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The Very Best of British and Irish Birding - 2005 Review

(roll your cursor over each image for a summary of the month's highlights -and click on
any image for a larger version. For non IE users click here for a full account of the year)

Up to three Ross' Gulls arrived in Scotland and Ireland, whilst further south a Pine Bunting in the Midlands was probably the highlight for most birders. In Norfolk a touring White-tailed Eagle and a long-staying Arctic Redpoll drew birders to the county, whilst a Killdeer in Lothian, Wilson's Phalarope in Cleveland and the overwintering Short-billed Dowitcher in Ireland kept wader buffs interested. As the month progressed Waxwing numbers built up to unprecedented levels. The Waxwing invasion continued apace with perhaps as many as 30,000 birds in the British Isles. Two Little Buntings together in Worcestershire were about the best the southern half of the country could offer. Further north two American Coots and two White-billed Divers kept Scotland in the picture. Across the sea, Ireland seemed to have the run of the birds with Killdeer, Forster's Tern and Black Duck amongst others. Just as predicted, highlight of the month was a Killdeer in Norfolk, whilst two White-spotted Bluethroats in Suffolk were also popular. Two Penduline Tits visited Kent briefly. Long-stayers continued to remain in residence with Short-billed Dowitcher and Forster's Tern in Ireland, Lesser Yellowlegs in Norfolk and two American Coots in Scotland. By the end of the month, a dozen Hoopoes had appeared and a few Northern Bullfinches at various east coast locations were presumably moving north. Belted Kingfisher on the 1st April. Surely an April fool. Not at all. First found in Staffordshire it was amazingly relocated in Aberdeenshire to the delight of thousands of birders who made the long trek north. An Amur Wagtail in County Durham would have been equally popular had it stayed. A Short-toed Treecreeper in Essex and a Great Spotted Cuckoo in Sussex offered compensation for south coast birders. Other rarities included a White's Thrush in Shetland and another Killdeer in Ireland.
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
A drake Barrow's Goldeneye must have equally delighted birders in Aberdeenshire and those travelling north. But two Trumpeter Finches in Suffolk and Kent meant birders further south also had much to enjoy, whilst those quick off the mark might have caught the Elegant Tern in Dorset. Equally elusive were a Slate-coloured Junco on an oil rig off Scotland and a Rock Thrush and a Roller both in Cornwall would have been popular. Rare waders included Stilt Sandpiper in Norfolk and Terek Sandpiper in Kent. Britain's second Audouin's Gull in Yorkshire would have been more popular had it decided to stay longer than a day, as would two more Trumpeter Finches, both in Kent, were it not for the two in May. A Black-headed Wagtail in Devon and a Balearic Woodchat Shrike in Somerset were well watched. Birders on Shetland had a good month with Paddyfield and Blyth's Reed Warbler amongst a host of other rarities. A splash of colour came with the arrival of as many as ten Bee-eaters across south-east counties. A month of rare terns. The highlight was without doubt a Sooty Tern that graced Anglesey and then Ireland throughout the month, although its wanderings were to give birders the run around. Elsewhere a Lesser Crested Tern was found in Norfolk and an Elegant Tern in Ireland. A fly-by Pacific Swift in Yorkshire reminded birders just what else can turn up. More popular were two Collared Pratincoles in South Wales and London. A pelagic trip from the Isles of Scilly notched up a Swinhoe's Petrel. Seawatchers enjoyed good numbers of Great and Cory's Shearwaters and Wilson's Petrels. Better still as many as a dozen Little Shearwaters and Fea's Petrels were recorded from Ireland. Gannet harvesters on Sula Sgeir came face-face with a Black-browed Albatross. Back on land nearctic waders started arriving in numbers with a popular Wilson's Phalarope in Hampshire and a Least Sandpiper in Devon. Passerines included a Booted Warbler in Northumberland and a Citrine Wagtail in Norfolk.
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
Nearctic passerines arrived right on cue with Yellow Warbler, Veery and Bobolink all on Shetland, Buff-bellied Pipit on the Outer Hebrides and a Blackpoll Warbler on Scilly. A long-staying Sora also on Scilly proved popular. An Upland Sandpiper in Cornwall would have been were it not atypically elusive. But it was not all nearctic news with a showy Little Crake filling the hides at Slimbridge and good numbers of lesser rarities including invasion style proportions of Greenish Warblers and Wrynecks. Highlight of the month was a late influx of Chimney Swifts with as many as a dozen birds sighted. Earlier in the month a Siberian Rubythroat on Fair Isle, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak on the Outer Hebrides, Green Heron and Myrtle Warbler in Ireland and three Black-throated Thrushes left mainland British birders green with envy. But the flood of rarities just didn't stop as Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireos, Blackpoll Warblers, and a massive 1,000 plus Yellow-browed Warblers, made landfall. Nearctic vagrants kept on coming with the Irish Green Heron turning up in Wales, an inland Gray-cheeked Thrush in Hertfordshire and an Upland Sandpiper in Somerset. Had the exhausted and finally moribund Magnificent Frigatebird found in Shropshire survived, one can only imagine the stampede. More Chimney and Pallid Swifts were found as was a long-staying Brunnich's Guillemot on Shetland. Hurricane Wilma dumped some 60+ Laughing Gulls and a few Franklin's Gulls in sheltered harbours. November's Brunnich's Guillemot settled into Lerwick Harbour and many a birder made the pilgrimage north. London birder's celebrated the arrival of a Sociable Plover at the new RSPB reserve in Rainham only to find themselves watching five Penduline Tits a fortnight later. A three-day Buff-bellied Pipit in Lincolnshire was another great nearctic find. Two Hume's Warblers settled into Norfolk and Yorkshire and a flighty Dark-throated Thrush was giving birders the run around in Somerset.
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005

Photos from top left: Arctic Redpoll copyright Andrew Lawson; Forster's Tern copyright Dermot Breen; Killdeer copyright Jim Lawrence; Belted Kingfisher copyright Darren Robson; Barrow's Goldeneye copyright Nick Smith; Trumpeter Finch copyright John Malloy; Sooty Tern copyright Adrian Webb; Least Sandpiper copyright John Philip Lee; Blackpoll Warbler copyright Marc Read; Green Heron copyright Tom Shevlin; Magnificent Frigatebird copyright Dr Mark Eaton; Brunnich's Guillemot copyright Ian Barnard.

You can search thousands of photos from 2005 and earlier for other rare birds - simply go to any gallery and use the search feature on the left hand bar. Many thanks to all the photographers who have 'showcased' their work on surfbirds in 2005.