Friday, 3 February 2023

My Results: Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey, 2022

One of last year's Comma butterflies. I love the proboscis!

I noticed on Twitter that early butterfly sightings are being recorded so it seemed the right moment to post my complete Garden Butterfly Survey (Butterfly Conservation) list of 371 butterflies for 2022. 

The list shows my total number of sightings (18 species in total) and the chart below it shows the top ten species seen each month:


It comes as little surprise that Small Whites were my most frequently recorded butterfly. The three Graylings and a single Clouded Yellow were garden firsts. 

I tend to jot down 'bonus' sightings as well in my notebook, and note that in addition to the butterflies listed, I saw several Hummingbird hawk-moths and a couple of Silver Ys. A passing shimmer of red could have been either a Cinnabar or a Burnet moth. 


“Garden Butterfly Survey (2022) by Butterfly Conservation supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0”. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

A Welcome Visitor


I am not sure where I took this photograph of a Greenfinch, but it was some years ago and it was not in our garden. We had visits from these delightful birds when we moved to suburban Suffolk a decade ago, but with the increase in Trichomonosis, numbers dwindled until they no longer came at all. And then a single one appeared briefly on 6 February 2020, bringing a glimmer of hope.

In the wake of our RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, I said to David how good it would be to have Greenfinches again ... and (this to me sounds more like fantasy or fiction), lo and behold, when we looked, there was a Greenfinch, tucking into the peanuts outside our window. Of course, my camera was in another part of the house and the bird did not hang around for long, but never mind. 

Time to update my home-patch list and replenish our nut supply.


Monday, 30 January 2023

Lambs at NT Sutton Hoo, a Late Arrival to Our Feeders ... and Seasonal Signs at SWT Martlesham Wilds

Muntjac at Sutton Hoo (two of three spotted) ...

Lambs! In January! Sheer joy. And lapwings

The wobbly stage ...

Back in the garden ... this semi-regular turned up 24 hours after my count ...

Isn't he handsome?

Time for a bit of argy-bargy. Just look at the barring on the underwing.

Back at Martlesham Wilds ... the Barn Owl's view,

and the view looking in the opposite direction towards the River Deben.

Curlew, but all at quite a distance. Over 15 counted.

The humble, beautiful Daisy.

More snowdrops in Martlesham Churchyard

My first Aconite of 2023 ...

... and my first Crocus.


Saturday, 28 January 2023

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2023


The first Robin

We settled down this morning with binoculars, mugs of coffee, a pen and a recording sheet to do our bird survey. 

It was a reasonable, fairly nondescript, January morning here in suburban Suffolk. Our bird feeder was hung about with fat-filled coconut, peanuts and sunflower hearts. 

As ever, one or two of the 'regulars' failed to put in an appearance, notably the Great spotted woodpecker, Goldfinches and Wren; but never mind.

We spotted twelve species in the hour, which we felt was encouraging but not brilliant. Sadly, we hardly ever see Chaffinches, Bullfinches or Greenfinches in the garden these days.  

These are our results:

  1. Blue tit - 8 
  2. Woodpigeon - 8 
  3. House sparrow - 3 
  4. Starling - 3 
  5. Blackbird - 2 
  6. Dunnock - 2 
  7. Great tit - 2 
  8. Robin - 2 
  9. Long-tailed tit - 1 
  10. Magpie - 1

We also saw a Jay (11.) and a Feral Pigeon (12.), though these species do not appear on the RSPB checklist.  

I wonder how your count went. Perhaps you are still hoping to do one. 

Blue tit, Starling, Great tit

Blue tits, head to head

The action!

More Blue tits




Monday, 23 January 2023

Martlesham Wilds


We returned to Martlesham Wilds (near Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK) yesterday afternoon, hoping to catch another glimpse of the Barn Owl. However, there was no owl to be seen. 

Instead, we were greeted with a wonderful site (and arguably an even more evocative sound), in the form of a field of about 15 Curlew. You can probably make out five in the photo above. These birds were Red-listed back in 2015, so to find so many together was a cheering start to our stroll. 

As we got a further down the path that leads eventually to the River Deben (with the Sutton Hoo burial ground not far away on the opposite bank), the sound of birdsong up in the bare branches was unmissable; we stopped in our tracks for a minute or so just to listen. 



The photo above shows the path below the churchyard, with patches of ice on the water. 

Tree silhouettes, very much a part of the winter landscape in Suffolk

NT Sutton Hoo is on the far side and off the photo to the left

We were surprised to find quite a few (uneaten) rosehips

I love to be by the reeds, which always make me think of 'home'

One of four Moorhen we spotted, skating along the frozen stream

Winter by the stream

We returned via the churchyard ... and its Snowdrops

Suffolk Wildlife Trust are taking on much of this area as a new reserve, under the name of Martlesham Wilds. Funds are needed for the project, and so far about 25% of the target has been reached. 'Wilds' apparently is an old Suffolk term, and it will be fascinating to see the area live more and more up to its name as nature begins to take over from farmland as the project progresses.

Monday, 16 January 2023

(Rather Late) New Year Observations

How wonderful to have my first Barn Owl encounter of the year before we have even (quite) reached the mid-point of January! It took place in what is to become an official Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve, not far from Woodbridge and Ipswich, known as Martlesham Wilds. 

We spent quite a while watching the owl as it quartered a large expanse of meadow. Every so often it was joined by a Kestrel, and at one point they had a bit of a ding-dong. 

We reached the lower levels via a footpath from St Mary's church, which we were visiting, as we always do at this time of year, to enjoy the snowdrops. We passed about eight fully open daffodils on our way home. It may still be winter (and with a broken boiler, it certainly feels icy), but there are already signs of warmer days ahead.


David checked the film on our Trailcam yesterday. There was no evidence of any further 'foxy' activity, just lots of feline visitors ... and this delightful mouse from way back in October. 
We had watched the Wren in the final photo some days ago, and wondered if it would show up as it only landed momentarily. We usually have a resident Wren, so we look forward to seeing it again. We also had an unrecorded visit from the local Sparrowhawk, who zoomed at a very low altitude over the garden one day last week. 

I wish you a wonderful wildlife year ... 
I must go now, and order some more bird food. And don't forget; BBC Winterwatch begins tomorrow (17th January).

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

25 BIRDS by Anna K. Wood, a New Book of Bird Photographs

Cover image


May I introduce a new book, 25 Birds, by Anna K. Wood. The blurb on the back reads as follows:

"In this delightful collection, housebound photographer Anna Wood beautifully captures the diversity of birdlife all around us. Created entirely from photos taken in one North Glasgow garden over the course of one year, this book explores the joy Anna finds in nature as well as the challenges of being a photographer with severe ME. It will appeal to anyone with a love of birds, as well as those who would just like a little more nature in their lives."

I 'met' Anna over the internet a few months ago and realised that we had a few things in common. We both have physical health issues (albeit different ones) that force us to approach life in a particular way. We share a love of birds and a desire to photograph them. Anna has allowed me to include her fantastic feather photo below. She has kindly agreed to answer some questions about her new book.


Photo image: © Anna Wood, used with permission

1. Anna, what gave you the idea and have you been able to raise some funds via the project?

I've raised over £500 so far and there is more to come from recent sales. I've sold far more than I even thought I would, so delighted to be able to support such a good cause (Action for M.E.) and bring wildlife to people's lives.  I have been taking photos of birds for a couple of years and posting them on social media, and getting lovely comments from family and friends. They encouraged me to do something more with them, so I thought it would be fun to try to put a book together and raise money for charity - I have to admit I was a bit naive about how much effort it would take, but once started I really wanted it to be ready before Christmas.

2. Tell us about the habitat in question ...

So I live in north Glasgow, in a quiet residential street. I have a very small back garden which is below ground level, so there aren't often birds there, but the front has a small area of grass which slopes down to the road next to the drive way. There is a small plum tree in the middle where I hang feeders and recently I had some bushes and flower bed put in at the bottom. That's where I see most of the birds. There's also a lovely cherry tree next door which overhangs the drive, and birds like to sit in there. Although it's quite suburban there is a park about 10min walk away and a golf course 3 min away in the other direction, so lots of habitat for birds nearby.

3. Your favourite bird in or out of the book, and why.

Oh gosh that's so hard! My favourite bird is a stonechat. I saw one for the first time last summer while on holiday. My favourite photo is probably the sparrow with the feather - what I really love about taking photos in my garden is seeing birds that we think we know in a new way. Photographing makes me really pay attention to the detail, how they behave and all the things we easily miss.

4. What about the photography aspect, e.g. are you self-taught? 

I am self-taught. I have learned a lot from reading about how other people take photos of birds, watching YouTube videos, from talking to people online and from trial and error. I have a lot of photos where the bird is blurred or where it has already flown off! 

The book is available from Amazon (livelink here).


* * *

My sincere thanks to Anna for answering my questions about her new book. I was drawn to the concept as soon as I heard about it, and could hardly wait until publication day. The book is indeed ready in time for Christmas: do click the livelink above and take a look.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

'Voices For The Silent', a new anthology from Indigo Dreams Publishing



What can poetry do?  

There have been many who advocate art for art's sake, or l'art pour l'art, as the slogan was initially rendered in nineteenth century France. 

There have also been many, and indeed there are an ever-increasing number, of artists (in the broadest sense) who see their work as a focus for, or extension of, their activism. 

I feel fortunate to have had poems included in a variety of charity anthologies over the years, raising funds and awareness for Macmillan Cancer Support, Welney WWT and the Born Free Foundation, to name but three. 

I am delighted to add another to the list in the form of Voices for the Silent (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2022), the new companion volume to For the Silent (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2019), edited by Ronnie Goodyer, Poet-in-Residence at the League Against Cruel Sports. These companion (or stand-alone) volumes have been produced to aid the work of this charity, and not surprisingly some of the selected poems concern animal cruelty. Others focus on habitats and the wonders and complexities of the natural world. 

The new book includes poems by well-known names such as Margaret Atwood, Gillian Clarke, Pablo Neruda, Philip Larkin, John Clare, Mary Oliver, William Cowper, William Blake and Thomas Hardy, alongside a host of contributors who are part of the contemporary poetry scene.

Voices for the Silent costs £15 in Great Britain. Prices for other parts of the world are listed on the Indigo Dreams Publishing website. The book includes six wonderful pages of illustrations by Sam Cannon. The superb cover photographs are by Andy Parkinson.  

Subjects in the anthology range from a stag to a sparrowhawk, from a Chequered Skipper butterfly to an elephant. My poem, 'Basking Shark Blues', was inspired by the brooding Hebridean waters off the coast of Skye where I spent an evening watching one of these gentle giants of the ocean.


Evening, Loch Scavaig, Isle of Skye