This year there are awards in 4 categories:
So, without further ado, I shall reveal the winners …
1. Amphibian highlight of 2006
The Common Frog in the Lounge Incident, 24 July 2006, 10.30pm
So there I was, leaving the lounge on my way to bed, when I spotted something strange out of the corner of my eye by the waste bin. Which turned out to be … a Common Frog! Imagine my surprise! How long it had been there I have no idea. Hours? Days? I assume it had hopped in through the patio door, but why or when I have no idea.
I caught it quite easily using my tried and tested catching-something method, i.e. putting a jam jar over it. And I was about to take it outside when I decided I’d like to take a photo of it. So I took the jam jar off. Which was a mistake. The frog wasted no time at all, and immediately hopped off behind the television. And stayed there. Despite much (increasingly desperate) coaxing.
It was quite late before we got to bed that night! We did eventually manage to lure our visitor out from its hiding place, and I got a jam jar back over its head pretty smartish this time. And kept it on. As the photo above shows.
2. Ornithological highlight of 2006
A pair of Bullfinches, from mid-April 2006
We have only rarely had a bullfinch in our garden, and never two at once. Until this spring. Bertie and Gertie, as we christened them, became frequent visitors to our nyger seed feeder from 15 April. We had plenty of time to observe them because once they started tucking in, they were there for the duration. Goldfinches would come and go. Greenfinches would come and go. Coal tits would come and go. But the bullfinches were imperturbable. They came and they ate. And ate, and ate. We could almost see them getting fatter before our very eyes!
We watched them court, then mate in the tree on 20 April (after Gertie had played hard to get for some time!) And then, on 31 July, we had our first ever juvenile bullfinch on our seeds, whom we took to be Bertie and Gertie’s offspring.
Was it the nyger seeds that attracted the bullfinches? This was our first year putting out nyger seeds. We tried them because we were having lots of trouble with woodpigeons, who were big fans of the sunflower seeds we’d always used in previous years. We got fed up of being woken in the early hours by clod-hopping woodpigeons on our roof, and were very pleased when we discovered they didn’t like nyger seeds. Long lie-ins again at last! The only downside of the nyger seeds seemed to be that the blue tits don’t like them. But that didn’t stop them nesting in our box this year, so things can’t be too bad for them in our garden.
3. Entomological highlight of 2006
Berberis sawfly larvae, discovered on 15 October 2006
There were a lot of strong contenders in this category. I became quite enamoured of earwigs during August, for example. I hadn’t seen them in the garden before, and the more I watched them and the more I found out about them, the more fascinated I became. But the overall winner had to be … the Berberis sawfly larvae, never before recorded in Yorkshire, 15 of which I found on our berberis bush in mid-October.
Identifying them proved to be a whole saga in itself, as a search of the posts on this blog will reveal. And I grew very fond of them indeed – even though they were eating up our berberis …
4. Mammalian highlight of 2006
Young stoat, 27 May 2006
It was not yet 8 o’clock in the morning when there came a shout from my husband in the lounge. I came dashing in to see what the excitement was and saw, to my astonishment, a long furry something jumping up and down at the patio window pane. It didn’t stay long, and we subsequently identified it as a young stoat. Never seen in our garden before or since. The photo below is a hot contender for worst wildlife photo of the year, but at least it gives you an idea of our surprise visitor that day …