Saturday, December 29, 2007


This is it.
Even though BG was born in late January 2007, and didn’t really get going at all until March, I’ll wrap up the first year on the Blog this week, and what a year it has been.

If you read the introduction to BG again, made way back in January, you’ll see that I was not sure what I’d post on, or how frequently – but I’d leave the posts to a paragraph or so, on anything I found interesting. Anything in the world around me, mainly biological I suppose. Apart from that recent, short cartoon of a cat that my Mother sent me, (actually my Sister in Chicago found it, I hear), I kept to my word, but the posts came thick and fast - I soon realised I was genuinely interested in far more than I thought, and limiting posts to a paragraph proved to be almost impossible.

I’ve posted a few times on "Transport" (especially motorbikes, some of which I adore), and once or twice on people that might be worth a mention – my (ex) Polish neighbours for example, and taken a few photographs of things not at all wildlife related – the dual carriageway (at night) near our house and Anna’s flying lesson, to give two examples.
As far as I am (still) concerned, these posts fill out BG with subjects other than nature – and BG is possibly better off for them.

Photography, pretty basic photography became a main feature of BG, in its first year.
I had my Father’s camera when BG was started, and the use of my (soon to be) Father In Law’s camera – both of these were the old style film SLRs, but in March, I became another mobile phone contract holder, and got myself a shiny new Sony Ericsson phone, with what is generally considered to be one of the best, if not the best (still) cameras on a phone - especially for "macro (close-up) shots".
The world of macro, (generally insect) shots was opened up to me then, and a large part of BG was insectoid in nature in 2007.

I started BG in January because I was staggered when I laid eyes on Saturn through our wee spotting scope, and also amazed to find Peregrines not 5 miles from the house – I’d soon see one FROM the garden, and regularly in the middle of Reading, but I had no idea at the time, that these magnificent birds were virtually resident in the area.

The year on Blue Grey.

January and February 2007,
and BG was born.
Highlights of those early months were as I’ve already mentioned – the Peregrine and a wonderful (my first) view of Saturn and her rings.

Incidentally, very soon, Saturn’s rings will not be so apparent to us on little old Earth – they will be "side-on" for some time, so we caught the giant planet at its best this year.

March 2007,
and I foud new employment – in a job I really love.
March also brought a lovely, close-up view of a Short-Eared Owl as we drove to the Ridgeway in Oxon, for a walk with a view, (what a view) and a view to seeing these diurnal Owls.
I also documented the Total Lunar Eclipse in March. We were incredibly fortunate that the skies remained crystal clear for that particular night – giving vast chunks of the UK an unforgettable site of a rust-coloured moon for a time – very humbling stuff.
March also brought the first Brimstone Butterfly of the year. These little yellow/green insects always seem to be the bravest butterflies - ready to chase away winter as soon as they think they can.

The Red Admiral often can be seen hanging on through winter, but it’s the Brimstone that lifts your heart in March, as you start to feel the return of the sun’s lick of warmth.
Of course, March was also the month that I erected our "Des-res" Blue Tit nest box on our kitchen wall, that is to say, the drainpipe from the bathroom. That box was to provide us with months of fascination in the spring.
March was also the month that I spotted the first Sand Martins of the year.
Lets face it. March, is where the year on BG really got under way…

April in 2007 was quite remarkable. It was sunny and warm, (almost hot even) with no appreciable rain AT ALL, for the entire month.
Anna and I went out and bought some garden chairs – and left them outside for the month, give or take. We didn’t realise this at the time, who could have predicted it?, but April was to be the British summer of 2007. It certainly all went down the pan after this month.
April brought BG a lovely view of a pair of Buzzards building a nest in the still very bare trees in the rolling countryside near Shrewsbury.
April also brought BG the first wasps of the year, and the first Red-Tailed Bumblebees that I’d seen in 2007.
I caught my first glimpses of the first Swallows of the year in April, a day before my birthday in mid month,though I’ve often seen Swallows in the UK in very late March - so these were a wee bit late I thought.
Anna and I took a nice drive down the Thames Valley to the edge of the Chilterns where we were treated to the most spectacular display of Bluebells that we’d ever seen, in a wood near Hambleden.
April was also the month that I had my annual "moment of the year" – seeing the return of my Swifts on the 23rd of the month, that meant effectively the globe was obviously still working (as Simon Barnes might say), we still, amazingly, haven’t buggered it up just yet.
Finally, the month that is normally full of showers, brought BG a Roe Buck in the recreation ground behind the house (virtually in the centre of Reading) and the first Hobby I’d seen of the year, flying like a missile over the office, and seen from the 5th floor.


Hmmmm. May was where the globe seemed to break down. May was when the rains came. And came. And didn’t stop properly until summer was well and truly gone. True, there was the odd dry or bright day, but these were few and far between. The wind howled, the rain tore down, and the garden chairs were packed away for most of the summer ahead.
That said, May was the month that our Blue Tit eggs hatched. You can read all about our successful Blue Tits (again) in the archive section of BG, but briefly, for the record, I’m pretty sure our female only laid 5 eggs, (low for this species – maybe they knew they’d struggle finding food in the wet), they all hatched between the 3rd and the 4th of May, and all fledged almost 3 weeks later.
We were certainly very lucky with our family of Blue Tits. The terrible weather played havoc with nests all over the country – it wasn’t just the worst summer weather ever, it was the worst year for many of our songbirds also – there was a massive lack of prey for them, and they suffered terribly as a result.
We fed ours Mealworms and Waxworms (live), and this seemed to do the job – like I say, ALL five of our fledglings flew the nest around the 22nd of the month.
By then I had found a nest of Great Tits in the office courtyard – they were quite wet – the opening to the post, in which they nested (carefully avoiding all the nestboxes put up by the office staff!) was above the nest – but I’m pretty sure they all fledged successfully too.
May was also the month that recently fledged Goldfinches began to discover and regularly use our very posh Egyptian Thistle seed (and soon to be Sunflower Heart) Feeder.
The first of many sitings of the incredibly-coloured Scarlet Tiger Moth was documented on BG in May, (24th).

This wonderful diurnal moth became a daily visitor to the garden, and my walk to work would result in seeing many of them in the air, and even dead on the ground. If I saw a moth in June (or July) it was almost ALWAYS a Scarlet Tiger Moth – a moth that I’d never laid eyes on before!


The wind and rain of May continued with vigour into June, unbelievably enough. If anything, it seemed to get worse, and towns in the north of the UK suffered devastating floods. These weren’t mentioned much of course, in the British media – it was only when the affluent Thames Valley flooded a month later, (with effluent) that news teams really became interested.
June brought Bullfinches to our feeder, which were like a splash of colour against the black skies, as was the wonderfully colourful Jewel Wasp that seemed to like our giant potato plants.

The rains certainly gave our plants lots of height and foliage, (our Maris Pipers grew to almost 6 feet tall!) but the tubers beneath, in the sandy soil, really suffered.
The insects did come in June, but they struggled somewhat. BG documented two species of Chafers (the May Bugs), and a first view (for me) of a Leaf Cutter Bee, which was neatly trimming cut-outs in next door neighbours’ Rose bush, as well as our lanky Jerusalem Artichoke plant leaves.
June also brought out the mating Sawflies and Black Garden Ants - which I watched "milk" their "pet aphids" on the Potato plant stems.

Even wetter than May or June in the south of the UK.
The 13th of the month was dry though, and very humid – and suddenly we had one of the two (normally) , annual "Flying Ant days" where the winged models all erupt from cracks in the concrete.
July 17th brought me my first sitings of one of the Reading Peregrines chasing pigeons low over the recreation ground behind the house – an amazing spectacle, and sound.
July also brought the bold stripes of the Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars, feeding on the ubiquitous (around the Thames) bright yellow Ragwort flowers.
The most surprising event in July, as far as I and therefore BG was concerned was a visit to our bird-feeder of a glorious, adult male Emperor Dragonfly. These are very large, very impressive Dragonflies – but are not really reknowned for eating Niger seed or Sunflower Hearts – or any vegetable matter in actual fact!
I spotted a strange green thing on the feeder from inside the house, and managed to sneak up on it with my phone - for a few photographs. I was very lucky indeed to see it firstly, and then have it allow me to get within a foot of it for its mugshot to be taken!
More surprise visitors to the house this time, in July, were a Lesser Stag Beetle, hiding under the remote control in the sitting room (good old Anna - it didn’t shock her at all, and these are FEARSOME-looking beasties – she just popped it in a glass for me, so I could see it when I returned from work), and a Roesel’s Bush Cricket in the Kitchen, which the eco-
fiends (you all know them), will scream is a sign of Global Warming at you. Should you care to listen.
A big, lovely cricket though, and one I’d never seen before.
On July 24th 2007, the floods came to our neck of the woods (river). A day of torrential rain pushed our antiquated British drainage system over the edge, and the Thames Valley was flooded.
I spent the days looking for sandbags for our house, and the nights helping out others as part of my job.
A frantic week was ended when Anna and I flew out to Kephalonia, for our summer holiday, where we heard they were having the hottest summer they had ever experienced, and the whole of the eastern Med was alight with raging bush fires…
Hey ho.

As Anna and I sunned ourselves in Greece, we heard there were three days of hot weather in the UK.
Not that we cared. We were too busy gazing at Sardinian Warblers, Long-Legged Buzzards, Giant Long-Horned Beetles, Alpine Swifts, Beech Martins, Jellyfish, Turkish Wrasse, Shrike, and listening to Scops Owls and Cicadas.
On the 16th of the month, from our appartment’s balcony overlooking the sea, I noticed a small flock of Swifts, moving purposefully south. It was with a heavy heart that I realised that this meant the Swifts in the UK, including a family of birds that had nested in the eaves of the Off Licence, a few doors down from us, had probably set off south as well – bored to tears of the summer in Britain. I have no idea how the Swifts fared in Britain in 2007 – very badly I expect.
August was the first month that reports of an explosion in Mosquito numbers was mentioned in Britain too.
Myxamatosis which is spread by mozzies (as well as the main vector, rabbit fleas) reared its ugly head all over the country again – all due to the incredibly wet summer.
We returned from the Mediterranean, engaged to be married (she had said YES!!), the hot weather in the UK immediately departed, and it started to rain again!


Anna and I (and a cousin of mine) had a lovely evening in the west country in September, peering at Glow Worm Larvae on a wild hill. These were very late – we’ll have to return in the summer proper, if we get one this year!
September was when the spiders seemed to appear in numbers, along with my first real view of the Hedgehog which lives in the office courtyard. I assume, I know in fact, that I started to notice this Hedgehog in September more and more, because of the fallen leaves though which it noisly rustled and snuffled. Hedgehogs are not known for being quiet!
The Swallows and Martins were going – all nearly gone in fact, but the insect life was still going strong…
BG documented the comings and go-ings of Ichneumon wasps, Harlequin Ladybirds and larvae (the only species of Ladybird in the garden at this time of year it seemed), Sawfly larvae and Craneflies.


Early October brought me (and BG) the first sound of Winter Thrushes returning to the UK to gorge on our berries, which unlike a lot of wildlife, had a very good year this year – having been swollen all year by the rains.
Sugar Gliders were reported on Wimbledon Common, and the very sweet Long-Tailed Tits had already formed their close-knit family winter flocks.
Mid October, and the Conkers were dropping, all manner of Fungi had reappeared (after a very strange year for that Kingdom), and like I said, the berries were plentiful and fat.
The evil Harlequin Ladybirds were getting blacker and blacker (better for soaking up the dwindling available light and warmth), and Anna and I took a trip down to our favourite part of England – the New Forest Area.
I’m incredibly fortunate that I have a partner who shares not only my interest in the wild world around us, but doesn’t mind being in it all the time either! As well as that, she has my keen eye, and a wee walk off the beaten path in a very pretty, secret part of the New Forest brought almost 20 species of Fungi – most of which we hadn’t seen before – wonderful stuff.
Another day on the south coast – a very sunny, warm day for October, was spent admiring all the birds on Marshland near Lymington. The winter visitors were gathering in numbers, so we had Dark-Bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon, Shoveler, Black-Tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Little Egret, and others all in a lovely walk in the sun, right on the coast.
That day was ended with a lovely furry Ruby Tiger Moth Caterpillar, which Anna spotted crawling down the middle of the road, and saved!
Just as the month ended, Comet Holmes appeared in Perseus, in our night sky - a wonderful sight to behold.


The rains seemed to stop somewhat in November! A fantastic fungi foray in the Black Park, organised very well by my eldest sister and husband, and attended by about 100 people brought some amazing success as far as finding fungi was concerned, as allegedly this has been a bad year for fungi, especially edible fungi.
A few trips to the local lakes for me, brought views of Fieldfare, winter ducks such as the Goldeneye (always wonderful to see), more Peregrines and Sparrowhawks chasing Redwing around the berry bushes.
The middle of November brought the first real frosts since early in the year, and I got myself a lovely new (well, new to me) digital camera, from a friend that I met on the WAB site – a friend that shares many views with me - ie looks at nature with artistic, rather than scientific eyes, and does not get all hysterical regarding Global Warming, nor Disney-fy the wildlife around us, like so many British people do.
I took my first tentative shots with this new camera, and bought a macro lens to go with it. Roll on the new light and new season!


Because Anna and I were a little frustrated about having to guess what was happening in our nestbox during the spring (though I should point out here, that my guesses were pretty spot on - many hours watching and noting I guess), what with a contribution from Anna and her family (as a christmas present), I went out and bought a new birdbox complete with camera INSIDE the box! The Tits have been checking it out in a daily fashion, ever since I erected it, and I’m very excited about the possibility of being able not only to photograph any go-ings on inside the box next season, but to VIDEO it as well!
The middle of December brought very hard frosts – a chance to try out the macro function of my new toy ( the results of which (Frosty Nail photo) I was quite chuffed with)!
The Geminid meteor shower showed well in December also, thanks once again, to some remarkably clear nights, which also gave me a good opportunity to marvel at Mars in the night sky - the brightest that planet will be for a long time.
As for the end of the year - well, a Goldfinch has returned to the feeder after months of absence, in fact the bird life in general in the garden, has suddenly blossomed.
We have the odd Redwing or Filedfare in the Lime tree, as well as the odd Goldfinch flock (or charm), and as I’ve said, two (new?) Blue Tits are busy checking out the new box as I write this…


That was the year that was (2007).
I’m sure I’ve missed out a whole lot of stuff – but I can’t go into all SIX HUNDRED odd posts right now!
All the highlights I’ve mentioned above can ALL be found in the archive section of the blog.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed visiting BG this year, whether you’re a regular visitor - (there are a few!) or a fleeting rarity (after typing in "Red Underwing Moth" into Google for example).
I’ve (we’ve - Anna and I) have learned an awful lot this year – about subjects we hadn’t even really considered before, like insects and fungi for example, and I hope some of the posts here have been of some interest to you.
I’d just like to quickly mention Anna again here, and really thank her for not only sharing my interests and passions with me, contributing massively to my enjoyment of the wild things around us (everything is better shared, you know, and she has a fine set of peepers – nothing will escape us BOTH!), AND also putting up with me, when I seem to do nothing else but watch a field for example, or gaze up at the sky.
Thankyou honey.

And thanks to you for visiting this site - here’s to next year!

The moon (this morning)

BG in 2008.

What of 2008 then? Will BG still be up and running. Will it evolve?
Yes, and er…. Yes!
Firstly I should say, Anna and I are getting married in August next year, so that may take up a little of our time.

Then there’s the honeymoon, in Sri Lanka by the look of it, complete with leopards, monkeys, bears, giant insects and turtles!
On top of that, my present job will not last forever, its life is ticking away as I write this, so a LARGE proportion of my time will have to be spent networking more and looking at other related avenues… should be (COULD be) exciting. There may even be a move up to Sheffield for Anna and myself, but we’ll know a bit more about anything like that, soon enough.

As for BG, well, with my new camera, and its zoom lens and macro facility, I’d like to get many more shots onto BG – of close up stuff – insects etc… when they reappear, and of more long range stuff, such as mammals.
I’m well aware that there has bean a shortage shall we say, of mammals, on BG this year – and half of those that I did post about, were dead!
I’d like to change that next year. I’d like to take a monthly trip to parts of the countryside that I think Anna and I will be able to find, watch and photograph such animals as my Badgers, the Foxes and Deer. We can certainly do that – should be a lot of fun!
Then of course, I have the camera in the new nestbox. You will NOT get 62 odd posts on any "nesters", like 2007. You may well though, if we are lucky, get the odd update, photograph from inside the box, and very exciting indeed – the odd video – complete with sound!!!
We’ll see how it all pans out, eh?

For now, BG will take a tiny break over Hogmanay. We're off to drink ourselves silly in London for the celebrations...

Happy New Year to all readers of "Blue-Grey".

See you all in 2008, and lets have a better bloody summer next year eh?!







1 comment:

urbanextension said...

Hi. Thanks for your brilliant review of the year. I will be looking back to find out about the birds of prey near by! Good luck for next year - and perhaps I can suggest a few places in Dorset to take a "wildlife break!" we have a good supply of snakes, lizards, nightjars etc!