Well what a start! As all patch birders know, January is very much a numbers game, a mad dash to try and see as many birds as possible on the patch. The common becomes rare again, birds you will ignore for the next 11 months become "must sees". The danger of course is that you leave nothing for February and mope about in state of deep depression, but let's try and not think about that.
Despite not seeing a Sparrowhawk I've somehow managed 71 species on the patch. By way of contrast I didn't get to these dizzy heights until April 7th last year, and last year was nearly a record one. The soul-less will argue that it is merely a different shaped curve, but that's hardly the point. It means I've been in amongst it, out and about, living the patch dream and achieving high things. Doing more birding, and as the sad news of the loss of Martin Garner reached us this weekend, you really need to get in as much birding as possible while you still can. You never know when you won't be able to any more.
It was blowy out on the patch today, the remnants of Gertrude or the beginnings of Henry. The Flats are a muddy morass, the haunt of stacks of Common Gulls with sprinklings of larger ones. I missed the Med Gull yesterday on account of having lunch with a mate in Amsterdam, but realistically I could be ending the month on 75 or so. I clinched Woodcock last weekend down by the Roding, but Little Egret, Little Owl and Tawny Owl have probably all been available at some point. Still I've really enjoyed January, and that's the whole point. Not of January, just the whole point of everything.
I managed to get to Norfolk for a family walk along the beach, seeing a ton of decent birds along the way. I went to Cyprus on Mission Wheatear and came away successful. I gave the patch a decent go and blew my personal records away. I've been to Rainham a couple of times, and seen a lot of friends from University days and more recent. I've lost several kilos and started cycling to work. The lack of booze hasn't been as hard as I thought it might be, it turns out I am not addicted after all. I've mostly sorted out some obscenely unfair amounts of paperwork needed to comply with an outrageous money-grabbing attempt by a large bully of a country, a considerable weight off my mind. I've started eating fruit, and I've begun in a small way to clear Chateau L of unnecessary things. In other words it has all been very positive and I am enjoying it.
February is shaping up to be fun too. There is a family holiday to look forward to, and then another birding extravaganza in the USA along the same lines as the Washington trip - i.e. me, a large 4x4, and a list of very exciting targets. And then the Wheatears arrive in March...