2016 Review

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).

broad-billed-sandpiper-0022-cedA 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 Scotswainsons-thrush-0012-cedtish 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 lapland-bunting-0031-cedWood 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, red-breasted-flycatcher-0027-ced2Arctic WarblerRadde’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 p1320892-cedthe 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!

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2015 Review

2015 has been comfortably my best year of birding to date! It began with a productive trip to the Forest of Dean and Slimbridge produced some good birds – a pair of Hawfinch being the highlight. My second British tick of the year came eaLittle Bunting 0011 Ced2rly in February when I twitched the long staying Little Bunting at Forest Farm (Cardiff), and had cracking close range views of it.

The next couple of months were very quiet, with most birding done around the UBC patch in Swansea where the highlight was a singing male Black Redstart.

This quiet spell was made up for by an exceptional couple of weeks birding in the Scottish highlands at the beginning of April. The highlights of the trip were:

Harlequin Duck, White-Billed Diver, Harlequin Duck 0025 Ced2Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull (4), Rough-Legged Buzzard, Surf Scoter and Waxwing (20+). Other good birds seen were: Whooper Swan, Scaup, Velvet Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Osprey, Merlin, White-Tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Crested Tit, Tree Sparrow, Snow Bunting and Corn Bunting.

The next good birding day came only a short while later, on the 25th April, when a good day at the wetland became a great day, as Hudsonian Godwit 0008 Ced Ced2we scored the Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset only a few hours after its discovery. Also seen that day were; Garganey, Great White Egret, Bittern, Little Gull, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler.

The rest of the spring was filled with UBC birding, and this produced a self-found adult Glaucous Gull at Crymlyn Burrows on the 4th May! A Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua were also seen during a seawatch of Tutt head. A quick post-exam visit to Goldcliff produced a stunning female Red-Necked Phalarope in early June.

Once home for the summer, I began planning a three day trip around the south of the UK in late June. It proved very successful with an impressive highlights list:Greater Yellowlegs 0016 Ced Ced2

Greater Yellowlegs, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Purple Heron, Crane, Stone Curlew, Honey Buzzard, Turtle Dove, Woodlark, Firecrest and Willow Tit, many of which were british ticks for me.

This impressive run continued, with a trip to Blacktoft Sands taking in the breeding pair of Montagu’s Harriers. We were then able to ‘jam-in’ on a one-day White-Winged Black Tern at Middleton Lakes (Warwickshire) on the return journey!

After a few quieter weeks, I went on a lateRed-Footed Falcon 0060 Ced2 summer family holiday back to Scotland. Despite not doing much birding, I did manage a few good species including the showy Staffordshire Red-Footed Falcon on the way north, and a Black Stork at Loch of Strathbeg! Other highlights were White-Tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Ruff, Black Guillemot, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Rock Dove and Twite.

As the early autumn seabird season got intoImage (2) PSed2 Ced2 full swing, I drove down to Cornwall for an unforgettable few days of seawatching. The undoubted highlight and my bird of the year was the immature Red-Billed Tropicbird (Britain’s 6th) which passed Porthgwarra on the 29th August. The other highlights were not to be sniffed at either:

70 Cory’s Shearwater, 2 Great Shearwater, 29 Balearic Shearwater, 5 Sooty Shearwater, 2 Pomarine Skua, 3 Arctic Skua, 9 Great Skua and 37 Storm-Petrel. The seabird theme continued until the end of September, when I added Grey Phalarope to my British List, with a showy bird at some local reservoirs.

Much of October was spent on a fantastic university field trip in Sikkim, India. I saw 73 lifers which is far too many to list, so I’ll just select a few of the highlights:

Black Eagle, Oriental Honey BuzzardPlumbeous Water-Redstart 3 Ced2, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Oriental Turtle Dove, Wedge-Tailed Green Pigeon, Asian Barred Owlet, Himalayan Swiftlet, Asian Palm Swift, Green Bee-Eater, Great Barbet, Blue-Throated Barbet, Long-Tailed Shrike, White-Throated Fantail, Yellow-Billed Blue Magpie, Common Green Magpie, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, White-Spectaled Warbler, Scaly Laughingthrush, Red-Billed Leiothrix, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-Capped Redstart, Slaty-Backed Forktail and Verditer Flycatcher.

Shortly after returning to the UK, I saw a Cattle Egret at Steart in Somerset. This was followed closely by a self found Black Redstart in Swansea and good numbers of Short-Eared Owl, Hen Harrier and Great White Egret at Llanrhidian Marsh. A showy Great NoP1300524 Ced Ced2rthern Diver at Mumbles and a flyover group of Brent Geese were also enjoyed during this period.

As the year came to a close, a short break in Scotland produced some fine sightings, including a self-found Bean Goose, a drake American Wigeon and a Ring-Billed Gull amongst others.

A few Water Pipits on the 29th December was the final highlight, my 27th British tick of the year, and my 299th in total. Fingers crossed that the quality birding continues into the new year!

2014 Review

Kumlein's Gull 0047 Ced22014 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 GullGlaucous 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.

Great-Spotted Cuckoo 0019 CedThe 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.

Great-Spotted Cuckoo 0046 Ced2During 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.

Spanish Sparrow 0033 Ced Fan-Tailed Warbler 0036 CedDue 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 ThrushFan-Tailed Warbler, Spanish SparrowPallid 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 0003 Ced4 CedHoopoe, Barred WarblerYellow-Browed WarblerFirecrest 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!

Kentish Plover 0070 Ced CedA 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!

2013 Review

Bonaparte's Gull - Ogmore-by-Sea.

Bonaparte’s Gull – Ogmore-by-Sea.

The year 2013 has been a very enjoyable one. It began well in early January when two lifers were had in one day. A Bonaparte’s Gull was seen at Ogmore-by-Sea and a short while later a Black-Necked Grebe was seen at Kenfig Pool.

A few quieter months followed, with the only bird of note  being a male Lesser Scaup – my fourth – at Bryn Bach Park in north Gwent.

A male Woodchat Shrike was seen at Kenfig NR in late May. In July, a Pectoral Sandpiper was seen briefly at the Newport Wetlands, and then a holiday in Scotland in August proved productive. Species such as Dotterel, Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill were had as well as finally catching up with my longest standing bogey bird – Golden Eagle. Also, a visit to Northumberland produced Little Tern, and a single Roseate Tern was seen briefly at North Queensferry in Lothian. A Wood Sandpiper was seen at Newport Wetlands in late August. 

Wryneck - Newport Wetlands

Wryneck – Newport Wetlands

A Wryneck was seen at the same location in early September. A Pied Flycatcher was seen near my home which took my patch list to a total of eighty, before I birded it for the last time before leaving for University. A week spent in Cornwall and on the Scillies in late September produced some good species the best of which are shown below:

Self-found Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Storm-Petrel, American Golden Plover, Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Yellow-Legged Gull, Citrine Wagtail, Red-Backed Shrike and Rose-Coloured Starling.

American Golden Plover - Sennen

American Golden Plover – Sennen

Then I began birding my new (University) patch near Swansea and several Chough and Dark-Bellied Brent Geese were enjoyed. Also, a twitch to Rhaslas Pond provided cracking views of a juvenile Long-Billed Dowitcher. After dipping several birds in a row (including the Two-Barred Crossbills in the Forest of Dean), it looked as though the year would end poorly.

However, on the first day of my christmas holiday a superb first-winter Desert Wheatear was enjoyed at point blank range at Severn Beach.

Desert Wheatear - Severn Beach

Desert Wheatear – Severn Beach

Then, a short one day visit to the Edinburgh area produced another lifer in the form of a female King Eider at distance near Eyebroughy. Also seen that day were species such as Long-Tailed Duck, Red-Breasted Merganser and Purple Sandpiper. The following day, a stop at Caerlaverock WWT on the way home produced some good species including a drake Green-Winged Teal, another bogey bird of mine. Also present were a first-winter drake Scaup, many Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swan along with the commoner wildfowl.

A walk on the old patch also provided Brambling which was a pleasant way to see out what has been a memorable birding year.

2013 – So Far…

Bonaparte's Gull - Ogmore-by-Sea.

Bonaparte’s Gull – Ogmore-by-Sea.

The year 2013 has been fairly impressive so far. It began well in early January when two lifers were had in one day. A Bonaparte’s Gull was seen at Ogmore-by-Sea and a short while later a Black-Necked Grebe was seen at Kenfig Pool. A few quieter months followed, with the only bird of note  being a male Lesser Scaup – my fourth – at Bryn Bach Park in north Gwent. A male Woodchat Shrike was

American-Golden Plover - Sennen, Cornwall.

American-Golden Plover – Sennen, Cornwall.

seen at Kenfig NR. In July, a Pectoral Sandpiper was seen briefly at the Newport Wetlands, and then a holiday in Scotland in August proved productive. Species such as Dotterel, Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill were had as well as finally catching up with my longest standing bogey bird – Golden Eagle. Also, a visit to Northumberland produced Little Tern, and a single Roseate Tern was seen briefly at North Queensferry in Lothian. A Wood

Rose-Coloured Starling - St. Agnes, Scilly.

Rose-Coloured Starling – St. Agnes, Scilly.

Sandpiper was seen at Newport Wetlands in late August, and a Wryneck was seen there in early September. A Pied Flycatcher was seen near my home which took my patch list to a total of eighty, before I birded it for the last time before leaving for University. A week spent in Cornwall and on the Scillies in late September produced some good species the best of which are shown below:

Self-found Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Storm-Petrel, American Golden Plover, Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Yellow-Legged Gull, Citrine Wagtail, Red-Backed Shrike and Rose-Coloured Starling.

2012

Buff-Breasted Sandpiper - Davidstow Airfield

Buff-Breasted Sandpiper – Davidstow Airfield

2012 was a memorable years birding. Once again, the first good bird of the year was a Lesser Scaup (the returning Cosmeston drake). This was closely followed by two Glossy Ibis at Newport Wetlands, three Iceland Gulls at Llandegfedd Reservoir (near Newport) and a large flock of Waxwings in Cardiff. At the end of February, the remarkable news came through that a

Yellow-Browed Warbler - Self-found bird on Scilly.

Yellow-Browed Warbler – Self-found bird on Scilly.

Common Yellowthroat was in some fields near Newport (only fifteen minutes from my house!), and the bird was successfully twitched. A short holiday in Scotland during April provided all the usual suspects, and I also managed to see some Scottish Crossbill at long last! The next good birds were not far away, and in early May, Smew and Red-Rumped Swallow were added to the list within the space of a few hours – both at Newport Wetlands. A short

Red-Breasted Flycatcher - St. Agnes, Scilly.

Red-Breasted Flycatcher – St. Agnes, Scilly.

visit to Cornwall in September provided; Balearic ShearwaterArctic Skua, Great Skua, Chough and a very showy Buff-Breasted Sandpiper! Then a holiday to the Scillies in the last week of October provided a plethora of good birds and British ticks! here are the highlights:

Ring-Necked Duck, Great-White Egret, Merlin, Spotted Crake, Jack Snipe, Richard’s Pipit, Olive-Backed Pipit, Buff-Bellied Pipit, Black Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Marsh Warbler, Yellow-Browed Warbler, Firecrest, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Penduline Tit, Rose-Coloured Starling and Lapland Bunting.

2011

Dotterel - Undisclosed Location
Dotterel – Undisclosed Location

The year began with my third Lesser Scaup, this time a very showy female at Slimbridge WWT. In April, a short holiday in Scotland saw little in the way of good birds other than a self-found Glaucous Gull at Burghead, Dotterel (undisclosed location), Ring Ouzel on Cairngorm and male Capercaillie at Loch Garten. Few birds of note were had during the summer, other than two self-found Wood Sandpiper at theNewport Wetlands. Another family

Roseate Tern (with Arctic Tern) - Inner Farne
Roseate Tern (with Arctic Tern) – Inner Farne

holiday to Scotland in July and August allowed for a day trip to the Farne Islands, and some excellent species were had including Roseate Tern and Storm-Petrel, amongst the abundance of commoner seabirds. Other birds of note seen during 2011 were; Nightjar, Wryneck, Waxwing and Garganey. Also Crossbill and Tree Sparrow (my long standing bogey birds) were finally had.