After spending the New Year in a 'dry' country, I spent the first couple of days of 2011 birding in Kuwait with the Belgians (Vincent L, David M and Fred V), where Ashy Drongo, Indian Roller and some of the usual Kuwait specials were gladly seen.
I eventually managed to catch up with what may or may not get accepted as Britain's first Slaty-backed Gull mid-month, and just a few days later I was packing my bags again and off to those magical islands in the mid-Atlantic with Josh J. We had an excellent time, spending it on Terceira, Sao Miguel, Faial and Pico where a whole host of yankage was seen with a bit found too - Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, 2 Pied-billed Grebes, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, American Coot, 7 Blue-winged Teal, 3 American Wigeons, 4 Ring-necked Ducks, Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, two Lesser Yellowlegs, two Bonaparte's Gulls, American Herring Gull and 28 Ring-billed Gulls. I rounded the month off with a visit to Chipping Norton, enjoying the Oriental Turtle Dove.
|Yellow-crowned Night Heron|
While I headed back to school after the Azores, JJ went over to Ireland with Staines and found a first. This made me pay a visit to the glorious coast of County Kerry where the drake Stejneger's Scoter was seen in all its glory, as well as a couple of wingers nearby (in what was again a poor year for them in Ireland). Locally things were very quiet.
I was off again - with JJ and Staines - and had a quality few days birding in Portugal and Spain early in the month. The Ruppell's Vulture at Vila Velha played ball while birding the Spanish steppes near Trujillo took me back to an area where I'd been to with my parents back in the day. Great and Little Bustards, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Eagle Owl plus many, many more made for a really enjoyable trip.
All was quiet locally, with Sand Martins and Common Terns having returned to breed on the patch. Late in the month, I headed off with Peter A et al to the Azores again, where we were to spend some time on boats off Graciosa. When we eventually got it right, views of Monteiro's and Wilson's Storm-petrels were fantastic, as was the usual bit of wader action in the quarry on Terceira, while the skuas we saw left us scratching our heads albeit with the opinion they may just be immature Bonxies.
|White-winged Black Tern|
As soon as I got back from my Azores trip, I made a quick trip up to Hartlepool for a proper, old school British mega - a White-throated Robin.
The month started off with a very pleasant day in Provence with JJ, where we had point blank views of the Red-footed Booby.
With it being holidays at the month's end, and news that the mythical WP bird, Brown Fish Owl, had finally been tracked down, I headed off to Turkey with JJ, Chris B and Andy H where we had lovely views of 2 adults and 2 juveniles. A memory that'll last a lifetime for sure, and we made the most of our trip with a visit to Birecik where Striated Scops Owl and Iraq Babbler were highlights, while Nemrut Dagi was excellent for Red-tailed Wheatear and Cinereous Bunting amongst a host of other decent eastern fare.
|Brown Fish Owl|
|Striated Scops Owl|
I enjoyed a fantastic three weeks in Asia, starting off in Hong Kong where I spent a few days birding before Karen joined me for the rest of the trip. Birding was tough in the heat, but I managed to see Black-faced Spoonbill, record an array of waders and also marvel at the Chinese Pond Herons.
|Chinese Pond Heron|
With rapid low pressure systems tracking across the Atlantic, I spent a couple of weekends in Ireland. I managed to see a couple of Buff-breasted Sandpipers in Kerry the first trip, but the following weekend the weather was bang on the money and way out west in windswept Mayo, I managed to find a couple of juvenile Baird's Sandpipers on Achill Island and just hours later, an adult White-rumped Sandpiper at Roonagh Lough. Chuffed to bits with those. The following day, I saw over 35 Sabine's Gulls before breakfast at the Bridges of Ross, as well as a flock of 9 Buff-breasted Sandpipers nearby, a Common Rosefinch too and then a Blue-winged Teal back at Shannon Airport.
A Sandhill Crane at Boyton Marshes was a nice way to start the month, while the following weekend was spent in Ireland again where, along with a longstaying Semipalmated Plover, I managed a couple of juvenile American Golden Plovers in County Kerry but that was all sadly.
The highlight was undoubtedly a cracking male Eastern Black Redstart found by Barry Hunt on Thanet, Kent.
|Eastern Black Redstart|
It wasn't quite as relaxing as I thought it would be, especially as a brief trip to Fuerteventura was in order when an Allen's Gallinule was found early in the month. Lee G and I had a quality time, enjoying good views of the target bird as well as re-acquainting myself with Canary Islands' Chat, Berthelot's Pipits as well as more vagrants such as a Blue-winged Teal, a Bittern and a Spotted Crake.
More of the same in 2012 please!