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?