The Garden Diary

April - 2001

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1 April - A cloudy start to the day is brightened up by the observation that the buds on the hawthorn have started opening this morning.

In the early evening a neighbour called my attention to the grey heron perched on the roof of the house directly across the road from us. Needless to say that it flew before I could get my camera.



2 April - A warm (max 17C) and mainly bright day. The sunshine in the morning encouraged the lesser cellandine flowers to open. here is a picture of the first common dog violet flower (Viola riviniana) of the year, by the small pond.
The sparrow hawk is becoming a regular at the moment.
Several Brimstone butterflies passed through along with quite a few bumble bees and the first wasp, and ants!




This little insect was found on the surface film of the pond. It would appear to be an Ichneumon fly. You can see a short ovipositor at the end of the abdomen.

3 April - Not much time to look out today, but I did see the song thrush in the garden for the first time since 21 March. I am also seeing more of the chaffinches at the moment, I usually see them flying past rather than into the garden.

5 April - On a dull, increasingly wet day some bad news to report. The blackbirds' nest has been raided. There is no sign of eggs or chicks in the nest. Yesterday afternoon I saw the female blackbird heading up to the nest with mealworms in her beak for the first time, suggesting that hatching had taken place.

This morning I heard both blackbirds giving prolonged alarm calls. Later, when I saw the female down by the pond gathering moss and mud this confirmed there was a problem, so I checked the nest and took this photograph.

The pair seem to be turning their attention to last year's nest site high in the Ivy tree. Let's hope they succeed this time - last year they built three nests. At the moment the female's weight is back down to 101gm, the same as the male, so it may be some time before she is ready to lay again. She is also looking rather 'scruffy' at the moment so I hope she will be up to the effort.

On a positive note, both robins were down for mealworms this morning and some were taken back up to their nest, so it looks as though their eggs are hatching.

On the ground, the grass is starting to thicken up and the first daisy has appeared. By the pond the first Snake's Head Fritillary has opened up (pic right) with quite a few more buds developing.

Late in the afternoon I saw my first warbler for the year, perched on the birch tree. It was very pale brown colour on top but I forgot to note the colour of the legs - either a Willow Warbler or a Chiffchaff according to my book.


6 April - The Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) have started flowering today. here is the first flower to open, with lots more buds to follow.

I have planted some more wild flowers around the pond today. They are Jacobs Ladder (Polemonium caerulium), Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris) and Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum). These are all nursery grown plants.

A small log pile by the big pond has been pulled apart by something again overnight. This has happened several times over the last month. I suspect a fox but have yet to find proof .

A Song Thrush was here in the morning, and a Greenfinch pair has been feeding on the bird table.

7 April - I had a great view of a wren displaying in our birch tree this morning. I have yet to get close enough to get a photograph of one.
There will be no entries for the next 8 - 10 days.

17 April - It is amazing how much the greenery grows in the space of ten days! One important development to report on today is the fledging of the robin chicks. While it is not possible to know how many there are I was able to watch one being fed mealworms by its parent. The adults also seemed to head in at least two other directions with food at the same feeding session. It was not possible to get a photograph, but it brought back memories of last year as the parents dashed back and forth, hardly noticing me standing right by the mealworm dish.

While the male blackbird was about on numerous occasions I only caught a couple of brief glimpses of the female. It would seem to soon for her to be sitting on eggs again.

I spotted these eggs, laid on the underside of a leaf of a fritillary plant. Each one measures just over 1mm long. I have not got a clue as to what they are, so any suggestions would be gratefully received. I shall be following their progress.



18 April - The robins continued to feed the fledglings although I did not get to see any today. Colder weather has meant that the parents are glad of any handouts they get. The female blackbird was about more today and I had the chance to record her weight as 110g - she is on her way to producing another clutch of eggs. The male weighed in at 99g.

Last night at about 10pm I spotted a mouse foraging by one of the log piles. Why did I not have my camera with me? I shall look again tonight.

19 April - The mystery of the red eggs is solved. I was cutting the grass around the big pond this afternoon when I spotted this beetle laying an egg on the underside of a fritillary leaf. She laid just the one, and has spent the last hour or so wandering around other parts of the same plant. It is similar to a Cardinal beetle (Pyrochroa coccinea), although the antennae and thorax shape do not seem to match the book illustrations exactly. (Not a Cardinal Beetle - see entry for 28 April for positive ID)

Today I saw my first two-spot ladybird of the year and a solitary bee that I think had just emerged from one of my bee hotels (see Wildlife Pictures section)

The female blackbird's weigh has dropped to 105g. Does this mean she has started laying again? I expected her to put on more weight first. Also, with the robins feeding their fledglings the female has put on weight and is 25g today. She has started her begging chirping again when the pair are feeding. So it looks as though they will have another brood in the near future.

20 April - A cold, mainly dry day. The robins continue to feed the fledglings - spotted the one hidden in the ivy tree. There is still a Cardinal beetle about, although I did not see any more eggs today.

The photograph shows a bit of the hawthorn which is covered in flower buds now.



21 April - Highlight of the day so far has been the entry of a robin fledgling into my shed this afternoon. This picture was taken through a dirty window. I managed to open the next window and watched as it hopped onto a piece of timber and waited patiently for its dad to find it and feed it twice before it left! That happened too quickly for the digital camera to catch in subdued lighting.


22 April - A dry day until the late afternoon. No robin fledglings spotted today. The female is making every effort to get the male to feed her at the moment, and she weighs nearly 25g against the male's 19g.

This morning I watch a couple of starlings moving about the braches and trunk of the birch tree selecting pieces of the paper-like bark to tear off and take away to a nest. I have never seen them do this before. The greenfinches seem to be about a lot more than I can recall in past years.

23 April -
A much better, spring-like day today, with some warm sunshine.

While watching the tadpoles I spotted tiny mushrooms like this one among the moss at the side of the pond.

Another use of the ruler was to measure this tiny insect on my patio window. My insect books suggest that it belongs to the family Chironomidae, a non-biting-midge. The feathery antennae would make it a male. Blood worms, which live in parts of the small pond are Chironomid larvae.

The male robin found how to get through the defences around the blue tit feeder so I added more wire to the lower half of the feeder ( see the blue tit diary entry for Sunday) as he perched on the fence and watched. His mate still weighs 25g and he seems to do nearly all the feeding of the fledglings.

25 April - Here is a picture of the male robin in the burberris where he often checks on my progress in the garden. This afternoon while I crouched only a metre away, he had a prolonged bath in the pond.

The blackbirds have started taking food to their nest in the ivy tree. The female came to the mealworm feeder and after having some herself then picked up three and flew up to the ivy. The male appeared with some small worms in his beak. He waited until I had moved away, down the garden before he went to the nest site. The female still weighs 105g against the male's 99g.

We are seeing a lot of 'our' pair of collared doves at the moment, going everywhere together, usually in close formation.

27 April - A day when it almost seemed like summer in the afternoon saw solitary bees emerging from their cells on the 'bee hotels'.

A robin fledgling was seen near the house, out in the open but still being fed by an adult.

The blackbirds are busy collecting food for their chicks. I put a handful of mealworms down for the female and it was amusing to watch as she tried to gather as many as possible in her beak. She did not know when to stop even when she could not fit any more in!

Last night I spotted a mouse again. I may set a humane trap to catch and identify it.

28 April - I need to make a correction to the entry for 19 April. The red beetle that I thought could be a Cardinal Beetle is most likely a Lily Leaf Beetle (Lilioceris lilii). It is not a native UK species and is a serious pest of lilies and fritillaries. More information can be found about it at the RHS site (opens a new window). Many thanks to Michael Humberston (SW London) for that information. It would seem that this is not a creature to be encouraged in the garden.

There was not much chance to spend time in the garden today. The hawthorn flower buds do not look too different to their picture on the 20th. The wild garlic flower buds are well developed and tomorrow may well see the first bluebell flowers open. My Hart's Tongue Fern (Phyllitus scolopendrium) is unfurling its fronds under the hawthorn ( picture left).

I spent a few minutes at lunchtime watching a robin fledgling having an unsuccessful tug-of-war with a worm before being fed by its dad. The collared doves appear to be nesting in the leylandii trees. Their favourite spot has been the Northern end for the last three years, but I am not sure how successful they have been in the past.

29 April - A very wet morning gave way to some brighter moments later. During one of these I had a wander down the garden and, behind the leylandii came face to face with a fox! The surprise was mutual. I went back to the house to get my camera but by the time I had returned it had gone.

While outside I checked the bee hotel and spotted this solitary bee just emerging for the first time(?). To give an idea of size, the hole in the timber was drilled with a 7mm bit.

This morning, a wood pigeon made numerous visits to my neighbour's birch tree to collect twigs of a nest.

30 April - Just a quick note today to say about the robins. There have been numerous sightings of the fledglings today. They flew down to the feeding stations beetween the hawthorn and the house. While they both accepted food from their dad, one of them picked up mealworms for itself. While the male adult is still dashing round finding food for them the female seems far more concerned with calling for food herself. Only ocassionally did she take food for the young ones.

Both blackbirds are working full time searching for food. Every time I see them their beaks seem to be packed full of worms, raisins, mealworms etc which are being carried up to the nest in the ivy tree.

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