The ‘Glorious Twelfth’ for me refers to the 12 British ‘ticks’ I saw during 2010! I am only now starting to think back what 2010 was like for me, and on all accounts it was a pretty good year! I always find birds good subjects to get the memory clogs turning, if I can remember WHAT, WHEN and WHERE I saw a good bird, then other activities and dates come to mind and I can piece together what I did over weeks and months gone by and get my generally poor memory back on track. So, when looking back at my 2010, it was an enjoyable process of working out what NEW birds I saw and what months I saw them in. I am not a ‘hardcore twitcher’, I do not go for ‘everything’ and I do not take my list ‘too’ seriously ? but I find myself drawn to go for certain species so am certainly a keen ‘occasional twitcher’. I love birds, who would not like to see a new species on their territory, their home turf ? it is part of a passionate, multi-faceted hobby and career, alongside birding in the UK, birding abroad, bird photography, bird research, bird ringing and overall – bird conservation. A small, enjoyable piece of a BIG BIRD PIE!
3 of the 12 UK ticks came over one ‘hat trick’ weekend in late March! On Saturday 27th March I headed over to Cromer and watched a superb Alpine Swift feeding on the wing right over my head on a coastal hilltop before it went into roost in a church steeple. Alpine Swifts are not regarded as ‘rare’ really but more ‘scarce’ as they are usually annual in small numbers, I could have easily seen one in the UK before this but I had not been in the area where one was found or ‘gone’ for one before, so this was my first one and to have it to myself that late afternoon was pure happiness. Then, bizarrely I saw another Alpine Swift the next day, this time in Kessingland, Suffolk and even better, it was flying about with another bird I needed for Britain – a Pallid Swift!
As I photographed these birds, Phil’s pager went off – MEGA ALERT – that wonderful sound – (do do do doo da dooooo! well something like that) what was it?!! Lesser Kestrel – Minsmere, Suffolk! We were not too far away and before long, after a mad dash, we were with the masses getting distant but good scope views of a hunting male Lesser Kestrel, tick 3. Tick 4 came over a month later with a visit to Frampton marsh RSPB reserve in Lincolnshire for the obliging Oriental Pratincole (all I need now is Collared having seen Black-winged in Kent in 2009 – Collared should have been the first of the three I know – but who’s complaining! ). No 5 came with shocking news of a Marmora’s Warbler in South Wales in June, an incredible discovery and location for such a Southern species to be holding territory! I went for the bird in early July.
White-tailed Plover later in July, followed by Little Bittern in Somerset, Semi-palmated Sandpiper in Essex and Wilson’s Phalarope at Welney, Norfolk continued my twitching spree into the Autumn but none stand out like that of the American Traill’s Flycatcher at Blakeney Point in September (thought to be an Alder Flycatcher). I think part of the joy and outstanding value of this bird came with the effort and hardship of getting to it, it was a bird you had to work for physically and after miles of shingle walking in high wind and driving rain, this little gem was waiting at the end ‘point’ as a reward – and what a reward it was, just magic!
Late Autumn and I was again heading North to Shetland and Fair Isle, my own annual migratory route for birding and photography! A few days on Shetland saw No 11 with an illusive Syke’s Warbler on the mainland which showed really well eventually. I had missed out on one in 2004 when I was working on Fair Isle and a Syke’s turned up on North Ron, I watched with envy then as Phil an friend’s flew off on a chartered plane for this mega bird, but we did have an Eastern Savi’s Warbler later that day which made the disappointment less painful! Six years later and I got my Syke’s. My last tick of the year was on Fair Isle and turned out to be my best of the year as I found it myself whilst birding around the south of Fair Isle! On the 13th October I found a Radde’s Warbler! Again, not the rarest of rares, in fact a ‘tarts tick’ is an expression possibly used for such a bird – though perhaps it is not the nicest term to use for a female bird tick 😉 I have dipped a couple of these apricot gems in the past and nothing could be sweeter than just coming across one whilst out in the field.
So comes to an end my little rarity journey of 2010. I wonder what 2011 will have in store. . . . . . LET IT BEGIN!