As another year draws to a close it's time to reflect.
It was a year that started relatively quiet, but would end with a possible sixteen new additions to my life list!
I had to wait until April to get my first lifer and it was to be the shortest journey from home of the year. I had always wanted to see an Ortolan Bunting and when one appeared at Billings Farm at Abberton, we wasted no time in making the trip. It showed superbly on the roof of one of the farm buildings.
I was optimistic that May could produce something good, but I wasn't expecting two Tern species at the same site at the same time! It was an afternoon dash down to Dungeness to add Whiskered Tern to the life list, and while there a Roseate Tern dropped onto the same shingle island as the Whiskered Tern at Burrowes Pit. I had made many trips to see Roseate Tern but had always contrived to miss it. I could have gone to Conquet Island but that's over 300 miles from home.
June and July can be somewhat quiet, but this year would prove very productive. I managed to add five new additions to the life list. Suffolk, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire, and Norfolk were all visited in order to do it.
An Iberian Chiffchaff was seen at Dunwich Heath in Suffolk, A stunning Black-headed Bunting at Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire was added a week later. It had disappeared when we arrived but we re-found it ourselves which was even more rewarding. Nine days later we were on our way to Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire which had been hosting a Black-winged Pratincole. I had dipped this species at the Ouse washes previously, so I was very pleased to grip it back. June still had yet another surprise before the month's end. A Little Bustard was found at Slimbridge WWT on the 23rd. It was a long drive along the M4 and then a wait for a member of staff to escort us through the reserve after hours. The bird itself proved difficult to locate but eventually, after many glimpses of the head, we managed decent scope views of the bird as it walked out into shorter grass.
July was as expected pretty quiet, but did still produce another lifer. A Pacific Golden Plover was at Breydon Water in Norfolk and we took the opportunity to see it while traveling back from seeing the Semipalmated Sandpiper at Titchwell earlier in the day. While walking the 2.5-mile path at Breydon I also added another lifer, this time it wasn't a bird, it was a Butterfly. My first Swallowtail was seen resting on the grassy footpath.
|Pacific Golden Plover|
A two-day sea watching trip to Cornwall added another long overdue lifer in the form of several Sooty Shearwaters. We did two six-hour sessions at Porthgwarra by the end of the sessions we had seen double figures of Sooty Shearwaters.
Almost a month later we returned to Cornwall, this time to Kynance Cove when a Brown Booby was reported. We arrived in darkness and after a two-hour wait, the bird was seen flying low across the sea. It then entertained us for the remainder of our stay. What a bird!!
A week later we made the trip to Pilling in Lancashire. this time to see a species that has been subject to a lot of debate. Was it a Pied or Black-eared Wheatear? At the time of writing, many now believe it to be an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear as opposed to a Pied. Either would be a lifer for myself, but I'm obviously hoping it's the rarer Black-eared.
Four days later we are heading to Hampshire hoping to bag another lifer. An Eastern Olivaceous Warbler had been found at Farlington Marshes. It's normally a nervous drive heading to a site of a new bird but the birds continued presence was reported on the news services just as we approached the car park. The bird showed extremely well all morning.
|Eastern Olivaceous Warbler|
October would produce another two lifers on the same day. We had traveled up to Easington in East Yorkshire for a Red-eyed Vireo. The Vireo was spotted immediately upon arrival and while Brian was trying to get a decent photo of it, news broke of a Great Snipe at Kilnsea! We were less than 3 miles away!
Another potential lifer was found at Walberswick in Suffolk, An Eastern Yellow Wagtail. The bird had gone missing when we arrived, but it soon returned to its favourite feeding area much to our relief.
|Eastern Yellow Wagtail|
I wasn't expecting another lifer in December, but a Black-throated Thrush appeared at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire. It's a relatively short trip from home and the bird showed in the Cotoneaster as soon as we approached the pig pen area. A stunning looking bird!
My year list ends on 286, with no trips to Scotland, Scottish Islands or Scilly I'm very happy with that total.
So a possible 16 new additions (Currently waiting on BBRC decisions on two birds). At the beginning of the year, I was hoping for maybe 7-8 new additions.
Towards the end of the year, I lost the Steppe Grey Shrike from my Life List as it was lumped back with Great Grey Shrike. So as it stands today my Life list is at 392 meaning I need eight more additions in 2020 to reach 400. I am quietly optimistic that I can achieve that target.
11 Counties produced lifers this year.
There were only four months that didn't produce new additions, and the most productive months were June (4), September (3), October (3)
Most productive Counties for new life ticks this year were East Yorkshire (3), Kent (2), Suffolk (2), Cornwall (2)
Ortolan Bunting, Essex
Whiskered Tern, Kent
Roseate Tern, Kent
Iberian Chiffchaff, Suffolk
Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Suffolk
Black-headed Bunting, East Yorkshire
Red-eyed Vireo, East Yorkshire
Great Snipe, East Yorkshire
Black-winged Pratincole, Lincolnshire
Sooty Shearwater, Cornwall
Brown Booby, Cornwall
Black-eared Wheatear, Lancashire
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Hampshire
Little Bustard, Gloucestershire
Pacific Golden Plover, Norfolk
Black-throated Thrush, Bedfordshire
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year.