Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2012 Round Up

The year started off well with the 1st of January seeing me add Ring-necked Duck to the year list (that I apparently wasn’t keeping), this drake has returned to the Teesmouth area for its third year now and hopefully with return for many years to come. An early trip to Norfolk provided superb views of two male Golden Pheasants at Wolferton Triangle; the same day provided distant but acceptable views of my first Lesser white-fronted Goose amongst a sizeable flock of Taiga Bean Geese at Buckenham Marshes RSPB. The Common Crane roost at Stubb’s Mill provided excellent views of no less than five birds with nearly countless Marsh Harriers along with Hen Harriers and Merlin as supporting cast. Cley Marshes NWT provided me with my second views of the Western Sandpiper, I had previously seen the bird at the back end of December 2012; later in that day at Lady Ann’s Drive I was able to enjoy two distant Ross’s Geese but they are as always of suspect origin. At Titchwell RSPB I was rewarded with excellent views of a 1st winter Coues’ Arctic Redpoll allowing me to further study this fascinating and often distinctive species, much discussion about this bird ensued on BirdForum with most agreeing on the identification of the bird. A memorable twitch to Hampshire allowed me to see a male Spanish Sparrow in a housing estate at Calshot, after this a venture into the New Forest provided me with superb views of a Dark-eyed Junco at Hawkshill Inclosure. Meanwhile in Durham the winter remained quiet until things started to pick up toward the end of January when a Great Grey Shrike turned up at Coatham Stob near Darlington.

February got off to a bang in Durham when images of a third-winter Iceland Gull surfaced that proved the bird to be a Kumlien’s Gull. The bird remained at Hartlepool Fish Quay most of the winter and proved to be very popular; 2 Iceland Gulls and at least 1 Glaucous Gull made my first visit more than memorable. A very unexpected American warbler turned up at Rhiwderin (Gwent) in the form of a Common Yellowthroat, this bird showed superbly well in the afternoon and it was great to take in and enjoy such an attractive plumaged bird; the same day a short trip south-west provided close and truly excellent views of a drake Lesser Scaup at Cosmeston Lakes CP.

March was largely quiet however I was rewarded with some excellent views of displaying Goshawks in the uplands of Durham, the month was largely spent enjoying out resident birds and enjoying the first arrivals of our spring migrants. A self found Osprey was a nice surprise when looking for Goshawks, and constitutes my earliest ever in the UK. A Glossy Ibis turned up at Saltholme RSPB and stayed well into April, sometimes the bird would show close but for most individuals the bird remained distant. A Green-winged Teal was also available at Dorman’s Pool as a supporting task; sometimes it would hide away in the reedbed but most people wanting to connect were successful.

Early April started with a White Stork turning up at Lamesley Meadows in Durham; my suspicions were confirmed as to the bird’s origin when on inspection I was able to spot that dreaded metal ring on the birds left leg above the foot. This bird was considered one of the free flying individuals from Harewood House on West Yorkshire. A dark juvenile Thayer’s Gull turned up in fields at Elsham in Lincolnshire and generally performed well for all those hoping to see the bird; a highly distinctive and very educational bird, not that expected as in Britain Thayer’s Gull remains a very rare bird. This bird would be Britain’s second providing that the Essex individual was accepted as Britain’s first. Lincolnshire was on a bit of a roll and toward the end of the month the wandering Black-winged Stilt turned up at Frampton Marsh RSPB and remained there just long enough for me to see the bird; much to my delight! The bird started of in Wexford (Ireland) before moving to Oxfordshire, after a short star the bird moved to Leicester and Rutland, then finally it settled down in Lincolnshire for a while where it performed well and found Frampton Marsh RSPB much to its liking! A surprise twitch on the way home from the Black-winged Stilt came in the form of a stunning Red-rumped Swallow at Far Ings NR in North Lincolnshire which performed well as it flew by at close quarters eating insects. Two days later on the 30th and Durham had a second Red-rumped Swallow at Bowesfield Marsh NR in Stockton on Tees; this bird came much to my delight after dipping the last previously twitchable Durham Red-rumped Swallow at Far Pasture NR in Gateshead. A truly fantastic bird to end the month and showed extremely well both in flight and perched up, a memorable bird indeed.

May really did get off to a bang, Britain’s first potential Atlas Flycatcher was discovered at Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire and got some pulses racing. Thoughts the bird had gone were dismissed when it was re-found not far from the original site of discovery, much to the delight of the British birders the bird hung around for several days and would often reward observers with fantastic views. A post University twitch on a Tuesday evening provided me with excellent views of this truly educational and rare Flycatcher. The bird was trapped and ringed and some feathers from the bird were sent away for DNA analysis, the results came back and it was announced that the bird was generically too distinct to be an Atlas Flycatcher and the bird is said to be an aberrant Pied Flycatcher. This news was a shame and a shock, but the bird itself was an education. A dip came when I tried to twitch the Savi’s Warbler in Leicestershire and Rutland at Rutland Water; the bird was heard briefly early morning but I didn’t manage to see it so the species still evades my British list, however the day was saved when a rather showy Wryneck turned up at Cornthwaite Park in Durham and was readily received by Durham birders. I had my first Wood Sandpiper fairly early on in May with my first at Lamesley Meadows in Gateshead; I subsequently managed to see two more at Saltholme RSPB and a personal long awaited local bird at Rainton Meadows DWT.  Mid-May saw the return of the male Nightingale to Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park, the bird sang its heart out and showed well for the patient people willing to stay and wait to see the bird. However the Nightingale was just piped to the post by a stunning adult male Red-spotted Bluethroat at Hartlepool Headland which performed well; some even had the bird singing. A Spoonbill was a fine addition to the year if you were quick enough to get down and see the bird at Saltholme RSPB, on true form the bird spent most of its stay asleep on Back Saltholme. The later part of mid-May saw things in the North of England heat up with a stunning male Kentish Plover showing up in Northumberland on the causeway at Holy Island; a White-rumped Sandpiper was also discovered by myself and Paul Anderson but flew off before the ID could be clinched. Thankfully the bird was seen the next day and confirmed to be what we had initially thought. It went quiet for a few days with lingering rarities then Saturday saw the arrival of a 1st summer male Citrine Wagtail, a species I had missed out on just a few years ago; a spur of the moment decision saw me moving from Teesside to Thornwick Bay at Flamborough Head late in the afternoon to see the bird. It showed superbly well and was yellow-lemon enough to qualify as another noticeable highlight of spring.

Later on toward the end of May just a day after the Citrine Wagtail news broke on the Sunday evening of an adult Cream-coloured Courser in Herefordshire. The next day news was positive at dawn and I set of with friends, we arrived late afternoon the next day and the bird was allowing for some superb and enjoyable views, an extremely stunning bird. It simply went about its business as it wandered around the bracken and fairway on top of Britain’s highest golf course. One of my highlights of birding in Britain and wasn’t topped by anything else during the remainder of the birding year; it stayed for just three and a half days before flying off high in a south westerly direction and was not subsequently found again. Days later saw another wader turn up in my home county at Saltholme RSPB; a cracking summer plumaged Long-billed Dowitcher. It was typically elusive throughout its stay and I only managed distant scope views for most of the time. However this didn’t take away from the rarity of the species with this individual being only the second for Durham following a short staying bird in 2007. The month ended typically well with a 2nd summer White-winged Black Tern putting on a small performance at Saltholme RSPB for the arriving birders, the same evening I enjoyed superb display flights from both Woodcock and Nightjar at Hamsterley Forest in Durham. However the star Durham bird of the spring was undoubtedly the Western Orphean Warbler, caught early morning and then released at the now very famous bowing green; made famous by both this bird and last years White-throated Robin. The bird was on full view for a couple of hours in the morning as it roosted before becoming more lively and actively feeding, after which point it became slightly more elusive but performed well early evening for the then assembled masses from around the UK.

June started with a bang, the Roller found a couple of days previously at Spurn in East Yorkshire located a few miles north to a farmers field around Aldbrough. A truly stunning bird and although no longer a mega I feel it really does deserve mega status, the same evening saw me crossing over to the Farne Island in Northumberland; when we arrived we were informed the Rustic Bunting we were in pursuit of had flown off high west. As soon as we arrived at the site a gentleman spotted the bird, it subsequently showed well. Almost full summer plumage the bird was truly stunning, a great way to end another memorable day. Days later I was watching a Dotterel on Danby Beacon in North Yorkshire, seemingly giving birders that day the runabout it obliged as soon as I arrived. I finally connected with my first Red-footed Falcon at Willington GP’s in Derbyshire; a cracking first summer male that showed well brilliantly feeding on dragonflies over the river Trent, the same day I had tantalisingly brief views of a Marsh Warbler at Blacktoft Sands RSPB in East Yorkshire. The day after I had amazing views of a singing male Marsh Warbler at Hadston Carrs in Northumberland, seeing the species sitting out in the open for prolonged views singing was an undoubted highlight of the year. A second Red-footed Falcon at Crimdon Dene in Durham was an unexpected bird, a cracking first summer female, the bird performed well but in fading light. The bird could not be located the following day and so was not seen again. June ended with a bang when a Little Swift decided to roost on a hotel window at New Brighton in Cheshire, as can be imagined this was much to the delight of those who had not previously been able to connect with the species in the UK. Dawn the next day saw me standing in front of the hotel watching the bird roosting, it then left the roost and we enjoyed views of the bird feeding with Common Swifts.

July was slow going at the start of the month but started to heat up toward the later part of the month. A Pectoral Sandpiper on Greatham Creek in Durham was not unexpected but a delight to see anyway, news of a Caspian Tern that was lingering in Norfolk was enough for me to be down in Norfolk for dawn the next day. Excellent views were had of the Caspian Tern early morning the next day as it flew around the Buckenham Marshes RSPB area only to return to the same flooded spot. Another Pectoral Sandpiper at Castle Lake DBC in Durham a few days later was my second of the year and my second for this site. July ended with a White-winged Black Tern at Saltholme RSPB in Durham which was my second of the year.

August may have been quiet but August was more exciting, an undoubted highlight was a Stilt Sandpiper at Low Newton in Northumberland. A cracking adult moulting out of summer plumage, fortunately it hadn’t moulted out many feathers! Mid August saw the return of the adult Bonaparte’s Gull to Whitburn Steel in Durham, as always the bird remained in the area for the whole month, it arrived in almost full summer plumage and quickly moulted into winter plumage, 2 juvenile Black Terns alongside the bird on its first twitchable night were a sign of things to come. Days later a Broad-billed Sandpiper was found on Seaton Snook in Durham, my first ever juvenile it showed well at close range. That evening the bird departed high south, but birders were left to look at the impressive wader roost and the 2 Black Terns flying around the Snook amongst the throng of terns. The first migrant passerines fell with a Barred Warbler at Hartlepool Headland in Durham being notable and a Greenish Warbler at St Mary’s Island in Northumberland the following day, the latter being typically elusive at this site.

September is always an exciting month, considered by many to be when autumn really gets underway. The month didn’t disappoint and was jam packed with goodies for all, on the 1st an American Black Tern at Manchester was a welcome distraction as it spent time around Pennington Flash with a Black Tern.  After a successful twitch news of an Arctic Warbler at Flamborough Head in Old Fall Plantation was just too much to resist, the bird showed superbly well down to quite literally 5ft and below eye level, a truly memorable bird! Lambton Pond boasted 2 Pectoral Sandpipers early on in the month, showing promise for this location in the future as an autumnal wader hotspot. However early on in the month a Short-billed Dowitcher in Dorset saw me making the long trip down to Dorset to be rewarded with spectacular views of this American vagrant. Days later I was watching my second ever Baird’s Sandpiper as it roosted with waders at Newburn Bridge, without time to rest I was down to London to see the Baillon’s Crake at Rainham Marshes RSPB, brief views in the morning were frustrating but then the Short-billed Dowitcher again and the Monarch butterfly more than made up for that, an evening visit to the Baillon’s Crake provided superb views of the bird as it clambered up the reeds in fading light. Only a short gap in excitement and I had soon seen a stunning adult Sabine’s Gull off Hartlepool Headland and only a few days later a stunning Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Goswick in Northumberland. Migrants started coming in at the end of September and a Red-breasted Flycatcher was good to see, and followed the next day by another and a lifer in the form of a Common Rosefinch in the Whitburn area. However the following day was a day to be remembered with 2 Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers in Durham on the same day, I only managed the 1, however I got prolonged views in the hand of the individual. A Yellow-browed Warbler on the same day was the first of the autumn; days later saw another Yellow-browed Warbler heard calling at Whitburn Coastal Park was my 2nd of the autumn; however the star was the Olive-backed Pipit which spent only around 10 minutes before flying off high south. The following day a trip to Holy Island provided views of the Arctic Warbler (my 2nd of the year) as well as a Yellow-browed Warbler at St Mary’s Island.

October really is a month to go birding in Britain and this year as in previous years, the month did not disappoint. Britain’s first female Pallid Harrier at Firsby Reservoir was brief but enjoyable in South Yorkshire. Not long afterward a Hume’s Warbler in Northumberland was a welcome distraction, the following day a Blyth’s Reed Warbler at St Mary’s Island was most interesting and educational, and another Yellow-browed Warbler here was most welcome! The following day saw Northumberland continuing its good run of birds with a 1st winter male Pied Wheatear on Holy Island, the bird performed well only for a select few who made it over to the island then had a mad dash to see this stunning example of the species. Toward the back end of the month the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in Fire at Kilminning could not be resisted much longer, after poor views of my first in East Yorkshire back in 2010 this was a welcome bird. The fantastic tacking call and views made for a memorable day with the bird constantly tail dipping and showing superbly well, a definite easy contender for one of my personal birds of the year. The same day saw a Radde’s Warbler some 100 yards away that eventually gave itself up allowing for some good views, whilst a nearby Red-breasted Flycatcher was another welcome distraction before leaving the Fife coast. An in the hand Pallas’s Warbler days later was welcome at Whitburn Coastal Park, the bird was then seen by myself and a few others hours later on the southern end of the big mound, whilst later the same day a Red-breasted Flycatcher in the hand was gratefully received! However the following day saw the star of the show for the dedicated ringers when a Dusky Warbler was trapped and ringed at the big mound at Whitburn, the bird was released and remained in the area much to the relief of many, I also managed to catch up with the bird in the field allowing for brief but acceptable views of this skulking species. The month ended rather strangely with winter appearing to be ushered in when I saw a Todd’s Canada Goose in Cumbria at Cardurnock whilst dipping a Richardson’s Canada Goose, nearby the same day I enjoyed fantastic views of a Great White Egret at Campfield Marsh RSPB.
November was a fantastic month, with a feel of both autumn and winter throughout, until the end of the month where the realities and reminders of winter kicked in. On the 3rd I was enjoying a rather stunning Little Bunting at Elba Park not far from my home, the same day I also enjoyed fantastic views of a European Bee-Eater in a housing estate in Seaburn. I saw the Little Bunting the next day and also saw the European Bee-Easter throughout the rest of its stay, one major benefit of going to a university nearby! Toward the end of the month the wintery feel set in when a Red-breasted Goose turned up in Cumbria at Whitrigg, after taking in the delights of this bird I headed off to Loaningfoot in Dumfries and Galloway to finally connect with the Richardson’s Canada Goose I had dipped in Cumbria weeks earlier. As the month drew to a close gulls became the focus of attention with 3 birds seen in total; 1 second-winter and 2 first-winter birds over a 1 week period then nothing, despite extensive searching and looking I never saw a Caspian Gull again by the end of the year.

December was typically quiet with a Buff-bellied Pipit being the real ‘stand-out’ bird on the month, performing down to a few feet at Berkshire was quite surreal but a real pleasure, the same day saw me seeing the American Wigeon at Anglers CP in West Yorkshire on the way home from the pipit. Last notable sighting of the year came on the 31st when I managed to catch up with a stunning 3rd winter Kumlien’s Gull at Cleadon.

A truly fantastic birding year and a one I am not likely to forget any time soon! At the start of the year my British list stood at 317 and at the end of the year stood at 347 giving me 30 British ticks, however Thayer’s Gull is not counted as it is pending acceptance, also the Richardson’s Canada Goose is not counted under “Lesser Canada” as the records are under review and so remains an armchair. However I have counted Red-breasted Goose in with this total of 347 as it will no doubt be considered to be the same bird and accepted accordingly. My British year list ended on 282, by highest total yet with my previous best being last year when I managed 279 species.

Until next time, Foghorn out! 

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