This year has just flown by! It's certainly been the best year yet and it is at and end, here's a brief summary of some of the highlights . . .
The birds . . .
There have been countless stunning birds this year. Those that stand out the most . . .
In January I was treated to crippling views of a Long-eared Owl, just feet away from me in wonderful light on a beautiful winter's day . . . at my local patch. If I had to choose, this would be the top moment of the year, I walked away reluctantly and short of breath.
Firecrests stand out. I've had my fair share of them this year with birds wintering just a few streets away and brightening up many a dull day. I had a thrilling encounter with a breeding bird in the New Forest this year (see photo) and enjoyed them on Scilly and at Dungeness. I can't get enough of these wonderful birds.Paying for the train to Staines Reservoirs was well worth it for a crippling sub-adult White-winged Black Tern that danced over the sparkly waters on that beautiful morning, not too far from home, the day after seeing the Kent Black-winged Pratincole and the Banstead Downs Wood Warbler! The latter and the Tern made a wonderful duo of good county lifers, with the Tern being a full lifer.Of course, the Staines Moor Brown Shrike was a highlight, being a showy and interesting mega in my county and not terribly far from home.
The Rutland Ospreys were brilliant and it was also exciting seeing a passage bird at Beddington.
On Scilly, the bird that stood out the most and was one of the year's highlights was the Pallas's Warbler on St. Agnes. It showed wonderfully and was undoubtedly the most entertaining, interestingly-plumaged and exciting Warblers that I have ever seen and I doubt I ever will see a more exciting Old-world Warbler!
All rarities this year were captivating and very interesting, each and every one was a highlight along with countless other good birds seen this year, from thousands of Whooper Swans at Martin Mere to displaying Goshawks in Surrey.
Listing wise . . .
I have had 45 British lifers this year (rising from 217 to 262), the vast majority being lifers full stop. Despite my list being bigger than previous years, this is more than 2008 and maybe even 2007! My British year list absolutely zoomed way ahead of target; I was hoping for 200 but this was reached in July and I am now on 242 (though I'm hoping to try to fit in White-fronted Goose before the year's end). I finished 2008 on about 197.
Local patch lists rose. Beddington rose to 128 by the year's end but I have given that place up now so it doesn't matter. Banstead Downs rose from 60 to 73. At the end of the year, I replaced Beddington with Canon's Farm and Banstead Wood and my patch list for Canon's Farm and Banstead Wood was 57 straight away.
In summary, an excellent year with good birds, many useful ticks, new friends, good scenery and lots of fun.
I am very grateful to Phil Wallace, Surrey's top bird photographer, who took me on many a enjoyable day's birding this year.
I hope next year will be as good, but I somehow doubt it (I said that last year).