Monday, 31 December 2012

2012....The Year That Was Part 1

I got out birding a bit this year. Maybe a little too much on the twitching side some might say, but also making up for lost time. One of my aims was to reach 300 on my life list. It's fair to say I smashed that and also chalked up a decent year list of 254, but as I reach the end of the year I realise that numbers are just not important. What matters is getting out there and birding and enjoying it.

2013 is back to basics year. In the meantime here are my 2013 highlights:


The year started on a very local level with trudges around Sutton Park and Sandwell Valley. My first birding trip away came at the end of January when I caught up with the Western Sandpiper at Cley Marshes. I also ticked the Lesser White-fronted Goose, which was back for a second winter with the Taiga Beans at Buckenham. Coue's Arctic Redpoll was at Titchwell and Norfolk specialities such as Shorelark, Lapland Bunting, Bearded Tit, Hawfinch Bittern and Snow Bunting were all seen.


Back to local birding again, a near-adult Iceland Gull was at Stubber's Green.

Near adult Iceland Gull at Stubbers - the bird is now here again and fully matured. Image courtesy Martyn Yapp.

On 18th February, a highly memorable twitch of the Common Yellowthroat at Rhiwderin in Gwent with Martyn Yapp. We spent a morning getting soaked and when the bird did reappear there was some running up & down the hills in panic, with one poor bloke ending face down in the drink. In the end the sun came out and the bird showed very well. A happy ending for all.

On the 25th Feb I saw both Spanish Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco in Hampshire.

Spanish Sparrow at Calshot
On 26th Feb, another tick, perhaps a tarty one I should have seen earlier, but still very nice....

Glossy Ibis in Dorset


The 3rd of March saw a bloggers trip to Wales.

Here we had a Rose-coloured Starling at Holyhead and we dipped a Surf Scoter at Morfa Nefyn. It was still a very good day though with lots of seabirds noted and an interesting albino Common Gull in Colwyn Bay which briefly had our hearts a-flutter.

Rose-coloured Starling - Image Courstesy Martyn Yapp

10th March was a highly decent day on the Chase with Great Grey Shrike, Common Crossbill, Brambling and Woodlark all noted. This continued to be a great regional day, with a White-fronted Goose at Branston and my first Black Redstart of the year noted at Blithfield.

First Ochruros of the Year - Blithfield Res
The 11th March provided a regional tick - Yellow-browed Warbler in Warndon, Worcestershire.

On 26th March, something very strange happened. A totally unexpected garden tick....

Red-legged Partridge - in a suburban Brummy garden!


1st April was a bit of a blogger's twitchathon day. Martyn, Richard and I began at Meare Heath, Somerset where we saw two Long-billed Dowitchers and also a Great White Egret and a Bittern. We then had Spotted Sandpiper and Long-tailed Duck at Chew Valley. We finished with a Bonaparte's Gull at Newnham.

Long-tailed Duck at Chew Valley - Image Courtesty of Richard Powell
Boney at Newnham

On the 7th April it was regional tick time and Staffs tick time for many staffs listers. A Common Crane was at Radford Meadows and it was indeed present for a couple of weeks. A pair of Gargeney also graced the brook during my visit. Also Ring Ouzel at Berry Hill.

Staffs Crane - Image Courtesy Martyn Yapp

On 13th April a Short-eared Owl at Croxall. A great patch bird.

On 19th April a significant regional tick. Black-winged Stilt at Clayhangar. Not one, but two of them! Part of a national influx at this time.

One of the two Stilts - image coourtesy Mark Rayment

Toward the end of the month there were a couple of ventures into Oxforshire. 28th April was a Dotterel at Balscote Quarry and more significantly 4 of a party of White Storks at Standlake on 29th.

Image courtesy of Adam Hartley -

This was also the day we saw 5 Black-necked Grebes at Farmoor at very close quarters.

Black-necked Grebe Posse at Farmoor


One of my personal birding highlights of the year, alongside Martyn Yapp was finding a singing male Black Redstart in Birmingham City Centre. This has long been my favourite bird and one that is close to my heart. To watch and listen to this bird on a regular basis throughout the spring, along with a second bird that we also got wind of, was an absolute privilege.

Rooftop singer - 1st summer bird

Image by Martyn Yapp

From 19th May, I spent a holiday on Portland, staying at the Bird Obs. The outstanding highlight of this was finding a Woodchat Shrike, personally my best find ever. I was proper chuffed to bits.

Woodchat Shrike

Other highlights of this enjoyable break included Great Reed Warbler at Radipole, 4 White Storks over the Obs (the same birds as in Oxfordshire), an Icterine Warbler caught by the warden Martin Cade, Black-winged Stilt and Roseate Tern at Lodmoor and Black Redstart at the M.O.D.

Great Reed Warbler at Radipole

Icky in the hand at Portland


3rd June saw a twitchy trip which included the stunning Roller at Aldbrough in East Yorks, Marsh Warbler at Blacktoft. Close up views of Gannets at South Stack were supurb.


The 16th June saw some good regional birds - Marsh Harrier at Aqualate and even better a Red-backed Shrike at Blackbank.

17th June - crippling views of a Little Bittern in Herts.

Little Bittern at Stockers Lake

On the 20th June, a highlight of any regional birding year, watching Nightjars on Cannock Chase and avoiding Stan Collymore types. On this occasion, me & Martyn saw at least 3 birds and a roding Woodcock.

On the 24th, a memorable Little Swift twitch at New Brighton. Immense flyover views of this little stunna. Not only that, but we met someone called Terry and got involved in seal rescue.

Little Swift - Image by Martyn Yapp

Well this post is turning a bit more epic than I thought it would be. I think it needs to be a two-parter, otherwise I will never get to bed ready for DAY 1 tomorrow. Part 2 tomorrow maybe.

In my youthful days if someone had told me I'd be writing a bird blog at 11pm on NYE I would have probably shot myself. Now I wouldn't change a thing....

All that remains to say is thank you to anyone who has visited by blog in 2012. May I wish you a very Happy New Year and Happy Birding for 2013.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Buff-bellied Pipit

I didnt manage to catch up with a Buff-bellied Pipit this autumn on Scilly this autumn, with one or more birds present but highly elusive throughout my stay. Unexpectedly however, one had turned up a little closer to home at Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire.

This was enough to tempt me into a pre-crimbo final twitch of 2012.

The day started well with a self-found flock of 40 Waxwings in Milton Keynes.

The weather turned very dire, as it has been throughout this Xmas. I don't remember Bing Crosby singing I'm Dreaming on a Wet Christmas. 

That was not a problem though as we were soon watching a very confiding American Buff-bellied Pipit as it fed on the dam wall often down to only a few feet and not bothered at all by the birders huddled over it. A good bird like this is always worth getting soaked to the skin for.

Buff-bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Res

Incredibly there were now two Buff-bellied Pipits here on Boxing Day. The mind boggles! Not sure if they have both cleared off now though or not as there is no further general access until New Year.

Also here a Long-tailed Duck, 1 Red Kite, 40 Fieldfare and a Jay.