2016: Birding in Review

I have always been a birder, of sorts. Though one who, traditionally, prefers to watch birds on my local patch: formerly at Stobswood, now, Blyth. Content, for some time, to revel in the antics of the more common species that persist in our countryside and, historically, giving little thought towards twitching. The thought of traveling huge distances in search of birds an entirely alien prospect until 2014 when I began to dabble more frequently. Dabbling which, a few years down the line, has resulted in a growing interest in the pursuit, and a growing urge to bolster my presently,  minute list. A list which, as of today, stands at 258 species for Britain.

In this post, as is tradition on this blog, I will recount a few of best birding moments of 2016: giving mention to this years ‘lifers’ and special encounters. Both of which have gone some way to reminding me just why it is I spend so much time in the company of our feathered friends. And have solidified my determination to get out and about more frequently in the future.

The glaring additions

2016 has seen 21 new species observed, many of which are birds that fall into the “should have seen by now” category. Species common enough elsewhere in the country but not here, in Northumberland, where I spend the vast majority of my time. That said, among the ranks of the more familiar species observed this year there have been some rather startling rarities – most of which I was able to see solely due to the kindness of other birders. Those content to ferry me around. Thanks Sacha, Jack, and others…

Siberian Accentor is the obvious one to mention here: the bird present for some time at Easington showing delightfully during our visit in Autumn. A splendid little creature but dare I say, not half as appealing as the years undisputed highlight: the Lindisfarne White’s Thrush. A bird which, due to my tendency to avoid birding hotspots such as Shetland, I never thought I would see. Yet one that turned up close to home regardless, allowing for great views during a delightful stay on Holy Island. Matched only in the scarcity stakes by the most recent lifer, the Beeley Dusky Thrush. Which likewise put on a fine show, yet in truth, was nowhere near as appealing. You cannot beat the scaled beauty of a White’s Thrush.

Elsewhere, other highlights this year included Cou’s Arctic Redpoll at Birling Carrs, Warkworth; Baird’s Sandpiper at Newton Pools and, of course, the Saltholme Penduline Tits. The latter of which far surpassed expectations by flaunting themselves directly out of the hide as myself and Sacha watched with wide-eyes.

The best of the rest

Of the other “less rare but still rare” species seen in 2016, one of my favourites has to be the drake Ring-Necked Duck observed on Islay – a species, given my fondness for things duckish, I have wanted to clap eyes on for quite some time. The years only other new duck coming in the form of an immature male Surf Scoter back in January, at Filey. Noted on the same day as I finally picked up Richard’s Pipit at Swillington Ings – though this represents perhaps my least favourtie twitch of the year. Due, solely, to the difficulty of finding the bird. And the cold…

Elsewhere, 2016 saw the addition of two new gulls: Ring-Billed Gull and Bonaparte’s Gull respectively. The first noted on the Black Isle back in March and the second scoped from my patch in Northumberland. The same trip to Spurn that nabbed us the Accentor also providing ticks of Dusky Warbler – three of which were seen during the course of the day – and Pallas’s Warbler. And the trip home that day adding Siberian Stonechat to the mix.

Of the more regular British species I laid eyes on for the first time in 2016, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is an obvious highlight. They really are delightful little birds. Though Quail, Corncrake, Mealy Redpoll and Red-Crested Pochard were also new.

Truth be told, I quite like the ambling pace at which my list is advancing at present – it means that each year should, hopefully, see me ogling something new and exciting. I intend to build on the good start provided by 2016 next year, though I fear my attention should focus, first and foremost, on catching up with those more embarrassing omissions  So, if anyone wishes to facilitate the viewing of Hawfinch, Nightingale, Golden Pheasant, Woodlark or Dartford Warbler, I would be most grateful. I guess I will have to head South eventually…

All in all, 2016 has been a rather exciting year, despite the wider woes it has brought. I will be keeping my fingers (and other extremities) crossed that 2017 continues along a similar trajectory. But who knows, in the world of birding, not much can be predicted…

Header Image: By Martin Mecnarowski (http://www.photomecan.eu/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12691826

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