The Garden Diary 2006
April (part 2)
11 April - An overcast start to the day, 5C at 9am and rain is forecast for later.
14 April - As you make have guessed, I have been a bit distracted these last few days, getting up far too early to watch The Great Tit 'live' rather than going through the videos later. Interesting it has been, but the rest of the day suffers!
Apart from the nestbox news, the last few days have been relatively quiet in the garden. The Sparrows and Starlings continue to take away nesting materials, and I saw the Blackbird take a single beakful up into the Ivy tree. I can only assume that this was to do some patching on the nest she already has. There cannot be any young as yet - they are only interested in eating the mealworms on offer. The Goldfinches continue to visit frequently, as do a couple of the Siskins, who almost class as regulars at the moment. As I write this, a male Siskin is having a drink from the birdbath. The Wren can still be heard up in the tree tops, but I'm still waiting to see it down in the garden.
The weather today has been quite mixed. The day started cloudy, and we had rain just before lunchtime. This afternoon it brightened up and Sheila and I spent over an hour sitting down the West Wing in the afternoon sunshine - our first such outing this year! The temperature got up to about 13C, but with virtually no breeze it felt warmer in the shelter of the bamboos.
We had a second chance when this Comma landed on the path between the ponds. I didn't have a telephoto lens on the camera so I could only get a 'distant' shot, but it is good enough to see that the Comma's wings are very tatty. Both butterflies will have come out of hibernation will have come out of hibernation.
As well as several large (queen) bumble Bees about, there was also a queen wasp, obviously hunting for prey as she checked out some vacant holes in a solitary bee 'hotel'.
After the Comma had left I put a telephoto lens onto the camera just in case it returned. Needless to say, it didn't, but as we sat there, one of the Robins decided to bathe in the big pond.
On the plant front, The Lesser Cellandines are at last producing more flowers, and quite a lot of bare ground is now sprouting the first leaves of the many Red Campions that we will have later in the year.
In a sheltered spot by the small pond, the first Wood Violets have been flowering over the last three days.
These spring up all over the garden, but as yet I can't see flowers elsewhere.
16 April - A bright morning, and sunny enough around noon to have a very pleasant time down the West Wing, but then it clouded over completely and the afternoon has been grey, although it has stayed dry.
This one looked as though it had only recently emerged and was having difficulty negotiating the wet grass. The right-hand picture was taken after it lost its grip.
I shall try adding an identification later.
While we here sitting down the West Wing I spotted this bug emerging from the (bamboo) leaf litter. It's one of our regulars and is similar to Coreus marginatus.
Two plants were seem flowering for the first time today.
The first was this Ground Ivy,
and the second was a Forget-me not. I don't think I have ever decided whether it is Water or Marsh Forget-me-not.
Both flowers are on the same plant. The difference in colour suggests that the Blue one opened first. The cell sap in the flowers gradually changes from acid to neutral or alkaline to give the colour change. It must have happened quickly because both were still buds yesterday.
17 April - A rather cloudier morning, although we were still able to have coffee down the West Wing (to the sound of strimmers and lawnmowers - one of the pleasures of an Easter Holiday Monday!).
It was a case of up my step ladder for this picture of the most advanced of the Rowan buds, which I last mentioned on 8 April. Now, you can clearly see the flower buds, and an ant which is no doubt involved with the aphids I could see on the 8th.
I had just come down off the ladder when I spotted this solitary bee visiting the Cowslips next to the tree.
It was a case of choosing a flower and then waiting in ambush. More often than not this strategy fails, but on this occasion the bee obliged - the first (non-bumble) bee to be seen feeding at flowers this year.
It is similar to the one I photographed yesterday - I have still to come up with an ID.
Our April Calendar page shows a Wood Mouse in the garden on the 1st of the month - we spotted one near the same log pile this morning , while we were having breakfast.
Having photographed the Rowan this morning I thought I should add two more photographs to go with that image.
First of all, the lower half of the Hawthorn is getting to look quite green now as the buds give way to tight groups of leaves which surround bunches of flower buds.
Under one side of the Hawthorn is an Elder. In comparison to the Rowan and Hawthorn, the Elder's leaves are well developed. At the apexes of numerous branches there are inflorescences of flower buds, which means that if all goes well we will have a lot more fruit this year.
18 April - A bright, almost cloudless start to the day.
The Wren was in good voice early on but I couldn't get a decent position for a photograph.
At about 8.30am I spotted movement in my neighbour's Birch tree and a look through my binos confirmed that it was a warbler. It has light coloured legs, suggesting that it is a Willow Warbler.
Getting a photograph was a bit of a challenge because it was flitting around the tree and didn't stay in one spot for more than a second or so. This was the only image that I managed - if only it had been sharp I would have been quite pleased with it!
As usual, with its buds well and truly opened that native Birch tree is way ahead of our Himalayan Birch.
19 April - A bright but cloudy April day, and I took advantage of it to do part of a job that I have been meaning to do for ages.
Today we bought three small water butts giving a total capacity of 300 litres and I have installed them by the house. They are linked together, and the overflow from the right-hand butt will be connected to an outlet into the small pond. The narrow butts mean that there is still space to park our refuse and recycling bins in front of them.
The guttering arrangement is temporary while I see how quickly the butt(s) will fill with rainwater from the small roof that you can see, and the veranda roof.
On the first she was put off by my presence. However, on the second occasion she perched on the peanut feeder and stayed there while I went into the house, collected my camera and headed for our bedroom.
To give an idea of her size, the lid of the feeder (really an up-turned pot) measures 12cm across.
It wasn't long before she headed for the Hawthorn, although she stayed on the far side of the tree, giving me only this opportunity to photograph her before she set off in pursuit of a Sparrow that panicked and left the shelter of the branches.
20 April - A dull and sometimes damp day with a high of around 13C. We had some rain this morning and afterwards I went out to see just how much water the new butt(s) had collected - unfortunately, when I finished yesterday I forgot to check that the taps were all turned off!
On a positive note, the first of our Bluebells opened today, or in this case 'whitebells'. These are well ahead of most of the Bluebells in the garden, although I expect a few Blue flowers to open in the next day or two.
These are hybrid Bluebells. There is an argument that these should all be removed, but until I acquire enough native Bluebells I'm reluctant to take this drastic measure, especially as the hybrids are growing in other gardens in the area.
At the other end of the garden, the native Bluebells are nowhere near flowering yet.
During the morning I spotted a few fragments of Blackbird's egg almost directly under the nest in the Ivy tree. The bits looked clean, with no sign of egg contents so I was optimistic. However, this afternoon I have heard the sad sounding, almost squeaky call by the female, a sound that is usually not good news. I have watched out to see if she is taking away mealworms, but I have only seen her eating them, and this evening I watched the pair sitting on the conifer treetops. I shall watch again in the morning to see what happens.
The Robin continues to take mealworms away. His nest seems to be several gardens away, judging by his flightpath.
Watching the Goldfinches earlier on reminded me that I haven't seen the Siskins since the 15th. I had wondered if they had been put off by the amount of human activity going on over the holiday weekend, or whether it was simply time for them to move on.
21 April - On another dull, grey but dry day the temperature was markedly higher than recently, reaching 18C this afternoon. It's amazing how quickly plants are growing now. I can no longer see the water of the big pond from my computer chair, thanks to the Iris plants, and it is now getting difficult to see through the lower branches of the Hawthorn. I need to cut our small area of grass in the next day or so.
Yesterday's uncertainty about the Blackbirds' nest was resolved as she headed to the small pond during the morning to collect nesting materials for what is her third nest of the season. She headed towards the bottom of the garden with the bits, but I have yet to establish whether the new nest site is in our garden or not. After he remained relatively quiet last night, her partner is up on his usual perch singing loudly again as I write this at 6pm.
I was just outside for a few minutes by the ponds, when pair of Chaffinches turned up. They both flew into the Hawthorn, and while the female went to the sunflower feeder, the male remained in the tree, issuing his sharp double calls. He wasn't interested in the food and when his partner had finished eating she followed him from one perch to another in the tree several times before finally flying off. He had a few more chirps before following.
Click on the images to see larger versions -