So here we are, almost at the end of another birding year. If you've been reading my blog regularly, you'll know that my approach to birding this year has been fairly laid back. Despite this there have been many highlights. Self-found lifers are always remembered fondly, so adding Arctic skua and short-eared owl to the life list in 2009 was particularly rewarding. Finally putting snow bunting to bed in Norfolk in February was also a highlight, so thanks to Steve Jones for finding them for us.
Sticking with self-found birds for a bit, there were many more during the year, including willow tit, marsh tit, tawny owl, brambling, Mediterranean gull, lesser whitethroat, grasshopper warbler and common crossbill, but none of these were lifers. Still great birds though.
Other highlights were two red kites seen in and around Wythall, most of the birds seen in Islay in May, the Slavonian grebe seen in breeding plumage in Devon, the hat-trick of black tern, American black tern and white-winged black tern at Farmoor Reservoir in August, and the Sabine's gull at Upton Warren.
Most of 2009 was dedicated to walking the patch. In doing so, I clocked up 110 miles and saw a grand total of 79 different species. As usual, I was birded-out come November, which meant that I didn't get out as much as I would normally. If I had, I think I could have bagged another few birds for the list. It might be something I try again in a few years though.
Despite all this top-notch birding, I think I will remember 2009 mainly for the butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies. The week I spent in Devon was a real eye-opener in this respect. Watching a female golden-ringed dragonfly ovipositing on Aylesbeare Common was both fortunate and brilliant, as was finding a pair of azure damselflies in a nearby pool just moments later.
Pearl-bordered fritillary, large skipper, marbled white, common blue and grayling were amongst my favourite butterflies, but I couldn't summarise the year without mentioning the influx of painted ladies to the UK, which never became boring no matter how many times I saw them.
Normally I would now be considering a few goals for the coming 12 months, but I have decided to take something of a sabbatical until 2011. That's not to say that I won't be out and about doing some birding here and there, but I think it will be very low key. I will continue with the blog, which I really enjoy doing, but don't be surprised if you don't hear from me quite so often. The plan is to update the blog on a monthly basis, with the occasional trip report thrown in for good measure, and perhaps an ad-hoc newsflash here and there if I've seen something particularly good.
With this fresh approach to things, I think it's time to give the blog a bit of a facelift. Look out for that in January.
Finally, I would like to wish a Happy Christmas to anyone who has read the blog this year, or those that I have met out in the field in 2009. I hope 2010 brings you everything you wish for.