Highlights in 2013 included White-tailed Eagle, Great Shearwater, Baikal Teal, Parrot Crossbill, Two-barred Crossbill and American Buff-bellied Pipit. An incredible spell in June saw me watching singing Greenish Warbler, White-spotted Bluethroat and Common Rosefinch on consecutive weekends all in the North West! December was even better, a month which is normally very slow produced three lifers (Baikal Teal, Parrot Crossbill and American Buff-bellied Pipit), and my second Ivory Gull.
In July Elaine and I went camping to the Hebrides on what can only be described as the holiday of a lifetime. In our little two man tent, we set out with the intention of spending five nights on Mull, but after that we just went wherever the weather looked best and wherever our fancy took us, catching seven ferries and two boats to visit 12 Hebridean Islands, and spending a total of 12 nights under canvas. There were too many highlights to list them all here, but they included being serenaded to sleep by up to five calling Corncrakes at our campsite at Balranald, North Uist, and finding two rarities for myself on consecutive days, Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Bernaray and Great Shearwater following the Harris to Skye ferry.
So how could the year list have been bigger? Well, I missed several species which really I should have seen if I had been serious about getting a big list in 2013. Long-eared Owl, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Greenland Whitefront, Nightjar, Common Crane, Egyptian Goose, Golden Pheasant, Crested Tit, Ptarmigan, Capercaillie, Dotterel and really I should have gone to the east coast at the beginning of September, when a run of easterly winds would probably have brought me Red-breasted Flycatcher, Barred Warbler, Wryneck and Icterine Warbler. When I did finally go to the east coast in October, I was unlucky to miss (by one day) Long-tailed Skua, Sooty Shearwater (ouch!) and Sabine's Gull. Finally there were several mega rarities I could and probably should have gone for in England or Wales, for example Great Snipe (Spurn), Orphean Warbler and Bridled Tern. So with a bit more luck and / or effort and / or money and / or time, I could have added another 25 species to the list without having to resort to Shetland or Scillies or big league twitching, but I'm not complaining! I didn't dip on much in 2013, and when I did I usually succeeded at the second attempt.
In total I visited 214 different sites across the UK at which I saw at least one species of bird I considered worth recording in my database. This compares with 120 sites last year! Although I didn't do as much birding in St Helens when compared to recent years, I still managed to visit Eccleston Mere on 144 occasions, or once every 2.5 days, and still managed to record 103 species at the mere, just two less than my best ever year.
2013 was my best and most enjoyable birding year ever. I don't intend to keep a year list in 2014, but I'm hoping it will be just as enjoyable........
!!!! Happy New Year to all readers of this blog !!!