September: A bat detector seemed the perfect birthday present for Jon. Tuning into the most common frequency (45hz) confirms pipistrelles flying just after sunset around the house and on hillside.
October: Darker evenings and Tawny Owls are regularly heard in the Orchard. After a commotion from the blackbirds their silhouettes are glimpsed flying across, into the field, ready for night-time hunting.
November: Deer often seen in the distance, throughout the autumn, then early one November morning all the apples beneath the orchard trees had disappeared. The deer had visited and feasted.
December: More mineral than animal, but the boulder dislodged by the falling ash tree in the storms was a true monster. Immoveable until a mechanical digger arrived in the late spring.
January: Pheasant plucking is a new skill learned from a helpful neighbour – also the supplier of a few braces. After removing the breasts it’s easiest to leave the rest for foxes.
February: The lower pond becomes the setting for amphibious activity – frogs not fighting but mating. Clouds of frogspawn appear alongside long strings of spawn from the toads.
March: A fox clear against the snow, padding the white landscape in search of food. Later in the warmer spring weather Jane rescued a struggling hedgehog from the steep-sided pond.
April: ‘Peak frog’ long past the pond is now awash with newts, mostly palmates with their webbed feet and agile swimming. Also the dragonfly nymphs that will decimate the tadpoles.
May: Claire and Ed helped us track a marauding cow – a week later there were twelve in the willow corner so Duncan the farmer came round to herd them home.
June: Damselflies are everywhere, including the striking Beautiful Demoiselles by the river with their delicate laced wings. Dragonflies are now hatching from the nymphs leaving eerie hollow shells behind them.
July: Three point of lay chickens are installed in the orchard corner, sheltered by the huge granite walls. After a couple of weeks settling in eggs are laid every morning.
August: Going to put chickens to bed a badger is seen gorging on fallen ripe greengages, then another arrived oblivious to the watching, a third was more cautious- scuttling away.
Twelve months, 365 words, settled.