I have some happy bird-memories from 2011. I saw 96 species (fewer than last year but I guess I went to fewer birdy-places).
The year started with a sighting, on my morning run up the road on 19 January, of a sparrowhawk taking a wren. I felt sorry for the wren which had survived through the cold weather only to be gobbled up in a second. I wonder if this was the same sparrowhawk which visited two bird-feeders in our garden on 16 December and only flew off when a magpie appeared.
We had baby blackbirds in the garden in April, and a young sparrow spent many days on our terrace in August.
I don’t have many photos of birds, but I have recorded the places where I saw and heard my first summer visitors.
I heard my first blackcap on 31 March, in Denham, Bucks, that’s always a magic moment (and I saw one on the tree outside my office in Henley, as late as 19 December–I guess he’s here for the winter).
Unusual birds, for me, were a tree pipit above the Walkham Valley on Dartmoor on 1 May, and, the next day, a male pied flycatcher at about 6am by the River Tavy, also on Dartmoor.
A first was the white stork, in a deep-ploughed field near Market Weighton, on a walk as part of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network annual conference.
I also relished seeing redstarts on the Quantocks on a hot July day,
and avocets at the Swale nature reserve when walking a bit of the Saxon Shore Way on a grey day in August.
I got a fleeting view of a hen harrier on Exmoor in October and goosander by Hill Bridge, on the Tavy, in December.
In June I helped to count nightjars at Wishmoor Bottom on the Surrey heathlands, and I did my British Trust for Ornithology breeding bird survey in early mornings in April and June, at Peterley Wood, Prestwood in Bucks, as well as completing my squares for the BTO bird atlas.
I ended the year with a walk on Otmoor, a real treat. From the hide we got a wonderful view of a kingfisher which spent most of the afternoon on the nearby reeds, catching fish, an electric bright blue shape among the greys and browns.
On the marshes were flocks of teal (fewer than usual, the RSPB warden told us, because the water was two to three feet lower), pochard, wigeon, shovelers and mallard. An excellent, peaceful, end to the birding year.