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...