Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My 2014 - Review Of The Year

As 2014 comes to an end, there is no better time to revisit my best moments of the year. It has been a blast and I hope 2015 delivers the same.

2014 started with the hangover of last year. No, I'm not talking about drinking too much, I'm talking about the start of the recovery work from December 2013's surge. I visited NWT Cley Marshes and the place was in a state. Reedbed sections were dumped onto paths and the public hide near the beach was washed away. Even Strumpshaw was effected as salt water was forced down the River Yare and overflowed into the freshwater broads. Luckly, most of it was removed by draining using the sluices.

My article in local paper

January wasn't all bad for me though. Not only did I see my first ever glossy ibis near the village of Cley, I was also interviewed by local paper, The Eastern Daily Press (EDP for short) and had a double-paged spread about my wildlife diaries, the bird guide of Afghanistan for my soldier brother and the work I do for Strumpshaw and Mousehold Heath.

This February, I walked amongst thousands of snowdrops at Hoveton House which was like seeing snow in the woods. A waxwing was busy gorging on apples at Ber Street in Norwich for a couple of weeks. But my main highlight for February was at Mayday Farm near Thetford. I was looking for goshawks displaying from the viewing area, but only managed to hear one (which is good enough to me). Instead of goshawks, I managed to finally see my bogey bird. I had been trying to see crossbills for years but failed, so I was really happy when I saw a flock of them here when I wasn't looking for them.
I got my first bridge camera for my birthday and I tried it out everywhere in March. My previous camera conveniently died on me a day before my birthday at Minsmere, where I watched great crested grebes dancing and got close to red deer (my last photo with my old camera). At Lynford Aboretum, I saw a hawfinch and my first firecrest. It was too fast to get it's picture, but I still enjoyed listening to it singing and seeing its fiery-coloured crest all the same.
Grasshopper Warbler
APRIL                                                                                                      April was the start of the butterfly surveys at Mousehold Heath. Also this month, Strumpshaw was being productive with migrant birds. On April 16th, I had a male and female garganey in front of Reception Hide early that morning along with a little gull that hung around for the rest of the day. On April 23rd, I was lucky enough to not only see a grasshopper warbler but to also get it's photo taken. And at the same time, I found a glow-worm looking for a place to hide for the day.

For Dawn Chorus Day, I listened to a variety of bird song at Whitlingham Broad with a stunning sunrise as a backdrop. The birds I heard here included; cuckoo, common sandpiper, green woodpecker and a host of warblers and common woodland and wetland birds. At Strumpshaw on May 14th, I was walking back along the river, when 3 cranes called and flew past me low at my level down the river! They then landed at Fen Hide, where I saw them again. This was the first time I had seen them here and it made me really pleased. Maybe they will eventually breed here next year? Lets hope so! Also that month, I made a visit to Choseley Barns and Titchwell Marshes where I saw my first dotterel and wall butterfly, corn bunting, turtle dove, red-crested pochards and little terns.

In June, I came across Norfolk hawker dragonflies at Mousehold Heath for the first time. This was unusual as there's hardly any water at this site and the city is close by too. On June 9th, I made a visit to Minsmere during the last week BBC Springwatch was there. As well as sand martins, kittiewakes, a hummingbird hawkmoth and the green woodpecker chick still in it's nest hole, I managed to spot a busy Martin Hughes-Games in a jeep driving past me. Strumpshaw was busy due to many visitors arriving for the annual swallowtail season. It was a pic of a swallowtail that won me an online monthly photo competition for June and a place in the website SpotterJotter's calander.

I was on holiday with my parents in July up at Northumberland. It proved to be a great week with highlights including plenty of eider mothers with ducklings, goosanders, my first ever red grouse (another bogey bird found this year) and a trip to the Farne Islands to see puffins, shags and have Arctic terns poop on me (one was a direct hit on my right eye piece lens on my binoculars!). On July 22nd, I came runner up for the Individual Award at the Norfolk Community Awards for my volunteer work and overcoming with my autism in the process.

August was a quiet month for me. I did however had good views of clouded yellow butterflies while on an exhaustingly long walk from Breydon to Berney Arms and back.

Pilot Whale
Two-tailed Pasha
Two-tailed Pasha on camera lens
This year, September was my biggest and busiest month. I took part on a bird marathon for charity, counting as many bird species during the entire month. This count included the Wader Spectacular at Snettisham in which my dad and I took my mum to see thousands of knot, 4 spoonbills and other waders fly over our heads on her birthday. I also had a guided birding holiday in Southern Spain and Gibraltar which I had booked before I decided to take part in the bird marathon. Thankfully, I was allowed to include any sightings I had over there. I got to see a lot with thanks to my two guides including; 2 species of eagle and vulture (including huge griffon vultures flying low above my head), black and white storks, honey buzzards, Kentish plovers, a Montagu's harrier, serin, a blue rock thrush, slender-billed gulls, greater flamingos, Northern bald ibises on a golf course, a squacco heron and a bee-eater. On top of that, I saw fiddler crabs, a praying mantis, moorish geckos by the pool, pilot whales on a whale cruise (with one seen under the glass hull), Barbary macaques on Gibraltar Rock and two-tailed pasha butterflies with one landing on one of our group member's camera lens. I ended up winning the marathon with 158 bird species.

Fallow Deer
I am happy to report that Mousehold has 6 new species of fungi discovered while on a fungi walk with a group led by expert Dr Tony Leech. Orange peel fungus was one of these new findings and it was growing at the new pond that was built last year. At Strumpshaw, the banks of the River Yare burst again due to the previous night's storm. I watched the measuring post at Reception Hide go from the 6 mark when I arrived to being submerged when I left. At Holkham Hall, I witnessed this year's fallow deer rut. Deer weren't the only thing fighting that month, as back at Strumpshaw, two mute swans tried to drown one another in an epic fight that took 10-20 minutes. Fortunately, both swans survived.

Grey Seals
My first goldeneye (a female) at Strumpshaw was about on November 5th. The annual seal pupping season started at Horsey Gap and a family of otters (mum and 2 cubs) were showing nicely at Strumpshaw on November 19th.

Whooper Swan
As well as the rook roost at Buckenham, the other highlight was seeing the swan feed at WWT Welney with hundreds of whooper swans and other waterfowl coming in for their evening meal.

This concludes my great year. 2014 has been full of surprises and new and exciting wildlife experiences. What have I got planned for 2015? Well, I'm still looking for my first badgers and who knows, maybe I will eventually fulfill my dream of swimming with wild fish and marine life. You will have to find out next year. Happy New Year everyone!

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