Friday, January 01, 2021

2020 ~ A Challenging Yet Successful Year!

On a personal note and despite all the difficulties that 2020 has brought to us all I would have to say that for me and my brilliant wife Dazza it's been a pretty successful year.

A Black Wheatear on New Years Day 2020 at Sendero Cerro de la Medialuna Mijas Spain

We actually began 2020 in Spain, having spent the Christmas and New Year period at my friend's villa in Mijas, not arriving back in the UK until January 3rd. Little did we know when visiting Sendero Cerro de la Medialuna in Mijas on New Years Day that this would be our last trip abroad for the foreseeable future, with planned visits to the US, Hungary and more trips to Spain and France all falling to COVID.

Sunset at the marina on Day 1 of Lockdown ~ I can think of worse places to be locked down!

When on the 16th March 2020 Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that all unnecessary social contact should cease we knew things were getting serious. But of course, it wasn't until March 23rd that Boris Johnson told the country that people ‘must’ stay at home and a multitude of businesses must close with immediate effect. I have to say that things changed pretty rapidly for me with the closure of Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve, where I spent many hours both birding and volunteering and our home marina locking down, meaning that all non 'liveaboard' activity should cease. In an instant life had changed quite dramatically!

A Black Tern at Napton Reservoir on day 25 of Lockdown ~ My first here in over 15 years of visiting.

That said it wasn't long before I began to take some positives from so many negatives. With the nearby Napton Reservoir now closed as a fishery and the marina closed to traffic and non-residents I found myself completing many of my permitted daily exercises without seeing a soul. The benefit of having no fishing at the reservoir also began to pay off immediately. You can read my full lockdown story HERE but suffice to stay that I managed a creditable 100 species by the time full lockdown ended, several of which I'd never seen at the reservoir in over 15 years!

Aberdeenshire Scotland

2020 was also a huge lifestyle change for us both too and it was all brought about much sooner than we'd anticipated by the pandemic! We'd purchased a property in Aberdeenshire in April 2019 and planned to rent until moving up permanently sometime in the autumn of 2021. However, with Dazza now successfully working from home due to COVID and after discussions with her colleagues it was agreed that this could now become a permanent arrangement with Dazza flying back to Birmingham for a few days every other week. Amazingly our tenants had just given notice too that they intended to leave in mid-September and so the decision was made, we move a year early in October! 

'Quidditch' Our floating home for 16 years ~ Good luck to her new owners!

It was certainly a sad moment when Dazza and I stepped foot off 'Quidditch' our cherished floating home for over 16 years but we felt the timing was right. The memories of our years aboard, particularly in the early days cruising the canals and estuaries of England and Wales will remain forever and our new adventure now begins in the heart of Aberdeenshire Scotland. Details of our new patch can be found HERE. As I knew we would, we've already fallen in love with our new way of life and of course for Dazza its a return to home ground and imparticular Aberdeen, where she was born. 

From a personal perspective and despite the difficulties the pandemic has thrown at us all this has been for Dazza and me a pretty successful, if not challenging year. Oh, and by the way, my final UK birding year-list for the year ends at 206, not a bad effort I think! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 

A Dozen of My Many Favourite Wildlife Images of 2020...

Playing hide and seek with a Wily Weasel at the marina during lockdown

One of many Yellow Wagtails at Napton Reservoir on Day 42 of lockdown

On Day 45 of Lockdown a cycle ride to Stockton Cutting for a Small Blue butterfly.

Whooper Swans depart the Ythan Estuary at sunset ~ A magical place We've come to love!

The 1st ever Cattle Egret at Brandon Marsh ~ A wonderful but frankly 'jammy' find.

Red Grouse abound ~ Just an hours drive, my 1st visit to the Cairngorms since moving north. 

A Moutain Hare ~ An Iconic species of the Highlands.

A stunning drake Long-tailed Duck ~ On one of my 1st visits to the Ythan Estuary.

Right place, right time ~ Another early morning at Brandon Marsh.

Already an amazing memory ~ Pink-footed Geese over Bennachie from the kitchen window!

Purple Sandpipers coming to roost at high-tide ~ Girdleness Aberdeen.

Sanderling at Black Rock ~ Dazzas most favourite wader!

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NEW Scottish Life-List Since Relocating in October 2020