Saturday 27 December 2014

And so this is Christmas...

...and what have I done? Well apart from over-indulging in a variety of victuals, solving seemingly intractable Lego-based challenges and spending way too much time with the family, there has been precious little in the way of birding. A quick trudge around a birdless patch therefore seemed in order today. I was hoping it would help me dredge up enough memories for a 'review of the year' post. Not quite, though it did serve as a reminder of all the good birds I have missed at Swineham in 2014. In fact, I managed to display spectacularly bad form in this regard, even by the low standards of my fickle patch-watching career.
A Grey Wagtail brought a dash of colour to Swineham this morning
It all started in April when a pair of Black-winged Stilts appeared no sooner than we had gone to Cornwall for a week's holiday. Others were seeing a Great White Egret in the area through the spring but I failed to connect despite several early morning and late afternoon vigils. The dipping continued into autumn when a White-winged Black Tern eluded me and I failed to connect with Marcus's Yellow-browed Warbler. The Neil Warnock-like run of bad luck finally came to an end in early December when Paul Morton's Bean Geese did the decent thing and stuck around long enough for me to catch up with them.
Shoveler: one of a 40+ flock at Swineham this morning
According to an erratically populated notebook, the Beans were one of only six patch ticks this year. The others - Garganey, Black-necked Grebe, Smew, Egyptian Goose and Turnstone (get in!) - all good patch fare if not exactly patch gold. Not a bad return though, given how little time I spent there: the first part of the year, any spare time I had seemed to be spent chasing around after rarities; the latter part, getting to grips with a new job which had quite an impact on the energy and time I had left for birding anywhere, including Swineham.
Little Grebe at Swineham
Throw in an apparent rise in the number of non-birding visitors (and four-legged ones), and the increase in the use of the gravel pits for water sports, and it seemed at times like I was not the only one who had forsaken the old patch: quite a lot of the bird life seemed to have too! Perhaps in 2015 foul weather, all year round floods and general lack of visitation will bring them back. Well, I can dream, can't I?
A belated Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for reading this year. No snow-covered cliché perches for the Swineham Christmas Robin: he much prefers to rest on expensive optics.

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