I don’t think I will ever have another year like 2013 if I live to be a hundred. January started off quietly having volunteered to work the afternoon of New Year’s Day at Titchfield Haven, two Barwits being the highlight. It wasn’t until February that I went on my first twitch. This was a run along the south coast with Coppo to Eastbourne, wandering around a local park, getting propositioned by Geocachers and delighting in the local café until eventually the regular Bonaparte’s Gull turned up and proved very obliging.
Later that month and we had a week in Rome for the Mother-in-Laws 70th birthday. A lovely city, I very much enjoyed the Colliseum, the Forum and the many other sights. I must say the homemade pizzas were to die for. Black Redstarts were common(ish) and this confiding individual was at the Castel S’Angelo.
March saw me finally catching up with a British breeding bird that in all my 47 years I had never seen. A course at HMS Raleigh meant a diversion to Prawle Point and after a brief search (to the East) I found a small flock of 5 male and 4 female Cirl Buntings
April saw me abroad again for the European Elvis convention (the wife not me !) and although Serin’s and Sardinian Warblers were all over, the only real birding highlight was a visit to Benidorm Island. This has a fair size breeding colony of Yellow-legged Gulls and most were on eggs whilst we were there. As you can see they are very protective of the nests and will dive bomb your head whilst shooting droppings in your direction. This one is thinking “You are dead matey !”
The start of spring and May saw me visiting Lulworth Ranges with the Army and enjoying great views of Dartford Warblers before heading north and appearing on Countryfile as part of a range of activities at DST Leconfield. We were ringing and I eventually made it onto the small screen for approx. 0.4 of a second, blink and you missed me, still the ringing was good and it was good to meet Julia Bradbury face to face.
Into June and after a Portland visit and a weekend ringing at RAF Merryfield in Somerset, I was off to pick up a car from Nova Paka in the Czech Republic. We flew there and stayed with friends. The local park was treat, Singing Icterine Warbler, Redwing and Fieldfare with nest material and Grey Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher breeding under the bridge. It also allowed me to see a sight that I never get fed up with, breeding White Storks
A great first half to the year, Ibby Chiffs, Noddies and Crombecs to come.
The second half of the year was relatively quiet, as July is for birds most years. Two highlights stand out. A group of five Chough, on a Cliffside, south of Aberystwyth in Wales and the site of breeding Little Bitterns in the heart of Britain at Ham Wall RSPB in Somerset.
Late August and I am on Ascension Island for 10 days, part of an ongoing survey by the army of the huge Sooty Tern “Fairs” that breed there, every 9 months or so. I had been before but finding a roosting site for Black Noddies on Letterbox was a real treat
September arrives and I am off to Gibraltar, as part of a Tri-service ringing team. We planned to ring an area at the north of the rock called Middle Hill. After some extremely hard graft putting up 18 60ft nets and having to move some for various reasons we were more than successful with highlights including Grasshopper, Subalpine, Orphean and Bonelli’s Warblers, Iberian Chiffchaff, Ortolan Bunting, Tawny Pipit, both Red-necked and Common Nightjar and more.
After a good start to October with the Radde’s Warbler at Anton Lakes, I spent a dismal week at Portland, with the intension of ringing huge amounts of autumn migrants. The winds put pay to that and I managed just a handful of birds. I did manage to get back for the Semi-P Plover on Hayling though, no pics as it was heaving it down.
November and two weeks of pure unashamed “ticking off” species in Gambia. This was my first time on a birding trip with little ornithological value apart from enjoying seeing the birds. There will be plenty of blogs in the near future with ref to this trip so I wont spoil it here. Ask Coppo about the Crombec and the hunt for Wahlberg’s Eagle.
This brings us pretty much up to date and into December. I write this on the flight to the Falkland Islands where I will be stationed for the next three months. With Penguins, Caracaras and Cinclodes to come, I have attached an archive pic from 2006/2007. Good times with Coppo, singing Shakira whilst surveying Gentoos at Berthas Beach. Tinders get here in January so two of the Amigos will be out together, adding Giant-petrels to our New Year list.
A great year, lets see what delights 2014 will bring