So below is my end-of-year review which is really just a look at a few stats and facts about my wildlife-hunting in 2017. It is always a little bit difficult to compare numbers year on year. It only takes a few missed days in the field due to work or child-related issues for me to dip quite a few species. My year list however was much better than last year and this was mainly due to having more weekends off because Rosie has new hours at work. It should have been easily better though, since there were lots of species I didn't see which are pretty common. I was most satisfied with the six new species for my island list - it took 5 years to tick off the previous six species! And overall, there were plenty of decent birds to see - eleven species of rarity caught up with is pretty good for me as I don't twitch everything. It was great to reach 2500 species just before the end of the year on my pan-species list.
I would say that the top three "Champagne moments" were - 3) When the Lammergeier drifted over our heads in Corsica, 2) The frantic twitch for the Royal Tern, and 1) The excitement of the Wilson's Petrel appearing on the pelagic trip.
8 new birds for the World List - Italian Sparrow, Corsican Finch, Moltoni's Warbler, Corsican Nuthatch, Lammergeier, Scopoli's Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater, Wilson's Petrel - now on 780.
3 new birds for Britain (& CI) - Royal Tern, Cory's Shearwater, Wilson's Petrel - now on 395.
6 new birds for Guernsey - Royal Tern, Great Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, Wilson's Petrel, Glossy ibis, Hawfinch - now on 258.
1 new 'self-found' bird - Cory's Shearwater, makes 273.
3 new Hommet to Rousse 'patch' birds - Royal Tern, Cuckoo, Brambling, makes 160.
1 new garden birds (in or from) - Hawfinch, makes 89.
2016 Guernsey year list total - 147 - average total.
Official local rarities found - 4 - Cory's Shearwater, Rose-coloured Starling x2, Cattle Egret.
Official local rare species seen - 11 - Whooper Swan, Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Wilson's Petrel, Cattle Egret (x2), Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Royal Tern, Rose-coloured Starling (x2), Hawfinch (x2).
End-of-year British Pan-species list - 2500.
End-of-year Guernsey Pan-species list - 2127.
Garden moth list - 632.
New Lepidoptera in Guernsey - 4 - Small Marbled, Mother Shipton, Pink-barred Sallow, Oncocera semirubella.
New Lepidoptera in UK - 1 - Spring Usher.
Best other new wildlife of 2017 - Blue-fin Tuna.
This year I have picked out my favourite 20 photos I've taken during 2017 (not listed in any order except chronologically).
1) Reedham Railway bridge, February - At the end of a superb day birding in Norfolk with Andy, the sun finally came out as we scanned across the flat plain of the Berney Marshes looking for raptors. The light started to go so we headed back towards the car along the River Yare and I was struck by the beautiful reflections of the bridge and sky on the calm waters.
2) Female Kestrel hovering, Fort Hommet, March - I popped out from work during a sunny lunch hour to search for some early migrants. After not so much, I returned to the car park along the raised path on the south side of the headland, and this windhover suddenly appeared right in front of me. It was so intent on its prey it didn't seem to see me and I was able to snap a few pics. I particularly like the exactly horizontal leading edge to both wings.
3) Hawthorn Shieldbug, garden, March - With the warmer weather appearing, so were the insects in the garden. On the painted back wall, this beast was resting in the late afternoon sun, soaking in the last rays of the day. The flash bounced off the whitewash and lit the bug brightly from below. I particularly like that you can find every one of the colours of the spectrum somewhere on the body of this fine creature.
4) Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard, Restonica, Corsica, April - As someone who is not used to seeing any reptiles, one of my favourite parts of the Corsica trip was seeing lots of lizards alongside the paths, especially this wonderfully spotty endemic species to the islands. However, they often scurried away quickly, or you were looking down on them, so were difficult to photograph. This one however, very kindly, chose to rest atop a small wall by the track up the valley, showing off its scales of blue and green and every shade in between.
5) Yellow-legged Gulls, Etang d'Urbino, Corsica, April - Of course, it was not because of the birds that I took this photo, but the reflections of the wooden poles, which made them appear to dissolve into the waters of the lagoon, creating rather a pleasing composition. These poles were probably used by the mussel fishermen, mussels being a speciality of the east coast of Corsica, a favourite of the famous Corsican, Napoleon.
6) Andy and Mike birding at Etang d'Urbino, Corsica, April - Just a nice, straightforward photo showing all the habitats of Corsica. The saltwater lagoons at the front, surrounded by coastal maquis vegetation. Behind are the flat, agricultural plains, then the wooded foothills, with the high alpine peaks in the distance. The single dark line of hills covered in shadow breaks up the background, and the salt-stained rocks and snow-speckled summits give a little contrast.
7) Red Kite, Aleria Fort, Corsica, April - Eating our lunch in the hilltop café at the fort, watching the raptors sail past the window, was terrific. Between courses, we'd pop out onto the balcony to try and get some pics and this was the best one I managed. It was here that I decided that I had to replace my camera as it didn't seem to be working properly. Mine was still whirring to find focus when Mike was already firing shot after shot with his. Despite the large number of kite pictures I took this was one of the few in focus (and even then it isn't exactly).
8) Black-winged Stilt, Claire Mare, April - Although this species is now practically annual here on the island, it still seems exotic and so I generally go down and see one if I can. Even though it appeared in the morning, I decided to wait until the evening since the light is usually better from the hide and I was pleased I did as the bird eventually walked right in front of us.
9) Royal Tern, Pecqueries, May - Not at all an excellent quality photo, but it is the subject matter that makes this one of my favourites. Having seen this huge rarity five or six times previously, I never got more than the odd distant fuzzy shot of it. When I happened upon the Royal Tern in the bay on the way home one day, I scrambled down the rocks onto the beach and got my first half-decent pic of the mega.
10) Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, near The Humps, June - The Societe Bird Section went out on a boat trip one evening to have a look round the islands to the north of Herm and on the way back some scraps were thrown out of the boat. The gulls came into feed and I took a few random snaps. This picture really struck me straight away as having quite a dramatic composition and I thought it almost balletic.
11) Blue-tailed Damselfies mating, Port Soif NR pond, June - Finding a pair of damselflies "in cop" is a bit of an open goal for photography since the situation is almost 2D which makes focussing easy and they tend not to fly away unless they really have to. Nevertheless, you stil have to get it just right and I think this pic is almost there.
12) Mediterranean Gull, Cobo, July - In mid-summer the Med Gulls return to the island after the breeding season and the first ones that appear are usually the beautiful black-hooded adults. This was one of three birds sat on the beach at Cobo that I passed on the way to work one morning. I quickly climbed down the ladder ran across the sand and took a few snaps before continuing on my way. Unfortunately I do not have the photography skills to be able to tone down the brightness of the white plumage but otherwise, the white bird against the full seaweed background meant quite a striking image.
13) Ormer, Lihou causeway, August - People tend to think of shellfish just as squidgy bits of meat to be put in our stomachs, but I think this photo shows that they are living, breathing creatures. We found this whilst rockpooling in the summer and put it on some seaweed to take pictures. The intricacy of the turquoise pattern on the foot, the tiny lime green tentacles, the marbled pattern of the shell and the beady eyes peeking out give this Ormer a character of its own. This is what a real Ormer looks like, not a pale, dead slab of flesh on a plate.
14) Clock mechanism, Castle Cornet, August - Although I'd been to the castle lots of times I had never been inside the clock tower and found the mechanism for the huge clock fascinating. Rather than being boxed away, it is open to walk round and see it properly. Each cog is slightly different in shape and size and, according to the date on the dial, seems to be 235 years old. I didn't like the green paint that was on some parts so I took out the colour from the photo, and then used slight warming filter as it was too 'cold'. The background was just the white painted walls of the room.
15) Great Skua, at sea, August - One of the exciting things about pelagic trips is bringing seabirds in close to the boat that you only usually see distantly from a coastal headland. As I have never really been on a proper pelagic trip I took a lot of photos when we chugged out to the Hurd deep in August. Luckily the weather was bright most of the time and so we could all manage decent shots. I had never seen a Bonxie so close before and the photo below was my favourite, showing a powerful, mean, killing machine.
16) Fulmar, at sea, August - As mentioned above, seeing these seabirds so close was a real privilege. The Fulmar were regularly sat just off the stern, often the closest birds and it was difficult to take a bad photo of them. On the pic below I think I just managed to get the subtle colour tones pretty correct and the surrounding sea was calm and clear. You can almost feel the softness of the plumage and I love the tiny water drop on its bill tip.
17) Immature Gannet, at sea, August - Another common species seen from the boat, the Gannet here looking almost prehistoric as it lumbers across the sky towards us. For some reason the picture was a lot better in black and white rather than colour. Since the summer I have learnt a lot more how to use my camera properly and hope to take even better pics on the next pelagic trip I'm on.
18) Wilson's Petrel, at sea, August - I managed a few snaps of this big rarity from the boat despite the huge excitement and panic at the time. This was by no means the closest or clearest shot of the bird, but this is definitely my favourite of it. Even though there were plenty of other petrels, gulls, gannets etc around the boat, as a fluke I didn't get any of these other birds in the shot (and I haven't used photoshop to remove any (even though I could easily have done!)). So this shows the tiny bird flying low over the sea, with the great expanse of ocean stretching out behind it to the horizon. Which I think it very apt for a species which breeds on the other side of the world, on sub-antarctic islands, and has crossed the globe to appear in these waters.
19) Yellow-browed Warbler, Le Guet, October - Not a very technically high quality photo, but I enjoyed the pic more for what is represents - my favourite type of birding, the search for vagrant passerines in autumn. The bird may be slightly out of focus but I like its head-down position, showing all of its ID features, underneath the curl of the sycamore leaf. This photo shouts out to me what birding is all about.
20) Whooper Swan, Rue a Fresnes, Castel, December - A simple portrait of a local rarity. The swan looking exceptionally majestic here. During the autumn I have learnt quite a bit more about how to improve photos with photoshop and I had to use it quite a bit here as the original shot was much darker and duller since the picture was taken in the late afternoon. (I also took a whole fence out of the background! - I know some people totally disagree with such things, but in my view, so long as you don't mess with the bird itself, anything else is fair game. Unlike some people who can spend all day waiting for the perfect shot, I certainly don't and have to make do.)
As usual at the end of the year I have picked out my favourite new films watched over the last 12 months. This year I have made a chart of these using my own artwork. It is often difficult to work out why they are my favourite ones out of the 40-odd new films I usually see in a year, they are just the ones I happen to have liked, whether they have been critically acclaimed or not.