Tuesday 23 August 2022

June Blues

June 2022 plumbed new depths in my career of birding by bike through a combination of self-imposed wounds and misfortune. The first week of the month was never going to see anything added to the yearlist as we had planned a family holiday to visit our nephew in Norway. I'm not a fan of international travel, being content to spend my holidays in the UK where there are plenty of places I have yet to visit and plenty more I am happy to go back to. But with the children getting older and developing a bit of wanderlust, every now and then I lose the family plebiscite and have to succumb to the will of the majority. 

Arctic Skua - one of the cool birds I saw in Norway while missing even better ones at home

A breeding pair of dark-morph Arctic Skua
On arrival in Oslo I got to use my new blue passport for the first time but was disappointed to find it didn't spirit me through Norwegian immigration and in fact consigned us to a very long queue. This caused us to miss the last train of the night, for which we had already paid, and shell out over £100 for a taxi to get to our accommodation.
The Norwegians don't muck about when it comes to bridges and tunnels

This one was on the Atlantic Highway
Not that going to Norway was exactly a hardship otherwise - we had a lovely week in amazing landscapes, did one of the great railway journeys from Oslo to Bergen, and even saw a few decent birds. But on the day we left the UK an Eleonora's Falcon was located in my former home county of Kent - a bird which in all honesty would have tempted me into the car had it been an option! Then to rub salt in, two days later a Gull-billed Tern appeared in Weymouth - it stuck around long enough that, had I been at home, I almost certainly would have had time to cycle there for a quality bike tick. Not to worry, I would just have to redouble my efforts on my return. 
Great Skua on Runde Island, a great seabird colony on Norway's Atlantic coast

One of several breeding pairs on Runde Island
The first opportunity to do so arose just two nights after my return when a Quail was reported within walking distance of home on Wareham Common. As I headed out there on a breezy evening (no sign of the Quail, though I did hear one on Runde Island in Norway) I thought my hayfever was unusually severe, but after a rough night it became clear I was suffering with something more than hayfever, and a positive Covid test the next morning confirmed my suspicions. 48 hours of headaches and delirium were followed by over a week of various flu symptoms, and it was the 18th of the month before I felt well enough to tentatively head out for a local bike ride. 
Puffin on Runde Island

Ring Ouzel on Runde Island
A second local bike ride the following day repeated last year's success with 'scoping Golden Pheasant on Furzey Island from the Studland peninsula. Another attempt the following weekend to scope a bird on a Poole Harbour island from the mainland (Roseate Tern on Brownsea from Evening Hill) was much less successful. Equally unsuccessful was a mid-week ride to Weymouth one evening later in the month in the hope of seeing an Arctic Tern - though at least that meant I could get the train home and save my legs and lungs which were still not back to full strength after the enforced lay off.
White-tailed Eagle - one of at least 5 seen on Runde

A juvenile bird looking a bit sorry for itself on a rainy day on the island
Then June was pretty much over - a meagre 80 miles cycled, my lowest monthly total since December 2020, and just 2 species added to the yearlist, my worst month since September 2021. Still, I had survived the disease which 180,000 of our fellow citizens did not, with apparently no lasting damage, and had a great family holiday before being laid low, and for that I guess I should be grateful. 
Kittiwake colony in Alesund

Icterine Warbler - fairly common around Forde where we stayed on our last night in Norway