They think it’s all over…….well it is now! Well almost. I’ve never known a year go so quickly. In fact I think this is some Government plot and I think they have interfered with the clocks so as to make the pain of the recession seem shorter. I swear it is still only June! Unusually I have not had a holiday this year and all of my birding has been confined to Northumberland and Durham, apart from a couple of days in Norfolk and a couple of day visits to Yorkshire. It’s been a great year and my shaking off the shackles of the RSPB L G leadership has done wonders for my personal birding, in that I have far more time to myself. I thought I’d reflect on a few experiences during 2011.
Coldest Moments…..Quite a few moments to choose from, but I think maybe the hours I stood with Andrew and Tom on top of the hill at Rainton Meadows in January just about clinches it. (Not sure I ever recovered from treks up that hill :-)). My feet almost froze to the ground at one point. Worth it to watch three species of Redpoll though. The Coue's Arctic Redpoll being a lifer. I did see it (three of them I reckon). I think perhaps a few people left thinking they had seen it and actually hadn’t, but I guess they left happy. :-) After all the hours I spent up there I ought to know my Coue's from my elbow. Time will tell. Some beautiful birds amongst that flock.
Patch Highs…..I have without doubt spent less time on patch this year, especially during the latter months. I lost my spark for a while. Still had some interesting walks and hope to get back into stride come 2012. The two Tundra Bean Geese have to be the high. The return of the Short Eared Owls were another high spot and I hope to start the New Year with a sighting. Also very special watching the Great Crested Grebes raising two broods this year and having my first sighting of the likes of Green Woodpecker and Reed Warbler on patch. Thankfully areas of patch so far escape brick and concrete, although one small productive area has now been lost to housing.
Most Surreal Moments……Has to be the Twitching circus at Hartlepool headland for the White-throated Robin. Not being too used to this twitching lark I thought I was going to have to invest in a set of ladders this year. Happily I have avoided that expense and also avoided too much standing around in large groups being directed by self appointed ‘leaders’ and avoiding mega sized cameras, telescopes and their owners. Not my style at all and never will be really, but having said that, I did enjoy the day and I was in very good company, (Cain, Phil and Tom) so we had a laugh. Cain and Tom seemed to brush up on their business skills whilst negotiating with a builder over borrowing his ladders. I confess I was up a ladder on three occasions. I wasn’t gonna go home having been the only one to miss out. We all thought the Red Backed Shrike seen late in more peaceful surroundings was the bird of the day, and a stunner it certainly was! That was more my kind of birding and whilst I can’t really speak for others I think it was theirs too.
Most Rewarding moments……Has to be being involved with youngsters who come along to the occasional walk and talk I give for families and beginner birders. I find that they just like watching and talking about birds with no real thought as to lists, rarity alerts and all that goes with this. It’s a breath of fresh air. I’m especially pleased to see local Killy lad Sam getting involved. Mind you my own lists continue and this year has seen my best ever UK list. It’s always good to watch the knowledge and skill grow of some of the younger birders and bloggers. That has been very noticeable this year. Birding and wildlife will be in some safe hands in the future.
Biggest coincidence…..Having to visit the bushes at Holywell (not wise to have a pint or two whilst birding, in my case anyway) and have a Lesser Whitethroat pop out right in front of me. I didn’t need the bins (just as well) as it was within touching distance. One of several Lesser Whitethroats seen this year.
Longest Birding Trip…..Two days in Norfolk in February with Andrew, Derek and Colin (DBC members)brought some great sightings including Northern Harrier and Ferruginous Duck. The chase for the latter bird was an interesting one. I was just as happy with the flocks of Snow Bunting and Shore Lark. The trip got my year list flying and thanks especially go to Andrew for the arrangements.
Best Birding Day…..Impossible to say really. However the Holywell and coast walk which brought Tom and me a self found pair of Temminck's Stints remains firmly in mind as does the trip to Harthope along with both Cain and Tom, which brought us some great sightings.
Best Birds…..Again impossible to say however a few did bring much pleasure and include the likes of The Tundra Bean Geese on patch, Greater Yellowlegs in the company of Grey Phallarope, (I saw the G Yellowlegs on four occasions), the Desert Wheatear seen when I visited with John quite recently, Red Backed Shrike, the Coue's Arctic Redpoll (in fact all the Redpolls), Northern Harrier, the numbers of Short Eared Owls and I could go on and on. Seabirds have to be in there too as I’ve done more than my usual amount of sea watching this year and have had good sightings of Storm Petrel, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters. Sadly Long Tailed and Pomarine Skua still elude me. Maybe next year? As I’ve said on more than one occasion, the birding just gets better and better the more that time moves on.
My hopes for 2012? Well, good health and being happy will do me fine, with some good birding with good mates thrown in along the way. I wish that for everyone. Oh, and I hope to have plenty of opportunity to walk between Holywell and St Mary's Island and of course stop for fish and chips.
My thanks to everyone who has helped and inspired me throughout 2011.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, AND ALL THE VERY BEST.