It’s been a good year, thanks in particular to a May trip to Iona and Mull on the west coast of Scotland. In 2014 I saw 125 species, and heard (but did not see) nightjars and a garden warbler.
At the end of a day’s work on my land at Common Wood on 10 February, I saw a woodcock flying down the valley.
The return of the warblers is always a big moment (though I realise some now overwinter here). I head my first chiffchaff of the year by the River Irwell in Salford on 22 March, and saw my first blackcap in a garden in Eccles on the same day.
I went to Seaham, County Durham, to launch a section of new coastal access for the Ramblers on 15 April and was thrilled to see a mass of sand martins flitting around on the grassy clifftop.
Fortuitously I heard my first cuckoo while doing my breeding bird survey for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) at Prestwood, Bucks, on 4 May, and saw one the following day at Otmoor, Oxfordshire, where I also watched 11 hobbies flying like swifts over the reedbeds.
My walk in White Wood above the Double Dart on Dartmoor on 12 May was magic, I had hoped to hear wood warblers and I saw them too because the trees were not fully in leaf. I also saw male pied flycatchers.
Then to Scotland, where I saw corncrakes on Iona in the early morning of 25 May. I have a long list of species from that visit, seabirds on our trip to Staff—puffins, black guillemot, manx shearwater, great northern diver to name a few. I saw many birds which I rarely see because of not being in the right place: ringed plover, dunlin, twite, rock pipit, tree pipit doing its flight song in a wood above Loch Bla, shortly before I saw both golden and white-tailed eagle.
It was a memorable trip with 71 species seen or heard.
On 22 June I went on my annual nightjar count, run by Surrey Wildlife Trust, but unfortunately did not see any nightjars. I was rewarded with a tree pipit though. On 26 June I saw a brown jackdaw at Luddesdown in Kent, and 19 October a peregrine on the cliffs by the River Wye opposite Chepstow.
Back in Turville, I have enjoyed seeing and hearing flocks of redwings and fieldfare this winter, more than usual. It’s a shame that the BTO no longer wants us to do the winter thrushes survey, as I would have had plenty to report. My final new siting of the year was on 26 December, when I saw my first treecreeper of 2014 at Ibstone.
And now it’s 2015, and who would have thought 25 years ago that the first bird I would see would be a red kite!