Sunday, 1 January 2012

Review of 2011: WARNING: This report contains some AWESOME birds!

This will be a brief review of 2011, in what was a pretty cool birding year for me both at work and for pleasure both home and abroad. Some of the photos are mine, and others are not – it will be clear which are which! It was good to meet up with old birding friends, and make some new one too - some of their work is included in this report. If you click on some of the bird names etc it will direct you to the relevant page with more details.

The year got going with Rufous Turtle Dove, Ross’ Goose, Rough-legged Buzzard and Arctic Redpoll all in the first few weeks of the year and local interest in the form of a wintering Great Grey Shrike, several Common Crane and Glaucous Gull along with huge numbers of wildfowl such as Whooper Swans and a range of geese and raptors. Work ‘ticks’ during this period included a single Tundra Bean Goose on one of my sites.

Rufous Turtle Dove © Bob Duckhouse 2011.

Spring and Summer were busy with work, mainly report writing but I managed to get some decent surveying in, resulting in breeding Nightjar, Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Peregrine, plenty of Quail (one site with c.20 singing birds!) and a plethora of Little Ringed Plover too across several of my sites, along with a decent range of scarce breeders too. Rarity highlight during the period included the famous White-throated Robin – seen down to a few metres in the Doctors garden and a local Marsh Sandpiper. A Quail singing and audible from my house was a nice surprise!

White-throated Robin off my phone.

It was at this time, late spring, that Jenny and I took a very successful trip over to Cyprus resulting in a number of new birds (Cyprus Warbler, Cyprus Wheatear, Chukar, Cretzschmar’s Bunting), some incredible avian spectacles (e.g. thousands of migrating swifts, daily totals of three/four figure bee-eaters flocks, dozens of golden orioles, red-backed shrikes, breeding Rollers and Bonelli’s Eagles, singing Masked Shrike and tonnes of Eleonoras Falcons etc), lots of endemic sub-species (future armchair ticks) and even a national rarity, Little Swift! This was a truly brilliant location – trip report starts here and trip list here.

Bee-eater (© Mike Bowman 2011)

Masked Shrike singing (© Mike Bowman 2011)

Eleonora's Falcon (© Mike Bowman 2011)

Autumn started early, and lasted a long while, and was amazing, bordering on insane! Yellow-legged gulls started building up in a local field on my dog-walking circuit, peaking at at least 10 birds. A trip to Lincolnshire resulted in a very confiding American Black Tern and a couple of Red-necked Grebe that had an air of holboellii about them. In September things started to kick off down on the Scillies so I thought it only polite to partake in some of the riches and dragged Dave down there twice (September 23rd – 26th and October 17th – 22nd) kicking and screaming all the way...

American Black Tern (© Robert Hardy 2011)

Highlights from these trips included: Northern Waterthrush, Scarlet Tanager, Upland Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Red-eyed Vireo (1 re-found), Olive-backed Pipit (2), Lesser Yellowlegs (1 self-found), Pectoral Sandpiper (3/4), Melodious Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Black Kite, Wryneck (1 self-sound), Ortolan Bunting, Yellow-browed Warbler (loads + self-found), Woodchat Shrike, White-spotted Bluethroat, Richard’s Pipit (1 self-found), Red-throated Pipit (1 or 2, 1 self-found), Water Pipit (1 self-found), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (2 – 1 self-found), Firecrest (dozens + self-found), Siberian Chiffchaff (1 self-found), Balearic Shearwater (6), Leach’s Petrel (2), Sabine’s Gull (1) and several Black Redstart. Good Scillies birds, but hardly awe-inspiring included Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush and Pink-footed Goose! Several Cirl Bunting and Chough were enjoyed en-route.

Solitary Sandpiper © Andrew Vinson 2011

Northern Waterthrush © Andrew Vinson 2011

Upland Sandpiper - off my mobile phone

Wilson's Snipe - off my mobile phone

Olive-backed Pipit - off my mobile phone

I’d have been happy with the above, the autumn on the east coast had been rubbish until early November, when it finally kicked off, allowing me to catch up with Isabelline Wheatear, Greater Yellowlegs and Eastern Black Redstart. Thinking that my luck was in I ventured down for the Western Sandpiper and connected with that too. Another great set of birds, though I did chicken out of the Veery twitch (and would have connected in hindsight)!

Isabelline Wheatear - off my phone

Greater Yellowlegs, Hauxley NR © Frank Golding 2011.

Eastern Black Redstart, Holy Island © Tristan Reid

The one that got away....Veery © Stephen MacDonald 2011

Work was also enjoyable during the Autumn and Winter period with three sites in particular being very good, resulting in up to approximately 10 Hen Harriers being seen as well as dozens of Marsh Harrier, 5/6 Short-eared Owl, regular Merlin and Peregrine, some more Tundra Bean Geese, and a (very) in land "paradoxus" Black Redstart. Two other ‘work ticks’ in the form of a very showy Rough-legged Buzzard and a Rustic Bunting in November and December finished off the year nicely! As did Peregrine and Woodcock over my office in York city centre.

Looking forward to what 2012 will bring, a trip to the Pyrenees is on the cards which will hopefully result in one of my top 10 most wanted birds – Lammergeier, and who knows what else, hopefully a few more UK ticks too... Looking forward to it... Good birding.

Lammergeier © Nature Photography UK

Lammergeier © Nature Photography UK

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