2013: A year in review

The review ~ 1st January - 31st December 2013

I have never done a retrospective end of year blog post before, however I thought I would change that this year and write one. 2013 has been a busy year for me so I have picked a couple of images from each month that I think best represent what I did and where I went and have written some accompanying text for the photos.

So here goes:


New Years day saw me lying on a shingle beach on the south coast of England, photographing some of the UK's most enigmatic birds and some of my favourite species - the waders.

Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

During my February half term, I headed to the North Norfolk coast for a few days of birding and photography. My favourite part of the the trip was photographing Snow Buntings at very close range due to their fearlessness. However, the most memorable part of this trip was ending up in the River Thet whilst trying to photograph the Black-bellied Dipper that was residing there - I found out the hard way that the banks were more slippery than I'd anticipated!

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)
Black-bellied Dipper (Cinclus cinclus cinclus)

Generally a quiet month, March turned out to have a nice ending in the form of a trip to some of the London parks to photograph their wildlife and meet up with some other young photographers. It was freezing cold and sleeting all day but I had a good time nonetheless.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

The grebe family is one that I find intriguing, but also one that I often have trouble catching up with! Back in April I had a very memorable encounter with some Black-necked Grebes. The thing that made it particularly thrilling was that all of the Grebes present were in full summer breeding plumage and also showed exceptionally well, allowing me to capture some of my best images of this species so far!!

Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

The thing that sticks in my mind most from May is watching Springwatch on tv. I always find it very interesting and entertaining to watch. However this year, I had to miss a couple of episodes because I was in the middle of a mini Barn Owl project and by the end of the week I had managed my favourite Barn Owl images that I've ever taken!

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Contracting Bronchitis wasn't the best thing to happen to me in June, but I was just about able to get on the train down to Lymington Pier and get a choppy ferry over to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight in order to twitch the female Wilson's Phalarope that had pitched up. I'm still not sure how I managed it but I did and I'm very glad that I did as it is still one the coolest birds I've had the pleasure of watching!

Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)

This year, July was my favoured month for macro photography and I focussed on the Dragon and Damselflies that I found in my local area. Much to my surprise I learned that the site I visited was actually one of North Hampshire's prime dragonfly locations - a real treat to have so close to home!

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae)
Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa)

I spent most of August on a trip round Australia, travelling from Brisbane to Cairns, Alice Springs to Sydney and Perth to Hong Kong. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and one that I won't be forgetting quickly. Much of the wildlife I encountered was new to me and that made it all the more fun - the challenge of identifying everything while on the road greatly improved my identification skills and by the end of the month I felt much more confident with my note taking and record making abilities. I have uploaded some of the photos from my trip to my website here and I will be adding more in the future, so do check back to see the new content.

Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens)
Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)

Having been away for all of my summer holidays, I wasn't able to get out for any bird ringing sessions. Upon my return this was quickly rectified and during a session in late October we caught a truly magnificent beast in the nets; a juvenile male Sparrowhawk. As a group, we rarely catch birds of prey so this was a nice change from Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. The piercing yellow eye and mottled plumage was incredible to see up close and although I wasn't fortunate enough to be able to handle it, I won't be forgetting the encounter any time soon!

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Autumn is in full swing by October and I set out to capture some images of fungi, a subject I hadn't really put much effort into before. However, I soon became quite enthralled by all the different types and took many hundreds of images of mushrooms and toadstools.

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

After a month without getting out birding, bird ringing or photographing a lot, I was invited out to go ringing at the cottage of a friend of one of our groups ringers. I didn't have very high expectations to start with and thought we'd only catch 20 or so birds, with it being a garden and all. However I was pleasantly surprised to find hundreds of birds flitting around the feeders and in the trees when we arrived! By the end of the session, at 14.30, we had caught a total of 172 birds including 10 retraps. It was a session of firsts - my first time to this location, the first time I'd ever processed Starlings and my first time to hold and ring a Ring-necked Parakeet! I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the session but very glad that I'd gone. My fingers were very sore as a result of the Parakeet's strong and sharp beak, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (they like hammering your hands with their strong beaks) and the 100 Blue Tits and 31 Great Tits that were handled throughout the session (they have a habit of pinching the skin in between fingers and not letting go which is very painful, especially if your hands are a bit chilly)!!

Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

After everyone was sick of turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey curry and many other turkey-based meals and a very rare Brünnich's Guillemot (normally a resident of the high Arctic) turned up at Portland Harbour, I decided that a day out was necessary! The trip to Dorset was well worth it as the auk showed marvellously well and in some nice light too. It was a great high to end the year on, managing two new birds in one day (Brünnich's Guillemot and Great Northern Diver), taking my life list to 224 species.

Brünnich's Guillemot (Uria lomvia)

One last thing I wanted to mention before I sign off for the very last time in 2013, was that earlier in the year I joined a group called the Next Generation Birders (NGB for short). It is a group of like-minded individuals who are all under the age of 25 and are interested in birds; whether it's twitching, patch birding, bird ringing or photography, it doesn't matter! I was welcomed with open arms and it is a very friendly and lively community. If you are reading this and are not already a member then I sincerely urge you to join up because you are missing out! Their blog can be found here, their Facebook Page here and their Twitter account here.

NGB Logo.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has viewed, liked, shared, favourited etc... my work over the past year. I really do appreciate it and am extremely grateful for all the support and encouragement that I receive!

Well done if you've made it to the end of this post - I'm sorry it's so long but 2013 was quite a packed year!

That's all folks, so it just remains for me to say that I hope you all have a happy and healthy New Year and that 2014 is even better than 2013!!

Sunset from my bedroom window.

As always, thank you very much for reading and you can keep up to date with my activity on Facebook and Twitter and my website here.

A mega twitch

Brünnich's Guillemot, Portland Harbour ~ 27 December 2013 ~ 

At 5.30 this morning I started the long journey to Portland Harbour. Arriving at around 7.30, it was still dark and was extremely windy with winds reaching 60mph gusts! Remaining in the car until it got light, I wondered if I'd made the right decision to travel all this way to see the Guillemot.

Once it was light, I braved the winds and started scanning the water. Unfortunately I couldn't locate it but as more and more birders arrived,  news soon spread that it had been picked up in the marina.

Despite getting to the marina very quickly, it seemed that the bird had disappeared! However, there were plenty of other birds to distract us, including loads of Red-breasted Mergansers, a couple of Great Northern Divers (a new species for me), Oystercatchers and Shags.

To cut a long story short, the Guillemot played a hide and seek game with all the birders present as it swam about 100m every time it dived, moving a lot quicker than most of us could run! Eventually I got extremely good views in the last light of the day and do not regret, in the slightest, making the trip down to Dorset!

A very successful twitch indeed!

Here are a few photos of the Brünnich's Guillemot:

Showing well in the marina
A cropped version of the above image
Showing well in nice light
Crowd shot
As always, thank you very much for reading and you can keep up to date with my activity on Facebook and Twitter and my website here.