The Garden Diary 2005

April (part 3)

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23 April - A dull day, and wet in the morning. The last few days have been a bit of a struggle so there is a bit of catching up to do tonight.

First of all, the hedgehogs are regular late evening visitors now. Here, two of them were having a snorting encounter as they forage for chopped peanuts, while the third roamed the border behind the ponds.

Every-so-often I could hear a chewing sound, presumably when a slug was devoured.


I set up a cctv camera to monitor the hedgehog house but the only sighting of a hedgehog was one on a brief visit to the food dish. I also saw one cat, a large spider and a slug(!) over a period of 12 hours of video on three nights.

Here are two other pictures from the 21st. First of all is this micro-moth that was on a bamboo leaf in the middle of the day.

As is often the case, I cannot match it exactly in my guide books but it is very similar to Eriocrania semipurpurella.


Thanks to Richard C who suggests that it is probably Esperia sulphurella, a micro-moth that has been emerging both in the UK and Holland over the past few days.


This pupa had also appeared on the bamboo. I have come across one before, but that was on a Bur-reed plant in the pond. I don't know what it is.



Yesterday several moths made their appearances for the first time this year.

First was this Angle Shades, which I found in the morning on a table on the veranda, where it stayed all day.

I like the subtle range of colours in its wings that contrast with the bright orange of its body and wing undersides.



The other moths appeared at the window after dark.

This Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) was the first to catch my attention. Although I see them when in Cornwall, I cannot recall seeing one here before.




The last moth was this small Many-plumed Moth (Alucita hexadectyla) measuring about 15mm across.



During the day, the bamboo yielded two more images for the diary.

This spider was spotted in the late morning as it moved along the stems. It looks as though it could be Misumena vatia which is usually found on yellow or white flowers where it can ambush visiting insects.

The lower right image shows it adopting a defensive posture when I moved in too close.



The second visitor was this bug, measuring about 1cm in length.

I cannot come up with an ID but its four-segment antennae, and the abdomen being extended sideways beyond the wings  suggests that it belongs to the family Coreidae.



Back to today - First of all, over the last few days I have been checking the buds on the Birch, and today I can safely say that they have started bursting!

The right-hand image shows one of the most advanced buds two days ago. Yesterday there seemed to be little change, but first thing this morning things had changed, and numerous leaves could be seen.

In the meantime, my neighbours' Birch is now very green and almost impossible to see through.


On the bird front, things are very quiet (other than the frequent choruses from out male Blackbird). We seem to have fewer Sparrows about at the moment, hopefully because of nest duties, and I only occasionally see the female Blackbird, presumably for the same reason.

The Goldfinches still come to feed regularly. These days they are becoming one of the most frequent visitors, which is amazing, with up to four turning up to feed.

I had to include this image. The right hand bird is uncharacteristically untidy. It makes me wonder if she(?) has been busy nest building.




Finally, a fungus on a rotting log under a Berberris bush.

They are small at the moment but I shall watch them over the next few days to see how they change.





25 April - Heavy rain during the night continued fro a while this morning but the afternoon and evening have been dry. I was able to do a bit more work on latticework by the shed for the honeysuckle to climb up.

The diary has been a bit disjoined this last week, thanks to a painful back making it difficult to stay sitting down for long. Today it has eased up quite a bit.


The Bluebells are doing well at the moment. Most of them are either Spanish or hybrid plants but in one corner we have a few nature Bluebells that are also in flower.

This is the area around the Birch tree. Note the geranium leaves to the left of the tree. It will not be long before I start searching these for signs of crickets this year.




While it is very green around the base of the tree, the branches still look relatively bare. In the right hand image our Birch seems to tower over the well covered tree of our neighbour, although it is really smaller and much younger.

The left hand image shows how much the Rowan has progressed since the buds burst at the beginning of the month


Tucked under the Hawthorn are some plants I haven't mentioned before. When we go down to Cornwall in late Spring we miss the flowering of the wild Garlic flowers on the campsite and in the woods next to it, although the smell of the plants is unmistakeable.  On our last visit I found some of the bulbs on top of the soil in a corner of the campsite field and brought home a handful (with permission).

I planted them under the Hawthorn where the existing garlic plants already were and promptly forgot about them. I have been watching the broad leaves of the Wild Garlic growing slowly over the last month or so. In front of them some much more slender leaves have been growing quite quickly and I had been wondering what they are.

Today the first of their flowers opened and the mystery is solved. A look in my wild flower books reveals that they are Triangular-stalked Garlic (Allium triquetrum) which are found in woods in West Cornwall and other western areas (and I now find are available from bulb suppliers).


27 April - A day of sunshine and heavy April showers with hail and distant rumbles of thunder.

After my last report about the hedgehogs we went a couple of evenings when they didn't appear while we were still around (with the cctv camera seeing only slugs and a mouse), but last night I saw two in the garden, including this individual that seemed to be affected by a touch of madness!

I was watching another one when this one entered the garden from our driveway and charged straight at the second hedgehog. It rammed into its side and pushed it across the ground for several feet, before dashing off into the undergrowth.

The victim was left rolled up in a ball and stayed this way for several minutes.

These attacks were repeated another five times over the next thirty minutes, and between attacks it dashed about, all over the garden.

This sequence shows one of the last encounters. The top image shows the pair coming to a stop at the end of one assault.

The second image shows the victim on its side (you may just make out its dark nose towards the left of the mass of spines.

The lower image was taken just over a minute later as the hedgehog started to get back onto its feet.


Moments later, as it headed off under the Hawthorn the 'bully' charged out and rammed into it yet again.

I have never seen a hedgehog be this aggressive in the past. I can only guess that this was some sort of territorial behaviour, and I'll be watching for it again tonight.


28 April - First of all, some catching up from yesterday. It turned out to be a real April shower day. We had to go out in the afternoon and missed what must have been a heavy downpour. The pond was filled to the brim and there were piles of hailstones on our veranda, even though the storm had moved on a while before our return.

During the morning the gaps between showers were long enough for us to we have coffee down the West Wing in bright sunshine, during which we saw two butterflies, a Speckled Wood and an Orange Tip.

Last night there were two hedgehogs to be seen in the garden once again, but this time all seemed well with the world for them.

Instead of the aggression of the previous night the two seemed happy in each others company - perhaps the second hedgehog was a female rather than a potential rival?

There was sniffing rather than snorting, and certainly no pushing around!

This morning it is overcast but dry so far (8.45am). For the first time this year I've just seen a House Sparrow fledgling being fed.

One of the plant species I'd thought I had lost has come into flower today - the Ragged Robins.

Originally they were planted along the south side of the pond, but there is no sign of them appearing there this year. However, a group of plants had grown up clutching to the base of the tree stump that sits in the middle of the big pond. 

There isn't a record for last year but in 2003 the first flower appeared on 11 May.


29 April - A pleasant day although the morning sunshine gave way to cloud in the afternoon.

During the morning I saw the first Swifts of the year - six of them. Unfortunately they didn't stay around for me to sort my camera out.

Two butterflies were also seen, a Holly Blue and a Brimstone.

A different ladybird to record today - a Cream-spot Ladybird (Calvia 14-guttata), This is only the second time I have seen one of these in the garden, the only other time being 9 July 2004, also on a bamboo plant.

This was the only picture I took as moments later I accidentally touched the leaf. The ladybird reacted by dropping off it, disappearing amongst the plants below.



Back on the 18th I recorded the first leaves on our small Oak tree (in a pot). It is now developing marble galls.

These are produced by the tree as a reaction to the laying of eggs in buds by gall wasps. Their larvae secrete chemicals that cause the plant to develop the gall tissues around them.



The final picture shows the 'new' bit of the garden. The path in the picture leads past the metal shed on the right and to the Blue Tit nest box (which remains empty). The has been a low trellis to the left of the path for some time.

A few weeks ago I decided to add the trellis on the right (and another one beyond the shed door. One thing led to another, and now we have an arbour! There is a honeysuckle plant on the left hand side and two different Jasmines on the right.

The two uprights at the 'entrance' have old tree branches secured to them. The one on the left is from an oak tree and is covered with lichen - I'm just going to leave this one along to see what happens to it as time goes by. I cannot remember the tree species the other one comes from. This branch is quite rotten already and during the weekend I will be drilling lots of small holes in it to create a new solitary bee/wasp hotel.

At 10.20pm there is no sign so far of the hedgehogs tonight.


30 April - The last three days have seen the temperature rising and today it reached 20C, despite only limited glimpses of the sun. It stayed dry all day and there was only a slight S/SE breeze. It was noticeably humid out in the garden.

A footnote (of sorts) for the work on the arbour. One job finished off today was to put in a wooden step at the shed entrance.

It needed 3x4 inch timber but I only had 2x4, so I decided to provide some more hiding places for young frogs, newts and other beasts as I increased its height.

I used pieces left over from the lattice work to give the extra 1 inch, and arranged them to provide entrances at the front to spaces created under the step.

You can see what I mean in the top two images. The lower image shows the step in place.


Another follow-up from yesterday - This time I managed to get a photograph of one of the Swifts that we saw high overhead today.

They were only about for a short time, and just keeping them in the viewfinder is hard enough so the one sharp image was more luck than judgement.

The fuzzy image shows that the Swifts were not the only birds in the group The white patch indicates that there are House Martins about!

Plants in the garden continue to flourish in what is almost perfect growing weather. The new shoots on the Ivy tree get visibly longer by the day so I have started snipping away at the North side of it. I can't do very much until the Blackbirds' offspring have fledged. I haven't mentioned it (careless) but she has been taking food in over the last five or six days. She is very secretive about it and never goes into the Ivy from our side.



Down at ground level the first of the Dandelion seed heads opened up this morning.

I know how much many gardeners hate these plants, but the produce super flowers that the insects love and a perfectly formed seed head is a lovely sight!



While we were having lunch on the veranda we were joined briefly by this little Weevil, pictured here on a banana skin.

It could be a Pea Weevil (Sitona lineatus) although its elytra doesn't seem striped enough.


The bamboo down at the West Wing delivered its share of surprises today. First of all there were these larvae, which I believe are hoverfly larvae (Syrphus sp.).

The one on the right is hanging but its tail end as it deals with the the remains of an aphid it has eaten.

I first saw, and photographed this back on 18 June 2003 when I found them on grass next to the big pond. I'm wondering if these are related to the pupa I photographed back on the 23rd.


It was an interesting day on the ladybird front.

First of all I found another two Cream-spot ladybirds, and later found this pair mating.

Their deep reddish-brown colouring is quite noticable, and you can see that its underside is the same colour.



While I was hunting for the Cream-spots I came across a real surprise in the form of an Orange Ladybird, and by the end of the afternoon I had found another two.

Previously, the earliest sighting of these is 18 June last year. I wonder how soon their mildew food source starts growing on the new Birch leaves.


It was obviously a good day for ladybird mating. As well as the Cream-spots and some 2-spots,  I found two more species in a similar situation.

First of all, this pair of 10-spot ladybirds, illustrating the big variation in colour and spot between the pair.




The other mating pair were these 14-spot Ladybirds.

Much less variation in spots this time, although the male is much paler than his partner.



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