Saturday, December 28, 2013

Was That a Year?

Now’s the time when many birding bloggers stuffed with turkey, bloated by booze or besieged with once-a -year visitors make excuses as to why there’s a lack of posts on their blog. I’m no exception to the general festive rule so my excuse is the identical to the above. Added to that we are now in the middle of yet more gales with both power cuts and 70 mph winds last night, so no prospect of birding just yet.

In pure self-indulgence I’m posting some personal highlights pictures of 2013 in a month by month sequence. It’s mostly the birds which stirred the senses with odd shots of the places where memories are made. 

January is time to escape from the grey, cold skies of a UK winter and grab some welcome sunshine, if only for a few weeks. We were stunned by the long, wide, sandy expanse of the beaches of Fuerteventura, some several miles long and just begging to be walked. When tired of the walking I sat on some quiet rocks near the shore and took pictures of a Whimbrel, a shy wader species I had longed to photograph. 

Fuerteventura

Whimbrel

February continued where I left off in the early part of the year in ringing birds out on the frozen mossland. Brambling winters don’t happen too often, 2012 and 2013 being the first for several years and a winter when I caught 66 of the striking finches. One bore a Norwegian ring, another one later captured in Norway. 

Brambling

March, and as the ice lingered on there were still Bramblings to be seen along with a good number of common Reed Buntings. Bird ringing is not about catching rare or scarce birds. Catching and ringing birds is about monitoring the populations of common birds, an important and vital job in these worrying days of wholesale declines. Many a trainee ringer has fallen by the wayside when realising that rare birds appear in mist nets on equally rare days and that the humdrum of catching common birds is mostly unexciting hard graft. Imagine my surprise on 15th March to find a Little Bunting in the net, an agreeable but unimportant addition to the winter catch of 72 Reed Buntings. 

Little Bunting

April is Wheatear Time. The migrant chats appear along the coast on their way to the uplands of the UK or Scandinavia. A few are destined for Iceland or even distant Greenland. The birds are hungry following their journey from further south and can rarely resist a mealworm, so I send them on their way north bearing a ring which tells others that they arrived there via the UK. 

Wheatear

May usually involves Menorca. The island draws us back with its rugged and gentle landscape, quiet roads, friendly locals and spring sunshine. Birds are hard to find but rewarding when you do, unimpeded by crowds of target birders running here, there and everywhere. The Hoopoes use the same nest site and feeding locations every year. Creatures of habit also use the same café for a spot of lunch. 

Hoopoe

Menorcan lunch

June and it’s time to find and ring some wader chicks. The task is to find them in the literal sense but also find them before they disappear as a species from our diminishing wetlands and intensified farms. Redshanks aren’t the easiest to come across, in fact they are damned difficult to locate, sprint like Usain Bolt and have protective parents that shame many a human. The first I ringed for a good few years. 

Redshank chick

July is a time when birds and birders go quiet. There nothing much to do except feed the kids and stay around the house, least of all travel very far to discover new things when migration time is far away. Skylarks aren’t the easiest of nests to find but I daren’t go near this one as the size of those grubs says the chicks are big and possibly out of the nest. Skylark chicks often leave the nest long before they can fly, an evolutionary adaptation which increases their chance of survival. 

Skylark

August often sits on the fence between summer and autumn not knowing which way to jump. The cold, late spring of 2013 made late broods last into August and wader chicks about to fly. My personal favourite picture of 2013 just happens to be my favourite species the Lapwing. With luck the spikiy young Lapwing below will live 15/20 years. Let’s hope there are places for it to live 20 years from now. 

Lapwing

September produced an unexpected holiday in Greece when our daughter Joanne married on the island of Skiathos. Two weeks of unbroken sunshine with a few birds thrown in. A battered old Suzuki Jimny served as a passable hide to photograph the normally unapproachable Woodchat Shrike and a superb vehicle to reach Kastro where we enjoyed numerous Eleanor’s Falcons. So many reasons to return in 2014 to the tranquil haven of Hotel Ostria owned by the delightful Mathinou family.

Skiathos, Greece

Makis and aubergines at Hotel Ostria

Woodchat Shrike

October was quiet with subdued migration on our west facing coast. Red-breasted Mergansers eluded me for years, shy birds unwilling to have a portrait taken until after a couple of days of rough weather I came across a young bird at Pilling. I got my picture on a grey, cloudy day but wonder what happened to the bird and if there will be another chance to photograph a merganser so close. 

Red-breasted Merganser

November turned up a few Snow Buntings, scarce in recent years. So infrequent have they become in recent years that any discovered immediately become target birds for those less inclined to actually find any birds for themselves. I had a Snow Bunting to myself for a while at Pilling and spent time lying spread-eagled on the tideline to take a few portraits as the bird fed unconcerned at my presence. 

Snow Bunting

December 2013 is ending as it began in a raging storm and more to come. In between the birding was hard slog with not much to show for time spent in the field. I searched my archives for December to find the best picture of a month’s efforts, a mediocre shot of an above average bird. Things can only get better in 2014. 

Curlew

I wish followers, friends and occassional visitors to Another Bird Blog a Happy New Year. May all your birding days be filled with discovery and joy.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog , Camera Critters and Anni's Blog.

22 comments:

Wally Jones said...

Phil,

Thank you for a spectacular review of your year. I enjoyed it vicariously as you blogged it, and relished it again like a fine wine just now.

It's been a supreme pleasure to envision your birding activities based on your wordsmithing. I look forward with eager anticipation to the coming year's adventures.

Happy New Year to you and your family!

All The Best,

Wally

Stewart M said...

So, did you have a good year or not?!!!

Great set of pictures.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

PS: seems a certain team have decided that they will actually play now the series is lost!!

Carole M. said...


not nice to have those battering winds; night times they seem more complexing. Shame about the lack of birds, you an understand them wanting to go into safer havens. Great shot of the Whimbrel! And the Hoopoe; well I'm totally blown away when I see them; they're kind of comical looking (sorry Hoopoe). I mean that in the nicest way. Menorcan lunch looks decadent, and maybe a little bit sinful. Assuming that's a sweet dusting of icing sugar on the top? Liking Woodchat Shrike too...so many lovely birds, waders...well done Phil, on an off-birding day you did great!

The happy wanderer. said...

It doesn't seem to have been a perfect year!

Re the Wheatear, we saw a chick in Svalbard in July, and were lucky enough to see a fledgling. Our Norwegian naturalist was excited as he thought this was probably the first breeding recorded there!

I hope it's a better birding year for you in 2014, and that the weather settles down.

Margaret Adamson said...

Hi Phil. What a wonderful post. Loved reading and seeing your best shots month by month. I had never seen a redshank chick, it is so sweet. Happy birding for 2014 .

eileeninmd said...

Phil, what an awesome review..Your photos are gorgeous and I loved seeing these beautiful birds. Happy New Year to you and your family..Happy Birding!

David Gascoigne said...

Wonderful year in review. As always a great part of the enjoyment in reading your blog is the finesse you have with language. I admire your writing style.

Rajesh said...

Very lovely birds.

Gunilla Bäck said...

Happy New Year to you and your family and happy birding, Phil!

TexWisGirl said...

marvelous birds - just love the brambling and buntings.

EG CameraGirl said...

I enjoyed your review. You saw so many birds that are quite different from those seen in my part of the world.

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

A good review that included many birds I'm not familiar with.

Anni said...

After reading about your year and all the goings-on and place you've been and things you done and seen, I just wonder what 2014 will be like for you and your loved ones. [including the feathered friends]

Phil, you lead a very interesting life. More power to you.

Oh, and happy new year!!

Carol L McKenna said...

Wonderful year in review of the 'critters' ~ All great shots ~ Happy New Year ~ carol, xxx

KK said...

It is great to see your bird watching pictures. I for one cannot seem to be able to differentiate between so many bird species.

Hope to see you have another great year next year.

David said...

Happy New Year Phil and here's hoping for one as good as the last!

mick said...

Great photos of the birds and so many there that I would love to see. I like the way you can count the months in the year by the birds you saw. Wishing you all the best for the new year.

Fun60 said...

As one storm seems to lead into yet another, I took great joy in reliving your year. Happy New Year to you and your family. Let's hope the weather settles soon.

Cynthia said...

Wow, that was a great year of birding! I love the hoopoe with his fetching hat. Wishing you a Happy New Year,

Pia said...

You did a good job with your photos Phil. My favourite is the Hoopoe. Or maybe the Menorcan lunch....

Happy New Year to you!

Ed Rosack said...

What a fantastic year you've had - thank you for sharing with us!

Lou Mary said...

Lots of lovely photos Phil! The hoopoe is my favourite though - such impressive birds!

Wishing you a belated happy new year!!

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