It didn’t feel like much of a bird year, but when I counted up I was surprised to discover that I had seen 116 species (four more than last year) and heard (without seeing) three: Cetti’s, grasshopper and wood warblers. This was in England and Wales: I have not counted those I saw in Peru.
However, there were some pretty common species I didn’t see or hear: snipe, barn owl, golden plover and kingfisher, to name a few.
The year started well with a female crossbill on my River Thame Conservation Trust survey on 12 January. I have only seen them once before around here, at Cowleaze Wood in 2010.
There were curlews bubbling on 22 March, when I walked with my visually-impaired friend Marika Kovacs before breakfast from Edale youth hostel in Derbyshire. We were there for an event to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
Another excitement for me were the jangling corn buntings below Lodge Hill in Bucks on a bright May morning.
With help from a professional birder with a strong telescope, I saw my first Caspian gull on Spade Oak Lake at Little Marlow in Bucks in March.
I made two visits, in April and May, to lovely White Wood on Dartmoor, where I heard wood warblers but didn’t see any; however I was rewarded with pied flycatcher, redstart, tree pipit and siskin.
Ring ouzels were secured on my early walk up Tavy Cleave on Dartmoor on 28 April, with a cuckoo and whinchats.
I made a number of visits to Otmoor in Oxfordshire, where I gathered a good collection of water birds and warblers, as well as a bittern and the increasingly elusive turtle dove. On my visit on 5 May I listed 44 species.
In Aylesbury I saw my only peregrine of the year, which is nesting on Pooley’s Tower.
I was beginning to despair of seeing a spotted flycatcher. Then on 9 July, while I was running up the road, I saw one perched where I had seen one last year, on the wires by Turville Valley Farm in Bucks.
High in the Yorkshire Dales, at Arten Gill, I saw a whinchat carrying food on 21 July.
My only red grouse of the year were around the Nine Standards Rigg, near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria.
And on a walk around Canvey Island I saw waders including black-tailed godwits and sanderling.
The last bird to go on the list was a sparrowhawk; it swooped into my back garden on 19 December, probably extracting a small bird, leaving the feeders swinging and an eerie hush.
Happy new year, and happy birding to all my readers.