JANUARY & FEBRUARY: MINNESOTA & GARDEN TICK
My first visit to this American state and despite -28 degrees C there was still life! A very brief Canadian Lynx was frustrating to say the least, but Wolves in their winter coats and Pine Grosbeaks, Ivory Gull and Snowy Owl in the snow were just some of the highlights.
Back home, a Brambling in the garden was a definite highlight and all important garden tick, taking the list to 71 species!
|1st Winter Ivory Gull, Duluth|
|Male Pine Grosbeak - one of many birds seen at various feeding stations|
|Wolf - One of two animals seen very well|
|Brambling in the garden!|
I am very lucky to be able to visit this great country most years and though the speciality birds of this part of Africa are impressive, it is often the migrants in the desert that fascinate me the most. You never quite know what is lurking in any bit of habitat.
|Egyptian Nightjar - an easy species to see in Morocco with the help of the locals|
|Western Orphean Warbler and Common Redstart in the Desert|
|Western Bonelli's Warbler in the Desert|
|Seebohm's Wheatear in the Desert|
APRIL & MAY: DARTMOOR & RIVER OTTER OTTERS
During the Spring and Summer months I carried out breeding bird surveys for the RSPB with two other surveyors (including fellow birder, blogger and friend Steve Waite). The surveys covered over 130 KM squares on the eastern side of Dartmoor as part of the Moor than Meets the Eye Project. It was great to discover parts of Dartmoor that I had never visited before and to spend some great early mornings on the Moors.
April and May locally on the patch was also memorable in terms of Otter sightings. A family group of up to 4 animals were seen regularly.
|Dartmoor - Looking towards Warren House Inn|
|Dunlin on Dartmoor|
|Otter on the River Otter|
|Otter on the River Otter|
|Otters on the River Otter|
JUNE: FINLAND & RIVER OTTER BEAVERS
A trip to Finland in early June produced the hoped for Wolverines, a mammal I had always wanted see as well as a bonus Brown Bear. Birds were of course impressive as always with Hawk Owl being the hands down winner for me and a bird I never tire of watching.
Locally, on the River Otter, the highlight of the year was the successful breeding of our local Beaver pair producing an amazing 5 Beaver kits!
|European Brown Bear|
|Northern Hawk Owl|
|One of the five Beaver Kits with Mother|
Brazil's Northern Pantanal is place I have been very lucky to visit on a number of occasions. It is part of one of the world's largest wetlands and simply stacked full of wildlife. For me, it is always the Jaguars that excite me the most. No matter how many times you see them, they always leave you wanting more!
It was great to see two well grown young cubs this year.
|Male Jaguar - This male has an injured eye and I saw him back in October 2015 too!|
|Two well grown Jaguar Cubs|
AUGUST: LOCAL PATCH & NORTHERN SPAIN
Seeing my first Cuckoo on the patch was a definite highlight and at the same time a somewhat depressing reminder at how fast this species is declining.
A return visit to Spain and the Cantabrian Mountains in late August was just as exciting
as my last visit with Wildcats, Wolves & Wallcreepers all seen very well and always amongst fabulous scenery.
|Juvenile Cuckoo on the patch|
|Female European Wildcat|
|Female European Wildcat|
In my opinion, California without doubt has some of the most impressive marine life anywhere in the world. Great seabirds, great cetaceans and impressive numbers.
Clear highlight for me was seeing the planet's largest Beaked Whale, the rare Baird's Beaked Whale.
|Baird's Beaked Whale - a cetacean mega!|
|Pacific White-sided Dolphin|
|El Capitan, Yosemite NP|
OCTOBER: LOCAL PATCH & SPURN
Despite being overseas for much of my time, I do always like to spend October in the UK as personally I find it is the most exciting time for birding in the UK. This year local birding was tough as the east coast was certainly the place to be! However, a few good local patch finds (Serin being the highlight) plus other local birds like Matt Knott's Tawny Pipit and Mike Langman's brilliant find at Berry Head all helped keep the interest going before I defected to Spurn!
|Yellow-browed Warbler on the patch - one of at least two|
|Ring Ouzel on the patch|
|Matt's Tawny Pipit at Gore Lane|
|Mike Langman's great find of a Blyth's Reed Warbler, Berry Head|
|Siberian Accentor, Spurn|
A great trip to Namibia (including Botswana & Zambia) resulted in over 400 species of bird and 55 species of mammal. Clear highlights for me were Racquet-tailed Roller, Herero Chat & Dwarf Bittern (new species for me) as well as Pel's Fishing Owl that never fails to impress. Mammal highlights were many and included Aardwolf, Brown Hyena & Wild Dog.
Back home,a visit to the East Devon Heaths shortly after returning resulted in finding only my 4th male Hen Harrier on the heaths after many years and cold hours spent watching the area during the winter months.
|Aardwolf, Etosha NP|
|Mel's Fishing Owl, Botswana|
|Wild Dog, Namibia|
|African Skimmer, Botswana|
|Male Hen Harrier, East Devon Heaths|
DECEMBER: LOCAL PATCH & CORNWALL
Put simply, two patch ticks on the sea, Long-tailed Duck and Velvet Scoter! Plus the cracking Eastern Black Redstart at Mousehole.
|Eastern Black Redstart, Mousehole|