We were amongst the first in the park that morning, the birds were undisturbed.

A pair of Bullfinches slipped into thick cover, only conspicuous white rumps betraying their presence; a Dunnock sang lustily from the hawthorn hedge, while from deep in the wood came the hollow drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. As we quietly approached the water's edge a startled Heron struggled into the air, followed by two Teal leaping simultaneously from the surface of the lake. Close to the Phragmites reedbed of Knutsford Moor a Great Crested Grebe slipped inconspicuously off its low-lying nest, while from further in the reedbed we heard the discordant call of a Water Rail and seemingly in answer from the far side of the mere, the hoarse bark of an early morning fisherman, drawing deeply on yet another Woodbine. We located by song three Chiffchaffs and another summer visitor, a Blackcap, poured out its rich, melodious song from the interior of a rhododendron bush. More Dog Wood 'regulars' swelled our list, Coal Tits sang from the conifers, a Marsh Tit called loudly as we approached its territory in the centre of the wood and the pair of us watched in quiet fascination as a pair of Long-tailed Tits lined their nest with innumerable feathers.

Winter visitors were of course still much in evidence - 12 Pochard and 77 Tufted Duck were counted, whilst in the centre of the mere two superb male Goldeneyes displayed to a group of 17 Females. The Goldeneyes were accompanied by a female Smew, in those days a Tatton speciality, but alas only irregularly recorded now. The usual gulls were present, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Common and Black-headed, the latter now with the chocolate brown heads of summer plumage. Also looking very handsome in summer attire were two cock Bramblings, feeding in the Silver birch as we made our way out of Dog Wood towards the bathing area. Here we found more evidence of migration, a mixed flock of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits fed at the water's edge. As we scanned the birds with our binoculars two male White Wagtails with jet black bibs and slate grey backs stood out conspicuously. The Oak Wood towards the far end of the mere is always quieter than Dog Wood, but in renowned for Lesser-spotted Woodpecker; a fine male duly obliged by drawing our attention as he called thinly from the tree tops. Also in the wood Goldcrest and Treecreeper provided two new species for the day.

As we rounded the top of the lake and made our way to Melchette Mere a small flock of Linnets, perhaps returning from wintering round the coast, flew overhead. Also heading east but with a much longer journey ahead of them, a large, loose flock of Fieldfare headed for their Summer breeding grounds.
A Kingfisher perched briefly on an overhanging branch as we sat beside Melchette Mere, where Canada Geese squabbled noisily and four Barnacle Geese, a Mute Swan, 2 Little Grebe, a Cormorant and a Jay were added to our steadily increasing list.
Leaving Melchette we passed the Old Hall where House Sparrows were busy nest building and headed for the Mill Pond. Skylarks were in full song and in the distance were bubbling Curlew and the unmistakable 'yaffle of a Green Woodpecker. An immaculate little male Wheatear flew along in front of us, while overhead more winter thrushes, this time Redwings, headed east. Coot, Pheasant, Mallard and Moorhen were all present at the Mill Pond. A Reed Bunting sang from a willow overhanging the water and beyond this undisturbed little corner tumbling Lapwing were joined by a male Snipe producing its characteristic drumming as it plunged earthwards, displaying to some unseen female. As we crossed to the small conifer plantation close to the Mill Pond a fine cock Stonechat landed briefly on the deer fence, an unexpected bonus. A Little Owl bobbed its head nervously as we approached its traditional roosting tree in the plantation and a chattering Mistle Thrush dealt unceremoniously with a marauding Magpie.

Those familiar with Tatton will now realise the best of the day was over. It was rapidly approaching eleven o'clock; official opening time, bringing an influx of assorted weekend sailors, windsurfers, model aeroplane enthusiasts and the inevitable joggers, plodding home to a late breakfast of fruit juice, All Bran and The News of the World.
Despite increased disturbance we managed a number of new species on the return journey. Most of the wildfowl had left the main mere seeking sanctuary on Melchett, but Shoveler and Ruddy Duck were added to the list. As we made our way up towards the golf course a Sparrowhawk circled high overhead and we watched a Kestrel investigating a possible nest site in one of the old beech trees that stretch along the western edge of the park.
These beeches are used by Tawny owls and nearby we came upon a bird roosting in a large holly bush. staring icily down upon us from the dark canopy. Reading back down to the main mere a single Goldfinch flew overhead, followed by six Redpolls, whilst twelve newly arrived Sand Martins zig-zagged low over the mere. A Nuthatch still called from Dog Wood, but by then our attention was cantered on a soft, fluent, descending song from Higrnere Plantation. It was the year's first Willow Warbler and our seventy-fifth species of the morning. We'd been out for only four hours and not strayed much more than two miles from the town centre.

Perhaps with a little planning someone will record a hundred species in a day in Tatton Park, there's a gallon of Boddingtons Bitter for the first to do so!

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