Here in the South Shropshire Hills Spring can arrive rather later than in some other parts of the UK. My garden is elevated and exposed to westerly winds blowing across the Long Mynd and other Stretton Hills towards my house, and we often experience weather here that is rather different from that in the local town, down in the valley below us. The temperature difference sometimes feels like it is about 10 degrees cooler here!
So far in March though, we have experienced lots of very beautiful spring days with bright sunshine and balmy winds, with only one episode of driving snow in the middle of the month. Our local birds have definitely appreciated this warmer than usual spring weather, with many species singing this month including both siskins and goldfinches. Most exciting for me though in terms of visiting birds, has been a single male house sparrow who at the end of the month was joined by a female. I am hoping that either our thick hedges, or a vacant nest box, will encourage them to stay around and breed this year as this hasn’t happened here for some time. The total number of bird species in the garden in March was 32, and included a treecreeper and a tawny owl but with no sign of a chiff chaff yet or in fact any migrants.
In March mammals in the garden were rather few and far between at the beginning of the month, with the exception of a number of wood mice which had made their home in my terracotta rhubarb forcer! A quick look at the end of the month revealed a nest so I guess I am not going to be eating any early rhubarb crumble for a while yet. No foxes, weasels or stoats were seen at all, but as the weather became ever warmer the runs of bank voles became more obvious in our meadows and in the orchard grass, and plenty were seen scuttling about. The only other mammals seen were the usual gang of grey squirrels intent on destroying our bird feeders.
There were plenty of queen bumblebees around from the very start of the month, feeding mostly on a small (and very invasive) comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum) that I have planted here. Due to its rampant nature I have relegated it the woodland garden where it can be kept under control and at this time of year, with no leaves on the trees yet, it is absolutely buzzing with queen bumblebees.
As April approaches I will be looking out for a rather special bird here. A few years ago we were visited by a male ring ouzel on his way to uplands further north. He stayed around the garden for a time, feeding on the short grass of the orchard before moving off again, so I will be keeping my eyes open over the next few weeks for this beautiful migrant thrush.