Thursday, 31 December 2015

A look back at my birding year of 2015

Slavonian Grebe

The year didn't start in Norfolk this year, instead it was spent in Kent. A total of 73 species were seen among them were Cattle and Great White Egrets, Bean Geese, Bewick Swan and Great Grey Shrike. A very showy Slavonian Grebe locally at Wanstead on the 5th was a nice bonus. A Surf Scoter at Wrabness took some time and effort to find and the month ended with another Essex trip when two Serins were observed at Gunners park. The year list at the end of January stood at 136.


Little Bunting
A small flock of Waxwings in Ipswich gave us the runaround, finally being located feeding on Mistletoe berries on a busy road. The first lifer on 2015 came in the form of a Little Bunting, showing down to a few feet at Forest Farm in Glamorgan. Adding the Lesser Scaup in Cardiff Bay on the same day. A Firecrest was added on the 21st at Tower Hamlets before heading for Kent. Shellness produced a Richard's pipit along with views of Short-eared Owl. Barn Owl normally seen on the 1st of January was finally added at Capel Fleet as well as several Marsh Harriers along with Corn Bunting. The final trip in February was on the 24th with a visit to Lemsford Springs watching  five Green Sandpipers. Year list now stood at 148.


Willow Tit
A Glaucous Gull at Dover Harbour was a nice start to the month and Purple Sandpipers were also added while there. Garganey, Whooper Swan, Common Crane and Bearded Tits were all added while visiting Lakenheath. My second lifer of 2015 was seen at Kelham Bridge in Leicestershire, when Willow Tits were watched coming to feeders. A trip to Crawley in West Sussex was eventually rewarded with superb views of an Alpine Swift. Year List total onto 163


Harlequin Duck
A slightly earlier trip to Scotland this year, but no less enjoyable or productive. A trip that returned twenty two additions to the year list with two lifers among them! A distant White-billed Diver was found at Portsoy but the Harlequin Duck on the River Don in Aberdeen was the complete opposite. Showing down to a few feet at times, a stunning bird. White-tailed and Golden Eagles directly over head, Red and Black Grouse, Crest Tit, Osprey, Iceland Gull, Red and Black-throated Divers on the same Loch in breeding plumage. Not finding a Caper this year was the only disappointment of a fantastic trip. The first Ring Ouzels were seen at Blows Down on the 11th and a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Bowers Marsh in Essex was another highlight. The month ended with a trip to Dungeness, where Whimbrel were added to the year list. The Scotland trip helped boost the year list total to 210 by the end of the month.


Broad-billed Sandpiper
May started with a dipped Red-rumped Swallow at Gunners Park, Rainham Marshes on the return trip was more productive with a Pectoral Sandpiper eventually found on the Target pools.The 18th began frustratingly at Titchfield Haven but the Greater Yellowlegs was finally located and added to the life list. Tinker's Marsh in Suffolk was the destination on the 24th and it wasn't long before another lifer was added with superb views of a Broad-billed Sandpiper. Dropping into Minsmere on the way home was rewarded with views of a a Red-necked Phalarope feeding on the scrape. Suffolk was again visited on the 26th. The first Spotted Flycatcher on 2015 was seen at Weeting Heath along with Stone Curlew and Firecrest. A Little Bittern had taken up residence at Lakenheath and although it was heard calling constantly it proved much more difficult to see. A Red-backed Shrike only a few miles from home at Fairlop Waters was too good a bird not to go for and it was added after a short search. Several Turtle Doves at Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire on the 30th was a very welcome addition to the year list, which now stood at 226


A much overdue year tick was added on the 8th when a Hobby flew overhead while watching a pair of Turtle Doves at Choseley. Church Norton in West Sussex was the site of another lifer when the Hudsonian Whimbrel was watched roosting and then in flight giving good scope views. A brief trip to Oare Marsh in Kent on the 22nd was rewarded with a Bonapartes Gull. Another Kent trip on the 28th, this time to Dungeness adding Black Redstart to the year list and two Spoonbills were also added when they were found on Scotney gravel pits. Year list total 232


A very disappointing month with the only highlight being a visit to Orwell in Cambridgshire where a Quail gave superb views along the edge of the wheat fields. It called constantly a short time after we arrived and gave good flight views from time to time. When it took flight again it landed along the edge of the next field and remained in view for several minutes calling. The Quail would be the only addition to the year list in July. Year list total 233


August proved more productive, starting at Dungeness on the 2nd where Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper and Yellow-legged Gulls were seen. Another lifer made it onto the list, after three visits to Oare Marshes in Kent searching for the White-rumped Sandpiper it was finally found feeding close to the road at first light on the 17th. Another Dungeness visit on the 30th produced views of a Honey Buzzard and Black and White-winged black Terns.The most photogenic bird of the year was without doubt a very confiding Merlin at Elmley Marshes it stayed perched at the side of the track even with cars passing at very close quarters giving amazing views! Year list total moved onto 245.


The month began with two trips to Wanstead in search of a Wryneck, it finally perched up on top of a bush just as I had given up hope of seeing it. A Barred Warbler had been present at Staines Moor for a few days, so on the 5th we decided it was worth a visit. The bird showed well from time to time early morning  with only a handful of birders present. Mid month produced another Wryneck, this time at Minsmere. But on the whole the month proved disappointing. A visit to Vange Marsh on the 26th produced the best bird of the month, a Wilson's Phalarope taking the year list to 248


Siberian Stonechat
A drake Ring-necked Duck showing well but in torrential rain at Startop's End Reservoir at Tring was the first trip of October. A Norfolk trip on the 11th saw us well placed when an Isabelline Shrike was reported at Beeston Regis, The shrike was found immediately upon arrival for another life tick, and soon afterwards news started filtering around that there was a Pallas's Warbler at Sheringham. After some time searching for the right area the Pallas's was found along the railway tracks. Another Norfolk trip on the 18th would prove even more successful. Six year ticks and two lifers would follow, firstly a Red-flanked Bluetail was seen at Wells Wood adding the first lifer of the day, this would be followed by sightings of Hume's Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler and eventually after an extensive search a Blyth's reed Warbler. At Muckleburgh Hill the second lifer was added a superb Olive-backed Pipit. It showed within a few feet immediately upon arrival. We made another visit to Beeston to get another look at the Isabelline Shrike on the 18th and timed it perfectly to add a Long-eared Owl while there. A Jack Snipe relatively local at Rye Meads the next day was too good to miss and it showed superbly well in front of the hide as we entered. The final trip of October was to Caister-on-Sea for a Siberian Stonechat and ended with a stop off at Holland Haven for several Short-eared Owls and a Rough-legged Buzzard. October added 11 year ticks and four lifers. At the end of the month the year list had moved onto 259


Crag Martin
November was very quiet, the only trip made was to Chesterfield for what proved to be at first a very frustrating and long wait for the Crag Martin to appear. When it did finally appear over the rooftops there was a loud cheer from many of the assembled birders. It spent the next hour or so circling the crooked Spire church. Year list total 260


Glossy Ibis
Another visit to Norfolk on the 17th and Golden Pheasant was finally added before we moved onto Cley in search of the Grey Phalarope. Several scans of the area failed to pick out of the bird before Brian eventually re-found it feeding along the waters edge. Glossy Ibis finally made it onto the list on the 19th when we visited Pett Level in East Sussex. The 23rd was a memorable day, finally adding Red-rumped Swallow to my life list. I didn't think I would be watching one in December though! This was followed by a walk out among the dunes at Holme, finally catching up with three Shorelarks feeding on the beach.

Another great years birding comes to a close, with another one soon to begin.
Fourteen lifers added this year with only three months within the year not providing any additions to that list. October (4) April (2) and May (2) the most productive. No surprise that Norfolk was top county providing five lifers to my list.

During the year several new sites were visited while birding, with many more sites again re-visited.
There is no other hobby where you can be at a sewage works or rubbish tip one week and the next birding the Scottish Highlands or the Oak woodlands of mid Wales?
Anything could turn up on any given day, you could be anywhere in the United Kingdom on any given day. Having dipped two Red-rumped Swallows in the last two years both in May, I never thought I would be watching one in Norfolk in December!

Happy new year to one and all

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