Zzzzzzzzzzz. Yes, apologies. When talking about travel I am very aware that I am liable to bore the pants of people very quickly. That said, I can do that with almost any topic, it just so happens that I have caught the travel bug, so that’s what I write about today. Tomorrow it could be something completely different, though it goes without saying it’s unlikely to be Wanstead. Sorry about that, the patch has most definitely come off second best this year, possibly not even that high. The blog title is a mockery, I am guilty of false advertising and trading standards have been made aware. I’d love to get back into the patch, but I’m too busy sounding like a broken record. No doubt it will bump along, but last year was very poor. Usually I am guaranteed to come second in the local listing competition, behind Nick. However this year the status quo has been rudely interrupted and I don’t even have a podium place. I don’t, of course, deserve a podium place, so that’s fair enough. All I can say is that it was easier when there were just three of us.
If I were really dweeby I could dig up some stats, but in addition to being my poorest patch year for ages and ages, it was also my lowest UK year list for ages and ages. I ended up on 237 – approximately 23 off my previous low. Year listing is a funny old game, and I’m not sad that I’ve seen such a low number of birds. It’s a total far more indicative of a healthy and well-rounded individual in my opinion, but there have been some crazy misses. No Mandarin Duck, of which the UK’s largest population live about fifteen minutes away. No Black Tern, no Osprey. The list goes on and on, I will not bore you with it as I have recently bored my family.
Work has intervened substantially, it’s been a tough year, tougher than any I’ve ever experienced. Local birding and going birding for the sake of going birding are what has suffered. Last year I believe I ended by saying I’d work hard and play hard, and that has certainly been the case. How I’ve kept going I have no idea, and there have been quite a few stressful moments, including some of my own stupid making. When I stopped running around like a lunatic momentarily just before Christmas, I immediately fell ill, having somehow avoided lurgy throughout the whole rest of the year. The answer is clearly not to slow down, and despite my rapidly advancing years I still feel reasonably energetic. It’ll hit me one day I’m sure, but for now I intend to continue to burn the candle both ends until I get singed.
In the same way that the patch and the UK have gone south, so has this blog. Versus previous years I’ve posted far less, and it annoys me. It used to be a fairly steady 15-16 posts a month, but this year it has been more like 9-10. I’d love to be able to say that I’m a quality over quantity kind of guy, but in truth I’ve had nothing to say for years. However that never stopped me before, whereas this year saw a mere 121 posts. I know, Thank God. But for someone who likes writing this is a massive decline, and it’s not like I have other outlets. Mind you, one advantage of fewer posts means that I have less opportunity to ramble on endlessly and stray off topic...
...err, anyway, the best trip of 2014 has many many contenders, quite simply as I’ve been to many many places, and because I plan my trips properly they’ve all gone rather well. I’ve visited 15 countries, with highlights being taking my family to the USA for the first time and visiting the town my ancestors are from. Then of course there was Hong Kong to visit my sister and her family, which was breathtaking. Birding took a back seat for much of the time, and I zipped around the territory like a nutcase soaking it all in.
From a birding perspective however, it was all about Morocco. I made three visits there, one in January, one in February, and then more recently at the start of this month. The February trip to the desert areas south of Guelmin was the standout trip, with numerous Wheatears and other special birds. That’s not to say that the other trips to Morocco were no good, far from it, and indeed Cyprus was pretty damn good too, but it was the middle, longer trip that stood out. We arrived at lunchtime, and the following morning were in the middle of nowhere, knee-deep in Thick-billed Larks and Red-rumped Wheatears.
|Possibly my favourite foreign bird of 2014
That however doesn’t get the nod. Instead I’m picking Iceland, a short trip that I went on in late June in minimal darkness. Only three and a half days, a long weekend really, but what a place. A tiny trip-list, but the views of the birds were unparalled. Breeding waders and divers were abundant, and I had Phalaropes at arms length. Amazing Harlequin Ducks on the coast, and a trip to Myvatn for Barrow’s Goldeneye. The landscape is dramatic to say the least, but I have no photographic talent in that area and in any event was too busy with the birds. So hard to choose given all the other places I’ve been to, but it was somewhere I’d wanted to go for a long time and it gets a big thumbs up from me as it was as good as I had hoped it would be. Just beware of the weather – I can’t recall seeing the sun at any point, but we did see a lot of rain! That did not detract from what was an excellent trip that I would recommend to anyone interested in waders, wildfowl, and wild scenery.