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Mon 31st December 2012

Posted on December 29, 2012 at 7:00 AM

The last post of the year and it is traditional for a blog to give a detailed summary of the year just gone - the highs, the lows, the laughs, the tears...... But that sounds a bit tedious so I will just sum up in a few sentences. On balance, I consider 2012 a poor year overall, especially for rarities. Most disappointingly I didn't find anything good - not a sausage. And the rare birds that did turn up on the island, and I actually saw, were either stuff we've had recently anyway (Desert Wheatear, Waxwing) or things that I didn't see very well (Greenish Warbler, RBFly). The Red-rumped Swallow was my highlight amongst the rares. So the bird highlights for me were the days when there was amazing passage of migrants - eg the Bird Race day when there were warblers everywhere, the October day with hundreds and hundreds of finches. Moth-wise, the year was really really terrible, and I hardley put the trap out at all. I have enjoyed though finding lots and lots of new plants that I've never seen before and also starting to get into new orders such as flies and beetles.

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female Blackcap - a Christmas Day visitor to the garden

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Looking ahead to 2013, the start of the year can often be quite slow, but I have a few projects lined up which should give me some fresh impetus to my wildlife-watching. I have signed up to three "challenges" which I have heard about mostly through Twitter. These challenges have all come about because of a move towards local birding and finding out what wildlife there is in your local area. One reason for this is the increase in petrol prices and the increase in travel costs in general. Traditionally, keen birders travel all round the country either to see rare birds or to go birding at famous sites, but this is becoming economically difficult for many. Each of the challenges is officially a competition, but I am sure they will be very frendly competitions. So the challenges are:

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1. The FOOT-IT challenge [website here].

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This is a short challenge just for the month of January and it is about how many species of bird you can find on foot from your front door. How far you travel is up to you but you must make it there and back on foot. Theoretically I could yomp all around the island on foot but realistically, thinking of family and time, I have chosen a radius of approx one mile from the house. You then work out a list of birds that you know will typically be present somewhere in that area during January. This will include some species that will be very difficult to find but, from experience, you know that there'll definitely be one somewhere in the area. I have come up with a list of 80 species that regularly occur in my area (see below) and I shall try to tick off them all. See my post on the Foot It website here.

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2. The PATCHWORK challenge [website here]

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This is a full year challenge and it is about how many species you can find in your local patch. I don't have a definite local patch as I visit a wide range of sites but, as the site I probably visit most often in the year, I have chosen Pulias Headland as my patch for 2013. A lot of birders have a local patch that they spend hours at a time covering, but because I don't have that luxury, I have chosen Pulias - I pass it twice a day to and from work, it is a very small area so I can cover it all in a short visit, it is close enough to home that I can 'pop-out' there quickly. Of course, every patch in the UK is very different, so the scoring system is worked out from which species you have previously seen there. It's complicated, but is explained on the website. The area I have chosen is probably one of, if not the smallest patches in the challenge, and is shown below.

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3. The 1000 for 1KSQ challenge [website here]

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This is of course the most important because it is the brainchild of my good mate Mr Muzza and I designed the logo for the challenge.

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This is not just a bird challenge but a "pan-species" challenge, which means any species at all be it plant, animal or whatever. This is even more local, because it is about how many species you can find in the 1km square in which you live, and the ultimate target is 1000 species. This sounds rather a lot, but really finding 1000 species in a km square isn't too hard a task. What IS hard though is identifying them to species level. You need the right equipment, enough knowledge, all the useful literature, and of course the big limiting factor is the time. I am certain that 1000 species is beyond me but I will be interested to see how close I get. This will involve many little walks round my local area and so, like the Foot It challenge, will be good exercise.

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So the end of the year is nigh. Out with the old man of 2012, and in with the bouncing baby of 2013. Rosie is at work tonight so I shall be seeing in the New Year with our own new baby - Mister Pickles! Happy New Year everyone.

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Categories: 2012-2013 Winter