Friday 30 December 2011

2011 in pics, ticks and dips

With the end of the year approaching it's time to tot up the old list and bring in the new. As a busy Dad with a 400+ list, seeing new birds isn't getting any easier. But I still managed a few ticks for my British list, starting early in the year with Pacific Diver (Cornwall, Jan) and Oriental Turtle Dove (Oxon, Feb), followed by a long gap before a late spurt in October involving a Sandhill Crane (Suffolk), an Isabelline Wheatear (East Sussex), a Northern Waterthrush (Isles of Scilly), and a Steppe Grey Shrike (Shropshire). The added bonus of Siberian Stonechat from the armchair left my British list (BOU) on 423. I managed to photograph all of the above (though only the Dove, Crane and Waterthrush were more than record shots) and also captured Pom Skua, Savi's Warbler, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Pallid Harrier, Olive-backed Pipit and Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler on camera for the first time in 2011.
Sandhill Crane: bird of the year for me - great rarity, great company and didn't have to go to Scotland to see it.
The fastest growing list of the year was, however, my Dorset list, which, having moved here four years ago, still has plenty of relatively easy gaps to fill. 2011 saw me plug those previously left by Night Heron, Richard's Pipit, Red-flanked Bluetail, Short-toed Lark, Pomarine Skua, Savi's Warbler, Red-breasted Goose, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler. Having missed the famous Winspit bird, the Bluetail was probably the Dorset bird of the year for me, not least because my fairly dodgy photo of it appeared in Birdwatch magazine at a sufficiently small size to make it look OK. It was a bumper year for the County which started well in January with a Long-billed Dowitcher and Ring-billed Gull in what was then my local park, continued with non-stop good birds through spring and ended with good birds like the Spotted Sand and Hume's Warbler still hanging around. Had I caught up with the Radipole Lake Black-winged Stilt (missed by three minutes after an attempted train-twitch) and  more of the other rarities which passed through Dorset in 2011, it could have been even better.
Red-flanked Bluetail - Dorset bird of the year for me
My most spectacular dip this year was undoubtedly for the Greater Yellowlegs in Northumberland which was there for a few weeks before I went, and back again the day after, followed by the Eastern Black Redstart in Kent which had been present for a week before I arrived to find it gone. Both dips involved precious days off work, a shame as there is something sweeter about seeing birds during the working week - maybe the smaller crowds, maybe just because it's not work - probably a bit of both. Most painful dip, however, was a very unfortunate double - missing the Scarlet Tanager in Cornwall by less than an hour en route to a week on the Isles of Scilly, and then missing another the following day by arriving on St Mary's 40 minutes too late. Ouch!
Glossy Ibis at Stanpit Marsh - one of my favourite pictures from 2011
I stuck to one of last year's resolutions (to not read Birdforum) and as a result of this, and picking the blogs I read carefully, have found on-line birding a more pleasurable experience as a result. The other resolution (to be more tolerant of dog walkers) I failed to implement miserably, though in mitigation, there is only so much muck you can wipe off tripod legs, kids shoes and pram wheels before the spirit of tolerance wears thin. So come on doggy folk, give those ground nesting birds and my nostrils a break in 2012, bag it, bin it, and respect the relatively small number of places designated for our hard-pressed wildlife.

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