The Garden Diary

April (part 2) - 2002

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16 April - Another fine day after what is going on for four weeks of dry weather!

I have an Oak tree in a pot. Grown from an acorn it is just over 2ft tall and its buds are just bursting. If the local oaks are also at this stage it will not be long before the caterpillars that feed on the young leaves will be ready for the Blue Tits and their chicks.






I have been spending a lot of time doing some woodwork under the caravan shelter and it has given me opportunities to watch the Blackbird. I can confirm that thier nest in in the South east corner of the Leylandii, about 10ft up. The female is becoming very trusting and will come within a yard of me to feed. The picture shows her at the spot where both she , her partner and the sparrows go to bathe at the side of the pond.


I saw three species of butterfly today - a Speckled Wood, a Holly Blue (I think) and a Large White.

Also seen was this 2-Spot Ladybird, slightly different to the one pictured on 5 April.



17 April - The dry weather continues but I have not done much in the way of observations today.

However there was a first for me in that while I was doing a small job outside a noise at the fence drew my attention to a Nuthatch - not seen one in the garden before. I watched as it worked its way along the fence, often in its characteristic head-down way. It was a few minutes before I could get to the house to get my camera, but as I pointed the lens in its direction it decided to leave (excuse for a picture - right!).

It went to a neighbouring garden for a short time and then flew to the top of the conifers where it called loudly several times before flying off in the direction of the Brickfields Park.

At the front of the house the 'garden' is far less wild than the back garden, but does have to look after itself for much of the time. One wild plant which does appear there and not the back garden is the Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense).

Hidden under a shrub the horsetail has sent up a group of fertile stems, topped by 'cones'. These produce spores in special sacs called sporangia. These, in turn, are attached to the brown scales (sporangiophores) seen in the close-up image.

I have found these a bit late in the process as it appears that they develop in March. This one has ripened and opened up to allow spores to be dispersed by the wind.

Click on the picture to see a larger version.


18 April - Today we saw the first daytime April showers, after the first rain for weeks fell last night. The evening rain did not come to very much but the first of this afternoon's showers made sure that the big pond was refilled to capacity, and the second shower, complete with thunder and hail provided a second, larger quantity of fresh water.






Sunny periods encouraged a lot of bee activity, with the solitary bees basking in the sun, both on the wood of the bee-hotels and on the leaves of the bamboo.

Click on the image to see a larger version.



While I was watching a program on TV just after 6pm the sound of two Blackbirds giving panic calls had me outside just as a Sparrowhawk took off from the far side of the big pond with something in its talons. It left the garden with the Blackbirds in hot pursuit.

At the side of the pond and on the water surface was a patch of feathers. I'm not completely sure, but I think it was probably a Sparrow (I'll take another look later). I have now accounted for both Robins and it was definitely not a Blue Tit!

I have just been reminded - Over the last few days The male Robin has been taking food to his partner quite frequently, usually in the undergrowth or the hawthorn, so I have not been able to get a photograph. She remains very nervous and flies into cover as soon as I move.

21 April - We have had no further rain since those showers three days ago and today has been sunny and warm (20C at 3.15pm).

Before I forget, last night we had two hedgehogs in the garden.

This morning brought the first of this Spring's fledglings into view. Here, a young Blackbird looks out, very warily from the lower branches of the Leylandii as its parents watch out anxiously from the trees. Lets hope that this first brood has some success after last year's failures.

Click on the image for a larger version.




While this youngster is making it's first 'steps' other birds are still getting on with nest building. Several times over the last few days a tearing sound picked up by the birdbox microphone has caught my attention. It has turned out to be Starlings peeling off strips of bark from the Birch tree (pictured right) just in front of the box.

They have startled the BT several times by flying up to the box entance, or standing on its roof.


It's a similar story amongst the flowering plants in the garden. While the flower buds on the Hawthorn and Wild Garlic are well developed and yet to open, some of our early starters are already going to seed. Here, a Marsh Marigold is still developing its seeds as the first Dandelion has already started shedding its seeds. This Dandelion was pictured in bloom on 24 March.



22 April - High pressure over the UK is promising another fine few days this week, and as if to celebrate, this morning the first flower bud has opened on the Hawthorn. We didn't see this happen until the 13 May last year!





In the area between the birch and the Ivy tree the clay soil has had quite a bit of sand mixed with it over the years, and it has become a regular nesting spot for solitary bees. I spent some time this morning watching this one burrowing into the ground under the shelter of a leaf.


As I watched the bee, this little creature came crawling, and jumping past. About 5mm long it is a Springtail, one of over 300 species known in the UK. Their name comes from a long springing organ at the rear end. It isn't visible in the picture as it is nrmally folded under the body.

Click on the image to see a larger version


23 April - A beautiful, sunny day with the temperature getting up over 24C this afternoon, and we have seen another plant flowering early.

The first flower on the Red Campions has opened, last year's first Campion opened on 10 May).

There has been a lot of insect activity with many hoverflies, butterflies ( none landed by I saw White, brown, yellow and blue ones!) and bees. I spotted some solitary wasps visiting the smaller holes of the bee hotel - I must try to get some pictures.

As I write this in the late afternoon the male Blackbird is singing loudly in the Hawthorn. I haven't seen any further sign of their chicks, but both Blckbirds are still taking food away.

There are more spiders about now and there are strands of silk between plants all over the place.

This little jumping spider was spotted on the bee hotel. It was about 5-6mm long. I think it is a member of the Salticidae family, but it seems too light to be the most common species, Salticus scenicus. Photographs both on the web and in my Spider book show a much darker carapace (front part of the body).



24 April - By now the Snakes' Head Fritillary plants have dropped nearly all their petals and the seed heads are developing. This afternoon the green of their stems was brightened by the presence of several of these small beetles.

appeared in April last year. They are Scarlet Lily Beetles (Lilioceris lilii). It is not a native UK species and is a serious pest of lilies and fritillaries. More information can be found about it at this RHS site (opens a new window). It would seem that this is not a creature to be encouraged in the garden. I will be removing all adults and their eggs as they appear.

Click on the image to see a larger version

A late evening look in the garden has been rewarded by a sighting of what is becoming a regular hedgehog visitor heading for the remnants of the chopped peanuts put out under the Hawthorn for the birds during the day. There have been one or two here every evening since I last mentioned them on the 21st.


25 April - A cloudy, with sunny periods morning as the dry weather continues.

Last night's check of the garden revealed this drab coloured caterpillar munching away at a Foxglove leaf. I haven't managed to identify it yet. There is no sign of it this morning. It was about 5cm long.


This morning was the first chance I have had this Spring to sneak up on a Speckled Wood butterfly as it rested on the bamboo plant. It was very wary and flew off before I could get an unobstructed view.

I am certain that at least two of the Blackbird fledglings are still safely being cared for. I have seen one, and while it was still in view, the father BB took food into the Ivy tree on the other side of the garden.


The Robins seem to be less visible at the moment. The male has become far more cautious, almost as much as his partner, when he comes for food.

This evening I spotted this buttercup. Having had one here for the new year, I cannot call this one the first of the year, but it is the first of this Spring!




26 April - I had been seeing less of the female Chaffinch over the last week or so and now I know why. Today she has joined the mealworm club and has been down to the dish to collect some a number of times. Usually a seed eater, she must be collecting the high protein food that her chicks need to grow. This is the first time I have seen a Chaffinch doing this. Her example was followed later by some Sparrows, both male and female, who must also have offspring to feed.

Click on the image to see a larger version

During the night and morning we have had quite a bit of rain, bringing to an end a very dry month or so (with the exception of the brief April showers we had a week ago). This afternoon has been a mixture of sunshine and showers.



28 April - Another day of April showers, although there hasn't been a lot of rain today.



Two more plants have come into flower this weekend. First, the Wild Garlic under the Hawthorn tree. A number of the 'buds, have burst open and the first flowers have emerged.





The second 'new' flower to be spotted is a Ground Ivy. These are small flowers, often hidden by the leaves so there may be others that I've missed.




On the bird front it seems to be a good time for chicks. Today I have seen Starlings and the male Robin taking away beakfuls of mealworms, although the female Chaffinch seems to have gone back to taking seed (or chopped peanuts?). The Blackbirds continue to take food for their offspring, which have remained out of sight all weekend. We had a brief visit from a male Great Tit this morning, the first for a while.

I continue to hear Greenfinches about but I have not actually seen one for a number of days.


30 April - After some marvelous weather this month, it is coming to an end with a dreadful gloom! This morning low cloud provides a dull grey blanket over us, and a gale is blowing fine drizzle everywhere.

Some of the birds are looking decidedly bedraggled as they turn up to feed - the Robin and the starlings are very busy on their take-away missions.

While the robin seems to be very fussy about which mealworms he chooses, the Starlings will take every one they can cram into their beaks. I still haven't seen the female Robin take food away, although she has been here to feed.

Click on the image to see a larger version

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