Looking forward to 2019

I’ve woken on the first morning of the new year hoping to pull back the curtains and see a bright, sunny day but instead there’s more gloom, just as we’ve had for almost the whole festive period. However, I awoke with bright hopes instead of fulfilled plans for the year ahead. The new year brings a clean slate but one which is already being scribbled on.

Just as 2018 was, I’m hoping 2019 will be a year full of time spent outdoors, both locally, further afield in the UK but also abroad. My first trip will be to Botswana in March, returning to the country I first visited in 2017 but this time to the Kalahari desert to spend a week on a camping safari. No doubt I will also have a trip to Sweden to visit family, probably in August, and I plan to have a third foreign trip, potentially in the autumn but I’ve yet to decide where but maybe Eastern Europe.

I’ve also got a return trip to the Isle of Harris which I visited in 2018; this time I’m hoping to get to St Kilda and, possibly, the Shiants too, something I failed to do last year due to the weather. I also hope to have some long weekends away, too few of which I had in 2018, including a trip to Norfolk and possible some of the hills in the South West.

More locally, I will mix cycling, both on road and dirt tracks, walking and running with conservation volunteering, mostly with Crewe & Nantwich Conservation Volunteers but also doing bird surveys for Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the British Trust for Ornithology.

However, it’s unlikely that I will be doing many, if any, osprey or peregrine protection shifts as the main time for this volunteering will coincide with my biggest plan of this year.  Since 2012 I have spent two or three weeks per year volunteering for the RSPB on Ramsey Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire. When I was there this last September I was asked whether I could do a three-month stint in 2019. Well, I couldn’t refuse (after getting approval from work), so I will be spending late spring and much of the summer on the island.

With all this planned, I can’t wait to get the year started! 

A mix of winter and spring at the equinox

After a bit of work this morning, I headed out to make the most of the nice weather and went to one of the local birdwatching spots.  Sandwich Flashes are a series of lakes and wetlands between Crewe and Sandwich, formed by subsidence caused by the solution of underlying salt deposits.  I occasionally pay a visit if I have a spare hour or two on an unplanned Saturday or Sunday and can usually get a good bird list of 40 or more species, depending on the time of year.  It’s usually a focus of more seasoned birdwatchers, birders and twitchers but it’s also good for less persistent observers of birds like me.


Despite the unexpectedly fine weather with a warm sun out of the cool breeze, the birdlife was as much of winter than of spring.  The waterbirds, such as wigeon and teal, that have stayed over the colder months have yet all to leave and the winter thrushes (redwings and fieldfares, are still about in goof numbers (and I’ve seen good flocks elsewhere too).

However, the calls of the breeding residents are growing stronger and pairing behaviour is becoming more obvious – the roving tit flocks have now broken up and the long-tailed tits are moving around in twos; no longer in the merry bands that pass swiftly and noisily by.  The hedgerows are also showing signs of new life with the hawthorns breaking out into leaf.

The most spring-like of all signs I noticed today were the very tentative and quiet first calls of a chiffchaff; not the full call of the height of spring but a sure sign that the new season is here.

A Nose for snow

I spent a few hours today at Tegg’s Nose Country Park taking advantage of the snow to try out my new camera…

With the mild winter we’ve had, I didn’t expect to get any snow photos and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  It was slightly strange driving from early spring at home into winter in the hills and I took other photos looking from the hills towards a green Cheshire Plain. However, the birds up there also seem to be in a spring-likee mood with plenty of singing in the woods and valleys.

There are rumours that the weather is to remain cold all the way into April so there might be more chances to take a shot worthy of my next Christmas card!

From brash to ash

Another day spent at Wybunbury Moss with Crewe & Nantwich Conservation Volunteers burning brash left behind by Natural England’s tree clearance activities.


It was a lovely spring-like day with blue sky and white fluffy clouds.  The woodland was full of bird song, not quite at it’s full strength but certainly starting to build.

A day in the (very chilly) sun

I was out with Crewe & Nantwich Conservation Volunteers today to continue with our tasks at Wybunbury Moss National Nature Reserve.  We spent the day burning brash that was left over from the tree clearance work Natural England have been undertaking.

It was lovely, bright weather but the chill didn’t leave all day when out of the sun and the breeze added a wintry edge that reminded us that spring could still be some way off.  In fact, it was so cold that there was still ice on the open water when we finished at around 3:00pm.  However, the fire kept us warm and it was put to good use towards the end with some marshmallow toasting (nom, nom).


Before we left the Moss for the day, I went for a walk around the centre of the site.  It’s not often I can do this as the main area of the Moss is out-of-bounds to the public – it’s dangerous place to be.  One of the most eye-catching parts of the Moss is where there are standing dead trees; they drown as they grow heavier and their roots break into lake beneath the peat floating layer of peat – the weather made this photo opportunity impossible to let go.


An uplifting break in the weather

It seems a long time since I was out in the sunshine, so this morning when I woke to a blue sky, I went to Bagmere to do the final Winter Bird Survey for site this season.  After all the miserable weather and the dark mornings and evenings, a bit of sun can really lift the spirits.

Whilst the sun was shining, the wind was close to being too strong to allow me to do the survey.  However, when I got down into the shallow bowl in which Bagmere sits, it was sheltered from the worst of the wind and I could more than easily hear all the birds in the surrounding area.


There wasn’t a great deal of bird activity and I didn’t get a particularly great list of species.  Unfortunately, willow tits were again missing from my records; after seeing them at Bagmere last time out there, I hoped I’d get them again.  Some nest boxes were put up for them last year and hopefully these will encourage them to breed.  The breeding bird surveys at Bagmere and Blakenhall Moss (both Cheshire Wildlife Trust reserves) start again next month, so I’ll soon see!


Not long after returning home, the clouds came across and it started to pour with rain and hail – usual service had resumed!