Sunday, 1 January 2012

2011 - A postscript

2011 has been a somewhat mixed year in chez Spencer with personal disappointments dominating the summer balanced against the improved health of my father in his battle against terminal cancer to a point where he is currently in remission which is reason to celebrate and hence him coming round with my mother tonight for some fizzy pop and a knees up (or a whisky and sit down).

The good from a personal point of view has been the continued development and growth of my beautiful daughter Isabelle who has gone from a cute as a button baby into a proper toddler full of ideas and opinions.

Dad, who was still recovering from radiotherapy over the winter period last year has returned to his former self and is able to help me on work assignments when he can drag himself away from his allotment. We dont know how long he has but we are gonna bloody enjoy it.

Dad is the one on the left!
Rather more disappointing was the double whammy of my wife losing twins and me being laid off in the summer. The pregnancy never really got going and although Ange was a way through when she lost them, they had stopped developing at 6-7 weeks. We managed to rationalise quite well but it still hurt a lot and continues to do so. My increased free time due to being unemployed was a bonus but the lack of money was not. On the upside, I am now working under my own auspices and actually doing ok. We will have to see how profitable spring 2012 will be but I am busy until April at present so I live in hope.

From a birding viewpoint this has been a really good year - I have done plenty, largely thanks to work but also a couple of foreign jaunts. I havent found the elusive first BB rare but I have managed some good stuff both at home and away. One of the best things that happened was my ropey DSLR set-up which whilst hardly award winning, has helped me document my birding in exactly the way I hoped. I managed a number of brit ticks including Ring-billed Gull, Firecrest, Purple Heron, Bluethroat, Sabine's Gull, Marsh Sandpiper, Olive-backed Pipit & Isabelline Wheatear plus a further few additions to my Yorkshire list including a very nice self found Storm Petrel at Spurn which flew over the surf. I also saw my second Desert Wheatear and third Red-flanked Bluetail. A respectable haul of Yellow-browed Warblers totalled at least 7 including 2 self-founds. The Olive-backed Pipit was pretty special as I was the only person on site to get a view and I managed a photo as well. Not high class but it was doing a mouse impression. I used a bit of nouse and peeled off from the group figuring it would be hiding from them and thus visible from 90 degrees. It was and I was delighted.

Work gave me the opportunity to travel to many places across the country and highlights included Storm Petrels aplenty, Grasshopper Warbler and Snow Bunting on boats, 27 Spoonbills on Brownsea Island, a winter Pomarine Skua in the North Sea, a self found Smew on a pond in Lincolnshire, stumbling on a Dartford Warbler in Norfolk and some distant White-beaked Dolphins at sea.

On the home birding front, the Bridlington Skua and Shearwater cruise was outstanding with a Sabine's Gull overflying a very dark Balearic Shearwater and plenty of Black Terns around (plus the good company I kept that day). Disappointment abounded when a selfish Flamborough birder entered the field with the Stone Curlew in it flushing it to kingdom come just as I was reaching the twitch with my daughter on my shoulders. I was very unhappy that day. In the back garden, the welcome addition of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting to the late winter avifauna was surely due to the harsh winter but gratefully received nonetheless. The final memory of the year from the UK was the cracking White-throated Robin in Hartlepool which my daughter inadvertantly flushed the bird as we returned from the playground unaware of its presence.

My two sojourns abroad were excellent with a spring trip to eastern Spain (set to be repeated in 2012) followed by a summer holiday to Boa Vista on Cape Verde.

Best bits of Spain were a very nice male Spectacled Warbler, Great & Little Bustard, Calandra Lark, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and a nice fall of Pied Flycatchers which included a smart Wood Warbler. In Cape Verde, the Brown Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebird were great and Cream-coloured Coursers and Hoopoe Larks were pretty rocking as was everything really.

So 2012... targets are again LT Skua, Spotted Crake, Icterine Warbler and Stone Curlew but at least in 2011 I knocked off Bluethroat, Firecrest and Purple Heron.

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