Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Looking back on my 2013 birding year


The new year started with a trip to Norfolk. As the light broke through the darkness the first bird of 2013 was again a Barn Owl Sitting on a fence post by the side of the road as we drove past. It could quite easily have been the same bird seen on the first day last year.
Buckenham Marshes produced flocks of Bean and White-fronted Geese, but the real highlight here was watching the massive corvid flocks going to roost.
Another visit to the Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire produced not one but two Buff-bellied Pipits along with Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe.
The local patch highlight was watching a Bittern hunting, eventually catching and eating a large fish right in front of me.
Another highlight was watching a small flock of Waxwings within ten minutes of home. 
The month ending with a trip to Priory Country Park in Bedfordshire on my birthday to bag a Ferruginous Duck, an added bonus was the presence of a Black-necked Grebe at the same site.


The month started with a Great Grey Shrike at Therfield Heath in Hertfordshire, followed by a day in Norfolk resulting in good views of Rough-legged Buzzard and two male Golden pheasants.
Stodmarsh in Kent was the site visited for a showy Penduline Tit, and the Slavonian Grebe that turned up inland on a small pool at Littlebrook was unexpected but very much enjoyed.
The Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford was a real highlight, made even more memorable by the presence of a family of Otters.
My first lifers of 2013 were added this month with four in one day. A trip to Ham Wall in Somerset bagged the Pied-billed Grebe followed by an American Wigeon, Lesser Yellowlegs and Cirl Bunting all in Devon.


March proved to be a quiet month. A trip to Bramfield Church in Hertfordshire produced good views of several Hawfinches.
An early morning visit to Dunwich Heath added Dartford Warblers and close up views of Red Deers, while at Minsmere on the same day a stunning male Garganey stole the show.
A trip to Rye Harbour this month eventually added a Kentish plover to the year list  after several hours of searching. As did a jack Snipe found among the reeds at a small nature reserve within a hotel complex at Tewin in Hertfordshire.


A first visit to Samphire Hoe in Kent gave good if only brief views of a female White-spotted Bluethroat. A Green-winged Teal at Crossness was another highlight of the month, walking past the sewage works on route proved less enjoyable.
Dungeness in Kent didn't disappoint again this year and it was alive with Firecrests on my visit on the 14th. After helping one of the ringers trap a Firecrest in the nets, I was rewarded with close up views of the bird in the hand.
I added a new bird to my local patch list when a Short-eared Owl was flushed by dog walkers.
Nearing the end of the month I took a trip to Grove Ferry where I enjoyed great views of Turtle Doves and to hear them calling was a real highlight.
Chigborough Lakes was my last trip of the month adding a female Ring-necked Duck to my year list.


May is normally a month that delivers and it didn't disappoint again this year. Having somehow missed the Bonapartes Gull in Eastbourne, I managed to catch up with the bird at Elmley Marshes in Kent to get the month of to a good start.
Lakenheath added a very smart looking male Red-footed Falcon to my year list.
The now annual weekend trip to Wales was again very enjoyable, Choughs, Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Wood Warblers, Puffin's and after several searches a Glossy Ibis were all added.
A quick diversion from a planned trip to Reculver on the 19th proved to be one of the highlights of the year when a Dusky Thrush! was reported from Margate Cemetery. After spending several hours here I still had time to pay a visit to Reculver and bag another lifer in the form of a very showy female Montagu's Harrier.
I made my first trip to Scotland last year and was determined to visit again this year. The long weekend trip was fantastic. Apart from the stunning scenery we even managed to get sunshine on every day. Walking up the Cairngorms with snow and ice under foot in t-shirts and then adding Ptarmigan to my life list was a real joy. Abernethy Forest proved to be even more rewarding with breeding Ospreys and Crested Tits. But I had to wait until the final morning of the trip to bag the bird I had made no secret of wanting to see. Having searched for it on each and every day of the trip I finally got to see a male Capercaillie. An absolutely stunning male was spotted among the heather and then watched for over three hours, it would have been longer if there wasn't a flight to catch.


What is normally regarded as a quite month, was anything but for me.
A Savi's Warbler at Lakenheath started the month off. Walking along the path I had the opportunity to compare a "reeling" Grasshopper Warbler to a Savi's Warbler at the same time.
I added another new bird to my patch list when I spotted a Marsh harrier hunting over the reedbed at first light. A real pleasure standing there in silence just watching it hunting across the reeds.
Another highlight was an early morning visit to Minsmere. While walking out along the footpath heading towards East Hide an Otter came running up the bank across the footpath in front of us. We would see it again shortly after we entered East Hide when it swam straight across in front of us and started hunting along the edge of the reeds.
Mid way through the month and a trip to Faversham in Kent for my first Black Kite, then news came of a "Mega" down in Suffolk. A Pacific Swift was found at Trimley Marshes on the 15th. After arriving early the next day to find the bird still present it proved very frustrating when I couldn't get on the bird while viewing the area from the hide. After moving outside and climbing the grass bank I finally managed to get on the bird. Eventually managing to follow the bird in the scope several times.
There was still time left in the month to make my first ever trip to the Isle of Wight, where I added Wilson's Phalarope to the life list.
Before the end of the month I added a Melodious Warbler to my life list, all thanks to Brian who having already made the trip days before drove back up to Nottingham so that I could see the bird.


With so many fantastic birds seen in June, it had to slow down, and it did in July.
A Pectoral Sandpiper watched locally at Rainham Marshes was a highlight of the month. 
As was finding a family of Little Owls within a few minutes walk of the house. I spent some very enjoyable mornings watching the youngsters growing up and the adults hunting the surrounding area.
A day trip to Titchwell at the end of the month produced 17 Spoonbills. It's a pleasure seeing one of these birds but 17 together was a real thrill.


Things picked up again in August. The highlight of the month being the trip to Horsey in Norfolk to add the Roller to my life list, What a stunning bird! On the return journey home we stopped off at Ouse washes and added another lifer in the form of a Blue-winged teal.
Oare Marshes produced my second ever Temminck's Stint, and a local trip to Chingford Reservoirs added a Red-necked Phalarope.
Landguard NR in Suffolk is normally visited a few times throughout the year and this year it came up trumps when a Wryneck was seen here.
Sabine's Gull was at last added to my life list when four adults were found in Aveley bay at Rainham and to round the month off a trip to Grove ferry produced another lifer in the form of a Spotted Crake.


September proved to be a very quiet month bird wise. The only highlight being a very close encounter with a stunning Red-backed Shrike. Showing down to a few feet at the new reserve at Bower's marsh in Essex.
Having dipped on the Brown Shrike at Hook-with-Warash LNR in Hampshire and struggling to find any birding sites nearby we dropped in at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey.
It turned out to be a fantastic day. If you want close encounters with many of Britain's mammals then you won't be disappointed with a visit here. Red Squirrels were running across our shoulders and one perched on my camera lens at one point. Badgers and Otters gave superb views and if you wanted to grab a few photos of these animals this is the place to visit.


After a disappointing month bird wise in September things started to pick up again in October.
A visit to Wareham Greens in Norfolk in the first week of the month gave me another life tick in the form of a Red-breasted Flycatcher.
Missing the chance to go for the Lesser Grey Shrike in Suffolk I managed to add it to my life list with a visit to Capel Fleet in Kent when another Lesser was reported from here. 
A day trip to Norfolk came up trumps with a Long-eared Owl seen in the dunes at Cley and then two more lifers were added when a Pallas's Warbler was seen at Wareham Greens and a Dusky Warbler was heard and then seen in the pouring rain at West Runton.
A trip to Keyhaven Lagoons in Hampshire failed to produce a Long-billed Dowitcher, But at Hayling Island the Semipalmated plover certainly made up for it. The trip made even more memorable when we got caught up in the back end of a tornado on the walk back to the car. I've never seen anything like it, in fact I couldn't see anything at all. 
The month ended on a high with two more lifers when I caught up with my first Two-barred Crossbill, having dipped this species on 4-5 occasions earlier in the year it was fantastic to finally get to see one. A stunning male bird at Hemstead Forest. An added bonus was a male Parrot crossbill seen during the same trip.


November was probably the worst month of the whole year for me.
Very few trips or birds.
The only exception was a trip to Suffolk to watch Common crossbills feeding and drinking around the edges of a car park.
Spending an enjoyable few hours watching them from the comfort of the car.


Wallasea Island was the first trip of the month and it produced good sightings of Hen and Marsh Harriers along with a pair of Peregrines. We spent the rest of the day on the seafront photographing Sanderling and Turnstones.
A brief visit to Amwell NR in Hertfordshire gave good views of Smew, Goldeneye and what is probably a hybrid Harris hawk x Common Buzzard.
Crumbles Pond in Eastbourne was the destination when a Black-throated Diver was reported from here. Giving great views although it proved difficult to photograph.
The month and year ended with a bang when a Brunnich's Guillemot was found at Portland harbour in Dorset.
What a way to bring 2013 to a close!

2013 has given me some fantastic memories from places visited, people met and of course the birds seen.

This year I've managed to add another twenty six birds to my life list!
It's still a relatively small list, but adding to it is going to provide even more fantastic memories.

A special thanks  has to again go to Brian without his help and his constant driving  seeing the majority of these birds would be impossible. (Thanks mate)
Dad continues to provide the back-up driving and the comedy moments even when there's no birds to be found we still have a laugh.

Come midnight tonight it not only brings with it the start of a  new year, but more importantly the start of a new birding year.

Happy New Year  to one and all

Here's to 2014

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