220 for 2022, what’s this all about then? If you have been a reader/follower of this website since its inception, you will know that it was originally created to serve as a platform to document my quest to see 2,020 species of bird, butterfly and moth during the year 2020, hence its name, Wingsearch2020. I envisaged the whole thing lasting only for the duration of the project and not beyond. The original idea hinged around raising funds for a small number of wildlife charities close to my heart, all of which have a comprehensive track record of community based conservation endeavours. I planned to do this via various methods, such as sponsored long-distance walks, bike-a-thons, quiz nights, public speaking etc. Of course it all went to rats when a certain virus hit the world. All plans for travel and any communal activity became impossible, and I was forced to abandon the project.
However, not wishing to see everything wither on the vine, I’ve adapted this website to a more general wildlife centric resource, which I hope you like. The thing is, the need for some kind of challenge still causes an itch. And itches need scratching. Therefore, I’ve decided to set myself a challenge of seeing 220 species of bird in the UK during the current year, 220 for 2022. To some more twitch-like individuals this will hardly be worth a second thought, ‘Piece of Cake’ (or whatever other noun suits them) they will say, and they would be right, it’s not a particularly onerous target…..if you spend every day birding. I don’t, so for me it represents something of a sterner challenge. In addition, this will be an almost exclusively East Anglian endeavour, which makes it a little more difficult. In any event, it will be a bit of fun, providing stimulus to get out there and track down our avian friends over the course of the year. I’ll provide regular updates, maybe monthly, so that if you have a mind you can join me for the ride. So far, my regular birding mates Darren Archer and Allan Archer, (not related in any way other than a love of wildlife) and Elizabeth Dack will join me, together with another local birder, David Bryant, whose daily wildlife blog can be found here, and Sean Locke whose blog and artwork can be found here. This will provide a mildly(?) competitive angle to the proceedings. Another facet will be seeing how many species can be recorded within a 5K radius of home. I like that angle a lot, it creates the incentive to concentrate on your local patch. All set? Good, we can begin with an update for January…..
1st January 2022 – Woodpigeon, first bird of the year, closely followed by Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit and a Chaffinch, all seen feeding on the sunflower hearts in the garden. There were a few other common birds over the next few days, but the first real birding trip took place on….
4th January 2022 – East Norfolk on a cold, overcast and slightly murky day. The initial target: geese. More particularly ‘Taiga’ Bean Geese, Anser fabalis fabalis, five of which have spent the winter at Buckenham Marshes. Time was when up to nearly 500 of these birds from Fennoscandia would spend the period between November and February feeding on the rich grasslands of the Yare Valley. Sadly, only a very few now make an appearance, and this is not guaranteed. Furthermore, their small numbers make them difficult to spot in such an expanse of rough meadows. But we were lucky today, for as soon as we set up our scopes five grey geese took to the air, looped around for a bit and then landed a few hundred metres in front of us. Even so, they were difficult to pin down, but with a little patience we managed to get good enough views to confirm the sighting; orange legs and beak being the clincher. A good start to the day and to the year list.
There were other geese on show: Pink-feet, Grey lag, Canada, and a small flock of feral Barnacle. Best of the rest though were a group of White-fronted Geese feeding quite close to the potholed path that leads to the river. Other goodies came in the form of Wigeon, Marsh Harrier, and a small flight of Golden Plover, always a pleasure to see. Onwards to Martham.
Our target here was a small flock of Cattle Egrets. We found these recent colonists stalking around a herd of cattle confined in a small farmyard. How strange to witness this sight that, just a few years ago, would have been unthinkable. Common Buzzard and Egyptian Goose were new here too.
After spying a distant Purple Sandpiper at Sea Palling, where a roadside field held a party of Bewick’s Swans, we ended the day at Stubb Mill, Hickling. From the viewpoint, a raised bank overlooking acres of rough meadow and reed marsh, we watched Marsh Harriers lazily glide to roost. The clouds had parted by now, providing a clear winter sky and good light, allowing the roosting birds to be appreciated as they should. A trio of Common Cranes flew low into the roost, and a Tawny owl woke up and gave us a hoot or two. I do love this place, watching wild birds gather at their overnight sanctuary after a busy day seeking sustenance to fuel them through another bitter night. All around the sounds of geese, wildfowl and thrushes echo across the vast Broadland sky until the light fails completely and they settle to endure the long hours of darkness.
14th January 2022 – Whitlingham Country Park is a marvellous resource right on the southern edge of Norwich. The large lakes, loosely termed ‘Broads’, did not come into being in the same way the true Broads were formed. These water features, dating from the 1990s, are the result of flooded gravel excavations, glacial deposits, that underlay marshy ground beside the River Yare. Once the quarries had served their purpose, the area was given over to the local populace; initially governed by the Broads Authority, it is now managed by Whitlingham Charitable Trust. The area of open water, reed bed, mixed woodland and meadows support a good range of wildlife, which seems to thrive despite the constant parade of walkers, joggers, cyclists and canines. Some good birds turn up from time to time, and it was in search of one such that we found ourselves there on this day. It didn’t take us long to connect with our target, for within a few minutes of arriving we espied a large black bird swimming purposely towards a floating pontoon, rumoured to be a favoured resting spot. The bird in question, a juvenile Shag, did indeed hop aboard the plastic floats, proceeding to adopt the heraldic posture associated with its tribe. Too far away for meaningful photography, it was nonetheless an easily identified bird which for this region represents a valued tick. Another new bird for the year was a splendid drake Mandarin.
17th January 2022 – Strumpshaw Fen plays host to many interesting birds. insects, plants and other wildlife. During my shift today I spent some time watching and photographing the antics of Coots that were busy fighting for territory around the Broad. I wrote about these antics a couple of years ago and you can read about it here. Other than that, Marsh Tit was new for the year.
30th January 2022 – a wonderfully bright, sunny and surprisingly mild day saw us scattering pieces of bread across the wide open beach at Gt Yarmouth. Not such an eccentric pastime if you happen to be taking photographs of Mediterranean Gulls, for within moments a swarm of this species together with their Black-headed cousins were milling around almost within touching distance. I love their pale silver plumage and clean lines, never tiring of trying to capture their wheeling antics as they vie for a chunk of unhealthy and unnatural fodder. It doesn’t seem to do them harm. One bird sported a easily read plastic ring, inscribed 31KH, the details of which I sent off to the relevant authority. The bird was ringed in Belgium and has been sighted in Sussex and Kent prior to turning up in Norfolk.
The afternoon being so lovely, we decided to see whether the Short-eared Owls at Winterton would perform. They certainly did. In the warm, golden light of a winter afternoon, we watched a trio of these beautiful creatures floating around the dunes hunting voles and mice. They were pretty much oblivious to the group of birders/photographers assembled by the main flighting area, one perching on a fence post and barely noticing the posse of camera touting people edging ever closer. It was eventually spooked by a small dog, and lazily drifted away. What a privilege to see these gorgeous birds so close, with the sinking sun highlighting their mottled plumage of browns and golds to maximum effect.
This little challenge is, if nothing else, getting us out and about. The January totals are:
|Participant||Overall Score||5K Challenge|