Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My 2014

2014 was my best ever year for birding. My final UK year list was 285 (my best ever total), but it wasn't only about numbers, it was about quality birds and quality birding. I probably could have made 300 if I'd bothered to go to Shetland or Scillies or even Cornwall, but in the end I gave up birding to decorate during most of the autumn, and chose to take two holidays abroad, Southern Ireland (camping) for nine nights in September and Cyprus for two weeks in December. I also had 15 nights camping in the Outer Hebrides in June and another four nights in Speyside in May. Great experiences all. I ended 2014 with my life list on 404

Eleven species were new to me in the UK in 2014. I've put together my top 10 + 1 of my UK lifers in 2014. Click on the species name to be taken to the full account. 

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers of this blog!

1. Great Spotted Cuckoo, Penally, Pembrokeshire - March

Stunning bird, beautiful location, exciting circumstances! We'd seen the bird distantly and briefly but then it disappeared and was apparently gone, last seen flying out over the sea. We hung around for a few hours to see if it came back, but in the end we left. Thirty minutes down the road and we got a message to say that it was back. We turned the car around and soon were watching the bird at point blank range! What a bird. I even appeared on Radio Wales a few days later to describe the experience.

2. Collard Flycatcher, St Abbs Head, Borders - April

I was the only person looking for this bird in the middle of an East Coast haar at the delightfully named Mire Loch at St Abbs Head. I'd given up hope to be honest, when suddenly it flew onto a branch right in front of me, taking my breath away. What a bird!

3. Crag Martin, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire - April

The bird was found on Friday but quickly disappeared and was thought to be gone. We decided to go on Saturday just in case it got relocated. By 13:30 it hadn't been relocated so we started on our way to Spurn. Twenty miles down the road we got the message that it was back, at North Landing, Flamborough. We dashed back and had fantastic views of the bird as it flew within a few feet of us.

4. Red-flanked Bluetail, Marshfield, Wiltshire / Gloucestershire border - February

Finally caught up with this beautiful species. A very obliging bird, I didn't expect my first to be in spring or in inland Wiltshire!

5. Purple Heron, Capel Gwyn, Anglesey - November

Another species which I finally caught up with, and another very obliging bird.

6. Short-toed Eagle, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex - June

My 400th species in the UK, this bird turned up briefly all along the south coast from Dorset to Sussex but was very difficult to pin down and see. Finally it was seen going to roost, so we decided to be there at first light the following day. For while there was no sign, then suddenly it appeared from nowhere and perched on this branch!

7. Spectacled Warbler, Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk - June

A great little bird, singing and nest building at close range, in a great part of the country.

8. Masked Shrike, Spurn, East Yorkshire - September

The highlight of an exciting day for migration at Spurn. Despite the occurrence of rubythroat, White's thrush, chimney swift and a couple of American cuckoos during September and October, I can't think of any rarer birds than this in the autumn. This was just the 3rd for Britain.

9. Blyth's Pipit, Pugney's, West Yorkshire - December

A great bonus at the end of the year, seen well and heard.

10. Thayer's Gull, Pugney's, West Yorkshire - December

Was it, wasn't it? Most people who saw it think it was, a handful who didn't don't! A potential first for Britain, this one is pending and hence the reason why it's currently 10th.....

11. Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, Durham
Probably a really nice bird, but was a right pain in the backside while I was there. No photos, not particularly beautiful location, 11th place for myrtle warbler.


  1. Congratulations Colin a great reward for a great effort. Are you gonna try for 300 next year? ;-)
    Damian Young

  2. HI Colin,

    Thought you may have thrown a local bird in there to big up your patch :)

    Andrew - sign up to twitter and follow as many birders as possible, I think twitter could spell the ned for bird news services ....

    Paul B