Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 Birding Highlights

In this post I will be going through the many birding highlights I have had this year. Of all the years I have done birding this is my best ever year in terms of seeing unusual birds such as Siberian Accentor, Dusky Thrush and Great Knot.

January (1 lifer)
I started the year off with a very nice walk round Scarborough Harbour on the 3rd, this produced my best ever views of Red Throated Diver along with good views of 2 Black Necked Grebe and a small flock of Purple Sandpipers. On the 17th I saw a Caspian Gull in Rufforth. On the 23rd came my first lifer of the year which was a Glaucous Gull in Hartlepool Marina, it showed really well within a few feet. Also that day I had nice views of 3 Shorelark, 40+ Twite, Great Northern Diver and Red Breasted Mergansers.

Glaucous Gull
February (2 Lifers)
My first lifer of February came on the 7th with good but brief views of a stunning PENDULINE TIT at Saltholme RSPB. On the 17th came my second lifer of the month which was a Red Necked Grebe at Nosterfield along with 7 White Fronted Geese in some nearby fields. On the 18th I saw 3 Smew at Fairburn which included my first ever drake!
Red Necked Grebe
March (0 lifers)
March was a fairly quiet month but towards the end on the 27-28th March I had a nice visit to Spurn which resulted in incredible views of 2 Firecrest! Plus over the two days we also saw Woodcock, a Pale Bellied Brent Goose, a Black Brant and a few Chiffchaffs.


 April (0 lifers)
This month was spent visiting one of my local reserves nearly every weekend, Wheldrake Ings. The highlights included Green Winged Teal, Smew, Whooper Swans, Scaup, Barn Owl, 40+ Whimbrel, Water Rails, Pintail and Black Tailed Godwits.

Whooper Swans

Green Winged Teal
May (4 Lifers)
By far one of my best months of the year. It started with a drake Garganey at Wheldrake on the 2nd. On the 8th I had my first 2 lifers of the month, one of which was my most wanted birds, the Bluethroat which appeared at Filey. On the 8th I saw another lifer which was a flock of 13 Black Terns at Wheldrake and I also saw 2 Ring Ouzels on the Yorkshire Moors. On the 14th I got good views of one of my favourite lifers of the year, 2 WHISKERED TERNS! These were whizzing around the main lake at Saltholme. Along with the Terns I heard a GREAT REED WARBLER and saw 4 Spoonbill. The same day we took a visit to Hartlepool and Danby Beacon where a Bluethroat and 10 Dotterel put on a good show. On the 15th I took a trip to Holy Island were I managed to see and get great views of one of my favourite warblers, the SUBALPINE WARBLER. It frequented a few small bushes in the area and usually was always on show. We also saw 2 more Bluethroat (My 4th in a week!) and a Peregrine.
Whiskered Terns


Subalpine Warbler
June (4 Lifers)
Throughout the end of May and the Start of June I had a holiday to Scotland of where we had our first 4 days on the Isle of Mull, the highlight from here was incredible views of Corncrake on Iona! Along with this we had 4 Golden Eagles, 5 Hen Harriers, Black Guillemots, Whinchats and Cuckoos. After Mull we spent a week or so in the Highlands, my highlight here was my best ever views of Black Throated Diver as well as another Golden Eagle, Wood Warbler, Ospreys, Tree Pipits, Spotted Flycatchers and my only lifer of the trip was very nice views of an Icterine Warbler in Laggan. During the month a GREAT KNOT had appeared in Titchwell, Norfolk and thankfully I convinced my Dad to take me. We stayed in the area for two days and on the 24th we had brilliant views of the GREAT KNOT on Holme beach, my first mega of the year! On our second day (25th) we birded the areas around Titchwell. Firstly we visited RSPB Titchwell as we wanted to see Red Crested Pochard and after a little while of searching we had good views of a few of them along with a Little Gull. After, we visited Kelling Heath where we had nice views of my 3rd lifer of the trip, the Dartford Warbler.


Black Throated Diver

Icterine Warbler

Great Knot
July (0 lifers)
This was fairly quiet month with hardly anything seen.
August (2 lifers)
The month started off amazingly as I was invited down to Minsmere, Suffolk on the 2nd to see the WESTERN SWAMPHEN! It was a nervous trip down but as soon as we arrived the bird put on a really good show, my first ever first for UK! As well as this we saw Stone Curlew, Dartford Warbler and Spotted Redshank. Just a few days later on the 6th I had a nice trip down to RSPB Frampton Marsh for the first time where I saw my second lifer of the month which was a cracking WHITE RUMPED SANDPIPER from the 360 hide. It showed well for about 10mins before flying off. On the 14th I went to Spurn to see the opening of the Birds of Spurn book (which is brilliant!) and managed to see some nice birds which included Wood Sandpiper, Whinchat and Garganey. On the 19-20th of August I had my first visit to Rutland Birdfair which I really enjoyed. Around Rutland I saw 3 Great White Egrets, Wood Sandpipers, Garganey, Red Crested Pochard and Osprey.
Western Swampen

White Rumped Sandpiper
September (1 lifer)
The 10-11th was the Spurn Migration Festival! I have attended every year and its always been brilliant. This year was particially good as there was lots of other young birders about. There was many highlights but the best for me was the mass of Meadow Pipit migration and good views of my first Kentish Plover! Other highlights included Curlew Sandpipers, Redstart, Wood Sandpiper, Pied/Spotted Flycatcher, Black Tern, Arctic Skua and Great Skua. I really cant wait to attend next year!

Wood Sandpiper

Kentish Plover
October (6 lifers!)
My best month of the year with so many highlights and surprises, its an autumn I will never ever forget. It started on the 1-2nd were I spent a couple of days at Spurn in their new Obs building. The first day was fairly quiet but I was happy with decent views of a Little Stint. The second was much more exciting as there was a bird in just about every bush and later in the day a good arival of Yellow Browed Warblers appeared where some showed incredibly well which put a very nice end to the trip.
Yellow Browed Warbler
On the 8th I took a trip to Flamborough and Bempton with good friends Darragh Hudson, Elliot Montieth, Harry Witts and Will Scott. We spent a couple of hours searching for our first lifer, a DUSKY WARBLER, after a while the bird finally called and gave brief views! At Thornwick we had brillaint views of a Pallas Warbler along with a few Yellow Browed Warblers. We then moved onto Bempton were we had good views of an ARCTIC WARBLER and a very nice Bluethroat. On the 9th with Darragh and Elliot we took a trip to Spurn where we had amazing views of an OLIVE BACKED PIPIT, which was my 2nd lifer of October. It showed within a couple of feet! As well as this we saw another Pallas Warbler, my third lifer and my bogey bird, Little Bunting! a Black Redstart and a Redstart.
Olive Backed Pipit

Pallas Warbler
On the 13th came one of my most memorbale days in Birding, seeing Britians 2nd SIBERIAN ACCENTOR in Easington! The after school rush to Easington was tense but exciting and once we finally arrived I sprinted to the spot and thankfully layed my eyes upon this magnificent bird! It was extra special as this was indeed my 300th bird!

Siberian Accentor
The following weekend (15-16th) was spent entirely birding around the Spurn area where I managed to see the amazing SIBERIAN ACCENTOR once again. As well as this little beauty there was lots else on show which included 2 RADDES WARBLERS, 2 DUSKY WARBLER including one in the hand, 2 Shorelark, Pallas Warbler, Ring Ouzels, Mealy Redpoll, Lapland Bunting, 4 Bearded Tits and 17 Bean Geese!

Dusky Warbler

Bean Goose
The weekend after on the 22nd was also spent at Spurn. Although the Accentor had departed there was still plenty about which included my 5th lifer of the month, the ISABELLINE WHEATEAR! It showed really well plus just on the other side of the path a SIBERIAN STONECHAT had taken up residence! The Sibe Chat was one of my first ever twitches so I was very pleased to get good views of another. As well as these I saw my first Waxwing of the winter and had my best ever views of Snow Bunting.

Isabelline Wheatear

Siberian Stonechat


Snow Bunting
On the 26-28th I spent a few days at Spurn where I had my best ever views of Rough Legged Buzzard which was a very nice surprise. I also saw a Waxwing, Northern Bullfinch, a Merlin and a Marsh Harrier. On the 29th I had a trip locally to Stensall Common where I saw a cracking Great Grey Shrike. It was a fantastic end to the month where on the 30th I took a trip to Cleveland. We went to Redcar to see the PIED WHEATEAR which is one of my highlights of the year! It showed really well and afterwards we went to Skiningrove where I had brilliant views of the EASTERN BLACK REDSTART.
Pied Wheatear

Eastern Black Redstart
November (1 lifer)
In this month I went on one of my longest twitches ever all the way to Scotland to see the HOODED MERGANSER which had appeared in Ayrshire. It didn't take long to find this bird but the problem was that it was quite distant. It was still a great bird to see and I hope it gets accepted by the BBRC. I also saw about 5+ Goosander and a few Goldeneye. On the way back to York we also stopped to see a flock of 40 or so Waxwings in Brampton, Cumbria.
December (3 lifers)
On the 11th came my 5th mega and one of my favourite birds of the year. Me, Elliot Montieth and Harry Witts took a trip to a small village in Derbyshire called Beeley as a DUSKY THRUSH had appeared in the Orchard feeding alongside Blackbirds and Redwings! Thankfully the bird was still on show during the morning and more or less as soon as we arrvied we had a nice fly by of the DUSKY THRUSH! Although only breif I was very pleased to have seen it. We had to wait a good 2hrs before the Dusky appeared once again, it was feeding in a tree at the back of the orchard and this time it gave great, clear views! After about 5-10mins the Dusky flew out of the Orchard and over the trees to presumably feed in the fields at the back. All of us were very pleased with the views and this put a great end to the year! On the 22nd I finally had trip to Welwick saltmarsh to hopefully try and spot the PALLID HARRIER which had been present for a while. Just a little while after arrving this great bird did a very nice fly by. As well as this we had brilliant views of a Short Eared Owl and we saw 40+ Waxwings in Hull. As the year was coming to a close I had one final trip out on the last day of the year. A BLUE ROCK THRUSH had appeared in a village in Gloster. There is some debate on this birds origin but we took the risk and drove the 3hr journey. After a good wait we finally achieved good views which put a truly brilliant end to such a great year!

Dusky Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
In the past I have had some amazing years birding but 2016 has been completely full of so many surprises so it has to go down as my best ever year! My year list has finished on 231 which is my highest count ever in birding which I am pretty pleased with. I set out in 2016 to achieve a UK life list of 300 birds and thankfully I smashed the target and got to 305! My target for next year will be around the 320 area but I'm just hoping that next year is just as enjoyable as 2016. As well as all the birds, some of spots they have appeared in have been amazing. For example watching the Great Knot on Holme beach as the sun was going down is something that will always stay with me. Considering its been such a brilliant year I've gone through and picked my top 10 favourite birds of the year.

There is plenty more which I could have included such as close views of Dusky Warbler, Western Swamphen and Blue Rock Thrush but these are the 10 I enjoyed watching most. I would also like to say a massive thanks to all the people who i've met over the year as they have made the year even more enjoyable. Thanks very much for reading and hope everyone has a brilliant 2017!! I also want to say a massive thanks to my Dad who has had to put up with the pain of driving me to these places.