I am far from being a Catholic, but there is an air of the confessional about this post. Forgive me, readers (if any are left), for I have sinned - it has been four months since both I last went birding and I last wrote in this blog.
Not really sins of course, except that the cardinal rule of both birding and blogging is regularity, and in that respect I have fallen dismally short. Of my absence from blogging you will of course be in no doubt, since you can see for yourself the cavernous gap, the epochal time period, between this post and the last. But at least I can try to persuade you that I haven't failed quite so dismally on the birding front, and reassure you that my absence from birdwatching (in the formal sense) has been slightly mitigated by the number of bird moments I have enjoyed during that time.
Such as? Well, heading into winter there were the vast flocks of fieldfare and redwing which followed me everywhere; the less common garden visitors such as long-tailed tits and a great spotted woodpecker; and the occasional 'gem' such as the siskins and the three goosander I found on a lunchtime walk in the very centre of Derby. As I sat fishing, and freezing, near Bishops Itchington not so long ago, I was joined by both a buzzard and a kingfisher in short order. On my journey, five lapwing had been tumbling over the fields near Ufton.
Moving into the very earliest part spring, my short lunchtime strolls have been punctuated by welcome sounds - the first great tit calls, then the song thrush, the chaffinch, the greenfinch and more. A male sparrowhawk flashed past me last week, a red kite swept low over my car as I drove through Oxfordshire, and a raven did the same in Offchurch one day. In significantly more peril were the red-legged partridge and the male pheasant which nearly ran under my car on successive days near Claverdon. And while lunchtimes have proved quite productive, working hours themselves turned up a pair of bullfinches outside one office window and a male great spotted woodpecker outside the other.
So, no birding but plenty of birds. Nothing rare but plenty to enjoy. But definitely no enough blogging. Sorry.
Bird of the winter: Goosander (Mergus merganser), definitely my favourite unexpected moment of the last few months. I could not have imagined that a short stroll along the river, just a few hundred yards from the main shopping area, would have turned up not one but three of these exquisite birds.