Its the 22nd of January, but after a month of intense revision, exams, birding and birdtracking its time for some blog work! And do i have an excellent start to 2014 lined up.
But before that its time to reminisce. A previous post has detailed my 2013, one of a mix of contrasts but this post isn't going anywhere near that!
This is entirely about the wildlife!
And 2013 was certainly the best on record for me, with personal records been beaten, new areas visited, new people met, lifers and some mega's seen!
So, what first?
2013 will go down in personal records for a variety of reasons, it was the first year i managed to break the 200 year list barrier, with the year list standing at 207 in the dying moments of the year, well and truly smashing my previous 175! A little bit of car sharing with friends does wonders! It will also go down as the year that, on the days the 'midlanders' gatecrashed Norfolk that i managed to break 100 species in a day, when on a stunning summers day in mid May the crew of 4 managed 109 species, with my personal total being 108, sadly missing the last 'tick' of the day in the form of a Kingfisher! But did i care no! It was a stunning day!
It was in that last paragraph that i touched upon my next topic, the birders i shared the year with. Much thanks needs to be given to everyone who ferried me across the country in the last year in pursuit of our avian targets. Trust me, without you guys i would never have managed to see the amazing variety of birds that i did, including my first ever birding visits to such awesome birding locations as Norfolk, the Somerset Levels, Suffolk, Yorkshire, as well as the yearly visit to Pembrokeshire, or which i made the pilgrimage twice in 2013! So thanks to Neil D, Gert C, Andy P, Sean F, James G and Matthew B for the days out, i have seen some amazing birds thanks to you all. Leading on from that, it is much harder to mention the many people i have met this year, some great people whom i hope to become firm friends with in the coming years, and furthermore to that, catching up with a variety of people whom i have not seen in an age (Speaking from a teenage point of view obviously). So to each of you, a pleasure!
In the space of the year, i managed 17 lifers, which in taxanomic order were:
Egyptian Goose (Tart)
Green-Winged Teal (Respectably scarce)
Baikal Teal (Absolute MEGA!)
Common Eider (Tart)
Common Scoter (Tart)
Red-Necked Grebe (Uncommon enough not to be ashamed)
Spoonbill (My Bogey Bird)
Red-Footed Falcon (British life tick, awesome bird)
Stone Curlew (Uncommon enough to not be ashamed)
Purple Sandpiper (A tad common on the East coast, but really not that common anywhere near me)
Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (Decently rare)
Ivory Gull (Absolute MEGA- For how far south it was!)
Little Tern (A little bit tartish, but very uncommon inland)
Pacific Swift (Absolute MEGA!)
Bearded Tit (A hard bird to get locally)
Woodchat Shrike (Decently rare)
Two-Barred Crossbill ( A MEGA this far inland/west)
So there you go, my 17, a somewhat bewildering mix of Mega's, Scarcities and absolute Tarts.
From that list though it really is hard to pick the best, but with contemplation, it seems that the moment that i remember the most was that of the stunning male RED-FOOTED FALCON that appeared in front of us at Lakenheath after a good few hours searching. With half of the day gone, we took the decision for one last look at the viewpoint and within a few minutes we were being treated to stonking views of this stunning looking species as it sped around chasing flies/Dragonflies with a flock of 5 or so Hobby at times down to about 50ft. After that it must really go to those stunningly confiding birds, the female WOODCHAT SHRIKE near Chew Valley lake which at times was showing at around 20ft after unbelievably flying closer to us, a performance that was repeated by the juvenile IVORY GULL at Patrington Haven, which after teasing us for an age in freezing winds, proceeded to fly towards us, before hovering above us in the wind and dropping down at close range to feed on discarded fish.
The most surreal moment goes to that of the day of the PACIFIC SWIFT, a long time planned day out 'east' starting at Lakenheath brought the crazy news that said swift was found and then started to linger around Trimley Marshes in far east Suffolk, the priceless look on our faces when we received news combined with a very quick 3 mile walk to the car, an hours drive and a further 3 miles walk to the viewpoint once we arrived at Trimley made for an excellent chase, topped off by seeing this 7th for Britain, and only the 2nd 'twitchable' bird.
And just to end it all, i have managed to compile and condense a years worth of photos and videos into an 8 minute taster.