Yes, it's that tme of year again when we all take a fond backwards glance at what the year has given and look longingly forward to more delights in the year to come.
At the start of this year I began a bit of UK yearlisting for the first time in many years. Soon realising that with me not being prepared to drive silly distances for 'not very exciting' yearticks and the fact that I was going to be out of the country for the whole of September it soon fell by the wayside. I've kept it going to a limited extent but 2018 has been a year more about all round nature experiences.
Rather than this being a condensed diary of the year which I've already covered in detail within these pages I shall pick out a few of the undoubted highlights.
A couple of days down in London with Jus in Jan and Feb were immensely enjoyable for good banter and some real quality birds - not least the American Horned Lark that decided to unexpectedly re-appear, a wintering 'blythi' Lesser Whitethroat and a co-operative Little Bunting.
In March a memorable day gave me some mega views of Snowy Owl at Snettisham having been watching a mid-Suffolk Glossy Ibis just a couple of hours earlier!
A twitch was on in April with Jus, Dave Russell and I heading north to Musselburgh for the American White-winged Scoter and scooping Surf Scoter, Ring-necked Duck, Grey Phalarope and Bluethroat the same day.
The Lowestoft area really came up trumps in April with the amazing discovery of American Bittern at Carlton Marshes, a bird I was very lucky to see easily. Lovely close-up views of the singing male Penduline Tit at Leathes Ham also stands out.
Belinda and I had a lovely long weekend in Dorset in May, obviously enhanced by Woodcock x Fly Orchid hybrids, a huge hybrid swarm of Lady x Monkey Orchids at Hartslock and a visit to the fabled Dancing Ledge for Early Spider Orchids.
Early June involved a yomp up to the end of Blakeney Point for the singing Moltoni's Warbler which tested my fitness, or lack of it!
Another trip was made to Scotland in June, this time a 5 day sojourn with Sean Cole, Chris Hazell and Mike Waller for an orchid-fest. I notched up 3 new orchids for my British list - Pugsley's Marsh Orchid, Lesser Twayblade and Heath Fragrant Orchid. We also saw 7 different hybrid combinations including only the 2nd UK mainland record of Frog x Northern Marsh Orchid, a truly magical moment! Even more magical was completing my British dragonfly list with Azure Hawker at Bridge of Grudie.
July's main event was much more local with both Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret both at Dickleburgh Moor at the same time. A day gtrio down to the New Forest with the boys yielded my penultimate British orchid - Bog Orchid plus a plethora of odonata I'd not seen for many years.
Obviously the month of September and 4 full weeks in South Africa was the real huge event of the year. Without re-capping too much the stand-out highlights for me were Black Harrier at the West Coast NP, a mega pelagic off Cape Town, Cape Rockjumper, Southern Ground Hornbill, Martial Eagle and of course all the mammals of which Leopard was my fave.
Since returning from our travels the birding has been quiet with the main highlights being the unseasonal Red-rumped Swallow at Cley, Stejneger's Stonechat at Salthouse and both Parrot Crossbill and Rose-coloured Starling close to Norwich. A Vagrant Emperor at Kessingland was a very welcome and rare dragonfly tick and I've been filling in other time with getting to know a few fungi which has been very educational.
Hume's Warbler, Waxham
Arctic Redpolls, Aldeburgh & Whitlingham
Otter, Santon Downham
Green-winged Teal, Southwold
Purple Heron, Cley
Montagu's Harrier, Hampshire
Burnt Orchid, Derbyshire
Lesser Yellowlegs, Titchwell
Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Minsmere
Stilt Sandpiper, Frampton Marsh
Dusky Warbler, Stiffkey Fen
Siberian Chiffchaff, Levington
Twinflower & One-flowered Wintergreen, Highland
Black Hairstreak, Northants
Brilliant Emerald, Northern Damselfly & White-faced Darter, Highland