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Top 5 of 2023 (1 Viewer)

ClarkWGriswold

Carpe Carpum
Supporter
Wales
Has been a pretty decent year birding wise with some great company. Have added my top 5 but feel free to be creative.

1. Long Eared Owl. A bird I’ve been wanting to see for ages. Unfortunately the bird came to a sad end but my youngest was thrilled to see it with me. A good day as we also saw Barn Owl, Shore Larks and a Pallid Harrier on the same day.

2. Red-backed Shrike. Acting on a tip for Dartford Warblers I went out with the pup around Norfolk. Had to take a serious double take when I was scanning and got on to this stunning male. Have only seen juveniles previously so was chuffed to bits for a self found male.

3. Greater Roadrunner. A real bucket list bird. No photos as I was too busy horse hanging on. And also regretting the amount of jalapeños and beers I’d had the night before. But a morning to remember.

4. Great-tailed Grackle. The Pembs bird. Great company and a bird of real character. Was good to see them later on again in the States acting exactly the same as the Pembs bird. Good to see an American Golden Plover earlier in the day as well.

5. Laughing Gull. A top day out with Owen and Rob. Never thought I’d have a ruddy Seagull in my top 5 but this was belter. The only previous Laughing Gull I’d seen was on Chew Valley Lake a couple of days before the first lockdown. And that was miles away. This one we practically had to duck when it flew over our heads. A nice supporting cast of Isabelline Wheatear, Smew and Long-tailed Duck. Good to bump into Rich again as well. A Yorkshireman now living in Plymouth.

Honourable mentions go to the Great Reed Warbler, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Magnolia Warbler and Forsters Tern. As well as the Pink-footed Geese in Moray. And how could I forget the Kingfisher that landed next to my feet, whilst I was having a nice glass of red in Somerset.

Top food of the year was the chippy (again) in Flamborough, the apple and cider cake with clotted cream in Somerset, and the green apple chutney me and the youngest made.

Good luck for 2024 all. I’ve got a trip to the Cairngorms coming up so there’s a slight chance my top 5 might always change.
 

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Been a good year for me as well with a lot of chances for travel. There have been many highlights and very difficult to reduce to 5 but, in no particular order:

1. Crab Plover - UAE - January;
2. Pharaoh Eagle Owl - UAE - January;
3. Copper-throated Sunbird - Singapore - May;
4. California Condor - USA - August;
5. Burrowing Owl - USA - August.
 
Exceptionally tough to choose on the bird front this year with a fistful of UK ticks as well as a boatload in Sri Lanka, but here's my gut feeling on it:

1. Magnolia Warbler. An absolutely stunning American Wood Warbler showing really well after the obligatory ten minutes of anticipatory breath-holding on my arrival on site.

2. Sri Lanka Frogmouth. My first of this group and excellent views on a night walk in the steamy rainforest of Sri Lanka as the bird sat and ignored us.

3. Yellow Warbler. Not even a tick but on the third attempt, screaming views and photo-opportunities of a very bright bird with lots of happy people.

4. Red-footed Booby. Not just a UK tick but a bonkers day out among a literal boatload of twitchers in stunning sunny weather, flat calm seas and a supporting cast of dozens of Cory's Shearwaters right by the Surprise, along with Great Shears and other seabirds plus Common Dolphins from the Scillonian.

5. Unexpectedly I also find myself with a "seagull" in my top five as a result of a long-staying and co-operative adult Sabine's Gull in coastal Hampshire. Most enjoyable!

I must put a mammal top five in and most of those are from the Sri Lanka trip, starting at the end:

1. Blue Whale. It's been in my top ten to see for years and didn't disappoint when it finally deigned to reveal itself to me on about its third surfacing during our session with it. Awesome barely suffices to describe the feeling of being with this gigantic mammal. And it really was blue not just in ground colour but the paler mottles as well. Woo-hoo!

2. Indian Pangolin. We all know how embattled all Pangolins are and apart from that they are also chiefly nocturnal and found in forests, so not exactly a shoo-in on a trip. Just seeing it was a highlight and being with it for several minutes watching it cautiously uncurling in front of us and adopting a defensive posture before ambling off was off the chart.

3. Fishing Cat. Two of these elegant spotted cats at point-blank range interacting, hunting and just doing their stuff for about half an hour, totally unfazed by lights and camera flashes, was another total treat of the Sri Lanka trip (and the same night as the Pangolin, leaving my head spinning trying to absorb it all).

4. Weasel. I don't see many of these and one early in the year not only dashing about in leaf litter but also climbing a tree to investigate a wedged Grey Squirrel skeleton (dropped by crow or Buzzard maybe?) was pretty amazing. It even stopped long enough for pictures a couple of times.

5. Lesser False Vampire. Another Sri Lanka highlight: just hanging up in an accessible roost building but an absolutely funky bat and most enjoyable.

A quick summary five for "other wildlife": Light Crimson Underwing in the garden moth trap; Mugger (crocodile), Long-nosed Whip Snake and Green Pit Viper as well as the amazing, ten-inch leg span Ornate Tiger Spider all from Sri Lanka.

Soon, off we go again into 2024....

Cheers

John
 
Exceptionally tough to choose on the bird front this year with a fistful of UK ticks as well as a boatload in Sri Lanka, but here's my gut feeling on it:

1. Magnolia Warbler. An absolutely stunning American Wood Warbler showing really well after the obligatory ten minutes of anticipatory breath-holding on my arrival on site.

2. Sri Lanka Frogmouth. My first of this group and excellent views on a night walk in the steamy rainforest of Sri Lanka as the bird sat and ignored us.

3. Yellow Warbler. Not even a tick but on the third attempt, screaming views and photo-opportunities of a very bright bird with lots of happy people.

4. Red-footed Booby. Not just a UK tick but a bonkers day out among a literal boatload of twitchers in stunning sunny weather, flat calm seas and a supporting cast of dozens of Cory's Shearwaters right by the Surprise, along with Great Shears and other seabirds plus Common Dolphins from the Scillonian.

5. Unexpectedly I also find myself with a "seagull" in my top five as a result of a long-staying and co-operative adult Sabine's Gull in coastal Hampshire. Most enjoyable!

I must put a mammal top five in and most of those are from the Sri Lanka trip, starting at the end:

1. Blue Whale. It's been in my top ten to see for years and didn't disappoint when it finally deigned to reveal itself to me on about its third surfacing during our session with it. Awesome barely suffices to describe the feeling of being with this gigantic mammal. And it really was blue not just in ground colour but the paler mottles as well. Woo-hoo!

2. Indian Pangolin. We all know how embattled all Pangolins are and apart from that they are also chiefly nocturnal and found in forests, so not exactly a shoo-in on a trip. Just seeing it was a highlight and being with it for several minutes watching it cautiously uncurling in front of us and adopting a defensive posture before ambling off was off the chart.

3. Fishing Cat. Two of these elegant spotted cats at point-blank range interacting, hunting and just doing their stuff for about half an hour, totally unfazed by lights and camera flashes, was another total treat of the Sri Lanka trip (and the same night as the Pangolin, leaving my head spinning trying to absorb it all).

4. Weasel. I don't see many of these and one early in the year not only dashing about in leaf litter but also climbing a tree to investigate a wedged Grey Squirrel skeleton (dropped by crow or Buzzard maybe?) was pretty amazing. It even stopped long enough for pictures a couple of times.

5. Lesser False Vampire. Another Sri Lanka highlight: just hanging up in an accessible roost building but an absolutely funky bat and most enjoyable.

A quick summary five for "other wildlife": Light Crimson Underwing in the garden moth trap; Mugger (crocodile), Long-nosed Whip Snake and Green Pit Viper as well as the amazing, ten-inch leg span Ornate Tiger Spider all from Sri Lanka.

Soon, off we go again into 2024....

Cheers

John
I regret not going for that Sabine’s John. I also forgot I had a Booby - Brown Booby. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t make my top 5. Amazing lists by the way.

Rich
 
Been a good year for me as well with a lot of chances for travel. There have been many highlights and very difficult to reduce to 5 but, in no particular order:

1. Crab Plover - UAE - January;
2. Pharaoh Eagle Owl - UAE - January;
3. Copper-throated Sunbird - Singapore - May;
4. California Condor - USA - August;
5. Burrowing Owl - USA - August.
Jealous. Just missed Pharaoh Eagle Owl there.

OK, my five for the world:

1. Hypocolius - Kuwait - December
2. Hylocitrea - Indonesia - July
3. Egyptian Plover - Ethiopia - November

4. Erect-crested Penguin - New Zealand - February
5. Black Crowned-crane - Ethiopia - November (my last crane).


For the ABA region:

1. Red-flanked Bluetail - Seen in New Jersey this morning. First record for the species anywhere on the east coast.
2. American Flamingo - Pennsylvania - September
3. Red-legged Kittiwake - Alaska - May
4. Eyebrowed Thrush - Alaska - May
5. Evening Grosbeak - New York - March
 
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Tricky to get down to a top 5 and some great birds left out, but here goes.

1. Scarlet-banded Barbet
2. Hawk Owl
3. Long-whiskered Owlet
4. Marvellous Spatuletail
5. Steller's Eider
 

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No particular order, because they were ALL jaw droppers, having said that….No.1 was just that!

1. “Jamming-in” on a Red-billed Tropicbird on FTV in March, just assaulted the senses!

2. Having barely stepped off one plane with post holiday blues very much in control, a casual stroll over another Plain (Chingford), on a sunny March morning, had me eyeballing “the rear” of a “a long tail on-it-in-it” disappearing into a low bramble…when suddenly turning it’s head toward, revealed a Dartford Warbler!…if ever there was a “pick-you-up”…..

3. Turning out of a Bend, Oregon restaurant in August on a hot sultry evening, watching the hirundines flicking over the river and suddenly realising that the bigger “bat-like” bird (movement) in their midst was for me, only my 2nd US tick of the trip…Common Nighthawk.
To be able to see such grace and pace was absolutely spectacular!

4. Lifers In the back garden, none for forty years, then two different birds in the space of one week….Wood Warblers! 😮

5. A second trip to FTV in March with four days suffering unabating 30-40 knot winds from the NEast, kept the smaller birds down, however it brought me lifetimes best ever views of “Cory’s” Shearwaters in the bay, to within a 100m at times.
Subsequent research has revealed that some of the birds were indeed Scopoli’s, certainly not on my radar.
 

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Always tricky, but here goes.

April
Just a recce really, for a Hawfinch site I'd just learned about. No high hopes, but ended up with my best ever views of the species (before nipping up to Conwy to Wales tick Red-rumped Swallow).

May
Grey-headed Lapwing, what an insane record. Views were really distant, and it's the only bird on the list that earns it's place almost entirely on rarity status, although to be fair it was a looker. Hooded Merganser en route home, where an Osprey over the garden rounded off the day.

May
A trip to Lunga while we were on Mull in beautiful weather, Puffins galore, Skuas & Twite too.

August
A truly magnificent day out to Scilly, ridiculous numbers of Cory's Shearwaters, plenty of Great too, the Red-footed Booby was obligingly present, with the crazy addition of a Brown Booby too! Hardly credible!

October
A bumper twitch to Flamborough. Red-headed Bunting was the only tick for me, but Two-barred Warbler was the standout star of the day. Pallas's & Dusky also present (we only saw three individual Warblers that day, each a different species, and each a tick for Arch) and a Pallid Swift. All on just one pay & display ticket! Blue-winged Teal on the way home.
 

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My best birding experience of the year was a tour from Bar Harbor, Maine to Petit Manan Island to see nesting seabirds. I ended up with nine lifers and my appetite whetted for pelagic birding. No single species stands out from that though, so here are my top five birds:

1. Limpkin. There was a real explosion of this species north throught the U.S. this year. This one showed up at my local state park, offering good views. Also, it was kind enough to bring along a couple Snowy Egrets and a (self-found) Little Blue Heron, also both county lifers. Three rarities together in the same creek inlet.

2. Hooded Warbler. Not a lifer, but a really great experience. It was a self-found county lifer, and on my second sighting the male sang out in the open right next to me (smartphone recording attached)

3. Laughing Gull. Seeing about a million on the Atlantic coast wasn't too spectacular, but I found one in my home county in October, just the second in the last 15 years per eBird.

4. Cackling Goose. Self-found lifer on a day with a total of 17 waterfowl species at my local lake (which is a lot for my area).

5. California Scrub-Jay. Found in Washington where they are quite rare. Had quite a relaxing time at the location, finding several other lifer western migrants.
 

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Belgium:
Alpine swift, black-and-white warbler, raddes, Ross goose and great snipe.

Abroad:
Golden nightjar, Bronze-winged courser, Algerian nuthatch, Marsh owl and red-tailed tropicbird
 

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(1) Black-billed Capercaillie displaying in Mongolia. A long way ahead of anything else really, despite great species such as Siberian Crane.
(2) Titicaca Grebe in Peru. Lots of birds, calling, displaying and with chicks. Most of the local endemic stuff in Peru was not particularly exciting. I was really happy with Humboldt Penguin (and curiously MacConnell's Flycatcher) though.
(3) American White-winged Scoter. Only my fourth lifer ever in Germany. It could have shown a bit better but it was nice birding a deserted Helgoland in November.
(4) Pacific Buff-bellied Pipit in the Netherlands. At a large distance, but my only tick in the Netherlands this year and it counts as lifer in my books.
(5) Short-eared Owl on my local patch. Not a patch tick (I had just one this year and that was a Yellow-legged Gull...), but the first one that gave great views. It was a lifer for the other observer so that was nice!
 
My best birding experience of the year was a tour from Bar Harbor, Maine to Petit Manan Island to see nesting seabirds. I ended up with nine lifers and my appetite whetted for pelagic birding. No single species stands out from that though, so here are my top five birds:

1. Limpkin. There was a real explosion of this species north throught the U.S. this year. This one showed up at my local state park, offering good views. Also, it was kind enough to bring along a couple Snowy Egrets and a (self-found) Little Blue Heron, also both county lifers. Three rarities together in the same creek inlet.

2. Hooded Warbler. Not a lifer, but a really great experience. It was a self-found county lifer, and on my second sighting the male sang out in the open right next to me (smartphone recording attached)

3. Laughing Gull. Seeing about a million on the Atlantic coast wasn't too spectacular, but I found one in my home county in October, just the second in the last 15 years per eBird.

4. Cackling Goose. Self-found lifer on a day with a total of 17 waterfowl species at my local lake (which is a lot for my area).

5. California Scrub-Jay. Found in Washington where they are quite rare. Had quite a relaxing time at the location, finding several other lifer western migrants.
Sounds a bit similar to Cetti's Warbler:
 
This year I went on trips to Ghana and Argentina. I’ve seen 577 species this year, of which 204 were lifers. Hard to come up with the top five, but the ones I chose stood out in my memory. They’re in no particular order, but I must say the flufftail was number one for me.

1. White-spotted Flufftail

2. White-necked Rockfowl

3. Orange Weaver

4. Magellanic Penguin

5. Northern Giant Petrel

Then on a local level, all in my county, my top five were:

1. Tufted Duck (self-found, first state record)

2. Pacific Loon (self-found, second state record, first county record)

3. Cinnamon Teal (self-found, second state record, first county record)

4. Summer Tanager (self-found, first county record)

5. Glossy Ibis (self-found, second county record)

Dave
 
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in no particular order (and I may need multiple revisions !!)

Snowcap
(an amazing little creature, definitely a Costa Rican highlight)
Red-footed Booby
(not just because it was a fabulous bird, but the incredible good fortune of it hanging around for so long and the incredible October experience it provided)
Magnolia Warbler
("life" prevented me from seeing the Pembroke bird, so the fact that one should pitch up, conveniently near a motorway junction and only just off our route to Scilly puts it on this list)
Resplendent Quetzal
(for shear magnificence, probably THE highlight of Costa Rica in February)
Grey-headed Lapwing
(a cracking bird but also a great day out and a very sociable morning with some old mates and some complete strangers)
 
Each of my highlights will be organised around a sound recording, and I could divide them into three groups: before May, in May, and after May.

1) One January morning before class, I heard a quiet nasal song coming from a tree in central Warsaw. After some investigation and querying, it turned out to be subsong given by what I aged as a second-year Fieldfare. In the process, I learnt some more about subsongs and plastic songs.

2) While birding on May 1, I heard an unknown song, which was identified as that of Wryneck by my apps. Soon, I was lucky enough watch it forage and fly around at close distance, for an extended period. One of seven woodpecker species I managed to connect with in Warsaw this year. Attached is a poor recording of its tinkling metallic calls.

3) On the same day, I managed to record three flight calls which my apps identified as Tawny Pipit. After four months of research and asking, I finally managed to have it confirmed on good authority. I also attach a comparison of different Tawny Pipit flight calls adapted from XC.

4) Since Common Nightingale and Thrush Nightingale are sympatric over a large part of Poland, I tried to do some field research on mixed singing (said to be mostly done by Thrush Nightingales) and differences in habitat preferences and call. In the exact area where I live, Common Nightingales outnumber Thrush Nightingales by some 20 to 1, but--in the surrounding region--the proportion seems to be much more balanced, perhaps even tilted towards the latter. This individual is apparently trying hard to reproduce the distinctive low flat whistle of Common Nightingale--at least some birds are able to immitate it successfully a few times in a row, but this one is still learning, which you can see in the sonogram. (I also heard a Marsh Warbler immitating the 'EE-uh' phrase from one of the nightingales' repertoires in the garden in early June.)

5) I was walking home one evening in late July when I heard an unknown whistled call given by a bird or birds flying above me from right to left. Later identified as Common Sandpiper and heard on many other occassions that autumn. My first encounter with NFC.
 

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First three are from my Romania trip which was the birding highlight of the year for me. Could have easily added a few others from it.

Wallcreeper. Had already seen 2 fairly high up which was heart in the mouth good in itself but then wandered off on my own a bit and found one at head height that stayed at head height for quite a while. Absolutely unbelievable bird

White winged black terns. Floating through a mass of marsh terns at golden hour. Watching their feeding patterns and picking out the difference in behaviour of the three species. White winged are probably my favourite of my favourite bird family and they were so beautiful

Little crake. Woke up at sunrise in our floating hotel in Danube delta and got the scope out on the roof with a coffee. Got onto a crake almost straight away. Just perfect moment

Magnolia warbler. Getting there for sun up. The large and very friendly and helpful crowd and then watching it through scope for quite a while. Lovely thing and a great experience.

Chequered skipper. One of two British butterflies i needed to complete the set. Based a family holiday around it but only really had one day on site. Luckily it was a beautiful sunny one and despite getting a bit stressed soon found the butterflies. Even had one land on my daughter. Perfect wildlife experience that was cool to share

Didn’t see that many new mammals. Brown bear and golden jackal were highlight but don’t quite crack the top 5
 

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