Sunday 12 January 2014

2013 - A Review

A trip to Norfolk on the 1st was a perfect start to the year. The early wake up time was worth the effort, as the waders on the Wash put on a great show. As normal during January I did a bit of walking in the snow in the Peak District to get me ready for a full on winter expedition to the Cairngorms. 

Red Grouse

As always it was the Cairngorms that were the focus of my attention during February. This trip overlapped into March and, as you almost certainly already know, I managed to successfully track down a Snowy Owl that was wintering on Ben Macdui. It was only seen by only a handful of observers, because the weather turned really bad after my holiday and it had gone by the time things calmed down. It was bitterly cold throughout March, but I stuck it out at Shawell and was rewarded with some 'white-winged gulls' 

Snowy Owl

Strong winds during the second and third weeks of April grounded quite a few migrants and the large flock of White Wagtails that I saw at Brascote Pits was particularly impressive. I had played it cool as far as the Siberian Chiffy at Barrow upon Soar was concerned, but I hadn't realised until later just how laid back I'd been, because my sighting on the 14th was the last time it was seen (the same bird may well be back for now for its second winter). A Ring-billed Gull at Melton Country Park had me out, not once but twice, in the land of the pork pie. 

Ring-billed Gull, Melton CP

May and June were, for me, best remembered for my adventures in the rugged mountains of the west side of Scotland. Ridge walks on Beinn Alligin, Liathatch, Beinn Eighe and others was really exciting. Exhilarating stuff especially when a large rock hurtled down An Ruadh Stac heading towards me.

The Horns of Beinn Alligin

A warm dry July was quite a surprise, as was a Night Heron that was just up the road at Thornton Res. Early in the month I spent sometime with a local Little Owl family and I managed to get one of my favourite images of the year. A Black-necked grebe and a Turnstone at Shawell A5 lagoons were local area ticks for me, but once again it was Scotland that beckoned. My son Sam and I went off to the Cairngorms where we tackled some great walking and scrambling routes. We had a blast when we hired a couple of mountain bikes and hurtled along a track that led into the heart of the mountains. Dotterels, Ptarmigan and Snow Buntings were found and added to the data for the BTO 'What's Up' survey.

Little Owl

Gulls and waders were the order of the day in August. Hot on the heels of the first Turnstone at Shawell was a second one and then a couple of days later two Black-tailed Godwits were at the same site. Amongst the gulls at Shawell was a photogenic third-winter Caspian Gull. They are generally too distant at this site for decent images, so this one was pleasing to see.  

Seven Bar-tailed Godwits over Croft Quarry were a south-west Leicestershire tick for me and also my local highlight for September. A bit of autumn sun was the plan at the end of the month, but we were treated on arrival in Portugal to weather that had a distinctly British feel about it. Yes it was stormy - the Med looked more like the North Sea. Eventually the sun came out as did the migrants. It seemed really odd to see Pied Flycatchers and Wheatears feeding amongst deck chairs.

At the beginning of October, I was still away in Portugal. As well as the migrants and the typical 'Steppe' species, Dawn and I enjoyed a 'pelagic boat trip'. Actually I don't think Dawn enjoyed it as she looked a bit green during the 'chumming bit'. The seabird spectacle of hundreds of birds wheeling around a trawler didn't materialise due to the trawlers being to far out at sea. However, we did see small numbers of all the birds hoped for apart from Wilson's Storm Petrel. Gulls also featured in my trip, as if you couldn't have guessed. I read a great many colour rings at the Portimao fish harbour, mostly on Lesser Black-backed Gulls and also Yellow-legged Gulls. The star was one that I identified as an Azorean Gull L. m. atlantis. I have now submitted this sighting to the Portuguese Rarities Committee and eagerly await there opinion, although I will have to be patient.

Cory's Shearwater
I spent my time at Shawell during the weekends of November and also started doing a BTO Winter Thrush survey.

Early December saw me continuing in the same way as the previous month with a second-winter Glaucous Gull being my pick of the gulls. Interestingly at the  end of the month I found myself back in twitching mode and went on a trip to see a Brunnich's Guillemot. A seemingly healthy individual had taken shelter in Portland Harbour to avoid the storms that were lashing Britain at the time. This species normally spends its time much further north in the Arctic and so it was welcomed by many birders who braved the windy weather to see it.

Hopefully I'll have many more adventures in 2014 and I look forward to telling the tales. It will be interesting where my subscription to Birdguides takes me as I haven't had up-to-date bird news since 2007.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Carl, some stunning photography too! Looking forward to reading what you get up to in 2014.