Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Covid Year list update for the end of June

I popped into Hertfordshire to listen to some Quail singing in the week and as usual I struggled to see any but did hear three birds doing their thing accompanied by Corn Bunting and Skylark in what was an enjoyable couple of hours not far from home.

Quail fields in Baldock Hertfordshire

The quail lifted the Covid affected year list to 225

The recent lifting of lockdown restrictions has opened the door for birding trips again in England apart from the fact that many reserves remain closed to the public and I still can't get in a car with the Jims as I'd very much like to again so we can enjoy a good days birding together. We are not yet allowed to cross borders to the rest of the UK and I miss those excursions. I find it strange that we can travel to Spain again but can't go to Scotland or Wales for a bit of birding but maybe they have it right and in time we'll reflect on Spain etc opening the doors so fast.

When out birding recently I've seen different levels of concern over infection and different levels of social distancing and this isn't defined by a specific group as you'd think the younger guys would be happier to break the two metre rule but its usually the older guys that are happy to get up close and personal and at times you'd be hard pressed to think we are in the middle of a global pandemic. I have on more than one occasion found myself backing away from a birder that has encroached my self defined safe space.  As I write Leicester has just been told to Lockdown again due to a local outbreak and the virus seems to be growing in many countries so I remain under no illusion that we are over the hill with this dreadful bug but getting out in the fresh air is good for my spirit (mental health they call it now) and I'm glad we currently have the freedom to enjoy the hobby again even if I am going solo and still being a bit picky about my days out. I guess we all have different ways of dealing with stress and anxiety but for me it's all about Bird Therapy!

I find myself sitting on 225 species seen this year where as at the end of June last year I was on 264 so I'm 39 off that pace but on a positive note I've seen the following seven birds this year that I didn't manage to see at all last year..........

Gull-billed Tern at Dungeness and so far my only LIFE TICK of 2020
Desert Wheatear
Honey Buzzard
Hoopoe
Marsh Warbler
Richard's Pipit
Rose-coloured Starling

During lockdown I missed some migrants including these relatively easy annual ticks

Wheatear
Whinchat
Pied Flycatcher
Whimbrel
Arctic Tern
Black Tern
Wood Sandpiper
Grasshopper Warbler

I'd like to think I have a great chance of connecting with these guys on the way out in the autumn and I should state too that no Wales and no Scotland to date means I'm missing a dozen or so that these trips would usually deliver and there's still time for the devolved governments to open the doors to the English again in time to add these ticks but more importantly allow me the chance to see the wonderful sites they have to offer as I collect the ticks.

Scotland....Please open the door to English visitors again soon

A late summer trip to Cornwall would still add a few ticks if I can justify the travel in time and expense but I would love to get down for a sea watch if at all possible again his year as I really enjoyed it last year with the Jims.

Some of the 303 birds I saw last year will I'm sure evade me though and I'm thinking here of the megas from 2019...

Little Bustard
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Black-eared Wheatear (pending)
Black-headed Bunting
Brown Booby
Great Snipe
Baikal Teal
Red-eyed Vireo
White-winged Scoter
Ortolan Bunting


Lockdown has cost me two lifers with the Short-toed Treecreeper at Dunge and the Greater Sand Plover up in Scotland that may have tempted me if the border was open to us. I also delayed going for the Asian Desert Warbler until the day it departed which I'll regret until the next one comes along but thankfully I only travelled half way before negative news arrived. I should have connected with Blyth's Reed Warbler but for some reason couldn't get myself to twitch one of the numerous possible targets and a similar story with the handful of Savi's on offer. Whiskered Tern at Dunge would probably be on the list if  the reserve wasn't closed. The Laughing Gull at Belvide has grabbed my attention although I'm not convinced the journey for it is justified in this climate but if I'm honest I may have a different attitude if it were a life tick which I suppose doesn't reflect too well on me.

On another positive note I still have the chance of connecting with lot's of great birds from last years list like any of the Skuas and Shearwaters along with Little Auk on passage. Phalaropes are still possible as they head south and I suppose we still have the chance of an unexpected rarity or two.

I expect to see a big difference in the final list for 2020 with all we've been through this year but I'll keep getting out there and hope to make the difference as small as possible but at this point my family has come through stage one without too much drama so I'm grateful for that and will remain focused on safe birding throughout the rest of the year whilst trying to add a few more ticks.

Here's to a better second half to 2020 

Stay safe guys and enjoy your birding time.

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