Wednesday, 14 January 2015

End of one year list and the start of the next

Last year my UK year list ended on 179, poor by the standards of most folk who keep year lists but judged against my last few years birding pretty good and evidence that the boys although still small are slightly less demanding, that and the time saving benefits of internet grocery shopping that I have become a big fan of over the past few months.
Blue Tit, Rosary Cemetery Norwich
That 179 also includes some great birding moments that I can look back on last year. Below are some that with no reference to my notebook stand out in my memory.
Half a day at Bempton in the spring, good company, nice weather, spectacular seabirds and a great peregrine.

Five minutes in the company of some ring necked parakeets feeding on the seed pods of an Indian Bean tree in St James's park a real biological mash up in the heart of London.

This winter finally getting some birds into our pocket handkerchief Hunstanton Garden the highlight being an autumn Coal Tit. Like I said all things are relative.

A morning a Holme in the spring with our then two year old boy, lovely weather and summer migrants  in force and singing away.

A spring lunchtime in the Rosary cemetery in Norwich, it just felt perfect, warm and sunny with singing Chiff-Chaffs, Blackcaps and a Stock Dove.

Roydon Common before Christmas with no1 son and locating the Great Grey Shrike. It was just lovely to share the moment with him.

Another Shrike moment a mad after work dash in the autumn to Burnham Norton taking advantage of the new flexitime rules to see the Steppe Great Grey Shrike.

A morning at Burnham Overy Staithe in the midst of a autumn fall, with my personal tally including a Yellow Browed Warbler and two Red Breasted Flycatchers.

And finally that New Years Eve Waxwing in my late father in laws Brancaster garden, this was rather wonderful.

So for 2015 well, it will still be a full on year at work and at home and it includes a big birthday for me to mull on. But I've set myself a modest personal goal of seeing 200 plus species in the UK this year. Having made this resolution I decided to focus my efforts early in the new year on getting a few of the less reliable winter birds under my belt and so far as you'll read below I've done ok in the limited time I have had available, with Twite, Rough Legged Buzzard, Great Grey Shrike, Red Kite and Black Necked Grebe all seen.

Thursday 1st January 2015
A brief visit to a grey, overcast and cold Titchwell Marsh where I spent an hour in Island hide. There were high water levels, but I saw most of the freshwater ducks and four marsh harriers. Earlier in teh day I'd popped into Brancaster Staithe and seen a few of the common waders. A bonus was a Tree Sparrow in a friends garden in Brancaster on his bird feeders.
Brancaster Staithe, New Years Day 2015

Sunday 4th
A 149 East on Burnham Overy Staithe overlooking Holkham freshes. Saw maybe three Common Buzzard and a single distant Rough Legged Buzzard, also year ticked White Fronted Goose from here.

Monday 5
The day before the kids went back to school so I took the morning off work to look after them and we headed to a bitterly cold Thornham Harbour. On the drive down to the harbour a pair of Bullfinch flew across the road between tall hedgerows. We walked a little way out towards Holme and soon found the flock of Twite and I eventually counted 58 on the ground together at one point. Aldso added Rock Pipit and Linnet to the year list.
Twite, Thornham
Tuesday 6th
A real surprise on the morning commute into Norwich was a Merlin bombing across the rod just south of Guist. A brief but distinctive barrel chested arrow shaped falcon.

6th and 7th
Lunchtime walks in Norwich's Rosary cemetery were quiet but added Nuthatch, Long tailed tit, Redwing and Great Spotted Woodpecker to my year list.

Thursday 8th
Train south from King's Lynn to London added Bewicks and Whooper swans to the year list plus the usual smattering of Roe Deer in the Fens.

Friday 9th
Lunchtime and a quick in and out visit to look at the southernmost pit at Snettisham RSPB where I quickly scored the Black Necked Grebe I was after. First reaction on seeing it was, what a cutie with its fluffed up feathers and ruby red eye.

Black Necked Grebe, Snettisham
Sunday 11th
I needed to visit the municipal dump in Heacham and took the opportunity to carry on down the road and pop into Roydon Common to see if I could see the wintering Great Grey Shrike. On arrival the rutted, muddy car park was surprisingly full and one old boy with an east midlands accent said that there were lots of folk looking for the Shrike but that it wasn't showing.

Roydon Common
Heading out and following the path along the southern edge of the Common I quickly located the silhouetted Shrike alternately perched and hunting the top of the rise to my south. It then flew down out onto the heath perching at the top of a lone birch tree from where it was flushed by a couple of dog walkers and disappeared from view.

After this I headed back to the car stopping for a few scans which turned up two to three Common Buzzards, a Red Kite, male Stonechat, a handful of Fieldfares and the distant yaffling call of a Green Woodpecker. All in all a productive half hours birding.

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