The weather always seems to dominate my garden wildlife blog but that is simply because the weather makes a huge different to what I actually see here! A variable week at the beginning of the month with some bright sunny days interspersed with cold rainy ones, meant that everything in the garden was growing very fast and the garden looked exceptionally green! The small green-winged orchid that appeared on the pond bank last month continued to flourish and the flowers opened, but it didn’t actually get very much bigger. With no other plant of this species in the area with which to cross pollinate it looks as though it is going to be very lonely unless I can buy seed of green-winged orchid and attempt to grow more.
The cool breezy weather didn’t deter large numbers of bumblebees from feeding around the garden, especially in the fruit garden on the gooseberry flowers. Our apple trees in the back garden seemed to have very little blossom this year after large apple crops last year but the fruit trees in our small orchard were covered with flowers as usual and looked wonderful. A quick survey of the nest boxes around the garden showed me that all our boxes were occupied by blue tits, with the exception of two – one which had great tits with a successful nest and the other which is occupied by bumblebees. This means that six nest boxes have blue tits breeding which rather makes me think we will be overrun with juvenile blue tits this year! Several robin and dunnock nests were very active and a chiffchaff was seen repeatedly returning to a patch of nettles in the vegetable garden where bullfinches and goldfinches were also nesting in the thick hedges. Chiffchaffs and blackcaps were singing daily all around the garden.
The weather continued to be changeable as we moved into the second week of May and at times temperatures were low for the time of year. The garden however looked lovely, with masses of red campion and yellow archangel in flower in all the hedges and around the garden boundaries. Three swallows racing around the house caused some excitement. It is now ten years since swallows nested in our porch at the front of the house and I am hopeful that two of these might be tempted. A quick examination of the ledge where they previously nested showed me that part of a nest remains and would only need a little work to make it useable. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
On the 15th a pair of mallard visited the Big Pond – their apparent familiarity with the garden gave me little doubt that they are the pair that nested here last year. However, they quickly moved over to a pond in the field next door which sees a lot less human disturbance than the pond in my garden. Other birds that seem to have made their home with us this month were a pair of red-legged partridges. I am very fond of this species and hope they stay around for a while. Great-spotted woodpeckers were feeding frantically, and the garden seemed very noisy with birds everywhere. Bank voles were still numerous, so we were not surprised to see a kestrel hovering repeatedly over the meadows. At the end of this week I was very excited to see a spotted flycatcher in our little copse of trees and later in the vegetable garden. I have my doubts about this species nesting in the garden again though, as nests have been predated in two previous years, but just to see one around was a pleasure. Butterflies continued to be numerous this week especially the orange tip which was still here in exceptional numbers. They were joined by small white and the occasional scruffy comma. Chiffchaff and blackcap continued to sing and a pair of siskins visited the feeders daily.
As we moved into the last week of the month the weather improved. Warm sunny conditions meant that plenty of birds were singing. The swallows swooped around the house, twittered on the overhead wires and eventually dived into the porch and took possession of the old nest there. Yellowhammer and whitethroat sang in the vegetable garden and on a sunny morning at the end of the month I heard a familiar song but one I didn’t associate with the garden. This evocative song brought to mind a nature reserve I often visit in Wales and I realised the bird was a sedge warbler – a new species for the garden! He sang around the big pond and in the hedge, he posed for a photo and then he was gone. A brilliant end to the month.