March began with calmer, warmer weather than we had recently experienced, which was very welcome after the fierce storms of previous month and the weather was quite spring like on a few days at the beginning of the month! The flowering currant bush in the garden at the back of the house was well in covered with scented pink flowers but initially there were no bumblebees visiting. Several siskins were now feeding around the garden with two bright yellow males singing beautifully. There was still no sign of any frogspawn hatching in the small pond in spite of the spring like weather. The local wild mallard pair visited the big pond on several occasions but showed no signs of being settled here. Through the first week of the month some essential work on our little copse of trees was completed. This area was planted as a tree nursery before we acquired the house and garden and the saplings, all native species, had outgrown the area and were shading other more open parts of the garden. The coppicing work was done with great care and the wood was stacked in various parts of the garden to create wildlife friendly log piles. All of the wild cherries were left as their blossom attracts a variety of insects in early spring plus a single young oak on one corner was left untouched, but other trees were coppiced to let in light to the ground beneath. It will be good to see the ground flora regenerate. On the 6th of the month our local male moorhen returned to the big pond for the third year but there was no sign of the female this week.
Peacock Butterfly nectaring on Primrose Flowers
The second week of March began with quite cool and windy weather. For the first time in several weeks a sparrowhawk came through the garden – a very handsome individual with a very white breast. The weather continued to be cool and windy and a male bullfinch was seen in the garden on the 10th plus and a single red kite floated over the garden most days. The 11th was a miserable, wet and windy day but there were large numbers of bluetits using the feeders and many chaffinches feeding on the ground beneath. At lunchtime on the 11th the female moorhen appeared so we now have a pair here as we did last year. Hopefully they will breed successfully again! Both birds trotted through the garden together and jumped into the big pond. looking very contented and familiar with their surroundings! On the 12th two pairs of beautiful siskins were still feeding in the garden but the moorhens had moved to the larger pond in the field next door. A little flock of long-tailed tits visited every day and on the 14th of the month two queen bumblebees were seen in the nectar garden feeding on the flowering currant bush.
The third week of March began with a gorgeous male brimstone butterfly flying around the alder buckthorn shrub – their larval food plant, just outside my office window and then flying off across the Big Meadow. One of the male siskins, singing beautifully from the top of the big hazel, was sometimes joined by the second and several females were around the garden this week. The weather continued to be mild and sunny at times and primroses and violets were beautifully in flower down the lane outside my house. However there was still no sign of chiffchaff or blackcap around the garden and no chiffchaffs were heard down my lane or in the local woodland. A blackbird though was singing most days and there was a wonderful skylark singing over the garden every day, usually visible in the clear blue sky. Under foot the garden, especially the big meadow, was very wet even though we have had no rain for some time.
The last week of the month continued to be warm, bright and very sunny and it was possible to believe that spring had arrived early. Several butterflies were seen in the garden this week, especially speckled wood, and a peacock was seen nectaring on primroses in the copse. The mallard pair was still on the pond next door but sometimes visited our pond in the early mornings. All the usual birds were seen around the garden and bank voles were observed running from the back garden border into the cowslip meadow. There was still no sign of tadpoles though and I began to wonder if they had been eaten by great crested newts in the small pond or even by the moorhens. As the week progressed the primroses in Dormouse Wood burst into flower and cowslips began to show in the cowslip meadow. On the 26th the first chiffchaff was heard and two were seen on the edge of Dormouse Wood plus a third was singing in the old hawthorn by the vegetable garden. A pair of robins was seen courtship feeding towards the end of the month, one taking food from the border I was tidying and daintily feeding the other on the other side of the nectar garden.
The month ended with a single bright jay in the garden plus a lovely male orange tip in the vegetable garden. feeding on wild forget-me-not flowers. It certainly felt as though spring had arrived but as is likely in the South Shropshire Hills, possibly not for very long!