If you’ve read my year in review from 2015 then you’ll already have seen a couple of hints as to what we’ve got planned over the next twelve months. There’ll be plenty of walking, not an insignificant amount of birding and, just for old times sake, yet another attempt at finally getting down to some serious mothing. Camping will definitely be on the cards, as will a trip abroad at some point, with plenty of focus on local interests including another attempt at the Patchwork Challenge. Before I give everything away though let’s get stuck into some details and forgive me for repeating a couple of items which I also wrote about twelve months ago. There really weren’t enough days last year to fit everything in!
Long Distance Walk – Gower Coast
This one sits right at the top of my list for a very good reason. It’s my main goal for 2016 and will hopefully involve a walk along the entire Gower coastline in a single sitting, something which I’ve had my eye on ever since we moved down here all those years ago. Having walked the Gower Way long distance footpath in 2014 this circumnavigation seems the next logical step and at 46 miles should represent a good challenge without presenting too much risk of failure. Given that the scenery in this part of the world is likely to provide more than a little distraction along the way my plan is to allow three days for the route, possibly wild camping on at least one of the overnight stops. We’ll start from Loughor before heading anti-clockwise to Mumbles and honestly, I can’t wait. Our first realistic opportunity for this, our first joint long distance walk, is likely to be the Easter break but failing that sometime either before or after the main summer heat (if we get any) seems most likely.
Patchwork Challenge 2016
The inclusion of the Patchwork Challenge here almost goes without saying these days with 2015 proving to be a very successful year indeed. Not only did I blast through my previous highest score but we also confirmed both new species and new breeding records. As a result I will once again be tramping up and down Cefn Drum and Bryn-bach-Common (do I have the hilliest patch in this competition I wonder) aiming to go at least one better this time out. To be honest just finding a Fieldfare would be reward enough with another winter almost gone having not seen any. However, not wanting to make life too easy for myself I have also entered a second patch this year, Upper Loughor. Regular readers will have seen this area feature a number of times previously as it roughly takes in an area from Coed Bach Park out onto the upper Loughor estuary as far as Morfa Mawr. I’ll introduce you all more fully in a coming post but my main motivation for birding here regularly is that it has the chance to offer a whole lot more variety than that which I’m currently used to. Don’t get me wrong, the thrill of eking out every hard to find point on the exposed grasslands of Cefn Drum is highly rewarding, but that hasn’t stopped me yearning for the waders and gulls that I could see off in the distance. On top of that these are two families of birds where my knowledge still sits a little thinly so a chance to regularly observe both should be of great benefit. Now how do you identify a Caspian Gull again?
Garden Pan-Species Listing
You don’t have to be much of a naturalist to notice the sheer abundance of insects and birds which visit our garden on a regular basis. Whether it be Bees which seem to love the flowers on our rampantly spreading Mint or Spiders whose main goal seems to be the advancement of scare tactics against my other half, there’s no shortage of life out there and that raises the obvious question. Exactly how much? In 2016 I aim to go a little way towards answering that question with the start of a garden pan-species list. That means recording and identifying every bird (easy), insect (tricky) and plant (ugh, if I have to) within our modest boundaries. Along the way I hope to learn a lot, maybe find a new species or two for this area and hopefully, if all goes well, have an answer to that all important question this time next year.
Of the tent variety I should add. Yes, weather permitting 2016 will see us once again breaking out the canvas for a series of trips across the country. Most will be short weekender’s, one or two slightly longer, and is there even the possibility of our very first wild camp? Only time will tell. What I am sure of if past experience is anything to go by is that there will be plenty of wind, not an insignificant amount of rain and perhaps even sun.
Trail Magazine Seven Summit Challenge
My second walking challenge this year comes courtesy of Trail magazine. Their seven summit challenge sees, as the name suggests, each participant setting themselves a personal goal of climbing seven summits over the next twelve months. Mine will be a mixture of new and old including a couple of Snowdonian legends which have been on my to-do list for a very long time now. The full list and my reasons behind each choice will be coming in a future post.
So another long distance walk, seven summits and then this, the walk 1000 miles challenge. Its premise is simple, walk 1000 miles in 2016. There’s no prize, just a sense of satisfaction at having achieved a significant milestone and hopefully gained a little fitness along the way. At just 2.74 miles a day it should be achievable, especially given what we’ve just been discussing above.
Stone Curlews, Great Bustard and Ptarmigan
Getting very specific now and it’s time to talk about three bird species which I really want to see this year. The first, Stone Curlew, has always fascinated me with their bulging eyes and lanky legs and as far as I know the best place to see one is over in Norfolk. We came close to connecting last year before plans fell apart but come Spring, we’ll be there. Next on the list are two tricky species from my I-Spy Birds book which are currently preventing us from getting a full set. Great Bustard will require a trip out to Wiltshire and the second, Ptarmigan, should be taken care of thanks to our friends who live up near the Cairngorms. Both are likely to be highlights come my next review in twelve months time.
Badger Watching and Leaping Salmon
Finally we have two wildlife experiences which again I’ve been wanting to do for a number of years. Watching Badgers and leaping Salmon can both be achieved in my local area so all it should take to see both is a little organisation and planning on my part. Sometimes easier said than done.
And that’s it. Not too much really considering I have a full time job, lose a quarter of my weekends to being on-call from work and will no doubt have to deal with whatever nasty surprises life will undoubtedly throw up. Still, I’m motivated, committed and raring to go so here’s looking forward to a very successful and enjoyable 2016.