Do you keep a year list? I keep one most years and its great fun, making me go out birding when perhaps I might not have done otherwise – which is surely a good thing. It makes me search out birds I have seen before but might not otherwise go to look for and makes the New Year particularly exciting – everything is new for the list!!
There is always that buzz of excitement on New Year’s Day wondering what the first bird of the year will be. I love it when I hear a Tawny Owl after midnight so my first bird of the year is something more exciting than a Wood Pigeon or House Sparrow.
Rules are simple – any bird you see, or hear goes on the list as long as you are 100% certain of its identity and it is not in a cage or a wildlfowl collection. It starts on January 1 and finishes on December 31 – and that’s about it!
I add a little fun by setting myself the target of 200 species. I remember reading about ‘year listing’ in a magazine which suggested a 250 target! The author said 250 was easy – really! I don’t think so, unless you want to end up twitching rarities all autumn, 200 is challenge enough making a plausible target for which you still have to make an effort. You might need a trip to Scotland, a trip to Norfolk or Fair Isle to get there but that is the point, isn’t it – getting you out birding.
There is a bit of planning to be done and think about the seasons. There are some species that are just here in winter, for which you get two tries, but others are very much passage migrants making spring and autumn the busiest times of year to catch up with a lot of birds. In spring, there are some species that are easy to find if you know their song – say Grasshopper Warbler for example (remember you don’t have to see it for it to go on the year list) but almost impossible to find for the rest of the year. There are some birds only seen regularly in Autumn like Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint.