My best present last year was from my sister. It looked like a photograph frame or a small TV screen but, once plugged in and fed with a computer memory stick, it blossomed into life, unrolling a slide show of all the wildlife highlights of her garden year. Red squirrels, otters, seals, a slender roe deer, pine martens raiding the bird feeders, the shingle-based nests of ring plover and oyster catcher, they were all there: a loch-side compilation.
Obviously my suburban garden can’t compete with that, but the idea captured my imagination and led me to thinking about my own, more modest, 2015 garden highlights. It proved surprisingly easy. Early April got me off to a flying start – a brilliant streak of yellow, a brimstone butterfly, crossing the garden in characteristically purposeful flight. Then there were those little jewel-bright flies clustered on the laurel leaves, gently revolving in a stately minuet.
My visiting badger, Seamus, now a venerable beast, renewed his evening visits in April. The high-spot came when a young female, probably one of this year’s cubs, came bounding after him, gave him a friendly shove and proceeded to hoover up all the remaining peanuts in record time. He wandered off leaving her to it. After this she became an intermittent visitor often coming early to snaffle the feast.
It was a poor year for butterflies – cool and often windy. However, I clocked up two new species: a gatekeeper, normally a butterfly of country lanes and hedgerows, and a holly blue. There can be few prettier sights than a smart, newly emerged blue butterfly feeding on the dull green and pink of a marjoram flower, something to make up for the absence of more common late summer visitors like red admirals and painted ladies.
The birdbath is often the source of much amusement to me. It’s interesting to note that once one bird decides to have a bath, the idea rapidly catches on. Usually the would-be bathers form an orderly queue and bathe in dignified solitude. Not so the long-tailed tits, birds that prefer to keep together. I still grin when I remember the occasion when, after a succession of decorous blue tits, there was suddenly a mob of long-tails splashing vigorously, the edges of the bowl decorated with a frill of tails.
I haven’t the skill to capture these scenes on film, but they are in my memory, to be called up at will, like Wordsworth’s daffodils.