The Garden Diary 2012
May (part 2)
17 May - A mainly cloudy, although bright day with a high of 14C, with just a light shower in the early evening.
Another first flowering today - the Comfrey. For some strange reason I wrote that the Comfrey had flowered in my entry for 29 April, when I should have said Garlic Mustard. The two plants are adjacent but I can't see how I made that error! Anyway, it has been corrected now, and I hope to take some photographs of the Comfrey tomorrow.
As dusk fell I headed out to watch for the bat again. It turned up but this time it moved about over a much greater area and as for getting any useable photographs you could day I was out for a duck -
I had more luck when this pair of Mallards flew over at 9.30pm. Autofocus would have been of no use in the very low light and anyway it was switched off as I tried to 'ambush' the bat.
One of the ducks was quacking loudly as they overflew the garden, and judging by the open beak of the female it may well have been her making all the noise!
18 May - Sunshine just after dawn, but otherwise a grey day with drizzle during the late afternoon and evening, and a high of 14C. I don't think I'll be bat spotting tonight.
This afternoon we were going to look after our grandson, so I set out to get a couple of jobs done in the garden this morning. The first, removing an old concrete fence post was completed without problem apart from a lot of dust.
The second was to involve deciding how best to dispose of an 'old friend', the Ivy tree. However, a surprise complication took the rest of the morning to resolve.
For those who are not familiar with the Ivy tree, when we moved into the house in 1975, on the left of the garden towards the western end, where was a conifer that was in a rather sorry state. Instead of removing it completely I cut the branches back so that only a foot or so remained and then allowed Ivy to completely take it over.
A couple of years ago I erected what was intended to be a temporary framework to support it while I decided what to do with it. I also removed several feet off the top of it. It has remained in this state ever since and looks awful, so I have now decided to remove it completely.
This is a task that I'll carry out gradually during the rest of this year, and this morning, knowing that there are no birds nesting in it, I wanted to make a small start by cutting away some Ivy to restrict new growth.
That was when the complication arose. Previously hidden behind the Ivy was a nest box made from an old plastic lid (found washed up on a Cornish beach many years ago!), and never used by birds. As I cut away a trailing Ivy branch the lid started rolling away from its position because its original fixings had rotted away.
I caught it straight away, which was fortunate as it came to life with a lot of angry buzzing inside, and I had to hold it in place while Sheila brought me some string so that I could secure it.
While I knew that birds were not using it I had somehow failed to notice that it was being used as a nest site by what I think are White-tailed Bumblebees.
Anyway, I decided that trying to reattach the lid to the Ivy tree securely was not going to be the best option and decided instead to risk making a cradle for it that would be mounted on a post.
Here is the result. The nest is no more than about four feet from its original position and at nearly the same height, and I've provided it with an aluminium canopy, although it is also shaded from direct sunshine by my neighbour's apple tree (as it was in its original position).
My biggest concern would be what effect the move would have on the bees when they returned from foraging.
For the first hour or so, returning bees were confused, flying around where the entrance had been on the Ivy tree, but as I watched some found the nest once more.
By the end of the afternoon I only saw the occasional bee still searching the old site. Hopefully, by tomorrow the bees will have completely recovered from the disruption.
Needless to say, there was no further progress made today regarding the Ivy tree - and I completely forgot to photograph the Comfrey!
20 May - Another grey day with a high of just 11C. There is a promise of temperatures in excess of 25C as the week progresses - we shall see!
Yesterday I removed the best part of two feet off the top of the ivy tree. Family commitments mean that further progress on that job will probably have to wait until after the next four days or so.
The bumblebee colony seems to have settled down after its move, and the moss dome covering their nest has been tidied up. During the few times that I have watched today it has been amusing to watch the returning workers which don't seen to have a 'tidy' way of landing. they seen to either fly straight into the moss or simply stop flying and fall onto it before crawling around the side of the dome to the rear.
I must set up a camera to take some photographs of them as they arrive, to confirm that they are White-tailed Bumblebees, and also to see if they are continuing to bring in moss in addition to pollen and nectar.
21 May - A very pleasant day with somewhat hazy sunshine and a high of 18C, although it felt warmer in the sunshine.
Not such a good day for me unfortunately as my energy levels deserted me - no gardening done, but at least I managed put together a shopping list of things I need to continue tidying up the bottom of the garden. Also, I did set up a camera to photograph the bumblebees. However a couple of sessions produced nothing that I can use. I put the blame on a combination of things - the bees making the wrong sort of approach to the nest, and my reflexes not being up to scratch when it came to pressing the button on the camera remote! I may get another chance at the end of the week.
And I failed to photograph our first Buttercup of the year, spotted while we sat outside to have a coffee break. By the time I remembered the flower had closed up for the night!
With the rain having faded away and the temperature having started rising once more, I decided to siphon the contents of our main water butt into the big pond this evening as the water levels have started to drop again.
We have a few very busy family orientated days ahead, so there may not be any entries during the rest of the week.
22 May - Summer has arrived (perhaps)! Under almost cloudless skies and despite a northerly breeze the temperature reached around 27C in the garden (Farnborough's official high was 24C)
First, yesterday's Buttercup, which was joined by at least three more today.
One change that is very clear to see as temperatures rise is that the frogs start to reappear. You can now see more of them at the pond surface, and more significantly, out of the water.
I spent a bit of time with my shears cutting the grass between the path and one end of the small pond. Part of this task involves disturbing the grass before taking the shears to it so as to persuade any hidden frogs to move to safety.
That was very necessary today, and within a few minutes of the grass being cut these frogs were climbing back out of the safety of the pond to group together, remaining in the same spot (in the shade of the Hawthorn) for at least a couple of hours.
Tonight we have our grandson sleeping with us so we may be in for an early start tomorrow. As suggested yesterday, I don't anticipate any time being devoted to either garden or the diary tomorrow - we shall see.
23 May - A bright, sunny day with an official high of 26C, but definitely hotter in the garden.
No reports from the garden today - it was however a very enjoyable day spent with our grandson (crawling and close to walking), starting before 6am!
27 May - The very warm, sunny weather has continued unabated since that last report. Over the last few days there has been quite a strong north-easterly breeze which helped to keep the inside of the house quite comfortable. However, today the breeze swung round to blow from a south-easterly direction and was much less strong. That meant that the official (Farnborough) high of 26C felt even hotter than previously, both indoors and out.
There is the prospect of thunder storms during the coming week. Hopefully they will materialise sooner rather than later as the large pond needs topping up again and the water butt is now empty.
There are a couple of new flowerings to record today. First is a Flag Iris in the big pond.
I don't expect more than a handful of these flowers this year as I cut back the plants rather drastically in the Spring (and removed them completely from the small pond).
The other plant to produce its first flowers today is the Elder, next to the Hawthorn.
Last year there were few flowers on it and even fewer berries. This time there are lots of flower buds so I'm hopeful that there will be a good crop of berries.
We are just about at the start of the best period for the pond(s) as we approach the end of this month. The water is busy with frogs, tadpoles and newts (these largely unseen under the duckweed), the Marsh Marigolds still flowering, and around the sides plants like the Buttercups and Red Campion providing colour.
In the previous few years the Ragged Robins have provided just a hint of competition for the Campions, but this year they have produced a much more noticeable display, with quite a few young plants that should help to ensure an even better crop in 2013.
At the moment, with other tasks to be completed I'm not taking as much notice as I should to the insects in the garden. It took a visit by my less than one year old grandson this afternoon to spot a caterpillar on our Birch tree.
He loves being out in the garden with me, and especially getting hold of leaves on a bamboo plant. He knows that if he shakes the leaf hard enough the whole plant rustles. He likes doing the same with the low-hanging thin branches of the Birch tree, and it was as he reached out to grab such a branch that I spotted the caterpillar on it.
It is the larva of a Copper Underwing moth (Amphipyra pyramidea), a common species. This caterpillar is about 30mm long. It seems that early in June it will head down to pupate underground before emerging as an adult moth from late July onwards.
One micro-moth that I find each year around the water mint is Pyrausta aurata and I saw my first one of 2012 today. Yesterday (but not today) I saw Holly Blue and Speckled Wood butterflies several times.
29 May - The temperature has started to drop - a high of 24C today, but still sunny and with no sign of rain.
Another first flowering to report on - the Bird's-foot Trefoil.
And one that I should have included in the entry for the 27th, the first Wood Avens flower. Today I can see several in flower.
30 May - On a day when there was scattered cloud cover for most of the day the temperature only made it to 22C.
I have spent much of the day (indeed the week) engaged in woodwork outside, making a replacement side for my grandson's cot. His mum has just had an operation which leaves her unable to bend over the cot side to pick him up for at least a few months, so I'm making a cot side that can be folded down to mattress level, allowing her to pick up her son while keeping her back as straight as possible, although it will be a few weeks before she is allowed to do even that.
It's been an interesting challenge (and not finished yet) as my woodworking skills are a bit rusty to say the least. If it's true that you learn from your mistakes I've learnt a lot this week!
For the first time this week I found myself checking the clouds every so often just in case rain threatened. We actually had just a few drops fall at one stage, but the cloud moved on quickly. Tonight we are still waiting for a much needed downpour. I've put out a couple of plastic trugs, some buckets and other large containers just in case!
Greenfly and Blackfly seem to be thriving in the present conditions. During several of my frequent breaks I've been amused by the antics of Sparrows hunting these pests on the Rosa rugosa plants at the front of our house. They land on the branches (which are now covered by lots of young leaves) and almost immediately drop down to the ground to peck at the aphids that they have dislodged. They spend minutes on end moving between branches and the ground where it is obviously easier to collect the aphids.
As I was putting away the tools used during the day I spotted what I believe is a digger wasp of some sort. It was resting on top of the empty water butt. It was very docile and i was able to approach very closely without disturbing it.
Much more active was this very large Red-tailed Bumblebee queen as it foraged between Red Campion flowers. Its large size and weight meant that the flowers dropped a lot as it landed, making it difficult to get good photographs.
31 May - The month has come to a relatively cool end with a high of 'just' 18C today under grey skies and even a few minutes of light drizzle this afternoon - the evidence of this evaporating very soon afterwards. The wait for rain must go on into next month.
I've had a day away from the garden and woodwork (and much of the time away from home) but I need to follow up on my discovery of the Copper Underwing caterpillar on the 27th. I should have mentioned that it had disappeared by the next day. Judging by its size when I saw it, it is quite feasible that it had headed for the ground to pupate. If so, I wonder if it would have taken the long route involving crawling back up the branch to the trunk before descending to the group, or would it have abseiled the five feet or so down a silk thread. There was no evidence of the latter happening - of course, it made have been taken as a meal for a chick!
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