The Garden Diary 2009
April (part 3)
22 April - Another bright day although the sky was rather hazy and it wasn't as warm as yesterday. That had an effect on the butterflies. While there were Speckled Woods about for much of yesterday I didn't see one today, just a couple of Large Whites.
As far as I can tell there has been just one new flowering to report on today. In the border near the Stinging Nettles is a single example of Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica).
Last year it flowered on 5 May.
While on the topic of plants, two pictures to show the ground cover around the Rowan and Birch trees.
First the Birch, now surrounded by Bluebells (hybrids, I'm afraid),
and then the Rowan surrounded by Forget-me-nots and Cowslips.
Next, some insect firsts (for the year) -
Only the third ladybird (of three different species) to make an appearance so far, this is a Propylea 14-punctata.
The second insect is this Pyrausta aurata, a micro-moth that appears in the garden every year and which depends on the mint plants in the pond.
Today I was able to get close to this mating pair on a Dandelion flower, and you can clearly see the difference between male and female faces.
Finally, one of those puzzling items that crops up from time to time.
These two small drops of liquid containing a mass of tiny bubbles appeared on either side of a Flag Iris leaf this afternoon.
26 April - A bright, sunny day with a high of around 16C, although a constant breeze made it feel quite cool.
Over the last couple of days I've been watching out for the appearance over us of House Martins and Swifts. Yesterday evening I saw the first Swifts, although my camera indoors and by the time I had brought it outside the birds, which were very high, and to the south-west of us.
While I haven't been able to point the camera in the direction of Swifts or Martins yet, I have caught a few other birds that never get to land in our garden.
First, evenings are often the time to see Common Terns. More often than not they are heading north quickly and often quite noisily. These passed us by yesterday.
This evening it was Black-headed Gulls being noisy high over us.
Over the last few years we have started to see Buzzards more often. Usually I just see them passing over, but today I spotted this pair wheeling around just under the clouds, disappearing into the cloud itself a couple of times. That was useful because it meant that I could find out how high they were by checking what Farnborough airfield was reporting - a cloud base of 4800ft!
A short while later this Buzzard flew over, not quite as high this time and I was able to capture some detail.
One of my bird guides says that pale individuals like this one are likely to be immigrants from the continent as pale Buzzards are rare in the UK's breeding population.
Unusually, this Mallard pair was also rather high over us this evening - high enough to ensure that their calls were all but lost in the background noise.
They spent ages flying around before being joined by a third bird and heading off north.
I'm gradually getting used to the new lens, although I need as much practice as possible with focusing quickly as I 'chase' birds around the sky.
It is also quite nice at much closer targets like these gnats that swarm over trees and shrubs in the evenings..
Hidden under the Hawthorn, the Wild Garlic (Ramson) flowers burst today.
29 April - A bright day with varying degrees of cloud cover as the day progressed.
Over the last few days the flower buds on the lower branches of the Hawthorn have looked close to bursting and today was, in the main, no different.
However, in the late afternoon I spotted one bud that had started to open (left hand picture), and when I looked over the fence to the sunny side of the tree in my neighbour's garden I spotted an open flower - another step is taken towards summer.
We are hardly being overrun by insects at the moment (as the Starlings and Great Tits are finding) but I did spot a few interesting species this afternoon, although I have yet to sort out ID's.
At first I thought this was a solitary wasp, but despite its wasp-like appearance, it may be a species of sawfly. It was walking quickly amongst the foliage, starting off on the Garlic Mustard before heading into the adjacent bamboo plant.
The next two are Ichneumon flies (I think). This first one was resting on a bamboo leaf,
I think this last insect is a sawfly. I saw one of these on the Garlic Mustard several times today.
Talking of sawflies, examples of Rhadinocerea micans are very apparent at the moment. You can often see them fluttering around in the area of the big pond, or resting on plants - the Garlic Mustard leaves seems to be a favourite place for them to sun themselves, although this one was on a primrose plant.
This picture provides an opportunity to see their wing venation.
I continue to look skywards for the Swifts and House Martins, and today I saw both species.
However, like this House Martin, the birds I saw continue to be flying high up, and seem to be concentrating their activities to the south-west of us.
There was another Buzzard about today passing over us just under the clouds (at 3800ft today).
Compared with the Buzzard I photographed on the 26th, this one had the more typical darker areas on its wings exhibited by the UK breeding population.
Finally, a natural phenomenon seen as the clouds dissipated shortly before dusk this evening.
There were lots of small patches of cloud, but only this one, to the south west, exhibited these colours as the ice crystals in it acted like a prism to refract light coming from the sun.
30 April - the month has ended on a dull, grey note with low cloud and a touch of dampness very-so-often.
I wondered if I would see any Martins or Swifts flying lower today but saw neither. The only high flier that I saw today was this Grey Heron which passed over us heading south, just under the clouds.
Down i the garden I saw just a few bumblebees and I don't think the solitary bees ventured out today.
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