As you may have guessed judging by my previous blog entry, I may well be going a bit off topic this year. Today is no exception, as I wish to talk about something that no New Year would be complete without - my infamous sprout and stilton soup. Never mind your chest, this concoction will put hairs on the palms of your hands, and is guaranteed to blow away [quite literally] even the most stubborn of cobwebs!
I knocked up a batch of this heady, green mixture on Friday, making sure that there was not only enough for my supper, but also a couple of portions for the freezer. This turned out to be a wise move when I returned from a walk of mammoth proportions around my local patch between the hours of 8:30am and 12:30pm today. Balmy it wasn't, and my brussel-based broth was just the thing to warm me up when I got in.
If anybody would like to get their hands on the clandestine formula for this seasonal pick-me-up, please drop me a line. Wait, what's that I hear? Ah, the sound of deafening silence!
Patching It Up / Episode 1
As you know, I am aiming to get 75 species on my Birds Seen On Foot List this year. With this in mind, my first foray of the month was a trip to Earlswood Lakes. Okay, not what I would traditionally call my local patch, but I did get there on foot, and how else am I going to get great crested grebe on my list?
Anyway, I set off bright and early, with my mobile phone acting as a dictaphone for my highly unprofessional field notes. To give you a flavour of these, they began something like this:
'This is Reg The Birder reporting for duty on Sunday, 4 January 2009. Weather - brass monkeys. Wind - a steady and stiff breeze, although it's to be expected after all that sprout and stilton soup, isn't it?'
I'll spare you the rest, although my audible excitement at spotting a dunnock during my outing speaks volumes about the modest start I have had to my year list. Other than a few species spotted from the house on New Year's Day and a handful more during a walk through the Lickey Hills on Friday, the birding cupboard is as bare as Old Mother Hubbard's.
A Golden Moment
Walking to the lakes produced year ticks in the shape of jay, mistle thrush, wren, song thrush and bullfinch. Best of all though was a group of four golden plover amongst a flock of about 1,000 woodpigeon opposite Earlswood station. Mega!
The lakes themselves were relatively quiet, but a mixture of patch and year ticks were on offer. Amongst them were treecreeper, great spotted woodpecker, siskin, greenfinch, goldcrest and great crested grebe. As I left the lakes, I had another monumental patch and year tick when I spotted about a dozen meadow pipits in a field on Norton Lane. Never seen those so close to home before.
Reed All About It
There was one final surprise before I got home. I decided to take a detour along a public footpath that runs through some fields near my house. I've seen this footpath before, but never ventured down it. Not twenty paces in and I spotted a pair of reed bunting in the hedgerow. Good work! It turns out that this footpath makes its way through some absolutely first class habitat.
If ever there was a local patch within my local patch, then this is it. I must make a point of working this area during the year to see what it produces. It looks to me as though it might be a good place to go owling later in the year. I'm fit to burst with the excitement of it all!
Measuring my route on Google maps when I got back revealed that I had covered a staggering 8.2 miles. This has prompted me to keep a running total of the distance I travel on foot in 2009. Is 100 miles out of the question? Well, I guess I'll have to wait and see.
Birds Seen On Foot 2009: 43
Distance travelled: 8.2 miles
My next venture will probably see me aiming for another species that you might not expect to find on your doorstep. Stay tuned to find out more ...