Thirteen new birds added to the Old Caley UK life list in 2021 and it could have been a few more if I hadn't run out of juice in November and December during which I passed up some long staying birds. Maybe I'll regain my mojo for the New Year and tick them all then! Those new birds in order of seeing them were;
1) Northern Mockingbird, a long-staying bird in Exmouth that was off limits until the lockdown had been lifted at the end of March. Seen on April 1st. See here.
2) White-throated Sparrow, Sunday morning trip to deepest Sussex for a North American species that is really a Bunting. Bit of a picnic twitch on the 11th April. See here.
3) Whiskered Tern, a twitch to Dorset whilst in a daze after losing my Dad three days before. Birds make for great therapy. May 14th. See here.
4) River Warbler, a long awaited addition to the life list after a couple of near misses in the past. June 4th at Ham Wall RSPB. See here.
5) European Roller, another long wished for lifer, seen in Suffolk on the 25th June when everything fell neatly into place. See here.
6) Black-browed Albatross, at the third time of asking, finally landed the big bird that wowed so many at Bempton Cliffs RSPB throughout July and August. Added on 16th July. See here.
7) Elegant Tern, a dash across country to Anglesey via an overnight stay near Chester to add another Tern species to the list. See here.
8) Pacific Golden Plover, the first tick on a double lifer day, seen at RSPB Frampton Marsh on 24th July. See here.
9) Western Sandpiper, a most frenetic twitch at RSPB Snettisham on the evening of 24th July. See here.
10) Black Scoter, a distant sighting off of the dunes at Montrose on September 15th, which kickstarted our first holiday to Scotland for over two years. No photos but happy with the ID which was corroborated by others on site.
11) Sooty Shearwater, one seen on 20th September from the Ullapool to Stornaway ferry in less than optimal conditions but happy with the record of the bird first seen by others, with far better skills than mine, on the boat. Again no photos of this one.
12) Long-toed Stint, almost as chaotic as the Western Sandpiper twitch at RSPB St Aidens with the first mainland record of the wader for 39 years. Anticlimactic twitch though on the 9th October.
13) Two-barred Greenish Warbler, my first ever visit to Spurn on the 20th October for a superb little bird. I love all things Warbler! My UK life total is now at 395 so the magic 400 number should be achievable in 2022. See here.
(Dips of the year included, Franklin's Gull, Black-browed Albatross and Rustic Bunting)
Old Caley's Ten Best birds of 2021
1) Undoubtedly the star bird of the year was the Black-browed Albatross. After dipping it at the first attempt when it departed an hour before we arrived, we ticked it a week later but it disappeared again within minutes. Luckily on the day we twitched a White-tailed Lapwing (our second record) at RSPB Blacktoft Sands, the Albatross returned to the cliffs at RSPB Bempton and we were able to travel up and get rewarded with sensational close views. Read and see the photos here.
2) The Purple Heron at Summer Leys that culminated a fantastic days birding in which we saw a Honey Buzzard at close quarters as well as Ospreys and Goshawks. The usually elusive heron flew past us at very close range and allowed me take some fantastic flight images. Full account here.
3) As wet as I've been in a long time but worth the soaking to catch up with a Leach's Storm Petrel that had been waylaid at Pitsford Reservoir. Sodden blog here.
4) The colourful Roller in Suffolk, a rainbow of colours!
5) The Northern Mockingbird in Devon, a long wait and a difficult twitch in the face of animosity.
6) A bird I've longed to get a decent photo of was the Little Auk, which I'd only seen at great distance before. A trip to Weymouth gave me a photo at last but then amazingly another a few days later at Farmoor close to home gave me a chance at getting better images. See those snaps here.
7) The Two-barred Greenish Warbler, at the start of the year one of my most wanted birds for the year was a Greenish Warbler. I still haven't seen one of those but the Two-barred is much rarer!
8) Yellow-browed Warblers have long been a favourite bird of mine so to see one at the start of the year was a great way to kick off. See here.
9) We were lucky enough to see a pair of Long-eared Owls. Typically obscured views but who cares, Leo's are fantastic!
10) The Honey Buzzard that breezed close overhead twice at the Welbeck Watchpoint was a real thrill. Only problem was that I managed to make a complete mess of the photos! Next year maybe I'll do better. See here.
Three Best Local Birds of 2021
1) Has to be the Little Auk at Pinkhill Lock, Farmoor on the 30th November.
2) A Wood Sandpiper actually discovered in my home town deserves an accolade. Initially skulking but gave itself up for good views eventually during early May.
3) A rare and potentially breeding pair of Marsh Warblers in Milton Keynes were exceptional during June.
Self-found Bird of the Year
No contest since the only bird I found worth any real merit was a male Ring-necked Duck on Otmoor on the 21st February (and it wasn't even a year tick)! Next best would be Glaucous Gull (in Scotland), Little Gull and Black Tern (both Farmoor).
Crappiest Shot of the Year!
One Banksy would be proud of!
2022 Wish List
Anything new to add to the life list, a chance to upgrade on some of my older records that are undocumented by photos, to self-find a real rare bird in Oxfordshire that everybody gets a chance to see, for somebody else to find a real rare bird in Oxfordshire that everybody gets a chance to see, an Oxon Wryneck (I keep missing them), another Capercaillie obviously, and most of all more great days out with Mrs Caley. Look forward to seeing you all out there!
Many, many thanks to all who have looked at my blogs, thanks for your constructive comments, and I hope that you've enjoyed bits of them. I'll still be blogging in the New Year so please do keep looking.
Happy New Year to all!
A female type Velvet Scoter found at Henley Road Gravel Pits seen on New Year's Eve was my second Oxfordshire county tick of 2021 after the Little Auk.