There is something tantalising about a new notebook. Clean, unmarked pages, each faint ruled line full of potential. Of the many fillings for notebooks, one of my favourites is lists. Birdwatchers are infamous for keeping lists, a habit which often leads them to be confused in the uninitiated public’s eye with twitchers. Let me clarify that. There are birdwatchers, and there are twitchers. And I definitely count myself in the former category. Twitchers spend every free moment (and some spend far more than that) ticking off species from a list in an attempt to complete the collection. Birdwatchers, myself included, observe birds and their habits, and often happen to keep a list of the birds they see, which in technical detail, is a very different thing.
Each New Year I start with great intentions. I line up my new notebook, new pen, and new enthusiasm side by side on the coffee table, and balance my binoculars on the windowsill. I will keep a list I say, of all the species I see this year and then at the end of the year I will see how it compares to last years total. Except as always, I don’t know what last years total number of bird species sightings was, because along with the hordes of gym joiners, dieters, and resolution-makers, my dedication to list making tailed off and became distracted somewhere amongst the heady days of spring and summer.
But for now, I am still wrapped up in the new-ness of the year and unable to resist the lure of a new notebook, and list making.
My first bird of 2017 was a robin at breakfast time (more like very-nearly-lunch-time) yesterday. But the new year made a bit of a false start, with heavy cloud and rain delaying our emergence from the christmas-holiday-excess-stupor. Today however dawned bright and sunny and filled with birdsong. The sparrows cheeped with new-found enthusiasm from the neighbours garden, and the dunnock squeaked, and starlings ‘whizzed’ from the top of the oak tree behind the house.
A newly paid membership to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust was as good an excuse as any to get out and visit my local WWT Centre at Arundel.
Tucked below steep wooded hangers where willow trees flame with winter brightness against the mottled greys and browns of the other trees, Arundel WWT centre is an engaging mixture of captive wildfowl collections and natural habitats. The River Arun borders the reserve and the impressive Arundel Castle peers down from its elevated position, over the willows and reeds. I pottered through the collections, reacquainting myself with my camera by focusing on displaying eider ducks, white fronted geese, and interloping coots. I hoped to spy a water rail skulking along the edge of water or along a reed bed channel, but made do with hungry blue tits in a frenzy around the squirrel-proof bird feeders. A bright kingfisher was the star of the day, although a male bullfinch and a flock of long tailed tits did their best to steal the kingfisher’s limelight by flitting around the bushes behind. Two snipe in the rushes on the edge of an island viewed from Ramsar Hide were given away by their long beaks protruding from the vegetation.
I finished the day back at home with buttered digestive biscuits and a piece of cheese, and a quite satisfying list.
2017 Bird List
Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Cetti’s Warbler, Black Headed Gull, Kestrel, Snipe, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Moorhen, Coot, Common Snipe, Shelduck, Kingfisher, Bullfinch, Long Tailed Tit, Wood Pigeon, Mallard, Mute Swan, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Feral Pigeon, Chaffinch, Gadwall, Cormorant, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Tufted Duck, Starling
Coming soon: the date is set for the annual attempt at the Sussex Ornithological Society New Year Bird race by the Midhurst Martlets Team. Follow me on Twitter @SophiEcoWild on Friday 13th January for live updates as we undertake the challenge of seeing as many wild bird species in 24 hours within Sussex as we can!