When I started writing these regular pieces I had two aims: the first was to focus afresh on a life-long interest in natural history; the second was to broaden my interests, or at least resurrect old interests beyond ornithology. To achieve both aims I certainly needed to get out more, not because I had been house-bound but because I had become destination-bound; I needed to find new places to visit, new habitats and most of all, new wildlife.
It got off to a good start at Kirkwhelpington in May when, for the first time in a long time, I looked seriously again at wild flowers. That in turn led me to the hay meadows at Barrowburn; seeing the Chimney Sweeper moths there fed a renewed interest in butterflies (and moths) and later, an entirely new one in dragon and damselflies. And all along, I have remained alert to the birds and animals around me.
New field guides joined those filling my already sagging book shelves. Three in particular, the Butterflies of Great Britain & Ireland and the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain & Ireland, both published by the excellent British Wildlife Publishing, and Marjorie Blamey's Wild Flowers by Colour have been at my side on every recent trip. My new-found enthusiasm certainly outstripped my ability when I bought Francis Rose's Wild Flower Key but the arrival at the end of July, in the form of a generous birthday present, of Collins Flower Guide and a hand lens has started to restore my confidence that the mystery of wild flower identification, but probably not all 1,600 of them in Great Britain and Ireland, is something I will master in time.
And it's funny how one thing leads to another when you walk around with your eyes open. Butterflies and dragon and damselflies are, I've decided, rather like buses: you wait for one and two or three, or more, arrive at the same time. I have frequently been surprised by one species when looking for another. Check lists are filling: at Sidwood, Ringlets became Meadow Browns and then Small Skippers; at Sidwood again, then at Falstone Moss and more recently at Bank's Pond, it has been dragon and damselflies that are filling the list. What's next? Well, there's a nice mixed wood just up the road that should be bursting with fungi very soon, while finding and photographing moths is also high on the list of things to do.
Thanks to all of you who have read this and the preceding 49 pieces and join me, vicariously at least, on my wildlife wanderings around Northumberland. Thanks too for the helpful commentary and advice, all of which is much appreciated.