In the words of John Muir 'going out is going in' so I had high hopes for the end of year break, lots of getting out with some nice birds to be found, none of which really happened. However as you will probably already know there's a tradition amongst naturalists-birders for having at their disposable a variety of books to pore over on a rainy day or after a successful field trip. I'm no different, as a bibliophile I have a collection of books with an axis on field guides. So imagine my glee when during a visit to the Festival Park shopping centre in Ebbw Vale on New Years eve I found a brand new copy of the Collins Field Guide Birds of the Palearctic:Non-Passerines, for the princely sum of 99p. Safely bagged and with a hour or so before last vestige of light faded for the last time in 2011 I drove home elated at my bargain purchase. But a 2011 swansong was still to had. Driving from Brynmawr towards Blaenavon good views of a Short-eared Owl were obtained as it flew adjacent to the road and the SEO hotspot of Waunafon Bog. What a day, a field guide and a nice bird, I'm easily pleased!
New Years Day signalled the start of a new field note book. Every biological recorder needs one and has one, leaving home without one engenders anxiety. A bright crispy new note book awaiting its defacement with illegible handwriting, frequent crossings out and grubby fingerprints. But a new note book deserved to be populated as soon as possible so a tour de force of Gwent valley wetlands was planned and executed. Starting at Peny fan Pond and ending in Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve I took in eight sites in the hope of a Great Northern Diver or colour ringed Herring Gull. It turned out that a game of noughts and crosses would have been a more fitting entry in the note book as little was on offer to trouble page one. Apart from just small numbers of the usual commoner wildfowl two Wigeon at Beaufort Ponds was the only other bird worthy of a mention. What let down!