Magic Moments 2019

 Well now that the dust has started to settle on 2019, I had a browse back through my Nature Diary to try to choose my favourite moments….  There were A LOT of moments!  I’m not entirely certain where the year went – it seemed, once again to pass in a flash, however thank heavens for the camera with which I was able to record more than a few magic moments through the year.

Those of you who follow and read regularly will know that I will happily take pot luck with what I watch and am definitely not a ‘tick and click’ person; unless I’m at a bird reserve, where I’ll lurk in a hide for a while, pretty much everything watched has been ‘on the hoof’ so to speak, so watching ‘new’ or ‘firsts’ are special moments indeed.

I managed to lose the first part of the year due to a nasty bout of lurgy, however towards the end of January I managed to venture, somewhat wonkily out, first on my local patch where as well as watching the regulars I also spotted one of the elusive Redwings which I had heard arriving in late autumn. 

This one paused, however I spent a while on another afternoon watching a flock of them on one of the fields foraging and flying precautionary circuits. I also managed a little outing to Burwell, where I had rather close encounter with a Short Eared Owl as the light was beginning to fade…

In March, I had a wander at Santon Downham; spring was a somewhat stop/start affair with heralds on my local patch being a little tardy on arrival.  Several miles North however it was a different story with a Chiff Chaff loudly announcing his presence

And a Brimstone (first butterfly of the year) warming up, nectaring and beginning to patrol for the ladies.

In the following weeks at home, I watched the smaller birds on my local patch courting and welcomed back Chiff Chaff, Whitethroats and Blackcaps as well.

In April we paid a visit to the Forest of Dean which contained no shortage of wildlife moments both bird and mammal wise.  We watched many favourites – Mandarins, Tree Pipits, Willow Warblers, Ravens, Long Tailed Tits and Nuthatches – all away from the areas where they were used to a free meal.  This time we also spotted Redstarts – always busy and too far off for a photo, but a treat nonetheless to watch. There were three particular birding moments whilst we were there – standing almost eye to eye with a smart Siskin on the way back from a walk,

A wander along a brook looking for Dippers and coming up empty, only then to look up and watch a handsome male Pied Flycatcher flitting about in the branches of old Oak trees. 

The other moment was whilst at a brook chatting with a friend, we both turned and looked upstream to see a Dipper bobbing as the water flowed past….

And mammals? Well on each of our visits  we hope to glimpse Wild Boar, sometimes we are lucky and sometimes not – this time however we both had very silly grins after chances to watch them were savoured.  One notable encounter was watching a small group of Humbugs and Sows appear on the path ahead of us which we managed to watch for sometime – under the careful observation of one of the Sows –

For me though, the best moments were watching a little Sounder as they foraged, unaware of myself and a friend as they progressed through the Forest

Only for this to be surpassed a while later as my friend and I crouched low in the grasses and watched this youngster deciding whether it was safe to stay out or not – Humbug retreated to check with Mum and we retreated so as not to disturb – an encounter that was completely off the scale magic!

In May I popped up to RSPB Lakenheath for a day out.  I wandered my usual route quite happily watching and listening when a new song caught my ear – I was listening to my first Grasshopper Warbler. 

It took a bit of looking and listening, however I was very lucky and this little warbler ventured out to the edge of the reeds to sing.

My wander progressed and it ended up being a day of watching Hobbys as they hunted overhead for insects.

 On my local patch wanders I spent time watching birds foraging for hungry young mouths – birding moments spent with a pair of Treecreepers,

Great Spotted Woodpeckers

And watching Nuthatches feed fledglings all added to the magic moments list. 

In June we had a weekend away in Norfolk.  Norfolk never disappoints either for watching old favourites or for the occasional surprise!  Our first afternoon there was somewhat ‘challenging’ weather, however an after lunch treat was an encounter with a Little Tern – the first I have knowingly watched.

With a damp afternoon rounded off with a surprise at our hotel, where we had a close encounter with a Barn Owl out hunting late afternoon.

We had a further Tern encounter at Brancaster Staithe, where I watched Common and Sandwich Terns on the wing as well as Swallows skimming the top of the water.

In August I was mostly on my home patch, going on Butterfly wanders.  Gradually the roll call of my ‘regulars’ was filled, however there were a few treats to be had! It had been said that it was a Painted Lady year and from first watching a few proudly battered Painted Ladies in earlier months, I soon began to see occasional box fresh Butterflies refreshing themselves on the thistle heads. 

Several walks involved a deviation from my usual route, when the ‘rumour’ of a particular species I’d glimpsed in 2018 became a reality and I spent several afternoons watching Marbled White Butterflies as they fed and tumbled along after each other.

Fleeting glimpses were also had of Silver Washed Fritillary Butterflies, until one afternoon I was in the right place at the right time and spent quite a while in ‘an audience with’. 

In September I had a day out in the Brecks, calling in first at RSPB Lakenheath, it was quite quiet, however as the day progressed, treats were in store! The first were close up views of a stunning Kingfisher from the hide – followed by watching a Bittern progress around the edge of the mere.

I then popped in to SWT Lackford Lakes where I had a second Kingfisher moment

and a long wander around watching Herons, Great Crested Grebes teaching youngsters to fish and rounded the day off with a flyby from one of the Ospreys which had stopped by to refuel for a few days. 

A short break on the Suffolk coast rewarded us with long distance views of another Osprey, lots of Little Egrets, a dawn wander with Snipe, Curlew and Red Deer, watching our first Pectoral Sandpiper at RSPB Minsmere and watching skeins of Barnacle geese overhead as they chose the best spots to graze. We listened to Bearded Reedlings pinging from the reeds and sat for a few afternoons marvelling at a Hobby either perched or hunting outside the Bittern Hide.

Walks on Dunwich Heath gave us encounters with Dartford Warblers as well as a close encounter with a young Red Deer Stag, who grazed unconcernedly whilst a group of us watched in delight from the path. 

  October shot past in a flash, however in November we finally managed a trip to Horsey to see the Grey Seals – we were not disappointed and delighted in watching all kinds of behaviour – from seeing newborns, watching Pups suckle, watching the Seals in the sea and interactions between Cows, Bulls and how the pups behaved…

Towards the end of November I paid a couple of visits to Burwell – it being 'that' time of year… I had my first sighting of the Resident Little Owl – a grumpy but handsome looking character.  

I watched Redwings

And Fieldfares as they fed

And on one afternoon I went from completely composed whilst watching one of the Short Eared owls, 

to watching in amazement as a Grey Ghost of a male Hen Harrier flew across the Fen, hotly pursued by a Short Eared Owl.  Straight back into ‘rookie’ mode and the worst photo ever, but what a moment!

My year was rounded off on the penultimate day of December with a calm, perfect afternoon stood in the middle of the Fen watching four Short Eared Owls……

I'm now very much  looking forward to seeing what 2020 holds!

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