The Garden Diary 2008

March (part 2)

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19 March - After yesterday's welcome visitors today was a disappointment, with none of them returning. And the weather was a bit of a let down as well. It started off bright and sunny, but by 10am it had clouded over, and while it stayed dry all day with the temperature reaching 8C, a mainly northerly wind meant that it felt quite chilly.

I didn't see the bumble bee today (no camera set up yet!).

Snake's-head Fritillary comes into flower




There is one positive report to make though - the first Snake's-head Fritillary flower opened today, nine days earlier than in 2007.




Although I'm resisting taking photographs until later in the Spring, I must mention that seeing a hedgehog in the garden is now a nightly even. There way one under the Hawthorn at 7.30pm tonight.



20 March - Another day that started of with sunshine but quickly turned grey with a cold  westerly wind with gusts of over 30mph. It's raining this afternoon.

In the garden the day had a bad start. I looked out of our bedroom window and spotted a cat high in our Birch tree and heading into the Ivy tree. By the time I reached the bottom of the garden it was in the Ivy, with the Blackbirds in a panic. I aimed a glass full of water at the cat and it left very quickly. The adults are safe, but I have yet to see if it had already caused the Blackbirds to abandoned their first nest of the year. This damned cat, whose home is several houses away from us, had left the garden along for some months but has started appearing again quite frequently over the last week.

A momentary glimpse of what may be a new bird for the garden around mid-day. I only caught sight of it for a moment before the arrival of a Wood Pigeon startled it into leaving. About the size of a Chaffinch, though its breast was lighter and the top of its head and back were mottled rather than plain. Was it a Brambling? I shall be watching out in case it returns over the next couple of days. Neither the Siskins nor the Greenfinch have been here today.


21 March - An almost cloudless start, but it's windy, with stronger gusts forecast throughout the day.

Snow at duskAlthough the temperature peaked at close to 10C in the afternoon sunshine, the north-westerly wind made it feel appreciably colder. The arrival of thick cloud cover at the end of the afternoon brought what was in effect a premature dusk and snow!

While it lingered in some places these images show it at its best! Needless to say, with the snowfall arriving, the temperature also fell to around 2C in the garden, and with the clouds clearing after dark it is still under 3C at 10pm.



22 March - A day which ranged from blue skies and bright sunshine to dark grey periods with light rain, sleet and snow, none of which stuck, so no photographs! And the temperature struggled to get above 3 or 4C, even when the sun shone because of a cold wind.

Greenfinch male at feeder



The Siskins still haven't reappeared, and there has been no sign of that possible Brambling, but the male Greenfinch did come to feed this morning, and I managed to record its visit with some pictures.


Dunnock below Hawthorn



While I had the camera set up by the window I also snapped a couple of the regulars that I've been neglecting lately.

First, one of the pair of Dunnocks that I'm seeing here quite a lot every day now.


Robin on log


What I'm not seeing at the moment is the usual aggression towards them that I expect from our male Robin, which, like the Dunnocks is frequently here along with its partner, hunting for food on the ground in the same area around the Hawthorn.

The long leaves in the backgrounds of both of these pictures belong to Bluebells that have yet to come into flower. I have seen a few blue flower buds so the first flowers should appear soon.


The female Blackbird was taking nest material from by the small pond again today - does this mean that she has started building a new nest (after the cat attack) or just reinforcing the existing nest? She flew towards the bottom of the garden, but I didn't she where she went next.


25 March - After a few cold and generally miserable days, with wintry showers today has been dry. While there has been little in the way of sunshine it has been milder with a high of around 8C.

The Song Thrush made an appearance today, for the first time since early February, but as usual it was very nervous and left when a Wood Pigeon landed close by.

The first flowers on White Dead-nettle and Violet


On the plant front, there are three flowerings to report on.

 First of all, two plants next to the small pond - a Violet (first flowers seen on 6 March last year) and a White Dead Nettle, which was seen flowering for the first time on 19 March last year.

The first flowers on the Bluebells




Below the Birch tree the first Bluebells (or in this case 'Whitebells'!) have opened, just three days earlier than in 2007.




A hoverfly roosts under a Birch leaf bud

Although it is still a bit early, yesterday I had a look to see if any of the Birch buds had started bursting. They hadn't, but I did spot this hoverfly using one as a place to roost.

This afternoon, over 24 hours later it was still there, facing in the opposite direction. Tonight at 8.15pm I checked the branch again. It has moved to another bud to take up a similar position below it.



31 March - The end of a month which has not seen much of the best weather for being out in the garden, and with the increasing activity in the bird boxes, it has seen less than its fair share f my attention.

Buds burst on the RowanHowever, I do get out to check for progress on a regular basis, and over the last few days I've been checking on the state of the buds on the Rowan and the Birch.

This morning I had to get the tall step-ladder out to record one of the the first buds to burst on the Rowan - an event which may well have taken place after I checked the tree yesterday morning.

Bud on the Birch




The Birch hasn't quite made it before the end of the month, although this bud, like others on the same branch look very close to bursting.

Male catkins on the Birch



The male catkins at the tips of many of the branches of the Birch are tightly closed and still have some time to go before they are ready to scatter their pollen.




I haven't photographed them (perhaps tomorrow) by I see that the first blue Bluebells have opened today.

Green Shieldbug in hibernation colours


By this time last year, mild weather had brought out lots of insects. Not so this year, but this afternoon I spotted this bug attempting to sunbathe during one of the brief spells of sunshine that we had during the day.

Its pose, body held high (and looking awkward as it has lost a leg) is trying to maximise the body area facing the sun.

Once the primrose leaf was shaded it adopted a more usual pose. This is a Green Shieldbug,  in its brown, hibernation colours.

Birch Catkin bugs


It wasn't the only bug that was sunbathing. I spotted these much smaller individuals on bamboo leaves. They are Birch Catkin Bugs (Kleidocerys resedae), measuring around 5mm in length. I couldn't see any on the the lower branches of the Birch itself, which is right next to the bamboo plant.


Birch Catkin bug - close-up view


To me, one of the striking features of these bugs (once you look closely!) are the neat rows of dimples on the insect's exoskeleton - they always remind me of the rows of rivets on old iron structures.

In this cropped image you can see a short thick hair protruding from each one.


Hoverfly at rest



The short periods of sunshine didn't seem to be enough to encourage the emergence of hoverflies, and I saw just this one all the time I was out in the garden today.




Similarly, with the temperature getting up to 12C, I wondered if I would see any of the bumblebees that started to emerge from hibernation back in the middle of the month. Again I saw just one, and that headed down between the water butt and the compost maker - presumably it is the same Buff-tailed bumblebee queen that I photographed there on the 17th. I didn't even hear any others today.

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