The Garden Diary 2013
March - part 1
1 March - What a disappointing St David's Day - the sky returned to a duller shade of grey and the morning started damp enough for some parents walking their children to school past our house to resort to umbrellas. The temperature still managed a high of 6C.
There are no open Daffodil flowers in the garden for St. David's Day. Last year the first Daffodil opened on 29 February. This year it looks as though we could have done with another leap day to give our Daffodils a bit more time to prepare for today.
It looks as though just one of the flower buds may be ready to open tomorrow, especially if conditions are brighter - the forecast suggests that this may be so, but with lower temperatures.
Although there are no more pictures today, it hasn't been a bad one as far as the birds are concerned, with several indications that the breeding season is getting closer -
In the way of a change I saw a female Blackbird following (or chasing) a male. No action at the nest site yet.
There was a pair of Robins following each other about, and two Coal Tits came to feed, as did two Magpies. And the Sparrows took away numerous lengths of straw during the day.
Over the last two days I have seem only female Siskins feeding here - have the males moved on?
After an absence of a few days the jays returned this afternoon, three of them, but as usually happens only two actually got to feed, the third being chased away after landing briefly on a tree stump.
Today the Wren(s) were here more frequently than ever before, at least fifteen visits - I first spotted one around 9am and finally around 4.30pm. The ponds are obviously providing a rich source of food for them.
The big pond is also coming to life in another way with the appearance of frogs, at least after dark. Last night I spotted eight, all diving as soon as the torch illuminated them. Tonight at 8pm I could only see these two.
4 March - After that disappointing start to the month the last two days have given us largely blue skies and bright sunshine, and today, after a frosty start, the temperature reached a high of 10C for much of the afternoon.
The last three days have seen us fully occupied with our grandson, all smiles and energy as usual, so there has been little time to watch bird activity in the garden. Having said that, having commented on the absence of male Siskins in the previous entry, there were two here soon after 8am this morning!
The Sparrows continue to take away nesting materials. It seems as though the decision to do so by one individual become almost contagious, and for a while there may be as many as seven or eight pecking or pulling as suitable bits.
In this case the bird in the foreground was collecting green materials rather than the more usual straw.
The Blackbirds continue to spend a great deal of time here, giving me time to look again at the two females, with pictures taken on Saturday (2nd).
First, the individual with the more usual speckled breast, and a greyish-brown plumage over the rest of her body.
Then the female with the more reddish complexion, seen here during a bathing session.
Interestingly, she was followed within a minute or so by a male.
By Sunday night there was no sign of any birds having visited the monitored nest site. However, when I checked the camera image this afternoon it was clear that the site had been disturbed during the day, and this evening I was able to establish that the culprit was the 'red' Blackbird.
She visited the site at 8.44am looking around but staying for no more than half a minute.
It seems that the pair have now started to look for a suitable nest site - my fingers are crossed. It may not be used straight away, but now that the site is known it improves the chance that it could be used at some stage during the nesting season.
6 March - Before I get to today I should mention yesterday - A bright, sunny day on which a high of 15C had us (along with our grandson) spending much of the afternoon outside for the first time in 2013. It meant that the birds did not have the garden to themselves, although the little one was thrilled to be just a couple of yards away from Sparrows feeding despite his noisy expressions of enjoyment!
Today the grey skies have returned, although the temperature still managed to reach 14C. Tonight it is damp outside as we face the prospect that tomorrow will be wet.
The Sparrows have continued with their house-keeping throughout the day, and it has sometimes been quite amusing to watch one individual work hard to collect a 'good' length of straw only to have another bird try (sometimes successfully) to steal it.
And here is another bird that has commenced its nest building, our local Robin.
I have no idea where she is nesting, but it cannot be far away as she returned to this same area between the ponds numerous times, with just a short interval between some visits.
In the meantime the male spent quite a bit of time in the Hawthorn, flying down to eat something from time to time.
Both Blackbird females were seen to bathe in the big pond during the day and on one I thought that the 'red' one was starting to gather nesting materials.
However, it turned out she was simply looking for something to eat before bathing.
There were no visits to the nest site today, and neither have there been any to the nest box itself, although on several occasions the microphone has picked up bird activity very close by - I shall have to watch out for visible signs of what may be going on.
Today there was the unmistakable song of a Song Thrush in the area for the first time this year, signaling another bird to watch for in the garden. Also, a neighbour called in to say that she had just seen a flock of what may have been Parakeets at the bottom of our road. A chat with her established that they were most likely Waxwings.
A flock of twenty or more had been in a bush (with berries) and had flown up to perch on telegraph poles as she walked by. By the time I got to the spot they had disappeared. Unfortunately, our Rowan failed to produce berries last year - fingers crossed that it will do better during 2013.
Returning to the garden, two regulars posed long enough to grab shots of them today.
First, this Coal Tit which unusually stayed put on top of our Buddleia long enough for me to grab the camera, point and shoot!
And this Magpie which unusually perched half way down this Elder stump rather than at the top to check out the food supplies.
Yesterday I heard croaking from the big pond for the first time this season, and there was more today, along with quite a bit of daytime activity.
Tonight I counted 26 frogs including this couple in what appeared a very relaxed looking amplexus.
Finally, after the Daffodils' failure to open for St David's Day, the first opened yesterday, followed by a few more today. And yesterday I should have photographed the crocuses around the ponds as they opened in reaction to the sunshine - closed again today!
7 March - As promised, it's wet this morning, and relatively mild, 7.5C at 7.30am.
During the day conditions did not change very much, with persistent mist and drizzle putting a stop to the nest building activities of the last few days. The temperature reached 10C in the afternoon.
The only bird event to note was the drumming of a Woodpecker first thing this morning, despite the wet conditions, otherwise it was a very quiet day.
After dark I introduced our grandson to the frogs, and wasn't he fascinated by them, crouching down to look at one under the water as I illuminated the pond with a headlamp, modified to give diffused, even lighting rather than a narrow beam. And a Swimming frog brought on excited pointing. Unfortunately we heard just a very brief croak - more sessions by the pond will be needed...
8 March - This morning there is light rain falling outside, under very misty skies. Overnight the temperature dropped just a couple of degrees and it was already approaching 10C at 8.45am - it didn't get any higher during the day, and at 7pm it is still 9C.
The forecast is for a return to near freezing temperatures over the weekend, with the prospect of some light snow in a few days time!
Over the last two days the pair of Magpies have become frequent visitors, but the Jays have not been seen since the 1st. And during these last two wet days the Wrens have also been absent. Yesterday I saw a single Siskin here, but there have been none today (and just one Goldfinch).
9 March - Another damp start but by lunchtime the drizzle had fizzled away and the afternoon, while still under grey skies, was rather brighter, with a high of 7C, dropping to 5C by 8pm.
There was no chance to do any bird watching today so this entry is brief, but nevertheless it marks an important stage reached in the garden's yearly cycle - the first frogspawn.
Spotted when I took my grandson on a frog hunt at lunchtime, the single clump measures around 10cm across.
Tonight we visited the pond again and he was able to see the frogs again and hear their croaking clearly for the first time.
In the coming week I must set up a small aquarium so that all three of our grandchildren can watch spawn developing.
After the fly-past by the asteroid in February there is another astronomical photographic challenge coming up this month, this time in the form of Comet 2011 L4 Panstarrs.
During the rest of the month the comet will appear low and almost directly west of us just after sunset, so unfortunately even if the sky is clear my view of it could be obstructed by the trees at the bottom of the garden. I may need to resort to setting up my camera in our bedroom! At the moment the forecast for the middle of the coming week suggests broken cloud in the late afternoon and evening which may provide a first opportunity to look for it. It seems that the comet will be at its brightest at the end of next week, getting higher but dimmer as the month progresses - fingers crossed for a couple of decent evenings earlier rather than later in the month.
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