In the days before marriage and children, but after being a child myself, there was a brief window of life having few responsibilities - a time when I could please myself without guilt. During this time Christmas had largely lost its sparkle. I didn't particularly want to be at home, not because of any antagonism towards my parents and siblings, but because I wanted to be out birding. Those early birding years (1974 - 1978) this ornithological itch was scratched by spending the morning at Beddington Sewage Farm, ensuring that I was back home in time for the dinner! But in 1979 and 1981 I strayed further from home and actually stayed away from home, choosing Dungeness Bird Observatory as my destination. It had all I wanted at that particular time and on both occasions I was not alone, as other similar minded folk did the same - it wouldn't happen now I'd wager!
We cooked a communal turkey dinner, had plenty to drink (and made use of the nearby pub) and even exchanged simple gifts. Plus the birding was very good indeed. In 1979 I was fortunate to add Ring-necked Duck to the Dungeness list ( a Christmas Day drake on ARC) while in 1981 the cold weather threw up a right old mix of birds on the peninsula, with a flock of Woodlarks outside the observatory, Jack Snipes and Woodcocks on the flooded shingle, thousands of thrushes and hundreds of finches and larks strewn across the area that ordinarily would have exhibited a winter hush. It was some of the best birding that I have had at Dungeness.
Since then any Christmas Day birding has been a by-product of a pre or post dinner walk. The highlight might be a glimpsed Blackcap, a flock of winter thrushes, or several hundred parakeets as they noisily stream off to roost.