30th December 2012 – Review of my birding year – 2012

Bloody hell I’ve just noticed that this is my first post in over a month, December must’ve been really crap, either that or I just couldn’t be arsed, or more likely a combination of the two.

Anyway I’ve thrown together the ‘best bits’ from my birding year, but don’t worry it won’t take long, because 2012 wasn’t one of my best – in fact during August I remember thinking that 2012 was going to be my worst year ever, but a decentish autumn just about saved the day.

It was a year of frustration for me because Cumbria actually had lots of good birds (Black-winged Stilt, Laughing Gull and Glossy Ibis hurt the most) – but virtually all the good stuff was in the far south of the county and/or not available to birders with jobs. There was nothing else for it, I did the only thing I could do – I sulked and decided to pack in ‘county listing’! Pressure off I concentrated even harder on my patch. But this didn’t help because the rarities stayed away, and trips out of the county were few and far between due to work and family commitments. My British list rose by  just 3 species during the year, they were Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and a very long overdue Arctic Warbler, although each of these birds was an absolute pleasure to watch. Things finally picked up for me on the patch in the autumn when I found some American Golden Plovers, a species that up until then had managed to avoid my ‘finds list’.

The first few months of the year were completely dominated by geese, as unprecedented numbers of scarcer species joined the masses of Pinks and Barnacles around the Solway. Apart from hundreds of European Whitefronts and smaller numbers of Greenland Whitefronts and Tundra Bean Geese, the prize finds were this blue morph Snow Goose…

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….which was shortly followed by this superb Red-breasted Goose…..

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….an overwintering Ross’s Goose…

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….and a Todd’s Canada Goose…

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During February other good local birds were a confiding Glaucous Gull which spent some time on the River Eden, and the Great White Egret continued its stay at Campfield…

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It was later in this month that I made the long trip down to South Wales to twitch the 1st winter male Common Yellowthroat, my first tick of the year, and what a beauty it was too!

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As the year progressed I spent much of my free time hidden in a bush watching my Kingfishers, trying to get a photo I was happy with. This was the best of the bunch…

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The annual skua passage through the Solway was poor again, the north and east winds that dominated this period meant that there were very few ‘skua days’. In June we had a few days on the beautiful Isle of Mull, the weather was kind to us with flat calm seas and wall to wall sunshine, and despite being a ‘family’ holiday I managed to catch up with a few of the specialities of the area….

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The wader season got under way in summer but just like last year patch birding was very frustrating, with very little of note being found despite regular checks. In fact it wasn’t until mid September that things finally began to get interesting; a Leach’s Petrel well up the Solway in Port Carlisle Harbour was a  bit of a surprise, and this was quickly followed by a smart adult American Golden Plover at the same site….

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The discovery of another new AGP towards the end of September (below)….

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….was unbelievably followed by frustratingly brief views of a juvenile, and then yet another new bird was discovered in late October – making it 4 different birds in 2 months! Astonishing considering we’d only ever had 3 in Cumbria before these!

The northeast coast became the focus of attention during the second half of September, with me and Col heading east in the hope of maybe finding our own stuff. We weren’t disappointed as our speculative trip rewarded us with the discovery of a Red-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler and a Snow Bunting. Ok not rarities as such but for west coast birders this was the stuff of dreams! If only I lived on the east coast…

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With conditions favourable and an Arctic Warbler being found on Holy Island we stayed on the east coast for the following day. The target bird was soon in the bag and later in the day gave some absolutely stonking close views, and was also heard calling too…. so it seems only right that this little beauty takes the prestigious ‘Bird of the Year’ award….

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And thankfully I was within ‘frantic waving’ distance when Col found another beauty – this stunning Wryneck was just a few hundred yards away from the Arctic Warbler…

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In fact these 2 days were the highlight of the year for me, huge numbers of migrants everywhere, with fields, walls and bushes literally packed with thrushes, chats and warblers – it was awesome! The kind of birding we just don’t get to experience in the Northwest. Bah.

Meanwhile back on the Solway the number of Barnacle Geese began to rise during October and two county firsts were discovered, firstly a Richardson’s Canada Goose….

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….which was amazingly followed by a Todd’s Canada Goose two days later!!

Also in October the combination of a long-staying Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, a Radde’s Warbler and a Red-breasted Flycatcher all at the same location on the lovely Fife coast had us heading northeast again…

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The tail end of the year brought excellent numbers of Waxwings to the area, but the year ended as it began with attention turned towards geese again, with a Red-breasted Goose being found amongst the thousands of Barnacles….

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So that was 2012. Not as many posts as I’d like, but hey that’s life! Cheers to everyone that read my ramblings during the last 12 months – I hope you all have some great birding and wildlife experiences in 2013!… Cheers.

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3 Responses to 30th December 2012 – Review of my birding year – 2012

  1. Neil scott says:

    A fantastic review of the year, well done mate

  2. Very nice Darren. Have a great 2013.

  3. Carl Baggott says:

    Not bad at all – here’s to a great 2013.

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