FIRST BIRDS - 7 January 2015

Many birdwatchers keep lists of birds they see during the year and that's something I have done in the past with a Northumbrian list. Although I don't currently do that, I still get a buzz in January ticking off familiar species as 'new for the year'. Hence that was added enjoyment for me on 2 January during an afternoon walk locally when I spotted 5 species of thrush, Golden Plover, Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Tree Sparrow. All were 'firsts' for me on that windy day. The Redwing sitting tight in the lee of a ruined barn was especially good to see. I got up close and noted its bold white striping above the eye, as well as its distinct red-ochre colouring on its flanks. What a lovely bird!

The best was yet to come. I stumbled into the barn and flushed a Little Owl - perhaps the very bird that had stood sentinel near its nest site the previous spring. An unusual tick so early in the year.... I was pleased. But the view was fleeting and I felt somewhat cheated. Two minutes later I was looking at the owl again, but this time it was stationary on a tree. I watched it and it watched me. I was not close to the bird, but nevertheless the binocular views were good and I could appreciate its dappled plumage. Little Owl was my star of 2014 and it was great to start this year with views of a favourite bird.

Mark Winter

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