Looking back on 2021

2021 was a year like no other, well, apart from 2020, maybe. Except, personally, it was quite momentous. Despite all the impacts of COVID, on home, on my health and on work, many good things eventually came out of 2021.

The year started with planning and preparing for, and then actually, moving house. At the beginning of February, after over 40 years of living in Cheshire, albeit with four years studying in Birmingham, I moved to Northamptonshire. The previous 12 months had largely been spent in Kew, West London, being locked down with my girlfriend and then between lockdowns splitting time between Kew and Cheshire. However, February was the big change we both needed as we settled into our new home in a rural village north of Northampton.

It wasn’t long before COVID returned, personally, to spoil things. We both got it but I developed additional glandular fever symptoms which were pretty awful and took many weeks to fully recover from. However, I can count myself lucky compared to many. Once over the worst of it, and when the pretty rubbish spring weather allowed, we started to explore our new home.

I had a vey strange feeling when we first moved into our house; one of being on a very small island of familiarity (our house and the nearby villages lanes around it) in a great ocean of the unknown. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling living somewhere of which I knew so little. However, over the following months of 2021, through driving, cycling and walking around the area, that island has been expanded greatly, its shores pushed further and further out, until I’m now surrounded by known, if not all very familiar, places.

Much of our exploring has been through walks in the countryside and visits to nature reserves, all of which have provided an insight into Northamptonshire’s landscape and wildlife – which have been an unexpected collective joy so far.

We were lucky to have a week long trip to South Uist spanning late June and early July when the Machair was at its best – a truly amazing spectacle in an often harsh but always stunning place. A day trip to Mingulay not only produced great views of wildlife, particularly the seabird cliffs, it also resulted in our engagement – quite a special place to ‘pop the question’.

We also had a weekend in North Norfolk in July watching wildlife and enjoying the warm weather on the coast and I had a long-awaited return to Ramsey Island. This was only for the day and it seemed quite odd being back after leaving over two years previously at the end of my three-months long term volunteering stint. Although I did have a Manx shearwater in my hotel bedroom overnight (after rescuing it from the kerbside outside a pub) to make it even more odd!

Our travels of 2021 were completed by a week in Skye in October, walking and more wildlife watching, with some very nice food along the way, and a few nights with friends on the south Devon coast at New Year. The latter was not so much for wildlife but the scenery was lovely despite the rain and strangely warm temperatures.

I would normally do a list of numbers for my review of the year but it would be very much depleted compared to non-COVID years. However, there are some worth noting:

  • 53 bird species seen from the house so far and five heard
  • 154 bird species seen in 2021 plus two heard – better than last year but less than many when I have travelled abroad
  • 21 species of mammal seen – probably the best UK only year to date – and included 11 species at the house
  • 12 species of butterfly seen including 11 at the house – probably the best year I’ve had0 days volunteering – well, it could be one if I count a morning with a local bird ringing group. Unfortunately, its probably just not feasible for me to start ringing training at present.

I thought I’d finish the post with a photo taken on our favourite walk in the area – this time in high summer (and very unlike the weather tonight which to forecast to get down to -5oC)

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