Looking back on what was an eventful year

The unforgettable eclipse of the sun pictured over St Boswells in March.
The unforgettable eclipse of the sun pictured over St Boswells in March.

How time flies. It seems no time at all since I last sat down to trawl through my weekly ramblings to bring you my look back at 2015.

January - The year started mild and wet and after reading that global warming had encouraged 39 species of flower to be in bloom in the Edinburgh area, during the first week in January, I decided to head out into the countryside to witness this amazing phenomenon. Cold and wet, I returned two hours later having ticked off only snowdrop and hazel catkin! My first wildfowl count of the year yielded large numbers of ducks and swans.

February - Early in the month, the snow arrived and I had a lovely walk along the banks of the Tweed near Peebles, where the season’s first snowdrops were struggling through the snow. The following weekend was gloriously sunny when I visited the area round the old cemetery at Ancrum where I marvelled at the amount of the gall ‘robin’s pincushion’, which occured on many dog rose bushes and is caused by tiny wasps. Spring’s first harbingers were evident in the form of the first oystercatchers on the river and the first butterfly of the year spotted at Cardrona.

March - Gales and torrential rain welcomed the month and I counted 44 oystercatchers on my local patch of river – up on previous years. The mild winter had obviously favoured the local kingfisher population with two sightings in a week. Spring was getting well underway with the first frog spawn in my neighbour’s garden and a rash of hedgehog and badger road casualties, indicating mammal movement after hibernation. The moth trapping season got underway with my first capture being one called the satellite. I was out and about to enjoy the unforgettable eclipse of the sun and I was delighted to welcome the first ever palmate newt in my new garden pond.

April - Spring continued with singing chiffchaffs and on the 5th I saw my first swallow of the year. On Easter Sunday the temperature nearly reached 20 degrees, as I took to the hills in search of the ancient Weaver’s Well. On a nearby burn, I was stunned by a spectacular display of yellow coltsfoot. In the middle of the month I had a lovely walk in the Yarrow valley, wallowing in the bird song of the newly arrived migrants. At the end of the month it was back to cool conditions, as I walked along the Tweed, where several orange tip and green-veined white butterflies were on the wing and singing warblers were everywhere.

May - Six species of warbler were singing on my local patch of riverside as the month got underway and the first cuckoos were reported calling. The wild flowers are reaching their best now as the tree canopy closes. In mid-month I was amazed at seeing a badger out in the middle of the day, as I sat in my car at Craik Forest. Later I enjoyed watching a family of great tits on CCTV at the Woodside Garden Centre, before having a lovely woodland walk through carpets of bluebells. Good weather later in the month encouraged me out on my bike and I had to cycle through clouds of big black St Marks flies, which are totally harmless, as long as you keep your mouth shut!

June - At the start of the month, I had a fascinating insight into electric fishing along with other members of the SWT, demonstrated by staff from the Tweed Foundation. Later a fabulous picnic was had in the beautiful Manor Valley near Peebles, where a wealth of wildlife was enjoyed, including raven, buzzard, common sandpiper and brown hare. Near Abbotsford I watched fascinated as a female goosander with a brood of 15, negotiated some rapids and defended her youngsters against the attentions of a carrion crow. Similarly, I had a grandstand view of some common sandpipers successfully defending their two chicks against a determined looking stoat, on the Ettrick on my home patch.

To be continued………..

Wishing all my readers, correspondents and contributors a very Merry Christmas.