Tuesday 26 December 2023

2023 Additions to the Life List

The year proved challenging, due mainly to family commitments which resulted in limited days available for birding.  I still managed to add nine new birds to my life list, although I am still waiting to see if the powers that be deem them all to be genuine wild birds. I'm hopeful all nine will make my list.

The nine potential lifers were seen in six counties, Norfolk, East and West Sussex, Pembrokeshire, Kent, and Essex. September proved to be the most rewarding month with four life birds seen in this month.

January 29th

Cackling Goose Brancaster, Norfolk

An early morning birthday trip to Norfolk was rewarding when I managed to locate the Cackling Goose among a huge flock of Pink-footed Geese. It was a challenge to find, due to the distance from the viewing area and the sheer amount of geese present. Eventually, with some good directions from other birders, I enjoyed some excellent scope views. I'd previously seen a Cackling Goose at Kelling in Norfolk in 2012 only for it not to be accepted. I'm more hopeful this one will get the seal of approval.

27th April

White-crowned Sparrow Seaford Head, East Sussex

We made the trip to Seaford Head on the 26th, but after seven hours on site, we left disappointed having failed to connect with the bird. After returning home news came through that the bird had reappeared and was showing well. That was enough for us to try again the following day. We arrived shortly after 9am and connected with the sparrow immediately! It was on show for most of the time we were present and came within a few metres of the gathered birders.

20th July Horsey, Norfolk

Black-winged Kite

We couldn't travel to Horsey until the early afternoon and all we got from the trip on the 19th was cold and wet, with constant rain for most of the time we were present. We stuck it out until 7pm only for the kite to be reported at 8.23pm from the very spot we had been scanning from! On the way home Brian had already decided he was returning the following day, The next morning we arrived at 5am. There was a thick blanket of mist covering the surrounding fields, but as the mist cleared the kite was seen perched in a small tree on the opposite side of the river. It remained there for an hour or so and then took flight heading north before turning back toward the car park, settling on telegraph wires near the windmill for a brief time.

Heavily cropped, Black-winged Kite

11th September Upper Beeding, West Sussex

Aquatic warbler

September proved to be the most productive month of the year, I managed to add four lifers to my list this month including a potential first for Britain.

Having received positive news of the Aquatic Warblers continued presence, we made the trip mid-morning. Upon arrival, we were told the bird had not been seen since 10am! The last report was of the bird skulking within a hawthorn bush, another hour passed with no sign of the bird, that was until two dog walkers wandered past the bush and the bird flew out low and briefly settled on the footpath only to quickly disappear into thick cover again. Another hour passed and then it suddenly flew up and landed in full view giving us some stunning views.

20 September North Foreland, Kent

American Cliff Swallow

Having missed the Minsmere bird in 2016 I was keen to make the trip. When positive news came through we headed for North Foreland, arriving shortly before 11am. Brian had been rushing around at home and had managed to leave his camera and bins behind, but having borrowed Dad's bins he spotted the swallow heading along the clifftop towards us! We enjoyed several excellent views of the bird both along the cliff and over the cabbage fields.

23 September St Govan's Head & Stack Rocks Pembrokeshire

Magnolia & Canada Warblers! 

This was to be an unforgettable and extremely lucky day. The Magnolia Warbler had first been seen on the 20th, but with family commitments, the 23rd was our first opportunity to make the trip. We arrived at the car park in complete darkness and had to wait an hour before it was light enough to make our way to the viewing area. It was a further hour before the Magnolia Warbler appeared. We had enjoyed several excellent views when news broke of a potential first for Britain just four miles from where we stood. A Canada Warbler had been found at Stack Rocks! After an initially frustrating search, the warbler finally showed itself. It was difficult to pin down among the sallows in thick cover and the views when it did show itself were brief, but with patience, I managed several views. Sometimes not being able to drop everything and go at a minute's notice can prove very rewarding. 

Magnolia Warbler

31st October Stodmarsh, Kent

Solitary Sandpiper

Brian had already seen the Solitary Sandpiper the previous day but offered to return the next day so I could hopefully connect with it. The viewing area was very limited and already birders were four deep across the path when we arrived shortly after first light. I stuck it out for over three hours but with the rain constantly falling and no sign of the bird I took a break and headed for the hide to year tick a Water Pipit. While sitting in the hide news came through that the sandpiper had flown onto the small muddy patch where I had spent the previous three hours. I rushed back and managed several views of the bird. It spent its time feeding up and down the small muddy strip and would disappear behind the vegetation only to reappear a few minutes later.

Solitary Sandpiper

12th November Abberton Reservoir, Essex


The last addition to my life list (if accepted) was in my home county. We arrived at first light and checked several different areas around the reservoir for any sign of the bird. Eventually, we found it among a large flock of Common Pochard as we viewed the reservoir from Billets Farm viewing screen. Viewing was made difficult by the small trees and bushes along the water's edge, the flock would appear and disappear between these gaps, and we had to wait for the flock to reappear each time before scanning through the flock in search of the Canvasback again. Eventually, the use of various buoys proved helpful in pinpointing the bird and we managed several decent scope views.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Ring-necked Duck: Priory CP, Bedfordshire

The weather forecast this morning was for rain, rain, and more rain. However, when Brian visited and happened to mention a Ring-necked Duck present at Priory Country Park in Bedfordshire I was surprisingly keen to make the trip. We left fully expecting to get a good soaking. However, as we approached the park the rain had almost completely stopped. 

The Ring-necked Duck was on Fingers Lake which lies to the southeast of the main lake (Priory Lake) and was only a short walk from the car park. We picked the Ring-necked Duck out straight away among a small group of Tufted Duck. We spent an hour or so in the park, before deciding to head for Staines Reservoir hoping to connect with the Black-throated Diver. 

We enjoyed dry weather and even some brief sunshine at the country park, Staines however, was dry but very windy and bitterly cold. We scanned the north basin and managed to pick out the Black-throated Diver in the company of a Great Northern Diver. Both were distant and after several scope views, we didn't hang around in the freezing conditions. 

Priory Lake

Finger Lake

Staines Reservoir, North Basin