Saturday, 5 January 2013

2012 - Big Change, Little Time

So if you thought you had read your last 2012 Review Blog Post you were wrong, you haven't! I shall try and keep it short and most hopefully sweet. As many of you may have read 2012 has been a weird old year for me, moving the family home in March and April has brought far more photographic opportunities with a wide range of species alongside the River in Longparish, Hampshire, and although this is a plus and a positive for the year, leaving behind the home and country estate that you've spent the past 25 years of your life is a little sad.

2012 started badly for me with the loss of Paddy our 6 year old Springer Spaniel, and this wasn't the end of the pet related deaths as in July we lost Sweep our 3 year old Cocker Spaniel both to horrible freak accidents when out walking. As well as several close relatives and family friends. Not a year to remember!

But enough of the personal trauma. What about the wildlife? 

Well most of the early part of 2012 was spent trying to catch up with the Short Eared Owls of Bransbury Common. Usually unsuccessfully, although 2012 was an abundant wintering year for them. (11 counted one day by another birder) I still never really got close enough to get any shots I was happy with. Although watching 4 SEO's and 2 Barn Owls hunting together at the same time was pretty special. Definitely on the list for this years early expeditions, especially now as Bransbury Common is part of my new patch. I just hope the heavy rain from the past few months drains through pretty quickly.

January - Short Eared Owl (Barton Stacey, Hants)
With moving in full flow come March and April, photography trip time was at a premium and I had to make sure I made the most of my jaunts to see my girlfriend Nat in Shropshire, I had one especially cracking weekend where all the birds I wanted to see appeared and appeared well, a couple of firsts for me. Great Grey Shrike, Common Crossbill, Red Grouse, Dipper & some really close Red Kites.

March - Red Grouse (The Long Mynd, Shrops)
By May things were more settled at home, and the garden was starting to get up to scratch. Allowing a lot more time to be spent wandering the riverbank, footpaths and water meadows of the new patch. Also enjoying some time with the local Brown Hare population.

May - Brown Hare (Longparish, Hants)
Early June was a bumper month for me and my camera, a weeks holidaying in coastal Pembrokeshire brought some great birding opportunities and a chance to visit Skomer. A must for anyone with any interest in Sea Birds. A pretty special day was spent in the company of Puffins, Razorbills & Guillemots.

Early June - Puffin (Skomer, Pembs)
With the delights of Wales a distant memory, I started to dedicate a lot of time waiting for the local Barn Owl, who took up residence in the field next to the new house. Countless hours were spent trying to anticipate the best angle the best light and the Owl's next whereabouts. My best photograph however came on the way back from Cricket Nets, spotting Barnie out in the field I ditched the car in a nearby drive, jumped across the road with my camera and tripod and bingo! Who needed to spend hours in a midge bitten state waiting fruitlessly. 

Late June - Barn Owl (Longparish, Hants)
The Summer months seemed to last for ever, lots of time to spend out and about, but not a lot to see, my focus turned to Butterflies, Moths & Dragonflies the only constant source of entertainment. Highlights included a Garden tick in the form of a Purple Emperor.

August - Banded Demoiselle (Longparish, Hants)
September, some of the best weather of the year, and another outing with Nat, this time down to Weymouth, 3 RSPB reserves and some cracking species seen. None much MEGARERER than the Short-billed Dowitcher that had been present for a couple of weeks. Even more satisfying than the 20 ft views, was the fact that no one had seen it any closer than a blurred dot in the 2 weeks prior.

September - Short Billed Dowitcher (Lodmoor, Dorset)
October started with a pretty poor weekend in Exmoor, indifferent weather as you would expect. But no rutting action with the Red Deer at all. Things improved for the better towards the end of the month with what I think will go down as my personal highlight of the year. Another weekend in Shropshire and a visit to the moorland expanse of the Long Mynd. Bringing me an awesome half hour in the company of my first ever Merlin

October - Merlin (Long Mynd, Shrops)
As the weather started to get a little colder and Christmas approaching, my sister and I made our now annual visit to Slimbridge. We managed to pick a nice crisp morning with some beautiful light. Just right for the thousands of Waterbirds throughout the reserve, none much more striking than the beautiful Pintail.

November - Pintail (Slimbridge, Gloucs)
December, Go to work in the dark, get home from work in the dark. Dodge the raindrops, watch the mud. You all know the story, trying to find time to spend when it wasn't raining proved near on impossible. Outings were left to dry lunchtimes and one just happened to bring a wildlife encounter that I truly think will take some beating on a lunchtime ever again. I have been spending some time hoping to encounter the Rooksbury Otters on and off since they first appeared at the end of March. Sometimes successfully other times not. Having not photographed them since the spring, this close encounter was a welcomed to end to the year.

December - Otter (Andover, Hants)
So in conclusion a pretty good year I guess, and I can't complain at all, other than I guess not having enough time. A full time job along with a part time seasonal job (Groundsman) doesn't allow for as much wildlife watching as I would like. All of my encounters apart from the Barn Owl really come down to just being in the right place at the right time. Not being able to sit and learn patterns in behaviour and when and where I am most likely to see certain species.

I think my main aim for 2013 is to try and focus on a much narrower range of species and projects, hopefully to reward me more in viewing & learning about the wildlife I hope to photograph. I ended the year with a pretty average 156 Species of Birds so I am hoping to improve that dramatically for 2013 too.

Download it here - 2012 Species List - Excel File

Here is too 2013 - Best of luck one and all!

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