It’s a year of two halves

I started the year with a wildlife checklist for the first six months of the year and I can report alternating success.  I failed to see Mandarin ducks in January, a bunch of migrants in March or Duke of Burgundy butterflies in May, but I succeeded with drake smew in February, nightingales in April and roadrunner in June.

Here are my next six goals:

July – purple emperors (and I hope to report progress on this very soon)

August – learn a few dragonflies locally

September – see curlew sandpiper, little stint, Arctic skua, great skua and a rare bird in the same day

October – visit the knot roost at Snettisham

November and December – here I’d like your help please.  Suggest a couple of things that don’t require too many miles on the clock from east Northants (although, these days near Exeter or Edinburgh fits in with offspring locations).  Something non-birdy to expand my horizons a bit?

I am slightly gutted (plenty of gut left though) to find that someone has written a book that I fancied writing – has anyone read it yet?  Is it good?

And have you voted in my poll and commented on what you think of the RSPB’s new TV advert? The poll will close fairly soon as the results are pretty clear (to me) already so do have your say.



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11 Replies to “It’s a year of two halves”

  1. Mark, You would be very welcome to come and see red squirrels on Northumberland (just off the A1) on your way north to Edinburgh this winter. I'd love to hear your thoughts on our practice and science.
    Regards as ever, Nick Mason ( & @redquirrelsne)

  2. Well if it's something for the winter and don't fancy travelling far, how about trying to locate a Long eared Owl or perhaps a small project and find as many as Little Owl sites within a certain of your house (you can decide the distance).
    I seemed to have a problem loading up your blog (it wouldn't) yesterday evening, hope all is ok?

  3. Now is the peak time of year for (adult) moths but there is something flying in every month of the year. You could look out for the Epirrita moths (Autumnal, November, Pale November) - not hard to find but a challenge to distinguish one from the other. December Moth and Winter Moth would also be species to look out for.

  4. A winter day out (albeit birdy) within easy reach of you Mark could be on the Nene Washes. It depends on water and vole levels (yes, I did say vole levels), but we're due a good Short-eared Owl year, plus our now resident cranes, harriers, Merlin, wildfowl, etc. River Nene is of course a shared river with your home county of Northants, where you guys peculiarly pronounce it Nen.

    Another highly recommended birdy day out is to WWT Welney for their swan roost, but that depends on water levels and numbers and might be better in the new year.

    Cant think of many non-birdy winter things locally, but a great time to do lots of stuff in the garden preparing for next year - building bird, bat and insect boxes, etc. One non-birdy thing is go look for ancient trees - see

  5. If veteran or notable trees are your thing then there might be something for you in this book (wish I could have written it):
    If it was up to me I think I'd go see the surviving elms on the Dengie peninsular in Essex. I imagine you may already know of wetland SPA with tidal mud-flats and salt marshes so you could kill two birds (or some elms and some birds, haha) with one stone:

  6. I suggest you visit the grey seal breeding colony at Donna Nook Lincs during the second half of November but not on a weekend. It is truly the best mammalian spectacle in the UK, but don't tell everyone.

  7. A starling roost is a must winter visit; I would go to Aberystwyth myself because the setting sun over the sea add to the spectacle!
    Geese flighting out to roost, or back in the morning; my favourite would be Wexford North Slob, but you can choose one nearer to home if you wish!
    Finally, is the Anglesey raven roost still going strong, as if so that would be on a winter "must do" list.

  8. Bryophytes are always a good winter challenge: a good site down here in Devon can easily yield 100+ species in a day; or perhaps learning some fungi if the autumn is good.

    You could also admire the winter Avocets on the Exe estuary (entirely feasible by train - or even train+boat) along with the rest of the wintering birds: Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Oystercatchers, Brent Geese and Wigeon en masse with a nicely varied supporting cast usually.

  9. RE "November and December – here I’d like your help please. Suggest a couple of things that don’t require too many miles on the clock from east Northants (although, these days near Exeter or Edinburgh fits in with offspring locations). Something non-birdy to expand my horizons a bit?"
    why not visit a woodland in eastern England where there is some active conservation coppicing underway. It is almost 50 years since conservation coppicing was re-instated in Cambridgeshire, but there are numerous ancient woodlands in their autumn glory being managed by volunteers (and some enthusiastic landowners) for wildlife in a traditional way to benefit the wide range of organisms which have a dependence on the coppice cycle.


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