Tuesday 19 December 2017

The Best of 2017

One of a flock of 120 feeding on berries on a large housing estate in
Sheffield South Yorkshire. Memorable also for the scary residents on
the housing estate or maybe we just caught them on a bad day.
                                          4th January 2017

Cattle Egret
What a pleasant surprise when three were found on a pig farm at Middleton
Stoney in Oxfordshire.They are still rare in Oxfordshire but are now slowly 
infiltrating southern England. Long may it continue.
                                              9th January 2017

Male Rose coloured Starling
Spent the entire winter in a tiny back garden at Crawley in Sussex, moulting
from juvenile to adult plumage in the process and eventually started singing.
                                         11th January 2017

Male Eastern Black Redstart
A very rare and confiding bird that spent its winter by the seaside at
Skinningrove, Cleveland on the northeast coast of England when it 
should have been in much warmer southern climes. It became a firm
favourite of the locals.
                                          15th January 2017

Juvenile Pacific Diver
The North American version of our Black throated Diver and very rare
here.It decided to spend some time on a lake in Northumberland before 
flying back to the sea.
                                        22nd January 2017

Juvenile Glaucous Gull
One of two hanging around North Shields Fish Quay just down the road from
the Pacific Diver. I lured it in with a large bag of chips. Hang the expense!
                                              22nd January 2017

Juvenile White billed Diver
An extremely elusive bird that we chased along the bank of the River Witham in
Linconshire on a very cold and foggy morning. We caught up with it at Bardney.
They have the nickname 'Banana Bill.'  I wonder why!
                                             25th January 2017

Water Rail
An arch skulker that after a two hour wait crept out of its marshy home for
all of five minutes on Pinkhill Reserve at Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire
                                               30th January 2017

Female Hawfinch
I go every year to see these shy finches at the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire
I just cannot get enough of them especially when they come this close. Easily my
favourite British finch. This autumn has seen a phenomenal invasion of them from
Europe probably due to a failure of their food resource in mainland Europe.
                                               9th February 2017

Goosander-male and female
I found these two quietly fishing in the heart of Oxford at the University Parks
                                           12th February 2017

Male Serin
This tiny finch, not a native of Britain, took up temporary residence at 
Newhaven Tidemills in Sussex and even began to sing towards the end 
of its long stay.
                                        13th February 2017

Purple Sandpiper
These appealing waders spend their entire winter on Newhaven East Pier.They
were only a few hundred metres from the Serin so made a nice bonus to my day 
beside the seaside.
                                              13th February 2017

Male Bluethroat
This bird decided to spend its winter at Willow Tree Fen Reserve near Spalding
in Lincolnshire rather than migrate south and became quite an attraction as a
result, with many people from far and wide going to see it.
                                              15th February 2017

A North American vagrant that found itself making landfall on the wrong side
of the Atlantic in Shetland. I and my twitching buddy Clackers made the long
trip north to see it. Thankfully we were successful.
                                              21st February 2017

Juvenile Iceland Gull
After seeing the Killdeer we went to Lerwick Harbour and lured this bird in with
a loaf of sliced bread purchased from a nearby shop.
                                               21st February 2017 

Male Ring necked Duck
A transatlantic vagrant that we twitched on our way back south from Shetland
this time frequenting a small lochan on the mainland at Pitlochry in Perthshire
                                            22nd February 2017

Male Blue Rock Thrush
Unbelievably this was found just after Christmas frequenting
house rooftops in Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire just ten
minutes from my home, remaining for three months before 
migrating south. It was last seen at Beachy Head in Sussex!
So yah boo to all those who doubted its wild credentials.You
know who you are!
                                     6th March 2017

They are usually very shy but for once this bird at Calvert in
Buckinghamshire decided to stand in the open for thirty minutes
We made the most of the opportunity.This pose brings a whole
new slant to the phrase 'pear shaped'!
                                      7th March 2017

Mediterranean Gull
They flock in their hundreds every year to a pre breeding assembly
 at Hayling Oyster Beds in Hampshire. For me they are one of the
 most attractive of gulls with a ghostly white and pale grey plumage
                                      11th March 2017

Male Linnet
One of many that gather at RSPB's Otmoor Reserve in Oxfordshire where seed
is put down for them, as well as other finches and buntings, on which to feed on 
through the winter months
                                                   23rd March 2017

Male Yellowhammer
Joins the Lnnets at the Otmoor feeding area but only ever present in single figures,
usually there are just two or three, so they are always rewarding to see as they are 
becoming ever more scarce in Oxfordshire and nationally too.
                                                23rd March 2017

Male Black Grouse
Required a middle of the night departure to get to the Berwyn Moutains in Wales
before dawn and to be in place to watch them lekking. It was all over in two hours
                                                    3rd April 2017

Male Yellow Wagtail
I always look forward to their arrival at Farmoor Reservoir's grassy banks in
the Spring.Their yellow plumage is so bright it almost glows in some lights.
                                                 16th April 2017

Immature Bonaparte's Gull
Another rare North American species on the wrong side of the pond. It stayed
for a few weeks at Farmoor Reservoir to the delight of one and all as it mugged
Great crested Grebes for fish.
                                                22nd April 2017

Wood Warbler
This bird spent two days singing in a small park in the dubious surroundings of
Banbury in Oxfordshire. It is a rare bird for the county but they do breed in the
adjacent county of Gloucestershire.
                                                  26th April 2017

Probably a female due to its bright plumage.They are one of a few species
where there is a breeding role reversal and consequently males have duller 
plumage.This was one of four stopping off  at Therfield in Hertfordshire.on 
its northward migration to Scotland or Scandinavia
                                                 1st May 2017

Atlantic Puffin
Everyone loves them and this was one of thousands breeding on the Isle of May
in the Firth of Forth, Scotland.
7th May 2017

Female Citrine Wagtail
On our way back from Scotland I stopped to look at this rare vagrant spending
a couple of days feeding around a large muddy puddle at Lynemouth on the coast of
                                                    9th May 2017

Night Heron
This turned up at an ornamental park in the middle of Shrewsbury in Shropshire
It was identified as of the North American race and remained until November
when it was found weak and emaciated and was taken into care. A  great shame,
although, thankfully, it is now recovering well. A DNA analysis is under way to 
ascertain if it is a genuinely wild bird or has escaped from somewhere..
                                                     21st May 2017

Sedge Warbler
One of ten species of warblers that can be found on RSPB's Otmoor Reserve
in Spring.This one was singing lustily and without fear in the early morning
and is one of my favourite pictures
                                                 30th May 2017

Male Common Cuckoo
This bird knew no fear either and would allow close approach as it came
in to branch baited with mealworms on Thursley Common in Surrey. 
Anyone with enough patience was guaranteed superb point blank views
                                           4th June 2017

Male Common Redstart
This bird had a nest with young nearby in a silver birch  so found the mealworms 
a very convenient source of food for its young and entertained us as we awaited 
the cuckoo's arrival on Thursley Common
                                                  4th June 2017

Black Hairstreak
Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire are the stronghold for this rare and sought
after butterfly.This one was a pleasant and unexpected surprise when I came
across it on a late afternoon walk through Bernwood Forest in Buckinghamshire
                                                 7th June 2017

Arctic Skua dark morph
A family visit to Handa Island in Sutherland allowed me to get close up to
a bird I normally only ever see on seawatches as they migrate north to their
breeding grounds. Here it was - now on its breeding ground!
                                             15th June 2017

Purple Hairstreak
Probably the commonest of the five hairstreak species in Britain they are still
elusive and well worth making the effort to see.This one was in BBOWT's
Finemere Wood Reserve near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.
                                               25th June 2017

Female Amur Falcon
Must be the bird of the year for me as it was only the second ever
for Britain and required a last minute all night drive to Cornwall
in order to see it the following morning. Only around 200 people 
saw it the next morning before it flew off into legend at 9.30am
                                            7th July 2017

White Admiral
Possesses arguably the most beautiful underwing pattern  of any of our
native British butterflies. They float like an ethereal spirit of the woods
through sunlit glades, as did this one which briefly perched on a sunlit 
leaf in Bernwood Forest in Buckinghamshire.
                                                8th July 2017

Male Purple Emperor
I go to see these every year at Bernwood Forest where they come down to feed 
on the minerals and salts on the main track. They are the ultimate prize for any
butterfly fan. The Holy Grail. Just ask any butterfly enthusiast!
                                                    8th July 2017

Silver Spotted Skipper
One of the latest butterflies to emerge each year. The colony at Aston Rowant NNR 
in Oxfordshire is the northernmost colony in Britain where to find this delicate, very
fast flying and sun loving butterfly
                                                 17th July 2017

Painted Lady
In some years they are prolific in others I hardly see any.This year
was pretty mediocre but this one visited our buddleias for a few days
in Kingham, Oxfordshire
                                          27th July 2017

                                           Female Ruddy Shelduck
This arrived on Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire and commenced an extended
stay.Whether it was a wild bird or feral or even an escape no one knows. It was
however an attractive and novel addition to the local avifauna and created quite
a bit of interest and speculation as to its origins.
                                                28th July 2017

Turtle Dove
RSPB Otmoor is now one of the few places in Britain where one can almost 
guarantee seeing this formerly common dove. It is predicted to be extinct in 
five or less years in Britain and it really is a crying shame that it has come 
to this. Go and see them while you can.They are really beautiful.
                                                   4th August 2017

Hummingbird Hawk Moth
I have always wanted to get close enough to photo one and my chance came this
summer as one visited our flowering buddleia bushes in Kingham, Oxfordshire 
for a few days in summer.
                                                  12th August 2017

Melodious Warbler
They do not breed in Britain but do in France. This juvenile found its way across
The Channel to Beachy Head, Sussex. Sadly, shortly after taking this photo it was
killed by a Sparrowhawk as I watched on, helpless to intervene.
                                                    25th August 2017

European Shag
It was almost unprecedented that eleven of these found their way to
Farmoor Reservoir. Normally they are much more pelagic and shun
inland waters. A small number flew on after a few days but others
remained, only for some of them to sadly and mysteriously die.
                                         29th August 2017

Queen of Spain Fritillary
A quite exceptional occurence, this male arrived at Halcombe Farm near
Peacehaven on the coast of Sussex and caused quite a stir, as the last one 
 to be seen in Britain was in 2009. People travelled from far and wide to
see it due to its extreme rarity in Britain
                                          2nd September 2017

Baird's Sandpiper
Another rare North American wader that after giving us the runaround finally
showed itself exceptionally well on the meanders at Cuckmere Haven in Sussex
                                                5th September 2017

Female American Redstart
An absolute mega rarity from North America.The 6th to be seen in Britain, this
time on the remote Hebridean Island of Barra. Required an all night drive and 
then a plane charter to see it but well worth it. Definitely my ultimate twitch.
                                                         So far!
                                                9th September 2017

Juvenile Grey Phalarope
This bird was part of a small influx into Oxfordshire this autumn, with this one
spending a couple of days at Grimsbury Reservoir, Banbury in Oxfordshire.
                                              12th September 2017
Arctic Warbler
A very showy individual at Wells Woods in Norfolk that brought 
a fitting finale to a fantastic day as I saw a Pallas's Grasshopper
Warbler at nearby Burnham Overy earlier the same day.
18th September 2017

Juvenile Red necked Phalarope
Unlike the Grey Phalarope this is a very rare bird in Oxfordshire and this 
one stayed at Farmoor Reservoir over a weekend allowing many to come 
and admire it as it fed literally feet from the reservoir bank.
                                         21st September 2017

Male Greater Scaup
A less than annual visitor to Farmoor Reservoir this male was still in
eclipse plumage but provided additional interest for birders as it was
present at the same time as the Red necked Phalarope.
                                      21st September 2017

Something of a novelty. This bird was more white than black but otherwise was
no different to all the other hundreds of Coot that were on Farmoor Reservoir at
the time.
                                                  24th September 2017

Farmoor Reservoir annually plays host to waders on their return
autumn migration from the Arctic and Turnstones are often still
in their very colourful breeding plumage when they arrive here,
as are these two, present for just the one day.

Spotted Crake
What great views of this shy bird at Hornchurch Country Park in Essex.
For a crake it showed amazingly well before disappearing into the reeds 
and sedge after fifteen minutes, not to be seen again that day.
                                          27th September 2017

Juvenile Red necked Grebe
Just down the road from the Spotted Crake at Buckhurst Hill in Essex was
this confiding juvenile grebe and it was too much to resist going to see it.
As can be seen it did not disappoint. For a juvenile grebe rather attractive?
                                         27th September 2017

Juvenile Long tailed Skua
Heading to Shetland I stopped off at Goswick Golf Course in Northumberland
to watch this ridiculously confiding bird catching worms on the golf greens and
                                                 1st October 2017

Male Parrot Crossbill
Oh my, what a big beak you have! Two of these birds were found in Lerwick
Shetland and allowed very close approach.These were the first to be seen in
Shetland for 25 years and were part of an invasion this year after the pine crop
failed in their normal home of Scandinavia and Russia
                                                5th October 2017

Buff bellied Pipit
Another rare transatlantic vagrant which, on a quiet birding day in Shetland
caused quite a twitch at Grutness on Mainland
                                            5th October 2017

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
They are called 'snowballs' and for good reason.Absolutely delighted
to see this bird which showed itself at a small croft at Skaw on the 
Island of Unst, Shetland for an hour or so.
                                   6th September 2017

Olive backed Pipit
Another displaced migrant from Asia. It was present for just one day hiding in 
grass on some waste ground on Unst, Shetland. I love its bubble gum pink legs
                                                  7th October 2017

Lesser Whitethroat
Most of these found in October on Shetland are considered to be
the Asian sub species blythi. This one was skulking in the long 
grass at Skaw on Unst, Shetland
                                    8th October 2017

These very much replace the Linnet on Shetland, being the Linnet's close
northern relative.They are always nice to see as they are both uncommon
and rarely seen in southern England.
                                         8th October 2017

Red flanked Bluetail
Another vagrant from the East but breeding as close as Finland.This one was
very confiding and gave excellent views and photo opportunities in an isolated
farmyard on Mainland, Shetland.
                                               9th October 2017

Rufous tailed Rock Thrush
Another very rare vagrant this time in a quarry near Abergavenny in
Wales. It stayed there for a long time and became progressively more
trusting doubtless due to the large amount of mealworms it was fed
by photographers.
                                        14th October 2017

A very late bird on the RSPB's Otmoor Reserve in Oxfordshire that really should 
have left for its winter home in southern Africa a lot earlier.
                                                    30th October 2017

Snow Bunting
Single birds can and do turn up anywhere and when they do are often very
tame. This one graced the banks of Wilstone Reservoir in Hertfordshire
for a few days before moving on. Another one took up residence on the
stony beach at Bognor, Sussex in December
                                             21st November 2017

Horned Lark
This bird created quite a stir at Staines Reservoir in Middlesex as it is
thought to be from North America and different to the Shore Larks
which normally visit Britain in winter. If it is accepted as such then
it will be the first for Britain
                                          25th November 2017

Female Northern Wheatear
This was a total surprise when found on a manure heap at Fifield in Oxfordshire.
It should have been in sub Saharan Africa and certainly not in Oxfordshire! It 
was last seen on 4th December which makes it the latest record for Oxfordshire
                                               30th November 2017

Black Guillemot
Found at Eastbourne Sussex, these are rare so far south but this bird was totally
fearless of anyone and allowed us exceptionally close views as it swam about
in the marina.
                                              4th December 2017

Every year come a hard frost or snow and Fieldfares descend on our fallen
apples to tide them over the lean times.They are a very beautiful thrush and 
always welcome visitors to the garden.

Barred Warbler
Another species from the East, this juvenile has decided to tarry at Titchfield 
Haven NNR in Hampshire and did not mind birders getting very close as it 
scoffed cotoneaster berries. Such a bird as this, still present in December, is 
almost unprecedented. I went to see it twice it was that good!
                                                  6th December 2017
Male Penduline Tit
Just when I thought it was all over for another year along comes this cracker
Required a morning jaunt to see this rare visitor at Plock Court Wetlands 
on the outskirts of Gloucester. The second record for Gloucestershire.The 
bird had a ring on its leg which revealed it was ringed on 28th October
this year on Alderney in the Channel Islands.
                                            17th December 2017

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for a Happy Christmas and an enjoyable New Year and most of all thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It is much appreciated.