Happy New Year!
One week into 2012 and dear old Southern England is unseasonably mild and damp, with sunny mornings and cloudy, grey afternoons leading to an early dusk. Daffodils are blooming in sheltered spots and the morning air is filled with the sweet songs of Robins, the flute like whistles of blackbirds and the strong repetitive melody of Song thrushes, in a tuneful announcement of the new day. It almost feels like an early spring; better not put the warm woolly hats and gloves away yet though, there is surely a cold snap to come, before spring truly arrives.
2011 was a quiet year, busy with work and study commitments, with little chance for birdwatching and enjoying the wider countryside beyond my back door or place of work. One of my highlights of the year had to be volunteering with the RSPB Date with Nature team at Chichester Cathedral, famous for it's breeding pair of Peregrine Falcons. This was the second year I had joined the team at Chichester and it was a fantastic experience; the birds are real stars and it is wonderful to share them with so many people.
I had to wait until the week before Christmas for what was perhaps my most exciting bird sighting of the year - Short Eared Owl! These beautiful birds had evaded my efforts to see them for a long time, but this year has seen many Short Eared Owls spending the winter in Sussex. A West Sussex wetland, Waltham Brooks, managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, has been one of the many sites graced by the presence of multiple owls attracting swarms of excited birdwatchers, experts and novices alike, who have been treated to outstanding views. I was lucky enough to visit on a beautiful sunny day, filled with the whistling of widgeon and teal, golden rushes waving in the breeze. The sun shone through the feathers of the owls as they performed over the reeds, gliding over the wetlands, twisting and turning in the air, sparing with one another over the best hunting grounds. It is the sort of experience that draws you back time and time again, I certainly intend to return before the end of the winter!
But what of 2012? Well it looks to be as busy as ever but I have decided that however busy it gets, it is important to get out and about and enjoy the delights of the countryside and its wildlife as often and opportunity allows - it can only have a positive effect! And the bird sightings have already been fantastic, but that will have to wait for another Blog-post when I have sorted the photos! - so watch this space...