January 2014

26th. Only a first-winter Mediterranean gull on Herriot's Pool, though the roost on the main reservoir was the biggest I've seen it in ages.

Chew rainbow

25th. Slimbridge - some good birds including a Greenland white-fronted goose, dark-bellied brent goose, 2 little stint, 4 avocets, 3 ruff, and thousands of golden plover and lapwing.

Dumbles birds

long-tailed tits

23rd. Blackcap calling in the garden.

19th. The January bat round up at Nailsworth.

Box mine

lesser horseshoe batlesser horseshoe bat

17th. I saw two red kites betwen Didcot and Reading from the London train.

12th. Nunnery Point Hide at Chew for the evening gull watch. Rich Andrews found an adult ring-billed gull and Andy Davis 2 adult Mediterranean gulls. There was also a largish gull with a very large white tertial crescent and very small black tips to the primaries.

11th. Brean Down cove - a couple of stonechats and a fleeting view of a black redstart. I then found the male black redstart on the rocks in front of the caravan park. Two ravens flew over.

black redstart

black redstart

5th. A quick high-tide visit to Portishead produced 7 purple sandpipers, ca. 50 turnstones, a rock pipit, a greylag goose and at least 2 Egyptian geese. I then walked in the rain along the Strawberry Line from Sandford to Cheddar Reservoir with some friends. I saw a pair of red-crested pochards close in at the Axbridge end of Cheddar Reservoir and a grey wagtail. A raven flew over Sandford.

4th. A relaxed tour of the local reservoirs - long-tailed duck and 170 cormorants at Barrow Tanks, black-necked grebe at Blagdon, and the 2 pink-footed geese, 2 red-breasted mergansers, green and common sandpiper, kingfisher, stonechat and an adult Mediterranean gull at Chew.

3rd - Chew Valley Lake -I collected my annual permit and saw 2 red-breasted mergansers, 2 pink-footed geese, a female greater scaup, ruddy duck, 4 green sandpipers, a male kingfisher, and a dark-looking chiffchaff.

Chew rainbow

2nd - a walk over the fields to the Old Barn at Wraxall - 4 little egrets in a flooded field -the most I've seen here.

I didn't see a treecreeper in 2013. Or other expected birds such as spotted redshank, short-eared owl, black tern, lesser whitethroat, redstart and cuckoo. Those who know me appreciate that 2013 was the worst year of my life. I lost my wife of 25 years in April, tragically, and my younger daughter had spells of serious illness with frequent isolation in hospital. Immediately after our summer holiday in St Ives I was booked to attend a conference in Costa Rica, with a trip to a volcano and the cloud forest. Another hospitalisation event saw me minding at the RCH in Truro and Costa Rica was cancelled. At the end of the year things were looking up - my daughter's health has been stabilised, she is currently better than she has been in ages (thanks NHS!) and December was a tremendous month of birding.

I aim to see at least 200 UK birds in a year, and have done this since 2003. It's a good total to aim for as it presents a challenge without making me too obsessive. By November I had given up, but spurred on by my daughters I saw 20 new birds for the year in December and hit the 200 with a little stint at Slimbridge on the penultimate day of the year. And what a month December was, with 3 new birds for me - desert wheatear, two-barred crossbill and Brunnich's guillemot. I also had a magical day in Brixham with my elder daughter and saw 4 species of diver in a day, including the photogenic white-billed diver, and had great views of the Bonaparte's gull at Dawlish Warren in good company. The other new bird for me in 2013 (at least in the UK) was the Ham Wall pied-billed grebe. Best find was a green-winged teal at Slimbridge, and Chew Valley Lake continued to deliver good birds with woodchat, whiskered tern (on the same day), osprey, and a black-throated diver. Other good memories came from the Severn Beach snow bunting, a great day on Skomer and sea watching from St Ives seeing 4 shearwater species over the holiday.

All best wishes for 2014!

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