Friday 3 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy 2014 to all!  I hope you are all enjoying the new year. :)

It’s been a while since I last posted (mostly because of my extremely hectic Christmas job) and I’ll hopefully be catching up on my backlog of post ideas soon, but I wanted to look back over the last year for my first post of 2014.

To start off with, here are some of my ‘first and lasts’ for the year!  (I normally only do this with Swallows, House Martins, Swifts and winter thrushes, as other migratory species I don’t see quite as often, but I’ve added any other records I happened to make this year.)
  • 14/4- first Swallow (Barton Farm)
  • 19/4- first Whitethroat (garden)
  • 28/4- first House Martin and Swift (Barton Farm) 

  • 14/9- last Sand Martins (Itchen in Winchester) (note: I don’t see Sand Martins as often as Swallows or House Martins, so they were probably around much later than this!)
  • 21/9- last Reed Warbler (Hook with Warsash)
  • 3/10- last Swallows and House Martins (Barton Farm)
  • 25/8- last Swift (Washington WWT)- This is a particularly interesting record, as it seems unusually late for a Swift, and for it to be so far north (Washington is near Newcastle).  I was watching a flock of House Martins and Swallows when I spotted the unexpected Swift among them!  Very surprising.  My last Swift record of 2012 was in early August in the south! 

  • 6/11- first Redwings of autumn (Barton Farm)
  • 21/11- first Fieldfares of autumn (Barton Farm)

I saw 141 species of bird this year, which is down on last year (148), but that's ok.
This year I added 3 new species to my British list, all being species I have wanted to see for soooo long- Goshawk, which I wrote about here, and Great Grey Shrike and Red-crested Pochard, which I wrote about here, including my reasons for wanting to see a Red-crested Pochard so much (it’s more complicated than Goshawk and Great Grey Shrike, my reasons for them are both ‘this bird is clearly awesome!!)

I saw several interesting new species in my garden, most notably 4 Yellowhammers that came to feed under the feeders in February.  A Nuthatch was another great addition to the garden list, and a female Whitethroat that took cover in the garden for a while.

I saw 9 new species at my local patch, including Red Kite, Peregrine, Hobby, Lapwing and Firecrest! It was an exciting year for my little patch (1km square of arable farmland, which I will write about in a future post).

I also found the feather of a Barn Owl in my patch, which while Barn Owl won’t be on my list unless I see one, proves that a Barn Owl was present!  This was an unexpected and fantastic record.
Completed my first year of patch watching.

A pair of Peregrines nested in my town, as far as I know for the very first time.  To make it even more exciting, one (possibly two) of their fledged young visited my patch! That’s a post to get around to writing next year.

Breeding species observed at my patch (i.e. I saw recently fledged young or suspected a nest site) included Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Magpie and Carrion Crow.

I began a new interest in identifying and recording fungi.  I think it’s been a good autumn for them!

It was a great year for Clouded Yellow butterflies, and I saw many individuals, including two records at my patch.

I was able to return to Kent this year and visit the places I used to go to see wildlife when I lived there while at uni (moved back to Hampshire a year and a half ago).  I went back to Elmley Marshes and saw the nest box of Barn Owls they had this year (this was early November and the young were fully grown and feathered but seemed to be still using the box as a daytime roosting site, though they were awake and looking out when I saw them!), and enjoyed watching the abundant Marsh Harriers again- they are one of my favourite birds but are scarce in Hampshire.  I also visited my old patch Ferry Marshes, a walk along the Swale estuary where you never know what you might see- this time it was a Grey Seal swimming up the Swale!

I went on my very first twitch! (I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages, but for now I’ll just say that I didn’t see the bird, and probably won’t go on any more twitches. XD)

My knowledge of bird songs and calls has got much better this year, and I’ve been able to add to my experience by hearing some birds songs I’d never heard before, such as Redstart, Wood Warbler, Firecrest and Grey Wagtail.  I always find hearing a bird sing and then identifying it by seeing it is the best way to make sure you won’t forget that song, much better than listening to a recording.  (Though recordings are very useful for confirming things, I use them for that all the time!)

I began making records of every mammal I saw, found dead or saw signs of for the National Mammal Atlas, and it was absolutely fascinating.  It made me realise that I don’t actually see mammals all that often (though this of course depends on where you live- staying at my Uncle’s in London over Christmas, I saw squirrels in the garden every day, and a fox, and was also awoken by the incredibly eerie screams of a fox early on Christmas morning!)  With the help of a friend, I added to these records two mammal records for my area which were both unexpected and exciting, because they were species I didn’t know were about.  I hope to write about both of them soon!

I did more sketching of wildlife and wildlife behaviour (and posted some of them: here are my Herring Gull colony sketches and my Sparrowhawk kill sketches) and I hope I will be able to sketch more, and therefore observe and learn more, in the new year.  I studied illustration, and if I can incorporate those skills with the wildlife knowledge I have been building since I was a child, maybe I can one day become a professional wildlife artist, or at the very least develop a fulfilling and worthwhile hobby!

I was able to visit Germany and learn a little about the wildlife there.

My efforts to improve my seawatching continued this year, and while I’ve had limited success so far I hope to improve my knowledge of this tricky subject in the coming year.

I saw a Cetti’s Warbler sing out in the open!  This happened back in January and yet it remains one of the most notable records of the year in my mind.  As a bird that can be inches away from you when it sings while remaining so well hidden in cover you can’t even glimpse it, it was extraordinary to see this one so well.  I was looking at a small, brown bird perched in a leafless tree, and trying to place what it was, when it opened its beak and out burst the forceful and unmistakable song of the Cetti’s Warbler!  It remains the best view of a Cetti’s I’ve ever had.

And...I started keeping this blog!  It’s been very enjoyable, and I want to thank you all for reading and especially to those who commented and who emailed me with information and feedback, it means so much to me.  I hope to be able to start writing on a regular schedule in the New Year, with perhaps a day for posting, or posts coming out every two weeks or even every week!  I do have a lot of upcoming post ideas.

So that's my wildlife recap of 2013! I'd love to hear about your years too: what wildlife did you see for the first time this year? Did you record any species unusually early or late? What did you see a lot of/not much of? What new things did you learn this year? Tell me all about it. :)

I hope you all have a happy new year, and happy wildlife watching!

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