A contender for the rarest bird of the year, albeit only a subspecies, is the American Black Tern that I saw at Pennington Flash on the 1st September. It showed very well from the car park in the company of a European Black Tern allowing a great comparison to be had between the two and the differences to be noted. This is the 5th British record of this form of Black Tern; there is currently a debate as to whether the two are genetically different enough to be classed as separate species so for now it isn't added to my British list. Being back at college had the advantage of getting me back to checking the patch more often, and it certainly produced the goods in September with 4 patch ticks. A vis-mig on the morning of the 22nd was highlighted by a Ring Necked Parakeet calling nosily as it headed south-west, with a supporting cast of 271 Meadow Pipits being an excellent count for here. The same day a Nuthatch was heard calling in Carleton Crematorium, and then on the 26th a Spotted Flycatcher gave great views in the orchard, and a stunning Yellow Wagtail was found feeding on the muddy area in the horse field. An early start on the 29th saw me and Ash once again heading over to the East coast with Ian, this time to Spurn Point. By first light we were in the car park of the crown and anchor pub in Kilnsea looking for the Red Breasted Flycatcher that had been seen the previous day. The wind was fairly strong making viewing more difficult than we imagined, even so we found 2 Yellow Browed Warblers in the same small tree next to where we were stood, along with a Lesser Whitethroat and a Redstart. Next it was along Beacon Lane where we managed to find Ash his first lifer of the day, an elusive Firecrest amongst a flock of Goldcrests, only my second ever. This was followed by me managing to rectify our previous trips failure on a personal level as we got brief but okay views of the Greenish Warbler in Kilnsea, with a flyby Honey Buzzard adding to the excitement. Heading down to Sammy's Point we were planning to look for a Long Eared Owl that had been found, but as we parked up 2 birders informed us that the Flycatcher had been seen in Kilnsea so it was a quick u-turn and back to the churchyard. After a few minutes the female Red Breasted Flycatcher appeared at the tops of the trees before dropping out of sight, however it was quickly replaced by a bird that we all agreed was much more rufous in colour, most likely a 1st winter bird. A Great Northern Diver and a Shag were seen on a brief seawatch after lunch, then we headed off and briefly across the Humber to Far Ings where without too much difficulty we were able to locate the drake Ferruginous Duck on the entrance pools, the 3rd lifer for both me and Ash for the day. The final stop of the day was to Swillington Ings where we failed to find the Slavonian Grebe that had been reported, although a Red Kite and 3 Marsh Harriers were adequate compensation. The total for the day was 3 lifers, 7 yearticks and 97 species, my highest ever single day count.
Into October and the annual trip to Leighton Moss to see the Bearded Tits on the grit trays took place on the 14th along with Ash and Dave. We witnessed a rather rare event whilst waiting for them to show, when a flock of 11 Bearded Tits 'erupted' from the reedbed and flew high south, the second flock to do so during the Autumn. A pair gave better views as they came to feed on the grit trays. The following day my bird highlight of the year was found by Chris Batty in his Knott End garden, and ensured a nervy day at college before my dad picked me up afterwards and took me down to see the beautiful Pallas's Warbler. It remained faithful to one sycamore tree and allowed really nice views in stunning fresh plumage. This was followed by 2 of it's commoner cousin the Yellow Browed Warbler, at Fluke Hall on the 17th and then Mount Park in Fleetwood on the 18th. Another trip to Spurn on the 20th was highlighted by my 9th and final lifer of the year, a fly over Woodlark, along with my 5th Yellow Browed Warbler of the Autumn and a male Velvet Scoter flying north over the sea. The final trip of the month was to Aldlciffe where a Lesser Yellowlegs showed really nicely in the morning sun on a flooded field, often the closest bird to us along with a very late Wood Sandpiper.
November started with a few winter specialities around the Fylde. My first patch Bramblings on the 1st, a pair of incredibly showy Snow Buntings at Rossall Point on the 2nd/3rd, 18 Waxwings in Preston on the 10th, with a stunning ghostly 2cy male Hen Harrier on Pilling Moss that evening. The final long distance trip of the year took place on the 17th and saw the three of us heading off to North Wales for the day. A dozen Black Guillemots started off the day in Holyhead Harbour, followed by 2 Choughs at South Stack which took a lot of finding despite them usually being found pretty easily here. This was the first time I have been to Anglesey since 2004 so it was a treat to relive childhood memories whilst at the same time watching some brilliant birds. A Great Northern Diver showed distantly on the Inland Sea before we headed towards the highlight of the day, 4 Surf Scoters off Llandulas including 3 males, which although distant the main features could all be noted even on the female. December proved to be rather tame bird wise with no real stand out birding moments, although a flock of c600 Pink-footed Geese in the fields behind my house were somewhat of a surprise. This was also my last bird of the year, a small flock flew over my house just before dark this evening.
2012 produced some incredible birding moments both locally and nationally. Finding a lot of scarce Fylde species (Pied Flycatcher, Red Kite, Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Cuckoo and a spring Curlew Sandpiper) have made the year even more special, and with the more long distant trips I sure won't forget this year in a hurry. Bring on 2013!