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Posted: 05.01.21 in Articles category

Do you keep a bird list? Most birdwatchers I know keep various lists, for example their British list, county list and even a world list if they are well travelled and watch birds abroad. Many of us keep an annual list too, and I still get a buzz in January ticking off familiar species as 'new for the year'. Hence on New Year's Day I noted that the first bird seen on opening the bedroom curtains was a Jackdaw, followed in quick succession by my usual garden birds like Blue Tit, House Sparrow and Blackbird as I stood in our kitchen looking out at the feeders. I didn't have time that day for a long walk, but the hour spent late afternoon walking the banks of our local river gave me added pleasure as I flushed both Woodcock and Snipe, spotted a greyish Common Buzzard perched on a bush, caught the flash of Kingfisher blue from the corner of my eye and smiled at the flock of Yellowhammers feeding on the stubble. What a great start to the year.

Two days later and I am at the coast 10 miles from home. It feels very cold in the stiff NE wind, yet I am delighted to be out seeing more 'first birds'. The flooded meadow by the Budge hide at Druridge is heaving with dabbling duck like Shoveler, and I also notice the waders - plenty of Curlew plus a couple of Ruff feeding among the marsh vegetation. I wander across to the beach, but the sea is rough and the swell too high to see much. However, I am pleasantly surprised to see small numbers of Kittiwake close in and flying north as if they are on passage. "Good to see them so early in the year" I think to myself. In the sand dunes I tick off a flock of Twite, two Stock Doves, single Sparrowhawk and an all white Mediterranean Gull in adult winter plumage which looks beautiful in the afternoon sunshine. Yet the bird of the day is a curious one to get excited about - a feral species that's now common in southern England. However, in Northumberland an Egyptian Goose is still a rare bird. It's my 'first bird' for a couple of years as I didn't see one here in the whole of 2020. Last year, co-incidentally, I achieved my highest tally of species seen in the county. My total of 210 isn't impressive, particularly in the year when more than 280 bird species were seen in Northumberland, but it's an improvement on my 205 in 2019 and causes me to wonder how many I might see if I devoted more time. Will that goose spur me on to see more birds in 2021?

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