Country Communications Manager, Kirsty Nutt, tells us why she loves birdwatching at the start of a new year.

I enjoy birdwatching, but I’m not a very good birdwatcher. I don’t mean that in the sense of not knowing what things are, although I have plenty of struggles with that too and am constantly learning. I mean that I am not very good at keeping lists and don’t watch more common UK birds or submit records of them with the same enthusiasm I have if I’m on holiday. 

Except for in January. New Year’s Day has a special magic for me. For years, I have woken up with the kind of excitement six-year-olds experience on Christmas Day. And that excitement is driven by one question. What will be the first birds I see this year? 

I love how that list can change by year and location. And I love how much making that list drives a desire in me to see and appreciate even the most common birds. Like when it’s well after lunchtime on 1 January and you’ve still not seen a starling or it’s 3 January before you see your first chaffinch. I find myself eagerly willing one to appear. This yearly tradition and devotion to taking notice doesn’t always last that long before life takes over, but I find it really connects me to birds that I spend most of the rest of the year taking for granted.  

I will always make time to stop and watch long-tailed tits or to listen to a song thrush sing and feel euphoric at every screech of a party of swifts racing by for the few months they are here. But I often overlook the humble house sparrows chattering in bushes, woodpigeons bumbling around looking for food or robins ticking a warning over their territory except when I am desperately trying to up my count for Big Garden Birdwatch 

This year, I have decided that I will try to keep my New Year’s enthusiasm for noticing and recording birds going beyond Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January. Records are important, from both organised counts and other sightings, for monitoring the health of bird populations and our environment. Therefore, this year I am determined to spend more time noticing everyday nature and then recording more of what I see using the BTO birdtrack and e-bird apps on my phone.   

The first 10 birds I saw on 1 January 2020 were house sparrow, feral pigeon, magpie, herring gull, crow, starling, jackdaw, blackbird, woodpigeon and redwing. 

I wonder what today’s first birds will be…? 

A chaffinch on frosty grass.

 Chaffinch by Grahame Madge

Header image: dunnock by Ben Andrew

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