January was one of the most successful months of the year for me despite only twitching on 3 occasions. A trip to the Exe Estuary kicked the year off with the American Wigeon at Maford Marsh and the returning BONAPARTE'S GULL at Dawlish Warren.
I eventually got a chance to head down to Cornwall to try and finally defeat a bogey bird: PACIFIC DIVER. Searching from Penzance didn't provide any definate views, but we eventually nailed the ID from Perranuthnoe where we got good comparison views with both black-throated and great northern divers - one of my highlights of the year. The trip also produced the regular HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL at Perranuthnoe, my first EASTERN BLACK REDSTART at Mousehole and the Green-Winged Teal at Hayle.
Green-Winged Teal - Hayle
The following weekend was a bit deja vu as I took an oppourtunity to head up for the PACIFIC DIVER at Druridge and the EASTERN BLACK REDSTART at Skinningrove (I didn't see a single western-race bird this year!). I'm happy with the much better images, but wheres the fun in easy birds! I also had a brief view of last years DUSKY THRUSH at Beeley before dusk.
Often a quiet month, the only twitch this month was for the wintering Bluethroat at Willow Tree Fen in Lincolnshire and the 2 Taiga Bean Geese at Monkton, Kent in anticipation for the switch to IOC in 2018.
I eventually connected with my first Cattle Egret of the year at Portesham this month and, after a couple of attempts, I connected with the IBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF in Kingsgate Park, Yate.
Spring started this month with the BLACK-WINGED STILT at Posbrook Flood and a series of individual twitches connected me with a few scarce lifers: a Dotterel at Blackdown, a distant Kentish Plover at Rodden Hive and the American Night Heron of unknown origin at Venus Pool, Shropshire.
The month started with 2 Temmincks's Stints at Goldcliff Pools.
An after-work twitch to the South Coast proved well worth-while with the male Golden Oriole at Portland Bill and the Short-Toed Lark at Cogdon Beach.
A trip to Suffolk was rewarded with good views of the Marsh Warbler singing at Lakenheath Fen.
A look at Ham Wall one evening proved productive with a flyover Cattle Egret, good views of last years male LITTLE BITTERN and distant views of the RED-FOOTED FALCON.
I ended the month very nicely by defeating a three-time bogey bird: the GULL-BILLED TERN at Steart Marshes after work one evening - naturally, one of my highlights of the year.
After initially giving birders the roundaround, a dash down to Pagham Harbour one evening resulted in good views of the ringed and DNA-tested ELEGANT TERN, potentially the first acceptable bird in the UK and one of my top birds of the year.
Another trip to Avalon Marshes produced a Purple Heron and a Glossy Ibis (surprisingly, my only one this year) on Shapwick Heath and another Cattle Egret at Ham Wall.
After controversy over the Venus Pool bird, a trip to Cosmeston Lakes, Glamorgan was in order to see the European Night Heron, which gave great views.
Night Heron - Cosmeston Lake
A quick dash down to Lodmoor enabled me to connect with the ALPINE SWIFT which remained faithful to the same spot for the whole afternoon.
A successful double twitch added two lifers to my list: at least 3 Bee-Eaters at East Leake, Nottinghamshire and the KING EIDER at Aberaeron, Ceredigion.
The month started with good views of the Red-Backed Shrike at Burnham-on-Sea, my first full adult male.
A 10 hour round trip to North Yorkshire to see an overdue lifer was perhaps not worthwhile, nonetheless I thought the Nosterfield Sabine's Gull was a smashing bird that I'm happy to have seen.
An after-work twitch to Kent was rewarded with very distant views of the MARSH SANDPIPER at Cliffe Pools just as the sun was setting. There were also 2 families of BLACK-WINGED STILTS on the same pool totalling no fewer than 9 birds.
A trip down to Ferrybridge resulted in good views of 2 Roseate Terns; my first since 2010.
A week in Norfolk produced a couple more overdue lifers; the White-Winged Tern Far Ings (Lincolnshire) and 2 Caspian Gulls at Cley Marshes.
A mostly uneventful month produced a flyover Cattle Egret on the 13th, but then a rush down to South coast resulted in brilliant views of my number one bird this year: the fantastic YELLOW WARBLER on Portland, first for the British Mainland!
The only other notable species this month was the juvenile Woodchat Shrike at Chipping Sodbury Common.
My most successful month this year started with a bang as news came in of a STILT SANDPIPER at Lodmoor - another after-work twitch was in order! Despite negative news on arrival I eventually managed to relocate the bird just before dusk, and an unexpected bonus came in the form of a LEAST SANDPIPER! My favourite twitch of the year and an evening I won't forget for a while to come.
(Better shots from a later trip back to Lodmoor)
A look off Minehead produced another long-overdue tick in the form of a Leach's Petrel. My first (and unfortunately only) trip to Scilly produced another yank calidrid I missed last year - a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER at Lower Moors. I also self-found a Yellow-Browed Warbler at the same site and had prolonged views of a WILSONS PETREL on the return Scillonian crossing.
An after-work twitch to Arne Moors defeated another bogey bird in the form of a Red-Necked Phalarope as well as a Grey Phalarope on the same pool.
A couple trips to the Portland/Weymouth area produced a juvenile Rose-Coloured Starling at Lodmoor, great views of the GREENISH WARBLER at Portland Bill and the SPOTTED SANDPIPER at Abbotsbury.
A drive up to Glamorgan resulted in brief views of the unusually elusive BOOTED WARBLER at Rhossili.
Good views of the ROCK THRUSH at Blorenge in Gwent made up for missing out on the Scilly bird earlier this year. This was followed by the WILSON'S PHALAROPE and LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER on the same pool at Oare Marshes, Kent.
The week was topped off by a rush down to St Aldhelm's Head one evening for the TWO-BARRED WARBLER, a nice armchair tick for next year. The month ended with nice views of the drake LESSER SCAUP at Longham Lakes.
This month was typically quiet, the only highlights being the LESSER YELLOWLEGS at Lodmoor (this site has been particually productive this year!) and the Italian-type sparrow at East Budliegh - an interesting bird but certainly untickable.
The month started off well with the COUES'S ARCTIC REDPOLL at Hazelwood Common, Suffolk and 16 Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham, Norfolk.
A couple trips to the south coast resulted in great views of the Barred Warbler at Titchfield Haven and singles of Ring-Billed Gull and Caspian Gull at Blashford Lakes.
Barred Warbler - Titchfield Haven
A look at Plock Court, Gloucester resulted in great views of the calling PENDULINE TIT.
The year was ended with 8 Shorelarks and a hybrid Black Brant at Holkham
Shorelarks - Holkham
hybrid Black Brant - Holkham
I feel like I missed out on most of the mega rarities this year, however I still did well with 248 species including 35 lifers and 2 Yeovil ticks. Happy new year to all and good birding for 2018!