Re-setting the clock

As the old year draws to a close we naturally look back at the previous twelve months and forward to the next. For me and in the context of this blog, I can look back at some fine birding trips, the discovery new locations and some very special birds, a few seen for the very first time.
My birding year started with sightings predominantly coming from my local patch as well as the fantastic Great Amwell Nature Reserve.
Into February and I made the first of my two trips to RSPB Snettisham this year and vividly remember the almost surreal sight of land and sky becoming one at what felt like the edge of the world, the senses further stimulated by the sounds of wildfowl and waders calling across the mudflats.

February also produced my first sighting of a short eared owl and the thrill of it quartering the scrubby fields west of Hatfield on a bright, crisp winter’s afternoon, huge wings dipping and manoeuvring the bird in search of prey. By the end of the month I’d also seen my first skylark of the year and in the first week of March I’d also seen a yellowhammer and kingfisher, all on my local patch.
Football contributed to my bird list too. A match against Watford Ladies took us to Cassiobury Park in April added ringed necked parakeets to my year list. A chiff-chaff was heard but not seen at the same location so didn’t make my total.
The returning dates of the great migrants are often recorded and in 2012 I saw my first house martin near Hatfield on 15th April, my first swallow in Bognor Regis, West Sussex on 4th May and my first swift in the same location on the following day. The drought of the early part of the year had now passed and a very wet spring was upon us, weather I will always associate with our trip to Pagham Harbour in Sussex at the end of our football tour. Pagham added an avocet, little stint and oystercatcher to the list.
It wasn’t until the first of June that we heard our first cuckoo in Barwick. There were noticeably less times we heard their distinctive call in the valley this year, a trend that I hope doesn’t continue in 2013.
Into the summer and I found a garden warbler in the valley as well as the thrilling sight of a hobby chasing house martins above the house in an acrobatic aerial chase.

Late August and we sneaked to North Norfolk, spending time at RSPB Titchwell and Cley Marshes and producing a splendid life tick in the form  of the gorgeous spoonbill.
Another hobby fell under my gaze at RSPB Rainham Marshes, in the shadow of the QEII Bridge that spans the Thames between Rainham and Dartford.
Into the year’s last quarter and a special trip to the dawn wader spectacular back at Snettisham in November lived up to it’s billing, huge clouds of knot swirling through the sky as they moved from mudflats to inland lagoon at high tide. A great skua added itself to my list too, though in truth after amassing half it’s total in January alone, I’d not made trips to enough different locations to truly rack up a list of any significant number. And so, as the year drifted towards it’s close, an old friend made the last entry on the 2012 list diary as our rather special marsh tit returned to our Barwick garden. The year had passed full circle and as a clean page is prepared to record next year’s adventures I can look forward to many more adventures.
Here’s to 2013 and all the promise that it brings, with best wishes to all The Badger’s Eye’s readers.

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