Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Farewell to 2014

No late night partying, just a quick final blog post as I finish off the Christmas cheese with a  bottle of red wine. And what a BIG year with the year list smashing any all my previous efforts by a country mile!

The year in numbers....

c33,500 bird images taken

c20,000 miles travelling the length and breadth of the UK

380 twitter followers - thanks for following and I'll try and keep you entertained in 2015!

300 BOU species seen - the final year list tally

163 blog posts, pending any new ones I catch up with! More next year?

14 lifers the ones that really count! (in bold amongst the list - see right)

2 new County ticks - they are getting sooooo hard to come by!

And what will I be doing? More of the same except, this will not be another BIG year attempt! I might just keep a casual list though :-). The initial plan is to spend more time concentrating on lifers and 'worthwhile' rarities (not just chasing ticks) and who knows, I might even have time to keep up with the blog?? Trips already planned include: Scotland in May, Scilly pelagics in August and a 'blockbuster' of a Scilly October we hope!

Oh and here's surely one of the best birds of 2014 and my favourite image? You thought so too.......

Finally....wishing  all my friends, followers, regular readers and anyone casually dropping in... an amazing year of birding in 2015!!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Image of 2014

Here are a few favourite pictures of mine (in no particular order) taken during 2014. With so little time spent in Shropshire, I've kept it to one round of voting! These may not be your picks from the year  of course but it's always fun to see which is the most universally liked image!
You will find an voting box to the right, to keep things simple, check the FIVE pictures you like most! (click thumbs to open a larger image) FIVE votes maximum only please! I tried to allow 'six' in error - the last one wont count so pick your top five.... (Only one voter is possible per PC!)

I will let this poll run until December 31st and then YOUR No 1 Picture of the Year will be declared the following day....

Have a fantastic Christmas everyone and here's wishing everyone great birding in 2015! And here's to your yearlist :-) I'll be taking a well deserved rest!!!

Picture 1 - Two-barred Crossbill - Wyre forest Shropshire (January)

Picture 2 - Siberian Chiffchaff - Burton Marsh (January)

Picture 3 - Velvet Scoter - Priorslee lake (January)

Picture 4 - Brambling - Blashford Lakes  (March)

Picture 5 - Cirl Bunting - Broadsands Bay (March)

Picture 6 - Glaucous Gull - Exmouth (March)

Picture 7 - Dartford Warbler - East Devon  (April)

Picture 8 - Hoopoe - Beverley (May)

Picture 9 - White-winged Black Tern - Elton Reservoir (May)

Picture 10 - Corncrake - Iona (June)

Picture 11 - White-tailed Eagle - Mull (June)

Picture 12 - Spectacled Warbler - Burnham Overy (June)

Picture 13 - Rose-coloured Starling - Lowestoft (June)

Picture 14 - Puffin - Farne Islands  (a HOT day in July)

Picture 15 - Great Shearwater - Scilly  (August)

Picture 16 - Swallows - Polemere (July)

Picture 17 - Red-Backed Shrike - Blakeney freshmarsh (September)

Picture 18 - Wryneck - Minsmere (September)

Picture 19 - Barred Warbler - Scilly (October)

Picture 20 -  American Golden Plover - Davidstow airport (October)

Picture 21 - Twite - Salthouse (November)

Picture 22 - Desert Wheatear  - Reculver (November)

Picture 23 - Eastern Crowned Warbler - Brotton (November)

Picture 24 - Purple Heron - Capel Gwyn (November)

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Bowling Green Marsh - Pendulines at last

It's been a tough December. I've been busy, very busy in fact and whilst there hasn't been much to go for, the first two weeks of December were nigh on impossible with a trip to Germany and talks every night. There hasn't really been a 'twitchable' bird to go for either and I was aiming to have a couple of days in Norfolk (Little Auk maybe and that Snow Goose if I had to?). That was until the prevailing wind veered strong westerly and the Goose gadded off!

There was only one option really and it meant pulling out of my trip to Norfolk- to try and nail the flighty Devon Penduline Tits! With friends down near Exeter willing to put up with my crazy birding habits, I decided to drive down first thing on Thursday and who knows when I would be coming back??

I won't bore you with fine detail and 14 hours of watching reed beds over Thursday and Friday were distinctly lacking in Pendulines but with scattered reports here and there I hadn't lost heart. The locals were really helpful and whilst I had covered all the likely areas (at the right times) it was just down to striking lucky! I had extended my stay to include the weekend..... A hot tip from Andy was get yourself down to Bowling Green in the morning first thing....

I did.... I lost count how many times I scoped the scattered reed mace back and forth in the distant reed bed directly across the reserve.... Then suddenly two small passerines flew into the field of view and in a nano-second, all the recent angst was gone - I was looking at two adult Penduline Tits!! The light was perfect and despite the distance, the masks were so prominent, they were almost certainly males. Yesssssssssssss, you beauties 300 at last!

Photography had seemed pointless due to the distance but having watched them in disbelief for 20 seconds or so, I dashed outside to the car for the camera and maybe a record shot? On return, that was never to be.... they had simply vanished!

I gave it another hour and then spent the rest of the morning at Darts Farm - more 'Penduline' Chiffchaff, Stonechat and Blue Tits but no sign of the Pendulines....

I needed a drink! It should have been champagne but I was driving and had to settle for Hot chocolate and Tiffin - sitting there cold and pretty exhausted  but wearing a smile that will take a few weeks to subisde!  The Big year target had finally been realised and I was coming home for Christmas :-)

Thanks to soooo many birders (and hosts in Norfolk, Devon and Wiltshire) who have encouraged / helped me get there and saved me from flagging in the post Scilly days and all those tweets.... You know who you are!

Will I be doing it again in 2015 - You betcha (NOT!!!!!!!!)

But what SHALL I do? I'm sure I'll be out birding......

Incidently - for anyone interested, I plan to do a talk about the year at the West Midland Bird Club meeting in Stafford on Tues 6th January 2015. It won't all be about the rarities but many of them will be there and it promises to be a feast of images :-) Further details location etc. here

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Westport lake - Redhead Smew

It's been a busy time for the first two weeks of December with talks / travel taking their toll and little in the way of birding opportunities. From the middle of this coming week - I'm a free agent again and hopefully that final bird I need for 2014 (whatever it is) will turn up somewhere?

I kept the shutter moving but not the list with a drive over to Westport lake this morning! At least I could say images of Redhead Smew were well and truly on the cards - as opposed to the very distant Redhead at Aqualate earlier in the year!

The only downside was the dull cloudy conditions! And the Smew was initially out in the middle but eventually flew to the south west corner....

 Heading my way!

Close encounter indeed! just 15m off the bank!

And the darker water helping somewhat?

 Just one wing flap with minimal shutter speed!

The post dive moment.

Maybe the best (brief) moment of 'light'!

I've got a couple of days planned in Norfolk at the end of the week with Ian Grant. Let's see what happens then?

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Seaton Snook - Isabelline Wheatear!!!

I was north of Newcastle when news of this Isabelline Wheatear broke the previous weekend - without a cat in hells chance of getting there before dark! So, after nailing the Purple Heron, I still had another bird in my sights but with a week talk commitments, and flight to Germany for more of the same on the Friday, I didn't think I'd get the chance to go for it :-(

There was just one window of opportunity - on the Thursday and I decided to take it.....

Sooooo glad I did too! Arriving mid morning after A1 mayhem, at about 10.30 I joined the gallery of about 20 birders on the beach at Seaton Snook!

The idyllic surroundings :-)

The idyllic result - Isabelline Wheatear and bird no 299 for the year - I'll confess 'twas a heart pounding moment of relief! There wouldn't have been another chance!

The Issy was working a circuit generally along the seaweed line, catching flies with some pretty fast manouevres! Eventually coming closer as everyone behaved perfectly!

Shame about the dull conditions but you savour the moment a mega like this is perched upright less than 15m away!

I had to be well happy and the only blot on the morning was a jogger running through - flushing it into the dunes! It was eventually relocated right of the access path and another patient wait was about to start for the newcomers! I reckoned I'd done enough, the light was even more grim and I chose get back on the road to avoid the rush hour!

A weekend in Germany and talks almost every night for the first 10 days of December mean that magic next bird (and it will have to be a mega) is going to have to wait! That is if one turns up?? A nervy December coming up! My next blog post will hopefully include a very happy selfie?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Capel Gwyn - Purple Heron

A long drive from the North East the previous evening and another early start with the alarm..... It's another bird to try and grip back after failing to see the North Warren (Suffolk) Purple Heron during a long session! The one was always going to be difficult too (aren't they nearly always?) and nearly 4 hours into a long blank vigil, things were not looking good :-(

Everyone else had given up and left..... and then by a twist of fate, I was eating a sandwich.... another birder arrived..... shut his car door.... and what should pop up then land in a viewable position from where it had been unseen all morning.... PURPLE HERON and (298) Punch the air or what!! Birds are all the more sweeter when you've spent a lot of time and effort :-)

After a while it relocated nearer the caravans!

Still tucked away in the vegetation but much more obliging!

Eventually having a preen and rest.....

A couple of closer crops to finish with!

A great day in the end and TWO to go.......