So here we are once again, in a seemingly all too quick repeat of 2010
- I am employed, which is more than I was this time last year. What more can I ask for? Oh, perhaps that I remain employed. The climate is still treacherous in my chosen industry, but for now, I shall make hay while the sun shines.
- To actually go birding. Just a bit. Pretty please.
- To win the coveted Golden Mallard, worth at least fifty quid. If I win it, I'm going to sell it.
This past year I had no birding goals at all. This resulted in me seeing a Short-toed Treecreeper, so a fat lot of use that was. Maybe I need to be more specific? I shall not twitch stupid birds just because they are ticks. How about that? Would I stick to it? What do you think?
Best Birding Moment
It has been a pretty fabulous year. I already gave best bird award to the Cory's Shearwater (here), so I need to choose something else. If you recall, there were a couple of contenders, so I think that day on Scilly, when we went over on a day trip expecting to see a Solitary Sandpiper (dull) and dipped it, but instead came away with a Black-and-White Warbler and a Bee-eater that showed so well that my photo of it made it into Birding World. Rounding the corner of one of those narrow Scilly lanes up near Maypole to ask a couple of guys what they were looking at... well, what can you say? Those that were with me can testify to the rapture. A great moment.
But was it better that the exhausted Jack Snipe on Shetland that was oblivious to our presence, so much so that it walked over my hand? A common bird perhaps, but certainly a moment that I will remember for a very long time indeed. I mean it walked over my hand. Not around my hand, or around me, but over me. I doubt I'll ever have anything like that happen again.
And let's not forget the Sandhill Crane that, with impeccable timing, decided to grace the area around Loch of Strathbeg for precisely the few days that I was on my way up to Shetland with an eight hour lay-off in Aberdeen. Arriving at the airport I hustled to a hire car and an hour later was stood on the edge of a field watching this stonking rarity, which of course was all the sweeter for knowing that my mates were either already on Shetland, grimacing, or stuck down in London. Boy did I feel smug, which is of course what birding is all about.
Best UK Trip
Hmmm, not like I've been anywhere, is it? The Waterthrush was ace, but it is the previous trip to Scilly that I remember more. Yes, the Bee-eater one again. Oh, and the Black-and-White Warbler. Did I mention those already? Possibly. What about the Semi-P that came within six feet? No? Well, what about the incredible sea-watch off Pendeen with double figures of Sabine's Gulls and double figure of Grey Phalaropes? Somewhat of a glorious weekend by anybody's standards, including my very low ones. Yes, that gets my vote. Me, Bradders and Crofty on a fly-by-night expedition to the south-west, utterly exhausting, but top notch birding that makes Cornwall seem not too far away at all.....
Two words. Cory's and Shearwater. Magnificent.
Easy. Short-toed Treecreeper. A boring brown excuse for a bird that could not possibly have been worth the £25 of diesel that it cost me to twitch it. For day one of its stay I was adament - I was not going, end of story. I willed it to die overnight, but it didn't, and so by day three, or maybe even day two (I have no shame) I found myself tootling across to Landguard to place a meaningless tick against it. OK, so I saw it well, well enough to photograph the steps in the wingbar, but seriously, who am I kidding? Pathetic.
Worst UK Trip
Most pleasingly, a very tough one this year. No stupid single-day twitches to the north-east, no nightmare walks down Blakeney Point. So that being the case, it has to be said that Shetland was disappointing, especially given the highs of last year. It was good, lots of decent bird, but it couldn't live up to the previous year. The weather, almost constantly westerly, was never going to produce much; that any eastern birds got through at all was a miracle. There was far too much plantation-bashing for birds that were patently non-existent, and we should have cut our losses and gone to the pub, or at least not been quite so relentless. Self-finding rarities is all well and good, but in truth we didn't stand a chance on the forecast we had, and my desire for continued flogging of habitat that had no birds in it unfortunately did not match that of Bradders. I tried to talk sense into him, but he was having none of it; consequently it was extremely hard work. Then again, I think that to appreciate Shetland, you have to realise that it can't be like 2010 every year, and if you go, you're taking a big gamble. Mine did not pay off, and the good birds were literally either side of my trip. Some you win, some you lose. I'm definitely going back - when it's good it's phenomenal.
Best Foreign Trip
Easy-peasy. Not that I have many trips to choose from, but the February trip to the Baltics was awesome. Cold, but awesome. I have never experienced cold like it, and my clearest memory, other than ending up at forty-five degrees with what was left of the car in a snow-drift, is of walking early one morning from the car to a ferry terminal. It was only about two-hundred yards, so I didn't bother with gloves. Oh. My. God. I felt my hands beginning to die after about twenty paces, it was the most extraordinary feeling. It was, I think, minus twenty-six centigrade, plus (or minus again) whatever the wind was doing. A superb trip, not huge numbers of birds, but most of the targets bagged in some stunning scenery. We felt truly pioneering.
Best Domestic Moment
An improved performance this year, but I was fairly proud of hosting a tea-party for all of Muffin's friends and mothers. I am almost the lone bloke in the playground, so this was quite a coup, or so it felt. I managed to get (and keep) the house tidy, and produce a passable meal of various bits and pieces. I deferred the cake-making to Mrs L, but other than that it was all my own work, and nobody died. Or at least not that I noticed.
Worst Domestic Moment
Usually I have more choice here that any other category. Let me pop downstairs and ask Mrs L what she thinks - I failed to ask this last year and possibly therefore denied you the full and awful truth.
Right, I'm back, and do you know what, the woman is stumped! Yup, for the first time ever, she can't think of anything that I have foulded up. Hah! How about that then? Mind you, I did ask her what the worst one was; presumably she could rattle off dozens of minor incidents, but nothing particularly stands out as being especially bad. So, can I think of anything?
No, I can't. This must mean that I am now, after three years, a fully-fledged Domestic God. Well thank goodness for that. A long winding road, a few hiccups, but we started at five, we're still five, and all four walls are still standing. Shame then that I am now back at work. The garden has gone to wrack and ruin, and the lawn is now an attractive mesh of mud and moss, but hey, I'm always looking at the sky, so what does it matter?
Most Amusing Photograph
This is a photo of Jos sea-watching in Estonia. The weather was so severe that we very nearly dipped the sea entirely, but when we finally managed to get to it, it was one of those great feelings. We had found the sea, it was time to sea-watch. From the sea.
No annual review should be without a pranged car it seems, so here is the offering from 2011. This was taken only a couple of hours after the sea-watching photograph above, and was most unfortunate. Our lovely Renault Laguna was never the same again, and though we made it back to our ferry, we then transferred to a Suzuki Shitter which was nowhere near as good. Though someone did manage to get caught speeding in it....
So, another year done. What will the next one bring?
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!