Thursday, 3 January 2013

2012 Highlights at home

Highlights in Sussex were seeing three new birds in the county in a week - Parrot Crossbill at Blackdown on 29 January, Paddyfield Warbler at Pagham on 4 February and a first-winter Caspian Gull on Newhaven Harbour's west arm on 5 February.  A pity the year didn't continue in that vein but the Pagham Hooded Merganser offers the possibility of a fourth should BBRC treat it favourably.  The Caspian Gull gave me the most pleasure as for some years I'd hoped to find one I was completely happy with and my previous efforts had failed to produce the full set of features I felt I wanted to see for a ‘first’. 

poor video still of Blackdown Parrot Crossbill - those unhappy with its ID probably saw the wrong bird:-)
Caspian Gull seen with Frank Lambert on Newhaven West Arm, finally one that ticked all the boxes for me. I may well never find myself another new bird in Sussex, a somewhat sobering thought. 
Hooded Merganser at Pagham on 11 November.  Perhaps not as wary as one might have hoped, the timing of its visit matched very closely that of two of the more convincing previous British acceptances.

The Red-footed Falcon at Chichester Gravel Pits did the decent thing by staying until I returned from a trip abroad (just).  The Desert Wheatear at Worthing was superb as was the Sabine’s Gull on Hove seafront  while the Siberian Stonechat and Hume’s Leaf Warbler saved what at one time was looking to be another disappointing autumn at Beachy.

Red-footed Falcon at Chichester Gravel Pits on 11 September.  Very glad I went before work and didn't leave it to the weekend
Siberian Stonechat at Birling on 20 October.  A fortunate find as it was glimpsed from the car as I was leaving Beachy with Martyn Kenefick.  Just as well it was distinctive!
Sabine's Gull on Hove promenade on 21 October - ridiculously tame
Desert Wheatear on Worthing Beach on 25 October, another that working interfered with as it didn't stay to the weekend.  Later investigation showed the yellow disc to be a plastic marker - just a shame it was on that post.
Scarce species in Sussex worthy of mention were the two Snow Buntings at Widewater at the start of the year, a local Iceland Gull at Shoreham Harbour in February (as well as the long stayer at Newhaven) and brilliant performances from two Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at Rackham in March and two Wood Warblers at Buchan Park in May.  I finally caught up with the Adur (and Warnham) Osprey in September but unfortunately not on my ‘patch’ by Shoreham Airport.  This stretch of the river did hold a pair of Goosanders briefly in early December.  40 colour-rings were read on gulls, mainly on the Adur, although none were particularly noteworthy.

Snow Bunting at Widewater - one of two that overwintered
Icelland Gull found at Shoreham Harbour on 19 February, it did not linger
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Rackham on 24 March - one of two competitively drumming
Wood Warbler in Buchan Park on 12 May - one of two competitively singing
Osprey heading for Passies Pond on 1 September.  
Goosanders by Shoreham Airport on 2 December
I rarely ventured outside Sussex although a ‘stowaway’ trip to Hampshire in January with John King and Frank Lambert for Spanish SparrowSlate-coloured Junco and Ring-billed Gull was successful.  A week with the family in Cornwall in April produced Chough on the Lizard and the only Manx Shearwaters and Shags I was to see all year.  Undoubted highlight of the year was the very impressive Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll in Suffolk.  All other non-Sussex rarities were resisted!

Spanish Sparrow at Calshot on 21 January
Ring-billed Gull at Gosport on 21 January.  So near yet so far from a Sussex point of view where this remains a very rare bird - probably more so than Sussex records suggest!

a jewellery free shot of Chough on the Lizard on 3 April
Hornemann's Arctic Snowball at Aldburgh on 9 December, the best bird I saw in the UK all year.  
Biggest disappointment of the year was the spring seawatching which for me was poor, particularly for terns (I identified just 3 Arctic, saw only 15 Little and no Black Terns all year).

Many thanks to all those I birded with in 2012, in particular John King, John and David Cooper and Brenda Kay.  Visits ‘home’ of Martyn Kenefick and Frank Lambert were greatly enjoyed, more so as they coincided with my best two ‘finds’ for some years.

Many thanks too to those who happily shared their finds with others, nice to know there are still a lot of unselfish birders out there.

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