I have never really considered myself a serious twitcher. Whilst I have always adored birds and love to see and photograph them, my interest has been more of a casual byproduct of generally loving nature, rather than a specific hobby. Over the last few years, I have become more serious about birding, developing my skills and falling further in love with this class of animals. But at the beginning of this year, I became aware of Birdwatching Magazine’s #My200BirdYear, and a slight obsession has set in. The avian publication has set a challenge to all of its readers; can you spot 200 different bird species in just one year? During my initial investigation, I discovered that apparently not many people have managed to complete this challenge (so far no one I found has hit 200, one person made 187..)and I began totting up the bird species I know I see regularly. As I started to hit the 50’s I thought ‘surely this can’t be that hard? I know I see those birds on a regular basis and I’m not even trying’. But then it hit me – I see those birds on a regular basis…over and over again. Another 150 on top of that? That was where the challenge was. I decided I wanted to join in, and sporting my new bird watching book, I began to take notes of the species I saw. (N.B I am counting properly, I haven’t just thought about what I see on a regular basis and included them! As of today, the current count is 48!)
It only took a few days for this casual new hobby to develop into an ornithological obsession, and I found myself developing an excel spreadsheet to keep a log of all my sightings, joining new facebook groups to aid with identification and stopping constantly, much to the annoyance of others, to follow any tiny movement amongst tree branches. Overall, the challenge is going to be a positive one for me. I have always been stronger with other animal groups, so anything which develops by birding skills can only be a good thing. I find myself photographing everything I see and then scrutinising the pictures after, hoping for something I have never witnessed before, as well as pouring over bird ID guides, wondering what I might have spotted. Thus far, one of my favourite spots has been goldcrests and firecrests, who I enjoyed a short spell of following. The way they weave quickly around tree branches makes them a delight to observe, although a nightmare to try and photograph.
I was also excited to spot my first ever lapwings when a small group flew over the RSPB estuary at Hayle and I enjoyed discovering willow tits nesting site at work, as well as the usual suspects which have been fairly regular in my world for some time, such as curlews and choughs. A couple of days ago, I had a particularly special moment. Whilst taking an early morning walk on my patch, I heard a repetitive chirrup and a scratching sound from high above me. Squinting into the sunshine, I searched the branches, thinking ‘please, please, please’ in my head. Sure enough, at the top of the tree, my first nuthatch was pecking at the bark, looking for insects beneath the lichen. The first of the season for me, and although I haven’t yet seen another, it has made my year (already!) to know that they are around again.
But not only is this new found infatuation a positive step personally, but I hope that overall it will be beneficial to the birds themselves. It has opened my eyes further to the large amount of species around my patch, and as a lot of my work will be focusing on conservation in the future, it means that I can log these species and help to create an environment which is more beneficial for them in the future. I have made links with the local BTO and am excited to be taking part in future counts and surveys and have developed a keen interest in curlews, with ideas about projects ongoing. Because at the end of the day, this is all it takes. An interest, a little bit of excitement and this develops into care, which is something that all of our natural world needs if it is to survive.
Have you been taking part in #My200BirdYear? If so, what number are you up to already? If you haven’t, why not join in? It isn’t too late to start!