Sunday, 9 January 2011

Looking Back & Looking Forward

Looking Back
In true Gnome style I'm only now starting to think about a retrospective on the year when everyone else has done theirs and is busy notching up new ticks for 2011. I've been looking through the blog entries for the last year: even if no one else reads this blog I always enjoy looking back on what I've done and find that reading the entry brings back the excitment (or disappointment) of the occasion quite vividly. After having done the county year list in 2009, I wasn't going to make any special listing efforts for 2010 and instead enjoyed a rather laid back birding year. In fact I even stopped posting my list totals on the blog part way through the year. My priority was to add to my rather meagre life list total so when I did venture out of the county it was usually to tick off a convenient long-staying and nearby rarity. I think that birders (ignoring RSPB'ers and garden bird watchers) end up settling somewhere on a line between hardcore twitcher (prepared to travel any distance for a new tick) and dedicated patch worker (who never travels anywhere). I'm very much at the patchworker end of the scale though this last year saw me doing quite a few twitches that were within reasonable striking distance. I've more or less settled on a rule of thumb that I'm prepared to travel for a couple of hours for something, preferably something long-staying so that it's a reasonably sure-thing. This way one minimises the possibility of dipping.

In February and again in March I went to Norfolk (my first time birding there actually) where I managed to see some of the local specialities

Norfolk rough-legged buzzard, seen on a very successful trip with Badger...
Shore larks were another bird I managed to catch up with in Norfolk

In April we went on another family holiday down to Cornwall which was to prove rather momentous in that we ended up buying a house down there. This has given me the chance to do a lot more birding down there which has been really great.

Woodchat shrike was the highlight of the April family holiday in Cornwall

In May I embarked on a flurry of twitching trips, starting with the Clayhanger Marsh hoopoe, followed by the Frampton pratincole and the Ilkeston great reed warbler.

Clayhanger Marsh hoopoe

Ilkeston Great Reed Warbler

In June I went to Wales to do the welsh warbler double: the Marmora's warbler and the Iberian chiffchaff
Unfortunately the Marmora's warbler is rather obscured for this photo...

I also went to Berry Fen for the drake blue-winged teal.

From July onwards I started going down to Cornwall to work on the house. Some trips were more successful bird-wise than others but there was always something to see down there

According to a recent Cornish bird report there were a total of 34 different wrynecks in the county last autumn!

This dotterel was very obliging at Davidstow airfield...

...and this melodius warbler was part of a fantastic double coming a couple of minutes after I joint self-found a greenish warbler...

...another Cornish rarity in the form of the Heligan green heron...

...and a very photogenic snow bunting at Sandy Cove, Newlyn.

Apart from Cornwall there was the Dowdeswell Wilson's phalarope which conveniently appeared just up the road near Cheltenham...

...and a circuitous route to Cornwall enabled me to stop off at Lodmoor for the long-billed dowitcher

Locally, it was a great year for my patch at Port Meadow but as I have written up a review of the Port Meadow year here I won't go into detail. I also managed to add a total of ten county life ticks during the year but once again space excludes much detail here.

The best county bird for me by far must of course be the juvenile lesser yellowlegs that I found on my patch.

The lesser yellowlegs has to get my personal bird of the year award

Looking forward
So in terms of looking forward, what is my strategy for 2011? Well so far I've not ventured out of the county birding and I've not even gone birding anywhere else within the county apart from the patch. It may well be a case of concentrating on Port Meadow, Cornwall (getting my Cornish list up to a slightly more respectable number) and the odd strategic twitch for high percentage nearby rarities but perhaps over time that will change. All I can say is that I hope that I enjoy it as much as I did birding in 2010.

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