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The Very Best of British and Irish Birding - 2006 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)

A drake Baikal Teal in Northern Ireland, unringed and arriving during a cold snap, was surely the month's highlight although a long-staying Black-throated Thrush in Glamorgan drew more birders. Other ducks of interest included a one-day Redhead on the Outer Hebrides and the Barrow's Goldeneye from 2005 in Northern Ireland. Another Ross's Gull arrived in Suffolk to join the Norfolk bird from 2005. Best of the passerines was the 2005 Lincolnshire American Buff-bellied Pipit reappearing at the month-end. A small influx of Arctic Redpolls occurred with as many as ten individuals identified amongst flocks of Mealies. In South Yorkshire, a Common Rosefinch frequented a garden feeder for most of the month. Otherwise birders had to remain content with long-stayers, including two Forster's Terns in Ireland, up to four Penduline Tits in London and eight Cattle Egrets in East Sussex. Highlight of the month was a showy (at times) first-winter Sora in Lincolnshire. Less obliging was an American Robin in London, present since January, but only identified the day before it promptly disappeared. By mid-month the first spring migrants were being sighted with a dozen Night Herons, a single Pallid Swift and four Alpine Swifts at the end of the month. More intriguing were reports of a Spanish Sparrow in Coventry and the now regular passage of White-billed Divers off the Isle of Lewis. A handsome drake Hooded Merganser was the month's highlight for birders prepared to trek north to Shetland. Elsewhere a drake Blue-winged Teal in North Yorkshire and then Northumberland was equally attractive. Norfolk's second Killdeer probably drew the largest crowds however. Summer migrants began to arrive in force during April with a showy Western Subalpine Warbler in Dorset and up to 20 Alpine Swifts were including three long-staying birds in Devon.
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
Scotland held onto most of the month's best birds with a much wanted Calandra Lark initiating the Isle of May's first ever major twitch. Rarer still but all too brief was a Caucasian Stonechat on Shetland. The islands also hosted a White-throated Sparrow, a male Collared Flycatcher and perhaps two Scops Owls. Mainland birders were to be frustrated by a one-day Turkestan Shrike in County Durham, a belatedly reported American Robin in Scotland and a suppressed Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Norfolk. Highlight of the month was a territory-holding Scops Owl in Oxfordshire. Elsewhere a Black-headed Bunting graced Bardsey for a day as did a Paddyfield Warbler in Shetland. A few lucky birders twitching the Black-browed Albatross off the Outer Hebrides found a Bridled Tern, whilst pelagic trips off Scillies were producing double-figure counts of Wilson's Petrels by the month's end. A pair of Black-winged Stilts looked set to breed in Lancashire until bad weather intervened. Highlight of the month was an American Black Tern in County Wexford, accompanied for just one day by a Forster's Tern, with a second bird at Belfast Lough at the beginning of the month. The Scots scored with a Black Stork in Borders, the Welsh with a Stilt Sandpiper in Conwy and the English with a Lesser Grey Shrike in Suffolk. Rare waders included, amongst others, a Semi-palmated Sandpiper in Cleveland and a Marsh Sandpiper in Sussex. The best birds were seen by just a few with a one-day Roller in Cleveland, an all too brief Fan-tailed Warbler in Kent and a belated report of a Bridled Tern from Essex. As if this wasn't enough a presumed Eastern Olivaceous Warbler on Shetland turned out to be Britain's first Olive-tree Warbler on further study of photographs. Easier to connect with were a Stilt Sandpiper in Dorset and two White Pelicans in the south-east. Irish seawatchers logged half-a-dozen Fea's Petrels and several Little Shearwaters.
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
Sporadic sightings of an Eleonora's Falcon on the Isles of Scilly caused more than a few twitches amongst mainland birders. More obliging were a Pallid Harrier in Norfolk for most of the month and an Isabelline Wheatear on Anglesey. But neither could match those confiding Marbled Ducks in Dorset and East Sussex. Nearctic waders arrived en masse with hordes of Semipalmated, Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers and the 'best of the bunch' a Least Sandpiper in Cornwall. Ireland's first Canada Warbler, supported by a Hermit Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler and Baltimore Oriole continued the "luck of the irish". British birders enjoyed two American Robins on Scilly and various Red-eyed Vireos. A Two-barred Greenish Warbler in North Yorkshire and the suppressed Siberian Rubythroat left east coast birders with mixed emotions. Shetland exploded into action with Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, River Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Upland Sandpiper and Black-throated Thrush. Belated news of a Long-billed Murrelet in Devon was surely too much to believe, but its rediscovery the very next day sparked a massive twitch. As if birders still needed anything else to enjoy a Black-eared Kite in Lincs was popular and a Masked Shrike on Scillies might have been had it stayed. Drake Barrow's Goldeneyes in Scotland and Ireland, Bufflehead on Shetland and a first winter Falcated Duck in Devon kept many birders quack-happy. Yorkshire birders tracked a Brunnich's Guillemot drifting south. The sensational news of a caught (and ringed) Glaucous-winged Gull in Gloucestershire mid-month, another first for Britain, was to eclipse Scotland's Ivory Gull and Ross's Gull. Birders will be hoping this gull is quickly relocated! Elsewhere a second Falcated Duck was found in Kent, the Suffolk Marbled Duck relocated to Essex as did the Lincolnshire Black-eared Kite to Norfolk. More typical was a white Gyrfalcon on Shetland. Less typical was a Red-throated Pipit seeing in 2007 in Ireland.
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006

Photos from top left: Black-throated Thrush copyright Barry Stewart; Penduline Tit copyright William Bowell; Sora Rail copyright Marc Read; Hooded Merganser copyright Mike Pennington; Calandra Lark copyright Ross Newham; Black-winged Stilt copyright Steve Young; Lesser Grey Shrike copyright Sean Nixon; White Pelican copyright Stephen David Keightley; Pallid Harrier copyright Phil Woollen; Canada Warbler copyright Michael O'Keeffe; Long-billed Murrelet copyright Jim Lawrence; Ross's Gull copyright Keith Hoey.

You can search thousands of photos from 2006 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 2006.