A pond full of froglets and a blackbird nest in a bush in the garden prompted the creation of our blog, so that we could record some of the interesting and amusing things that my wildlife mad daughter got up to. We never knew what would come next or if anybody would care, but that didn't really matter as we had a ball doing it all. Almost 250 posts later, it's become quite addictive and has really made us pay attention to what's going on in our back garden and local patch. We even got a mention in the BBC Wildlife magazine. It's given us all something else to think about in what can only be described as a challenging year for our family.
There are so many good memories, but these are the ones that stand out for me...
Our beautiful little back garden birds and all their babies have kept us constantly amused with their antics, particularly the chap sparrow family, the hover robins and the blackbirds. The red kites have been stars, with Kenny and Katrina nesting in Nanny Moth's back garden (no chicks this year, but fingers crossed for next year) and our own local kites taking food from our lawn.
We had a lot of fun raising the death's head hawk moths from eggs, watching the enormous caterpillars grow, pupate and then emerge as Bob and Betty. We fed them honey water and listened to them squeak at us. An army of very hairy buff tip moth caterpillars ate their way through a branch of our silver birch tree and a borrowed moth trap provided us with many exciting mornings searching through it to see what we'd caught. Our best finds have to be the elephant and poplar hawk moths, as well as some of the big beetles that found their way in there. Finding the little blue butterflies (small blue, chalkhill blue and Adonis blue) out on the Chiltern chalk grassland stands out and we even found a little brown 'blue' in the brown argus.
Our nettle patch was a big hit as it was home to ants milking aphids, ladybird 'mini-monster' larvae, the much more elegant adult ladybirds, spiky black caterpillars (peacocks, small tortoiseshells and commas) and all sorts of spiders, shields bugs and beasties.
We found out we had a hedgehog regularly visiting our back garden, were entertained by Stumpy the squirrel with no tail and enjoyed searching through the woods for the gigantic roman snails.
It wasn't all about the animal kingdom though. We were wowed by masses of spectacular orchids and searched for and found rare Chiltern Gentian. Then we spent several weeks snuffling through the fallen leaves looking for fungi, with the discovery of an earthstar being the highlight, closely followed by the magpie ink caps.
Some of it inevitably 'got away' and despite our best efforts we just couldn't find a few things, including a starfish, glowworms, fly agaric, purple emperors, red squirrels and the Mountshannon white-tailed sea eagle. All things we can look forward to trying to see over next year, along with who knows what else.
Happy New Year and here's to a brilliant and wild 2015!