I've been out locally a couple of time so far this year. My first jaunt was a rapid circuit of both the Flats and the Park with my brother-in-law on New Year's Day - he is from the Isle of Wight and serves me up White-tailed Eagles and so on. Here I was able to return the favour with.....err, not much! We managed about 35 species on our way round, the best of which was probably a Little Owl in one of the usual spots. It really isn't very exciting out there at the moment, and the exuberantly dizzy heights of last year are a tough act to follow. It all feels so pointlessly predictable - it may take me a while to properly get back into it. Typing up my trip to the Midwest probably isn't helping, a reminder of how exciting birding can be and thus sharply illuminating that birding round here isn't.
I went out again today and it felt a little better. I started in Bush Wood which was alive with birds. Drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, calling Nuthatches chasing each other around, cooing Stock Doves and gazillions of Tits. It unfortunately felt rather spring-like, let's hope the birds don't get too confused and start too early. In a moment of early fortune a Woodcock pelted past me along one of the paths, no doubt disturbed by something or someone further down, before swerving away through the trees, an uncanny mastery of flight from what seems a dumpy and ungainly shape. I was lured away to the Flats after 45 minutes or so by the possibility of human company - some of the other local birders had ventured out too. I bumped into Richard near Motorcycle Wood, and then Louis and Gosia nearby. James was just the other side of the road jamming a Yellowhammer - easilythe best bird of the year so far. We couldn't find it again, but it was nice to have a catch up with some people I've not seen for a while, talking about our hopes (and fears) for 2022.
I still haven't bumped into a Dunnock. Or a Blackbird. Or countless other things. In years past I might have made it my mission to do so; this year it all feels slightly unnecessary. Similarly a younger me might have been keen on the Little Bunting in Bexley or the Dusky Warbler at Walthamstow, but this year the pull is not yet so strong. Back to work tomorrow, being tied to my desk should get the birding juices flowing nicely!