AS I look back at the pictures I’ve painted in 2017, I’m reminded of all the adventures I’ve had out watching wildlife this year. It’s been incredible. My personal highlight was watching kingfishers inside their nest. This was so unique it even featured on BBC Springwatch.

It was my most ambitious wildlife project yet. I had spent most of the winter building an artificial bank to attract kingfishers, as well as a nest inside for them to use. Next to the bank I built a hide which I rigged with cameras so that I could watch what happened inside.

I could hardly believe my luck when a kingfisher pair took to my artificial nest in May. The pair went on to raise three chicks in this artificial nest and I followed them on my cameras from the moment they hatched to their first flight.

Watching a kingfisher lay its eggs just metres away from where I was sitting was an amazing experience. Their nest chamber is underground in complete darkness, so it’s something that has never been filmed before. It was so ground breaking that the crew at Springwatch invited me to share my footage with their viewers.

It was exciting to see my videos on national TV. I had spent much of the spring in my hide watching the kingfishers interacting and had also learned so much about their behaviour. The female was young and inexperienced. She seemed to know very little about the rules of kingfisher courtship.

She was always a touch too forward, demanding that the male hand over love tokens of fish before he had had a chance to offer them to her. I was enthralled at how polite he seemed, compared to her brashness. After this amazing experience, I spent the rest of my summer focusing on how different species bring up their young for an exhibition of paintings at my gallery in Thixendale in June.

Among the most endearing animal behaviours I explored for this new collection of paintings was the way in which great crested grebes carry their young on their backs.

I painted two stripy chicks tucked into the wing feathers of a parent bird for the show. The process involved going through a vast collection of photographs I had taken of a pair and their chicks at an ornamental lake. It was wonderful to relive the moment I had watched the parent birds teach their tiny chicks to dive into the water.

I also revisited an experience watching lapwings for the exhibition. Lapwings lay their eggs on bare arable fields and their nests are often destroyed by farm machinery. But I was afforded a rare opportunity to watch one on its nest thanks to a stewardship scheme on a farm in East Yorkshire. The painting I produced for the exhibition focussed on the beauty of this bird’s iridescent wings as it tended protectively to its chicks. In August, I was lucky enough to travel with my family to Australia. I visited the Great Barrier Reef and was taken aback by the beauty of this giant coral structure. But despite the bursts of colour and all the action under the water, it was actually some birds of prey above the waves that caught my attention.

I found an Australian osprey nest and photographed these magnificent sea birds posed against the tropical blue sea. I expect to be picking up my paintbrushes again soon to recreate this experience in a new composition.

I also was lucky enough to see Australia’s largest bird of prey, a wedge tailed eagle, after spending a long and uncomfortable morning hidden in a makeshift hide in the Australian outback. The experience was really out of this world as I watched a species of kite, known as a ‘whistling kite’ for the sounds it makes, feeding on a wallaby carcass. As I sat in my hide a noisy and aggressive crow perched above my head and deposited its droppings down the back of my neck.

My Christmas exhibition this year was a roaring success. It focussed on how different animals survive the winter and I produced a flurry of new paintings featuring different species posed against a snowy backdrop.

One painting of a row of ducks served to headline the event. I had watched the three drakes and a mallard jostle for position on an old post and rail fence. They had struck me as so comical in the way they interacted.

It was a great finale to a wonderful wildlife year. I’m hoping 2018 will be just as astounding and productive and I’ve already got a few projects to research new species up my sleeve.