The weather was yet again very variable and unseasonal at the start of the month of March, but in general it was cold and bright here in South Shropshire which was a pleasant change after the storms of February. Trips further afield from my Shropshire home at the start of the month gave me views of blackthorn and other Prunus species in full flower and also great views of a barn owl hunting, the first I have seen for some time. Back home in Shropshire a pair of local red kites continued to display over the fields surrounding my garden, at times they were low and very vocal. Lots of birds were feeding around the garden especially tits and finches and at least one of our tit boxes was occupied with a pair. This particular box is always the first to be used in spring. Two other tit boxes saw some interest, both from blue tits, and the pair of house sparrows we now have here were also checking out several potential nest locations! The front porch as usual was being investigated by a pair of wrens, although there was some robin activity there too plus a lovely flock of about 20 linnets was seen in our little copse of trees. Wet weather returned later in the first week of March though and more frog spawn appeared in two of our ponds, plus two new visitors – a pair of moorhens – took possession of the big pond at the end of the week. I am hopeful that they will stay around and breed here this spring.
The return of very wet and windy weather in the second week of the month was rather a disappointment and again parts of the garden were flooded but a few daffodils and primroses came into flower and brightened everything up. Both robins and wrens were still visiting the porch at the front of the house, so a robin nest box was placed in the hedge close by and roosting pockets, which wrens have used for breeding here in the past, were also placed strategically around the house. The porch is the one place where there is daily disturbance so my main task is to encourage these two species to nest a little further away where there is more chance of success. Lots of smaller birds including siskins were still feeding daily at the feeders and on the 13th a third moorhen appeared! The local red kites continued to display over the garden and surrounding fields and the house sparrows appeared to be checking out a variety of potential nest sites. Notable by their absence were bank voles, usually abundant in the garden here, but the saturated ground suggested that they had moved to drier locations further from the house.
The third week of March saw the moorhens well and truly settled in and one or more was seen every day, generally running rapidly around the garden like clockwork toys. Two local wild mallard also visited the ponds most days but conflict with the moorhens meant that they more often spent time on the pond in the field next door. On the 16th the weather was beautifully bright and sunny but the ground was still far too wet to attempt any gardening. The pair of house sparrows continued to sit on the hedges and were also seen investigating the house martins’ nest boxes under the eaves. Another bird seen frequently was the nuthatch, in fact a pair spent time on the feeders and they were also seen courtship feeding and visiting a nest box – the first time I have seen this here and a very positive sign for them breeding with us this year. This month was very much dominated by the birds around – mammals were few and far between and it was only at the very end of the month that the first butterflies were seen – two peacocks initially and later a small tortoiseshell but no sign of brimstone which breeds in the garden on our alder buckthorn, planted especially for that purpose. Queen bumblebees however were plentiful and there were more than we would usually see, flying low all around the grassy areas looking for potential nest sites. In spite of a mainly very wet and windy March though, the last few days of the month brought a glimpse of spring as the first cowslips came in to flower. A heron, and on one occasion two herons, visited the pond every morning for the whole week and our hawthorn hedges bursting into leaf meant a haze of bright green appeared all around our boundaries and trees. With much anxiety all around us at present, the garden and it’s wildlife continued the be a refuge and a great source of solace in these difficult times.