Monday, January 5, 2015

Year List 2015

All naturalists keep lists. And birders are among the most prolific list keepers; county lists, life lists, British lists, local patch lists, the list goes on!
When I was more of a twitcher my year list was second only to my British list. A year list is a record of all the birds seen in Britain in one year and keen birders can, with a bit of effort, see over 300 species in one year. As a birder who only occasionally strayed out of Northwest England and North Wales my list was of more modest proportions; anything over 200 species was a good year. These days I keep a year list more as a record of what I have seen, and as an incentive to seek out those birds that I missed in previous years.
Last year was a particularly quiet birding year for me as I moved house and my spare time was quite limited. And I  therefore missed species that occur quite regularly such as Mediterranean Gull and Barn Owl.
But the beauty of  the New Year is that the list starts anew and all birds no matter how common are all welcome additions to the overall tally. But don't get me wrong here, birds are far more to me than just ticks and numbers! It is just a fascinating way of recording variations between years. For instance I have already seen a Little Egret this year, a bird that I twitched in Wales in 1987!
New Year's day is a great time to get out and observe the local birdlife and I used to plan my day like a military campaign to maximise my sightings. But these days I am more leisurely, after all there are another 364 days to catch up on gaps in the list. Also, I am currently training for my next marathon, so there is even less time for birding. Having said that I did see my first pair of Goldcrests for the year while out on my New Year's day run. I was crossing a bridge over the River Dee in Chester when I heard their high pitched calls emanating from a small tree. I stopped briefly to observe these tiny birds, before continuing on my way, but not before I had also seen my first Cormorants of the year fishing on the river's weir.
New Year's day itself was a bit of a washout due to the incessant rain, but the highlight was definitely the pair of ring-tail Hen Harriers seen over the marsh at Parkgate. Although I ended the day on a meagre 30 species.
I was in work on Friday, but did add Blue and Great Tit to the list.
Saturday dawned grey and very wet, but my morning run did produce two Jays and my first Long-tailed Tits of the year. My back garden remained in the winter shade all day, resulting in dull photos of the flocks of Starlings and House Sparrows. A brief spell of sunshine in the late afternoon allowed better photos of a Woodpigeon perched on a street light behind my house.

I decided on Sunday that my list required the addition of some quality birds so I went in search of three Black-necked Grebes that had been seen on Shotwick boating lake just over the border in Wales. Although in winter plumage these scarce birds were a real treat, and despite being viewed through a fence I was able to take some "record" photographs. The adjacent field also held four species of swan; Mute, Whooper, Bewick's and Black! Naturally, the latter being an escapee didn't make it onto the list.


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