Sunday 1 January 2017

The ups and downs of 2016

Well that is 2016 and its time to reflect on my best and worst birding moments of the past twelve months. Starting with the highlights, in reverse order, here they are!

The best bits!

Number Three:

Thayer's Gull, Minsmere, Suffolk.

Definitely a case of right place and right time. A first ever visit to Minsmere coincided with this very convincing candidate for Thayer's Gull. Throw in Caspian Gull, Jack Snipe, Glaucous Gull, Bittern and the first Sand Martins of the spring and it was a very good day's birding all in all.
For a full account read Thayer's Gull, Minsmere

Number Two:

Isabelline Wheatear, Burnham Overy, Norfolk

The first twitchable Izzy Wheatear in Norfolk for 39 years. A great find by Dave Andrews and a species I'd only seen previously in Bulgaria in 2009. Tiredness, a head cold and work commitments meant I waited an extra day before going to see it but I need not have worried as it was still hanging around Gun Hill in early December. See Two good 'ears

Number One:

The Norwich Garden Birds Challenge

Just goes to show that it doesn't have to be all about rareities, some of the best birding is under your nose. Seventeen of us embarked on a little competition in 2016 to see who could rack up the most species seen or heard from or in our Norwich gardens during the year. As we had moved into the house in late December 2015, I had no real idea whether the garden would be any good, though being slap bang in the middle of an estate, I had low expectations.
I finished on 54 species. Several are 60 plus and Will Soar must be near 90 by now. But I've had some good highlights along the way which have included, a flock of Waxwings in late November which took up residence in the trees overlooking the garden for a couple of weeks. A fly-over Arctic Tern, seven bird of prey species including Hobby, Marsh Harrier and Red Kite, and a flushing a Woodcock in the back garden one November morning was a very pleasant surprise. I missed Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Fieldfare and Chiffchaff but maybe they'll show up in 2017. Also, within a fifteen minute walk of the house I had Nightingale, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Great White Egret, putting paid to the idea that you need to travel to see good birds.

The worst bits!

Number three

The epic 'deglandi' dip

Myself, Nick Watmough and James Lowen headed from Norwich to Aberdeen one Friday evening in July to twitch the deglandi White-winged Scoter off Murcar Golf Links. Its a long way to go not to see a bird and after seven hours of scanning the huge rafts of sea-ducks we had to admit defeat.

All was not lost though, the rest of the weekend included Roseate Tern, Bonaparte's Gull, Durham Brown Argus, some great company and craic, a first time ever on Lindisfarne / Holy Island and some rare orchids!

Full account here

Number two

The trip that never was - Kolka Cape, Latvia

I had been looking forward to visiting Kolka Cape in Latvia all year. Spring is good in Latvia and I expected a few days of migrant hunting on this little promontory to deliver some great birds. But I hadn't even reached the place when my tyre blew out. I couldn't find a replacement for love or money in the entire country, so in the end I had to cancel my plans and return home.
A mixed week in Latvia

Number One

The feeling that despite it being a year where I saw Siberian Accentor, Isabelline Wheatear, Purple Gallinule, Great Knot and Thayer's Gull, that I didn't get as much enjoyment from my birding as I feel I should have. Maybe its over-familiarity, the over-crowded UK birding scene, having less time to bird (work / study etc.) or just one of those years but hoping 2017 will be feel different!

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