So it's that time again when one looks back at the last birding year, a chance to reflect on what I saw, what I missed etc. The first thing that struck me as I looked back at the entries for the last year is how much I enjoy reading my blog! I'm not boasting about the (frankly dubious) quality of my scribblings, what I mean is that it's a great way for me to reminisce and reading back over past entries brings back to me all the highs and lows of my past birding year. It's also a way for me to see just how I've progressed - I'm still very new to all this having started in the autumn of 2007 and my beginner's enthusiasm is now (I hope) starting to be tempered with a bit more experience and perhaps occasionally some actual ID skill. Personally I very much treat my blog as my own birding diary which a few other people just happen to read as well
My birding tends to follow a pretty regular pattern these days: on a daily basis I'm down on Port Meadow checking out the patch. I'll also nip out locally within the county for good birds, particularly if they're county ticks for me. About once a month on average I'll go for a full-on twitch somewhere and in addition a few times a year I'll go to Cornwall. There have been some good birds in each of these four categories over the last year.
Starting with the Patch, it was a rather strange year with all the rain ensuring that the floods were there all year round (always an important factor for attracting good birds) but somehow that extra special bird just seemed to elude us. Normally we'll get things like a Temminck's Stint or a Spoonbill in May but it It wasn't until November in fact that it finally came up trumps when I found an American Golden Plover. After that it seemed to pick up with four different Caspian Gulls and an Iceland Gull and we ended the year with 134 ticks for the Patch, which is a good year.
The Port Meadow Bird of the Year - American Golden Plover (c) Badger
One of the four different Caspian Gulls on the patch this autumn
The county had a pretty good year with a real purple patch in the spring. January saw some unseasonal birds in the form of a Temminck's Stint and a Grey Phalarope. It all kicked off in the spring with a Black-winged Stilt, a Dotterel, a Pied Flycatcher and four White Storks all appearing in the county. May added another cracking county bird in the form of a Red-rumped Swallow - a bird that I was very pleased to catch up with as they can be so hard to twitch. June added a heard-only Corncrake embedded deep in the fields of Otmoor. After that the county went rather quiet until the last couple of months when the American Golden Plover turned up and then in December the gorgeous drake Falcated Duck at Farmoor.
My personal county Bird of the Year - the Farmoor Red-rumped Swallow (c) Nic Hallam
The Farmoor Falcated Duck
As far as my out of county twitches have been concerned, looking back on the list I managed to see quite a few nice birds this year. In January there was the Hampshire double of the Spanish Sparrow and the Dark-eyed Junco. February saw the fabulous Common Yellowthroat in a very unlikely location in a field in Wales. In May I went to see the Blagdon Lake Squacco Heron and the gorgeous Cream-coloured Courser in Herefordshire. September was a good month with my trip to Norfolk for the Booted and the Barred Warblers, the Rainham Baillon's Crake and the Lodmoor Short-billed Dowitcher. In November I went to the Pits of Desolation in Staffordshire for the White-rumped Sandpiper and December hosted the dash to Queen Mother's Reservoir for the wonderful Buff-bellied Pipit.
The Stunning Common Yellowthroat (c) Richard Stonier
The Blagdon Lake Squacco Heron
Despite several trips to Cornwall, only two of them produced noteworthy birds. In spring there was my trip in May where I found a Night Heron in Kenidjack, as well as seeing a Hoopoe at Brew Pool and the female Blue-winged Teal at Walamsey Sanctuary. In October I had the first of what I hope will be many autumn trips to Cornwall in future for some full-on family-free birding where I was rewarded with the wonderful Paddyfield Warbler and the Olive-backed Pipit on my doorstep.
The Paddyfield Warbler
The Olive-backed Pipit (c) B. Rankine
The only other point of note from reading through the blog was the increasing interest in insects. There were quite a few butterfly trips (such as seeing my first Black Hairstreak) as well as my first tentative steps into the murky world of moths and even a dragonfly hunting trip. I'm sure that I will continue to look at these wonderful creatures in the year ahead.
A Frosted Orange - this year I took my first tentative steps into the murky world of moths
So, do I have any conclusions to draw from this past year or any predictions for the year ahead? Not really, it's been a good year and I hope that next year is more of the same. In terms of my bird of the year it has to be the wonderful Cream-coloured Courser - what a stunner that was!
The Cream-coloured Courser - my Bird of the Year 2012