Yahoo! It's that fantastic time of the year again when all bloggers simultaneously indulge in a healthy slice of self-centered nostalgia for the year that has just passed! I'll keep this one short of words as I'm sure, like myself, you're probably not in the best mood for reading after celebrating the start of 2014.
The year started in fair ordinary fashion, and I spent much of the winter working full time in a retail store attempting to fund the months ahead. I made the most of any days off with a few sneaky outings here and there...
|Bonaparte's Gull, Eastbourne|
|Pallas's Warbler, Moor Green Lakes |
|Smew, London Wetland Centre|
February saw a continuation of the Waxwing
invasion, with this small flock doing the decent thing and turning up out of nowhere as I played tennis in the local park (I'm still trying to decide which was rarer; the birds or the fact that I was playing tennis)...
|A 'street' shot of some local Waxwings, Thames Ditton|
February also saw the return of a female Lesser-spotted Woodpecker
in Bushy Park. She continued to show brilliantly throughout the month, but was sadly never seen with a mate...
|Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Bushy Park|
March saw some unseasonably cold weather, and very little in terms of invertebrate interest on Stokes Field, despite regular visits for the '1000 species in a 1km square'
challenge (which I'd certainly recommend attempting in 2014). A few more successful road trips were made to nearby counties though...
|Purple Sandpiper, Southsea Castle|
|Black-bellied Dipper, Thetford|
April started with a marathon twitch via bike, train, hovercraft and then bike again for a bird reported two day previous in a windswept corner of the Isle of Wight. Then this thing popped out...
|White-spotted Bluethroat, Isle of Wight|
Of course, the month will no doubt be remembered by the majority of London birders for the spectacular migrant fall that took place in the last two weeks of April. Stokes Field was no different, and the constant coverage I'd given that dog shit covered site for the preceding three months finally paid off with both Redstart and Tree Pipit turning up within a week of each other, in almost exactly the same spot. Some of the words expressed when that male Redstart suddenly flashed across in front of me probably haven't been uttered since the dark ages...
|The delicious duo- Redstart and Tree Pipit five minutes from the front door|
On the other end of the size scale, April saw me fully cement my interest in pan-species listing, with a good number of nationally scarce invertebrates and plant species noted on the patch. Highlights included the rare springtail Isotoma riparia; the small leaf beetle Longitarus dorsalis and the scarce fern, Adder's Tongue. All records collected during the spring will hopefully go towards putting Stokes Field firmly on the ecological radar.
In May, I spent 10 days travelling around Shetland, starting on the indescribably brilliant Fair Isle, before hiring a bike and cycling around the mainland- soaking up beauties such as these throughout the 10 days...
|Long-tailed Duck, Fair Isle|
|Snow Bunting, Fair Isle|
|Red-backed Shrike, Fair Isle|
|Short-toed Lark, Sumburgh Head|
And sights such as these...
|This is what midnight looks like on Shetland in early summer|
|A deserted beach near Levenwick. Who needs the Mediterranean?|
|North cliffs of Fair Isle|
Returning back to London in June, I jumped straight onto the tube and hit the Natural History Museum for a 'behind-the-scenes' work placement in the Hemiptera & Coleoptera department, meeting friends old and new, and getting the chance to sort through mad tropical monstrosities not even Steven Spielberg could make up.
|Ever wondered what the museum lobby looks like before the doors open?|
As it turned out, the following month was to carry on the trend of general madness, as I found I'd been offered a spot as a funded volunteer back at the bird observatory on Fair Isle. Working with a fantastic bunch of people in a sublime part of the world, doing things I never imagined I'd get to do in a gap year; I can't explain how much of an eye opener it was. There were Puffins, Black Guillemots, rare orchids, jellyfish, Long-eared Owls in caves, late night sunsets, drunken island parties, midnight twitches for Roseate Terns, 200 metre cliff tops, Tennants (too much Tennants as my bar tap proved), Rosefinches that needed ringing, self-found Subalpine Warblers, and of course there was that casual night when we recorded three species of Storm-petrel...
|Buness, Fair Isle|
|The 'classic' Puffin|
In August, my brother and I travelled to Santa Cruz, where we spent two weeks kayaking with Sea Otters in Monterey Bay, drinking ridiculously cheap Mexican imported beer, and getting a taster for Californian beach parties.
... What? I'm was on a gap year! I'm allowed to spoil myself...
|Santa Cruz, CA|
The rest of August will be remembered for a welcome burst in lepidoptera numbers. Word on the street suggested that Clouded Yellow butterflies were piling in front the continent, and moth traps were consistently becoming full to the brim night after night. My undoubted highlight during the period was this colourful micro, Ethmia quadrillella, caught in the garden moth trap on the 21st August. The first record of the species for Surrey/London, and one of only a handful of records to have come from the south-east of England in the past 20 years. Who knows where it's come from...
Before the month was out there was just time for a quick trip to the Dorset coast, where I was to catch up with Sand Lizard for the first time, and enjoy point-blanc views of this textbook male Ruddy Darter...
In September, University happened...
|I've been more sober before... |
October, November and most of December carried on the general university theme, without too much time for wildlife. I did make numerous trips to my new 'University patch', Grimley Camp Lane Pits, and if I was to make a cheesy New Year's Resolution, it would definitely be to put in more hours at the site over the coming winter and spring. Grimley seems to have hit a bit of a purple patch recently, and last spring there saw ridiculous local finds such as Great Reed Warbler and Temminck's Stint. I wouldn't mind finding my own migrant or two in between lectures, and with a bit of effort put in it's definitely possible.
|... I've got high hopes for this place|
So there you have it. That there has basically been my year. 2013 will take some beating, so here's wishing you a very happy and successful 2014! Let's hope it's a goodun'.