Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Looking back at 2020

2020...that's the year and not the sickly, nasty alcoholic drink of my youth often nicknamed 'Mad Dog' - in many respects the year and the drink have actually got a lot in common! I've tried to remain positive and upbeat whilst putting together this post but please bear with me as birding and general wildlife highlights from the year were few are far between.


I continued to bash the patch whenever possible throughout 2020 and I did mange two full-fat ticks (Dunlin and Crossbill) both of which were expected to fall at some point and it was only a matter of time in mopping them both up. My patch list now stands on 147 and the hallowed 150 is within my grasp, so 2021 is all about three patch ticks - but what will they be? KittiwakeGrasshopper Warbler, Whimbrel or even the fabled Oystercatcher

I only managed a mediocre 105 for the year, this was despite being furloughed for 3 months during the Spring and upping the number of visits throughout this period, mainly thanks to cycling to the patch as part of my daily exercise - this was one of the plus points of the year. The purchase of a new mountain bike and getting back into the saddle (although I hardly benefited on the birding front) was something I hugely enjoyed and hope to do more of in the future (low-carbon birding and health reasons etc, etc).

Looking back at the patch list for 2020 and there were interestingly a lot of second records - Nightingale, Cuckoo, GreenshankWhite-fronted Goose, Goosander which helped to add a little bit of quality to the list and then there was that 'Eastern type' Lesser Whitethroat that spent a couple days in the Brooms at the end of October - although this was not a full fat patch tick as it's not technically a separate species (well, not yet) this for me eclipsed both Dunlin and Crossbill as my patch bird of the year. I've seen Eastern (Blythi) LWT on Shetland and Scilly's but to see one on the patch, giving excellent views, whilst being able to note the finer points of identification was an enjoyable experience.

I can't help but think that Wanstead didn't quite deliver in 2020 - I mean the coverage was good (sometimes a bit too good) as anybody birding on the Flats at the end of August will testify, it rivalled Titchwell at times with the number individuals searching for autumn migrants was staggering! But no Shrike, Wryneck, Yellow-browed Warbler, rare Bunting or the like this year...let's hope for a return to form in 2021.

Wanstead Park, London
Only the 2nd Cuckoo I'd ever seen at Wanstead

My 2020 Patch bird of the year - Eastern Lesser Whitethroat (just need Martin Collinson to pull his finger out and confirm the DNA sample provided).

I could muse about the birds I didn't see or had missed on the patch but that would be just another negative and there's been enough negativity this year, however it's probably worth noting that I didn't see an Autumn Ring Ouzel (and nor did anyone else) which is virtually unheard off at Wanstead and I never saw a Red Kite - I mean, how did I not see a Red Kite? These birds are two a penny now days! And then there was those two Cranes - I can't really complain about missing these as I wasn't on the patch at the time but it was terribly gripping to witness the scene unfold on my phone as the birds were tracked over north London and then over Wanstead - oh well, you can't see them all! Well done to those lucky few who added these to their patch lists, I can only hope breeding records in east Anglia continue to climb and we'll be seeing these magnificent birds annually circling NE London in the future.

Lockdown Garden Bird List

I managed to record 60 species throughout 2020 (mainly from March 23rd as we entered lockdown) - not bad for a small urban London garden with a view that is mainly obscured by my neighbours roof. The undoubted highlights were a male Marsh Harrier low over the rooftops on the 27th March (my birthday) Coot and Rook were both new additions to the garden list and a Greenfinch on my feeders on Christmas Eve was a bit special. This was the first Greenfinch actually in the garden (Instead of just a calling flying over) in 16 years of living in Woodford Green - we've got Trichomonosis to thank for their absence but this could be the start of a local revival with goods numbers also now being seen on Wanstead Flats.

Garden, Feeders, Trichomonosis
I've waited 16 long years to witness this!


Another plus point in 2020 was the re-emergence of my Moth Trap. As I touched on earlier having been furloughed for 3 months enabled me to ignite an old passion - garden mothing. This was hugely enjoyable and gave me something good to focus on (away from home-schooling two children). In regards to numbers there was nothing really to shout about with 148 species recorded, but on the 9th September I discovered a little bit of moth-gold in a NE London garden a Clancy's Rustic! At the time it was only the 13th record for Essex (VC17/18) - I suspect this number will rapidly rise as this moth, like many others expands it's range further north - still, it remains a highlight for me and is something I'll look back fondly on in 2020.

Garden Moths, London, Essex
Clancy's Rustic - 13th for Essex. I'll take that!


There's a joke of a title! You could barely travel to see your family, let alone go on a twitch or dare I say a holiday in 2020 but I did somehow manage (and I'm not sure how this also wasn't cancelled) a hastily arranged week on the Scilly Isles with three foes (Martin, Paul and Andy) - this was in place of our cancelled trip to Shetland. And all in all it was a descent last minute substitute - there were good birds to be seen and found, barrels of laughter (and beer) and cracking company to be had on these magical isles. This was topped-off with one very special bird that will live long in the memory and made what would have been a good trip into something of a personal birding highlight...Black-and-White Warbler on Tresco!

Tresco, Scilly, UK
My bird of the year - no contest!

And that kind-off sums up 2020 - memorable for mainly the wrong reasons in which we all suffered the effects of the Covid virus in one form or another, but despite the gloom I did manage a few positives and we as a country (or actually a planet) can hopefully look forward to a brighter 2021 when a return to some kind of normality will be suitably rejoiced and face masks can be binned and hugs and handshakes will be fashionable again!

All the best for 2021.



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