Thursday, 2 January 2014

Predictions for birding in 2014

Here at NGB, we have something of a Mystic Meg in our midst.
North-East birder Jack Bucknall; a Fea's fanatic who has sold his heart to the wild and rugged St.Mary's Island, has an unusual gift of seeing into the future. Take the 10th of September 2013. Jack took to Twitter, posting a picture of his patch flock of Golden Plovers with a short musing that an American GP amongst them would be nice. Come the 20th, a patchy-bellied, spangle-backed AGP was getting cosy with its limey counterparts on the very same patch of rocks. Lightening struck twice and then thrice when Jack stated with confidence that he'd get a patch Bluethroat and Firecrest this autumn. On September the 25th and October the 2nd, he did!
Not convinced? How about national rares, or even megas?

NGB Facebook group, October 2013: Jack joked about a Yellow-rumped Warbler turning up with the autumn winds. On Lundy Island one materialised. Spurned on by his sudden premonition, we egged him on to guess the next bird. American Robin was his call. As if on cue, a bouncing, Mary Poppins-bothering Yank turned up. We momentarily ignored his earlier call of Cedar Waxwing (bonkers!) when no reports came through. Weeks later, and photographs were belatedly released of a beige berry-addict punk-rocking the Scottish Island of Tiree, whilst our mouths hit the floor. 

This guy was our gold-mine, our very own Zoltar. No more anxiously waiting for positive news, no more waiting it out till the weekend. Mr Bucknall would just give us a time and place and we'd watch the megas fly, the lists grow & our girlfriends/boyfriends/favourite pets become more distant. At least, that's how we imagine it. 

So we've got him here, to do the un-do-able. To predict the whole of 2014, bird-by-bird. Diaries out, ladies and gentlemen, as Jack peers into his crystal fatball...


I’m here to give an insight to anxious twitchers for this year, it’s a good one, I have seen it. So here goes my ‘wisdom’… 

JANUARY – This month should see a good arrival of Arctic divers and ducks, plenty more Great Northern Divers and the odd White-billed Diver getting claimed on seawatches. I also see a hazy rare duck on an inland reservoir – either a Bufflehead or a Barrow’s Goldeneye? Don't forget to feed the cat before that dentists appointment, woman with the green tilley and swaros.

FEBRUARY – February is a difficult month to focus on, but I do see some sort of rare goose or diver, it looks like a Pacific Diver may be claimed but dismissed immediately, my advice is to not dismiss it so quickly, give it a second look… 
A mini influx of Bean Geese is also ‘on the cards’, get watching those flocks. 

MARCH – One thing strikes me for March, it will be a very quiet month, but with one or two excitements… 
The annual Nutcracker claim will take place in March 2014, in a suburban park with Magpies, I suspect no one will follow it up, but this could be the year of the genuine one? 

APRIL – This could be the start of a very exciting spring, get your twitching money at the ready, I see a rare wheatear taking everyone by surprise, possibly a Black Wheatear or Black-eared Wheatear. Following that, an unusual claim of a Sooty Gull north at Flamborough will get dismissed and raise a few eyebrows, but Filey seawatchers, let me tell you; keep your eyes open, you never can tell… 

MAY – A mad month to say the least. Britain’s first Pied Kingfisher will appear on the mainland and stay for 13 days, only for Britain’s first Spur-Winged Plover to be found 5 miles away, and be a one-day wonder. An influx of Red-rumped Swallows is also looking likely, however let’s hope that my judgement is slightly wrong and the flock of 5 in the Midlands does NOT collide with that lorry on the M1…

JUNE – Another rare month! A Bridled Tern is almost a certainty, whether it is the Northumberland bird on the Farnes, or another bird doing a tour of the east coast, I’m struggling to tell. A Black-Winged Pratincole will turn up on the same day, hugely dividing the twitchers, but I sense the Tern will be a long-stayer. A rare finch (Trumpeter or Citril) is also very possible. 

JULY – The Bridled Tern continues to impress the crowds, while the twitchers who still need it, jet off for the returning Swinhoe’s Petrel on Fair Isle. A ‘twitchable’ Black-Browed Albatross will fly north along the East Coast consistently, allowing all seawatchers fantastic views. Or is that a Little Shearwater? Finally, a panicky report of a singing male Scarlet Rosefinch (present for 20+ days) will eventually hit the bird news services and get the twitchers pulling their hair out once again. 

AUGUST – Autumn begins… A fantastic arrival of Greenish Warblers towards the end of the month will kick start the autumn. A Stilt Sandpiper will undoubtedly make an appearance as is tradition, but who knows which coast?! An impressive influx of Citrine Wagtails will grace Northern Britain with a record breaking 14 on Fair Isle! Great and Cory’s Shearwaters begin to fly past the South Coast, with a Little Shearwater making an appearance towards the back end of the month.

SEPTEMBER – Autumn in full swing! YBWs will tear apart the bushes on the coast starting on the 20th, and a fantastic passage of Great Shearwaters will grace the East Coast, while Leach’s Petrels continue to perform on the West Coast. A Brown Flycatcher will appear in the South-east for a few days, only for an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler to be found in the same spot 4 days later! The Teesside Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper will re-appear for the day, and disappear overnight again, a Northern Parula will appear on Mainland Shetland and be a long stayer for c.3 weeks, with Buff-Bellied Pipit accompanying. Throughout the month, a very strange Lesser Yellowlegs influx will show itself, with birds covering the West Coast, and a few making it to the East Coast. 

OCTOBER – The MEGA MONTH. Siberian Blue Robin, American Bittern, Calandra Lark, Upland Sandpiper, Rufous-Tailed Robin, Alder Flycatcher and Scarlet Tanager to name a few megas that are set for an appearance in October 2014… 
A decent number of Paddyfield Warblers will arrive in Britain early on following some decent winds, and another influx of Pallid Swifts will occur. And who could forget the inevitable mainland male Siberian Rubythroat in the dying days of the month? 

NOVEMBERDesert Wheatears will control this month, with birds almost everywhere! Arctic Warblers will pick up at the start of the month, slowing down towards the middle. A drake Barrow’s Goldeneye will be a long-stayer and allow excellent views for the visiting birders, and the big news will be a photographed and miss ID'd Cliff Swallow, which will only get correctly ID'd 23 days later, and the bird is still present! However, after 5 birders connecting before dusk, no further sign….. 

DECEMBER – The Year comes to a close, and the month is quiet. A Waxwing influx keeps birders interested, and good winds allow arctic species like White-Billed Diver and Little Auks to be seen on seawatches down the East Coast, but unfortunately that is about it I'm afraid. Although the Ross's Gull influx was okay I guess, could have been worse… 

-Jack Bucknall
Jack is an 18-year-old birder with a very keen interest in patching at St. Mary’s Island, Northumberland. He absolutely love seawatching, strong NE winds are his idea of Heaven!

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