Bird of the Year 2012

Starting with my garden, the most surprising record was a woodcock. Sadly not tickable, because it looked like this:

Presumably the fox got it. Which is a pity, although if it hadn’t I never would have known the woodcock had visited.

The other notable bird, also nocturnal and also slightly frustrating, was a little owl. I knew they were breeding nearby: I still haven’t seen one, but I did hear one calling when were eating in the garden this summer. So that’s one for the garden list.

Widening out a bit, I had my first local wheatear, in Crystal Palace Park, and great views of a firecrest in Dulwich Woods.

I suppose strictly speaking my ‘best’ London bird last year was probably a pair of common scoter, on the river at Rainham Marshes. Other nice London sightings: tawny owl in Kensington Gardens, a big flock of yellow wagtails at Barnes, green sandpiper at Crayford Marshes.

And, not-in-London-by-any-sensible-definition-but-within-the-London-Natural-History-Society-Recording-Area: I started off the year by finally managing to track down a lesser-spotted woodpecker at Bookham Common, after many attempts, and then a couple of weeks later also managed to see hawfinch there.

A fulmar at Oare Creek, brought down by bad weather, was an unexpected bonus.

My rarest bird of the year, and a spectacular species, was this:

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I know, isn’t that just the most amazing… oh hang on a minute, let me zoom that in a bit for you:

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It’s the one on the left, a red-breasted goose, one of the most beautiful birds in the world. And actually I had a better view of it than the photo would suggest: the iPhone/binocular combo doesn’t really do it justice.

But it’s not my bird of the year, because firstly, there’s every chance it’s not a wild bird; they are common in ornamental wildfowl collections so it’s possible it’s an escape. It was consorting with a huge flock of wild Brent Geese who had come in from Siberia, so that is in its favour, but who knows.

Also, because they are common in collections, I have seen many of them before, even if I haven’t seen wild ones. Also taken with my phone, no need for binoculars:

rbg

And I went to twitch it, which is never quite as exciting as finding something for yourself.

No, I think my bird of the year ought to be the one which I was actually most excited by, which was: turtle dove.

Turtle doves have been in horrendous decline, down over 95% in the UK since 1970, and when I found one at Oare I was just thrilled. It was just completely unexpected — although when I pointed it out to a local birder they were totally unimpressed, so perhaps I should have been expecting it. But that would have made it less fun.

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And they are just lovely birds.

That’s not my picture, sadly; Tórtola común 30 de junio de 2011 is © Paco Gómez and used under a CC by-sa licence.

2 Comments

  1. 2 February 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    There was a lesser spotted woodpecker flittering about here once several years ago, in the hedges and lower tree trunks, which is unusual for them, I understand, as they tend to stay in the upper canopy. The same day I visited some friends a mile or two away and a bit closer to town and they said they’d seen one around their garden shed and bird feeder. I rather assume it was the same one and something untoward had happened to make it change its normal behaviour.

    That’s really a very impressive list. I have the impression one used to see turtle doves sometimes in years gone by, of ticking them off in my birdbook as a teenager, but that picture looks quite exotic and unfamiliar, so maybe not. Did they get displaced by collared doves?

  2. Harry
    2 February 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    If more lesser-spotted woodpeckers learned to come to bird feeders I suppose it might help slow the decline — it’s yet another species that is down by something like 70% in 40 years. Sigh.

    I don’t think the turtle dove decline is connected to the collared doves — or at least I’ve never heard it suggested. It’s probably some combination of habitat loss here and in Africa, and overhunting on the way through the Mediterranean.

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