Wonderful moments of 2012

Hello birdwatchers

Well what a fantastic year it has been – I hope that you have been able to follow the Start Birding blogs over the last 12 months and have enjoyed reading about the wonderful birds we have seen on our trips.

Since my last post, we have remained in Yorkshire for the rest of December. The Monday and Wednesday evening classes joined forces for their first Christmas party at Rodley Nature Reserve while the Tuesday class dressed up as birds for their 8th Festive evening of fun.

Our trip to Pugney’s and Calder Wetlands in Wakefield allowed us to watch a displaced, deep sea duck in action on the main lake. Long-tailed duck occasionally turn up in Wakefield along with other scarce wildfowl such as scoter, scaup, smew, ring-necked duck, American wigeon and feruginous duck. It is like a ley line for wandering birds right on our doorstep.

Long-tailed duck at Pugney’s Country Park (Rodney German)

The final trip on the 2012 programme was to one of Leeds’ local gems, Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve. It was a sunny morning and the woodland birds were enjoying a pause in the wet weather. The sunshine brought out the warm colours of bullfinch, greenfinch, siskin, robin, blue tit and song thrush. Ahead of us on the water-logged path, the puddles provided a much needed pre-preening bath for a male bullfinch. We finished the walk with a hot drink and a festive mince pie.

A male bullfinch bathing at Kirkstall (Rodney German)

Festive birdwatchers at Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

As usual at this time of year, I put on an extra, unannounced trip to walk off the cobwebs and the over indulgence of Christmas day. This year, festive birdwatchers joined me at RSPB Blacktoft Sands. After everything I said about having good weather on my trips and being very lucky in 2012, I think I changed my luck. It rained most of the day. Luckily, there are enough hides at Blacktoft and we were able to take shelter from the prevailing wind. The weather did inhibit us from thoroughly scanning a field of greylag geese but we did find a Greenland white-fronted goose among them before the rain covered the telescope lens. Back at the hides, barn owl, marsh harrier and hen harrier hunted in front of us; the male hen harrier being the star of the show for me. We toasted the new year with a thimble full of home made sloe gin and Christmas cake (with Wensleydale cheese of course) from one of the hides before heading home.

It is a tradition of mine on new year’s eve to look back on the birding year and pick my top 5 birding moments and top birds. 2012 has been filled with wonderful birding moments – thankfully all shared with equally wonderful people. My favourites are: watching thousands of barnacle geese flying overhead at Caerlaverock in January; finding European white-fronted goose, taiga bean goose and tundra bean goose with greylag at Staveley in February; hearing a corn bunting singing on a new BTO survey site at Great Heck in May; watching a pied flycatcher singing in Middleton Woods in Ilkley and finding an illusive grey phalarope at Carsington Water in October.

So why am I sitting here writing my blog on new year’s eve? Well, the dreaded norovirus struck our house for the second time this month so we had to cancel our plans this year.

I wish you all a happy and peaceful 2013 full of birds and wonderful wildlife moments.


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