Year, sorry, not world. Year. Yes, 2012 is history, 2013 is a mystery.
So what happened? First the garden, where a good start to the year and a great autumn were separated by a wet spring that just went on and on without a break in the rain. Best bird from the first part of the year was a LAPWING during a snowy spell … these are ridiculously scarce from the garden, given that there are usually hundreds within a few km radius the whole winter long.
By the time the sun showed up in July I’d got so tired of looking out of the window at the rain that I couldn’t raise the will to write anything about the few good birds that were found. The most significant omissions were a flock of eight or nine CROSSBILLS that flew south on 3rd August. I got the camera on them, but the focus went wild and all we got was this
The only decent migrants around the garden were a couple of young Willow Warblers together, nice but not pausing for a picture. A cracking Yellow Wagtail flew directly south on 18th September, but a few days later, a day-long skywatch was finally rewarded with a MARSH HARRIER high with a Buzzard, the harrier being slender-winged, long-tailed and all-dark compared to its chubby relative.
So the MARSH HARRIER was the first of three new birds for the BOMH Garden List, the others being a calling YELLOWHAMMER on 21st October, and easily the best garden bird of the year, a HAWFINCH passing with Redwings on 6th November. Other scarcities were regular Little Egrets, Brambling, Greylag Geese, Egyptian Geese, Hobby, Common Tern, Great Black-backed Gull, Ring-necked Parakeets, Ravens, Hobbies, Willow Warblers … not bad really.
The biggest garden disappointment of the year was the pair of COMMON CRANES that was located soaring to the south at Moor Green on 5th May. I was out and scanning, hoping to pick up these two massive birds, but instead of a northward course they jinked west before doing a south Reading flyover past almost every birder in Berkshire, but entirely circumventing BOMH airspace. The second biggest garden failure was my repeated doziness with early morning ducks that were probably MANDARINS … three times! Get the coffee before going out …
Outside of the garden/fulcrum of the Universe, other birding was done. I twitched four biggish birds (southern Britain only, I’m lazy), adding SPANISH SPARROW, DARK-EYED JUNCO, LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER to my puny British list. Some other decent birds along the way were my second British records of Cory’s Shearwater, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Buff-bellied Pipit (in Berkshire!), and self-finds of Dotterel and Sabine’s Gull. Here’s my first view of the latter, phonescoped:
In the mighty county of Berkshire, I didn’t do that well, adding only Marsh Harrier from the garden and the aforementioned Buff-bellied Pipit as county ticks. But looking back, there were plenty of scarcities in the supporting cast, with Great Grey Shrike, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Waxwings, Nightjars, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, Smew and Long-tailed Duck, Red-necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver, Pectoral Sandpiper and Little Stint. Along the way I missed out on Whimbrel (again), Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Bustard (no, really), several Ring-Ouzels, Wryneck (twice) and a Little Bittern just down the road in Herts.
Oh yes, and the biggest piece of stupidity of the year was an attempt to twitch a MANX SHEARWATER at Queen Mother Reservoir in early September with no optics. I was sure I would run into another birder, but since there had been a bird last year, and I didn’t arrive until the afternoon, anyone who still needed it had been and gone and I was the only birder present. I gave it a good go from the east bank, but finding a slouching seabird on several square kilometers of water is not something my eyeballs are up to. As compensation, here’s a Manx Shearwater that was looming over us as we won a pub quiz in Newbury in the spring … perhaps the Winterbourne record of 1883?