Friday, 1 January 2016

Looking back and forward...

2015 has been a strange year for me. I've lost family members and friends this year, far more than in a 'normal' year. Most notably my mother-in-law in February  and my father in June. The result was a life changing house move and fewer opportunities to go exploring than planned. Indeed many plans were made and most of them had to be put aside. Everyday life was effected - hoping that will all change in 2016.

Bearing in mind I've had fewer opportunities to get out in 2015, it's maybe not surprising that I didn't even see an adder this year despite extensive searches locally! Populations have certainly decreased dramatically but it's not often I can say I've seen more Smooth Snakes than adders in a season. I'm still optimistic I'll rediscover a local population next year, I have a few places to check in the Spring.

More of these than adders in 2015?
On the plus side the family move from Chard to Whitestaunton has opened different opportunities to log the wildlife in and around the in-law's garden and pond. When I haven't been able to get out further afield, this has been my saviour - it has literally kept me sane this year. It's also thrown up some interesting stuff, not least a green sandpiper on the garden pond in September, not something I would have ever predicted.

There have been some rarer birds though. The highlights including an adult summer plumaged White-winged Black Tern at Wareham in Dorset closely followed by a red-footed falcon in the same area.

The Wareham White-winged Black
The Black Hole Marsh Baird's Sandpiper was unexpected as was a local Spotted Sandpiper near Chard. One of my favourites last year though has to be the Hudsonian Godwit at Meare Heath, not a UK tick but a welcome addition to Somerset's  bird list and a fantastic bird to see outside of Canada.

The Hudwit: Dave Helliar
And then there was the very showy gull-billed tern near Newton Abbot - yes, there have been some good things in 2015 I'm pleased to say.

The Newton Abbot Gull-billed Tern
So what does 2016 hold in store? We'll, I'm certainly making plans, despite some of the challenges we now face as a family. I'm hoping to get more overseas trips under my belt in the coming twelve months and with it some good birding and herping but I'd like to think I can also put in more quality time in my local (Three Counties) region as there's still plenty of good wildlife to see and film roundabout. No doubt bats will feature high on the list again, as will spiders - Eresus sandaliatus is firmly on my hit list for 2016. There are also a few introduced reptiles I'd like to get on film too - the magnificent Green Lizards at Bournemouth and maybe the naturalised Aesculapian snakes in North Wales. The year ahead will be a good one and I hope that (with help of my friends - thanks for all your contributions in 2015 Mr Helliar), Three Counties Wildlife will continue to flourish. A happy and prosperous New Year to you all, let's make it a good one.

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