Sunday 31 December 2023

Review of the year 2023

 As mentioned in previous posts I didn't get out much but did see nine new birds in 2023.

My year list was my lowest since I started recording them in 2010 with just 234 species seen.

The biggest omissions on the year list are.........

Eider, Dipper, Tree Pipit, Manx Shearwater, Little Owl, Puffin, Red, Little Tern, Ring Ouzel, Crossbill, Gropper, Twite,  Black Tern and Great Skua all evidence of how little I got out.

Best bird of the year probably the Canada Warbler but a close call with the Black-winged Kite.  

Most photographed bird in 2023 was the Bittern at Fishers Green that gave me good views at both ends of the year and was both the first and last bird I pointed the camera at in 2023

Bittern at Fishers Green

Favourite image of the year was difficult to chose but if pushed I'd probably say the below image of the local Osprey was quite pleasing and it was bird 156 for the Lee Valley patch list.

The Lee Valley Osprey (new bird for the patch)

Two new birds for my Essex (277) list with the Montague's Harrier at South Fambridge and the Canvasback at Abberton. I actually managed four Harrier species in Essex this year with the Pallid at Wallasea and the usual Hen and Marsh encounters. Dotteral my new top target for Essex now.

My Norfolk (301) list reached 300 with the Long-billed Dowitcher at Holkham and then 301 with the Cackling Goose. The Suffolk (277) list didn't move at all but my Kent (271) list had two additions with the Cliff Swallow and Solitary Sandpiper.  I had nothing new for Herts (182) but moved the London (233) list along with Night Heron at Thorndon and Lesser Scaup at Staines both within the recording area.

so that's it for 2023 now roll on 2024 when it all starts again.

Year list 234

Life list 446 

oh and a very happy new year to anyone that still reads my ramblings on this diary blog.

Best pics of 2023

As I've said I didn't get out anywhere near as much as I'd have liked this year but I did manage a few trips and those trips produced a few decent images and I've posted a few here as a reminder of those trips.

Aquatic Warbler

Arctic Tern



Corn Bunting


Grey Phalarope

Great Egret

House Sparrow

Jack Snipe


Long-billed Dowitcher

Magnolia Warbler


Pallid Harrier

Ring-necked Parakeet


Red-backed Shrike

Sedge Warbler

Short-eared Owl


Water Rail




Friday 29 December 2023

Missed opportunities in 2023

I've taken a nerdy look at all the missed opportunities in 2023. 

I've listed here all the birds that have been recorded in Britain this year that would have been new to me along with a brief reason / ''excuse'' for why I didn't connect. It should be borne in mind that at this point I still don't do the islands so anything on Scilly, the Scottish islands or Lundy etc are out of bounds and generally this helps me feel less twitchy when these difficult and often expensive birds turn up. I've underlined the ones I had half a chance of getting as they were mainland and hung around long enough for me if I'd managed to find the time and or motivation to go.


LITTLE SWIFT: Seen for about thirty minutes in Eastbourne, East Sussex on 2nd January and not twitchable unless you could got there in just a few minutes. This was followed by another report from Alkborough Flats in Lincs on 29th June but this bird was only seen for five minutes and a "probable" was reported on 15th July at Kenny Hill in Suffolk.

BLACK SCOTER: The Black Scoter that winters off the Northumberland coast was first seen on 8th January and remained until 29th March being reported from Holy Island, Stag Rocks Bamburgh and Cocklawburn beach in this time. This is a bird I should make more effort to see so maybe I'll plan a long weekend if it returns this winter. The bird was seen again at Goswick, Northumberland on 11th October but not reported since.

GYR FALCON: 2023 saw many escaped birds reported from 22nd January onwards in Norfolk, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire, East Yorkshire, Cornwall, West Yorkshire, Northumberland and on 11th May possibly the years only wild bird was reported at Cove in the Highlands. With the escapes and a active release programme I feel this is to be a difficult tick having to rule out the "of unkown origin" bracket.

BLACK-FACED BUNTING: There was a single report of this species in 2023 and it was a suppressed bird, trapped and ringed at an undisclosed location in Shropshire, reported as seen in recent days on 14th February but obviously not a twitchable bird. (7 previous records last one in 2018)

SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER: One was seen for around an hour on 7th April at South Foreland in Kent but before I could get interested in twitching it the bird was lost and never refound. On the 8th April another bird was seen at St.Margarets at Cliffe in Kent but was only viewable for around ten minutes. On 5th May one was found at Dungeness and was seen until 8pm at night presumed gone to roost. I dipped this bird at first light on 6th May. Dungeness had another reported on 16th October which again moved on quickly.

TAWNY PIPIT: One spent a few weeks on St Mary's Scilly from 9th April until 20th April but with my lack of desire to "do the islands" this bird was untwitchable to me. A probable at Flamborough on 24th April and another probable at Culver Down on the Isle of Wight on 7th July were never refound and never twitchable.

STEJNEGER'S SCOTER: The bird first found as a first for Britain in 2022 returned to Lower Lago on 28th April 2023 and remained until 13th May. It returned to Musselburgh Lothian on 12th August so may yet be twitchable over the winter should I find myself in the area. 

GREY HEADED LAPWING: This first for Britain arrived at Low Newton, Northumberland on 1st May and although it relocated to Long Nanny in remained until 8th May giving anybody that wanted to the chance to see it. I hoped the bird would move south and give me a chance to see it without the twelve hour round trip but after leaving Long Nanny it moved north being seen on 10th May in Fife, 13th May in Lossiemouth and then it moved west to the islands spending three days on North Uist between 26th and 29th May before moving on and not being seen again. This is my biggest regret of the year assuming that it does indeed get accepted onto the British list as a wild bird.

MOLTONI'S WARBLER: One was trapped at Portland on 12th May but was only seen 10.57 and 12.46. A possible was also trapped on Fair Isle Shetland on 22nd May  

WILSON'S PETREL: These birds were seen almost daily from mainland sea watch sites along the Cornish coast and the Scilly pelagics recorded daily totals peeking at 18 birds. This is tickable from the mainland but almost guaranteed on these pelagics from Scilly and they're even getting them now from Penzance pelagics. Sightings occurred between 25th June and 20th September this year.

BAROLO 'type' SHEARWATER: One was seen from Porthgwarra on 12th August and 15th, 16th and 18th July. Another was reported from Porthgwarra on 12th August and another from Peninnis head Scilly on 16th August. A Barolo Shearwater was reported from the Scillonian crossing on 18th September.

BRIDLED TERN: One roosted at Afon Wen in Gwynedd on the rocks at Hafan-y-Mor from the 6th August until 9th August. Another regret as it gave me three days to see it but the 12 hour return drive delayed my thinking and like the Lapwing I missed the opportunity.

SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER: One spent a day on the Isle of Man on 14th August. Another was found in Dundee & Angus on 10th September proving elusive it moved on after two days. This same bird was relocated at Blacktoft Sands on 25th September and left two days later. It was seen very early both on 26th and 27th but went missing all day after the first sightings each day.

UPLAND SANDPIPER: One in flight over Spurn point on 16th September but not re-found and only seen/heard by a few lucky observers on the point. This was a first for Spurn. Another bird then was reported as a fly over in Cornwall on 9th October and again on 10th before being found feeding in a field at Sennen on 23rd October where it remained until 29th. The distance and the fact that the bird was being reported as elusive delayed my interest in going until the bird had moved on and it was too late.

NORTHERN HARRIER: A mobile bird was seen in Cornwall between 28th September and 16th October. I regret not trying for this bird.

TWO-BARRED WARBLER: One at Flamborough between 27th and 30th October.

SCOPS OWL: One at a private ringing site in Cornwall on 4th April with two others reported as heard only on Scilly 18th June and in Norfolk 24th June.

TRINDADE PETREL: One flew past Pendeen in Cornwall on 11th December

SCILLY ISLES.................................11 LIFE TICKS AVAILABLE OVER THE YEAR.

LESSER KESTREL: An adult male bird was on St Mary's Scilly from 23rd March until 27th March and was twitchable for those that do the islands. A possible female was reported as flying over the lighthouse at North Foreland Kent on 6th May but was never refound.

SCOPOLI'S SHEARWATER: Its been a bumper year for this rarity, first recorded from Porthgwarra on 15th July they were reported several times from Scilly Pelagics where at least three birds were reported on one occasion. Pendeen had a couple of probables as did birders on the Scillonian crossing. They were still being seen well into August with a total of 28 birds photographed in Scilly waters this year.

RED-FOOTED BOOBY: First seen from the Scilly pelagic on 7th August it was relocated roosting on the Bishop Rock Lighthouse on 14th August were it pleased hundreds of twitchers and was last seen on 22nd October when the last pelagic of the season made a trip around the Bishop rock. This bird got me as close to twitching Scilly as any have. (Only one previous record from 2016)

FEA'S/DESERTA'S TYPE SHEARWATER: One was seen and photographed from the Scillonian crossing on 15th August.

SOUTH POLAR SKUA: Three have been seen this autumn on Scilly pelagics but of course only available for those lucky enough to be on the Saphire when the birds were spotted on 1st, 25th and 30th August. Another bird was seen flying past St.Ives in Cornwall on 19th October. (At the time of writing only three previous accepted records with the last one dating back to 2002)

BOBOLINK: One on Skokholm on 21st September was not twitchable but two on Scilly between 25th September and 7th October proved popular with those that do the islands. There was a report of another in Glamorgan on 23rd September but it was seen in flight by a single observer.

NORTHERN PARULA: One was seen on Scilly on 23rd September and re-found on 25th. It remained until 26th.

YELLOW THROATED VIREO: Scilly 26th September (remained only a probable) (Just a single previous record from Cornwall in 1990)

WILSON'S SNIPE: Scilly had a probable between 19th September and 18th October.

GREY CHEEKED THRUSH: One was on Scilly between 29th October and 4th November

CAPE MAY WARBLER: Scilly from 10th November to 4th December on Bryher was twitchable to those inclined to do so but difficult and expensive in equal measure. Involving the drive to Cornwall,  trip to Scilly by plane or boat or a mix of both then the ferry from St.Mary's to Bryher and the risk at this time of year of the weather preventing any of the four crossings.

SCOTTISH ISLES.........................................17 LIFE TICKS AVAILABLE OVER THE YEAR

SONG SPARROW: One was found on a ship in the Orkney area on 26th April and of course was never on my radar and then another was found on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd on 9th May where it was seen into the evening but had moved on when people arrived the following morning to look for it. 

EASTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER: Four of these have been reported this year. The first  male bird on Lerwick Shetland from 13th to 21st May. Another male was found on Bardsey Island on 30th May. On 2nd June another male was seen at Sumburgh on Shetland and another at Boulby Cleveland on 6th June. None apart from the Lerwick bird were twitchable and another autumn bird on Shetland between 2nd and 7th October. 

COLLARED FLYCATCHER: A female at North Ronaldsay Orkney on 7th and 8th June was out of my range as was the male on Fair Isle on 9th June.

BLUE-CHEEKED BEE-EATER: One was seen very briefly on Foula, Shetland on 10th June.

HUDSONIAN GODWIT: One was found at Grutness Shetland on 30th July and remained until 20th August. (only six previous records with the last one being in 2020)

YELLOW WARBLER: A real stunner but on Foula and well outside my twitch area requiring a drive to Aberdeen an overnight 12 hour ferry to Shetland followed by a far less than routine 2 hour ferry to Foula which only runs a couple of days a week and requires an overnight stay. Of course you could also fly if you had the funds. Only a handful made the twitch outside of those on Shetland and I'm told this involves flights, special boat charters, arrival back at the Aberdeen when the cars were left in Inverness etc so although this is a stunning bird I 'll lose little sleep for not being able to twitch it on my budget of time and money.This bird was seen between 5th and 11th September and remarkably another was on Tiree on 3rd October and yet another on Hoswick, Shetland between 12th and 23rd October.

TENNESSEE WARBLER: One on St Kilda from 15th September until 18th but well outside my budget and another on Barra from 21st to 23rd September with a third on Fetlar, Shetland on 29th September.(Only six previous records with the last being 2020)

OVEN BIRD: One on Rum on 23rd September in a private research area. (Only six  previous records with the last being 2013)

PHILADELPHIA VIREO: One on Barra in the Outer Hebrides on 23rd September wasn't twitchable. It was seen briefly again on 1st October. (One previous record back in 1987)

BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER: Shetland 26th September was a one day bird (Only three previous records plus the Scilly bird from last year that will make four)

WESTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER: A first for Britain was found on Whalsay Shetland on 20th October but departed on 21st before the twitch could be arranged by those with the time and money to try. I'm told some were at the airport waiting for news on 22nd.

VEERY: One was at Lunna, Shetland between 29th September until 3rd October and pleased many of those staying on Shetland at the time. (Just nine previous records with the last one being 2015)

EYEBROWED THRUSH: One on Orkney on 7th October was seen very briefly.

SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT: A female on Foula, Shetland on 31st October wasn't reported the following day.

WHITE'S THRUSH: One on Bressay, Shetland between 4th and 10th October and another on Papa Westray, Orkney on 18th October.

LANCEOLATED WARBLER: One was seen on Fair Isle between 18th September and 9th October with North Ronaldsay having sightings on 18th September and 8th October.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH: One on Barra Outer Hebrides between 9th and 10th October.

English and Welsh Islands......................................4 TICKS AVAILABLE OVER THE YEAR

BAY BREASTED WARBLER: One on Ramsey Island Wales from 21st September through 26th was twitched by 120 or so lucky enough to book the boat crossing with landing numbers restricted. (Only the second for Britain and the first twitchable bird.)

BLACK AND WHITE WARBLER: Two birds were trapped and ringed on Bardsey Island on 21st and 23rd September.

ALDER FLYCATCHER: One was on Skokholm Island from 20th September to 29th was twitched by a lucky few. (Just two previous records with the last one in 2010)

YELLOW-BREASTED BUNTING:  One found on Lundy on 25th September but wasn't found when the twitchers arrived on 26th to look for it.

In summary the birds I've missed as twitchable mainland birds are Two-barred Warbler, Grey Headed lapwing, Bridled Tern, Black and Stejnegers Scoter, the Short-toed Treecreeper that I dipped at Dungeness, Upland Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Northern Harrier.  So nine true missed opportunities to increase the life list and see these quality birds.

On the islands several birds were gettable namely the Yellow Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Veery,  Red-footed Booby, Hudsonian Godwit, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Tawny Pipit, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Bobolink, Bay-breasted Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, White's Thrush, Lesser Kestrel ans Cape May Warbler. Any trip for the Booby was likely to have given me a chance of Scopolis' Shearwater and Wilson's Petrel.

Here's hoping that some of these missed opportunities present themselves again in 2024 and that I get to take advantage.

Saturday 23 December 2023

New birds for 2023

2023 delivered nine new birds for my British mainland list. Cackling Goose at Brancaster in Norfolk on 29th January replacing the Cley bird that I'd previously seen but removed when it wasn't accepted by BBRC as a wild bird. I managed to see the White-crowned Sparrow at Seaford although it took two visits to connect with it but I was happy to remove this one from my dipped list. In August I connected with the Black-winged Kite in Norfolk, again after two visits and in September I finally added Aquatic Warbler to my UK mainland list with the bird seen on 11th September in West Sussex. Later in September we saw the record breaking fall of American vagrants and I managed to catch up with two on my trip to Pembrokeshire with Magnolia Warbler and Canada Warbler. October saw me travel to Flamborough head in East Yorkshire to tick the Red-headed Bunting which will be left on the list as "pending" hoping it gets accepted since DNA has proved it to indeed be a Red-head. I also picked up a more local lifer with the Solitary Sandpiper down at Stodmarsh in Kent and my last tick of the year was the local Canvasback at Abberton and these nine moved the life list to 446 so I now expect or at least hope to move through 450 next year. 

Magnolia Warbler at St.Govan's Head Pembrokeshire

Aquatic Warbler at Upper Beeding West Sussex
Black-winged Kite

White-crowned Sparrow at Seaford and Red headed Bunting at Flamborough

poor record shot of the Solitary Sandpiper

The dips.....
I didn't dip a life tick all year so in other words if I went for a new bird I saw it allowing for the fact that a couple took me two visits to connect with them.

Looking forward to the new birds that 2024 might bring me and if 2023 has taught me anything it's that you can't predict them. Having said that my top targets for life ticks according to Bubo are........

Tawny Pipit
Ivory Gull
Terek Sandpiper
Black Scoter
Sociable Plover
Wilsons's Petrel
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Oriental Pratincole

Will any of these fall in 2024 or will the new birds be from further down the target list or even new birds for the UK like the Canada Warbler, Red-headed Bunting and Black-winged Kite from this year.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Ring necked Duck at Priory CP Bedfordshire

A brief visit to Jim yesterday morning in the pouring rain where I mentioned there was a Ring-necked Duck at Priory CP in Bedfordshire which was only an hour from home met a surprisingly positive response from Jim so with me having time we jumped in the car and set off around the 25 and up the A1.
As luck would have it the rain had stopped as we pulled up at the park and it remained dry for the rest of the afternoon.

A very short walk from the car park to Fingers lake next to the main lake and we were watching the drake Ring-necked Duck straight away as it swam around with a small group of Tufted ducks. After enjoying the duck for about an hour we decided to try for the Black-throated Diver at Staines as it was only about twenty miles further around the 25. Although it was bright and sunny at Staines it was also windy and very cold. We located the Black-throated Diver with a Great Northern Diver right at the back of the north basin and didn't hang around too long after that as the cold windy conditions didn't make for an enjoyable experience.

The two year ticks move me within four of that worst year list total I've been quietly targeting but with three weeks today those last four may prove difficult to find although I have eyes on a few local options.

Year list now 234

Wednesday 6 December 2023

A morning in the valley

Needed some me time this morning so headed over to Fishers Green, Lee Valley and plotted up at the Bittern hide where it was cold and very misty first thing. The Bittern popped out around 8am and allowed me to fire off a couple of shots before it ran back into the reeds from which it had came from and wasn't seen again all morning apart from for a couple of guys up in the tower that could see it hidden away at the back of the reedbed. A Grey Heron spent a while resting on the Kingfisher bank and had a little go at fishing from the log until it fell off. A drake Goosander flew over and was later seen out on the main lake and at least four Water Rail entertained the tour group that arrived around 9.30am as did the noisy Parakeets.

A walk along the river gave views of Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk and a flock of Redwings before a fly over Raven and Red Kite ended the mornings birding.

No year ticks today so I'm still hoping for six to avoid my lowest ever year of listing. (But I'm not trying very hard if truth be told, chosing time with the grandkids ahead of most days out)