Monday, 30 December 2013

The 'Cowboys' hottest 3 birds of 2013

Salma Hayek, Katy Perry, Megan Fox - I jest!

As the end of 2013 fast approaches, it's time to look back over my birding year and decide which three birds stood out for me personally. In a year splattered with major rarities and blockers un-blocked it wasn't an easy decision - but as I missed most of these birds, my choices are made that little bit easier.

In deciding on my top three, they didn't necessarily have to be especially rare locally or nationally, or even a tick, it's more about the whole birding package - i.e views, location, plumage and the experience.

And first up, and taking this years 'Bronzed Bird's Eye Chili' was the well watched and photographed Thetford Black-bellied Dipper - a bird which spent a good part of the start of the year entertaining the crowds along the river Thet. Not only was this a super looking bird, the views were stunning and it was a real performer for the camera - expertly catching and feeding on caddisfly larvae just a matter of metres away. Those of you who were also fortunate enough to see the family of Otters along the same stretch of river must have been pinching yourselves.

Thetford, Norfolk
3rd - Bronzed Bird's Eye Chili winner

In second place and collecting the 'Silver Scotch Bonnet Pepper' was the super-confident West Canvey Marsh Red-backed Shrike. Not especially rare and a bird I've enjoyed watching many times over the years, but this juvenile was exceptionally inquisitive, with no inhibitions. This bold youngster had been around for a few days prior to me turning up, so when I arrived late Sunday afternoon between rain showers there was only one other birder on site and they soon left, so for a brief spell I had the bird to myself - and what a performer and almost within touching distance.

Juvenile, Canvey Island, Essex
2nd - Silver Scotch Bonnet Pepper winner

So, to this years winner, drum roll please…

First place and the winner of 'The Cowboy Birder's hottest bird of the Year 2013' and picking up the coveted 'Golden Trinidad Scorpion Pepper' goes to...

The Yarmouth summer plumage female Wilson's Phalarope.

The views were not especially close, but what a plumage! This was a much wanted Phalarope I was keen to add to my insignificant UK list, so to finally catch up with one in such fine attire was especially pleasing - watching any species of Phalarope is always a special experience, but seeing one wearing its summer Sunday best only adds to the occasion. This birding jaunt was made that little bit extra special, when last minute I decided to take the family with me on the trip to the Isle of Wight, an experience we all enjoyed so much, we ended up staying for the weekend - giving me a double helping of views of this Tricolor beauty!

Female, Summer plumage, Isle of Wight
1st - Golden Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Winner
As a footnote and merited - but ineligible for a medal, was the 'Fall' of spring migrants which hit London on Monday 15th April. The cold start to the spring initially held back many migrants into the UK but a brief change in the weather opened the flood gates, and when alerted to the news I dashed to Wanstead Flats - I wouldn't be disappointed. The sight of over twenty-five Northern Wheatears bouncing around a small area of grassland, along with Whinchat, several Common Redstarts, a Ring Ouzel and a healthy covering of Sylvia and Phylloscupus Warblers (these numbers were mirrored across several sites in the Capital) made those two hours of London based patch birding very special, and a morning to remember.

Which just leaves me to wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year 2014 and many thanks for reading and commenting on this blog over the year - with special thanks to my Ukrainian fan base!

So whether you're a big listing rare chaser, dedicated patch worker, camo wearing prime lens carrier or even just a plain old garden birdwatcher and feeder - let's all enjoy our two-legged feathered friends while we still can...

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