Birding Custom: the New 12 months’s Day Record

Beginning the New 12 months by attempting to see as many species as doable is one thing of a birding custom. Certainly one of my extra memorable New 12 months’s days was within the Falkland Islands, again in 1989. My diary notes that the New 12 months dawned gray and windy, however I rose early, walked six miles earlier than breakfast and famous a modest 26 species of birds. Like many offshore archipelagos, birds are few in selection on the Falklands, although many particular person species are nice in numbers. I used to be on Pebble Island, which, thanks, to plenty of freshwater ponds and lakes, is a superb place for wildfowl. My pre-breakfast record was wildfowl dominated, the ten species I noticed starting from Black-necked Swans to the endemic Falkland Islands Flightless Steamer Duck. The latter are nice bruisers of geese, constructed like a small battle ship. With bulk like that, it’s no marvel that they gave up flying way back.

The ocean isn’t distant wherever you might be within the Falklands: my diary information “a continuing passage of Black-browed Albatrosses, a whole lot of birds so far as the horizon, their white undersides catching the solar [the weather must have cheered up!] as they sheered into the wind. Amongst them had been a couple of Sooty Shearwaters, however strive as I did, I failed to search out any petrels apart from Southern Giants, nor every other Albatrosses.” Re-reading my diary all these years later, it sounds fairly good. My ultimate whole for the day was 39 species – not unhealthy contemplating my mixed record for my two-week Falkland journey was simply 55 species. You don’t go to the Falklands to knock up a giant record, although it’s the very best place within the wold to see a Striated Caracara (above).

Black-necked Swan, New 12 months’s Day tick within the Fallklands

In distinction, I managed 63 species final Monday (1 January 2024) once I tried to see what number of species I may discover inside a modest distance of residence. (The farthest I traveled was 9 miles). The key of rating is visiting as many alternative habitats as doable, so I began with a pre-breakfast stroll alongside the close by Little Ouse river at Knettishall Heath, a nature reserve. A serious bonus was a vivid sunny morning, however there wasn’t quite a lot of hen exercise. I discovered many of the birds I used to be anticipating, from Robin to Wren, whereas I loved the Siskins within the riverside alders. A pair of Mute Swans flew over on creaking wings (they’re noisy fliers), whereas a bonus was listening to a Woodlark singing away on the heath itself. I had been hoping that the Barn Owl I’d seen right here a few days earlier than would seem, however it was clearly again at its roost.

A Siskin by the river
Mute Swans, flying over on creaking wings

Breakfast at residence gave me the possibility to tick Home Sparrow – the simplest place to search out sparrows nowadays is in my backyard. Greenfinches and Dunnocks joined the full which was now over 30.

Dunnock, a dependable backyard tick
A Home Sparrow within the backyard’s ivy-covered hedge

I used to be quickly out once more, this time driving to a neighborhood property the place the farmer, James, is a wonderful conservationist: his headlands planted with wildbird seed mixes appeal to growing numbers of finches and buntings as the times begin to lengthen and provides of pure meals diminish. A small flock of Fieldfares was the primary new tick, shortly adopted by Linnet (a flock of over 200), Chaffinch (a flock of about 50, staying near the hedge), Skylark (a dozen birds with a pair singing) and Meadow Pipit (only one). A number of Widespread Gulls had been patrolling the fields. Regardless of their identify, they aren’t widespread right here, however this farm is at all times web site for them in January and February.

A flock of Linnets

Subsequent cease was Knettishall Heath once more, however this time an space of mature woodland. Marsh and Lengthy-tailed Tit joined the record, shortly adopted by Nuthatch (heard however not seen), Nice Noticed Woodpecker and Jay. Treecreeper would have been a bonus, however none had been to be seen.

Marsh Tit, not at all times the simplest of birds to search out whenever you need one

A close-by farm reservoir is usually productive, however it disillusioned at the moment, with simply three additions to the record: Little Grebe, Mallard and Cormorant. Three Buzzards and a few Purple Kites soared over, however they had been repeat sightings of species I’d seen earlier. 

Purple kite – a hen now thriving in Suffolk

I drove on to a bridge spanning the Black Bourn, a small, shallow river that could be a favoured hang-out of Kingfishers. Connecting with a Kingfisher is at all times a matter of luck, so I wasn’t stunned to not see one, however a Gray Wagtail was a satisfying addition, whereas I additionally noticed my first Moorhen – I’d solely heard one earlier.

A Gray Wagtail on the river Black Bourn

Micklemere is a wetland reserve belonging to the Suffolk Wildlife Belief, and was my subsequent location. I loved a pleasing half hour watching from a cover, however solely added the birds I used to be anticipating – Greylag and Canada Geese, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal – with none bonus birds corresponding to Little Egret and even Gray Heron. Nonetheless, I loved my half hour within the cover, as the various wildfowl appeared splendid within the low winter solar. I famous from the log that I ought to have been there on Christmas Day, when a White-tailed Eagle had been seen.

A pair of Shovelers: these two had been reluctant to be ticked

My subsequent web site was one other wetland – Nice Livermere lake. Precisely a 12 months earlier than it had produced a Pintail and a wintering Chiffchaff, however neither was to be seen at the moment. Coot – not probably the most thrilling of birds – joined the record, whereas on distant arable fields there was an enormous congregation of Lapwings. My estimate was over 1500 birds. They made a high quality web site once they all took to the air – had they been disturbed by a passing Peregrine? If that they had I failed to identify it, however I did see a flock of round 50 Golden Plovers blended in with them, a hen I hoped to search out right here.

Lapwings – the flock numbered round 1500 birds

The sunshine was starting to fade now, as cloud had slipped throughout the sky, eclipsing the solar, so it was time to move homewards, with only a couple extra websites to take a look at. The primary was a stake-out for Raven, a hen that has solely lately began nesting in Suffolk once more after an interval of round 150 years. The Raven will need to have been ready for me, as I quickly positioned it, sitting on prime of the tower of St Genevieve’s Church. It was my sixtieth species of the day. My {photograph} (beneath) of this hen is hardly a fantastic image, however it does seize the raven’s attribute heavy beak and massive head.

Species No 60: a Raven

Yet another web site remained to be checked on the six-mile drive residence. It produced my finest view of the day of a Mistle Thrush, an surprising Gray Heron, and a trio of Herring Gulls flying over. That introduced an satisfying day’s birding to an appropriate conclusion. My whole of 63 was hardy spectacular, however I hadn’t missed a lot (Music Thrush being probably the most notable absentee from my record), and I’ve at the least obtained 2024 off to an inexpensive begin.

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