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The Very Best of British and Irish Birding - 2011 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)

The New Year got off to a 'gull flyer' with a Slaty-backed Gull giving birders the run around in Essex. But better that than the moribund American Purple Gallinule in Cornwall or the Dusky Thrush from December 2010 belatedly identified in Greater Manchester! Less traumatic twitches included up to 4 Northern Harriers including a popular Norfolk bird, 3 Pacific Divers in various counties, 5 Northern Long-tailed Tits in Kent, a White-tailed Eagle in Hampshire or, further afield, a Killdeer in Argyll. Most birders sighed with relief as news of the Oxfordshire Oriental Turtle Dove was did those birders who still had to connect with the Slaty-backed Gull when it reappeared mid-month. Another Northern Harrier was identified in the Outer Hebrides, along with a Snowy Owl. South coast birders had the pick of a Long-billed Dowitcher in Dorset, the returning Pacific Diver in Cornwall, an Azorean Yellow-legged Gull in the same county or more sightings of Northern Long-tailed Tits in Kent. Highlight of the month was a stunning drake Stejnegers Scoter in Ireland. Perhaps as popular, being closer to most birders' homes, was a Short-toed Treecreeper in Suffolk. Argyll hosted a Pied-billed Grebe; South Wales a drake Blue-winged Teal, whilst English birders could catch up with long-stayers including the Oxfordshire Oriental Turtle Dove, the Hampshire White-tailed Eagle, those gorgeous Northern Long-tailed Tits or simply continue to enjoy the winter's record invasion of Waxwings. A Little Crake in Sussex was the month's best bird although another Oriental Turtle Dove in Suffolk might have been equally popular had it been twitchable. The singing male Barolo Shearwater returned to Lundy, a Black Scoter was identified off Northumberland and two Little Swifts appeared together over Cornwall. A spring record of Red-flanked Bluetail, from Dorset, was unexpected. Shetland hosted a Collared Flycatcher at the month's end as the usual spring migrants started to appear in numbers.
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
Highlight of the month was an Audouin's Gull in Suffolk although arguably more popular was the displaying male Great Snipe in Norfolk. Other popular waders included a Terek Sandpiper in Northumberland. On the passerine front, a Trumpeter Finch appeared on Lundy, a popular Collared Flycatcher in Norfolk, a Thrush Nightingale in Shetland and a headline grabbing in-flight record of Calandra Lark from Lincolnshire. Highlights of the month were the White-throated Robin in Cleveland and the White-winged Scoter in Aberdeenshire. Nearby a Greater Sandplover reached Highland. Further south a Roller arrived in Suffolk and a Squacco Heron in Kent. Red-footed Falcon and Black Kite sightings reached more or less double figures. At the month's end birders searching the Scoter flocks in Aberdeenshire also found a Black Scoter for their troubles. A summer plumaged Stilt Sandpiper in Dorset attracted a steady stream of admirers, as did a singing Western Bonelli's Warbler in Derbyshire that settled onto territory. A flyover Pacific Swift in East Yorkshire was seen by just a lucky few. Other headline grabbing birds included a Paddyfield Warbler pulled from a mist-net in Dorset, at least one Eastern Common Tern in Suffolk, along with female Two-barred Crossbills appearing in East Yorkshire and Shetland at the month's end. Highlights were two adult Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a Red-necked Stint, all in Ireland. Meanwhile Shetland delivered three Booted Warblers in the final week whilst at the other end of the country a Black Stork flew over Sussex. Typical August fare included good numbers of Greenish, Arctic and Western Bonelli's Warblers, whilst various pelagics and headlands logged Wilson's and Fea's Petrels, along with Yelkoun and Little Shearwaters amongst good numbers of Cory's and Great Shearwaters.
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
Highlight of the month was a Sandhill Crane in Scotland, whilst at the other end of the country the Isles of Scilly delivered a delightful Northern Waterthrush and Black-and-white Warbler. A Semipalmated Plover in Ireland, a Greater Yellowlegs in Cornwall, a late-identified Long-toed Stint in Sussex, a more obliging American Black Tern in Lincolnshire and a record invasion of Pallid Harriers were a taste of things to come. Record numbers of Nearctic shorebirds arrived on the back of the Atlantic storms. October burst into the record books as a trio of Siberian Rubythroat, Siberian Blue Robin and Rufous-tailed Robin made landfall. Whilst an equally tantalising Eastern Crowned Warbler, ringed in Hertfordshire of all places, was not seen subsequently. Nearctic delights included two Summer Tanagers, in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, an Ovenbird in the Outer Hebrides and a supporting cast of Grey-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the crowd-pulling east coast Sandhill Crane. Highlight was the two male Eastern Black Redstarts in Kent and Northumberland whilst a long-staying Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Somerset and a Greater Yellowlegs, again in Northumberland, were a magnet for birders. Wheatears were a plenty with Pied, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears all putting in appearances, the latter species in double digits. Nearctic passerines were now rather thin on the ground but a Blackpoll Warbler was seen in Kent whilst the identity of the Norfolk 'peep' was finally nailed. Birders could use December to catch up with rare waders set on over-wintering, including Norfolk's Western Sandpiper, Northumberland's Greater Yellowlegs and Somerset's Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. New rarities included the returning Lesser White-fronted Goose in Norfolk, an increasingly rare Siberian Stonechat in Cleveland, more Desert Wheatears and at the year's end a Slate-coloured Junco in Hampshire that was usurped by an apparently long-resident Spanish Sparrow just a few miles away reached birders' ears.
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011

Photos from top left: Slaty-backed Gull copyright Steve Arlow; Rufous Turtle Dove copyright John Carter; Northern Long-tailed Tit copyright James Lowen; Collared Pratincole copyright Martin Standley; Great Snipe copyright Penny Clarke; White-throated Robin copyright John Carter; Bonaparte's Gull copyright Chris Townend; Wilson's Petrel copyright Richard Stonier; Northern Waterthrush copyright Gary Thoburn; Siberian Rubythroat copyright Hugh Harrop; Eastern Black Redstart copyright Tom Tams; Greater Yellowlegs copyright Nigel Voaden.

You can search thousands of photos from 2011 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 2011.