Welcome to my 220 for 2022 – End of Year Summary. The final episode of a frantic year. I must admit it’s been a real blast. As I write this in early January 2023, I’m actually missing the thought of seeing new things, but am not missing the self-imposed pressure to meet some meaningless target. I’m pleased and grateful for the comments received by the participants who have entered into the spirit of the game and supported it all for the past 12 months. Thank you all. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it, got out and about and seen some good birds – lifers in many instances. In the final analysis, there are nothing but winners, so the table at the end of this post should be viewed in that light. Everyone has their own life restrictions, some of you still work for a living, some have other things to contend with, but all have provided company, laughter and shared experiences throughout the year. Thank you once again. The following is, as ever, my own summary of sightings for the past month, hope you enjoy it.
1st December 2022 – The Waxwings seem to have settled into a pattern of visiting Sheringham Common at various times throughout the day, their number increasing to 8. With good light here in Norwich we though a return trip would be in order. Sadly, the conditions deteriorated as we reached the coast, a not uncommon phenomenon, resulting in very low light and grey skies. But the Waxwings didn’t care and brightened up a drab winter day with their amazing wash of subtle colouration. Never tire of these beauties. A lovely male Bullfinch enlivened the scene.
Just below the promenade in the town, a pair of Purple Sandpipers were busy pecking algae or tiny crustaceans/insects from the artificial reef. They brave the pounding of the sea, always able to jump or fly out of the way of a particularly adventurous wave.
6th December 2022 – Watching winter storms gathering over the North Sea at Walcott, slowly working their way towards shore was quite a humbling experience. From feeding crumbs to scurrying Turnstones bathed in the glow of a low winter sun one moment, to being bombarded with a torrent of freezing rain the next. Of course when you’re safely sitting in the relative warmth of your car this doesn’t matter too much, but it did send several passers by scurrying along the promenade, although not so gracefully as the waders. In the aftermath of one downpour, in a window of calm before the next assault from dark skies, the sun appeared, sending its rays refracting through the moisture laden air to form some spectacularly vivid rainbows. For the first time in my life, I could see a complete arch of a rainbow with both ends shimmering on the beach in front of me. Looking through binoculars at this colour swatch of nature, the wooden sea defences and broiling sea pounding them appeared as a slightly hazy image. Beautiful and quite surreal.
8th/9th December 2022 – A couple of hours on each day cruising the largely quiet lanes around the Yare Valley. Both days were stunningly bright, so it was really a matter of slowly approaching anything perched close enough to the roadside and having a good look, and with luck getting a few photographs. Buzzards were well represented, but proved to be pretty wary of the car, especially when it was moving slowly or came to a halt. One bird favoured low perches in a small farmyard, but as soon as I made a move with my camera would float off into an adjacent field to look for worms around the molehills. I never did get a pic of that one. I had better luck with Kestrels that were present in good numbers, using telegraph poles and overhanging tree branches as lookout points. One even began hunting right next to the car.
Near Halvergate, I came upon a flock of Fieldfares stripping berries from a small hawthorn bush. These chacking birds were also very wary, flying off to safety whenever a vehicle drove past. However, the lane in question is little used, so I was able to park up 30 metres away and watch the birds as they cautiously returned to feed.
I thoroughly enjoy this relaxing form of birding, the fresh breeze over the marshes, the calls of geese, revived memories of cycling along these self same lanes with my mate as young boys: a different time, a different me, but the landscape hasn’t changed one bit.
12th December 2022 – A stopover in King’s Lynn to experience the ethereal delight of the Mediaeval Baebes singing their wonderful harmonies in the impressive St Nicholas’ Chapel allowed a visit to Lynford on the return journey. I was particularly after Crossbill, but once again none appeared to advance the score. Instead, the antics of Blackbirds and Redwings feeding on crab apples and holly berries provided ample compensation.
17th December 2022 – At last a new bird in the form of a pair of red-head Smew (248). These welcome birds were resting amongst a milling throng of wildfowl concentrated into a small patch of open water at the back of a frozen Ormesby Broad. Such a shame the birds were so far away because the radiant colours of Shoveller, Mallard, Teal and Pochard seen through the scope were a delight to the eye. A Scaup was also nice to see.
30th December 2022 – Funny how things work out. For some time I’ve been meaning to pop into Cley Spy at Glandford to look at new binoculars, mine having slowly deteriorated ever since I fell over on an icy path a couple of years back and whacked them on the concrete. As luck would have it, that establishment was also playing host to a new bird for the year in the form of a Long-eared Owl (249), so to visit was a no brainer really. The owl was certainly putting on a good show, sitting in full view along a hedgeline 50 metres from the shop. However, I’m not sure what it was doing posing so openly amidst the wind and freezing rain. It looked a forlorn and bedraggled creature, making me wonder whether it was a full health. However, it perked up and looked around from time to time, so maybe it was ok. Been years since I’ve seen a LEO, so a very welcome end of year tick, and indeed the final addition to the 2022 list.
So we reach the end. Congratulations to everybody and especially to Darren for a brilliant 5K list and to him and Ros for excellent garden records. As ever Darren’s take on the venture can be found in his blog here, and Sean’s blog can be found here. Personally, I’m really pleased with my overall total which includes some cracking species. Of course being human, it is only natural that I muse on the ones that got away; the maybe, maybe nots and those split second views that were surely the target bird, but couldn’t reasonably be counted. Was it the Blue Rock Thrush that flew past us all at Winterton causing half those assembled to have an apoplectic fit? Was the yellow bird in the sycamores a mere stone throw away the Icterine Warbler? Did I espy the Red-footed Falcon as it glided distantly over the dunes? Were those loose line of dark skuas on the horizon strongly battling the gale at Sheringham Pomarine Skuas? What about the possible Short-toed Lark whizzing across the road at Runton almost 12 months ago when it didn’t really seem to matter much? Was the Strumpshaw Grasshopper Warbler reeling away and I just couldn’t hear it because I had an ear infection (I think the answer to this was a resounding yes because Sean sitting beside me could certainly detect it)? In all those cases other people nearby seemed to think in the affirmative, I simply refuse to count something unless I’m 100% certain. It doesn’t matter and is all irrelevant now. What next I wonder?
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