Derek – Friday 26th March
Spring will not be denied. It is everywhere in the garden. The equinox was last Saturday, when night and day are equal, in the crossover as the days stretch out to summertime. This weekend we play the usual game with the clocks, and bring forward dawn by an hour so there’s an extra hour of light in the evening. We get no more light but just have more of it when we are awake. This was brought in with the Summer Time Act of 1916; the rationale was to save energy during WWI.
There are swelling buds on the cherry, so expect a flurry of pink blossom in a few weeks. The willow sapling near the greenhouse has furry pussy-willow catkins. And about the garden are daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and tulips, the bulbs of spring. The Viburnum tinus which has been flowering all winter, with its bunches of white florets, is really showing off. It’s an evergreen and its long flowering season really puts privet to shame, an overused hedge, evergreen it is true, but dull in comparison. The forsythia by the large sycamore is in bloom, its yellow flowers on bare stems. This shrub was suffering last year, some of it dead. I wondered whether the nearby armillaria fungus had attacked it. But with a good pruning, it has recovered.
The frog spawn is swelling and has a mass of froth on top. Many of the embryos are now comma shaped, maturing on from spheres. I spot a water boatman by the spawn, that darts off immediately as if caught in the act. I suspect it of eating the jelly, or even getting through to the embryos. A few inches away, I see another predator, a damselfly nymph. They are homing in on the feast. Once the tadpoles have hatched, I am sure birds will join in.
A week ago, we found frog spawn in a dustbin lid that had filled with water. It would soon dry out, so we transferred the spawn to the pond. Under the lid was a large common frog, the size of a small pear, olive brown with touches of green. It didn’t move as I photographed it, relying on stillness and camouflage to protect it. Life is a lottery for frogs, very few make it from spawn to adulthood. They have no defence, and so have evolved the strategy of laying hundreds of eggs in the hope that a few will survive to mate and lay more spawn.
A strategy utterly careless of the individual.
Last week, the silver birch had only male catkins: yellow, dangling, speckled earrings. I wondered whether the tree was dioecious, meaning males are on one tree and females on another. I looked it up, and find out that the birch is monoecious, meaning both sexes are on the tree, but the female catkins come later with the leaves. And here they are, the leaves just coming and the female catkins too, brownish and thin, a quarter of the length of the male ones. Once you begin looking you see them everywhere on the tree.
I see a coal tit at the bird feeder under the sycamore. I keep stock still, as they are timid birds and any movement and it will be off. Very like the blue tit but with black cap rather than blue.
We await the government announcement that will tell us when gardens like ourselves can re-open to the public. Possibly the third week in April. We are eager to greet visitors. The tadpoles will be out and more spring flowers.
Share your thoughts