The Garden Diary 2011
March (part 3)
15 March - An other sunny, Spring day, with the temperature already 8C by 7.30am and approaching 14C by late morning
around 8.30am there has been another inspection of the Great Tit box. This
time the male arrived first and spent a minute or so in the box looking
around and calling before his partner arrived at the entrance.
I didn't get around to changing the glass last night. I must get that job done today, and also switch on the daytime LEDs, albeit at a low level to start with.
Sparrow activity started with an inspection of SW-lo at 6.30am, although the occupant of the Martin box (M-1) didn't leave until 6.45am.
At 7.20am my alterations to box SW-ri were easily overcome by a Starling, and over the next hour or so there were several visits by individuals to both SW-le and SW-ri, culminating just before 9am with both boxes occupied for a short time!
Here I've rotated the images to their correct relative orientation, with
just the thin plywood partition between them.
I waited a couple of hours before getting the ladder out again. I've
resisted completely blocking the holes and instead I have lowered the
openings once more. They are now just 31mm tall (but are of course much
16 March - A grey start to the day, and apart from a
tough of mist it is dry. The lack of sunshine is noticeable, with the
temperature just 8C at 10am. Last night when I went to change the glass in
the Great Tit nest box at around 10pm there were rain drops falling, but it
came to nothing and the ground is dry this morning.
17 March - Another glum, grey morning!
The pond is quiet again this morning. I did see a few frogs after dark last night, but this morning there is no new spawn, and no frogs in the shallow area. At 9.30am the temperature is 6C both in the water and in the air above the pond.
In the time before the rain started there was only a bit of activity in the boxes, and that involving only Sparrows. In SW-up we had a taster of typical Sparrow pair behaviour.
This sequence begins with the female busy working in what is going to be the nest cup as her partner waits at the far end. She then steps out of the cup and the male immediately rushes in to take her place and continue the work.
After a short time the female crosses back towards her partner. At the last moment he dashes past her and she resumes her position in the corner.
After another pause by the entrance the male returns, having first picked up a
length of straw which he seems to show to his partner, and moments later
they swop positions once more.
Once the rain arrived all activity ceased, and the boxes remained empty for the rest of the day, apart from the rooster returning to Martin box 1 at around 5.15pm.
The only moment of note from the Great Tit box today came at just after 5.35pm. Once the day was more or less over the rain moved away and we had some evening sunshine that lit up the timber inside the front of the east-facing box.
The evening sunlight was being reflected off our west facing bedroom window, through the box entrance, and then off the glass panel at the back of the box and finally onto the timber.
Look carefully at the image and you will see that there are actually two overlapping discs of brightness - the camera was almost directly in line with the spots of light on both the glass and the timber.
19 March - What a contrast! This morning is starting with cloudless skies, and a frost! By 11am the temperature was back up into double figures, reaching 12C soon after mid-day. Thin high cloud in the early afternoon caused it to drop back down to around 6C very quickly. At 9pm it is still above 5C but with clear skies I would expect it to drop further tonight.
Despite the good weather the nest boxes were surprisingly quiet. There were no visits by the Great Tits, not even to the garden today, let alone the nest box. The House Sparrows did visit a few times, but there was no repeat of yesterday's behaviour. As far as I can tell no Starling attempted to enter any of the Swift boxes.
We see Chaffinches, both male and female, in the garden occasionally, but
usually they keep to the bottom end of the garden. However, this male
has been visiting the sunflower feeder over the last five mornings, making
just one or two visits each day. I have yet to spot a female.
Tonight marks the Moon's nearest approach to Earth for eighteen years.
I had to wait until it had just risen over the houses across our road before
I captured this image at 8.24pm. It was fortunate that I took the picture
then because an hour later the sky around it was quite hazy.
Again, there was only very limited nest box activity by the Sparrows today, and no Great Tit box visits. I saw just one Great Tit (the female, I think) visiting the feeders just once today, and I'm beginning to wonder if something untoward may have happened to the male - I spent several hours out in the garden this afternoon and didn't hear its call even once.
During the late morning the female visited the near end of the big pond several times to collect beaks full of moss which she carried away either to the Ivy tree or somewhere behind it.
21 March - A day of hazy sunshine with the temperature getting up to 14C after dipping to 3C around 7am.
I spent quite a bit of the day outside, not gardening but sorting things out. Over the last few years my tiredness has been an excuse for allowing the garden to get into a terrible mess, and I'm trying to get some of it sorted while we are in a spell of decent weather.
My activities today clearly deterred birds from visiting the feeders. The male Robin continued with his loud song for much of the time, but once again I didn't hear the call of the male Great Tit.
Another, far less impressive flower (less than 1cm across) can now be seen near the bird bath - These are chickweeds that have come into flower in the last two days.
There were a couple more frogs out in the open, there were more to be found if you headed into the vegetation on the north (sunny) side of the pond.
Like this one, most seemed cautious, remaining mostly submerged,
but one or two were a bit more adventurous.
However, there's no sign of any frogs hauling themselves out onto the banks of the pond to sunbathe as yet. If this weather continues as suggested by the forecast, I wouldn't be surprised to see that happening over the next couple of days.
While the frogs are becoming active once more they are showing no interest at all in the spawn.
As a result the water in that part of the pond is remaining clear, although the spawn is still covered with a thin coating of clay particles,
Even the spawn in the tank has this problem, even though I rinsed it using rainwater before it was put into the tank a week ago.
Fortunately this embryo was less affected than most,
and I was able to get a reasonably clear picture of it. When first laid, the egg would have measured about 1.6mm in diameter. The embryo is developing inside an inner sphere within the larger sphere of albumen, which can be a centimetre or so in diameter.
Hopefully this embryo will remain 'clean' enough to record from time to time as its development continues.
22 March - Dry - another pleasant Spring day with the temperature reaching 15C.
For me it had to be largely a day off, but a few things needed recording.
The banding that you can see along its side are the structures, called myotomes, that will develop into the muscles of the body.
The 'elephant's ear' structure marks the area in which the gills are
I think that I'm a day late with the next report - this afternoon I saw that a few Hawthorn buds had burst, although I suspect that the first leaves appeared yesterday.
The Blackbird female was busy nest building again this morning, and this time I was able to confirm that she is building quite high up in the conifers beyond the bottom of the garden. And while she worked the male sang almost continuously from a high perch at the top of those trees.
Late in the afternoon an event had him change his call to one of
consternation, and it was easy to see the problem - a cat that had
climbed up in search of the nest. A well aimed handful of soil had it
scrambling back down, but the sight of the Blackbird busy building again at
6.10pm makes me wonder if she has had to start again.
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