The Independent Nature Club: The hills are alive

From country lanes to bedroom walls, Britain is packed with wonderful wildlife. Here, the members of the Independent's Nature Club share the sights that made their summer


Snakes in a suburban garden; orchids on a roadside verge thoughtlessly cut down by a local council; bumblebees mating; a blackbird sticking its backside into an ants' nest; little owls catching flies; a weird and wonderful moth which turned up on a bedroom wall. These are just a few of the wildlife experiences Independent readers have sent in to us after our invitation to share them in our new monthly forum, Nature Club.

In doing so, they are joining in the venerable tradition of the amateur observer, which is what has marked out the British way with natural history for centuries. It is remarkable just how alive so many of us are to the happenings in the natural world around us, especially when they are somewhat out of the ordinary, and remarkable too is the pleasure they so readily excite.

Excitement today is usually to do with the big, the loud and the violent, from football matches to motor races to war movies; but the British tradition of observing nature – it must be somehow in the national genes – means that many of us can be excited by goings-on which may be quite unspectacular, but intriguing, or curious, or above all, are reminders of the natural world's most sublime characteristic; the wonder of it.

We apologise to those whose entries have not made it, for lack of space, but we encourage readers once again to send in their wildlife sightings – and we will report on them in September.

Michael McCarthy

The orchid site at Sprotbrough, South Yorkshire is at its best. Although the butterfly orchid has dropped to one plant this year from six last year (the early purple orchid showed a similar drop due to the bad winter, presumably) the others are fabulous. Hundreds of common spotted orchid; pyramidal orchid; twayblade; several bee orchid and a good few bird's nest orchids make a fine display. Accompanying plants such as sainfoin, milkwort and ploughman's spikenard make it a premier site in Yorkshire. The bird front is quiet now after the exciting savi's warbler and sarsh warbler seen nearby.

John Law

A white plume moth, Pterophorus pentadactyla, was on our white bedroom wall earlier this summer. Using a glass, I carefully took it outside and photographed it on a piece of oak before it flew away – so delicate and beautiful! I know nothing about these moths and it was a first for me, but a friend identified it.

Ann Cole, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Snowdonia

I live on the outskirts of a village near Norwich. There is farmland round about as well as woodland and a small river. Last week I woke up earlier then usual (5.30am), hearing a scuffling, thrashing noise outside. Ever curious, I had to have a look – suddenly there were flashes of red, white and black as five great spotted woodpeckers shot across our small garden, flying with their wavy flight path; two were dignified and competent, three crash-landed into the ash tree as they tried to reach their waiting parents. I felt privileged to see them; I've never seen so many together before. Later that morning I heard a woodpecker drumming on a tree nearby; now I'm wondering how to keep them off my lovely liquidambar. The parents were regular visitors all winter and spring. That's what you get when you feed peanuts to birds all winter!

Rosalie Byrne, Barford, Norfolk

During the warm days in June we saw up to five grass snakes in our garden; in previous years we have not seen more than two at a time. They sun themselves on top of the compost heap, and every year when we turn the compost we find clusters of around 30-40 eggs that they have laid. We replace the eggs carefully within the turned compost and the disturbance does not seem to cause a problem as young snakes can be found in the compost during autumn.

Al and Sue Venables, Cardiff

Normally we would expect to see little owls in the summer evenings, perched on telegraph poles, but so far this year we hadn't. However this last Saturday we actually spotted a pair for the first time, and they were doing something I had never seen. They were flying out from a branch and it looked like they were catching airborne bugs or flies, like a spotted flycatcher might, then returning to the tree. There were quite a lot of other little bird sounds, and we wondered if they were feeding young. Whatever they were up to, it was a treat to watch.

Leslie King, Hadleigh, Suffolk

Seen in Earley, Berkshire, last week: pyramidal orchids on a verge of a very, very busy road. Seen a couple of days later: the same orchids cut down by a municipal mower. Earley, once host to the biggest housing development in Europe, has very little green space. But we do have roadside verges, with transient wild flowers, common though they may be. Our local environmental group is championing the wild flowers growing on our verges in this International Year of Biodiversity. And – success! The borough council has promised to suspend any cutting of any notable flora.

Sheila Crowson, Earley, Berkshire

I live in South Oxfordshire about half a mile from the Thames. I've been regularly pestered by a heron after my fish. A couple of weeks ago through my study window I watched him (any nuisance is a "he"!) perch on a laburnum to survey the pond. After a couple of minutes, a carrion crow zoomed towards him from a nearby lime tree – and went on attacking him until he flew away. The next day, I saw the heron flapping past, with carrion crow in hot pursuit. I don't think he has been back since.

Dr Ann Soutter, Warborough, Wallingford, Oxon

I was admiring the vibrant blue of this pansy, which I had planted in a mixed hanging basket, and was getting ready to take a photo of it when this bumble bee buzzed its way into the frame and settled on the pansy. The basket was swinging slightly in the breeze, making it difficult to focus. The bee stayed on the flower for a couple of minutes. I realised that the bee was not interested in any of the other pansies; it was the blue that had attracted it, as it had attracted me.

Isabel Keighley, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

This afternoon, 13 July, for the first time ever, we saw a hummingbird hawk-moth. It was feeding on valerian in our garden, here in Durham.

J Hutchinson, Durham

Last Friday I quit my job so I can pursue a life working in wildlife conservation. So I had a week in my garden and was so pleased to see all the things that I have been missing. It started with a hummingbird hawk-moth taking nectar from purple sage, then two pairs of azure damselfly laying eggs on water soldiers and a male banded demoiselle damselfly displaying. All this and much more was happening around my small garden, which consists of a lot of plastic tubs transformed into water features dotted all over the place. I think that I am getting my sanity back.

Nicholas Elsey, Stoke Holy Cross, Norfolk

Weather permitting, our cats have their meals on a tray on the patio. Any leftovers are eaten by hedgehogs at night and birds by day. But I am puzzled about one visitor: why does a magpie take a beakful of moist food and immediately rinse it in the nearby birdbath, leaving a mess in the water? Could it be removing gravy or jelly?

Elisabeth Telford, Four Marks, Hampshire

I have seen a male blackbird walk backwards and wedge his tail feathers into a section of rockery stones, beneath which lies an ants' nest. The ants crawled up his tail feathers, which he then tucked between his legs and pecked off the ants. I'd never seen such behaviour before – it was fascinating.

Chris Turner

To take part in The Independent's Nature Club, email your wildlife observations to; the best entries will be published each month

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'