You can read the specifics in the month entries (one each for January-May, September and October, one for June-August, and November-December), so I'll just add here my top species for the year. I've chosen these on entirely subjective grounds - some because they were so special or striking, some because I'd been after them for years, some because they were photogenic. In no particular order...
A species that was once rare, now it's quite common even near home, but I'd never managed to see. My first sighting of these was there, on the Ribble, but very distant - specks in the haze. Better was at Martin Mere, where they bravely chased off much larger swans from their chicks. Later I detoured to Leighton Moss's salt marsh hides, where good views of them (and their young) can be had.
A speciality of my home town, yet almost nobody would ever see them - they float in great rafts, thousands strong, just offshore, usually only visible in a telescope. But a male and a female separately found their way to the local nature reserve, a small body of freshwater a couple of miles from the coast. Later in the year, I added two more species to my list, velvet and surf scoters, but neither afforded quite such good views.
Several warblers were on my hit list, and I was lucky enough to see them all. Garden warbler almost featured here, for giving unexpectedly good views by the standard of an otherwise elusive species, but the wood warblers are just that bit more flamboyant, and their song lit up the springtime woods for me.
This handsome male duck made a local marine lake its home for many weeks, and grew quite tame. It ticks all the boxes - photogenic, laid-back, handsome, unexpected yet easy to find.
Like the scaup, and at the same location, a completely unexpected visitor, which really ought to have been out to sea. Beautiful views. Alas the bird was probably injured.
This wins out for the combination of spectacle - a couple of hundred thousand birds, each with a wingspan of nearly six feet - and the ease with which good shots could be taken. The light on my boat trip to Bass Rock was perfect, and the sea not too choppy for photography even at relatively close range. An unforgettable experience - but I saw them a couple more times too, from the land further west along the Firth of Forth, and it was exhilarating each time. Their size, colouration, and behaviour is remarkable (though I never saw them dive), and I hope to see more of them in future.
A species I have been hoping to see for some time. Not rare, and quite widespread - but both my home patches are on the edge of their range, and they are rather spread out from what I gather. They had also been something of a bête noire of mine, as in my early days of birdwatching, I found them impossible to separate from carrion crows based on the photographs, descriptions, and audio recordings I studied - even though the common view is it's pretty straightforward.
As it turned out, I encountered them several times this year. A couple of distant birds on a Cumbrian hilltop could have been the first - but I found the photographs unconvincing. So it was in Bowland I can say I had my first sighting of a raven - high and distant, against a pale grey sky, as poor a view as you could hope for. Then in Silverdale, a pair feasting on a dead lamb - a good view, although still distant, but on the ground in good light. Best of all was the bird the flew over my parents' garden, the first one I identified by its call - which when it came to it, was absolutely unmistakable.
Ring-billed gullIt's hard for a gull to make my shortlist, but this North American bird was distinctive (by the standards of large white gulls), and almost tame. It's been hanging around Preston for months now, seemingly happy to live as an urban bird on the wrong side of the ocean.
A unique bird in this country, and one I would never have expected on my home patch. But one of these weird creatures stuck just down the coast for several days, and although it never came close, it did allow for better-than-record shots in the lovely autumn light. I found it much more exciting than the barred warblers that arrived alongside, in contrast to the crowds of other birdwatchers they attracted.
I've never done very well with birds of prey, including owls. I got my first shots of a wild tawny this year, but never caught up with the species I really wanted to see, little owls. However, a large influx of the wonderful, charismatic short-eared owl gave me the chance to get some great shots. Some have hung around at home for a couple of months, but my views have been at Musselburgh either side of the New Year, where between a couple and a dozen have wowed birdwatchers and locals all winter.
As for the rest, here's the master list of species I saw, in alphabetical order by common English name:
169 species (36 lifers)
Great black-backed gull
Great crested grebe
Great grey shrike
Great spotted woodpecker
Green woodpecker (heard only)
Lesser black-backed gull
Little ringed plover
Quail (heard only)