Compared to 2015, 2016 has been a much quieter year from a birding perspective. It began well however, when I saw my 300th species in Britain, a Snow Goose, on the Solway Firth on the 14th January. This was followed by a long self-imposed birding break whilst I completed my studies at Swansea University, and so I didn’t see any noteworthy birds for a whole five months (although Lesser Canada Goose was armchair ticked in March).
A few trips out in early June produced some reasonable birds including Goshawk, Nightjar, Bearded Tits and Grasshopper Warblers, but nothing particularly good was seen until the 18th June when a Broad-Billed Sandpiper showed up at Goldcliff lagoons. I was very quick off the mark with this bird (having missed one there in April during my birding break), and was rewarded with excellent views and a few poor quality photos to boot.
The summer lull then set in, but a non-birding Scottish holiday with friends did manage to produce some good birds, notably, Golden Eagle, White-Tailed Eagle, Black Guillemot, Osprey, and Rock Dove. A second holiday to Scotland, this time with the family and in late August, allowed for a days birding on the East coast, the days highlights were the White-Winged Scoter and Surf Scoter with the large scoter flocks at Murcar.
Wryneck, Pectoral Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper and were the highlights of early Autumn, all at the Newport Wetlands reserve. But it was not until the Autumn got into full swing that things really got going with an eleven day October holiday on Shetland. Good birds were seen during the journey north, with a showy Brunnich’s Guillemot in Fife and a Red-Backed Shrike at Forvie near Aberdeen. Highlights on the Islands were as follows: Pechora Pipit, White’s Thrush, Lanceolated Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush, (self-found) Red-Throated Pipit, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Radde’s Warbler (2), Dusky Warbler, Red-Flanked Bluetail, Arctic Redpoll, Short-Toed Lark, Red-Breasted Flycatcher (2), Black Redstart, Bluethroat (2), Red-Backed Shrike, Icterine Warbler, Yellow-Browed Warbler (50+), Common Rosefinch, Lapland Bunting (9) and Little Bunting (2). An absolutely brilliant trip, and one which will last long in the memory, especially the 2nd October on Fair Isle!
On returning to the mainland, and with winter approaching things quietened down significantly, and the highlights in November were a Scaup and two Egyptian Geese seen at the Wetlands during a high tide count there. December was even quieter until a Blue Rock Thrush was successfully twitched in the last few days of the year.
It had been a strange year and would have been notably quiet if it wasn’t for those remarkable 11 days spent on Shetland. I hope I can visit again soon!