It's been a tough December. I've been busy, very busy in fact and whilst there hasn't been much to go for, the first two weeks of December were nigh on impossible with a trip to Germany and talks every night. There hasn't really been a 'twitchable' bird to go for either and I was aiming to have a couple of days in Norfolk (Little Auk maybe and that Snow Goose if I had to?). That was until the prevailing wind veered strong westerly and the Goose gadded off!
There was only one option really and it meant pulling out of my trip to Norfolk- to try and nail the flighty Devon Penduline Tits! With friends down near Exeter willing to put up with my crazy birding habits, I decided to drive down first thing on Thursday and who knows when I would be coming back??
I won't bore you with fine detail and 14 hours of watching reed beds over Thursday and Friday were distinctly lacking in Pendulines but with scattered reports here and there I hadn't lost heart. The locals were really helpful and whilst I had covered all the likely areas (at the right times) it was just down to striking lucky! I had extended my stay to include the weekend..... A hot tip from Andy was get yourself down to Bowling Green in the morning first thing....
I did.... I lost count how many times I scoped the scattered reed mace back and forth in the distant reed bed directly across the reserve.... Then suddenly two small passerines flew into the field of view and in a nano-second, all the recent angst was gone - I was looking at two adult Penduline Tits!! The light was perfect and despite the distance, the masks were so prominent, they were almost certainly males. Yesssssssssssss, you beauties 300 at last!
Photography had seemed pointless due to the distance but having watched them in disbelief for 20 seconds or so, I dashed outside to the car for the camera and maybe a record shot? On return, that was never to be.... they had simply vanished!
I gave it another hour and then spent the rest of the morning at Darts Farm - more 'Penduline' Chiffchaff, Stonechat and Blue Tits but no sign of the Pendulines....
I needed a drink! It should have been champagne but I was driving and had to settle for Hot chocolate and Tiffin - sitting there cold and pretty exhausted but wearing a smile that will take a few weeks to subisde! The Big year target had finally been realised and I was coming home for Christmas :-)
Thanks to soooo many birders (and hosts in Norfolk, Devon and Wiltshire) who have encouraged / helped me get there and saved me from flagging in the post Scilly days and all those tweets.... You know who you are!
Will I be doing it again in 2015 - You betcha (NOT!!!!!!!!)
But what SHALL I do? I'm sure I'll be out birding......
Incidently - for anyone interested, I plan to do a talk about the year at the West Midland Bird Club meeting in Stafford on Tues 6th January 2015. It won't all be about the rarities but many of them will be there and it promises to be a feast of images :-) Further details location etc. here