28th December. Long Time Coming

I don't recall, in 30 years of birding, that I've ever had a tick during the Christmas period and given that I haven't had a sniff all year (excepting the pending Duskyish Thrush and the Flamborough Baikal Teal) I couldn't see this year being any different. So whilst driving towards the Broomhead Crossbills Jo showed me a picture of an 'interesting' Guillemot that the Portland Bird Obs' had 'Tweeted'... It certainly was interesting - it was a bloody BRUNNICH'S!! Unfortunately a prior Boxing Day arrangement meant I couldn't go and as Jo had foolishly agreed to work the following day it meant sweating until the Saturday.  The Bird was still present Friday afternoon and arrangements were made for an early departure south. Despite Roy having an unscheduled lie-in he managed to get us at Portland by 9:30 where the bird was still performing to the crowd of a hundred or so. So on the final weekend of the year I finally got to put a firm indelible tick at the side of this chunky Arctic Auk.

This wasn't however my only tick. At the other side of the breakwater was a Black Guillemot my first English record.

It was also nice to catch up with the Brixham White-billed Diver and indeed another first for me - 4 species of diver at the same site.

A handful of Purple Sand's just over the wall.

21st December. Pigeon in Flight

Finally one of the half dozen or so Ivory Gulls, that turned up following the recent tidal surge, stuck in the same place for more than just a few hours and conveniently just an hour and half away. Jo could hardly contain her excitement at this rare chance of seeing this high Arctic scavenger almost six years after we first met - I really spoil that girl.

Sat out on the salt marsh, when we arrived, Jo looked through the scope declaring "It looks like a Pigeon" and showed no further interest in it... Obviously not cute enough.

After meeting up with my Patch Birding nemesis Jonny Holiday and having a mutual moan about how crap our respective patches have been for the last few months the gull had the decency to come closer and investigate the festering fish that had been laid at it's table - clearly affluent southern birders had visited as smoke Salmon was on offer and seemingly favourable to the poor northerners offering of Mackerel..

1st December. Oh Go On Then

After what I can only describe as a spell of the birding blues, pretty much affecting me for the whole of the autumn, it's time to pick myself up and get back into it.

With exactly one month left of the Patchwork Challenge it's looking highly unlikely that I'll catch Jonathan Holiday, whose now at least 18 points ahead. Jonny and I had a little side competition back in January to see who could get the highest self-found total, currently he's about 6 species in front and again I'm unlikely to catch him, unless there's a sudden drop in temperature coupled with Jonny falling off a ladder. Hmm.....

Aside from the above I'm just two species off equaling last years self-found patch year list currently standing at 136 and for the next 4 weeks that's where my efforts are going.

As we rapidly approach the year end I've had a few inquiries as to whether I'll be running the Footit Competition again.  Well, I was thinking maybe not - but after several requests from Twitter followers and a telephone conversation with Mr Garner I thought what better way to start the years and shake off the Birding Blues?

So there it is, Footit 2014 officially launched. However this year they'll be a few changes..... though at the moment I'm not entirely sure what they are.

Entry details and the rules will be on the Footit blog in the next few days..