Saturday, 1 January 2011

Review of the Year

Happy New Year to both my readers. Being housebound with illness for much of the last week has provided ample opportunity for reflection on 2010. I had some superb days around my adopted county of Dorset, many of them car-free (but not boat-free) with regular trips to Brownsea Island, one of the best places in Dorset to see waders. Trips further afield included a few days on the Farne Islands, and family holidays on Scilly and the near continent but I was still able to enjoy the occasional twitch, bringing my British list up to 418 species this year, the additions being:

Lesser Kestrel - poor views of my first tick of the year but an enjoyable 'smash and grab' trip to Suffolk with Paul Welling in any case; Oriental Pratincole - I was a bit casual about this one, leaving it several days before realising 'bloody hell, it's an Oriental Pratincole'; Marmora's Warbler - I was on holiday in France when this turned up, but squeezed it in on an early morning trip to Wales before my return to work; White-tailed Plover at Rainham Marshes, Essex - dashed off to see this after work, but could have waited and seen it subsequently on any of its UK tour dates; Quail - finally catching up with my often-heard but never seen bogey bird. I waited for ages, then two came along at once; River Warbler - was blown away by the power of its song, all the more special as it kept us waiting until near dark before revealing itself; Arctic Warbler - eclipsing bad memories of a fruitless, chilly, four-hour wait in the Cot Valley to not see one - another trip with Paul Welling; American Bittern - seen at the 2nd attempt after the first was scuppered by delayed return sailing of Scillonian III.

Although I photographed all the above with varying degrees of success, the Oriental Pratincole was undoubtedly the most photogenic. Other rarities which performed well for the camera this year included: Subalpine Warbler - a singing male at Hengistbury Head in Dorset - my pictures of this bird were published in both Birdwatch and Birding World; Spotted Sandpiper on the Exe in Devon - this juvenile was flushed by micro-lights and other photographers before settling and allowing a close approach; Solitary Sandpiper at Seaton Black Hole Marsh in Devon - great views of this mega-rarity; Glossy Ibis at Christchurch Harbour in Dorset - probably the most approachable bird of the year; White Stork at Wareham in Dorset - almost as tame as the Glossy Ibis; Pectoral Sandpiper on Portland, Dorset - a juvenile in the unlikely location of a housing estate lawn; Green Heron - the confiding juvenile which graced the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall; Red-flanked Bluetail - the first and best rare bird seen on the annual family holiday to Scilly this year; Pied-billed Grebe at Hollingworth Lake in Greater Manchester - the furthest I have travelled this year, this obliging bird swam in front of the hide shortly after I entered.

Other British 'firsts' for me this year included four reptiles (native Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake plus introduced Wall and Green Lizards), and an amphibian (Natterjack Toad).

Resolutions for 2011? With the kids now old enough to turn their own TV in the mornings, I should be able to spend a bit more time birding within walking distance of home - tried this the other day and saw Black-tailed Godwit, Rock Pipit, Chiffchaff, Woodcock and Snipe within spitting distance of Poole's urban centre. It's also traditional to give something up, so I'm giving up reading Birdforum - if I want bitchiness and unsubstantiated rumours I can go to work. Tolerance should also feature in resolutions, so perhaps I'll try to be more tolerant of dog-walkers. But not too hard...

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