The illness and subsequent death of my father-in-law at the beginning of the year meant very little birding, spring birding was slow and the heatwave of June and July precluded any birding too. Autumn was also slow and the end of the year has been quite busy with non-birding things but overall it hasn't been a bad year.
I've added 4 new birds to my UK list - sooty shearwater, gray catbird, red-rumped swallow and pomarine skua - but all 4 birds I have seen before, just not in the UK. Other highlights included better views of my 2nd ever Temminck's stint and Isabelline (Daurian) shrike along with green winged teal, Balearic shearwater, ring-necked duck, cattle egret, pectoral sandpiper, hawfinch, Bonaparte's gull, yellow-legged gull and tundra bean goose. Low points included no wood warblers this year, my first dip since my first ever sighting of one in 1988 and showing the now rapid decline of this species in Devon, and no little stint or curlew sandpiper although both these species can be very variable in numbers year to year.
My pelagic trip from Brixham was cancelled due to bad weather but I did manage a sea watch instead from Berry Head, my first proper sea watch and despite the wind, rain and cold I had a great time watching great- and Arctic skuas, Manx- and Balearic shearwaters, harbour porpoise and 2 sooty shearwaters. A pelagic trip from Plymouth was interesting too but the hot and settled weather and the early date in July meant very few sightings. A day trip to the Scilly Isles in September was much more exciting with sooty, Manx and Balearic shearwaters showing very well from the ferry along with common dolphins and tuna, and a pectoral sandpiper on St.Marys showed amazingly well too down to just a few feet in front of the hide.
A day out at Minsmere in Suffolk and trips to Ham Wall, Beesands and Slapton and Penzance and Hayle with Mavis were good days out while trips to Turkey, Macedonia and Iceland provided some interesting sightings too including Alpine swift, Yelkouan shearwater, pygmy cormorant, laughing dove, hoopoe, red-backed shrike, tawny pipit, pallid swift, Syrian woodpecker, black stork and whooper swan.
Cetacean sightings have been good with killer whales, minke whale and white beaked dolphins in Iceland being the highlights along with bottle-nosed dolphins in Istanbul, common dolphins from the ferry to the Scilly Isles and harbour porpoise off Berry Head.
It has been a great year for butterflies, helped by the hot and dry weather in June and July. I managed to see my first purple emperor, white-letter hairstreak, brown hairstreak and silver-spotted skipper and also managed to finally get some good views of purple hairstreak and my first Essex skipper for over 32 years. Heath fritillary, clouded yellow, chalkhill blue, green hairstreak and dark-green fritillary were also highlights but despite the good weather I rarely had the moth box out and only managed a few sightings but including hummingbird hawkmoth, black arches, large ranunculus, marbled green, coronet, rosy footman and Jersey tiger.
And so to 2019 - another difficult year on the cards by the look of things but wildlife will always be there for me. I'm planning more butterfly trips and hopefully more pelagic trips, I have the money now saved for a new telescope (I just need to try some out first before I buy), and I want to concentrate more on new birds for my UK list and scarce and uncommon birds I am not very familiar with. Here's to 2019 - Happy New Year!