Monday 24 December 2018

2018 Round-up

2018 could best be described as the year of two halves. The first six months were marked with some fantastic birding highlights and the second half - well, it was a nil-all draw at best.

After a truly dismal 2017, I was determined to enjoy my birding more in 2018."Less is more" was the mantra. I may not go out as much but when I would, I would enjoy it.
And so with the new year barely fresh out of the box I already had a lifer when a Hume's Warbler was found at the Shangri-La cottage in east Norfolk on 7th January (A visitor to Shangri-La).
Hume's Warbler - January 2018, Waxham, Norfolk
A very smart and very confiding male Black Redstart at Sheringham brightened up the latter days of January (The Black Rodney).

Male Black Redstart - January 2018, Sheringham, Norfolk
And at the end of the month, a winter trip to Tenerife provided a nice cast with the Canarian forms of Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldcrest and Robin as well as the wonderful Blue Chaffinch. The latter was harder than expected due to snow and ice in the mountains but I got there in the end (Winter birding in Tenerife).

Male Blue Chaffinch - Las Calderas, Tenerife - January 2018
February was a normal enough month and in mid-March this beauty turned up at Snettisham (Snow in north Norfolk).

Snowy Owl, Snettisham, Norfolk - March 2018
I had this bird tagged already as "Bird of the Year" - but better was to come!

At the end of March, Nick Watmough and I took a week long trip to Western Sahara, primarily for Golden Nightjar, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Cricket Longtail as well as some desert mamals such as Sand Cat and Fennac Fox. However, for me the highlights were the concentrations of migrant passerines around any little patch of greenery and fresh water. I could have spent the entire week at the water tower at Tachaktant and at a place called Mijk Farm.

Western Olivaceous Warbler

Western Subalpine Warbler

White-spotted Bluethroat

White-spotted Bluethroat
It took five blog posts to write up this epic trip in full. If you've nothing better to do this Christmas then feel free to read them (Western Sahara - part one).
It felt like I was hardly back in England when the next trip popped up. A long talked-about visit to Tory Island off the coast of Donegal for Corncrakes. We timed our trip to match with their immediate arrival and relatively little nettle cover in order to maximise chances of photographing them. I was hopeful but not really expecting too much. However, I'd barely set foot on the island when I had the shot I wanted in the bag - a calling male perched on a lichen covered wall with a background of nettles. 

Corncrake, Tory Island, Donegal, Ireland - May 2018

I don't think I really bettered this shot all weekend but I had a great time trying. Tory Island and its Corncrakes got into my system and I'm sure to be back.

Meanwhile back in Norfolk, a relatively lack-lustre spring (for me at least) finished well with a Moltoni's Subalpine Warbler on Blakeney Point. 
The summer was marked by the usual doldrums and some quite unbelievable temperatures (37oC one Friday in late July was too much for most people). I spent much of time just keeping the local birds going with cool, fresh water. They had survived the "beast from the east" and now had this inferno to endure!
In August I ticked Stilt Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Semi-palmated Sandpiper - but bemoaned the poor views of these species versus my Irish experiences with Nerarctic waders.
Early August started with this smart Wryneck in Kessingland, Suffolk.

Wryneck, Kessingland, Suffolk - August 2018
Thereby followed a long run of westerlies and a cancelled return trip to Cape Clear was particularily upsetting. East winds late in October and November promised much and did deliver some good birds such as Brown Shrike and Stejneger's Stonechat, although I'd have loved better views of the Shrike.

Stejenger's Stonechat, Salthouse, Norfolk
And it's always good to see a Shorelark.

Shorelark, Happisburgh, Norfolk - November 2018
The King Eider at Sheringham rounded off my year's birding, after that I more or less hung up my bins and turned towards work and studying. Which, incidentally will continue to be my focus until next April's trip to Kuwait!
Meantime, my "2018 Bird of the Year" goes to Liam - the true King of Tory!!

Liam - King of the Tory Island Corncrakes

No comments:

Post a Comment