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A review, year by year, of ticks, dips, trips, things I would like to have seen and anything else of note.
A slight improvement on 2009 with 3 lifers:
Franklins Gull - Chasewater, Staffs - 20th July : one of the commoner rarities I still needed and a welcome addition to the list. A great early evening twitch, under 2 hours from home. Bird came on pager for the first time that day as I pulled in to the car park and only one other person on site, but he was watching the bird!!
Alder Flycatcher - Blakeney Point, Norfolk - 26th September (BOU pending) : having not been able to go for the Cornish bird in 2008, I never thought I'd get the chance to get this one back, so was delighted with this one. News broke of an Empidonax flycatcher (Alder or Willow) in Norfolk, just as we arrived at my Daughter's swimming lesson in Hull, on the Saturday afternoon with not much chance of getting there before dark. With no definite decision on the identity of the bird, I decided to wait on early morning news before travelling down. News was on the pager just after 8am the next morning and I was in the car within minutes. Two and a half hours later and I was in the beach car park at Cley ready for the gruelling 3.5 mile walk out to the plantation. Having lived in Norfolk, I've done this trek several times but never in these conditions, gale force winds and driving rain. I arrived at the point just over an hour later, soaked through to the skin and exahusted, but amazingly the bird was showing well on and off - AWESOME!!! The walk back was a slightly more relaxed affair but was the quickened by the news of a Bonelli's Warbler sp. at Wells. If it was an Eastern it would be a lifer, either species and it was a Norfolk tick, I tried not to worry about it until I at least got a bit closer to the car. As it turned out, there was little more news, at least until the next day anyway, but then it was id'd as Western. I didn't mind too much, I was too exhausted to care and just had to drive home to a very understanding Liz and Amy - thanks again.
Northern Harrier - Thornham, Norfolk - 27th December (BOU pending) : This always had the possibility of turning up, especially with birders increased awareness since the long staying bird on the Scillies in 1982/83. When news broke of one in Ireland in October, I accepted it was going to be just another one that I wouldn't be going for. But then news broke of another individual along the North Norfolk coast and I knew I could be in with a chance if it was pinned down. It turned out to be a wide ranging individual but eventually seemed to favour the Titchwell/Thornham area, now if I could only get down there. Things were a bit hectic at work preparing for the hoped for Christmas rush and we were also in the middle of trying to move house. To make matters even worse, we had the worst snow falls in recent memory and I was ill in bed with flu for a week!! I just had to hope it would stick until we visited the family for Christmas. It did and we called in on the way back to Yorkshire on the 27th. Of course, I'd forgotten my bins but luckily it was flying alongside the car park as we pulled up and others on site kindly let me have a look through their bins - cheers guys!
Dip-wise, well it was a pretty decent year, with none, but then I didn't twitch much, mainly because there wasn't much I needed that was accessible.
The first MEGA of the year I needed was another fly-over Calandra Lark in April, this time at Skegness,Lincs. Next up was the Brown headed Cowbird in Co. Durham, but this was only id'd from photos afterwards. Having not twitched the one on Fair Isle in 2009 and vowing to never return after the BIG DIP in 2005 (that's a story for another day though!!), this one will have to wait for another time. Then came the House Finch, I had intended on going and being there for first light on the second day when it was at Land's End. After reading lots about it on the internet, the first day, I changed my mind. Personally it was something I have regretted since. It turned up in the right area of the country just as several White throated Sparrows were also being seen, presumed to have also jumped off a ship, but that's not a problem for me, we'll just have to see what the rarities committees have to say.
June brought the amazing news of a Little Shearwater present in the Manx Shearwater colony on Lundy, Devon, possibly for it's second year. Despite claims of it actually being seen at night, it wasn't a trip I'd be making anytime soon. Then came a Pallas's Reed Bunting on a vessel in the middle of the north sea, later being picked up dead. Highlight of the year for me would have been the Bridled Tern (see image) in Northumberland, this has become my most wanted bird having dipped the long-stayer at Cemlyn, Anglesey, on it's last day. I also dipped the widely twitched bird at Rutland, Leics, in June 1984 as part of a double-dip weekend with the Collared Fly in Margate, Kent! Sadly this latest bird dissappeared before anyone had a chance to connect with it.
July brought fly-by Fea's in both Cornwall and Pembrokeshire, a bird that I am never expecting to see as I hate sea watching and decided to miss the only Scillonian pelagic where they had one.
Dropped another clanger in August, Sykes's Warbler in Northumberland, I decided to wait for news on the 3rd day, but of course it never came. Back in 2002, whilst living in Yorkshire, I kindly phoned my Dad in Norfolk to tell him he had better check his pager when one was showing less than 5 miles from his house!!! There'll be another, and I'm sure I won't see that one either!!
October had 2 more Sykes's, 2 Hermit Thrushes in the Western Isles, as well as Hornemann's Redpolls on Shetland and a dead Rufous-tailed Robin on Orkney, there was also a twitchable American Bittern in Cornwall. Another bird id'd after it had gone was the Common Nighthawk in Co.Durham on the 11th.
Last MEGA of the year was the Thayer's Gull at Pitsea Landfill in Essex but again there was no general access.
Apart from the MEGA's listed above, other birds that occurred which I'd like to have seen were the various Northern Eiders in the Northern Isles, several Greenland Redpolls and the fly-by Yelkouan Shearwater in the South-west.
Another quiet year for me, new bird wise, with just 2 additions to the Life list:
Crested Lark - Dungeness, Kent - 3rd May : I always get far more satisfaction from a bird like this than a first for Britain or even the Western Palearctic. Strange I know and although I'm never going to catch up with the "Big Listers" or even keep up with these big spending "professional birders". This is a bird that I had a chance to see when there was one in Suffolk back in the Nineties but work prevented that one, so this was a good grip back. As soon as news broke on the evening of 29th April, I made plans to try to get this one back. In the end I had to wait until the 3rd May but ended up driving south to meet up with my Dad and Mick at a service station on the M11 and then continued onto Dungeness. The bird was always fairly elusive but in the end we managed decent views.
American Black Tern - Farmoor Resv,Oxon - 31st Aug : Again another grip back, following my refusal to go for the popular bird at Weston-super-mare Sewage works. Being August bank holiday, the 180 mile journey took slightly longer than usual and as Liz was working, Amy had the chance of getting another one up on Grandad. Arriving on site late morning, Amy was strapped into her pushchair for the "brisk" walk around the reservoir wall to the assembled crowd. The bird was seen almost straightaway, accompanied by the White winged Black and Black Terns, surely a unique combination anywhere in the world. Amy was getting hungry so a celebratory McD's was the order of the day before the less hurried journey home.
What didn't I see? Well, where do I begin, there was quite a few decent birds.
The first dip of the year happened very early on in Jan with an unsuccessful atempt to get the Glaucous winged Gull in Cleveland. It was seen well on quite a few days after I went and missed it but I was in intensive care with Amy in Liverpool at the time so obviously it took a back seat.
February had another gull that I needed, but being in Devon and "putative" at best, this American Herring Gull could stay there. With this species now firmly on the radar for gull lovers, it's only a matter of time before one is picked out at an inland gull roost. The drake Wood Duck on Shetland certainly wasn't going to tempt me, I couldn't really see the difference to the one I had at Brough a few years back.
May was a decent month with a one day Eastern Bonelli's Warbler at Portland and the Brown headed Cowbird on Fair Isle.
June had a far way Moltoni's Subalpine Warbler on Shetland, a future split?, and a difficult to catch up with Royal Tern in North Wales. Really would have loved to go for the Tern but it's unpredictability put me off, I guess that's why I'll never be a big lister!
July could have been so much better had the brief Blue cheeked Bee-eater in Kent stuck around for one more day. One of my most wanted birds, I was on a school trip to Germany when the twitchable bird was in East Yorkshire during July 1989 and I made my Dad promise he wouldn't go for it and he didn't, thanks again Dad! We'd arranged to be on site first thing on what would have been it's second day, but it turned out to be just a four hour bird, so we're still waiting.
Sea watching season had the usual Little Shearwaters and Fea's Petrels, none of which I was ever likely to see.
One of the contenders for bird of the year had to be the Tufted Puffin seen briefly and photographed in Kent in September. Having just arrived in Leeds General Infirmary for Amy's open heart surgery, a trip for this was obviously never even considered, fortunately it turned out to be a 20 minute bird for those lucky seven birders on The Swale. Other MEGAS turning up while we were in Leeds were the Sandhill Crane in Orkney and the Blackburnian Warbler on St Kilda, an island I have dreamt of visiting at some stage of my life, even more so after seeing Monty Halls Great Escape on ITV and his 2 day trip to St Kilda from The Hebrides. I keep trying to get the family interseted but Liz has never been keen on boats!
October had Veery on Shetland and then the BIG ONE, Eastern crowned Warbler. I was looking at the pager as news broke but couldn't go starightaway. The first oppurtunity I got to go, I went and so did the bird!!! How gutted was I? I'm sure there'll be another, but will it be as close as this one was, I suppose there is always a chance of one at Flamborough or Filey, here's hoping!!
Other birds that would have been good to see were the Azorean Yellow legged Gull, Taverners Canada Goose, Kumlien's Gull, Greenland Redpolls, a flyover Eleonora's Falcon and a possible Baltic Gull.