I am pleased to say that the longest night of the year is upon us. For the next few days, the actual day length remains pretty much constant but soon after new year things start to improve. I don't mind the winter but the dark nights are depressing. This month I don't seem to have lifted my binoculars due to various other commitments during the short hours of daylight. So, in an attempt to 'celebrate' the solstice I will be burning a log or Yule on the fire, and will be keeping the fire on all night to welcome a return of the sun.
Atropos will be 9 weeks old on Friday. This equals the oldest I can find on the internet, and that one was in captivity by a breeder who sells the eggs to the public to breed through. The photo above is a phone shot in artificial light but its shows our man feeding on a honeycomb solution. This he gets every other day. You can see that he no longer has the striped stockings and neat white tips to the antennae, but most obvious are his squared off wing tips. I wonder how long he will continue? He is being added to Christmas card greetings now!
After my post the other day saying I was planning what to do in 2015, Mr Gale of Surrey threw down a gauntlet. He suggested a friendly competition between us doing a birding patch list for the year. To make it fair, we have each set a base line - Steve has 110 species while I have 146. A percentage will be taken of any species over this total to decide the winner.
Our two local patches could scarcely be more different, his being an inland site in the south east while I am on the north east coast over 300 miles away.
I have already thought of a basic strategy to follow. Dont say owt, but here goes. If this info fell into the wrong hands it could be curtains for me.
In the new year it is a birders instinct to get out there and hammer his patch mopping up as many species as possible. I've done this myself many times and can get over 90 in the first month of the year, but I am taking a 'tortoise and hare' approach this time. During each month I am going to actively seek out the scarcer targets in my area, and hopefully the common stuff will fall into place naturally.
My first quarter goals are mainly all at sea- white winged gulls, divers, grebes, Long tailed Duck and Little Auk with Grey Plover, a biggie, out on those rocks. This is a common coastal wader here, but not on my patch. 2 miles south and I can get a flock of 40 no bother, but our rocky coast seems to repel them...and there is a tree in our village still laden with apples in case a scandinavian fop drops by.
There has been a bit of a blog blockage on here lately. There are a few reason for this, no time during the week (I never see daylight at home!), Christmas shopping, visits etc and most days even at weekends are scarcely light enough to see much ( dull Red Squirrel, left, illustrates the point).
Mainly though, it is a lack of motivation at this time, we always seem to be busy!
If we get a spell of snowy, cold, sunny weather between now and Christmas I might just awake from my pseudo hibernation.
I am planning what to do in 2015 now. So far I think there might be a notebook resurgence and I'll try and give myself a right shake up on the patch birding front. We'll see.
Anyway, don't fear, I haven't jacked it all in, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.