First things first

Wow, sorry for the wait. Its already 14 days into May and I’ve still not updated you all on my March figures, I’m surprised you’ve all survived the suspense! As it’s been so long, to put things in perspective, by the end of February, my year total was up to 104, with a massive 85 of these seen in January. If you’ve been checking out my yearlist at all, you may have noticed that by the end of March a couple of migrants such as Chiffchaff and Blackcap had crept onto the list.

For non-birding readers (or those just beginning- hello Sarah!), I feel I ought to update you a little on the birdwatching year. Winter is a great time of year for birding, as a lot of birds migrate here to survive the winter in a warmer(!) climate. This may seem mad when you think about some of our summer migrants such as Cuckoos, which travel to Africa for a warmer winter, but when you consider that our winter visitors may have come from Scandinavia, Russia or Iceland, you can understand how Britain may appeal as being warm to them. Because of these influxes, winter is an exciting time of year for birdwatching, and my mission for the first few months of the year had been to catch up with as many winter visitors as I could. In theory, this should mean that by the time the winter months of 2012 arrive I should be ahead of Chris in our year-lists and can concentrate specifically on species that I missed at the start of the year. This may be very organised and some may even say tactical or obsessive, but without taking this seriously, Chris is likely to beat me in enthusiasm alone so I need all I can to stay ahead.

Moving on through the seasons, spring heralds a different kind of birding. Spring migrants who have spent their winters somewhere warmer start to appear, and this often brings an influx of slightly peculiar and unexpected birds. This in a way is one of the advantages of being in the south, as it means that I get to see migrants before they’ve made it to the rest of the country. Whilst Hampshire isn’t well known for turning up a lot of unusual visitors with spring migration, the periphery of the country tends to be where these kind of birds turn up. Places like Norfolk, the Scilly Isles, Cornwall and (more locally) the Isle of Wight tend to get exciting rarities more often than other parts of the country. Basically, if you’re a bird flying in from the continent or Africa, think of the first places you would be likely to hit land for a breather, and these are the places that will be good for rarities. Racing around to see unusual birds at this time of year is a different type of birding to that which I enjoy, but the spring months are a twitcher’s paradise.

Along with the odd rarity, this is a lovely time of year to be a birder of any sort, and I for one love nothing more than the suspense of waiting to see the first Swallow and then Swift of the year or hear the first Chiffchaff, Cuckoo or Nightingale. It’s lovely to know which species you are expecting back, and to feel happy to welcome them when you do finally see your first. This year I was particularly looking forward to seeing my first Wheatear of 2012, and having finally tracked one down in Cornwall I’ve now been seeing them by the bucketload. However many I’ve seen, Wheatear never cease to delight me as they’re such lovely characters, and anyone who is not mesmerised by a sky full of Swallows and Swifts in my opinion has something wrong. Spring is such a lovely time of year all round.

The migrants have kept on coming right through April and into May. Whilst my March total of 11 was pretty disappointing, I have managed to claw it back in April when I saw a grand total of 27 species (wahoo!) including a lot of summer migrants as well as birds from habitats I’ve not really birded so far this year such as coastal cliffs in Cornwall. This takes my yearlist to a very respectable 142. Considering I decided that anything over 150 would be a decent enough figure for my first year of officially listing, to get this far in the first third of this year is something I am very pleased with. At this point, I have no idea where Chris is at in terms of totals (and I’m not sure if he does either) but I am keen to know what his total is so far.

Here’s to continuing to keep up with migrants over the next month.

Keep birding, proper updates to come soon.

Jo

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