And we start all over again...

The first sunrise of 2016 - highly-charged expectant airs or a laid back acceptance of 'what will be will be'?

It's an odd state of affairs, this clamouring for the new year to start and the old one to be on its way. The concept of time and the naming of months is a purely human construct, so the fact that we all eagerly await and pin our hopes on December morphing into January, or even the idea that the new year begins when it does, is all rather random - we could, quite easily, start the year during the spring, or on June 21st, or even August 5th. After all, the Earth's revolution around the Sun, which is the yardstick by which all of our 'timings' are based, doesn't have a start and finish point. Every second of that journey could qualify as such. For a thorough look at why we have settled on what we have, I can recommend Nick Groom's book 'The Seasons'.

For the first time in quite a while, I entered the year without any grand plans or aims. Admittedly, I do have 'round two' of the Surrey v Northumberland Birding Patch Challenge on the back boiler, but this is being treated very much as a 'see what happens' enterprise. Similarly, I am aiming to keep a list of the plant species that I record in my larger uber patch, but no chasing of a target will be involved. With little to distract me from just the enjoyment of being outside, my new years day morning chugged along agreeably, if not spectacularly.

Canons Farm was my venue of choice, a site not currently known for being anything other than an ornithological disappointment. That can be a harsh summing up of a piece of nondescript farmland that just happens to have several blokes running a birding rule over it on a regular basis. This morning saw half a dozen deluded souls doing just that. But seek, and ye shall find... or something like that.

There were two noteworthy counts out in the fields, with 75+ Skylark in two flocks and a minimum of 32 Yellowhammer. Neither should be sniffed at. My own personal highlight occurred mid-morning, in an area of Banstead Woods known as The Scrub. I was aware of the odd Bullfinch calling ahead of me, but was totally unprepared for a tight flock of 14 of these chunky finches breaking from low cover. Most of them were males, and they alighted in nearby trees, spaced out on bare branches resembling gaudy baubles on a Christmas tree. And have you ever heard a mass of Bullfinches calling together, and with insistence? No, neither had I, and it gave a different dimension to the plaintive 'pieu' that is normally such a sad and lonely utterance. All told, there were 20 of them in the scrub, no doubt a feeding flock taking advantage of the copious ash keys on offer, a Bullfich staple food.

I was back home by lunchtime. The rain had just started and the descent into another dank, gloomy winter's evening had begun. The difference between today's, and yesterday's was that this one was newly minted. It was the first of 2016.


GeoffB said…
Firstly happy new year Steve ! Yellowhammer & Skylark numbers have been building for some time , I reckon if we scavenger walked the set aside the numbers would be even higher , the Bullfinch count must be a CFBW record what a great spectacle that must have been.See you in the field somewhere this year ..
Steve Gale said…
And a happy new year to you too Geoff. It's about time us two old boys pulled something out of the bag at Canons!
Derek Faulkner said…
True birdwatchers do their watching in places such as Canons Farm, it shouldn't always be about places such as Dungie and twitching. Being out and about should be the first and best motive and then finding the odd good stuff, the icing on the cake.
Apparently a group of Bullfinches is known as a bellowing, lowing, or volery of Bullfinches. Incidentally, your Yellowhammer count was quadruple the number I've seen in my lifetime and the Bullfinches, treble what I've seen. So for me, stepping off the marsh this morning after seeing c.160 White-fronted Geese, 2 male Hen Harriers and a Hooded Crow again, your counts would of been a nice change.
Steve Gale said…
Have Yellowhammers always been in low numbers on Sheppey Derek, or have they dropped off in recent years? Bellowing of Bullfinches? With that mournful peep!!
Derek Faulkner said…
Steve, there you to be a small colony of Yellowhammers on Eastchurch cliffs until about 15 years ago, since then as far as I know, no Yellowhammers have been seen on Sheppey.
I only ever see bullfinches in threes, tops! Lovely birds that make me crave strawberry split ice cream with their pink bellies
Steve Gale said…
Great imagery there Simon!

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