2014 has been an excellent year of birding for me. It has been particularly notable as the first year in which I have seen (or heard) more than 200 species in the British Isles (finishing on 201).
The first real birding trip of the year came on the 22nd January when I headed out to Newgale in Pembrokeshire. Highlights for the visit were Kumlein’s Gull, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull and Green-Winged Teal. I also found my own Herring/Glaucous Gull hybrid. On the 30th of the month I saw another Kumlein’s Gull on my university patch.
The star bird of February was undoubtedly the Red-Flanked Bluetail which was seen in Gloucestershire on the 22nd. This helped counter the disappointment of missing out on the Ross’s Gull in Port Talbot on several occasions.
During March, some excellent species were seen. Firstly a Ring-Billed Gull showed up on the patch on the 3rd. This was definitely outshone by the Great-Spotted Cuckoo which was seen near Tenby on the 13th. For me this was by far the best bird of the year and one of the most memorable and enjoyable twitches I have ever been on!
On the 8th April, I found some Dartford Warblers fairly near to university, and these were a much enjoyed british tick. More good birding in April came when I headed to Scotland for the easter holidays. The highlight species were;
Surf Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck, Red-Breasted Merganser, Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Woodcock, Black-Throated Diver, Red-Throated Diver, Osprey, Golden Eagle, White-Tailed Eagle and Short-Eared Owl.
The month finished well too, when a visit to Penclacwydd WWT produced species such as Glossy Ibis, Little Gull and Spotted Redshank.
Due to a heavy workload, May and June were quite quiet compared to the beginning of the year, with the only noteworthy species being a Savi’s Warbler (my first), a Storm Petrel and several Nightjars. Things livened up in July when I visited Malta for a couple of weeks. Highlights from the trip were;
Blue Rock Thrush, Fan-Tailed Warbler, Spanish Sparrow, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift and Greater Flamingo.
This trip was followed shortly by another, this time it was Scotland again. Highlights were;
Osprey, Crested Tit, Ptarmigan, Ring Ouzel, Snow Bunting, Red-Necked Grebe and Velvet Scoter.
The autumn began well in late august when a Black-Necked Grebe was seen on the 29th and a Marsh Sandpiper was seen in Gloucestershire on the 30th. Much of September was quiet though, with only common migrants seen at Goldcliff on several occasions. In the last few days of the month, things improved when I visited Bardsey Bird Observatory with NGB. The week-long visit produced some good species such as;
Hoopoe, Barred Warbler, Yellow-Browed Warbler, Firecrest and Balearic Shearwater and there were a whole host of commoner migrants seen too.
A Kentish Plover on the UBC patch was a good way to see out the autumn!
A visit to Cardiff in mid-December brought me close to the 200 species mark, with species such as Lesser Scaup and Black Redstart added to the year list.
I finally broke that barrier a week or so later when I visited Scotland for the third time in the year. Species seen included;
Whooper Swan, Red-Breasted Merganser, Velvet Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Red-Throated Diver, Grey Partridge, Crested Tit and Twite.
It was the first time I had seen 200 species in one year in the UK, and I saw some great birds and places on the way!