Friday, 16 January 2015

Year in Review 2014

That time of year has come again (and pretty much gone, I'm a bit late!) for the Year-in-Review post.  2014 was another great year, and one which involved more twitching than I care to admit. That's not to say though that given the opportunity I wouldn't have twitched more... I know, what's wrong with me?  It wasn't just a year of twitching though, I visited the patch probably close to a hundred times, became obsessed with Lepidoptera, and well.. that's my whole year.  Unless you want a bit more detail?  Ah, go on then!


January started out with a trip twitch down to the South-Essex coast for Spoonbill (lifer) on the 3rd. It gave good views, if a little distant, before doing what Spoonbills do best. Sleeping.
 On the 6th, news came in of a Grey Phalarope (lifer) in Hove showing ridiculously well.  After talking to people who had been, and being told "Go, now!", I walked the five miles there - of course, it ended up staying for few weeks.  It showed like a dream, giving amazingly close views!  On the 8th I went for the Phalarope again, and got even better views, perhaps less than a foot away at times!  Definitely up there with my top birds of the year.
The 11th saw another local lifer, Cetti's Warbler at Fisher's Green, the views of this weren't quite as good.


Ah, February, the month of Gulls, or so it was for me.  Caleb was over from Ireland on the 8th, so a trip to Newhaven was due on the 9th.  A stunning male Black Redstart and Purple Sandpipers showing well made the day.
On the 12th, I set off for Ireland.  But winds of 110mph in Cork meant no planes were flying out, 5 hours in the airport, then it was just back home.  The next day things were back on track, and I reached Ireland! In the end it was worth it.
 The 15th was just a visit to a local beach, but we found a Little Gull, a 1w Glaucous (lifer).  Then came the 16th, spontaneity was the key that day. A sudden decision to go for a female King Eider had us rushing to get packed. On the way even, we managed some lifers - at a pull-in we saw Yellow-legged Gull (lifer), another Glauc, and a flyby Ring-billed Gull (lifer). Then on to Cahermore where we got distant views of the Eider (lifer).
 The 20th, saw us watching Ross's Gull (lifer) at close quarters, and finding ourselves a Kumlien's Gull.   Throughout the rest of the trip we had a four more Ring-billed Gulls,  two Iceland and a few more Glaucs.  See, lots of Gulls!


Spring began to set into action in March, with a few Chiffchaffs on the patch and even some Goslings.
The 30th began the start of perhaps a small addiction, seawatching. The early starts, the distant birds, wha'ts not to love?!  I don't jest.  I had a 100+ Common Scoter, 10 Red-throated Divers and 100's of Brent Geese.  In all fairness it was a bit early in the year for good seawatching.
 In March I was also pleased to find I was named the Junior Scottish nature Photographer of the year.
 This Kestrel at Kew Gardens was the photography highlight of March...


A pair of Common Scoter on a London reservoir were nice to see and started off a great month.
 On the 11th Caleb was over from Ireland again, so, we headed out for a days birding in Suffolk. Our first stop at Cavenham Heath got us Woodlark and Stone Curlew (both lifers), before heading on to Lynford for Crossbills.  A few hours there gave us Common Crossbill, and Brambling, but just as we were leaving, the male and female Two-barred (lifer) showed up!  Sitting at the top of a pine tree showing really well.  The car-park here also held Firecrest and Marsh Tit.  We finished the day off with a Crane (lifer) and a few Marsh Harriers at Lakenheath Fen.
Seaford Head on the 14th, gave us a couple of cracking male Redstarts, 3 Wheatear, and a Spoonbill.
 The 18th was undoubtedly one of my favourite days of the year, nothing rare, but a day of photographing fledgling Grey Wagtails at close range!
 It was back at Seaford for the 21st, for an incredible session seawatching.  Sightings included Whimbrel, Razorbill, Guillemot, Red-breasted Merganser, Med gull, Arctic Skua (lifer), Bonxie (lifer), Black-throated Diver (lifer), Red-throated Diver and a Short-eared Owl in off the sea. A Shorelark (lifer) was another surprise in off the sea! A female Mandarin (lifer) and Black Tern (lifer) were added here on the 29th.


Garden Warbler was a nice local lifer at Wanstead Flats on the 4th, along with my first Swifts of the year! Always enjoy it when they come back.
 My lens ended up useless in May, due to a broken image-stabiliser.  I had a few dips here and there, and I struggled and failed to get Willow Warbler for the year-list.


My unlucky streak somewhat continued into June, dipping a Marsh Warbler on the 1st. The 12th, however brought tidings of joy. Three year-ticks at Rainham, including a Bearded Tit, and on the 13th I finally got Willow Warbler.  About time.
 The 19th... a twitch down to Ashdown Forest for the Short-toed Eagle, started and ended terribly!  But going back the following day was a great move, I got stunning views of the Eagle (lifer) perched, and got Tree Pipit (lifer) and Redstart in the surrounding area.  The Tree Pipit was also my 200th British bird!
My lens came back from repairs near the end of the month, and on the 29th I had good views of two Tawny Owlets in Kensington Gardens.


July started quite slow, but I was out in Ireland again on the 15th for five days.  Being able to watch Natterjack Toadlet's was by far the highlight of this trip, and quite a surprise to find.  Then all my attention turned to Butterflies, before transitioning rapidly to moths! Highlights include Pine Hawkmoth, Poplar Hawkmoth, Pale prominent... there were too many to name.
 A trip out to Minsmere on the 28th was a nice break back to birds, with Bittern, Bearded Tit, Spot-Redshank and Avocet, followed by 5 Dartford Warblers (lifer) at a nearby site.


In August I was off to Ireland, again, yet another successful trip.  On the 10th we headed to Brandon Point for a spot of seawatching, it wasn't as easy as Seaford I can tell you that!  But I did end up with Great and Sooty Shearwater, both lifers!
Several nights which turned into the early morning while mothing produced some good results, Early Thorn, Lesser Swallow Prominent, and Pink-barred Sallow were some favourites.  Oh, and I don't want to forget a Long-billed Dowitcher (lifer) on the 25th!  A crazy twitch, practically halfway across the country!  I also got hen Harrier and my first Red Squirrel, so worth the drive.


On the 8th I was back at Seaford, for an amazing day of birding.  We started off with c.4000 House martin flying around the cliffs, sometimes right over our heads! Then continued to find 30+ Yellow wagtail, 30+ Wheatear, Redstart, Whinchat, and a basking female Adder!  Certainly a memorable day.
 I didn't do much more birding in September, except a couple of visits to the patch, where I found that the female Kingfisher had returned for the winter.


I finally found a Patch Gadwall on the 1st, two males and a female on the main lake.
 The 5th had me finding a Firecrest in my garden, and, on the 15th I headed to Wanstead Flats for Ring Ouzel (lifer), we managed to see two males.
 The next morning a Lapland Bunting (lifer) was reported on the Flats, so we were over there quickly, and managed some great views of this smashing local bird!
 An early start the next day, had us off to Richmond Park to photograph the Red Deer rut.  Although we didn't get the sunrise we were hoping for it was a good day of photography.
 I'd been debating upgrading my lens for a while now, and I decided that it was time.  And on the 22nd I became the owner of a Canon 400mm f5.6, a beautiful lens!
 The 24th held my first Yellow-browed Warbler, an active little bird at Regent's Park. And a fantastic visit - sorry twitch - to Beachy Head on the 27th was for the most stunning of Siberian migrants. A male Red-breasted Flycatcher.  And a showy one at that!


Things slowed down again in November, and it was really just a month of patch birding.  Still a great month though, with lots of great views of Kingfisher, Med Gull and Grey Wagtails. I got a lot of photography done, although the Wagtails and Med Gull seemed to like coming too close to the camera!


On the 8th (the day after my 15th birthday) I headed to Newhaven with Caleb, where we were lucky enough to find ourselves a Snow Bunting!  A winter plumaged (naturally) male, who showed supremely well for the four or so hours we photographed him. What a treat!
 Throughout December the Grey Wagtails continued to show wonderfully on the patch, at times I believe down to just four-and-a-half foot.  A great end to a great year....

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