When I came to add up the bird species on my list for 2012 I was pleasantly surprised by the total, since I didn’t go to many places, and the weather was unhelpful: 109 seen and four heard.
However, I confess that my numbers were boosted by my Super Saturday, assisted by Mark Avery, as I explain below.
In January a short walk in Upper Teesdale gave me a black grouse.
In March, on Iping Common, West Sussex, I saw a woodlark.
In April I was dive-bombed by a buzzard as I reached the top of Murton Pike in Cumbria.
In May, I got up at 5am and saw and heard a ring ouzel in the Tavy Valley, Dartmoor.
In June I took part in the annual count of nightjars at Wishmoor Bottom, near Camberley, Surrey. I did see a nightjar, also woodcock, tree pipit, stonechat, whitethroat and others.
Also in June, in the North York Moors, I saw my only redstarts and tree sparrows of the year. In August there was a peregrine still perching on the side of Derby cathedral, having nested there. I also saw a peregrine in April on Alport Castles, the Derbyshire landslip, and in July a youngster clinging to the side of the sheer chalk Swyre Head on the south Dorset coast.
Also in August, on a walk from Faversham to Sittingbourne, Kent, I saw black-tailed godwit and shoveler on Oare Marshes, and greenshank on Milton Creek.
I had four visits to the RSPB’s Otmoor, which is always a joy. On 27 February my sightings included white-fronted goose, redpoll and golden plover. On 4 June, there were little stint, little-ringed plover and dunlin. On 23 June I saw my first-ever hobby and heard my first-ever grasshopper warblers, as well as turtle dove and drumming snipe. On 30 December there were flocks of lapwing and golden plover and I waited hopefully for the starlings to come in to roost. They didn’t, but like Mrs Aldwinkle in Those Barren Leaves, we dared not tear ourselves away lest the apocalpytic event should occur (I owe that point to my partner Chris).
And so to my Super Saturday, 12 May. I joined Mark Avery at 8am at Stanwick Lake, Northamptonshire, on a lovely clear morning. I saw or heard 44 species (he had more of course), and the firsts for me were Cetti’s warbler, lesser whitethroat and garganey. But I doubt I’d have identified so many on my own. It was a memorable walk.
I paid a visit to a friend and was heading for home in the afternoon, when I thought I’d swing round via Bledlow, as I’d read on the Buckinghamshire Birding blog that a nightingale had been singing in a bush near Bledlow for some days. I didn’t really expect to hear him, at 5 pm next to a busy steam-railway, but I following the footpath to the railway line then took a path along the edge of the field to the bosky corner. Shortly after I arrived he began singing, and then presented himself at the top of the bush. A rare treat indeed. (I had had no success on 30 April and 5 May surveying a square for the British Trust for Ornithology, where nightingales had been seen in the past.)
But I’ll end at home in Turville, where I get much pleasure year round from wandering up the hill and through the woods, watching and listening to the red kites and buzzards, ravens, rooks and jackdaws, the scolding nuthatches and robins, with the bonus of chiffchaffs and blackcaps in spring time. There’s always plenty about.