New Year’s Day is all about fresh beginnings, the old year gone and the new full of opportunity. It is a day to be out in the countryside and to find the space and landscapes that afford quiet reflection. The weather is sometimes bright and crisp, at other times wet and windy, but almost always cold and invariably of a kind to clear away the end of year cobwebs and any signs of drowsiness that may come from the previous night’s celebrations.
In some years I work my local patch but more commonly I head further afield, either west to the fenland margins or east to the valleys of the Waveney or the Yare. These landscapes bring with them big skies and distant horizons, providing a sense of scale that adds to the mood of reflection. Being out and active is invigorating; my new field notebook – I start a new notebook each year – collects the first nature notes and bird sightings.
In the past I have been known to participate in the occasional New Year’s Day bird race, travelling around the county with friends to see just how many different bird species can be notched up in a day. Such events tend to be rather hectic affairs and, while delivering a rush of adrenalin and the company of friends, they lack the opportunity to spend time taking in individual birds and the landscape within which they are placed. Increasingly, I find that my greatest pleasure from birdwatching comes from spending time watching the birds in their habitat, studying their behaviours and following their interactions.
Today, I think I will head east once the sun is up, skirting the southern fringe of Norwich to access the marshes that border the river beyond Cantley. There is a good chance of some grey geese, good numbers of duck and, just possibly, bearded tit and peregrine. There is also the chance of spotting a Chinese water deer, a species best seen in this part of the county and northwards towards the Broads. I can already feel a rising sense of anticipation, of the joy of being out and about in the countryside on the first day of a new year.