The Garden Diary 2007

March (Part 1)

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A daffodil for St. David's Day1 March - St. David's Day - with sunshine and cloudless skies at 8am, and at least some Daffodils that have opened and survived the attention of the slugs!

I have just been reading that southern England has just had its warmest winter on record, with a mean temperature of 6.53C (43.8F), with all three of the winter months having above average temperatures.

In addition, the end of February marked the warmest year-long period for central England since records began back in January 1659, with a mean temperature of 11.22C (52.2F).


The day remained dry, but became partially cloudy and very blustery, making it feel much colder than the 10C reached this afternoon. The wind chill certainly made a difference to the pond, where many of the frogs have disappeared under water.

Geese flying past the gardenI spent some of the day completing the nestbox work started yesterday (see nestbox diary), As I cleared up afterwards, I took my camera outside to record the changes.

For once, I had a suitable lens on my camera when these geese flew past us, something that happens quite often at this time of year - usually a quite noisily event. I think they are Canada Geese.


Finally, as I worked on the nestbox a White-tailed Bumblebee flew past me.


4 March - A thoroughly miserable, wet day, with the temperature just under 10C at 3.45pm. The two days since the last entry have seen a real weather mixture. We had bright sunshine during the daytime (giving highs of over 11C), but the night before last was wet and windy, with some gusts over 30mph.

Total Eclipse of the MoonIn great contrast, yesterday evening the skies were cloudless, which was perfect for the first total lunar eclipse for three years - it was quite a sight, especially as the moon approached the point where it entered the Umbra and it appeared to glow with a coppery tinge.

I was enjoying the spectacle too much though, and failed to notice that I had somehow managed to adjust the camera lens slightly out of focus for most of my photographs!!!!



While there are no new items to report from the garden, another bumblebee made an appearance while I worked on the Robin nest camera yesterday afternoon.


5 March - A fine day before heavy rain moved into the area this evening. I took advantage of the dry weather in order to dismantle the scaffold tower and hide that I had put into place in the hope of photographing any visiting birds feeding on the Ivy berries. Most of the berries have now gone, thanks to the Wood Pigeons and the Blackbirds, and there are quite a few that have fallen to the ground. I decided to take the tower down now, before the Robin starts incubating and the Great Tits start getting serious about their box.

I also replaced a couple of broken roof tiles on our roof (near the edge, so no climbing on it!).

As I took the tower apart yet another bumblebee made an appearance - I only caught a glimpse of it, but this one didn't have a white tip to its abdomen. Tonight I saw a hedgehog on the garden for the first time since the middle of January. This was a large individual, and it disappeared down the garden as soon as  shone a torch towards it.


6 March - After a wet and windy night , today was dry and mainly sunny with the temperature reaching 14C this afternoon. This morning we saw our first Brimstone butterfly of the year - it fluttered in and out of the garden several times.

There were also a couple of other 2007 firsts today - a trio of flowers.

The first Daisy of the year



The first that I saw was this solitary Daisy,


The first Violet of the year




and the second was this Violet, popping up between the leaves of a young Red Campion at the side of the small pond.

The first red Primrose in the garden



While the previous flowers are regulars, the third flower of the trio is a bit of a puzzle - it's a red Primrose.

As far as I can remember, all the primroses that I have bought for the garden have been labelled as 'native species', and have always produced the usual yellow flowers. They have been spreading slowly over the last few years, so could this be a sign that some were not as 'native' than they should have been?


Springtail (Orchesella sp.)


Finally, a springtail, not from in the garden but found on the windowsill in our lounge, probably brought in on a log for our fire!

While I cannot be sure of the species it appears to belong to the Genus Orchesella.



11 March -  At last I have been out in the garden with my camera after what seems ages. The last couple of days have seen almost perfect Spring weather, with highs of 11C and 13C over the last two days, followed by a amazing 16C today. The nights are still cold, with the temperature dipping to 3C, and 4C over the last two nights.

The bright sunshine has certainly started bringing insects out from their Winter refuges. I saw a Brimstone butterfly several times, and also a small, darkish brown one which I  didn't get to see clearly.

The first hoverfly of the year



There were  several hoverflies about, taking advantage of the Bamboo leaves of the West Wing to sunbathe.

What appeared to be a Drone-fly hovered over the plants, landing only on the uppermost leaves.

Bug, possibly Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus)




Also on the bamboo was this bug, possibly a Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus). I see a similar bug each year, and I think I may have miss-identified it in the past - I need to check back through the diaries at some point.



In this shot of its underside you can see its piercing mouthpart ( the rostrum) which is folded back under its body.






There seemed to be quite a few spiders scurrying about. All the ones I looked at seemed to be males - out hunting for a mate?


Owl=midge (or moth-fly)



And there were numerous Owl-midges around, obvious despite their small size (5-6mm across).



First dandelion of the year


Our first Dandelion came into flower today after its bud half burst yesterday. Curse of the lawn they may be but I think it's a impressive flower (with a seed head to match).

Of course, it's not really a single flower, but a composite, with a spirally arranged rosette of simple florets. Each of the yellow 'petals' is the corolla of a floret, and consists of five petals fused together (you can see the tips of these as a row of five teeth at its end).

Solitary bee on dandelion



As I walked past it a bit later I spotted this solitary bee taking advantage of it. Unfortunately I only had the chance to take this one photograph before it flew off.



At the end of the afternoon, with the sun going behind the trees, the dandelion was closing up. I happened to glance at it and noticed something dark in the centre of the gathering petals . it was a solitary bee, not feeding but tucked down next to the edge of the central rosette of florets, presumably using it as a spot to roost for the night. I don't remember ever noticing an insect doing this. I must try to be around when the sunshine reaches the plant again tomorrow morning.

Lesser Celandine flower - close-up


Yellow is the predominant colour at the moment, and it is worth mentioning that there are more Lesser Celandines flowering now, although not in large numbers. 


First Cowslips of the year


The last photograph records the opening of more yellow flowers, the first Cowslips (as opposed to the Oxlips that have been open since mid-February).

These did in fact start flowering yesterday, and have already fallen victim to slugs.



While the Three-cornered Garlic produced its foliage back in November/December, that of the Wild Garlic (or Ramson) is only now appearing. By the side of the big pond The foliage of the Snake's Head Fritillaries is developing, and I can see some flower buds.


12 March - Another day when the temperature tipped 16C - a fraction higher than yesterday.

I'm annoyed that I missed the opening of the dandelion this morning. When I checked it first the flower was still tightly closed, but then I became involved in sorting the cables for the cctv cameras and by the time I looked again it was wide open.

2 - Spot Ladybird on my arm


That work, and a necessary trip out meant that I didn't get to see much of the garden today, but I did find - or rather, our first ladybird of the year found me, landing in my arm.

I was pleased to see that it was one of our familiar 2-spot Ladybirds rather than a Harlequin Ladybird, which I have no doubt I will be recording in the garden this year.



13 March -  a bit of a disappointing day, still dry and spring-like, but morning cloud kept the temperature down to just 13C!

7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata)



Another ladybird, or rather, two of them made an appearance today on the sunny foliage of the fine leafed bamboo of the West Wing. They were both 7-spot Ladybirds.



Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) in hibernation colours


The foliage also provided a perch for another bug. I think this one is a Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) in hibernation colours. The green colouring changes to this brown in the Autumn, making it easier to hide, and hibernate amongst dead leaves.




14 March - Spring is still with us -in fact, we had morning coffee and lunch outside today!

Tawny Mining Bee(?) at bee hotel


Much of my time today was spent planning and working on the House Martin nests (there will be more about that in the days to come) so I didn't spend time around the garden. I did, however, spot this Solitary Bee visiting the bee hotel.

It appears to be a Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva), although these are more likely to be found nesting in lawns.



Many-plumed Moth (Alucita hexadactyla)

This evening Sheila called me over to see the first moth to be found inside the house this year, and which had landed on her arm.

It's a Many-plumed Moth (Alucita hexadactyla), and as its scientific name suggests its wings are divided into six plumes. The larvae feed on Honeysuckle plants and the adults hibernate in winter, sometimes appearing on mild days, as we are having at the moment.

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