Let me start by saying that I’m not a twitcher (I should write a piece on my opinion of twitching really) so my list of top ten birds I’ve seen this year might be a bit plain for some! I’m pretty much limited to my local patch but here are my favourite spots of 2010
At number ten on my list is the magnificent sea-bird the gannet. I made my first ever trip to Bempton Cliffs this year and got to see the spectacular sights of thousands of gannets at their only mainland breeding site in the UK.
A lot people would be disgusted at the sight of a starling on a top ten bird list, but I simply love them! From an early age they’ve always been one of my favourite town and garden birds however this year saw my love for them increase when I bought a window feeder and was then able to see their beautiful glossy petrol sheen coat close up. Fantastic colours! I’m yet to see a murmuration of them coming to roost but hopefully 2011 will allow me to see that magnificent sight of nature.
8. Green Woodpecker
Whilst always a beautiful bird to see, this pops up on my top ten list for the fact that it was on my local patch which is a great spot for the area.
Not really a great spot but their aerial displays are just beautiful, on a hot summers evening is there anything more peaceful and relaxing than sitting by a river and watching them feeding? I don’t think there is. When watching swallows I’m always amazed at how they don’t crash.
Along with number 7, the essence of summer is watching these masters of flight cut through the skies on their scythe shaped wings at high speeds screeching away. Just an amazing bird, I can’t wait for the start of spring just to see their return.
5. Marsh Harrier
I think most birders have a fondness for birds of prey there is just something about them. I went on holiday in October and paid a visit to RSPB Leighton Moss, whilst in one of the hides looking over the reed beds I caught the slightest glimpse of a marsh harrier swoop down for a few seconds before disappearing, a real blink and you’ll miss it moment. If my eyes hadn’t had been on that area for those few seconds I’d have missed out of a great view and a life tick.
4. Reed Bunting
For me the male Reed Bunting is quite possibly the cutest bird around, either that or a goldcrest. Whilst I’ve seen a fair few Reed Buntings on my local patch and other birding areas the reason this makes my list is that during the harsh winter at the beginning of the year my garden in West Hull was visited by a male reed bunting which had joined a flock of sparrows. For the area I lived it was a very good garden bird indeed. As my bird knowledge was very slim back then I did not have a clue what it was, so on a trip to my parents I dug out my dads old bird books until I discovered what it was. This then in turn lead me to buy bird books and then start to take birding more serious. So there you have it, the reed bunting, the bird which turned me.
As previously mentioned I only really began birding properly this year. However I’ve always had a great interest in nature and birds and for a long time in my childhood my favourite bird was a kestrel. Although they were fairly easy to spot as a child, seeing them hovering above motorways on car journeys I’d never really got a good view of them. This was one of my main aims when I took up birding. It happened to me twice this year. The first was when walking along the river; the day itself was a pretty poor day for birding. It was in mid august so a quiet time for birding not only this but there was a very strong wind that even the swallows seemed to struggle with. My list for the day was shockingly bad, under 5 spots if I remember correctly. However as I kept on walking I see a Kestrel struggling in the wind to keep hovering before diving down on prey. A great find on a very poor day. The second kestrel encounter was whilst on holiday at a Haven holiday resort in Cumbria. I’d taken my daughter for a walk on the site, we had reached an area of the site where the caravans are slightly better than those elsewhere. There is a small pond in front the group of caravans which contains a little island and there hovering above the island what do we see but a kestrel and for the extra points it’s a male too! Its beautiful blue head focuses still on the ground waiting for its prey. Or looking for his family as my daughter suggested!
2. Barn Owl
The common theme of this list seems to be the average / nice bird in a great situation and none beats that for me then when I saw a barn owl in late October. I’d had the pleasure of watching a Barn Owl hunt on my patch all summer, however summer had become autumn and the dark nights were drawing in, I had given up on going out on an evening birding and swapped it for taking my parents dog for a walk. It was getting close to 7pm and getting dark when my dog and I reached the middle of my patch, as we cut down into the middle to start heading back I saw the unmistakeable ghostly flight of a Barn Owl at dusk, (there were now two Barn Owls out hunting instead of the one from summer, hopefully this means chicks were reared!) I stopped still to watch it hunt for a few minutes, as it flew across the common hunting for voles it was seemingly oblivious to my presence and this was confirmed when it flew within ten feet of me at around my head height before swooping down on prey. Simply breath taking.
Almost didn’t make it to the list at all! However whilst walking to work on the 29th December, through the thick mist I make out the shape of a flock of birds sat in a tree. Hang on a minute they look like Waxwings, I think so I take a better look, notice their size and the crest on their heads, most definitely Waxwings! I cross over the road to try and get a better view and can make out the patterning on their wings! A brilliant find! I’d become fed up of people saying how we we’re having a great year for Waxwings one of the best for years yet not seen a single one! I don’t know what it is about Waxwings that people seem to love, yes they’re magnificent beautiful birds with gorgeous wing colouring and patterns. Is it just that? As that alone is a great reason to love the Waxwing, is it their semi rarity value? How one year only a small few reach our shores whilst other years like this year thousands make it across? One reason for me is that they’re one of my earliest birding memories, when my family had them in our garden when I was nine years old, I remember my dad getting really excited about them but at the time I didn’t really get why. Whatever people’s reason is for loving them they’re a brilliant bird and one I’ve been aching to see for a while, even dreaming about them on a few occasions! They will probably be my last year tick for 2010, but what a great tick to finish on!
Other 2010 stuff
Whilst at RSPB Leighton Moss I also got to see Red Deer and a black tern both great to see. Missed out on seeing Little Egrets at Leighton Moss a few days before I went they’d had bumper numbers! I was also hoping on seeing Raven and Bearded Tits whilst at Leighton Moss / Cumbria but wasn’t so lucky. Maybe an excuse to go on holiday to Cumbria again? Other top bird sightings would have to be Cormorants flying above local patch, seeing a Roe Deer staring at me through the bushes only a couple of feet away, Common seal swimming down the river, Kingfisher fluttering by at great speed so all I can make out is its wonderful blue colouring.