Autumn 2020

Fifty autumn postcards from forty birdwatchers—a fraction of the growing number of individuals who are thinking more carefully about why, where, and how they travel to watch birds. As these accounts show, there is no single or perfect way of understanding and doing low-carbon birding. Some of these birdwatchers live in bird-rich places, others in towns and cities. Some do most of their birdwatching by walking and cycling. Others are regular users of public transport or have circumscribed most of their driving locally. Whether their birdwatching focuses on the simple pleasure of observing and listening to birds, sketching, sound recording, listing, or monitoring, all know that, in the midst of the climate crisis, it is high time to think and act differently.

#lowcarbonbirding

25 June — The Northumberland coast is spectacular and I am very lucky to have it on my doorstep. I knew that a Black Tern had been associating with Arctic Terns in the colony on ‘The Long Nanny’ at Beadnell Beach and so a friend and I decided to visit. We quickly found the Black Tern and watched as it ‘harried’ Arctic Terns bringing food to their mates on the nest. Add Little, Common and a single Roseate Tern and we had five species in one morning. Graham Sorrie

2 July — During lockdown I spent more time looking at the smaller things on Salisbury Plain such as the flowers. This is a typical scene of the plain with Field Scabious, Dyer’s Greenweed and Red Clover abundant and scattered nesting Whinchat, Meadow and Tree Pipits amongst others. Charlie Murphy

13 July — Mid July in the Mediterranean. The heat at noon is suffocating but this is wader migration season. A final scan of the salty shores of the lagoon before lunch and there it is: my first adult Curlew Sandpiper on the patch this autumn. It has flown a minimum of 5,000 km from the nearest breeding grounds in Siberia—Russia’s Yamal Peninsula—to L’Albufera de Valencia. After a brief rest feeding on the abundant invertebrate larvae such as shore flies (Fam. Ephydridae) and midges (Fam. Chironomidae) it will continue its journey along the East Atlantic Flyway for at least another 2,500 km to the nearest wintering grounds in Sub-Saharan Africa. I end the morning session wishing it a good journey and feeling humbled. Nacho Dies

15 July — I found it very easy to stay local this year with so much to see and do in the garden (without doing any actual gardening). Wildlife gardens are a brilliant idea: less digging, weeding and mowing (less work!) means more wildlife. It might look a little untidy but untidy is good for wildlife. Just need to find the time to find, enjoy and record what is out there. It is time well spent: this Yellow-banded Conops (Conops quadrifasciatus) from our garden in Topsham, Devon, was one of over a hundred garden firsts from 2020. Tim Workfolk

30 July — One way to make the most of birding opportunities along my local coast in July is to search for juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls on the beach. However, it is easy to get distracted by the first returning Northern Wheatears. Especially when they are as cooperative as this one, photographed at Cogden Beach in Dorset. Gavin Haig

10 August — I don’t often go for a trail run in the dark so this was an unusual experience, running a familiar route in Woodbury Common, Devon, in the increasing gloom. On my return leg in the dark, I ran in the bubble of light thrown by head torch to the sound of European Nightjars calling and churring. Magical! Martin Elcoate

17 August — I took this photo near Leasowe lighthouse, my local coastal patch on the Wirral, near to my home in Liverpool. I had seen nothing of note, not unusual on my patch, and had just started my walk to the station to catch the train home feeling a little disheartened. This feeling increased when the heavens opened and I got drenched in a sudden shower. As I was squelching along the now muddy path I suddenly caught a movement and, on looking up, saw this beautiful juvenile Common Cuckoo sat on a fence looking at me from 15 yards away. Cuckoos have become very rare birds on the Wirral so my mood was instantly transformed. It happily allowed me to click away and subsequently remained for several days allowing many others the same opportunity. I caught my train home looking like a drowned rat, but a happy one! Eddie Williams

22 August — The Pied Flycatcher was a highlight from a brilliant morning. There was a little bit of everything: ten warbler species, chats, Spotted Flycatcher, flyover Tree Pipits and so on. On the return leg home I caught a brief glimpse of something, larger than a phylloscopus, flitting about in a tree beside the path. Fifteen minutes later it finally reappeared and there it was—a Pied Flycatcher, not a regular migrant here! Amy Robjohns

23 August — This was my last long walk of the summer through two of my favourite places, Bleeke Heide and Strijbeekseheide near Breda in the Netherlands. That week I spotted my first Honey Buzzards, my 100th species having only started birding this year. All my birding has been by bike except for one trip just north of Amsterdam by train and I find familiarity with my local area to be more fulfilling than the odd day away. Chris Chambers

26 August — For me, autumn is all about migration. Rarities are nice to see and even nicer to find, but the commoner species are what really make it special. Scanning the fields, scrub, and fence posts, and seeing what pops up. I looked towards this August with a mix of excitement and dread. Excitement because migration is exciting, but dread because of previous poor autumns with few birds while other Hampshire sites did well. Thankfully, this was a good autumn, more like how I remembered it when I started birding. It was lovely, with plenty to count each day and no day the same! Amy Robjohns

28 August — This was a chance encounter in the back garden. Our bird population is not massively varied locally but there are good numbers, enough to sustain these magnificent raptors. Each year we see juvenille Sparrowhawks like this learning the ropes. This bird landed on our summer house roof after an attempted raid on the bird table. I was lucky to have my camera to hand and that moment looking eye to eye was an incredible connection with this wild being. Look after nature and you get amazing encounters on your doorstep. Zach Haynes

30 August — There are so many feral cats around my Slovak village that the birdlife in my garden is pretty threadbare—I have not seen even a single blackbird in the garden since I moved here. Hirundines, however, can avoid the feline depredations, and all summer the skies were filled with hundreds of Swallows and House Martins. On the morning I took this photo, there were dozens of juveniles with their parents posing on my roof; and about ten minutes after the photo, a Hobby swooped down and caught one of the juveniles. Cats below, raptors above—not an easy life for birds in Budimir. Gavin Cowper, Slovakia

30 August — Wood Warbler is a regular spring and autumn passage migrant in Shetland. Spring 2020 was very poor for the species but autumn was much better. Although I saw several individuals on my home patch where 70 per cent of my bird watching is done, this one was photographed in Sumburgh, 15 km from home. Glen Tyler

31 August — I moved house in 2020 and so I have been trying to adapt to my new patch, finding good spots to see birds and settling into a new routine. I always go birding within walking distance of my home, but I was getting frustrated about the general lack of birds in my local area, especially woodpeckers. So on the day I took this photo, I went on a longer walk to the next village, and was lucky to get great views of this Black Woodpecker. It is one of my favourite species. I almost took them for granted on my old patch, but it was a real treat to finally see one close to my new home. Gavin Cowper, Slovakia

2 September — It was a lovely warm early autumn day. Having walked around the village in the morning, after lunch I decided to have a wander from home with my dog, Rufus, down to Waxham to have another look at the Red-backed Shrike there. There was no-one else present so I was able to approach the bird closely and take some photographs. I enjoyed a good hour with the bird before walking back up the beach, cooling off my feet in the gently lapping surf. Tim Allwood

5 September — This admittedly slightly fuzzy picture of a Hobby was taken at the University of Warwick campus during the ‘West Midlands All Dayer’, a regular ‘big day’ in which teams of birders compete to see which West Midlands site can drum up the biggest day list. Regular local patching in 2020 has shown that Hobby is more frequent on my suburban patches in the South Coventry area than I had previously realised. In 2021 I am hoping to confirm my suspicions that the species breeds locally. Jonathan Dean

5 September — During 2020 I have clocked up over 2,000 km cycling around my local patch, Exminster Marshes in Devon. A focus for me has been keeping track of colour-ringed Curlew and I was delighted to find this bird on 5 September. It was ringed as a fledged chick three months earlier on an airfield in Suffolk by Harry Ewing. It was a real thrill to confirm that one of the few Curlew chicks to have fledged in lowland Emgland had made it to the coast. On 2 January 2021 an icy cycle down to the Marsh for the high tide confirmed the bird was still with us. James Diamond

6 September — In late summer and autumn we made several day trips with our five year-old on public transport to see some range-restricted insects in southern England. On 6 September we took the fast train from London to Sandwich Bay and walked out to the low dunes and shingle in search of the Grey Bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata). Fraser Simpson

6 September — His young ears are more sensitive to high-frequency orthopterans than mine. With the aid of a bat detector set to around 30 kHz we located many more of these cryptically coloured bush-crickets stridulating. We also encountered two fabulous migrant moths—Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Hummingbird Hawk-moth—while observing return migration in action with gathering Wheatears and Swallows departing across the English Channel. Fraser Simpson

6 September — I found this Northern Wheatear perched on Parliament Hill in North London. I always find it amazing that they land here among the crowds of people as this one did this morning! That is my favourite thing about migration, that such amazing birds can appear anywhere, even in your local park! It seemed to like the view of London! Jamie Cedar

12 September — During the first lockdown, I spent many hours exploring the local area by bike while looking for wildlife and making a mental map of local wildlife-rich places. One such place was Bryant’s Heath, which is where I found this beautiful Mother Shipton caterpillar feeding on grass when I revisited on 12 September. Louis Parkeson

16 September — I have made some great birding memories and friends in the six years I have been part of the Leith Hill visible migration group. With the tower closed and meeting friends off limits earlier in the year, the spring migration season was a write-off, so I was very keen to return in late summer and autumn. The morning of 16 September was a very pleasant one with a light north-easterly raising our hopes for some goodies ahead. Highlights of the two hour session included a fly-by Ring Ouzel, three Yellow Wagtails, a Hawfinch moving in a flock of Siskins and at least 38 Crossbills, some of which posed very obligingly in pines near the tower. Matt Phelps

23 September — Autumn passage is an exciting time for any birder, and while in the Midlands it is not a time that is expected to produce a fall of mega rarities, it is a good time to encounter passerines that do not breed locally—the usual chats, flycatchers, etc. In September I was scoping some bushes from the back of my garden, as I would most days, when a male Stonechat appeared in my view. This was quite exciting. While it is a bird I have seen on countless occasions, to find one from the garden two miles from Coventry city centre was not exactly expected. A nice patch, but even better garden tick! Joe Parham

25 September — Friday 25 September was another working-from-home day, like so many during 2020. What set it apart was the arrival of Storm Francis, which produced great seawatching on the coast. It was the flurry of inland skua records that piqued my interest, though—including not one but two groups of probable Arctics over Thetford during the morning. Rather than dash to the coast, Neil Calbrade and I decided to see if we could cash in on the overland passage of displaced skuas… We couldn’t, but it was fun/crazy trying! Nick Moran

26 September — The sun was shining on a beautiful late September day on the Cornish coast as the train pulled into Hayle. After a few minutes’ walk from the station I reached the Hayle Estuary, a haven for a whole host of waterbirds. Herons and egrets hunted in the shallows, waders fed frantically before continuing their migration and Wigeon and Teal numbers were starting to build ahead of the approaching winter. David Raffle

27 September — A rare 2020 visit to my former patch, the South Downs at Firle in East Sussex. On the northern slopes, the escarpment is a succession of folds—it’s easier to walk along the gentle undulations on the top, but more rewarding to explore some of the paths that fall and rise. I had been hoping for Redstarts or an early Ring Ouzel, but the day ended up belonging to Stonechats—the day’s total of 23 far surpassing my previous highest number in ten years of living and birding here. Charlie Peverett

27 September — The Middlebere channel on the southern shore of Poole Harbour is about five miles from my house so an easy bike ride away. It became a favoured destination during lockdown, especially in early autumn when access to the hides became possible again as restrictions eased. By late September the wintering flock of Avocet had built up to about 300 birds—there are few more exhilarating sights than to see them wheeling in response to a real or perceived threat. Shortly after this picture was taken the first Hen Harrier of the winter went through causing further panic. Peter Moore

4 October — It is just before dawn in Kilnsea, and, cup of tea in hand, there are two Long-eared Owls winnowing around the garden treetops. Last night a Red-flanked Bluetail went to roost just some twenty metres away, and the stirring sounds of migrant Robins and thrushes belie another arrival event on easterly winds. It is a Sunday morning in early October, and between now and nightfall the Spurn area will play host to a late pulse of Redstarts and Willow Warblers, alongside ubiquitous Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, the odd Hawfinch, Yellow-browed Warbler and Siberian Lesser Whitethroat. Jonnie Fisk

4 October — I watch two local patches, that join each other. My main area is a couple of square miles around my home at Howick on the Northumberland coast, the other one is Boulmer headland approximately 3 miles south of my home. It was at Boulmer where a visitor found this Bluethroat hiding in marram grass along the beach edge. I was working from home and as my time was limited I drove my car down to Boulmer and found the bird quite easily. It was a first for the patch and arrived during a very good spell here. A small group of us who watch Boulmer regularly found Pacific and American Golden Plovers, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-winged Tern, Great Grey Shrike and Desert Wheatear amongst others during an excellent six week period! My home patch, watched daily, was almost as good with Sooty Tern, Grey Phalarope, Sabine’s Gull and up to three Yellow-browed Warblers together, these latter birds in my garden. I realise I am lucky living in a good birding location, so I tend not to leave a radius around my home of about 5 miles too often! Stewart Sexton

10 October — Hythe Lagoons is just a ten-minute walk from my home in Colchester and is where I do most of my birding now. In recent years, however, the lagoon tends to dry out completely by mid-June thus scuppering any chance of the wader passage that we used to enjoy, 2020 being no exception. The now weed-covered lagoon did play host to good numbers of Whinchats though, the first being seen mid-August, a peak of 12 in early September and finally this frosty looking bird on 10 October. Phil Carter

12 October — Moving to the Dark Peak from Amazonia via New York was always going to limit day-to-day exciting birding possibilities—but the last four years of local birding has been pleasantly exciting with Hoopoe, Parrot Crossbills, Yellow-browed Warbler, Grey Phalarope, Great Grey Shrike, Red-billed Chough, Great Egret, Lapland and Snow Buntings (still no Yellowhammer!) in what is still ostensibly one of the worst places for unusual birds in the whole country. All this was eclipsed by the Bearded Vulture of autumn 2020 that hung about in our valley for a month and half in August and September and gives some guarded hope to the old adage of ‘anything is possible’ even in the rarely sunlit uplands. Alex Lees

13 October — All my birding in 2020 has been done by bike or on foot. My local days out in autumn yielded scarce migrant finds, including Woodlark, Lapland Bunting, Yellow-browed Warblers and Siberian Chiffchaffs. But the most beautiful day of all was watching Whooper Swans arriving from Iceland over the eminently cycleable lanes of Thurnham and Cockersands. This quartet swooped over my head to join over a hundred wild swans feeding on a flooded field, bugling as they came. Dan Haywood

14 October — Unexpected birding finds within Bangor proved massively rewarding this autumn. I never expected to see species like Goshawk, Osprey and Lapland Bunting here, and likely wouldn’t have without lockdowns making us look that little bit harder at our local area. With Snowdonia as a backdrop birding in the city is pretty scenic too. Tom Williams

15 October On 15 October the local patch was kind to me. An arrival of migrants included a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, a Siberian Chiffchaff and a blythi Lesser Whitethroat. Then, whilst carefully working through some willows, a Pallas’s Warbler call stopped me dead. I was fired up, but that single call soon melted away into nothing. Sticking with it, about an hour later another call finally gave away the stripey sprite’s location and eventually it showed well. OK, it’s not some monster rarity, but it’s always a treat when you clap your eyes on a Pallas’s Warbler. The following day I had a Pallas’s double vision moment when it was joined by a second birdpatchtastic! Gary Woodburn

22 October Regular in small numbers to the Northumberland coast, Snow Buntings are often very approachable. I almost stepped on this confiding individual on Druridge links before it started feeding on a sandbank a short distance away allowing me to position myself at eye level and throw the background out of focus. Always a pleasure to observe these delightful birds so close to home. Graham Sorrie

26 October A walk with a friend at Holme, a chance to chat, watch and photograph birds. Suddenly the light was electric, illuminating this Little Egret. Minutes later I learnt that Sea Buckthorn is as prickly as it looks but lacks any water proof qualities. Steve Rowland

26 October Thanks to the Rare Bird Alert youth fellowship, I got the amazing opportunity to spend a week at Spurn Bird Observatory in late October. There was just one problem: I live in Reading, over 150 miles from Spurn… So it was on with the mask and hand sanitiser, and onto public transport for a day of travelling across the country by train and bus. Not the quickest of routes, but far better than being stuck in a car all day, and I will certainly be making the trip again! Finley Hutchinson

2 November I have exercised daily in this field in the outskirts of Lancaster since April. Being right next to Aldcliffe marsh in the Lune estuary, the place is routinely overflown by gulls, waders, ducks and geese. Most rewarding, though, was noting how life here pulsed at the same rhythm as other bird-rich places across the country with the arrival of Swallows, Swifts, Lesser Whitethroats, Redwings, Blackbirds, … Javier Caletrío

7 November Headley Heath, Surrey. I am observing a thrush and finch roost. On the slope directly opposite me a Silver Birch is harnessing the sunlight and radiating it back out in an ethereal glory via the medium of leaf colour. It positively glows and flames, on fire with defiance of the leaf-fall that will soon inevitably occur. It is mesmerising. The haze dissipates the colour, blurs the edges and creates the supernatural. From such sights myths were created. Steve Gale

14 November — A 30 km trip on my electric bicycle took me to the territory of this resident Steppe Buzzard on a foggy morning. Tibor Vincze, Hungary

15 November — We do most of our birding around Bangor. On this occassion three birding friends and I shared a car to visit Caerhun church (20 miles from Bangor), where Hawfinches regularly frequent the ancient Yew trees. A Hawfinch flew overhead on arrival and landed briefly atop a distant beech tree. The bird spooked along with a flock of corvids feeding in the adjacent field, my friend Joel joked that ‘there must be a Goshawk about’ as we had witnessed similar reactions in Bangor previously. As if he had spoken it into existence, a juvenile Goshawk flew across the open field in front of us. We never expected to see either species, let alone both at the same time. It is one of my top birdwatching memories. Tom Williams

17 November In all my wildlife-watching around North Norfolk my steed is a bike bought by my mother in 1979. The seat is a little hard and the gears a little outdated, but it is my teleporter to the wild world and I love it. I experience so much more of the landscape, the weather and our wildlife on my bike than I ever did by car. Nick Acheson

21 November In late November, I was beating Ivy in my garden over a white dish (as you do), when a speck caught my eye. Upon putting it under the microscope I discovered it was a female Anagrus atomus, a 0.6mm long parasitoid wasp of the family Mymaridae. The Mymaridae (aka “Fairyflies”) contains around 1500 species of wasp that typically vary between 0.5 and 1.0mm long, but it also contains the smallest known insect (Stenopterapion scutellare), at 0.139mm long – the average width of a human hair! Finley Hutchinson

21 November — Birding is a state of mind, eyes and ears trained over decades to scan a landscape for birds, an ornithological embodiment of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule when after much practice an action becomes instinctive. This is just as well as with two active boys much of my ‘birding’ takes place around the edges of family walks. On this occasion we were at Ken Hill Woods in west Norfolk, the boys using the woods as an outdoor gym whilst I listened and watched out for woodland birds. Steve Rowland

22 November Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were recorded regularly when the British Trust for Ornithology relocated to the Nunnery in 1991. By the time I arrived in 2009, they were a scarce bird, and I was lucky to connect with one that a colleague found near the office in the cold snap of March 2013. That was my last record away from known breeding sites elsewhere along the Little Ouse, so it was fantastic to stumble across a roaming male at the Nunnery Lakes on a beautiful clear day in late November! Nick Moran

22 November Certainly not a rare sight across the city, but the flamboyant charm and constant chattering of the Ring-necked Parakeets keep usurban birderscompany. Photographed from my bicycle, this female perched high in her sycamore tree seemed as curious as I was about the exotic array of smells coming from the Sunday morning food market in Victoria Park. Hannah Jones

23 November — In late November a Glossy Ibis was present at Ouse Fen RSPB. Having seen several before, I waited for a calm day to cycle there, aiming to add it to my fledgling ‘non-motorised bird list’. Monday 23 November dawned calm and frosty and I set off for the c.1hr ride, at that point my longest bike journey. In 2¼ hours at Ouse Fen the ibis failed to show but it was more than compensated by 55 species on my BirdTrack complete list, including a vocal Great Egret, a very close fly-by Bittern, Bearded Tits and a flighty Water Pipit (all non-motorised ticks). Three weeks (and a pair of padded cycling shorts) later I added Glossy Ibis at Earith. I am now planning a non-motorised Cambs year list for 2021. Simon Gillings

27 November — Woodcocks are wonderful constants during an autumn; they are the morning adrenaline shot, flushed underfoot; the barrel-chested bullets which punctuate hours in the field – jinking along furrows, under hedgerows, between crashing waves; the ball of barred feathers in a mist net. As each autumn comes and goes, they gain more personal associations. Woodcocks mean full November moons; a Northern Irish buddy’s passion project; an interruption during a surprise Radde’s Warbler encounter. And as this birding life goes on, the list will grow. Jonnie Fisk

28 November — Enjoying the circadian rhythm of the same site day after day is a pleasure in itself, attuning you to changes in the local wildlife. When you are based at a migration hotspot, it also means easy access to the action! When I would visit Spurn on weekends I would sit on the train with an open mind, simply happy to be heading back to the Obs’, but usually hoping for some decent birding. November is a fickle month, but birding it in its entirety during 2020 proffered some fantastic moments in migration, not least multiple arrival days of my favourite northern ink-beaked forest demon: Blackbirds. Jonnie Fisk

30 November — During this year of restricted travel I have almost completed the project of lichen recording from every 1 km square (monad) in my ‘home’ 10 km square. Lichen hunting is the perfect way of getting to know the woods: moving slowly from tree to tree, unravelling the species, looking closely, discovering the natural and human stories, finding the ‘by-catch’ of Woodcock and moths. This wood (an old outgrown coppice) in Skelwith Bridge, Cumbria, was disappointing for a long while, until suddenly there were older trees, rarer things and a clump of oaks right by the road bearing the only Usnea subfloridana of the day. Pete Martin

3 December — With a new pannier setup to carry the scope and the tripod, I was itching to get out and about. Down the prehistoric track over the wold, searching for wintering Corn Buntings on the stubble; back along the Ancholme valley to find the overwintering Goosanders had just returned; sitting, scanning the pink-foot throngs in the winter sunshine. It was a beautiful day to be out on the bike. Leaving the car behind, I have found the journey now becomes as large a part of the pleasure as the destination: understanding the landscape; finding habitat I never knew existed; chancing upon birds I otherwise never would have found; surveying large areas or whole populations. Birding by bike is now my favoured method by far, the low-carbon bit relegated to just a happy byproduct. Mark Banister

7 December — We had had several days of freezing fog in the Huntingdonshire fens resulting in an amazing hoare frost on 7 December. Everything above ground level was encrusted in gleaming white ice crystals. The fog remained patchy which made birding on my daily dog walks a mixed bag. Winter birding in the arable fens is hard work at the best of times, with birds usually concentrated in small pockets. After several days of frosts and freezing fog, the ground was frozen and the few pockets holding finches and buntings were all empty. Walking on, the fog cleared a little and I could hear an alarming Meadow Pipit. Looking left I saw a larger bird twisting. Merlin! The briefest of glimpses before the pursuit hurtled back into the fog. I stood rooted to the spot. Looking into an empty space where just seconds ago my favourite falcon had injected life into an otherwise empty and static landscape. I love the sheer unexpectedness of birding. Steve Dudley

10 December — Redpolls visit my patch every winter but in variable numbers. Most years, numbers don’t tend to build up until January–February, perhaps as food sources elsewhere in Thetford Forest begin to run out. However, 2020 saw more than 100 descend on the Nunnery Lakes in early December. What was particularly nice about this observation was how it fitted with the BirdTrack reporting rates for Norfolk and Suffolk, which showed an earlier-than-normal increase this year. Seeing patch records in context like this is one of the great things about local birding! Nick Moran

12 December — My Pulborough patch has been a great source of sanctuary in this turbulent year. I am very lucky to have such an excellent reserve right on my doorstep and take pleasure in doing much of my local birding on foot or by bike. On this particular day I had walked out to the patch. It was a sunny and reasonably mild morning for the time of year. Coal Tits are not uncommon here but so often are just dots up in the tallest pines, so it was a nice surprise when this individual spent several minutes flicking around in the oaks and brambles close to where I was stood, seemingly oblivious to my presence. Matt Phelps

14 December — We have got some fine birding sites on our doorstep but I like to avoid the crowds and hop on my bike down the road to the top of the estuary at Topsham ‘Rec’ where I usually have the place to myself. A close bird in good light was a nice surprise but within minutes a gusting northwesterly brought driving horizontal rain and had me hiding behind a tree. Tim Workfolk

27 December — My coastal patch and work place, Holme Bird Observatory, never disappoints, though finding my own Bean Goose this winter there has proved challenging. I regularly cycle there in the summer but the winter means a drive followed by a healthy walk. This bird was the result of that, with me sitting on the sea wall checking through the large numbers of Pink-feet on the grazing marsh and one of three I found. Self-found and a patch bird always makes for a rewarding day! Gary Elton

31 December — Bestwall: a regular circuit around my local patch of Bestwall and Swineham takes me along the north bank of the River Frome from the town of Wareham, a walk of 4-5 miles depending on the return route. It pays to set out early to look for birds before the dog walkers, motor boats, kayakers, paddle boarders and wild swimmers flush them into hiding. This picture was taken as the final dawn of 2020 broke over Bestwall. Freezing conditions are increasingly rare in this part of the world, and can sometimes bring an influx of birds, so when they do occur it provides an added incentive to get out birding. Peter Moore

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