Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 ROUND UP!



I started the month off down in Arundel in Sussex and got up early to enjoy a good days birding on the south coast with my first bird of the year being a Robin.  The month continued with further highlights including Siskin on the local patch, and concluding the month with a successful twitch to the Red-breasted Goose in Essex.  I also had one of my best birding experiences here as a Barn Owl came flying toward me making an incredibly close bank nearly brushing my face.  Other good birds of the month include, Bearded Tit, plenty of Short-eared Owls, Hen Harriers my only Red-throated Divers of the year, an immature Spoonbill, the long staying Snow Bunting at Startop's End Res and dark-bellied Brent Goose both in my home county of Herts.

Red-breasted Goose with Brent Geese at Old Hall Marshes Essex


Moving into February and I returned to Old Hall Marshes, this time with my brother to once again see the Red-breasted Goose (my brothers birthday present).  On top of this, we also saw Great Grey Shrike, and a good performance from the Bearded Tits.  Birds of note in the home counties included Jack Snipe, and a number of commoner winter visitors such as Water Rail winter thrushes and good numbers of Lapwing on the local patch, a rather scarce bird for the area.  Also helped co-find a Water Pipit, also a rather unusual wintering bird for Herts whilst one of my many cycle rides ended in success with Scaup and my first Bittern at Hilfield being a particular bonus.  Staines was also productive with Smew, Scaup, Black-necked Grebe and Shag all being good inland birds.  Two mega twitches at the end of the month were a real highlight of the year and would not have been successful had it not been for the kindness of strangers.  I got a lift between both sites and was lucky enough to see both stunning birds within a space of less than half an hour (they were the Dark-eyed Junco and Spanish Sparrow down in Hampshire)!

Spanish Sparrow, Calshot in Hampshire


Some last minute tetrad work to try and record some of the commoner wintering birds in some yet rather under-watched tetrads.  Tawny Owl was a particular focus, I was mainly locating calling pairs in the surrounding woodland to my home.  Cassiobury Park (my other regular patch) continued to produce records of Ring-necked Parakeets, whilst the lunchtime walks through the park produced many of the regular woodland species but unfortunately still no Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.  Also had my first of two Peregrines at the local patch in the fields behind the RSSKL but a rather exhausting and nightmarish twitch down to Dungeness in hope of a Penduline Tit ended in a dip with Long-tailed Duck being the best I could show for my efforts.  Other good birds of the month included several Bittern, Great White Egret, and Tree Sparrows on the year list.  The local patch produced a flock of 21 Meadow Pipits, the largest I have recorded so far at the site, whilst the usual farmland and woodland birds continued to show well, including the stunning yet sadly declining Yellowhammer.  I also had numerous sightings of Little Owl, partly thanks to my focused efforts on the species as I attempted to establish their range and density of west Hertfordshire as part of a self-motivated project.  I was also thrilled to find a large flock of Lesser Redpoll on the local patch, I'm still hoping I'll eventually track down a Mealy amongst them.  Non bird highlights included Hares at Piccotts End whilst the Water Pipit at the same site had changed radically since my last visit and was now nearing its stunning adult summer plumage.  Also had my first singing Chiffchaff and butterflies of the month on the 21st, a Small Tortoiseshell.  March also produced the rarest bird of the year for my Kings Langley local patch.  It was no biggy but that female Black Redstart really did raise my hopes for my future birding trips around the local patch.  The month ended with my first Swallows at Stocker's and a Brimstone, a nice highlight in one of my many lunchtime walks through Cassiobury Park

the best bird of the year on my Kings Langley local patch, a female Black Redstart


The local patch continued to produce several nice species including Red Kites, Buzzards, and numerous farmland passerine species.  In the Tring direction, Crossbill, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel and Firecrest on their breeding grounds were all quality treats.  New additions to the Herts list included Curlew, whilst inland Oystercatchers at the same site were also a welcome bonus.  An RSPB trip to Paxton Pits was well rewarded with singing Nightingale whilst I recorded a probable Black Kite over the local patch (later on in the month numerous other records of probable Black Kite started popping up all over the county, could it be the same bird?).    I enjoyed the continuing influx of Ring Ouzels into the Ivinghoe Hills and some of the first Orangtips made an appearance.  Staines produced some stunning close up views of summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes whilst the first spring migrants also included Little Gull, Swift, Black Tern, Yellow Wagtail and White Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover.  One of the definite highlights, was a self-found rufous variant Cuckoo at Croxley Common Moor, along with a Winchat but Whitethroat were rather slow on arrival, maybe an unfortunate result from their deteriorating wintering grounds in Africa.  Cassiobury Park also hosted an unprecedented arrival of Wheatear, a species that had not been seen in the park for many years.  Non bird highlights included a few more butterflies, notably Peacock and a Grass Snake on the canal near Cassiobury.

a really good passage of Ring Ouzels on the Ivinghoe Hills this year


May produced the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year.  This year I encountered numerous Cuckoos sometimes no fewer than half a dozen in a single day, although I fear the good times won't last long, especially for this species.  I was lucky enough to hear the Savi's Warbler at Wilstone, one of the many highlights of the year and Tawny Owls were almost heard nightly around Kings Langley Common.  Other bonus birds for the month included Black Tern, my first Hobbies of the year on my local patch, and I found Marsh Tit in a local woodland.  A very productive RSPB trip near the end of the month produced several Woodlark, Tree Pipit and best of all Nightjar all stunning heathland specialties   I was just kindling an interest in dragonflies at this stage so seeing Downy Emerald at Thursley Common was a good start.

Nightjar, a very memorable trip, Thursley Common in Surrey


The quiet period in the birding calender   A few Banded Demoiselles in Cassiobury Park and the odd butterfly including Brimstone, Dingy Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell and many more were the beginnings of a rather enjoyable butterfly season.  A few good birds were still of note including even more Cuckoos, Yellow Wagtails, and most surprising of all I found 2 very early migrant Sanderling at College Lake, perhaps forced to move south as a result of the increasingly heavy bands of wet weather that moved across the country.  Stocker's Lake produced the biggest home county rarity, a Little Bittern which chose to arrive rather inconveniently during the peak period of my exams.  More frustratingly it took a huge chunk out of my revision time but finally setting eyes on the bird proved worthwhile after a total of three days waiting.  I spent some time on the Ivinghoe hills too, following my new passion in butterflies and orchids, whilst waiting for the tantalisingly close songs of Quails to make an appearance.  College Lake became my new second home and the massive array of rare flowering plants, butterflies and occasional good birds proved irresistible   Non bird related highlights included Glowworms after dark at Dancersend, Greater Butterfly Orchid and a large number of new dragonfly species.  It was at this point in the year that the rain really set in and rather unfortunately, it is still persisting but hard work searching was at times rewarded with Pyramidal Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid and Southern Marsh Orchids all present at Long Dean.  The local bird highlights persisted with several Spotted Flycatcher on the large estate at Gorhambury and I was given great advice on Damselfly IDing which has now led me to seeing Variable Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Small Red-eyed Damselfly and Common Blue Damselflies as well as larger species including Hairy Hawker and Scarce Chaser.

Herts rarity winner, the Stockers Lake Little Bittern


Mid year produced some more surprisingly early vagrants including a stonking male Red-backed Shrike at Lake Farm Country Park which certainly deserved more than the two visits my brother and I gave it.  Even more surprising however was the arrival of a Sabines Gull at Startop's End Reservoir which my brother and I both rushed off to see as soon as the news broke of its correct ID.  More orchid fun, brilliant butterflies and some of the first juvenile birds of the year continued throughout the month.  As the birding slowed a little, I got my teeth into some proper butterfly finding and photographing and I soon dedicated most of my efforts on Bricket Wood where I had a great time observing and photographing Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and several other species, including Large Skipper and Brimstone. A family holiday to the Isle of Harty on Sheppey was the first of many trips during the Summer holidays and despite producing only one Common Sandpiper as a year tick, there was always plenty to see besides.  Butterflies and mammals features equally strongly as did birds, the highlights being Mediterranean Gulls, Turtle DoveLittle Owl and Barn Owl all in the front garden of the house we were renting.  Essex Skippers was new to me and Hedgehogs made regular appearances, both behaving rather tamely.  Also saw my first returning Wheatear of the season and Small Copper butterfly was a welcome sight after having not seen any for nearly a year.  Still tuned into Sheppey mode, I returned to find both Turtle Dove and Dark Green Fritillary in the home counties.  Finally, it was nice to catch up with the breeding pair of Little Ringed Plover at College Lake again.

Silver-washed Fritillary a pair mating in Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire.  Rather privileged to see this rare sight


My only holiday abroad this year to Germany to visit relatives in the region of Rheinland Pfalz.  I had never done any serious birding in the area so this was my chance to finally experience some of the good wildlife on offer beyond Britain.  There were numerous highlights but most memorable were frequent sightings of Red-backed Shrike, Crested Tit, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, and Black Stork.  Several species of Butterfly were also new to me, most of which occur only rarely or not at all in the UK including Pale Clouded Yellow, Map Butterfly, Painted Lady, Purple Hairstreak, Grayling, Large Copper and Brown Hairstreak (most of the above species could even be seen in a single day!).  A stop off on the way to Germany, on the NW coast of France produced one of the undoubted highlights of the month, a group of 45+ Kentish Plover, a sight I doubt I will ever see in the UK.  Other highlights from the holiday include excellent views of Osprey and Wood Sandpiper.  In the later half of the month, I joined sh4rpy on a trip down to Portland where we connected with several more good lifers including Woodchat Shrike and Balearic Shearwaters whilst another trip up north to Norfolk had Stone-curlew, Spoonbill and Osprey in store for us.  Finally at the end of the month another short holiday to the Isle of Wight with my siblings and my brother and I were rewarded with a stunning male Dartford Warbler.  A memorable trip to the Scillies at the end of the month continuing into September, with some excellent birds and birding experiences, including Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a self found Melodious/Icterine Warbler (ID still not resolved) on the 31st before moving into September.

My self-found Icterine/Melodious Warbler on St Marys.  A reminder of Scillies being a real education in rarity finding and identification


Citrine Wagtail surprise was undoubtably one of the top highlights of the year and my first self-found rarity!  I also saw my first Minke Whale, Storm Petrel and Sooty Shearwater, the pelagic trip being one of my favourite experiences from my visit.  Quite a lot of traveling throughout the month as well, including a trip up north to Scotland to help move my sister into uni at St Andrews, were I fitted in a little sea-watching with highlights being numerous divers, Bottle-nosed Dolphins and some of my first auks of the year.  On the way up, we bypassed the Lake District for a day and managed to squeeze in Dipper onto the year list before our journey continued northwards.  Then a trip to Rainham for the mega twitch that was the Baillon's Crake which I managed to tick off after a grueling 5 hour wait.  However, this was soon surpassed by an even greater rarity, the Short-billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor which I visited on my way down to uni in Cornwall.  The later part of the month was dedicated to finding a new local patch so I was cycling round the various potentially productive areas in south west Cornwall, including Pendennis Point, Swanpool and Marazion.  I also managed to go down to the Lizard with my family, where Chough was added to the year list and I had some good views of a Ocean Sunfish, something I was now getting rather used to seeing following my trip to the Scillies.

My first self-found rarity!  A juvenile Citrine Wagtail


October was definitely rarity month with some excellent species on offer.  By far my most memorable afternoons birding was a cycle/bus trip down to the Lizard after lectures to see the Paddyfield Warbler, after which news came in of a Ortolan Bunting which I managed to refind after many hours of searching, much to Lees happiness.  Just to top the day off, the Red-backed Shrike showed brilliantly.  I also started to get to know the local area better and soon found several ideal patches that I hope to cover in the future, including Gylly Beach, Pennance Point, Pendennis Point, Rosemullion Head and College Reservoir  all of which have a high potential for some good birding.  The Jay influx started to become apparent mid-month as did a flood of Wheatear and Firecrest.  Other good birds, including Purple Heron only a few hundred meters down the road and Brent Geese on one of the local headlands (apparently a rather good bird for the county) rounded the month off nicely.

Who'd have thought so many birds could possibly be squeezed into a short afternoons birding down on the Lizard, this Ortolan Bunting really topped the day off


Even more good birds and there seemed to be no sign of the year list slowing with highlights being a trip to Marazion and Lands End with my parents and brother who came to visit.  Purple Sandpipers started to arrive as did the odd scarcity, notably a 1st winter drake Ring-necked Duck which I went to twitch at Helston located in an absolutely stunning part of the south west coastline.  Great Northern Divers also started increasing in number and I found a total of no fewer than 3 Yellow-browed Warblers, some no less than a few hundred meters up the road from my uni!  The bioscience course also put on a ringing demonstration an excellent opportunity for us to appreciate the stunning plumage's in close up (the best bird we caught was a striking male Firecrest).  The end of the month was dedicated to a two week period of visiting Swanvale in the dire hope of seeing the very elusive Dusky Warbler.  During the long waits I saw a flyover flock of 3 Waxwing, numerous Firecrest and another Yellow-browed Warbler.  The local area continued to produce good birds, including 5 more Waxwing, Red-necked Grebe and a local Peregrine.

Cornish Waxwing, comparatively rare to the rest of the UK


At the end of term at uni, I started using my flat simply as a drop off point between twitches and I went into 100% birding mode without a break.  The result being exhaustion but some excellent birds none the less.  The first twitch of the month was for the Pacific Diver at Marazion which performed well after a long day of trying locate it.   Next, up to Devon for the Lesser Yellowlegs which I successfully twitched and finally a dip, this being the Lesser Scaup that decide to relocate to a different lake a few hours before my arrival after having remained at the same lake for about a week.  Hand feeding a Robin was a nice gear down from the frantic twitching.  The local patch was also reaping the rewards with 2 Bitterns and  Black-necked Grebe before I headed back to Herts.  I was kindly given an insight to the Cirl Bunting project, and was privileged enough to set eyes on non fewer than 11 individuals (many many thanks Stuart for putting up with me).  Other good birds during the month included Ring-necked Duck, Slavonian Grebes, Long-tailed Duck and numerous more Great Northern Divers.  On my first day back in Herts for the holidays (which also happened to be my birthday), I had the best present I could have asked for, excellent views of the very showy American Buff-bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir!  Later on, my brother and I had a good day twitching the local Great White Egret, only a few miles down the road from my home in Herts.  Some additional trips to my old stomping grounds of Wilstone Reservoir and Stocker's Lake were rewarded with Smews, Water Pipit and a stunning drake Goosander.

extreme close ups of the American Buff-bellied Pipit

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have played a part in my birding year including those who have given me lifts those who have showed me some stunning birds and those who have patiently put up with my many questions.  The added photos are all rather poor quality but bring back my fondest memories on an absolutely brilliant years birding.

Good luck to all in your 2013 birding year!

Lastly here's my year list:

1) Robin
2) Woodpigeon
3) Herring Gull
4) Mallard
5) Mute Swan
6) Redshank
7) Black-headed Gull
8) Kingfisher
9) Brent Goose
10) Little Grebe
11) Grey Heron
12) Cormorant
13) Pied and White Wagtail
14) Moorhen
15) Starling
16) Magpie
17) Meadow Pipit
18) Buzzard
19) Oystercatcher
20) Common Gull
21) Green Woodpecker
22) Blackbird
23) Blue Tit
24) Dunnock
25) Fieldfare
26) Goldfinch
27) Kestrel
28) Wren
29) Goldcrest
30) Chaffinch
31) Great Black-backed Gull
32) Grey Wagtail
33) Long-tailed Tit
34) Collared Dove
35) Turnstone
36) Dunlin
37) Grey Plover
38) Gannet
39) Sanderling
40) Shelduck
41) Stonechat
42) Greenfinch
43) Mediterranean Gull
44) Carrion Crow
45) Pheasant
46) Redwing
47) Jackdaw
48) Mistle Thrush
49) Jay
50) Sparrowhawk
51) Siskin
52) Coal Tit
53) Crossbill
54) Red Kite
55) Great Tit
56) Rook
57) Stock Dove
58) Skylark
59) Linnet
60) Yellowhammer
61) Great Spotted Woodpecker
62) Lapwing
63) Reed Bunting
64) Green Sandpiper
65) Marsh Harrier
66) White-fronted Goose
67) Short-eared Owl
68) Hen Harrier
69) Merlin
70) Black-tailed Godwit
71) Bar-tailed Godwit
72) Curlew
73) Barn Owl
74) Peregrine
75) Avocet
76) Red-legged Partridge
77) Knot
78) Song Thrush
79) Bullfinch
80) Nuthatch
81) Wigeon
82) Gadwall
83) Snipe
84) Shoveler
85) Snow Bunting
86) Greylag Goose
87) Canada Goose
88) Teal
89) Tufted Duck
90) Pochard
91) Coot
92) Lesser Black-backed Gull
93) Ring-necked Parakeet
94) Treecreeper
95) Red-breasted Goose
96) Red-breasted Merganser
97) Red-throated Diver
98) Eider
99) Spotted Redshank
100) Spoonbill
101) Goldeneye
102) Bearded Tit
103) Lesser Redpoll
104) Chiffchaff
105) Great Grey Shrike
106) Rock Pipit
107) Pintail
108) Little Owl
109) Greater Scaup
110) Ruddy Duck
111) Bittern
112) Mandarin
113) Water Pipit
114) Water Rail
115) Jack Snipe
116) Shag
117) Black-necked Grebe
118) Smew
119) Dark-eyed Junco
120) Spanish Sparrow
121) Egyptian Goose
122) Great White Egret
123) Tree Sparrow
124) Ringed Plover
125) Long-tailed Duck
126) Golden Plover
127) Marsh Tit
128) Black Redstart
129) Common Tern
130) Blackcap
131) Swallow
132) Cetti's Warbler
133) Brambling
134) Firecrest
135) Ring Ouzel
136) Wheatear
137) Willow Warbler
138) Nightingale
139) House Martin
140) Sand Martin
141) Little Ringed Plover
142) Whimbrel
143) Swift
144) Whitethroat
145) Cuckoo
146) Whinchat
147) Black Tern
148) Little Gull
149) Yellow Wagtail
150) Lesser Whitethroat
151) Reed Warbler
152) Hobby
153) Woodlark
154) Redstart
155) Tree Pipit
156) Nightjar
157) Tawny Owl
158) Corn Bunting
159) Ringed Plover
160) Turtle Dove
161) Sedge Warbler
162) Garden Warbler
163) Little Bittern
164) Spotted Flycatcher
165) Sabine's Gull
166) Sandwich Tern
167) Common Scoter
168) Red-backed Shrike
169) Common Sandpiper
170) Kittiwake
171) Fulmar
172) Dartford Warbler
173) Woodchat Shrike
174) Balearic Shearwater
175) Grey Partridge
176) Ruff
177) Osprey
178) Stone Curlew
179) Red-crested Pochard
180) Great Crested Grebe
181) Little Egret
182) Greenshank
183) Raven
184) House Sparrow
185) Manx Shearwater
186) Buff-breasted Sandpiper
187) Pied Flycatcher
188) Wood Warbler
189) Citrine Wagtail
190) Great Skua
191) Storm Petrel
192) Sooty Shearwater
193) Dipper
194) Guillemot
195) Razorbill
196) Baillon's Crake
197) Short-billed Dowitcher
198) Chough
199) Feral Pigeon
200) Red-rumped Swallow
201) Paddyfield Warbler
202) Ortolan Bunting
203) Purple Heron
204) Purple Sandpiper
205) Great Northern Diver
206) Yellow-browed Warbler
207) Ring-necked Duck
208) Red-necked Grebe
209) Waxwing
210) Black-throated Diver
211) Pacific Diver
212) Iceland Gull
213) Lesser Yellowlegs
214) Cirl Bunting
215) Slavonian Grebe
216) American Buff-bellied Pipit
217) Goosander

heard only:

Savi's Warbler

No comments:

Post a Comment