2016 was of course a year of shock election results, famous folks' funerals and controversial rare birds. The evidence on climate change appeared stronger than ever but the peoples of the free world decided not to let the facts on this and several other matters of public debate get in the way of a good story, especially when it was being told by wealthy demagogues with their fingers crossed behind their backs. On those shock election results, I merely observe that just 27% of eligible Americans voted for Trump, and less than 38% of voting age Brits voted to leave the EU. Whatever you think of the results of both polls, this surely can't be taken as a sign that western democracy is in rude health. I recall fondly the ennobled billionaire tax-exile Lord Ashcroft tweeting after the US election and Brexit results that 'the elites' had lost touch with the people - how fortunate we are to have such down-to-earth meritocrats holding these damned elites to account.
|Egrets: I've had a few - Dorset got in on the December Cattle Egret invasion, this bird being one of five with Little Egrets at Nottington|
|Corn Buntings were singing at Maiden Castle in the unseasonably warm weather of mid-December|
|Corn Bunting, Maiden Castle|
|Marsh Harrier at Middlebere - from a visit early in the month|
|Little Egret, Middlebere: one of the few beneficiaries of our warming climate|
|Peregrine at Middlebere from the same visit|
|A memorable December day saw me heading up to Derbyshire for a close encounter with a Dusky Thrush|
|Willow Tit at Carsington Water was a long overdue 'photo-tick' on the way back from the Dusky Thrush...|
|...as was the bonus of an Eastern Black Redstart in Tewkesbury on the way home - the first I had seen of this form and therefore my bird of the month for December|
- Bird of the Year: it has to be the Siberian Accentor - the fact that it was part of a multiple occurrence of the species in Britain 'devalued' it for some, but for me it did the opposite, illustrating a genuine natural phenomenon and adding to its authenticity in a year which had more than its share of plastic controversy.
- Dorset Bird of the Year: Portland's Great Spotted Cuckoo was everything a rarity should be: big, beautiful and photogenic - and a county tick for me.
- Patch Bird of the Year: a very short shortlist due to a shameful lack of effort - but a self-found autumn Great White Egret claims the title, if stumbling across the birding equivalent of a Concorde in a haystack counts as 'self-found'.
- Twitch of the Year: it has to be the day trip with my son to St Mary's for the Cliff Swallow - though the Hebridean adventure for the Black-billed Cuckoo, the campervan sleepover for the Great Knot, the smash and grab for the Siberian Accentor and the Dusky Thrush/Eastern Black Redstart bonus ball day ran it a close second, third, fourth and fifth respectively. Not that I''m obsessed with lists, you understand.
- Photo of the Year: had to think about this one. But I love American waders, and I love photographing rare birds up close, so it's the second one from this series taken during an intimate encounter with the Hudsonian Whimbrel in Cornwall early in the year.
- Dip of the year: I learnt long ago not to go too early with 'review of the year' posts and this year is no exception. I was looking forward to reporting 'no long distance dips' to speak of, when last week's Pembrokeshire trip failed to turn up the hoped for Masked Wagtail!
- The Donald Trump Award for services to climate chaos: having raised the spectre of climate change, I should reflect for a moment on my own carbon footprint: too much driving chasing all these birds around, obviously, but I managed more lift-sharing than usual in an A-rated car, and, apart from two short hops on crop sprayers to the Isles of Scilly, I never got on a proper plane or left the country by any other means in 2016. So not too bad relatively speaking, but certainly room for improvement. Mind you, given the state of sterling, not leaving the country may be less of a choice and more of a necessity in 2017!
My thanks, then, to the wildlife, for still being there despite the best efforts of humanity to eradicate much of it; to my fellow travellers, for their companionship and for subjecting themselves to my incessant witterings en route; and to my family, for joining me when it was possible, and tolerating my absence without too much overt celebration when it wasn't. And finally thanks to all of you for reading. It appears that the review of the year by instalments idea was insufficient to avert one last mammoth post for the year, so my resolution for 2017 is a simple one: I'll knock that on the head next year. Assuming the fingers of President Trump's tiny hands haven't already punched in the nuclear codes by then of course. And on that cheerful note, may I wish you a Happy New Year!