Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Well that was 2011

I have decided to do a summary of my birding year and where possible nominate a bird/photo of the month. Why? No particular reason but the weather has been rubbish and I can’t sit here doing nothing .
My approach to 2011 was a bit different to previous years in that I decided I would spend a lot more time on my local patches. There were several reasons for this; charging around the county whilst rewarding on occasions can also be a tad disappointing with the bird either gone or seen only distantly, the price of petrol was making charging around a little expensive, and I got more involved with the day to day workings of SBBO.
The year started with me ignoring all the above and going down to Rye/Pett with “ KIngsdowner” for our “New Year” session where we saw the black brant and a rough legged buzzard  but the red breasted goose had gone. In the afternoon we stopped off at Denge Wood for the hawfinch so a good start to the month though the pictures obtained were not up to much. The rest of the month was pretty quiet with a lot of the pre-Christmas birds disappearing with the snow. The shore larks (Sandwich), waxwings (everywhere) and scaup (Dover) all stuck around  and at KIngsdown and Dymchurch the northern long-tailed tits turned up.
Waxwing - Foulmead
February didn’t bring much new other than the red-necked grebe at Dungeness and finally a decent picture of the northern LTT (Dymchurch).
Northern LTT - Dymchurch

In March things were very quiet on the local patches but a couple of sessions at Boughton was rewarded with some great pictures of nuthatch.

Nuthatch - Boughton
Spring in general was pants though April saw some reward for my emphasis on local birding with 2 red-rumped swallows (Kingsdown, self found) and Montague’s harrier(Sandwich) – and pictures of both to boot.  Since neither are photographed very often I’ve actually selected 2 pictures for this month.

Red-rumped Swallow - KIngsdown

Montague's Harrier - Sandwich
May was again quiet locally though I finally got some decent raven images at Dover.

Raven - Dover
Also in May I went to Antigua with my wife, Angie, for our 25th wedding anniversary. Compared to a lot of birding destinations it’s pretty low fare but if a lazy holiday with a bit of bird photography is your thing there’s plenty to keep you interested. I’ve not yet found a justification for Antigua being in Greater Kent but I’m working on it.
In June I found a spoonbill at Backsand (a place I visited several times a week for most of the summer/autumn) but the highlight were the puffins and chough  at Skoma - not exactly local I know but the 2011 destination of Ashton’s Photographic Tours. Another month where 2 pictures have been selected.


Other than Backsand (common waders) July was pants though after some pictures/reports from some of my Flickr contacts I did go to Old Lodge and saw my first redstart of the year  and get some tree pipit pictures.

Tree Pipit
Backsand again supplied most of July’s highlights with wood sandpiper, Temminck’s stint and curlew sandpiper all being seen there. The Temminck’s would have been another self found bird but Phil Smith got there 15 minutes before me.

Temminck's Stint - Backsand
Most people’s September was dominated by the Stodmarsh bitterns. I only went there once and whilst the birds didn’t come that close I did see (and photograph) all 4 bitterns together, a sight I doubt I will ever repeat. More locally I found a little stint on the beach sheltering from gale force winds and an away day to Arundel with Ashton Bird Tours allowed some pictures of the long staying juvenile palid harrier to be obtained.  2 pictures have been selected for this month.

Bitterns - Stodmarsh

Pallid Harrier - Arundel
 October’s migration watch was dominated by crossbills – I saw over 1000 but never got near any with the camera; Steve Raynaert in contrast only saw half a dozen but they more or less landed on his camera lens. Bitter?????? You bet. I did have the pleasure of finding a grey phalarope at Dover but it was never close enough for a good picture but I did better with the arctic terns present at the same time. These were my first arctic tern pictures so I was pretty pleased with the result and these got the vote for photo of the month.

Arctic Tern - Dover

November undoubtedly was the best month of the year and a month where staying local finally paid dividends – well that and going around with someone who actually knows what he’s looking at/listening to – Ian, the SBBO warden. The 2 highlights I’m discussing are pallid swift and Richards pipits(both life ticks) though on both occasions I failed to get a picture because the camera was in my back pack. Another but not so local highlight was the Eastern black redstart. Other notable birds (and pictures) were provided by snow bunting and shore lark and images were obtained of rough legged buzzard (Hythe) and little auk (Deal Pier and spotted by Steve Rayneart – perhaps I might have to forgive him on the crossbill pictures).

Eastern Black Redstart - Thanet
December was dominated by visits to Dover harbour where a great northern diver and several guillemots were in residence most of the month.

Great Northern Diver - Dover
 My year list (excluding Antigua) at  235 was a little down on usual but there were some pretty glaring omissions - Slavonian grebe (which seem to have disappeared from Kent),  long eared owl,  osprey,  and it was a poor year for the scarce sandpipers and warblers though there were some things I didn’t bother twitching (the osprey - Reculver, and buff breasted sandpiper Rye) because I’d already seen them in Antigua.
My Sandwich list only managed to get up to 185.  I missed the woodchat shrike (I was in Antigua), managed no wild swans, and my duck, grebe and sea bird list at Sandwich is very poor (I didn’t even manage a bonxie!) in the main because there is no where comfortable to sea watch. On land there were also some glaring omissions – red kite, red legged partridge, tree pipit to name but 3!
Next year I’ll  probably do a bit more driving, especially of the bird is question is a poser,  though I suspect I’ll end up missing all sorts of local goodies.
Happy new year and lets hope for a productive one.


  1. Happy New Year Steve, a great 2011 looking at your photos and 235 birds is a pretty impressive list. Lets hope 2012 is a truely Olympic year for all.!!

  2. I'm glad you've nearly forgiven me...Great reprieve of the year. Happy New Year mate

  3. Happy New Year Mr Ray, looking forward to this years jolly to the Elan Valley. You may even get your Red Kite, I think one has been seen at Gigrin.

  4. A good read Steve together with pleasing photos, I wonder what next year will bring! Happy New Year.

  5. happy new year i keep up to date on dover lol

  6. Good post Steve, lots there to make me drule over, although I can say I did see a Bonxie here :-)