Thursday 31 December 2009

Review of the Year...It's Long....Very Long!

Seeing as I haven't had much to talk about on here recently I thought I'd put on a little review of my year. The trouble is it can't really be little, because what a year I've had! 51 lifers and that's just the birds! I've also seen 12 new butterfly species, three new mammals, hundreds of new moths and a lot of orchids too.

The 51 birds were: Snowy Owl, Waxwing, Penduline Tit, Great White Egret, Rough-legged Buzzard, Pink-footed Goose, Bean Goose, Lapland Bunting, Common Crane, Hawfinch, Bittern, Tree Sparrow,Corn Bunting, Bewick's Swan, Red-crested Pochard, Smew, Great Grey Shrike, White -throated Sparrow, Ferruginous Duck, Woodchat Shrike, Dotterel, Montague's Harrier, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, Chough, Little Bittern, Black Duck, Fan-tailed Warbler, Ruddy Shelduck, Glossy Ibis, Baird's Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Spotted Crake, Citrine Wagtail, Brown Shrike, Ring-necked Parakeet, Richard's Pipit, Radde's Warbler, Little Bunting, Rose-coloured Starling, Common Rosefinch, Ruddy Duck, Greenish Warbler, Scaup, Red-breasted Goose, Spotted Sandpiper, Serin, Black-necked Grebe, and Caspian Gull.

Only THREE of these lifers were on patch, but that doesn't mean I've spent all my time twitching because a good number of these birds were seen by visiting good birding spots like Norfolk. A mere 24 of them involved twitching. Honest! ;-)  If I were pressed to pick out a favourite it would have to be the White-throated Sparrow, closely followed by Penduline Tit, Golden Oriole and all four Shrike species. I could probably change that list a hundred times though, suffice it to say that the year's been absolutely great, totally brilliant, with so many highlights I'll outline a few month on month.

But first, the low points. I shouldn't complain, but three hideous dips really do stand out this year. Firstly my second dipped Ortolan Bunting on Beer Head, just awful. Then there was the Bartinny Down, Great Spotted Cuckoo incident where I actually watched Nick and Bun watching it but dipped it myself!! It was almost the worst point of the year, but for the fact that I could actually find it in my heart to be happy for those who did see it.

They were gutted for me really ;-)

Even worse than that was the unspeakably horrible Black-throated Thrush. 'Nuff said ;-(

The highlights:


Lots of highlights in this month including;

The Zennor Snowy Owl, 
and my first ever self driven twitch, there were to be a couple more.

A long staying Spoonbill on the estuary provided much entertainment while trying to swallow a large flatfish.

Second twitch of the year was to see this little chap.
" Best bird ever!" I enthused.

Nine new birds were seen on my first birding trip to Norfolk, including a close encounter with a flock of what until a week or so previously had been my most wanted bird ever.

Wow Waxwing!

Many, many great birds were seen, but another couple that stood out were these.

Adult male Snow Bunting, not even a lifer but I love 'em!

Magnificent Cranes.

Another memorable experience was the breathtaking spectacle of tens of thousands of  Pink-footed Geese that flew directly overhead after being flushed from the fields where they'd been feeding. Remember this?


A couple of highlights included

Stunning Drake Smew at Cotswold Water Park.

Oooh!... Chris Packham! =D


March was my month of Crossbills, I got superb views of these on several successive visits to Trinity Hill Woods, definitely one of my 'on patch' highlights this year.


Another two successful twitches in April including the 'best bird of the year' (probably), the White-throated Sparrow. An absolutely gorgeous little chap with a really endearing little song. It's a shame I couldn't have gotten a decent photo of him.

What a guy!

The other bird of the month was this superb female Woodchat Shrike in a Plymouth cemetery.

A beautiful and entertaining bird which I could have watched all day long.


May was dominated by another holiday in Norfolk where the highlights included the exotic sounding Golden Orioles, they looked even better than they sounded, if that's possible?  Mine and Bun's first ever 'booming' Bitterns and crippling views of a male Montague's Harrier. I also saw my first ever Choughs on the Lizard Peninsula this month and a visit to Martin Down in Hampshire to look for Burnt-tip Orchid provided me with another memorable highlight, purring Turtle Doves, they appeared to be really abundant here with one calling from almost every thicket. I even managed a distant photo.

Turtle Dove- The Perfect Bird!


A traditionally quiet month bird wise had one major highlight this year, the Little Bittern on the Somerset Levels. A stunning bird with a really wacky call, Wooorruuff! Well worth the five and a half hour vigil.


Again a quiet month bird wise but a nice highlight was the Fan-tailed Warbler, Bun and I traveled over The Channel to Guernsey to see. Yes, yes, I can't count it on my British list I know. Still a lifer though. ;-)


The highlight this month was actually on patch! It was a Wryneck on Beer Head. This was only the second one I'd ever seen and the first I'd managed to photograph.


The big highlight of September was the appearance of six Glossy Ibis on patch, they lingered for most of the day allowing many people to enjoy them, some from as far away as Somerset!

Off patch a Spotted Crake at Greylake in Somerset was incredibly confiding showing down to  a couple of feet at times.


I also, along with Gav and Bun had my first taste of seawatching from Pendeen in Cornwall. What an eyeopener!! I'd only ever watched from Seaton before and this was as different an experience as anything could have been. Birds were close, really close and coming so thick and fast that it literally made my head spin. You just don't know where to look. I'll definitely be going back, especially as I haven't seen Cory's or Great Shearwater yet.
Also on this day we stopped by at Marazion to twitch the Baird's Sandpiper, another lifer for Bun and me.

Baird's Sandpiper.


October was dominated by our visit to The Scillies, where I had five lifers all told. It was a pretty quiet year by all accounts but non the less I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, birds or no birds. Best bird of the trip wasn't a lifer though it was the ultra-confiding Lapland Bunting on Tresco, truly unforgettable stuff!

I also got to see the Brown Shrike at Staines Moor.


Without a shadow of a doubt my November highlight was having my first ever views of a wild OTTER! Not once but twice and I've the photos to prove it!

Yes! At last! =D

A good month for birds too, the best on patch being the three Little Gulls which were viewable from the Axe Yacht Club for several days. I spent ages ( and got wet) trying to get a decent photo of them. Happily my determination was rewarded when I got this lucky shot.

Off patch highlights were Leach's Petrel at Severn Beach, Spotted Sanpiper (and dare I say Red-breasted Goose) in Devon, Scaup in Dorset and Serin at Rainham Marshes, Greater London.


Highlights of this month have been  Bearded Tits at Radipole Lake and my third lifer on patch this year, Caspian Gull. Which you can see and read about just below this post (there doesn't seem much point repeating them here really).

Almost forgot to mention our Iceland Gulls, throughout early 2009 at least four, (probably more)
of these lovely gulls delighted ( and vexed) the local birders. What a year!

Just to add a nice summery feel to the post I'm going to put on a few of my favourite new butterflies of 2009. Roll on Spring.

Finally two of my favourite photos of 2009, one which I haven't shown you before.

This is one of my most memorable moments of 2009. It's really difficult to see a Brown Hairstreak as a rule so to have this beautiful female actually land on my hand was amazing, I felt so privileged.

This last picture I couldn't put on my blog at the time I'd taken it because it features one of the Red-backed Shrikes which were on Dartmoor this spring. They were hushed up, well sort of, but they have long gone now and I'm not mentioning the actual site anyway.

It was so funny watching this photographer with his massive lens standing just a few feet away from a perched Red-backed Shrike, looking the wrong way! The bird was constantly calling too. It had flown off before we could get down there to tell him. Oh well, you win some you lose some!


Wilma said...

You did have a great 2009, Karen. I really enjoyed following your blog and am looking forward to the next year of your blog posts. Wishing you a happy and healthy new year.


Anonymous said...

You did indeed have a cracking year, Karen. Well done on all your lifers. It`ll be a hard one to follow, but nevertheless have a good un.

Gavin Haig said...

Great review, Karen! I'd forgotten how much you travelled around in 2009. LOADS of wallowing! ;o)

Karen Woolley said...

Wilma- Thankyou for all your kind comments on my blog over the last few months. I'm glad you've enjoyed it and hope you continue to do so. A very happy new year to you too :-)

Dean - Thanks. It certainly shouldn't be bettered, but you never know!! A very happy new year to you, and I hope your patch brings you a well deserved goody :-)

Gav - Ta very much! I've started this year's wallowing already!