Tuesday 15 June 2021

In defiance of June

Looking through my birding records for the month of June does not typically take very long. 

2020: 3 species

2019: 3 species

2018: 2 species

2017: 13 species

2016: 1 species

2015: 1 species

I clearly pulled out all the stops in 2017 with a quite remarkable 13 species, but normally it appears that I just stop birding. I am not sure what happens, it is not as if I suddenly become a keen lepidopterist like many birders, but one thing is for certain: dusty bins. If my last post is any guide I suspect that I swap them for my trowel and hoe and get busy in the garden, and I reckon many birders do the same. Talk to many birders and they will all say the same thing. June is rubbish. Everything has finished travelling north, none of it has yet come back. Nothing is singing particularly overtly, everything is hiding in thick vegetation. Local patch lists, and UK year lists if you are in to that, are stagnant. Nothing to see here. Wader passage starts in mid to late July, see you then. 

June 2021 is different. Before you ask, no I have not driven from London to Somerset to Northumberland to Devon then back to Northumberland and over to Scilly. At that point your hobby is driving, and in any event I have a job and can't dredge up the big twitch zeal very frequently these days anyway. Yes I saw the Mockingbird once I was able to travel, and had a great day out in Devon whilst I was at it, but that scratched that itch for a while and the various goodies on offer over the last couple of weeks have done nothing at all to raise my blood pressure. I have been more than happy with a more relaxed style of birding, simply wandering around with no great expectation of seeing anything spectacular (correct assumption as it happens) but enjoying being outdoors.

I birded Fife quite hard at the start of the month, several hours on most days, so I saw quite a lot that week that I would not normally see. I also took a day off as there was a family outing planned in the Highlands to meet up with my sister and her family. Mrs L and I went overnight the evening before, ie sans enfants, and in addition to a cheeky walk at the Pass of Killiecrankie on the way up which turned up Wood Warbler and Dipper, we spent a morning around Aviemore before a beach afternoon at Loch Morlich. We saw a ton of lovely birds, Slavonian Grebe, Red Grouse, Crested Tit, Pied Flycatcher and so on, but drew a blank on Caper and a few of the other residents. We enjoyed this very naughty bird cleverly defeating a squirrel feeder.

Guilty as charged m'lud

The drive down south missed the Red-necked Stint by a day unfortunately. I could have driven back up on the Sunday, and I would have got it as well, but frankly I'd rather have chewed my own arm off after the eight hour drive on Saturday. I had a couple of mooches around the patch which, Quail aside, has been as dead as the proverbial, but even Wanstead in early summer cannot dampen my current enthusiasm for birds, and so I've found myself doing a spot of birding further afield - Kent, East Sussex, Suffolk and Essex.

Now before you all accuse me of year listing, I'm not. Proper year listing would have meant getting in the car and driving to Northumberland and all those other far-flung places. No thanks. I've been there and done that, about a decade ago. It was great fun at the start, but ultimately exhausting and by about October, perhaps earlier, I'd had enough. But there has been an element of listing, and actually I think this is good thing. Much like cricket stats - the highest second innings fourth wicket partnership at Lords vs New Zealand on a Monday in July when both batsmen's surnames start with the letter C -  birding has an almost inexhaustible supply of lists and sub-lists, and I have been using these to get me out and about when I might otherwise sit on my backside and do nothing. 

So I have now seen a Spotted Flycatcher in Suffolk for example, and Blackcap was a tick in Perthshire, just five miles from my parents' house in west Fife. On one level this is extremely tragic, but I prefer to view it in a more positive light. I can use silly things like this to keep myself motivated, as a way to channel my energy and ensure that I stay connected with birding and don't lose the love for it, rather than get on that regular rollercoaster. The result is that I have seen 138 species this month, rather than almost nothing like I usually do, and I am keener than ever to somehow find a Sparrowhawk locally which simply acts as a convenient excuse to get up and go birding again.

June isn't dull.


  1. I started back as a birder one June. In ignorance I set forth and recorded all sorts of things that ought not be where I found them. Black tern on a gravel pit in Harefield. Why not?

    1. Why not indeed. A week later and I have not found a Sprawk yet, but my effort is dwindling.

  2. That's a fantastic Red Squirrel pic. Just needed to say that.
    Also, best of luck with finding that local sprawk. Hopefully it'll be wheeling around with a Pacific Swift for you.

  3. June is rubbish! Its one of our best months in Northumberland. What about 2019 Baillons Crake, 2020 Desert Warbler, 2021 Red necked Stint, Great Reed Warbler and Pacific Swift etc...not including Rose coloured Starlings, Ring necked Duck, American Golden Plover, Red rumped Swallow, Red backed Shrikes, Blyths Reed Warbler, Golden Oriole...

    I love June...

    1. Northumberland is a constant source of angst so far this June!!