... is usually a fudge in our household. But what with tins of Roses, Heroes and Celebrations nearby, there is no such thing as a lack of chocolate at this time of year. But just as there needs to be one item of confectionary doomed to be the last one left, the same is true of 2013 posts. This is it.
I won't do a round-up of what I've seen, as it has, by and large, been a spectacularly ordinary year. Instead please accept this bullet-point stream of consciousness that has the year of 2013 as it's link.
Twitching heaven: there were more 'rares'* to see than ever before and if you fancied the odd long haul to the northern isles then so much the better. You could have filled your boots and gripped back more than a few goodies on us old-timers, even if the last time some of us twitched was the 1957 Bardsey Summer Tanager. Out of all of those rare birds on offer, I saw precisely none of them.
Surrey gets rare: who'd have thought it, that most maligned of birding inland deserts managed to rustle up a male Pallid Harrier, a Roller, a Red-rumped Swallow or two and a Two-barred Crossbill. Bloody hell! There have got to be a few Parrot Crossbills out there in my fair county, haven't there? Out of all those rare birds on offer, I saw precisely none of them, although I did go and look for the Two-barred Crossbill - which induced disbelief from those who thought they knew me.
Windfarms attack! The rotor blade that sliced to death a rare Needletail became slightly more infamous than any serial killer back in the summer. I got on my high-horse for the first of several 'opinion' pieces that appeared on this blog, suggesting that the use of the word 'tragic' was not appropriate in this case. Rumours of the Needletail being given a Viking-like funeral on a boat made out of Birding Worlds is only slightly exaggerated. Speaking of which...
Birding World. The publication that was so successful in its early days that it enabled its owners to buy up half of Norfolk, ceased publication. So, goodbye to papers on the pupil colour of second-winter hybrid Herring Gulls. So long to reading about small geese in massive flocks of big geese. Cheerio to all of those pages of pictures of Redpoll's arses...
They think Spurns all over! It is now... no hold on. That strange, narrow, curvy bit of East Yorkshire once more faced up to the big bad North Sea and sent it packing. Breaches and erosion may come and visit, but Spurn still lives. I stayed there for a fortnight in 1985 and had some brilliant birding. I wonder where the regulars will go if it does finally join the rest of the local geology beneath the waves?
BOOM! This has to be the word of the year, used in all innocence to announce the arrival of a rare bird. And the arrival of a knob at the other end of the text... hold on, didn't I say I wouldn't do this any more - take the mickey out of others who are actually out there birding? Where was I most of the year - yes, indoors, tapping out bile from a computer keyboard, that's what... excuse me while I go and thrash myself with a birch until I bleed...
Duskygate: it took one bird and one small group of Devon birders to bring about the downfall of several blogs and a couple of birders careers. Be careful what you wish for in your garden and if it does come true don't tell another soul!
Auk madness: a guillemot with a deformed bill gave hundreds of families a days rest from their annoying husband/father/ brother as they abandoned the family Christmas to show their chums all the Xmas presents that they had been given - ceramic mugs that said 'Tit lover', knitted jumpers depicting a white-haired, bearded man with a rosy nose (Bill Oddie?) and the latest field craft accessory from Ray Mears - camouflaged defibrilators for avian windfarm victims.
Well, that's it for 2013. I bet you that up and down the country right now there are thousands of birders cleaning their optics, checking the weather forecast (rain, rain, rain and wind) and looking forward to tomorrow, a day when a Wren is the equal of a Brunnich's Guillemot, a Blackbird the equal of a White-billed Diver, and we all start off the year on an equal footing. But remember - that blissful state of affairs lasts but one day. Enjoy.