Friday 23 December 2016


Donald Trump said yesterday that he thinks the USA needs to tool up with more nukes. Well, greetings of the season of peace and goodwill to you too, Mr President-elect. With 2016 being seriously discussed among historians as a candidate for 'the worst year ever', the ominous tweet seemed almost designed to underline how little there is to look forward to in 2017 for those on the lunatic fringe who think nuclear holocaust a very bad idea. A good excuse to look back, then, to a time before democracy proved it's not all it's cracked up to be - to spring, and to May in particular, whose turn it is in my review of the year, as migrant birds arrived in their millions to distract us from the grim realities of existence.

The first half of the month was enlivened by some rare and scarce visitors to my adopted home county of Dorset - Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Red-rumped Swallow were all good birds, but top billing went a to dashing female Red-footed Falcon at nearby Morden Bog and a Great Spotted Cuckoo on Portland - a Dorset tick for me and many others. It gorged on Brown-tail moth caterpillars, which can be found in huge numbers at Reap Lane, for several weeks.
Red-footed Falcon, Morden Bog: my photo of the month for May
Great Spotted Cuckoo, Portland
Red-rumped Swallow, Lodmoor
Kentish Plover, Ferrybridge
Lepidoptera loomed quite large in my life in 2016: as well as being the first spring in which I had the opportunity to put my new lens through its paces photographing these smaller subjects, I steered an Action Plan for Pollinators through to adoption at Dorset County Council - a small but important attempt to boost the prospects of our declining butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects. Later in the year, some wildflower verges we had created as part of this got a hugely positive reaction from the public - the first time in my twelve year career in local government when the compliments in my inbox have outstripped the complaints! But back to May, which saw the emergence of many sought after species around Dorset's butterfly hotspots:
Duke of Burgundy, Cerne Abbas
Green Hairstreak, Cerne Abbas
Small Blue, Portland
Chequered Skipper - a rarity in Britain restricted to a few sites in north west Scotland - we visited one at Allt Mhuic on the way south from a trip to the Outer Hebs
May ended with one of my most epic and enjoyable adventures of 2016 - a three day trip to the Outer Hebrides with David Bradnum and Paul Welling. We made this mammoth journey to pay homage to the unprecedented spring occurrence of a Black-billed Cuckoo from the Americas and, having done so, to appreciate the dramatic landscapes, the breeding waders and other wildlife of North Uist, South Uist and Benbecula:
Black-billed Cuckoo, North Uist: bird of the month for May
Corncrake, North Uist
Redshank, Outer Hebrides
Female Red-necked Phalarope, Outer Hebrides
One of the highlights of the year and the furthest I travelled in 2016. Fortunately it came at the start of a week off providing for a leisurely stay to appreciate the breeding birds on the Hebrides as well as the vagrant Cuckoo - I would have had neither the energy nor the inclination to just 'smash and grab' the rarity in such a memorable location. And no, Mr Trump, it would not be a good place for a golf course...

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