The Garden Diary 2004

March(Part 1)

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1 March - Happy St David's Day to you all 


A cold, but cloudless day after a short snow shower and then a sharp frost last night left our Daffodils (National flower of Wales) drooping and distinctly unphotogenic this morning.



The snow fell just as I headed for bed last night. This was the view down the garden at about 9am this morning, but as I write this (11.20am) it has nearly all disappeared again.


Earlier we had brief visits from a Goldfinch and male Chaffinch who were feeding together on the ground under the Hawthorn. Unfortunately, they flew off as soon as I moved to get my camera and haven't returned since.

On the other hand, the Dunnock(s) have been here numerous times, although their visits are inevitably curtailed by the aggression towards them of the Robin who is becoming increasingly protective of its territory.

The tail-less Blackbird has been to feed, but there has been no sign of the Song Thrush or the Blackcaps. Neither did I see them yesterday.

There continues to be no sign of interest in the birdboxes. The male Robin is singing loudly at the bottom of the garden as I write this, but I have only seen the Blue Tits feeding once so far today.

A lunchtime visit by our neighbourhood Sparrowhawk  caused a few minutes of panic as it used apple tree branches as the launchpads for several loops around the Hawthorn where there were some 15-20 sparrows and a female Blackbird.

The latter kept her cool and stayed put, but eventually the sparrows panicked and flew off with the hawk in pursuit.

The rulers in the pictures were photographed later at the same distance, and with the same camera set-up so that I could get a better idea of the hawk's size. At about 11 inches it is small, perhaps a male, although the head and wing colour suggests it must be immature.

It doesn't have the blue-grey colour of the one I photographed on 25 February.


2 March - Another bright, cloudless morning after a very cold night with our outside thermometer registering a low of -4.4C. At 11am it is up to 4C.

Yesterday I mentioned that a Goldfinch and a male Chaffinch had been on the ground together. Well, they were here again this morning, and both came to the bird table.

The Goldfinch soon turned its attention to the thistle seed feeder (the first time this feeder has been visited) and spent some time there.



The Chaffinch was much more nervous, being very 'jumpy', as the picture shows!

The male continues to be an infrequent visitor, unlike a couple of females who are here numerous times each day.


I also commented yesterday on the absence of the Blackcaps and the Song Thrush. Both the Thrush and a female Blackcap were feeding here first thing this morning. I've also noticed that a pair of Collared Doves are nest building in the conifers a couple of gardens up the street.


3 March - Another frosty morning has brought a first for the garden.

Down on the ground under the Ivy tree, pecking at an apple stump (one thrown there after being discarded from the Hawthorn) was this Fieldfare.

My first attempt at a photograph from our bathroom window was a disaster (too far away) so a little bit later (10am) I set myself up in the caravan and waited. Five minutes later I was rewarded with this return visit.

Also this morning we have had a visit from two Song Thrushes, one of which headed for the raisins by the house while the other tackled the Ivy berries - another first (seeing two in the garden at the same time).


5 March - The freezing temperatures have left us these last two days - today's high was nearly 10C.

The Fieldfare has not returned - I guess that it was just passing through.

There is no sign yet of the Blue Tits moving in, but this morning the microphone in the box was tested to its limit when a Wren arrived at the entrance and spent some time singing loudly and displaying vigorously. For a moment it looked as though it was going to enter, but then it moved up onto the roof of the box to continue its display before leaving.

I'm afraid the image must be one of the worst wren pictures ever put onto the web, but its my only visual record of the event. There is no large version of this picture!

This afternoon I got round to another job that should have been done before Christmas. I've made a Communal House Sparrow nestbox. There are four entrances, two at the front and one at either end.

I intend to mount it on the west side of the house, overlooking the garden in the same place that I have used successfully in the past. Knowing that the box will be subject to afternoon sunshine, it is made of wood that is over one inch thick for good insulation, with ventilation holes high up along the back. Also I have painted white the felt roof cover to help reflect heat.


6 March - A dull dry morning with the temperature around 9C by lunchtime.

The nestbox is up.

I forgot to mention yesterday that while I was making it I saw a pair of Blue Tits inspection the Sparrow boxes at the side of the house. I will not forgive them if they nest there!

There has been no repeat performance by the Wren.



This morning I saw several visits by the female Blackcap. A moment of frustration followed shortly after the picture was taken. I had just taken the memory card out of the camera when pair of Siskins landed in the Hawthorn, right next to the apple but didn't stay long enough for me to replace the card.



7 March - Another cloudy morning, and 6C at 9.30am with a cold breeze from the northwest.

A number of Springtime related bird happenings to record already this morning. A little earlier we watched some frantic action by Chaffinches with two males chasing each other at very high speed and two females getting involved as well, and at the bottom of the garden two male blackbirds were having a sometimes violent encounter on the shed roof. Neither was the tail-less individual pictured a week or so ago - I haven't seen that one for a few days.

Yesterday I noticed a Magpie in my neighbour's birch tree. It was there again this morning, trying to pull off a small twig. It seems that it is starting to build its nest. It's something we see happening each Spring, but when I look back in the diary I'm surprised that I haven't mentioned it before.

The Blackcap has been to the apples several times, completely ignoring the antics of the Chaffinches nearby as she fed.


9 March - A dry, but cold day. The temperature only got up to just over 6C and there was a cold northerly wind.

There were various bird visitors during the morning and this group of images represents most of them.

Both male and female Blackcaps came to feed at different times, as did two Long-tailed Tits. A pair of Great Tits turned up and their first task was to peep into the BT box before coming to feed.

A Magpie visited the neighbouring Birch tree again and the young Sparrowhawk came three times during the afternoon.


I spent some time clearing the ground in front of my workshop shed so that we can plant up a wildflower area which faces south. I have bought some more Foxgloves and Primroses, as well as wild flower seeds and tomorrow I shall be preparing the ground for these, although some of the seeds have to wait until next month.


10 March - Another cold day with a keen north-easterly breeze started with ice on the birdbath, and flurries of snow while I was driving.

The plants bought yesterday are now planted, although the seeds will wait until later in the month.

One of the things I did yesterday was to buy a new seed feeder for the Sparrows. They have been very reluctant to use it so I have put some of their seed on the table and on the tray below the feeder. By the end of the day a few Sparrows had plucked up the courage to use it and I hope normal services will resume tomorrow.

This morning the first birds I saw as I opened the curtains were the two Long-tailed Tits here again, but there was no sign of the Great Tits today. The Song Thrush came to feed just once, and also spent some time 'sunbathing' in the conifers. Finally, the Magpie visited the birch again.


12 March - A grey, overcast start to the day, and at 11.15am there is no sign of snow that fell late yesterday evening and last night.

The temperature didn't drop below zero all night, and the raised level of water in the pond shows that a significant amount of rain/snow must have fallen, with all the snow melting as the temperature rose to about 4C during the morning.

Bird activity has been at a low level these last two days, restricted almost entirely to our usuals and the female Blackcap - I have seen the Song Thrush and the Sparrowhawk just once. The sparrows have started using the feeder, but they still prefer to go to the table.




13 March - A bright day with some sunshine and squally showers. This afternoon the temperature got up to 10C at one point.

The picture shows one of the last flowering Snowdrops, opened wide in this morning's bright conditions. Most of them are well past flowering now.

Flowering at the moment are the Primroses, Oxlips (see above) and the early Daffodils. There is no sign so far of flower buds on either the Bluebells or the Lesser Cellandines.

Under the Hawthorn the shoots of the Wild Garlic are showing above the ground, as the leaves of the Snake's-head Fritillary plants next to the pond.




The Hawthorn seems to be a bit slower this Spring with most of its buds still quite a bit smaller than this time last year.




In contrast, further down the garden there is a very young Hawthorn, an offspring of the big tree, and the terminal bud on that one has been open for the last five days.

It is growing in the border - I first noticed it there last year, and I'm not sure if it is one or two years old (one, I think!).



Behind the big pond, the buds on the small willow are tightly closed today.



Finally while I'm checking the trees, the Birch buds are also firmly closed, as are the catkins that are borne at the ends of most of the branches.




Bird activity has been extremely slow today with little food gone from either the feeder or the table. Raisins I put down on the deck have stayed there all day, which is very unusual.

I am surprised that I have not yet seen any sign of nesting activities (other than the Collared Doves). Last year by now we were seeing the Blackbirds and the House Sparrows collecting materials. Perhaps the warmer weather forecast for next week will encourage some action.

Click on images to see larger versions

2004 Garden Diary Index...........Last Month............ Second half of March