In the first week of May the weather in South Shropshire was warm and sunny and the whole garden looked green and vibrant. The long borders were growing well although they were becoming overcrowded in some areas and a few plants needed to be moved. Hawthorn was in flower all around our boundaries and looking wonderful – there was much more blossom this year than last. Our common spotted orchids were also growing well, although their numbers appear not to have increased on last year, possibly due to the extremely wet weather we had in the winter. The swallows were happily settled into the porch where they bred last year, and sometimes a third bird joined the pair. They were feeding over the garden and the field next door to the house, which this year has sheep grazing. Sadly all the mallard ducklings on our pond were predated and the adult pair moved to the pond next door, where no doubt they will try again. The moorhens however were sitting on their nest and repelling all-comers with great ferocity! A pair of yellowhammers were still around the garden and a single whitethroat, a bird I am especially fond of, was seen on one of our hedges. This warbler has bred twice in the garden in the past but there has been no sign of this species for the last two summers. I am hopeful that they might breed here again this year. There were several butterfly species around especially brimstones, and a single comma was seen on the 6th.
After a lovely warm start it was suddenly cold here again in the second week of May. The moorhens were now fiercely defending their hatched chicks from all-comers including a grey heron. The single tiny green-winged orchid appeared again on the pond bank but was no bigger than last year! House martins began to feed over the garden in some numbers and our swallows were seen courtship feeding. On the 12th a cuckoo was heard close to the garden – the first time for several years – and the wonderful sound echoed around our little valley. At the end of the week we saw good numbers of swifts feeding over the garden too, but the weather then became cooler again and at times, quite windy.
The third week of May was still cool but brightened towards the end of the week. Our dandelions were in full seed with their lovely feathery seed head ‘clocks’ everywhere in the grassy paths which were left un-mown. Bullfinches, greenfinches and house sparrows were soon feeding avidly but there were no linnets this year which was quite unusual. A male linnet was heard singing in our copse of trees though, so they were definitely around. The nuthatches were still feeding their young in the nest box close to the vegetable garden, the fledglings now being large enough to poke their heads out of the entrance! A male blackcap was seen repeatedly visiting a shady area of nettles close to one of the wildlife ponds, suggesting a nest. However, sad news was that local crows predated the young moorhens, but we were hopeful they would try again. All around the garden cow parsley was flowering abundantly and attracting many hoverflies to the tiny white flowers. There were plenty of butterflies around too, especially green-veined whites and brimstones which were seen daily. The swallows continued to visit the nest in the porch and from their behaviour we are confident that there are eggs now. On the 21st a male whitethroat was heard singing in the vegetable garden hedge and from the wires over the garden, so I am really hopeful that they are breeding here after an absence of two years.
The last week of the month was warm and sunny. The nuthatches were still feeding their young and several brimstone butterflies were still around the garden every day. A tiny comma butterfly larva was found on wych elm in one of our hedges and large and green veined white butterflies were still plentiful. The first of the damsel and dragonflies were seen around the big pond and oxeye daisies burst into flower on the pond bank and in some of the smaller meadow areas. On the 26th a single moorhen chick – now quite well grown – was seen on the pond edge, apparently having escaped the crows and heron! As the warm weather continued our common spotted orchids opened and young blue tits began to emerge from several of the nest boxes around the orchard while large numbers of house martins and some swifts fed over the ponds and meadows. In all it was a good start to the summer.