Friday, 3 January 2014

Photographic highlights of 2013

The year started with the black throated diver in Dover harbour, a few waxwings at B&Q and the peregrines on the cliffs but my birding and photographic month was dominated by Tobago. This was a family holiday so the birding was part time and whilst most of what we saw was common a lot of it was stunning. The star of the show was a rufous-tailed jacamar - though the red-billed tropic birds ran it very close!

Rufous-tailed jacamar
February for me was dominated by trips to the cliffs for the peregrines and to the woods for nuthatch and marsh tit but every time I went to the woods I spent some time searching for the lesser spotted woodpeckers.
I had a couple of sessions with the Stodmarsh penduline but it never came close enough for a good shot and I had a successful trip to Eastbourne for the Bonaparte's gull. Whilst not the best shot I took during the month (the Bonaparte's were better) the most satisfying was of the lesser spotted woodpecker.

Lesser spotted woodpecker
I managed a few decent shots in March - a nice male black redstart at Dungeness, more lesser spotted woodpecker at Bossendon but my selection has gone to a yellowhammer. I put in quite a few sessions with these before I managed to lure some close but was pleased with the final results.

Several candidates for April - a few firecrest shots, a black-legged willow warbler but the morning that got the blood pumping was when a drake garganey came onto on the bank in front of the hide at Restharrow and spent the morning swimming up and down the near bank - all in bright sunshine!

Again several candidates but I've gone with the Restharrow little stint in (near) summer plumage though  some shots of hobby at Stodmarsh ran it very close as did the black-necked grebes at Marquenterre.

Little stint
June was dominated by our trip to Bempton. As normal Steve organised the weather to perfection and we enjoyed wall to wall sunshine. I could have chosen guillemot, razorbill or red grouse shots but my favourite was the preening gannet. For those interested this was taken in bright sunshine and it was deliberately under exposed to prevent blowing the whites and which resulted in a near black sea in the back ground.

July was an appalling month with hardly a picture being taken.

August was dominated by trips down to Backsand due to the possibility of the lease on this facility being given up next year - an occurrence made all the more likely by the destruction of every hide down there by the tidal surge. As it happens there was a very ordinary wader passage this year with a poor green and common sandpiper showing. Reasonable shots of curlew sandpiper, little ringed plover and ruff were obtained  but pick of the month was another little stint - well 2 of them actually.
Little stint
This was a pretty quiet month punctuated by a family holiday to Rhodes. I managed some nice wader shots early in the month but the (local) bird and picture of the month goes to the jack snipe on Restharrow Scrape. The spotted crake at Oare posed pretty well as well.

Jack snipe
One of my better months with the camera but a pretty easy choice - the Pallas's warbler I found at Kingsdown. Pallas's and yellow-browed warblers are birds I see only rarely see so to find one a few hundred yards from the door and get a shot is one of the birding (and photographic) highlights of the year.

Pallas's warbler
Very little to choose from for November. A trip to Lac du Der provided some great views of cranes and great white egrets but everything was just a little too far off  so the choice is the Sandwich Bay snow buntings - for once they were approachable.

Snow bunting
Considering how few pictures I took in December this was a quite a difficult choice with black-throated diver (Eastbourne), spoonbill (Newhaven)  and a great white egret (Dungeness) all in the frame so I've cheated and selected 2 - the egret and the spoonbill.

Great white egret

This year I gave up on listing and even patch watching and overall I had my worse ever year for species and life ticks. Picture-wise I did a bit better than normal but my reluctance to twitch and join the crowds deprived me of a number of ticks and photo-opportunities. Where I did twitch (the Bonaparte's gull, the spotted crake and spoonbill) it was a week or two after their discovery and the crowds had subsided.
I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2014 though if it carries on raining I'll have to look for some more (sunny) holiday destinations or emigrate - I think my pension would go quite a long way in Gambia..

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