It’s been an unexpectedly good bird-year, considering I did not venture far afield: I saw 120 species and heard another four (Cetti’s, grasshopper and wood warblers and water rail). That is the second-best year since I started keeping records in 2010 (the top was 2014 with 125 species but that included a trip to Scotland).
My stomping ground was, as usual, around Turville, Otmoor in Oxfordshire and Dartmoor, with the addition of Little Marlow (Bucks) gravel pits, local but newly discovered by me. There were no seaside visits, hence no seabirds beyond those which come inland.
The species count was boosted by helpful people, usually with telescopes, pointing things out to me, such as dunlin and ruff at Stanwick Lakes, Northamptonshire, on 18 March and yellow wagtail at Little Marlow on 16 April.
I saw Dartford warbler and tree pipit on Hazeley Heath, Hampshire on 26 May thanks to Mike Coates from RSPB.
Here are some of my highlights.
The short-eared and barn owls over Moorleys, Otmoor, in the fading light of 25 March.
Hillbridge Farm on Dartmoor, on the weekend of 23-24 April, with a visit up Tavy Cleave and an early-morning walk yielding pied flycatcher, ring ouzel, redstart and cuckoo.
The day of the nine warblers at Otmoor on 8 May, which was particularly satisfying because I identified all nine myself, by sight or song.
Peregrines, on Pooley’s Tower in Aylesbury on 6 May, and on Salisbury Catherdral on 21 June.
My annual pilgrimage to hear wood warblers in White Wood above the River Dart on 27 May.
Grasshopper warblers (groppers) on the approach to Tavy Cleave, Dartmoor, in the early morning of 29 May and again on 17 July.
The nightjar survey at Barossa, near Camberley in Surrey, on 3 July, with tree pipit, woodcock, nightjar and Dartford warbler.
Solitary bramblings, which I rarely see, among chaffinches on 13 November and 2 December near Turville.
A chance siting of a merlin in the Hambleden valley as I drove to work, a grey shape darting ahead of me.
Sand martins at Little Marlow, marsh harriers at Otmoor—and much more.
There are birds that I feel I ought to have seen—this is the first year sans siskin since I started recording, and I haven’t seen a spotted flycatcher since 2014.
I took part in three surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology, my regular breeding-bird survey at Prestwood in Bucks, the house martin survey in Turville, and the River Thame Conservation Trust survey of the Thame catchment.
So all in all a good year of birding.