Thursday, 26 December 2019

Review of the year 2019 "my best ever"

Well that was some year! I beat my previous best year list total of 286 with a very satisfying 303.
(as at 26th Dec.)

My thirteen lifers included some real crackers....

American White-winged Scoter at Musselburgh in Scotland
Ortolan Bunting at Abberton in Essex
Whiskered Tern at Dungeness in Kent
Black-headed Bunting at Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire
Little Bustard at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire
Red-eyed Vireo in Easington East Yorkshire
Sooty Shearwater from a seawatch in Porthgwarra Cornwall
Great Snipe at Kilnsea in East Yorkshire
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Farlington in Hampshire
Black-eared Wheatear at Pilling in Lancashire
Brown Booby off Kynance Cove in Cornwall
Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Walberswick in Suffolk
Black-throated Thrush at Whipsnade

Black-throated Thrush

The Brown Booby at Kynance Cove
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in Hampshire
The pending Pilling Wheatear
I went through the 400 LIFE mark with the above and now sit at 410 and I'm quietly very pleased to have made that landmark especially as they are all mainland ticks. No Scilly and no Shetland thus far for me although I have to say I very nearly caved in this year so next year will be a bigger test for me. I have nothing against people going and I would happily have gone before with more time and money to spare. Maybe I could arrange a family break around migration? Anyway I digress so back to reviewing this year. I visited Scotland for a week and cleaned up apart from Parrot/Scottish Crossbill and Caper. I managed to bag the Strontian Duck and a Blue-winged Teal whilst there and on the way down connected with four flavours of Scoter and a King Eider so a very rewarding trip. I had another holiday in Wales and added a day trip for the Bustard at Slimbridge. Three days in Cornwall over two trips gave several year ticks mostly from seawatching which I really enjoy but we did twitch the Booby too.

The Strontian Black Duck
We visited East Yorkshire more than usual but this year it was kinder to us delivering three lifers.
We birded in twenty one different counties of England and passed through all the others at some point on our travels which makes the hobby a great way to see our fantastic countryside too. Apart form the annual week in Scotland I also took holidays in Gloucestshire, Laugharne and Cumbria with the family.

The Black-headed Bunting twitch
Bird of the year this year well that's a difficult one again.
A favourite was the very confiding Garganey on the pond at Wanstead and I have fond memories of laying in Goose poop trying to get some decent images of the bird as day trippers wondered around the pond with their dogs completely unaware how well this duck was giving itself up. I also had a very confiding Great Grey Shrike which  the camera enjoyed and likewise a Sparrowhawk was a nice surprise in the garden allowing for some decent images but the best bird would have to be the Dark-throated Thrush that eventually showed really well for me.

Garganey at Wanstead
Great Grey Shrike
Garden Hawk

Star bird

As for rarities well I suppose a first for Britain would take some beating so the Brown Booby in Cornwall gets that award and Kynance Cove isn't too bad a place to sit it out for a day either.

Kynance Cove
Best days would probably be one of the sea watches at Porthgwarra or Cley as both had it all and we enjoyed good company and banter at both although the Cley one probably edged it with 28 Poms and 3 Little Auks plus it  was only two hours from home and we didn't get wet.

Seawatching at Porthgwarra
Seawatching at Cley
The dips included Bobolink, Brown Shrike, Collared Flycatcher, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Bluethroat. Golden Pheasant gave us the run around but we finally connected in December and we missed a couple of Richards Pipits and a Red-breasted Flycatcher late in the year. We gave three days up trying to connect with Honey Buzzard in Hampshire and Nottinghamshire but although we saw some possible distant birds nothing was seen well enough to add it to the year list and Montagu's Harrier proved impossible to connect with again whilst Ruddy Duck get harder every year but otherwise it was a special year. We belatedly went after the Pied Crow and missed it the day it flew to Holland so I won't be too disappointed when it's not accepted. The Eagle Owl at Winterton was dipped in a half hearted search a couple of days before it was said to be wearing a leg ring.

The silly misses include only Barred Warbler but there are numerous we could / should have gone for which include Red-breasted Flycatcher at Landguard, Spotted Crake at Bowers Marsh Essex, Pied-billed Grebe whilst in Scotland, Night Heron in Gloucestershire, Kentish Plover in Cleveland but the biggest regret is not going for the Gull-billed Tern in Cheshire although the Paddyfield Pipit in Cornwall if accepted (and it's a big IF) will be a bigger regret just like the Pelican especially now that DNA has come back to confirm it to species.

Not twitching the islands prevented me from connecting with some of the following.....
Tengmalm's Owl, Steller's Eider, Yellow Billed Cuckoo, Hermit Thrush, Greenish Warbler, Short-toed Lark, Cackling Goose, Turkestan Shrike and Sardinian Warbler to name a few but saved me a small fortune too.

I lost two birds from the life list this year when the BBRC decided my Richardson's Cackling Goose wasn't good enough for them despite accepting many others and my Steppe Grey Shrike from 2014 has now been lumped back in with Great Grey Shrike but that's how the cookie crumbles I suppose. I sit here now on a life list of 410 having just achieved my very best year list of 303.
I can't compete with the island hoppers and if truth be told I don't think my level of OCD quite matches theirs so It's less about time and money and more about motivation summed up with the Steller's Eider and although I wanted to go seeing people taking six days out of their life to tick this scruffy first year duck gave me a pinch of my priorities and with a young grandson to consider I'm never disappointed saving those days for him.

There's not much that stops me birding these days....but this little fella is an exception.
Onwards and upwards and here's to a great 2020 to all who know me and all who don't.
Be good to each other and enjoy the birds you're lucky enough to see wherever you are.

Life list now 410
Year list for 2019 now 303


  1. Unbelieveable that Sooty Shearwater is in that list above!

  2. I know Stewart bit of a tarts tick but I hadn't seen one to be 100% sure on until this year so it's found itself in the company of some proper rares.....I still have to put Great and Cory's on there at some point too BUT if that means I have to go back down to Cornwall then that can't be a bad thing.