I did through down the gauntlet the other week to see if anyone wanted to 'run a book' for charity, just for fun, but no body seems interested in having a go.
This being the case, I have turned my mind to the problem, had a good look at the British List and identified no less than 21 species that should have or are likely to have occurred on the Marsh and Mere. I have refined this list down to a top ten that I predict are most likely to be the next additions to the site list. I will leave this on the system and time will tell if I was right or not.
So, here are the predictions; In reverse order -
10 Grey Phalarope
A regular autumn vagrant, often being found in October at local sites such as Chasewater and Blithfield. All we need is a really stormy front coming through in the autumn and one of these lovely birds could easily turn up and even stay for a while given the sheltered conditions on the Mere.
09 Red Crested Pochard
A species which was actually claimed (but not substantiated) on the Marsh. True wild specimens are few and far between but as this is now a reasonably common feral species in Britain (with a breeding population as close as Carsington Water) it seems inevitable that one of these birds will eventually be confirmed.
08 Little Gull
An annual passage species occurring at Chasewater in most years. Like last years Black Terns (a species which sometimes moves through with Little Gull) the south-west - northeast orientation of the local sites makes it reasonably likely that one of these dainty gulls will eventually turn up.
07 Great Northern Diver
Ray Fellows already found the first Diver for the site in 2011 and surprisingly it was a Black Throated rather than the far more likely Great Northern Diver (statistically the most frequently occurring loon at in-land sites)
This is probably the first contentious species in my prediction. There are a number of relatively common waders that have not been recorded and the Mere may not seem to provide the most likely habitat for one of these shore patrolling waders. However Turnstone is ubiquitous and an annual migrant to Britain often in large numbers and I don't have any problem with one of these turning up around the edge of one of the islands in spring or autumn.
In normal circumstances this is a highly unlikely species to be found on the site but as most birders know, Crossbill can often be an eruptive species when the seed crop in northern or eastern Europe fails and when that happens, all bets are off. Crossbill can turn up anywhere and often in flocks that contain its even rarer congenitors.
Once a dream bird but now with a number of English breeding sites and regular migration to Scotland by a substantial population there, it can only be a latter of time before someone is present to witness a fly over. We even had a near miss a couple of years ago when a bird was seen flying north over Pelsall North Common and I myself saw one high over Brownhills some years ago.
This sea duck, closely related to Tufted Duck turns up somewhere in the midlands every winter. All we need is a bird to winter at Chasewater and be disturbed by fireworks and it could easily seek refuge on the Mere. How many of you closely go through the female Tufted Ducks when we have a strong population? There have already been several putative hybrids on the Mere.
02 Common Scoter
Another Sea Duck which sometimes turns up in spring, late summer and autumn at Chasewater. Eventually one or more of these birds must decide to have a rest on the Mere instead.
So here we are, what is my top prediction for the most likely species to be added to the site list?
01 Wood Warbler
Already discovered just off the site by Tony Stackhouse and I myself have found two singing birds over the years on Brownhills Common. Wood Warbler passes through the sites every year and all we need is another early morning singer to move it on to the official list. I will even predict the birder most likely to find it. Kev McCarthy seems to consistently put in more early morning visits and I suspect that this is when one will eventually be found.
For your interest, the follow up list includes relatively regular species (Brent Goose, Red Breasted Merganser, Long Tailed Duck and Kittewake), Irregular species (Red Throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Little Tern, Shag and Black Redstart) and two rarities (Great White Egret and Yellow Browed Warbler) The Egret is becoming increasingly common in Britain and may soon become a breeding bird. The Yellow Browed is a regular autumn migrant and with many of our autumn Goldcrests originating in northern and eastern Europe, this species must get overlooked?
Anyway, there you are. A number of regulars have made their prediction too and they are as follows:
Ian Phillips: Glossy Ibis
Tony Stackhouse: Little Stint
C &; G Weston: Red Necked Grebe
Gareth Clements: R.N. Phalarope/Woodchat Shrike
If anyone proves to be correct, I will award a prize - Chaz