The first week of the month saw the emergence of the season’s first snowdrops.
I found three different groggy queen wasps crawling across the living room carpet on separate occasions. No waxwing sightings so far, but lots of bramblings and buzzard numbers reached double figures circling above my house.
A cold snap in mid-month froze the local lochs, forcing the winter wildfowl onto the ice. A walk from Roxburgh village to Kelso yielded little in the way of wildlife, but the history of the area proved fascinating. Participation in the RSPB’s annual garden bird survey produced only 10 common species, but as soon as it was completed, two birds in the “rare” category turned up.
Sitting quietly on the frozen, snow-covered ground in Philiphaugh Estate, having a coffee, I had amazing views of a family group of three roe deer.
I added a new species of bird to my lifetime list when I caught up with the Iceland Gull which had taken up temporary residence on Gunknowe Loch at Tweedbank.
By the middle of the month the oystercatchers arrived on my patch of river – bang on time. Near the month’s end I had a walk on pastures new from Coldstream Bridge to Lennel.
Despite early snow and icy blasts, the month started with plenty of spring harbingers, including astounding views of the complete courtship and mating display of a pair of mute swans at Haremoss nature reserve near Ashkirk and the annual mating spectacle of countless toads at Craik Forest.
A troublesome chaffinch was causing annoyance by constantly pecking at the window above the front door. It thought its reflection was a rival male. The month ended with glorious sunshine, butterflies and a promise of great things to come.
The month got under way still in glorious weather.
A weekend break at Oban brought out shorts and t-shirts on the esplanade and brilliant views were had of courting black guillemots nesting in the sea wall.
A trip to the Westruther area included me successfully rescuing a heavily pregnant ewe which had managed to end up on its back.
I had a depressing day when the much anticipated blackbird’s nest in my garden nest box was predated by the local crows and later, the season’s first fishing trip was ruined by leaking “wellies”. Next day, things were better with newly-arrived spring migrants singing everywhere.
Freezing temperatures at the start of the month meant no orange tips on the wing and a walk down Sprouston Glen at Newtown St Boswells meant that gloves were the order of the day.
Things weren’t much better on Arran, either, where I was for a week’s holiday. There, fresh snow on Goat Fell provided a surreal backdrop to the island’s palm trees. Despite an abysmal moth trapping period due to the cold weather, I did trap a Chamomile Shark – pictured top of page – which turned out to be a new county record.
A warmer spell towards the end of the month allowed me to record six species of warbler on my home patch with a possible seventh in the form of a brief whirring call which sounded like an elusive grasshopper warbler.
The warmer spell was short lived as the east winds reasserted themselves again and temperatures fell to single figures.
By mid June it was becoming obvious that some species, particularly warblers, were faring better than others, with numbers higher than usual. Others, like kingfisher and cuckoo, were struggling. Near the month’s end, I managed to get myself lost in a wooded swamp while on an outing searching for a rare orchid near Selkirk.
The second half of the year follows next week, but in the meantime, may I wish all Border Country readers, and especially those who have taken the time to get in touch, the compliments of the season.
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Weather for Galashiels
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: North east