Rather surprisingly, I have found myself in the position of only being two bird sightings away from my start-of-year target of one-hundred and fifty. When I started this challenge on January 1st, I honestly thought that I’d really struggle to get anywhere close to that target. I figured, amongst other things, my novice bird identification skills would really hamper my progress. I guess this limited avian knowledge may have hindered headway, and I’ve probably missed a number of exciting little brown birds – marking them down as Sparrows or the like, but the fact that my target is now within sight is testament to a good bird book, a bit of volunteering with the RSPB to steal some knowledge off some helpful experts and access to a bird-stalking phone app.
I, in actual fact, thought I was three away from the 150, but eagle-eyed reader and former David Hasslehoff tribute act, Steve, had pointed out that my Bird Board contained an admin error… There were two number 108s on the list. My counting, it seems, is worse than my gull identification skills. Bad. Very bad.
So I was closer than I thought… Another trip up to Rutland Water (on the way to a camping trip to Northumberland) saw the eventual addition of a Wood Sandpiper to the list – After a lengthy period of deliberation (fumbling through two bird phone apps, a field guide and a couple of magazine pull-out guides) trying to work out the differences between them and Green Sandpipers, I felt semi-confident that I had reached one-hundred and forty nine.
Spot the Difference…
This left me on the verge of reaching my target by the end of July. I never expected that!
I wondered what bird would be the species I would always look on as being the one I saw to reach my goal. I did, for a while, also wonder what I would do if I woke up the next day and discovered that every single bird had decided to give migration a go and disappear off to Africa until next Spring. Unlikely, I know…
Later, on arrival in Northumberland (I never quite realised how far up north England went), I bunged the tent up at a campsite, checked out the toilet facilities (important) and went for a wander along the beach under the impressive shadow of Bamburgh Castle.
I looked out to sea to look for the Farne Islands (the following day’s destination and reason for travelling 361 miles) and saw a number of large white birds flying low over the water. I grabbed my binoculars and investigated further (hoping that what I saw wouldn’t be obscure gulls that would further wear my bird book – and tiny brain – out).
But, they weren’t obscure gulls… They were Gannets – Bird number one-hundred and fifty!
The only time I have seen a gannet before is when I happened to glance at myself eating my dinner in a mirror at a restaurant.
I had reached my target!
Instead of telephoning the mayor to organise an audience to laud my notable achievement, I just watched in awe as one or two of the Gannets plunged, missile-like, into the sea in search of a meal. This was a truly amazing sight (and one you never get along the Basingstoke Canal). For a few moments, I gazed in open-mouthed wonderment until the birds had drifted out of view.
The new sightings didn’t end there…
I thought that maybe I should set myself a stretch goal: 160? 180? 200? I then remembered that this wasn’t a Kickstarter project and just a bit of fun. So, I just decided to see what happens…