Natural Notes

New Year - new year bird list

A big day in every bird-watchers diary, New Year’s Day and the start of another birding year, that will no doubt be a rollercoaster of emotions. A year full of promise, of brand-new birds for your life list, of rare and scarce species that set the pulses racing, of never seen before bird behaviour, of true bird spectacles and real surprises encountered on your local patch and the inevitable rarity that flies away a minute before you arrive at the reported location. As a resident on the Isle of Wight, my 1 January destination was the Bembridge Coast around to the Harbour and Brading Marshes RSPB Reserve, which always guarantees good birding, and my year list got off to a good start with 61 species seen and highlights of several small flocks of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Shags, Great Northern Diver, Sandwich Tern, 2 Marsh Harriers, 2 Water Rails and a Chiffchaff. Further updates on my year list will appear in the weeks and months ahead.

Winter Invader

One of the few plants to bloom in Britain during the winter months is the aptly named Winter Heliotrope, though its heart shaped leaves, pink flowers and pleasant vanilla scent belie the fact that it is an invader from the Mediterranean. Classed as a non-native invasive species, which is thought to have escaped from domestic gardens from as far back as 1806, it certainly brings colour to the dark winter months, but it can smother native ground flora, forming dense carpets along streams, hedgerows and in woodlands.