Friday, 11 January 2013

The BIG ONE- 2012

Wow, another year has been and gone, and yet another beast of a post to churn out. So sit down, grab a tea, coffee, or drink of your preference (Before you continue reading i may add) and have a browse through my birding year. At the end of the post, i had summarized by photos and videos into one montage, so once you've had a nice read, don't forget to have a watch too.

My first bird of the year was hearing the gorgeous sound of a singing Robin at 4:35am.
The year list took a huge boost on 2nd, with the annual start to the year list and Slimbridge. An impressive count of species was again highlighted by the returning female LESSER SCAUP, now in its 2nd winter plumage. A somewhat bizarre flock of 123 Magpie dropped into roost at Sheepwash Urban park, with also a flock of Great-black backed Gulls and 12 Goosanders there.
It didn't take long for me to encounter my first lifer of the year, a superb TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE at Chelmarsh reservoir, courtesy of the Shenstone birder, the proud finder of the bird. A winter visit to Eyemore Wood produced the hoped for Crossbills, as we quickly found 9 birds. A Yellow legged Gull was briefly present in the pre roost, before flying north to Chelmarsh. With the month now drawing to a close, what more fitting way to celebrate the winter than with a superb 2nd winter ICELAND GULL at Bartley, always a personal favorite of mine!

With the success of the previous visit, we again wondered over to Bartley for the roost, and was rewarded with a great count of TWO ICELAND GULLS, both 2nd winters, and both picked out by myself, which i always enjoy. I even enjoyed them together in the same scope view, and have a video of them both together! Also, the spectacle of 20,000 Gulls crammed onto a lake is worth the mention!
The garden feeders continued to produce little, so therefore it was a huge surprise when on 4th, a female Linnet joined the garden list, as it dropped onto a feeder briefly! A great patch surprise came the day after, as i flushed a WOODCOCK in one of the woods. My only bird of the year! The patch continued its run, when another first was produced, with a drake Shelduck, which was sleeping on a snow covered field adjacent to the river! It nay not sound like much, but it is an insane patch rarity!
My 2nd lifer of the year was a much expected one, and one of my 'tarts', when a GREY PLOVER was present at Grimley. Coincidently, a pair of Red-Crested Pochard were present aswell that day, so we quickly mopped up those two species.
Following this, one of my personal favorites of the year was when a FIRECREST was found a Penn Common, a few miles from my Dudley home. Probably my 2nd favorite species following Waxwing, so it was with great excitement when on 15th we twitched the male that was present, and which gave decent, although not particularly satisfying views. Being tick hungry, we then crossed to RSPB Sandwell, to have a look at the female SMEW, which shown decently for the very short time we were able to watch it as the hide closed soon after we arrived. A stunning drake Pintail was also present, and we got the 'toughy' of Willow Tit, a species that is now classed as extinct in my native Worcestershire! Back to Chelmarsh to be treated to further viewing with the TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE, despite having not been reported for almost 3/4 of a month! My love affair with FIRECREST again led me to visit Penn common, and we were treated to absolutely STUNNING views of  the male bird only a couple of meters away from us after it followed a flock of Long-tailed tits. Despite this, the bird was only on view for 15 minutes  before duly disappearing! Again, not totally satisfied, despite the amazing views!
So then i decided to go back again, covering almost 7 miles that day walking to get there, however the rewards were great, as i finally got myself a decent record shot of the FIRECREST. By this i also came to the impression (and one that i still follow) that this was a 2nd bird. I had been watching the usual male with bright orange crest earlier, but after a decent gap, i found another bird, which had a yellow crest, indicating a female. My first 'Twitch without bins' while out with my Girlfriend had us seeing my first Little Egret of the year.

Marsh saw the early return of the Avocet, with 4 birds present at Upton. I joined the work party the next day, which revealed a Harvest mouse, which Tim skillfully caught, allowing us all a great view, before releasing it back into the vegetation. Oysercatcher was a patch first on 9th, when one flew over calling at 7:50 pm. One of my rarest birds of the year followed the day after, when a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER was found in Worcester city. Still one of the crazyist things all year a YBW, in the center of the country, in march, in a small line of trees over a cycle patch, wedged between a housing estate and a main road! That's why we love birding. Its so unpredictable! It is also crazy to think that this was my first Warbler of the year! However, it was quickly followed by a female Blackcap in the same area. The patch again produced a first, when my dad found a BARNACLE GOOSE, which thankfully remained in the area until early April, often giving amazing views! A self found SHORT-EARED OWL at Earlswood was one of my better finds of, what was a rather poor year for this species in the area, as few birds made it to the 'southern' midland counties! My first WHEATEAR was a bird at Penn common, which was found while having a look again for the Firecrest (Which was not present).

 The harbinger of spring, the Swallow, was first seen on the early date of April first (No fooling there!). A day out on Cannock Chase coincided with a superb adult COMMON CRANE being found at nearby Radford Meadows, and luckily, it was still present the morning after, to a very appreciative crowd! To add to the excitement/ Frustration, a pair of GARGANEY were playing hide and seek in the channel, however, they eventually emerged, giving great views. It was just a shame my previous camera had broken recently or i could have gotten some decent images! We completed our walk on the chase, which was rather enjoyable, getting great views of a pair of Stonechat. To end the day, we stopped at Chasewater, where 6 RED DEER was prancing of the middle of a drained reservoir  We decided to head into the Wyre, and our though was rewarded with 2 Tree Pipit, which shown well, singing almost constantly. Ternfest 2012 followed, when an evening visit to Earlswood Lakes produced 1 ARCTIC TERN and 27 Common Tern, cheer to Matt G for that one! The same evening saw us at Upton Warren, watching a 2nd year MEDITERANEAN GULL.

Upton Warren again produced a Gull highlight, when i twitched a 1st winter LITTLE GULL in almost darkness after returning from a trip to London. The LITTLE GULL was again present the next day, but the highlight goes to the BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL that was present among 2 YELLOW WAGTAIL. Although only being a sub-species, it is a smart looking bird! My first Cuckoo of the year followed, as did the return of the Mandarins on the Patch. Mid month at Upton warren was quite productive, when 6 Dunlin were present, oh and that stunning beauty of a 1st winter LITTLE GULL was still there, showing amazingly from the hide! Another trip into the Wyre produced a Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Redstart, 2 Cuckoo, 3 Wood Warbler, Dippers and Tree Pipits. Not a bad visit at all! I was tipped off about the presence of Pied Flycatcher at another site, and we were treated to stunning views of 3 Birds (2 male). Sheepwash produced a Hobby, along with 2 male Green Hairstreak butterflys! I happened to chance upon a singing male Pied Flycatcher in another location, which was a nice suprise, and we had decent views of a Little Owl. Now followed one of my best birding moments of the year, when i happened to change upon a breeding pair of LESSER-SPOTTED WOODPECKER, which i was able to watch carefully throughout its nesting period. Eventually, the pair raised 3 young, which had fledged by the time i returned from my Wales holiday (See june). This alone is one of my fondest memories of the year. The patch was also nice, as i had 3 Hobby hawking over one of the woods for an entire evening. The next day, the first Club-tailed Dragonfly of the year emerged! Later that day, we shot over to Upton Warren, as a stunning adult male RUFF had been found. A gorgeous looking bird. Also present was 2 Black-tailed Godwit and the Little Gull.

The Club-tailed dragonfly emergence peaked on 1st, when a superb number of 19 were found, along with 80c Banded Demoiselle, 20+ Beautiful Demoiselle and 3+ Large Red Damselfly. The yearly holiday to Wales followed, and we saw 31 Red Kite on the way as we drove through Brecon Beacons. Despite being horrendously sick, i still managed to do a full days birding, starting with Strumble Head, where we saw a good range of seabirds. Manx Sherwater, Kittiwake, Gannet, Fulmar and Shag. Highlight on this front though was when 3 Puffin flew past offshore. On land, 2 Stonechat, and 2 Rock Pipit was the extent of the exitement. Dropping into nearby Goodwick Harbor  we had a Red Kite, A Mediterranean Gull and 15 Oystercatcher. Onward an upwards, moving onto twitch a long staying flock of GLOSSY IBIS. 3 Birds were present, giving decent views from the famous 'five bar gate', from here, the short journey to 'The Gann' was very productive, as we found 2 BAR-TAILED GODWIT, 6 Whimbrel, 2 Ringed Plover, a Dunlin, and 48+ OYC. At this point we ended the day, and a very enjoyable day it was! The weather started to turn bad, however one sunny day allowed us to have a walk along Stackpole Head. The usual array of Seabirds were here, but the highlight was by far the 6 PUFFIN that we found sitting on the water. A nice range of passerines were on the cliff top, Skylarks, Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits and Wheatear. a nice flock of Chough were showing well on the cliff face. And that was it, only two days birding in the Wales holiday! 27+ Red Kite were picked out on the way back to Worcestershire, with a nice 'flock' hanging over Llandovery.
Later that evening, i was itching to get back on the patch, and it was rewarded greatly when i picked out a stunning dog OTTER! However, within a couple of minutes  it had gone, and wasn't seen again by me. My first wild Otter! Upton Warren had a summer plumaged Sanderling on 16th, which shown fairly well! Insects appeared on the agenda at Sheepwash, and we found a Black-tailed Skimmer. On 23rd, the first returning Green Sandpipers were watched at Upton, as 3 birds were present. A Hobby was seen over the patch, and a drake Mandarin was showing on the Basins in town. Major flooding was devastating for the breeding birds at Upton Warren on 29th, however, the floods had also displaced a large number of MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, and as we turned up in the evening, we had a flock of 9 birds, consisting of 4 adults, 3 2nd summers and 2 1st summers, which was a new record for Worcester, and also for the wider WMBC region!

The Med Gull flock still continued to frequent Upton for a couple of weeks after, and on our next visit on 7th, we had 5 birds in the roost, a couple of which shown very well! It was back to Sheepwash, again, we had Black-tailed Skimmers, this time 3, and 2 Brown Hawker, among many Damselflies. A visit to Shenstone on 20th was rewarded with the male Whinchat still being present, which was a stunning looking bird! A rather quiet month ended on 21st with a visit to Upton Warren, where 8 Green Sandpipers were the highlight amongst a small range of migrant waders.

August started with a bang, when a GREAT-WHITE EGRET was found at Grimley, and on 4th, we drove across to have a look at it, and we were treated to very good views from the north end of the Camp lane pits. A Dunlin was at Upton Warren the same evening, as well as 17 Green Sandpipers and 2 Common Sandpipers. Birding was lacking untill the middle of the month, when again, a twitch to Bittel had us watching a juvenile BLACK TERN, which refused to fly anywhere near us. A few days later, a trip out to Upton Warren with 'The Girlfriend' and her Sister was very productive, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 juvenile Med Gulls were on the flashes, as was 10 Green Sandpipers and 3 Common Sandpipers. One of the Med's had been rung in the nest in Hungary only a month previously! We dropped into Shenstone again after a failed attempt to find spotted flycatcher. 2 juvenile Whinchat were still showing in the paddocks, and abit further along the road, 2 female/Immature Redstart were showing well in a hawthorn hedge line  A visit to Slimbridge WWT was again part of annual tradition. It coencided with a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER being found, and soon after arriving we were treated to views of this superb little yank among the Godwit flock. A healthy list of Garganey, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshanks, Whimbrel and 7 Ruff were eclipsed when i finally got one of my biggest tarts ticks. MARSH HARRIER!. We went back to Grimley from another look at the GREAT-WHITE EGRET, which was again showing on Camp Pits, with 3 Little Egret. 2 Black-tailed Godwit were flushed by a dog walker and a Peregrine. A 1st summer Hobby was perched up in the woodland adjacent to the pool. A very unexpected lingering OSPREY surprised us when it stayed for a few hours the same evening, after 3 hours, we had enough, and drove over there, to be greeted with the stunning sight of an adult OSPREY perched up roosting in the education reserve! A Black Tern briefly circled the Sailing Pool before flying off. A Patch Mega in the form of a Redstart was found the very next morning.

September started with an eclipse drake Pintail showing at Upton Warren. News also came out of a BLACK-NECKED GREBE at Fens Pools on a day when i was in 6th form. Once my lessons had finished, off i went on a twitch. It didn't take very long to locate, and showed amazingly well in some vegetation  The next day, i visited with the Gornal Birder, but there was no sign, however, a Hobby was showing in replacement. A couple of days after, we were amazed to see the continued presence of the OSPREY at Upton Warren, which was perched up on posts in the middle of the flashes. The Pintail was still around, and a Dunlin was new in. A week later and we were able to see the OSPREY for a third time as it had now been present for 18 days, again showing on posts in the flashes. The Pintail was still present, 11 Green Sandpiper was a slight improvement on the total. Late month the birding dropped, but the patch produced a fly over Golden Plover, as well as 150+ Meadow Pipit. I was tipped off about a Spotted Flycatcher nearby, and a visit later in the morning produced good views of the bird. They have proved very difficult to locate this summer locally, and this was my only sighting of one all summer, perhaps indicating a dire outlook for local birds? My first signs of winter, a Fieldfare, flew south over the patch on 30th.

Again, the birding continued to be fairly slow, with little of note, but a visit to Upton Warren on two consecutive nights produced the GREATER SCAUP on both. A large number of Goldcrests that equaled 30 was noteworthy on the patch. A large proportion of my time was spent vismigging for Pipits and the like, producing daily counts of Meadow Pipit, Skylark etc. 2 Golden Plover were decked at Earlswood, which were my first grounded birds of the autumn.

November started with a bang on 7th, when a 6th form trip to the lake district struck gold when i found a flock of 17 WAXWINGS in Keswick town center  Always a pleasure to see, and it sure did pick me up out of the recent birding doldrums. Returning back to Worcestershire, a LONG-TAILED DUCK at Bittel was seen, although very distantly. This constituted my final lifer of the year. Following this, a visit to Upton Warren produced a Jack Snipe, a drake Pintail and the recently found Cetti's Warbler. Having bought some new bins we headed to Grimley, where a Little Egret was showing. (A nice late bird). A walk in Wirehill Woods was rewarded with a fly over Crossbill, a welcomed addition for me and my girlfriend braving the cold. The Goosander flock at Sheepwash had built to 16 birds. A later evening visit to Upton Warren had us finding a female Brambling, as well as getting the Cetti's Warbler again. A quiet patch visit was livened with the text regarding some local WAXWINGS. We quickly headed over there and had great views of a flock of 8 birds in the garden center car park with Mark- The Doorstep Birder. We then crossed county border to head to Chelmarsh, where we were rewarded with a wintering BLACK-NECKED GREBE and a Yellow Legged Gull in the roost. I had a WAXWING fly over my Upper Gornal garden late on in the month, constituting a Garden tick.

December will go down as the month of the Waxwings for me. On 8th, while out on the patch, a flock of 32 flew over my head, constituting only my 2nd ever patch record! 4 days on, and a flock of 9 fly over my head in Lower Gornal. As these were fly overs, i had failed to get any photos, however that was changed on 15th when we visited Hartlebury Trading Estate, where we saw the flock of 14 Waxwing, again, courtesy of The Shenstone Birder. A big birding day out in Worcs on 23rd was rewarded by another patch Waxwing, 64 Corn Buntings, Merlin and Yellowhammers. This day was truly topped off, when a dusk watch of Upton Warren rewarded us with views of the BITTERN. Always a great bird to see, and one which had disappeared for the county as a wintering bird last winter. On boxing day, we headed into the Wyre, where 2 HAWFINCH were showing, just making it onto the year list, and the last decent bird of the year was a female Brambling on the patch on 28th.

OK, So you've had enough reading now?

The have a watch of this, a summary of my pictures and videos from the last year:

2012 will be remembered by many as being a very bad year for birdwatchers. The absolutely shite weather over the summer just about screwed up practically every breeding bird on the British list, from waterbirds who's nests were flooded out, to Passerines who couldn't find sufficient food to feed their chicks. This has had a disastrous effect, and the last few years of extreme summer weather has put a significant pressure on local populations of birds. All we cane hope for is that the coming year would have more stable weather over the summer to allow them to have a decent breeding season!
Birders have also complained (particularly regarding the autumn) that it was dire for any migrant birds, and to an extent i do agree, migration did not get going in the Midlands at all. This made it very hard going for us land locked Midlanders, however there was a few gems here and there to keep us going.
Personally, 2012 will be remembered for me as the year of summer floods, resulting in catastrophic losses of a wide range of species nests. We can only sit and wait now to see what the effect will be on the breeding tally for birds next year, however, reports already emerged show a very dire picture indeed.

So there you go people, my entire birding year, i hope you enjoyed reading this mammoth post, and all i can do is wish every reader of this blog a great and bird filled new year. Again, thanks for all your support this year, and sticking with it through inactive times, it has been a struggle the latter half of this year, so to know that i still have a nice audience really does mean alot. Thankyou for all your comments, they really do give me the motivation to continue. Hope you have a good 2013!

All the best
Midlands Birder


Rob Stokes said...

Hi MB , i always enjoy your yearly bird review and even though the weather was bad you still managed to see some great birds , i really liked the slide show too , all the best of birding for 2013 . Cheers Rob.

midlands birder said...

Thankyou Rob, its always great to hear somebody has enjoyed a post, even more so considering the amount of time that goes into a post like this.
ATB to you too, and happy birding in 2013