I had more or less decided that I wouldn't do any Highlights of the Year on my blog this year. My bird, butterfly and moth year species lists are the lowest I can remember and the dreadful rainy summer weather and my mum being so unwell meant that I have not gone out birding as much as I would have liked and for one reason and another we failed to have a holiday this year. However, I remembered that, whilst on my Edith Holden quests, I discovered the delights of country churchyards full of wildflowers, there were several new moth species for the garden and some good bird sightings, including one "lifer" and I visited several of my favourite National Trust properties together with a few new ones. So here's the first post of some of my highlights of the year. Its longer than I intended but I hope you enjoy at least some of it!
My first visit of the year to my favourite Gardens - Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens and already there were Snowdrops and Winter Aconites in flower.
I also visited Millennium Wood - a small local Nature Reserve created to celebrate the Millennium. There were 22 Lesser Redpolls feeding in Silver Birch seeds and I saw my first Bullfinches of the year.
Just round the corner from the Wood is the "Fairy Door" and in January a little silver bucket had been added. At this stage the door is very quaint and charming but in the following months a great many adornments were made which, in my view, rather spoiled the original effect.
One very cold and frosty day I visited some fields in the Solihull area which contain medieval ridge and furrows. This beautiful historic countryside was at the time under threat from housing development and a planning enquiry was taking place. Unfortunately the developers were given permission to go ahead and bulldoze the fields and build houses. I am not sure if this work has now started as I have no intention of returning as I prefer to remember the fields the way they were. This was undoubtedly one of the "lows" of the year.
I also paid a visit to the RSPB Middleton Lakes Reserve in the Tame Valley and was absolutely thrilled to see, albeit at a distance, a Short-Eared Owl - a life tick for me. No photos of the owl though - the Reserve doesn't yet have hides and the birds are usually too far away for the 70-300mm telephoto lens.
Snow in early February meant more birds at the garden feeders
and a male Blackcap visited over several days eating apples left on the lawn.
Another visit to Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens in mid-February and the Snowdrops and Aconites were putting on a splendid display.
I tried out my new macro lens (a Christmas and Birthday present) round our garden.
A miniature world of moss on the sundial
Hazel Catkins (Lambs' Tails) and female flower
I had decided that throughout the year I would follow in the footsteps of Edith Holden, an Edwardian Lady, who wrote various journals - published as The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady and Nature Notes. My first journey was to visit Packwood Hall and St Giles churchyard where she had found Snowdrops and seen lambs.
St Giles Church Packwood and Snowdrops
The first moth caught in my moth trap this year was Emmelina Monodactyla on 24th February and March brought more species including two firsts for the Garden
and March Moth
Early in March I paid my first visit to Brandon Marsh NR - my favourite Nature Reserve and had some fun taking photos of the very tame Robins there.
I was also thrilled to see Pintail - a record shot
I paid a visit to Packwood House early in March
I loved this Bug House in the Vegetable Garden
Stock Doves became regular garden visitors early this year
The first frogspawn in the garden pond appeared on 17th March and I was able to get some photos of all the activity
A March trip to Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens to see daffodils and blossom
I returned to Packwood House at the end of March to see the wonderful display of daffodils - always one of the highlights of my year. Lesser Celandine were also in flower.
When I first visited St Giles Church earlier in the year I met a lady inside the Church who recommended I visit later in the year to see the display of primroses. The churchyard is "managed" for wildlife and contains over 100 species of wildflower. I was delighted when I visited at the end of March to see a churchyard just full of primroses together with Lesser Celandines, Speedwell, Violets etc.
A wren had spent all Winter again roosting in one of the Hanging Baskets on the patio and toward the end of March I noticed it taking nesting material into the basket. This is the second time this species has nested in this basket. The first time most of the young fledged successfully but sadly this year the nest was abandoned due I think to all the rain we had when it must have got totally flooded out.
By the end of March I had seen just one species of butterfly - a male Brimstone in the garden.
I'll carry on with the "Highlights" between now and the end of the year.