A year to remember

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Here is the concluding part of my look back at 2013 as reflected in my weekly scribblings.

JULY

Gardening was to the fore at the start of the month with an enjoyable walk round the gardens of Gattonside during their open day and the commencement of my own project to create a new bee-friendly flower bed and garden pond. Fine weather finally arrived, but butterflies were still scarce. I discovered a spotted flycatcher’s nest unwisely built in a roof gutter on top of a down pipe. Thankfully the dry spell allowed the full brood to fledge successfully. A bumper fruit crop was already in evidence and lots of ringlet butterflies were on the wing. I got my 180th, namely Juniper Pug, and my soloman’s seal plant in the front garden was again completely defoliated by the green caterpillars of the solomon’s seal sawfly.

AUGUST

On a break in the Lake District I was struck by the lack of bird species compared to here, but there was no lack of tourists (perhaps there is a connection!) But a walk round Selkirk Hill produced loads of wildlife culminating in a lucky snapshot of a singing sedge warbler. My garden pond was completed, or so I thought. A toad leapt in for safety at my approach, the first night after filling with water. I immediately realised that the plastic sides were too steep to allow it to escape so I had to set about installing a ramp.

SEPTEMBER

The recent warm weather produced a spectacular array of early fungi. The aforementioned toad seems to have taken up residence in my pond, as well as a Great Diving Beetle. A fascinating trip down memory lane was enjoyed by visiting the Upper Kalewater Show and Sports at Pennymuir Hall. A trip to Eyemouth in a howling gale did little to enhance the rundown atmosphere of this once thriving seaside town, but the quality of their fish suppers was as good as ever! On a warm, sunny late summer day I was walking round Lindean Reservoir with a friend when a huge Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly landed on my shoulder. I lost my long time companion, Tibbie the Border collie, when she had to be put to sleep at the age of 13.

OCTOBER

The month started with two enjoyable walks of a completely different nature. One was round the beautifully manicured Wilton Park in Hawick with its lovely autumn colours and the other was along the wilder Diamond Jubilee Path from Leaderfoot to Redpath village. The first of this year’s bumper fruit harvest was converted into fortifying liquids – namely elderberry into wine and plums into plum brandy. A walk on my childhood stamping grounds near Selkirk led to the discovery of an old milk bottle from the 1950s from Stephen’s Dairy. A single waxwing visited a garden at the other end of my street and my Michaelmas Daisy in the front garden, which is normally covered in butterflies at this time of year, yielded only several Silver Y moths.

NOVEMBER

A good run of fish was reported on the Ettrick during recent high waters. Mild conditions have seen bird numbers drop dramatically in the garden. I completed another section of the lovely Jubilee Path, this time between Redpath and Cowdenknowes. In the middle of the month, my neighbour found a recently dead Death’s Head Hawkmoth in her garden, which is only very rarely seen in the Borders. An enjoyable week was spent on the Galloway coast at Kippford where the highlights from the cottage window were red squirrels and jays.

DECEMBER

A rare Glaucous gull turned up on the Ettrick near my house but I missed it. Numbers of garden birds began to pick up again at my feeders. Gales and heavy rain battered the Borders on several occasions, causing widespread damage. One victim was the boathouse at Lindean Reservoir which lost one of its sides.

Well that’s it for another year. I wish all Border Country readers and correspondents a Happy New Year. With a new puppy having just been acquired, things could be quite lively in 2014. Keep in touch on corbie@homecall.co.uk