Tuesday 29 December 2015

My Birding Review of 2015

2015 has been a really great year for birding , many highlights including my first trips to Skokholm Island , Papa Westray, Bardsley Island and the Butt of Lewis plus many other great locations.

 My Year list finished on : 267 and i added 15 Lifers & 1 "Armchair tick " onto my British List plus 1 new Sub Species.

Here is a look back at 2015  , i have also added my  " Top 10 Birds of the Year " at the end of the review .

This is quite a long read , i hope you enjoy it .

                                              JANUARY  YEAR  LIST    :  124  inc.  1 Lifer.

The 1st January saw a large gathering of birders at Frasithorpe in Yorkshire and our start to the New Year was either going to be a massive high or a major low . luckily it was a massive high as we all had reasonable views of a 1st winter Little Bustard which just more or less sat in the middle of a field , other highlights that day were Blyth's Pipit at Pugney's and 2 Willow Tit's (a bird i hadn't seen for a number of years) .
Blyth's Pipit at Pugney's (honest...)

Great Grey Shrike at Chilham.

Lot's of great winter birds were seen this month including : Great Grey Shrike , Shorelark , Smew ,Twite , Hen Harrier & Tundra Bean Goose , there was also a few rarer birds in the shape of Great White Egret ,  Cattle Egret , Lesser Yellowlegs & Black Crowned Night Heron.
Lesser Yellowlegs at Pett Levels.

Black Crowned Night Heron at Hythe .

My bird of the month was of course the Blyth's Pipit   seen at Pugney's .

FEBRUARY YEAR LIST   : 139 inc. 1 Lifer

I started February off with a little bit of woodland birding , however i only managed to hear Lesser Spotted Woodpecker ( a species i struggle to see on a yearly basis) i did have some superb views of Nuthatch though.

Nuthatch at Bossenden Woods.

I added Purple Sandpiper onto my year list at Hampton plus a 1st winter Glaucous Gull was seen distantly at Dover Harbour on the 14th  and an over wintering Richard's Pipit at Swale NNR made it into my note book on the 16th .

Purple Sandpiper at Hampton.

I then went on a twitch with Richard  to Cheswick in Northumberland and after a long search we managed to see a Black Scoter which was a lifer for both of us however it never came close whilst we were there , we also saw a Waxwing at Acomb on the way back.

Waxwing at Acomb.

My bird of the month is the Black Scoter in Northumberland , not only was it a lifer but such a challenge to find which made it all the more special. Sorry never managed a photo of this bird.


No lifers this month but 16 new year ticks were added , the first year tick on the 6th was  a  Iceland Gull at Weybourne in Norfolk this was followed by 2 Serin's  on the way back home at Gunnars Park in Essex which showed very well indeed.

Iceland Gull at Weybourne in Norfolk.

One of two Serin in Essex.

A trip to Acres Down in the New Forest on the 14th produced at least 4 Goshawks , 3 Woodlarks , Dartford Warbler , Firecrest & Marsh Tit .

On the 18th i teamed up with Richard again and our target was "Waldo" at Gosport , the returning wintering Ring Billed Gull (sadly no sign so far this winter).

"Waldo" at Gosport.

On the 29th i headed to Fleming Way in Crawley and added a stunning Alpine Swift to my ever growing year list.

Alpine Swift in Crawley.

However my bird of the month has to be " Waldo" as it looks likely we have seen the last of this amazing bird .

"Waldo"  at Gosport.

APRIL YEAR LIST  :  181 inc 2 Lifers.

April started with several visits to Lidlington in the hope of seeing Lady Amherst Pheasent , this site has only just come to be public knowledge thanks to the power of social media , however on the 3 occasions i went i only ever heard this bird call , luckily i had seen them before in the late eighties but it would have been good to see this bird as well.

Male & female Garganey were added on the 9th at Oare Marshes , a failed trip to Scilly on the 15th & 16th for Great Blue Heron did come with some compensation in the form of both Hoopoe & Wryneck.

Male & Female Garganey at Oare Marshes.

A quick visit to Old Cheriton road cemetary on the 19th was rewarded with European Bee-eaters.

On the 24th i headed back to Scilly and this time i got lucky with a successful twitch of a 1st winter  Great Blue Heron !!!

Great Blue Heron on Bryher.

The 30th brought my 2nd lifer of the month when  i headed to Meare Heath in Somerset where i had great views of a female Hudsonian Godwit.

Hudsonian Godwit at Meare Heath.

A cracking end to the month but very hard to choose the bird of the month , however i opted for two birds : Great Blue Heron & Hudsonian Godwit , two birds i thought i would never see let alone in the same month !!!

MAY  YEAR LIST  : 199 inc. 1 Lifer 

Booming Bittern at Meare Heath.

May started off where April finished with another visit to Meare Heath and another look at the Hudsonian Godwit which showed very well again , also there were plenty of Bitterns including one out in the open " Booming" which was a first for me .

Hudsonian Godwit in flight at Meare Heath.

On the 10th i got a real surprise with the news of a   Citril Finch at Holkham Pines in Norfolk  , i was at Grove ferry at the time , i wasted no time and set of there via a quick pit stop at home , and to cut along story short , i eventually managed some great views of this great looking bird and was very happy to add it to my life list.

Citril Finch at Holkham Pines Norfolk.

I also managed to connect with 23 Dotterel at nearby Choseley , an Osprey on the 12th at Grove was good to see plus 2 White winged Black Terns at Dungeness on the 15th were very welcome year & patch ticks.

One of two White Winged Black Terns at Dungeness.

On the 18th i headed to Titchfield Haven in Hampshire   and my target bird was Greater Yellowlegs , i managed to see it from the road at first before getting better views from the hides later on in the day.

Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven.

 On the 22nd i headed to Lakenheath in Suffolk and my quarry this time was Little Bittern , i heard it calling for approx an hour & a half before it eventually flew up and along the reed bed before it dropped out of sight again , i also added Hobby & Grasshopper Warbler here , as was checking out another site for Stone Curlew Rba beeped into life informing me that there is a Broad Billed Sandpiper at Tinkers Marsh Southwold , so off i set and after a short while i was soon watching a stunning Broad Billed Sandpiper (i haven't seen one of these since the eighties) , it was keeping company with both Dunlin & Curlew Sandpipers.

Broad Billed Sandpiper at Tinkers Marsh.

I heard a Savi's Warbler  "reeling " in Kent on the 25th plus a visit to Grove ferry on the 30th produced 3 juv Spoonbills & a Nightingale was heard nearby.

My bird of the month is of course the Citril Finch at Holkholm Pines in Norfolk , it's a bird i have never seen before, such a great looking bird and so unexpected.

Citril Finch in Norfolk.

JUNE YEAR LIST   :  220 inc.   4 Lifers

This month will go down as one of  the best in my birding history to date , not only did i get 21 year ticks this month 4 of them were lifers !!

The month started of with one of my favourite twitches of the year to Skokholm Island and the bird i was going for was a Swainson's Thrush , my first time ever to Skokholm made it all the better , what a fabulous place and the twitch was so well organised and friendly.

Swainsons Thrush on Skokholm.

Other birds seen were Firecrest , Puffin , Manx Shearwater , Razorbill , Guiellomot and Chough.

On the 9th news broke of a Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham in West Sussex , i   headed straight there , cracking bird to see.

Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham.

I was back down in Pagham on the 13th for another look at the Hudsonian Whimbrel , then i headed to Posbrook for another look at the Greater Yellowlegs , on my way back to the car news broke of a male Black Eared Wheatear (Eastern race)  at Acres down in the New Forest which was amazingly going to be my next destination anyway , this bird showed very well and was a new addition to my British list.

Black-Eared Wheatear at Acres Down.

That evening at Lavington Common i saw 3 Nightjars , 5+ Woodcocks & Dartford Warbler.

On the 15th my final lifer of this incredible month was a stunning male Cretzschmar's Bunting on Bardsley  , this was also another new Island for me .

Male Cretzschmars Bunting on Bardsley.

Other birds of note were Puffin , Manx Shearwater & 2 Chough , on the way back i called into the West Midlands for a look at the summering Melodious Warbler which showed very well.

 Melodious Warbler at Marsh Lane NR.

On the 18th  i  headed to Narborough in Norfolk to see the Marsh Warbler along the river . I also saw 8 Spoonbills at Cley along with 2 Little Gulls.

Marsh Warbler in Norfolk.

This month just keeps on giving , i received a phone call on the 20th to tell me the Bonaparte's Gull at Oare marshes has returned for the 3rd year running however now in full adult summer plumage .

Bonaparte's Gull at Oare Marshes.

The 29th produced a cracking Icterine Warbler at Bishopstone lane , this bird was very vocal and showed well at times.

Icterine Warbler at Bishopstone Lane.

Very difficult to choose a bird of the month so all i can say is anyone of the above !!!!

JULY YEAR LIST  : 228 inc. 1 Lifer

After the incredible birds of last month i always felt this month would be a bit flat , however Oare Marshes produced some great birds , the Bonapartes Gull was still around plus one of my favourite  waders  Wood Sandpiper was present early in the month .

On the 10th i headed to Theberton  in the hope of seeing the 10 Bee-eaters that had been seen roosting on the previous few nights , i got there early and just in time to see them leave the roost.

2 of the 10 European Bee-eaters in Suffolk.

On the 15th driving along the Thanet way near Reculver i was fortunate to see a Quail fly across the road. The 17th i was back at Oare and saw a great selection of waders including 9 Curlew Sandpipers , 2 Spotted Redshanks and a Little Stint.

Little Stint at Oare Marshes.

The 20th at Oare produced 2 Temminck's Stints, the 25th saw me heading to Restharrow Scrape in Sandwich and i saw 4 Wood Sandpipers.

2 Temminck's Stint at Oare Marshes.

 My  bird of the month was seen on the 21st on St.Agnes on the Isle of Scilly , the crossing over on the  Scillionian  was rewarded with a close view of a Great Shearwater , however the star bird was an adult Least Sandpiper which was a lifer for me .

Adult Least Sandpiper on St.Agnes.

AUGUST  YEAR LIST :  237  inc. 1 Lifer.

Part of the huge Little Tern flock at Oare.

On the 6th i headed to Oare marshes and saw a huge Little Tern flock , approx 220 birds were counted plus 3 ad Black Terns were amongst them.

On the 9th at Middlebere Farm in Dorset i saw a distant Black Stork , however on the 10th i travelled up to  Spurn and saw a much closer Black Stork.

Black Stork at Spurn.

I received a phone call   on the 11th informing me that there was a White Rumped Sandpiper at Oare Marshes , so i headed straight there and had some decent views of this smart wader , also present were 2 ad Curlew Sandpipers & 1 Little Stint.

White Rumped Sandpiper at Oare Marshes.

On the 17th i headed to Burnham Overy Staithe  and i saw a very obliging Icterine Warbler which even landed on the sand a few times.

Icterine Warbler at Burnham Overy Staithe.

The 19th  i headed to Wiltshire and Coate Country park and my target bird this time was an adult summer Spotted Sandpiper which eventually showed very well.

Spotted Sandpiper in Wiltshire.

The 24th saw mes heading back to Norfolk and after a long wait i connected with my target bird the Booted Warbler at Gramborough Hill.

For me my bird of the month or should i say birds of the month was both Black Storks.

Black Stork with a Little Egret at Spurn.

SEPTEMBER YEAR LIST  :  246 inc. 1 Lifer.

News on the 2nd was of a Long Eared Owl showing well at Sandwich Bay , i thought at best it might be viewable behind a few branches like normal but headed there anyway as i hadn't seen one yet this year , wow what can i say ? Best views i have had of one for sure.

Long Eared Owl at Sandwich Bay.

The day after on the 3rd i popped down to Dungeness to see the Red Backed Shrike which was showing well along the access track along with 3 Whinchat's plus i also saw a juv White Winged Black Tern over the Arc pits.

Red Backed Shrike at Dungeness.

On the 8th i went  to Stanwell Moor and eventually  saw my target bird the  1st winter Barred Warbler which seemed to favour a small clump of bushes during it's stay.

1st w Barred Warbler at Stanwell Moor.

On the 19th i had some really great views of a Wilson's Phalarope at Panel NR near Pett, i also saw 2 Barn Owls along the footpath there.

Wilsons Phalarope at Panel nr.

The 22nd will long live in the memory as a 1st for Britain was found by Martin Casemore by the fishing boats at Dungeness , after a couple of frantic phone calls i was on my way and the journey seemed to take alot longer than usual , eventually i got there and connected with the superb Acadian Flycatcher.

Acadian Flycatcher at Dungeness.

On the 25th i had great views of a Grey Phalarope at Cuckmere Haven and on the 26th i had very distant view of a Pectoral Sandpiper at Conningbrook Lakes.

Grey Phalarope at Cuckmere Haven.

A visit to Pennington Marshes on the 28th added a superb Long Billed Dowitcher to my year list, it never came very close but i managed a few digi scoped pics.

Long Billed Dowitcher with Grey Plover at Pennington.

If you haven't already guessed my bird of the month it is without doubt the Acadian Flycatcher at Dungeness.

Acadian Flycatcher.

OCTOBER YEAR LIST   :  263 inc.   2 Lifers Plus 1 New Sub Species .

October started of with a visit to Dungeness on the 1st and i spent most of my time around the Old Light House where i had a decent views of a Yellow Browed Warbler plus several Firecrest & Goldcrest but the main highlight for me was at least 4 Continental Coal Tits which were a new sub species for me.

Yellow Browed Warbler near the Old Lighthouse .

Continental Coal Tit at Dungeness.

On the 6th i added a Jack Snipe onto my year list at Restharrow scrape and on the 10th i was back down Dungeness and added Common Crane to both my Patch & Year list.

Common Crane at Dungeness.

The 13th saw me heading to Holkham Pines in Norfolk i and i saw on a few brief times Red Flanked Bluetail and i heard a Dusky Warbler plus saw 2 Brambling.

I was back up to Norfolk on the 15th  and i had great views of the Isabelline Shrike at Beeston and once again i headed to Holkham Pines, however i got lucky with brief but decent views of Blyth's Reed Warbler & that little jewel in the crown  Pallas's Warbler.

Isabelline Shrike at Beeston in Norfolk.

On the 17th i was heading to the Butt of Lewis  and my target bird was the male Wilson's Warbler  , i made a mad dash through Harris seeing a White Tailed Eagle on route before i reached Porth Nis , after a short wait the Wilson's Warbler made an appearance and enhanced us all.

Wilson's Warbler at Porth Nis.

The 27th saw me taking part in my first ever charter flight to Papa Westray  (an absolutely fantastic experience)  and this time the target bird was a delightful looking 1st winter Chestnut Bunting , and if it is accepted by the Bourc it will become the 1st record for Britain.

Chestnut Bunting on Papa Westray.

On the 28th i called into Dungeness again  and i had decent but brief views of both Dusky & Yellow Browed Warblers plus i added 3 Great White Egrets on the Rspb reserve.

Final trip of the month was a visit to Sandwich Bay on the 31st and i managed to see the long staying Red Flanked Bluetail in the hand (much prefer seeing them flying free) .

My bird of the month was the quite stunning Wilson's Warbler .

Wilson's Warbler at Porth Nis.

NOVEMBER YEAR LIST : 267 inc. 1 Lifer.

Only 4 year ticks this month but all quality birds , i paid 3 visits to Chesterfield , once on the 9th  & 11th and the third time on 14th  , the 1st visit produced a brief view of the Crag Martin (seen but unsatisfactory) , a complete dip on the 2nd visit and success on the 3rd visit !!!

Crag Martin in Chesterfield.

I added Caspian Gull to my Patch & Year list at Dungeness on the 12th .The 16th produced a smart looking Taiga Bean Goose in the fields at the back of Seaton, plus 2 Barn Owls & 1 Short Eared Owl from the ramp at Grove Ferry.

On the 21st i had a really good sea watch at Reculver where i year ticked a close by Litlle Auk , several Little Gulls & at least 35 Great Skuas.

Great Skua at Reculver.

The 27th i headed back up to Norfolk in the pursuit of a juv Pallid Harrier which had located itself at Snettisham . I also added 9 Twite at Thornham .

Juv. Pallid Harrier at Snettisham.

My bird of the month was the Crag Martin , cracking bird to see (eventually).

Crag Martin .

DECEMBER YEAR LIST  : 267  inc.    1 "Armchair tick"

No year ticks this month however a trip to Dungeness on the 4th produced a new bird for my Dungeness list in the form of a Long Eared Owl, 4 Smew were also seen.

Long Eared Owl at Dungeness.

On the 7th news broke of a Pallid Swift in Thanet so without haste i headed there and eventually saw the Swift species , it was always distant and eventually some other birders managed to get some decent photos of the bird and the id was confirmed as Common Swift which is the latest i have seen of this species.

I had some close views of a female Kestrel & Rock Pipit in Thanet whilst i was there.

Kestrel in Thanet.

Rock Pipit in Thanet.

News from the BOURC announced that Northern Harrier has now been split from Hen Harrier and is now a species in it's own right , i was lucky enough to have seen a Northern Harrier at Thornham in Norfolk in 2011 and can now count it on my British list.

My bird of the month is the Long Eared Owl seen at Dungeness.

Long Eared Owl.

Well that concludes my review of 2015 , congratulations if you managed to read it all ,  i  would just like to wish everyone a Happy New Year & Great birding for 2016.

Here is my top 10 birds of the year , very difficult choice this year , i haven't included Chestnut Bunting as that has not yet been accepted by the Bourc. 

My Top 10 Birds of the Year