Sunday, 20 December 2009

2009 at Frog End - a summary

I've been looking back at the species lists I wrote for Frog End a year ago and as I'd expected 2009 wasn't a particularly great year for wildlife in the garden - not compared with 2008 at least. We had quite a warm winter followed by a very warm spring - I remember getting sun-burn in April. From May onwards (unfortunately coinciding with when my family came to visit) we had several weeks of rain followed by a really dry end of summer / early autumn (I was out watering the garden every day in September). The wet summer was quite poor for insects and we saw two fewer species of butterfly and dragonfly than in 2008. Although we saw a couple of baby slow worms and one adult the female didn't sit and sun bathe on the fence every day as she did last year (probably because there wasn't any sun to be found).

The good news is that the pond plants have become established and the ponds themselves have had many more species this year including water beetles and mayfly larvae. Our first dragonflies and damselflies emerged and the frogs spawned for the first time. My father also spotted our first hedgehog.

A squirrel drinking at the pond

Grasshopper on the house wall

We had our second thick frost last Thursday and despite rain overnight last night the frost is still thick on the ground. Both ponds have frozen over and we now have some rather ugly blue ice cream tubs sitting on the ponds leaving an air gap in the ice. The cold weather appears to have doubled the number of birds feeding in the garden and I've seen chaffinches and dunnocks for the first time at Frog End this week. We've also had a few goldfinches - a species we hadn't seen since the early summer. Most of the birds are not yet brave enough to come close to the house (there being little cover established at this end) so I have no good photographs, but all that should change in the New Year when I shall be attempting digiscoping for the first time.

I said that MOST of the birds are not yet brave enough to come close to the house. Yesterday morning a pigeon sitting on the roof presumably slipped due to the frost and fell down the chimney. Luckily Ian removed the old fireplace in the study earlier in the year and we've yet to block it up again so it was relatively easy to remove the pigeon. Of course it had to sit in my seedtrays on the windowsill before we got it out the window so now there is soil all over the christmas presents, but I'm sure my family won't mind much.

Common darter exuviae

The highlights of the year for me include our first dragonflies emerging, watching a squirrel hug a flower and dipping the ponds. Looking forward to 2010 with anticipation...


holdingmoments said...

It's always sad waving goodbye to another year, but exciting wondering what the next will bring.
Hope it's a great one for you.

Randy Emmitt said...

Loved the exuviae photo! What kind of numbers of species of odes and butterflies have you had there?
We stand at 76 species of butterflies and in the upper 40s with odes.

ADRIAN said...

If you aren't already set up for digiscoping have a look at SRB Griturn for bits and pieces. All the best for 2010.

Helen said...

Thanks Randy. In the UK we only have 40 species of odonata, plus a further 13 migrants / vagrants (see Not all of these are found nationwide and to give you an idea, one of the best odonata sites in my county of Devon - Little Bradley Ponds has 25 species recorded. The oldest of our two ponds is only 18 months old so we've been pretty lucky to have 8 species of odonata so far. Not a large number compared with your 40something, but it's quite a good record for the UK and should hopefully go up as the ponds become more established.

I think that there are around 70 species of butterfly in the UK and we've had 11 so far.

Helen said...

Thanks Keith and Adrian. All the best to you both for 2010.