Blackcap singing in the Hawthorn Hedge
At the beginning of May, South Shropshire experienced what was a very miserable May Day holiday with pouring rain and blustery high winds for the whole of the day, and the wet and windy weather continued on and off throughout the next week plus, on the 2nd of the month, there was a very hard frost overnight! Spring felt a long way off. However, the local buzzards and kites were really enjoying the windy conditions and a kestrel was seen hunting over the garden on a few occasions. Unfortunately, my greenhouse was damaged by fierce overnight winds but thankfully it was repairable. The siskins that are still with us continued to use the feeders plus a song thrush was recorded in the garden on several occasions and two blackbirds were seen carrying nest material into one of our hedges. The pair of swallows was around from time to time, often visiting the house porch, but there was daily conflict with a wren which was taking moss into the swallow nest cup. The swallows however won the battle and a wren was seen nestbuilding in one of the large twig piles in the copse – hopefully the displaced individual! A male blackcap was singing beautifully and at times was very visible and there was a single pied wagtail – rather an unusual bird for us – in the garden on the 7th. The resident moorhens were nest building and the swallows continued to swoop around the house, feeding over the garden and the field next door. Late in the afternoon on the 7th a small group of swifts was seen over the garden and the song thrush was seen visiting one of the garden hedges on several occasions.
Male Bullfinch feeding on Dandelion Seeds
At the beginning of the second week of May the weather was still unseasonably cold! The resident moorhens began to lay but sadly the eggs were predated, possibly by a local magpie. The swallow pair was now around the garden constantly – in and out of the porch and also sitting on the wires over the back garden and on the house roof. Six wild mallard arrived on the wildlife pond but did not stay long and a grey heron also visited, plus a female bullfinch was seen frequently using the bird bath. All over the garden the dandelions in the smaller meadows began to seed and four bullfinches, together with several greenfinches, goldfinches and a single linnet, soon became frequent visitors, spending a lot of time enjoying the seeds. The weather became rather cool again and overcast mid-week, but the finches were visiting daily to enjoy the bounty of the dandelion seeds, especially in the Long Garden. At the end of the week a very scruffy peacock butterfly was seen feeding on dandelion flowers and orange tips were still numerous – some were seen egg-laying on honesty flowers in one of the borders – and a single green-veined white butterfly was also seen this week in the Big Meadow. At the end of the week we had another visit from the kestrel.
Bluebells and Wild Garlic in Dormouse Wood
As the third week of May began the bluebells in our small corner of woodland ( called Dormouse Wood – I live in hope) came into flower and as always looked amazing. The weather though was very changeable and wind and rain featured frequently! The Big Meadow continued to grow quickly with, this year, lots of Phleum pratense (Timothy Grass) showing off its flowering heads. The dominant grass in the Big Meadow changes from year to year and it’s always interesting to see what it will be! Finches continued to feed on the dandelions and one afternoon we had five species of finch feeding at the same time – bullfinch, chaffinch, linnet, greenfinch and siskin. The local hare was seen in an adjacent field and three bank voles visited the patio at the back of the house on a daily basis, expecting their usual feast of sunflower hearts. On the 16th a spotted flycatcher – an absolute favourite bird – was seen in our ash tree but sadly must have been just passing through as it was not seen again. On the 20th the greenfinches were up to five individuals feeding on dandelion seeds in poor weather, along with two pairs of bullfinches. The swallows were pretty much absent – the persistent rain and wind no doubt meant that they found somewhere with better weather to spend their time!
The Big Meadow
At the start of the last week of May the weather conditions changed a little, and the sun shone although there was still a very cool wind. The garden birds were still relying very much on the bird feeders but there were no young birds around in spite of many of our nest boxes being occupied. The Big Meadow grew rapidly and it was clear that there was going to be plenty of common knapweed again this year which is good news for finches and butterflies. Last year the lady’s bedstraw was spectacular but there seems to be less this year – such is the changeable nature of wildflower meadows. Buttercups though were putting on a wonderful show in long grass around the garden and it was obvious that this was going to be our best common spotted orchid year yet again – they increase year by year and are now all over the different areas of the garden as they seed prolifically. On the 25th two adult coal tits were seen feeding juveniles in the top of one of our trees in the and Copse and the male kestrel was again hunting over the garden later that day. As the weather warmed a little towards the end of the month the first damselfly – a Beautiful Demoiselle – floated through the sunny garden and suddenly early summer was upon us.