Not much out of the ordinary, and not that many species (fewer than last year, 102 seen, three heard but not seen) but still plenty of good memories. Here are some of them.
I had a chance siting of a ring ouzel on 23 February. When I posted it on the British Trust for Ornithology’s BirdTrack site my entry came up in red, with a note to the recipient to check because it was out of season. Nevertheless, I was sure it was a ring ouzel, even though I’d only seen it from the car, perched on a gate near the Cherry Brook on Dartmoor. The white band on its chest was unmistakable.
On Sunday 26 May I saw more ouzels when I went up Tavy Cleave on western Dartmoor, setting off at 6 am. I saw one fairly low down and two at the same spot on the way back. Annoyingly, when I was right at the top of Tavy Cleave after I’d clambered over the massive rocks where there’s no path, I put my foot in a hole, fell flat on my face and sprained my ankle. I then had to get all the way back on one leg. It hadn’t even been necessary to negotiate that last rocky stretch in order to see ring ouzels, though I did get a nice photo of the early sun on Tavy Cleave Tors.
A first for me were the three willow tits I saw not far from my land at Common Wood on Dartmoor, in the early morning of 21 April. I was particularly pleased that I identified them first from their call, su su.
Still on Dartmoor, I walked through lovely White Wood above the River Dart on 25 May in the hope of seeing, or at least hearing, wood warblers. There was none, but in compensation I saw a pied flycatcher.
I had three sitings of a barn owl near Turville in the Chilterns, all in broad daylight. Twice on early-April evenings the owl was silently coursing the lower slopes of Cobstone Hill. Then on 27 April I saw one at 7 am when I was on my run along the lane.
In Wester Ross, Scotland, in May I saw common sandpipers and a flock of siskins on my walks by the Kinlochewe River close to where it enters Loch Maree.
The wood just west of Inveralligan on Loch Torridon that weekend was alive with willow warblers. And I saw a ptarmigan on the start of the walk up Beinn Bhan.
I visited Otmoor RSPB reserve in Oxfordshire three times, which helped my duck count. It was magic to hear the grasshopper warblers in the meadows there in May. The walk around Chimney Meadows in Oxfordshire on my birthday in February was also productive, and I saw my first stonechat of the year there.
On 30 June I joined the annual nightjar survey-walk on the heath at Wishmoor Bottom near Camberley. I heard nightjars churring but didn’t see one; however I did get a fleeting glimpse of a Dartford warbler.
Then on 22 July I looked in on Iping Common, near Midhurst in West Sussex, at 10.15 pm and heard about five nightjars churring. Magic!
In Dorset in September we walked over the Purbeck Hills to the coast, and saw a flock of young spotted flycatchers (my only sighting of the year, so depressing—I used to see lots) and two peregrines.
In November I visited the wetland centre at Barnes and, thanks to a man with a scope, saw a bittern from the hide (I had skipped a workshop session at a conference because how can one spend the day indoors when an event is held at the wetland centre?). At the end of November, after launching the Emsworth Walkers Are Welcome town in Hampshire, I walked by Chichester Harbour where I saw black-tailed godwit and knot.
But I’ll end on Cobstone Hill, Turville, with the mewing buzzard and the calling rooks still fresh in my mind from a walk in the fading light of the fading year last evening. Here’s to another year of birding!