A (late) retrospective

Not too much to report really, at the weekend I further explored SK38C and H, my two tetrads that make up my self-imposed patch. I only managed one new addition for the year – a mistle thrush – but discovered a few new parts to have a poke around in the farmland east of Wharncliffe Chase. Although I’m not racking up the ticks at the moment, I’m makling mental notes where to keep my eyes and ears open once the Spring migrants starting arriving. I think I’ve found a few nice warbler traps – hopefully I’ll be proven right!

As, at the moment, these updates aren’t too exciting, and I’m currently in the University computer lab killing an hour before the SBSG indoor meeting (I’m rather geekily looking forward to Martin Garner’s Gull ID talk…), I thought I’d do a late retrospective of my highlights of 2010, giving the best birds for each month. I did yearlist last year, ending with 206 (I’m sure LGRE’s hardly shaking with fear!), and these are the best.

JANUARY – Bird of the Month – Bewick’s Swan

Bewick's Swans (record shot)

A trip to Norfolk last January turned up two lifers in the form of Mealy Redpoll and White-fronted Goose, plus some “proper” wild Barnacle Geese (my previous ones were a little iffy…), but the best lifer of the month was a little bit closer to home, with a bus out to a damp field in Manvers for a drizzly twitch to see two Bewick’s swans. Hardly a rare bird, but pretty scarce round these parts, and very nice to see.

FEBRUARY – Bird of the month – Great White Egret

Two days stand out in February, one spent mopping up bogey birds on the East Coast that included Slav grebe, Med gull and bean goose was particularly good, but in a similar vein to January, an epic journey on public transport to see a ring-necked duck at Pugney’s was probably even more satisfying.

After finally pinning down the long-staying ring-neck, which had managed to give me the slip during visits at the end of 2009, I noticed on BirdGuides a great white egret was at Bretton Lakes. Catching the next bus there I got cracking views of the rather stunning egret, proving you can just about be a dirty twitcher without a car after all…

MARCH – Bird of the month – American Wigeon

American Wigeon

As a 30th birthday treat my then girlfriend (and now wife) said she’d take me wherever I wanted birding, and I plumped for Martin Mere, a reserve I’d never visited before and always wanted to. As well as the wonderful sight of the reserve’s several hundred wintering whoopers, there was also a rather smart American wigeon there, which after a bit of searching showed very nicely.

APRIL – Bird of the month – Ring Ouzel

A heady mix of finishing a university course, and planning for an upcoming wedding, meant I didn’t get as much birding in as I would have liked in April, but a field trip to Burbage Valley proved to be an unexpected yearlisting saviour, with tree pipit, cuckoo and hobby all seen, and best of all a noisy pair of ring ouzels which gave the best views imaginable as we walked the paths past the crags.

MAY – Bird of the month – Trumpeter Finch

Trumpeter Finch

A self-found Trumpeter Finch! OK, I’m cheating a bit, because I was on honeymoon in Italy at the time, but they’re just as rare over there as they are here, and this was a nice post-wedding bonus. Why can’t I manage to find rarities of this calibre over here, eh?!

Back in Blighty there were some very nice runners up, with the Montagu’s harrier which was doing its tour of the Western Moors, and a scratty-looking but very interesting Iberian chiffchaff at Potteric. The ospreys at Rutland were nice too, but that’s cheating…

JUNE – Bird of the month – Crane


A crane shot...

No more explanation needed with this one – it’s a freakin’ crane!

Other runners up of the month included roseate tern at Coquet Island (which is almost as much of a cheat as the ospreys…) and some nice local long-eared owl chicks in one of Sheffield’s plantations.

JULY – Bird of the month – Grasshopper Warbler

July was a quiet one, and probably the most memorable birding encounter was a particularly frustrating hour I spent with a reeling grasshopper warbler, just a few feet away from me at White Lee Moor, which refused to show more than the briefest of glimpses (which I really couldn’t be sure wasn’t something else small, brown and drab if truth be told…). I will get a good look one this year, mark my words…

AUGUST – Bird of the month – Pectoral Sandpiper

A trip to Kilnsea right at the end of the month revealed a rather natty Pec Sand on the beach, which gave us a quick view, but a long enough one to make us sure of what it was. Sadly it also gave me my first experience of having a record rejected, but one did show up a few days later in Northcotes, five miles south… just saying!

(And yes, I promise this is the last time I’ll mention it…!).

SEPTEMBER – Bird of the month – Western Bonelli’s Warbler

This charmling little sprite of a bird is possibly the bird of the year. Arriving at The Dell at Bempton and finding a “funny Phyllosc”, Graham and Mat, some companions more clued-up in all things warbler, got on to it and filled in the blanks, IDing it in impressively short time. It turned out someone had found it first a short while earlier, but the news hadn’t got out yet and it was a self-find to us!

A very close second for September were the black redstarts found by Dave Simmonite in Langsett, proving you don’t have to bomb around the coast to find good birds in autumn.

OCTOBER – Bird of the month – Rustic Bunting

An SBSG field trip in truly horrific weather still turned out to be a fun day out, and the birding highlight was undoubtedly a rustic bunting at Flamborough, although rain-sodden optics didn’t exactly enhance the viewing experience… another birding first of the day was experiencing a well-known twitcher chasing after a wryneck, with no luck, during a torrential downpour at Filey Brigg.

Other month highlights were a brief glimpse of an American golden plover at Great Heck, and a cracking Slav grebe on Doncaster Lakeside, which this time wasn’t a tiny scoped dot in the sea.

NOVEMBER – Bird of the month – Great Grey Shrike

I moved house at the end of October, and started exploring the new patch whenever I had free time. I’d got >200, my half-arsed yearlisting aim, so wasn’t chasing ticks. However a trip up to Wharncliffe Chase paid dividends with an unexpected great grey shrike popping in and perching in a tree, before promptly buggering off again! After a good few dips in October, if I was the superstitious type I’d think that was the birding gods telling me I didn’t need to travel around so much, and not to forget to check my own doorstep every now and again…

DECEMBER – Bird of the month – Waxwing


These weren’t lifers, or even my first of the year, but for a week or so in December the area around work became the epicentre of Sheffield’s waxwing population, meaning lunch-hours were spent hunting them down, listening for the trill everywhere I went and getting some half-decent photos of the little berry-gobblers.

Elsewhere bramblings showed up in the village, feeding among the local chaffinch flock, proving again you don’t have to travel far to see good birds.

So that was, with many, many omissions, 2010. 2011 will be a quieter year, focusing on the local area as I’ve already said, but I’m sure I’ll still have a good few birding adventures to share…


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My name is Pete

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