"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 19 December 2011

Highlights of the Year - Part 1

As this is the first full year of blogging I thought I'd do a series of posts on highlights (and perhaps a few "lows"!) of the year - mainly covering natural history.

The first post on the topic covers January to March.


The undoubted highlight of the year (in fact it probably ranks amongst my top 6 birding highlights ever!) was the discovery of my own flock of waxwings in January. Waxwings are probably my very favourite bird and they started to arrive very early in the country in Autumn 2010. By January, despite visiting many local areas with good supplies of berries where I knew they had been spotted before, I still hadn't managed to catch up with this species and was beginning to feel I was the only birder in the country who hadn't seen them! In the end on 24th January I gave in to the temptation to twitch them in Nuneaton where I had a fleeting glimpse of 20 of these gorgeous birds. A few days later on the 28th I turned into an avenue where there were around 14 trees full of berries which I had been checking on and off for months and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw 6 starling sized birds eating berries and realised at long last I had found my own waxwing flock. I was so lucky especially as I happened to have my camera and telephoto lens with me.


A trip to Ladywalk on 3rd January had got the year bird list off to a good start and several trips to Brandon Marsh between January and March added more species. I saw great crested grebes in a courtship display on 8th March and a ringed plover the same day.

In the garden a wren was roosting in a hanging basket on the patio and blue tits started investigating one of the nest boxes from the 16th January. On the 18th March I saw a goldcrest in the garden and a female mallard visited the garden pond at the end of the month.


Frogspawn first started appearing in the garden pond on 24th February - one of the earliest dates ever. Since 1993 when I first started to keep records spawn has always been laid in March except for 1998 when an even earlier date in February was recorded. Two common/smooth newts were spotted in the pond on 13th March.



First moth of the year was a winter moth on the outside kitchen window on 12th January. I started running the moth trap on 4th March to coincide with the start of the Garden Moth Scheme. The first two trapping sessions failed to produce any moths but on 18th March I trapped a Dotted Border (a new species for the garden) a Common Quaker and a Chestnut. 23rd March produced 2 Clouded Drabs and Diurnea fagella (a new micro for the garden) and on 25th March Emmelina Monodactyla, Common Quaker and Hebrew Character were caught.


On 21st March I saw my first butterfly of the year a comma at Brandon Marsh

and the first butterflies seen in the garden were a Small Tortoiseshell nectaring on pansies/violas on 23rd March and a Brimstone the following day.

Mining Bees

A trip to Brandon Marsh on 8th March proved fascinating as I watched many mining bees excavating tunnels

and managed to get a photo (well, a record shot!) of a Treecreeper

On 9th March I spotted a Hairy Footed Flower Bee at home and the first Buff-tailed Bumble Bee was seen on 17th March.

Super Moon

On the 18th March we were lucky to have clear skies as a Perigee "Super Moon" the biggest in 20 years appeared

To finish off the first quarter's highlights

Male and Female Hazel Catkins at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

Its always a delight to see the first snowdrops and winter aconites

Snakeshead Fritillaries in March at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I went to Packwood House at the end of March because they always have a superb display of daffodils.


Anonymous said...

Ahhh, i remember those Waxwing shots, Caroline. Beautiful images.

Ragged Robin said...

Many thanks Dean - I'm so glad you enjoyed them. I was so lucky to be in the right place at the right time with good light and the camera behaved itself :D