Saturday, 31 December 2011


To keep with tradition I'm producing this summary of the year in terms of my birding... I'm currently working hard on the 2011 edition of the Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Bird Report so check that out when it's published for a comprehensive illustrated review of the patch's birds this year.

First of all, did I succeed in my aims for this year? Here is what I set out to do, according to my blog post at this time last year, with comments on my successes in each department: 

  • get to 350 no, 329
  • tick off some more tart ticks yes, I guess: Twite was nice to finally get out of the way as well as some 'lesser tarts' like Common Rosefinch, Leach's Petrel, White-tailed Eagle, Woodchat Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow etc etc
  • spend at least one full day birding in Kent or Norfolk in spring or autumn in ideal conditions and find a BB rarity no, best self found on a national scale was a Pec Sand at Dunge in August.
  • get to 230 nowhere near. Didn't even try
  • tick off some more tart ticks See above
  • start keeping a Surrey list again and get down to Holmethorpe I now know I'm somewhere vaguely around 180 for Surrey and I visited Holmethorpe two or three times
  • get to 120 Hah! Yeah right (108)
  • get 100 in 2011 Yes, very pleased: I managed 103. Would have liked 105 - if I counted Common Tern and Yellow-legged Gull which are 99% bang on then I'd be there
  • find a male Montagu's Harrier Did you hear about one at Canons?
  • find a Corncrake Not that I'm aware of
  • find at least one of the following: Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow Not that I recall, doesn't ring a bell, fraid not and no
  • find a Richard's Pipit No
  • add at least two wildfowl species to my list No
  • find a bird that will draw a constant crowd of at least fifty people No
  • find a Moorhen Ehhh.....sadly not...maybe next year
  • keep taking my SLR out and photograph and much as possible Yes!
  • make progress with my Canons Farm campaign If starting a functioning Bird Group with 25 members, regular meetings and a bird report counts, then I'd say yeah
I make that a 29% success rate... shame the ones I did hit on were generally the less exciting ones.


It is amazing that, once again, I had predicted that this would be the year where I saw a bit less than the previous year and it ended up surpassing all previous years by a large margin. Both on a local and national year it has been exceptional and I've been seeing the sort and doing the sort of things I never thought possible when  I was taking my first tentative steps onto the active birding scene as a boy of eleven or twelve, following an interest in birds since seven. I owe Johnny Allan and Franko Maroevic for giving and/or organising long distance twitches and Ian Jones, Phil Wallace, Rob Stokes, Peter Grady and Colin and Paul Manville, to name a few, for the transport and company they have provided to make this year so great. Gratitude to Neil Randon for helping out with the CFBW Bird Report and livening up several outings.

There's too many great times to recount here, and it would be pointless reciting many here because many can be found in the archives of this blog. So here's a basic breakdown:


There's some birds that simply rock your boat and it feels like you could watch them over and over again. The Northern Waterthrush on Scilly wins this prize for 2011. I first saw it on my two-day twitch to the islands in September and it made the expense and hassle worthwhile along with the Baltimore Oriole and Solitary Sandpiper. I was very pleased when it hung around for my October half-term visit and I saw it a few more times, in more relaxed conditions.

Another highly memorable bird is the Farthing Downs Hoopoe - an amazing bird to have within a few miles of home -


When the pager gave a mega alert for a Scarlet Tanager in Cornwall, just before I was due to head to Scilly for my half term break, I was really getting stressed out about how I'd go about seeing the bird without my holiday being disrupted. It was going to be impossible (unless the bird solved the problem by kindly leaving), I would either have to go to Scilly and live with constant pager messages about a national mega or go to Scilly, come back to Cornwall for a day then resume the break. I tried for the tanager before boarding the boat but only got a couple of minutes on site, after getting to St Levan much later than planned. Of course, I did not see the bird and it was never seen again.

 Some of the stars of the most exciting day of the year

I boarded the Scillonian as planned, fearing that the St Levan bird would bleep and I'd be obliged go through the ordeal of getting back myself back to Cornwall. Instead, the pager gave a mega alert half way across. It was a Scarlet Tanager...and it was on Scilly. OH MY GOD! I rushed there straight away and after a very tense half hour a flash of yellow and black graced the hedges in front of me. The jammiest thing that's ever happened to me. That afternoon I also enjoyed great views of Upland Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe, Olive-backed Pipits and the Northern Waterthrush. Could a day like that ever be beaten?


There were a few miserable days. Dipping the Greater Yellowlegs in Northumberland has got to be the winner, though. It was very expensive and very unsuccessful - hence highly disappointing and frustrating. Then the ruddy thing does a few hundred miles further north. This is all a few months after putting £30 in a ticket machine for a Greenshank. I just don't care any more.


I managed nine patch ticks this year: Peregrine, Ring Ouzel, Wood Warbler, Red-legged Partridge, Marsh Harrier, Cuckoo, Firecrest, Reed Warbler and Brent Goose. I also recorded another Quail, several Waxwings, a Black Redstart, a few Common Redstarts, an Osprey, a couple of Short-eared Owls, a few Golden Plovers and Common Snipe, a Curlew, a trio of Spotted Flycatchers, several Grasshopper Warblers, at least two or three Barn Owls, the odd Mealy Redpoll and a good few Crossbills, Tree Pipits, Whinchats etc.When I was in my earlier stages of birding I would never have dreamed that I'd be seeing birds like this in my local area, let alone finding most of them. I managed 103 species this year, which I'm quite happy with considering it's a dry inland site.


Seeing a Common or Arctic Tern too high in too poor light over the patch was very very very annoying, as was photographing a 99% Yellow-legged Gull there but the images not quite showing enough detail to be certain enough to constitute a first patch record. Arguably surpassing these, for I will never have much of a clue what they were, was the flock of smallish/medium rufous-ish waders that flew low past Ian and I. Had I looked at them properly we would have got perfect views of what would have undoubtedly been an exceptional patch record, but instead I dismissed them as racing pigeons in my split second glance. It was only when I took another look that I realised they were waders...and by the time I got on them properly they were flying away...


Well, what will I aim for in 2012? I'm not going to be as ambitious this year. I'll do as much birding as I can and see what comes out of the other end - I'm sure there will be many exciting moments with a great set of birds and birders. I'd like to find a shrike or Wryneck, Richard's Pipit, or something like that, at Canons and I'd like to get 115 for my patch list and 360 for Britain