Sunday 26 January 2014

The final 'foot-it'

So the final weekend of 'foot-it'. I was nowhere near my target of 70 so I pondered giving in altogether and heading to coast or somewhere else but in the end I decided to stick with it.
Shortly after I left the house this morning the rain started to come down and the wind picked up. I was out for around three hours and although I managed to pick up Mealy Redpoll, Canada Goose (feral), Shoveller and Herring Gull, I was cold and wet by the time I got back. I walked through UEA checking the feeders (where I had a single female Brambling and at least two Mealys). The broad remains quiet but at West Earlham marshes I had managed Canada Goose (feral), Shoveller and Herring Gull. In all my total is now 54 and likely to stay on that unless I luck a Tawny Owl during the week or can make it on Friday evening to Eaton Common and jam in a Barn Owl - both are a long shot though.
So what's been the highlight of 'foot-it'. Well several things really, its been great to explore the area around where we live. Up to now I had kind of ignored it and this has pushed me to see what sort of habitats exist locally and I have been surprised by what I discovered and excited by the prospects of what these places could offer in the next few months. Marston Marshes and Eaton Common in particular will be places I intend to visit in April and May as the summer migrants arrive. Cuckoo, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat all look like possibilities in these spots and wouldn't it be special to dig out a singing Nightingale somewhere?
The other benefit has been the exercise. Four weekends in a row I've left the car parked up and birded on foot. And what's more, what started as night time walks around the local area looking for calling Tawny Owls has become a regular walk each evening after work, I intend to keep that up as the benefits are obvious.
And bird-wise what have been the highlights. Well, there were no real shocks or surprises. It was nice to see Brambling and Mealy Redpoll on the feeders at UEA but I expected I would at some point. Hearing a Cetti's Warbler only ten minutes from home on Eaton Common was very nice. For those who regularly bird the Yare river valley, its nothing special, but coming from Ireland where the species is very rare and having only previously seen or heard them in Mallorca, that was the highlight for me.
So what did I was miss out on. Well with a score of 54 versus 70, quite a lot obviously. But I was surprised not to see any Sparrowhawk, Siskin or Green Woodpeckers. I couldn't, despite my best efforts, flush any Woodcock or Snipe, I was unsuccessful, despite trying, for any owl species (I tried many evenings for Tawny, searched at UEA for Little and on Eaton Common for Barn Owl). I hoped for a wintering Chiffchaff and expected to at least hear a Water Rail but will finish without these two as well.
So what's next? Well, the Six Nations starts next Saturday, so I will work my birding around the matches as I always try to do. I've enjoying looking for my own birds rather than fruitlessly chasing other peoples finds around Norfolk, so I will try to catch up with some species such as Woodlark, Goshawk and Rough-legged Buzzard in February and I will practise a bit more with the external flash and fresnel lens in preparation for my Ohio warbler trip in May. Enough to be getting along with me thinks.

River Yare at west Earlham marsh - 26th January 2014

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