One of the things I find invaluable in maintaining my drive and determination to improve my garden for wildlife is to keep a photo record of progress. And now, at the turn of the year, is a great moment to pause and reflect on the year just gone - and hopefully rejoice at some of the delights that occurred.

I started 2019 remarking how many flowers were still in bloom in the garden, with Common Poppy, Corn Marigold and Musk Mallow all going strong (certainly not the case this year, despite barely a frost to speak of so far). However, by February we had even had a little snow although it wasn't to last long. This is the view from my lounge over the pond which is now four years old:

As spring progressed, I was entertained by the increasing numbers and variety of solitary bee that are using the garden. They can be quite feisty (towards each other, that is), such as these queen Marsham's Nomad Bees, battling to take ownership of a nesting burrow in one of my newly created wildflower mounds in a fierce tangle of red legs and antennae. These are actually cuckoo bees, laying their eggs in the nests of particular species of mining bees. 

Another bee with the same cunning breeding strategy is this (below), one of the (well-named) sharp-tailed bees, although they are very difficult to identify to species level. This is one of those examples of a creature I have never seen anywhere else except in my garden. I believe this happens in part because in your own garden you are so tuned in to the little things that you see more, but in part because gardens are turning out to be far better habitats for wildlife than people once gave them credit for.

It is always good to see habitats you have created beginning to mature, and I'm loving my 'meadow' - it is only two years old but is already beginning to look the part. Wildlife gardening can show pretty swift results.

To cement my delight, I found a Small Blue butterfly, one of our rarer species, had found my meadow and was laying her eggs on the Kidney Vetch, the sole caterpillar foodplant of the species, that I had planted purposely, although I admit I had thought I was being hopelessly optimistic. It will be so fascinating to see if some of her offspring emerge next year, but I will be planting masses more Kidney Vetch to try and create a thriving colony.

It is interesting, too, to see which wildlife isn't doing so well. Was the drop in the number of dragonflies using my pond this year due to this visitor, the Little Egret, who hoovered up hundreds upon hundreds of dragonfly nymphs in the spring in extended sittings? That must have been one uncomfortably scratchy stomachful.

In 2019, new projects included a seaside garden planting with the wildflower seeds I'd collected from some of my favourite beaches, and this (below), my Bee Bed. I'd grown fifty plants in pots from seed over the previous couple of years ready for this bed, and was glad to get them in the ground, but they did look rather sparse so interspersed them with annual flower seed for the bed's first year. However, I'm expecting it to have filled out nicely by summer 2020.

So on to 2020, with lots of big projects planned such as extending the meadow, digging another pond, completing my scree slope, and sowing the seeds of many more special plants for wildlife. Oh, and taking time to enjoy those moments of delight that the garden brings.

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