The Garden Diary 2008

March (part 1)

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Daffodils1 March - St David's Day -  A quite mild start to the month, with the temperature only dipping down to around 8C last night and peaking at around 12C on a bright and sometimes blustery day.

There has been a shortage of diary entries over the last week or so, partly because of the time I've been spending on the birdboxes, and also the fact that there has been little to report from the garden itself.

Bird activity has been rather quiet beyond our 'usuals', and there has been no sign of hedgehog activity. The surge of bumblebee activity has subsided.

As I watched from our bedroom window this morning, it occurred to me that along with only seeing one Blackcap and no other winter visitor, one noticeable absence from the garden this year so far has been the Sparrowhawk - something I'm sure that our Sparrows are grateful for.


3 March - The last two days have seen the temperature dropping a bit. Today was largely sunny and the high was around 8C after the temperature dipped to about 3C this morning. For much of last night the temperature stayed around 7C. At around 10.30pm I saw a hedgehog in the garden for the first time since 25 January - I have starting putting out food at night again.


First Dandelion of the year7 March - A new flower to report on - our first Dandelion of the year has opened (actually, it happened yesterday)!

The weather has turned milder again over the last couple of days and last with the temperature not dropping much below 8C all night, only dipping to 5C around breakfast time this morning under cloudy skies.

Not surprisingly, I saw another hedgehog out and about last night.

On the bird front, we have up to six Goldfinches coming to feed at the moment, and I saw a single Coal Tit coming to feed several times (and heard it on numerous other occasions.



11 March - Sorry if this diary is being a bit neglected at the moment. With the exception of setting up a loudspeaker to play Swift calls, the bird boxes are all sorted out now (I hope!) and I should have a bit more time for other things.

We have just had two very blustery days, with periods of strong winds (gusting over 55mph yesterday) and heavy rain, the latter being very welcome (just last week I needed to water the bamboo plants that grow in troughs along side the parking area in the garden). The worst of the wind occurred before I got up yesterday morning, and although there was no sign of damage here, I came across several trees that had lost large branches across roads when we went out during the day.

The garden is continuing to go through a quiet spell at the moment, with precious little new to report on, although I can now see Snakes-head Fritillary and Bluebell flower buds developing, and I think a couple of the former may open quite soon.

While all is quiet on the plant front, the garden is quite a busy and noisy place for the birds, with the Sparrows engaged in their squabbles, the Goldfinches bubbly calls, the Robin and Blackbirds singing, and the sounds of Chaffinches as well as other birds around us. When the windy weather has moved on I must try to get some recordings done. Yesterday, Sheila spotted a Magpie collecting branches from my neighbours' Birch tree again (I spotted one doing this back on 20 February) and I saw a Blackbird fly into our Ivy tree with what looked like a large leaf (not the sort of thing I usually see her using for nest building). There were Long-tailed Tits here this morning.


12 March - After a blustery day yesterday, this morning started off the same, with winds constantly over 25mph and with gusts of around 45mph (according to the local weather station). As we head into the afternoon the winds seem to be easing a bit, and we have bright sunshine.

One of the first Hawthorn buds to burst


Having commented on quiet times in the garden, today I have to report that the buds have started to burst all over the hawthorn, nearly two weeks earlier than last year when the first ones burst on 24 March.

Look carefully and you will see a flower buds protruding from between the leaves.

Young leaves on the Elder



As usual the Hawthorn is behind the Elder which has been coming into leaf over the last couple of weeks (I failed to record the bursting of its first buds last month).




13 March - The 13th may be unlucky for some, but my day has started off brilliantly with the appearance of a Goldcrest in the Buddleia bush at just before 9am. There was no chance to get a photograph, but its unmistakeable yellow crest brightened up what is otherwise a grey start to the day. It is the first one I've seen here since 27 January last year.

Female Blackbird collects nest building materials


Confirmation that 'our' female Blackbird is progressing well with her nest building in our Ivy tree -

This morning she has made numerous visits to the wet area amongst the Flag Iris plants at the end of the small pond, each time taking a beakful of soggy plant debris.




17 March - A dry, if breezy and cold day after a damp weekend gave me a chance to do a bit of tidying up, and at the same time check on developments around the garden.

The first pink Primrose opens


Some time on the weekend (15 - 16th) this red Primrose flower opened. Last year, the same plant came into flower on the 6th March, so this is a week later. Then it was a puzzle, and still is, as it was bought as a native Primrose.


The first Ground Ivy flowers




Unlike that Primrose, this Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is a couple of days earlier than last year.


The first Water Forget-me-nots are in flower



Almost three weeks earlier than last year ( on 6 April) is this Water Forget-me-not, flowering away from the pond (as was the case for the first flowering last year).

I would expect to see more in flower soon as there are buds on other plants, including some in the big pond.

The buds on the Hazels (cob nuts) have burst


Another plant event that is slightly ahead of last year is the bursting of the buds on the two Hazel (cob nut) saplings next to the Ivy tree. As with the flowers commented on above, this may have happened yesterday when I didn't check, although I know the buds were still closed on Saturday (15th).

Last year these buds started to open around the 20th.


Although the day was cold, and largely cloudy, there were periods of sunshine and they brought out several bumblebees. While I was doing some jobs at the side of the pond one bumble bee attracted my attention by disappearing several times behind the water butt that channels water from the caravan shelter into the pond.

A Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen investigates a possible nest site


When I investigated, I found what looks like a queen  Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) very busy going in and out of an opening below the bottom rim of my composting container, which is right nest to the butt.

While I watched, she flew off, and returned several times so it looks as though she may at least  be considering nesting there.

I'll have to keep watch over the next few days to confirm this.


18 March - A dull, overcast day with a touch of dampness this afternoon, and a temperature of 7C. Despite the glum conditions it has been an interesting bird day -

While we were having breakfast a male Greenfinch spent several minutes at the sunflower feeder

With no sunshine, it isn't surprising that I didn't the bumblebee during the morning and now I'm in the process of setting up a cctv camera to monitor the spot for the next week or so. As I organised the cable I spotted a Warbler in next door's Birch tree. It seemed to be moving about the tree along with several Goldfinches - couldn't tell which species it is, and there was no chance of a photograph.

Views of a Siskin male at the sunflower feeder


A short time later when I was back in the house I noticed that a Coal Tit was visiting the bird table. I grabbed my camera to take a photograph just as the Coal Tit flew off for the last time.

 However, as it disappeared there one of those lucky moments as a flash of yellow marked the arrival of a male Siskin at the feeder.


A Siskin male reacts to the approach by another male



A second male arrived and was greeted by this brief display



A second Siskin male at a feeder


before it headed to the other Sunflower feeder.

A female also arrived, but she perched on the far side of the thistle seed feeder and I didn't get an opportunity to photograph her.



As soon as they left I set up a tripod, but needless to say neither they nor the Coal Tit returned!


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2008 Garden Diary Index...............Last Month.................March (part 2)