Monday 10 January 2022

We go again

Several friends have asked me 'what now?' after I put quite a lot of time and effort into a non-motorised year list in 2021. I doubt I will be able to repeat seeing 224 species in 2022 - only the combination of working mostly from home, neglecting domestic obligations, and benefitting from a belting spring for migrant birds in Dorset made that possible. But I certainly don't intend to stop birding locally by bike, and for several reasons. 

First, although I've never really had to watch my weight too much, as I edge closer to the next age range up on the census form (55-65), the exercise is proving necessary to keep it at a level I am comfortable with without having to make unwelcome changes to my diet (regular readers will be aware of my fondness for chips). Second, it's become an essential part of maintaining good mental as well as physical health - the endorphins really do kick in quickly when I get going these days, and the buzz of seeing a target species at the end of a long ride is surprisingly more satisfying compared to if I'd driven. Third, it's just become my preferred mode of birding locally: with some superb areas accessible by bike nearby but not by car, it takes me to places I might not otherwise get, giving a real sense of freedom. And I can't get the bike over the now locked gate at my Swineham patch any more, so cycling gives me a good excuse to neglect that as well ;-).

There are also the obvious environmental advantages compared to driving. I try not to bang on about them (I'll save that for the day job), but even if you aren't concerned about that low carbon/end-of-life-on-earth-as-we-know-it stuff there are other more direct impacts to worry about. To give just one example, on my travels at lower speeds last year I became visibly aware of the toll taken by vehicles in the form of roadkill. There were of course copious numbers of 'invasives' splattered on the roads - Grey Squirrels and, in these parts, Sika Deer, whose loss won't be mourned too much. But I also saw my first eared bat (of any kind, alive or dead) on the roadside, numerous thrushes, warblers and tits, a native Roe Deer and, most recently a dead Otter. So any reduction in that risk, however marginal, has got to be good too.

Anyway, as I say, I can't see myself reaching the dizzy heights of the 220s again this year in terms of the list - but with a few good wintering species lingering into the New Year in Dorset I thought I'd better sweep them up just in case. I'm nowhere near last January's total in terms of species, but while I clocked up about 120 miles in the first month of 2021, so far in 2022 I've done about 145 - so above par on that score at least. A few highlights of the year to date below.

New Year's Day saw me heading west to Charminster, a very wet 40 mile round trip, to see a flock of 11 Russian White-fronted Geese

The Charminster White-fronts were a lot closer than the flock I saw at Hampreston in December - and accessible via one of the best bits of cycle path in Dorset!
A short detour to Silverlake on the way home enabled distant scope views of a redhead Goosander - a species I didn't see until August last year. It was a long way off!
When I got back to Wareham from Silverlake, I knew the Tundra Beans were still at Upton - but for how much longer? I pressed on, adding another 15 miles to the journey, and saw them in fading light.
A good job I did - they were gone the next day
Iceland Gull as it should be seen: following a fishing boat miles out in a windswept bay (far left-hand bird). I really should have visited the Preston chippy on the way down and thrown some out to tempt it closer! Not the greatest of views, and not the nicest of journeys to Weymouth either, but a good bird to have under the belt in 2022. 

This Saturday took me back to Hampreston (another 30 miles in yet more foul weather) where the wintering Whooper Swan was still present
Sunday brought what felt like the first sunshine of 2022, and the lure of Studland proved irresistable despite heavy legs from the day before. Sanderling on the beach was my first of the year.
I like the shell adding a dash of colour to this picture
Studland also produced my first Scaup, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe and Goldeneye of 2022

A bottle-green Shag looking glorious in the sunlight at Studland

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