Lade - mild, sunny, s 4 - The morning kicked off in grand style with our first Firecrest of the year flitting through and calling in the garden fir trees. As we trudged across the shingle to the lakes I wasn't expecting much, but was surprised by 20 Goldeneyes across both waters, plus two Smews and a Slavonian Grebe on south lake. Barney too was enjoying the spring-like weather before the rain kicked in, enthusiastically sniffing bushes, bounding about with his doggy mates and trying to mount an Alsatian puppy twice his size; how wonderful to still have a sex drive at ten and half (probably 70ish in human years) on a blustery February morning!
The walk back along the beach, into the wind and the first spots of rain, wasn't exactly pleasant but did yield good views of three Grey Plovers.
Its that time of year when the New Year optimism has worn off, resolutions are broken (I`m back on the beer and chocolate already) and if you haven't done so yet, bird records should be submitted to your regional/county recorder. I suppose being a former Bird Recorder (Bedfordshire) and from a pre-internet generation I`ve always felt duty bound to send in records, however meagre they may be. I still love the old fashioned hard copy bird reports and firmly believe they`ll be around far longer than an electronic version that could easily disappear into the ether one day. Having written a few in the past I do realise, however, how much time and effort goes into producing one.
So, why send in your bird records in this information age of instant news with Twitter, blogs, Facebook and the like? Well, firstly it makes for good discipline and neatly packages up the previous year, but more importantly a set of records from a number of observers across a county will enable trends to be discerned over a period of time. This hard data could also lead to conservation methods being put in place to preserve a species and stop a habitat being destroyed by a development.
And don't assume that someone else will always send in a record of that well observed scarce or rare bird; its much better to have several submissions than none at all. Negative reports are also useful, so if you didn't note a Turtle Dove or Cuckoo locally for the first time last year, tell the recorder. First and last dates for migrants are always welcome, as are large numbers of common birds, roost gatherings or anything unusual, odd colour morphs, for example, like the Lydd-on-Sea Stonechat!
I always find it easier to make a list and then add to it through the year rather than try to extract the information at the years end. And don't forget that its not only bird records that count, most counties have recorders for each biological discipline who will welcome your moth, butterfly, dragonfly, mammal, plant or whatever records.
So, if you haven't already done so now is the perfect time to get started before the distractions of spring arrive.