Friday 25 December 2020

Christmas 2020

As 2020 begins to thankfully gasp its last breaths this crappy COVID year will soon draw to an end and what a year it has been. Christmas has finally effectively been cancelled after much shilly-shallying from the Government and the New Year is looking uncertain and bleak at the moment but despite the sad and restrictive year we have all endured I can be very thankful that my health and finances and of those I love are OK, much more than can be said for many people in the world at the moment.

Wildlife for me has been a God send this year, even more so than usual, and despite the stresses, strains, anxieties and fears it has kept me focused and kept me going. 

Birding has been great and I have recorded over 200 species in the UK this year (205 as of Christmas Day to be exact), something I rarely achieve and surprising with the lock down periods but more likely because of them as I have had to be inventive and explorative locally for my birding days out. 

One of the highlights has been exploring local sites that I would otherwise overlook in a normal year, my River Plym and Saltram walks and exploring Roborough Down and the Walkham Valley have provided sightings of a wealth of wildlife not far from my front door. 

Only 2 UK ticks this year - Little Bittern and Melodious Warbler ( but both seen before in Egypt and Spain respectively) - but there has been a good range of sightings of rare, scarce and uncommon birds (for me) with Ross's Gull, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-necked Duck, both Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Woodchat Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler, Tree Sparrow, Balearic Shearwater, Red-backed Shrike, Roseate Tern, Grey Phalarope, Iceland Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Black Guillemot the best of them. Maybe the Ridgway's Cackling Goose at Slimbridge will pass the plastic fantastic test too and provide a retrospective life tick. 

I had 2 great seawatching sessions at Berry Head which were informative and educational despite getting cold and wet in the wind and rain. A winter boat trip out of Penzance was great too and amazingly I saw a Hump Back Whale. Walks on Roborough Down were interesting including a long walk to Cadover Bridge with my mate Mavis where we saw Cuckoo, Dartford Warbler and Red Kite in glorious sunshine. And trips to Minsmere and Slimbridge were bird filled and comfortably familiar in unusual times. 

Butterflying was good too despite the lock down, 36 species seen with Adonis Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper resting on my hand the highlight on a trip to Fontmell Down. High-brown Fritillary, Essex Skipper, Brown and White-letter Hairstreak, Clouded Yellow and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary were runner-up highlights too. 

Mothing has been enjoyable too with the back yard yielding 9 of my 10 favourite garden moths (Old Lady was a no show) along with a Vestal and 2 Bloxworth Snout. Moth trapping in my Mums garden provided some interesting and new moths too including Box Tree Moth and Elephant Hawkmoth. 

And so here we are, teetering on the verge of a Tier 4 lock down in the New Year if not a total lock down but I will soon be getting the COVID vaccine at work as the NHS looks set to be having a rocky start to 2021.

Hopefully though 2021 will be as bird and nature filled as this year has been and things surely can only get better. 

Happy New Year! 


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