January saw our regular trip to Pagham Harbour, and once again we were treated to some lovely weather, there was also a visit to Titchfield Haven and the Lower Test Marshes. However the highlight was a visit to Eyeworth Pond in the New Forest on the 2nd. The primary purpose was to photograph Mandarin Ducks, but there were also a group of Goosanders. The drakes always pose a challenge with their white plumage, and on this visit it was made even more difficult by the dark water of the pond. I was pleased with this shot of a pair as they swam towards me.
February is one of those doldrum months at the start of the year, the bad dash to get the year ticks eases. There were visits to the New Forest, and Titchfield Haven when there was the need to shelter in a hide. Mid month saw a flock of Waxwings turn up at Whiteley Shopping Centre, and as a result a catalogue of photographs. But it is not to the Waxwings that I turn for this month, but a picture of a pair of drake Tufted Ducks asleep on Fishtail Lagoon at Pennington. The black and white plumage stands out against the milky grey water, and for Ian and I they are an instant attraction for the camera, we can't resist any photo opportunity, and it has become a running joke.
March saw Ian and I up to our usual quest to find the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in the New Forest, once again we heard them, and had the shortest glimpse but never good enough, so we will probably return again in 2018. As well as the New Forest we spent time at Blashford Lakes and on Farlington Marshes where a Short-eared Owl provided a lovely subject.
However it was another owl that stands out in March. While at Alresford Lake waiting to catch the roosting Hen Harrier, we were entertained by a Barn Owl that flew around the pond and past us at the view point giving some excellent views.
April saw trips further afield, I finally managed to catch up with a Long-eared Owl at Dungeness, my first for a very long while, and there was our almost annual trip to Minsmere at the end of the month, where the usual suspects performed.
The weather was unseasonably warm at the start of April, and this coincided with a short break in north-east Norfolk. Once again the Bearded Tits were on good form along the sea wall path.
At the end of May, we visited Northumberland, primarily for a trip to the Farne Islands, they didn't disappoint with really close encounters with the Arctic Terns, cliff nesting sea birds and of course the Puffins. The New Forest at this time of year is also very productive with Wood Warblers and Redstarts, but the highlight this month was not a bird, but a lifer in the form of a March Fritillary on Martin Down. A sunny afternoon there produced well over twenty of this delightful butterfly in Bokerly Ditch.
The end of our trip to Northumberland saw us into June and we headed south to spend some time in Weardale, County Durham, and there we had a close encounter with Black Grouse, a bird I was catching up. The butterfly season was probably a few weeks earlier this year, so a trip to Gosport was necessary to catch up with the White-letter Hairstreaks. At the same time Ian and I visited Fort Brockhurst and came across these aerobatic Four-spot Chasers.
July is butterfly time, and as has been the case over previous years Ian and I were frustrated by Purple Emperor, once again this enigmatic butterfly evaded our attempts to see it, we spent the time staring at leaves instead.
Another frustration was our attempt to catch up with the Osprey at Fishlake Meadows. Two trips drew a blank coupled with the frustration to find that the bird appeared after we left. On one of those blanks we headed off to Shatterford Bottom, in the New Forest and encountered clouds of Silver-studded Blue butterflies amongst the bell heather, an amazing experience.
There were more butterfly lifers in August with Brown Hairstreak at Shipton Bellinger, and Silver Spotted Skipper at Broughton Down. The month though was dominated by our holiday in Costa Rica. This was our second visit, the last time five years ago, and it din't disappoint.
We had some incredible hummingbird experiences in El Silencio, and Monteverde, unfortunately Resplendent Quetzel avoided us (a good reason to return once again!), but we caught up once again with the spectacular Scarlet Macaws on the Pacific coast, King Vultures and Swallow-tailed Kites in Uvita, and with Humpback whales off Cano Island.
There are plenty of wonderful Hummingbird pictures, but one that pleased me the most was of this Red-winged Giant Grasshopper, just a lovely composition
Back in the UK, September saw Ian and I visiting Keyhaven and Pennington at the start and end of the month. At the start of the month we were chasing Clouded Yellow butterflies up and down the sea wall, and encountered a pair of Spoonbill that have become a regular sighting here.
October was very grey and overcast, one trip to Farlington had to be aborted for heavy rain. Later in the month Ian and I were chasing Ring Ouzel at Leaden Hall in the New Forest. But the highlight of the month was the trip to India, where we finally caught up with the magnificent Tiger. In all we saw at least five individuals, being treated to some incredible experiences as these incredible cats walk and sat close to our safari jeep.
Back home in November Ian and I spent time at Keyhaven Marshes and Testwood Lakes, while Helen and I had another trip to Pagham Harbour.
Keyhaven saw more Spoonbill, and on Oxey lagoon a very confiding Grey Phalerope. At Testwood we caught up with the Hawfinches, and on Meadow Lake four Great White Egrets. This one spending time preening.
In December a visit to Needs Ore produced eight Spoonbill, and four Scaup. The highlight of the month though was a very tame Barred Warbler that stayed in the garden behind the visitor centre at Titchfield Haven. It had been around for a while before I managed to catch up with it, and even then had to wait a couple of hours before it appeared. But when it did it showed very well eating cotoneaster berries.
So as the year comes to an end we start to plan the new year's travels, some are already planned, while others will take place in good time
Happy New Year to all.