The Garden Diary 2009

March (part 2)

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15 March - This last week has been one of those tired periods for me, so I have tried to ensure that the nestbox diary is kept up to date.

However, today we have had what can only be described as a perfect Spring day, with bright sunshine, which turned hazy in the afternoon and a high of nearly 15C.

Hot air balloons and motorised paraglider


It was hard to escape the signs of Spring as hot air balloons and powered paragliders (I think that's what they are called) appeared to the south of us, a neighbour mowed his lawn, and there was the sound of someone a few houses away pressure washing their patio!




Birch Catkin Bug


In the garden the sunshine seemed to bring out only a few insects. Several Common Garden Bumblebees made an appearance, and I saw two butterflies, a Brimstone and a smallish brown one (a Comma?), and a single bug.

It is a Birch Catkin Bug (Kleidocerys resedae), and was on the bamboo plant next to the Birch tree. Last year it was the end of the month before I saw one.

Common Field Speedwell



There was a first flowering today - a Speedwell, possibly Veronica persica (Common Field Speedwell, or Persian Speedwell). I didn't see it here last year, but it did make an appearance at the same spot at the side of the garden path at the end of February in 2007.



The Siskins continue to visit, along with the Goldfinches and the occasional Greenfinch. The Long-tailed Tits still appear but I haven't seen any more signs of courtship behaviour.

Coal Tit



The Coal Tit has become an occasional visitor again now and I only saw it once today.




In my last entry I suggested that the frogs were starting a second phase of spawning. However, the new activity produced just two more clumps of spawn and no more has appeared since then.

Tonight, in the area around the spawn the only activity I can see is the swaying movement of caddis fly larval cases. The frogs all appear to be in the deeper part of the pond.



16 March - Another dry, bright day, and although there was more haze the temperature almost made it to 16C.

Despite the conditions, it was surprisingly quiet in the garden today. While we still had Siskins, Goldfinches etc visiting a measure of the reduced activity could be seen in the sunflower feeder which doesn't need refilling this evening.

Frogs in the pond today



In the pond it's also very quiet, with hardly a croak to be heard from all the frogs that can be seen poking their heads up through the Duckweed blanket.



Frogs sunbathe at the side of the pond today



The sunshine did encourage a few to haul themselves out of the water into sheltered sunny spots, although at the moment they are reluctant to move away from the water's edge.


I caught a glimpse of a solitary bee in the early afternoon (possibly a Tawny Mining Bee) and at the end of the afternoon a Common Garden Bumblebee disappeared into a thicket of Bamboo that grows in a pot on the veranda - I shall have to watch out for future activity there.


19 March - The last few days have continued to bring us sunshine from dawn until dusk, with daytime temperatures of between 14-15C. I has felt warmer in the sunshine but in the shade it sometimes felt chilly when there was a breeze blowing, as there was today.

I continue to find myself struggling to get things done, which is why I continue to give priority to the nesting diary. The garden continues to be rather quiet, with the feeders requiring far less attention from me than anytime since the New Year.

Plants in the garden todayWhile there are lots of seedlings starting to show themselves around the garden there isn't too much to report.

I spotted a Violet for the first time two days ago (appeared on 25 March 2008, 5 March 2007), and yesterday a Water Forget-me-not (appeared on 17 March last year).

The Hazel sapling next to the Ivy tree has opened its first leaf buds and under the Hawthorn the slender leaves of the Triangular Garlic and the much broader leaves of the Ramson (Wild Garlic) are much in evidence. Look carefully at the bases of the Ramson foliage and you can see the light coloured but enclosed flower heads developing.

I must check the Hawthorn  buds tomorrow. I don't think that I've missed its first leaf buds bursting.

On the insect front, the sunshine doesn't seem to have brought many out from hiding, perhaps it's still not quite warm enough. There has been just one butterfly visitor, a Brimstone again, over the last three days. While there have been Common Garden Bumblebees searching for nest sites every day, I haven't see any more solitary bees.  However, there was a bee-fly (Bombylius major) here yesterday - not a bee, of course, but it sounds like one as it flies, and it is unmistakeable because of its dark orange furry appearance and the long proboscis.

We are starting to get more fox visits again. Over the last two nights we have had visits from two foxes coming here together (midnight last night, and 1.50am the night before last. There have also been visits by a lone fox. There has been just a single hedgehog visit each night, at just after midnight last night and 2.29am the previous night. The log pile mouse appeared both night between 1 -2am.


20 March - While the sunshine continues, the daytime highs have been dropping very slightly over the last few days, and today it reached 13C this afternoon.

Three Buzzards pass high over us today


Just one event to note today - while we have got used to seeing the occasional Buzzard high overhead, today I spotted three passing overhead, heading south-east.




Going back to what I said yesterday, I have managed to miss the opening of the first leaf buds on the Hawthorn - I think it must have happened two days ago!


24 March - Over the last few days the good weather has been slipping away somewhat with the daytime temperatures dropping by around a degree or so a day. Yesterday afternoon we had a heavy, squally shower but today has been dry, albeit with a maximum temperature now just under 10C in a cold north-westerly breeze.

Snake's-head Fritillary comes into flower today



Despite the chill, a couple of flowers opened for the first time today. First, the Snake's-head Fritillary, five days later than in 2008.

There are a few more flower buds that look as though they will open in the next day or two, but most will be a while longer.


The first dandelion comes into flower today




The other 'new' flowering is this solitary Dandelion between the path and the caravan. This has opened over two weeks later than last year.

The first Ground Ivy comes into flower today




A couple of Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) flowers opened yesterday, six days later than last year.




TadpolesWhile the last week has been very pleasant, the sunshine has encouraged the growth of algae in the pond.

As you can see in this picture, the remnants of the frogspawn are now completely green, providing plenty of food for the developing tadpoles.

It's clear that tadpole numbers are down on last year so lets hope this algal harvest will help them on their way.


Smooth Newt stalking tadpoles


Needless to say, while the tadpoles are feeding on the algae, they themselves are a feed supply for the Smooth Newts in the pond, although when I looked tonight I could only see this one male amongst the tadpoles.


Pond snail grazes algae that cover frogspawn



The algae are welcomes by other pond inhabitants like this snail. The markings suggest that it may be Lymnaea truncatula.



Aquatic beetles (Hydobius fuscipes?) and flatworm


Also taking advantage of the algae tonight were several of these small aquatic beetles, seen here as a flatworm slips but under the water's surface film.

These are beetles that I first spotted in the pond in mid-March last year. Then I decided that it is possibly Hydobius fuscipes, a species that can be abundant in still water - there were five in a small area tonight.


Aquatic beetles (Hydobius fuscipes?) showing air bubble under their bodies


These beetles trap air amongst hairs underneath the body before they go underwater. In this picture you can see the slivery bubbles on another pair that were conveniently upside down.




Having neglected the pond rather badly during the frog spawning, I hope to spend a bit more time at the water's edge over the weeks to come. One downside to the algal growth is that at the moment the water isn't as clear as I would prefer for photography.


27 March - I'm afraid the neglect continues while I concentrate on getting the nest boxes sorted out.

A Marsh Marigold comes into flower today


However, I do need to record the first opening of another flower today, a Marsh Marigold between the two ponds.

Last year it first flowered on 17 March.

I hope to be able to catch up with adding the big pictures over the weekend.




31 March - The month has come to a end with milder weather taking over. While the last two days started with temperatures dropping to around freezing, last night the low was 7C, and  over the last two days the daytime temperature has reached 13C, albeit under cloudy skies today.

I hope to include some insect pictures to start April off as I've started checking the log pile again, something that I have solely neglected since Christmas. You will remember that back at the beginning of Winter I was finding barkfly eggs. Well it seems that many of these are still intact so I need to keep an eye on them as April progresses as I guess it won't be long before they hatch.

Camouflaged insect larva on Oak log


I collected some more logs from my son on the weekend - including some Oak, and I started searching for barkflies on them. However, I was distracted from that aim when I found an interesting insect larva on one piece.

When I first saw it I assumed it was just an odd shaped growth amongst the algae on the bark, but then it moved!


Camouflaged insect larva on Oak log - close-up


It is a very small insect larva that has fashioned itself a camouflaged home out of fragments of the algae and other things.


Camouflaged insect larva on Oak log - front of insect exposed



When disturbed it simply pulled the cone down against the surface, but I did manage to get a photograph that gives a glimpse of the larva inside.


Red coloured ants on Oak log



On the same log there were also at least four very small red coloured ants.


Red coloured ants on Oak log - coming out of a hole in the bark



I can't be sure of the number because they kept going in and out of a hole in the bark.

Ant on Oak bark, carrying a red object (egg or pupa?)




As I watched them I spotted this one carrying a red object which looks very much like an egg or a pupa of some kind.



Ant  carrying a red object (egg or pupa?) into hole in bark



I didn't see where it came from ( I could not see anything like it on the log's surface) but then ant headed directly to the hole that the others were using.

I must take another look at that log tomorrow it see if the ants are still active.


Over the last three days, the White Dead Nettle has started flowering. The Siskins are still with us, although their numbers have dwindled, and I haven't seen the Long-tailed Tits for the last two days.

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