These are the months when we see the most butterflies. Most of them were seen in my garden. We had a new plant in the garden this year called Sea Holly and my goodness it attracted many butterflies, bees and insects. As well as the usual ones, Red Admiral, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell , we had a Speckled Wood and a rare visit from a beautiful Comma Butterfly The Scotch Argus and the Ringlet butterflies were seen when I was out and about.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker has been visiting the garden regularly and feeding on the suet balls. Most of the young birds have fledged but my neighbour had a pair of nesting gulls on the roof. They were there for a while and I managed to get a glimpse of two of their young. We only get rare visits of Song Thrushes in the garden but we often hear them singing in the neighbourhood. I remember one year in the winter months, we had a resident Fieldfare for a few months and it really went for a Song Thrush that tried to come and eat the apples. Despite the many cats that come into the garden we had a little mouse that seemed to stay well hidden when they were around yet it boldly would feed under the bird feeders.
On a trip to Blairs Loch there were quite a few Little Grebes and usually they duck under the water just as you take a photograph but this one was intent on eating the fish it had caught. I also saw an Osprey fishing in the loch and for as often as we go there I have never seen one there before. The loch has been tidied up at few years ago with a new boathouse and Education Centre built and three different bird hides around the loch. It is now much more accessible for all.
On a trip along the coast to Cullen we saw very little at the coastal towns except quite a few Ringed Plovers and Turnstones as Cullen. It was a lovely sunny day and the Ringed Plovers stood out in the sunshine.
Previous winters at the Enterprise Park there have been Waxwings, Fieldfares and Redwings feasting on the abundance of berries there. This winter although there were some Fieldfares and Redwings the trees were stripped very quickly of berries and they all moved on. I did not see any Waxwings. Indeed I have not been fortunate to see any at all this winter. When we go up to the Enterprise now we have only seen one Fieldfare and that too has disappeared. However, at the end of December, one appeared in my garden and has continued to appear every day since then. It spends all its time eating the apples on the ground and chasing the blackbirds away. I wonder if it is the one that had been at the Enterprise Park.
On a walk around Sanquhar Pond I saw a Little Grebe. That was the first time I had seen one there.
The winter visitors have started to come into the garden. Long -tailed Tits are starting to come in, in groups of eight or ten, and I saw my first Lesser Redpoll this winter in amongst a large group of Siskins. The occasional Blackcap and Treecreeper have also appeared but not lingered long. I fear the presence of the cats and the Sparrowhawk keep them away.
The weather had been quite mild until the middle of December and at the end of November a Hedgehog walked through the garden, After a short feed it moved on. It appeared quite healthy and it was possible it was taking advantage of the warm weather. We have a Hedgehog house in the garden but so far it has not been used.
What made this year particularly special in the garden was that we had a Badger visit. Living in the town I certainly did not expect this. We have a night time camera which we had not used for most of the year. After watching Autumn Watch one night we decided to put it on and that night a Badger came in. We have no idea how long it had been coming into the garden but over the next few weeks it appeared five times in total. It came in in one direction and went out in another. The camera has gone off again for a while so not sure if it is still around.
If that was not enough excitement for me this year , three days after Christmas a friend told us that there was a Grey Phalarope in Burghead harbour. We went along to see it. I was surprised how small it was as I was expecting it to be about the size of a Gull. It was definitely way off course. It was very tame and swam about the harbour unperturbed. I was glad we had gone out that afternoon to see it as it had gone by the following day and for me that was probably a once in a lifetime experience.
We are back into almost extreme Lockdown again so who knows what wonderful things will appear in my garden in 2021.
One of the things I am doing this year is a bird challenge along with some other bird watchers where we have to record as many different species of birds seen in our home patch. We have to stick within a five mile radius of our house. This has resulted in us visiting places in our area where we have not actually been to bird watch and revisiting places close at hand which we had forgotten about.
The year started well as I had lots of winter visitors in the garden. I also saw some birds that I might not have seen easily. The first of course was the Kingfisher but I also saw a Merlin down at Findhorn. The Merlin was too far away for a picture but I managed to video it for identification. So far I have reached seventy-five in my bird count.
With this in mind I have been going regularly to Sanquhar Pond in town and to Brodie Castle Pond. As well as the usual Mallards and Moorhens at both places, the swans have returned to Sanquhar and there have been swans at Brodie for a while. At Sanquhar there has been a pair of Tufted Ducks and recently there were three Goosanders, a male and two females. Then a few days later at Brodie I saw three Goosanders, again one male and two females although one of the females flew off. It was possible that these were the same ones seen at Sanquhar so we went up to Sanquhar to see and certainly the ones there were not around, but they have been seen in Sanquhar since then. There was also a Cormorant sunning itself on a log at Sanquhar. There used to be one or two Cormorants a few years ago at Sanquhar but I don’t think I saw any last year.
At Brodie Pond there were four Tufted Ducks and lots of Mallards. Although the male Mallard is the more striking of the two, in the right light the tawny-brown and black colours of the female can stand out also. Brodie Pond has a lot of Moorhens and some Coots. It also has at least four Little Grebes. Little Grebes are very shy birds and although you can hear them they usually disappear under water as soon as they sense your presence. However, I think they are getting more confiding as certainly the ones at Brodie seem to swim past ignoring people. It would be lovely if they breed there so that we can have a chance to see their young.