As I write we are experiencing one of the latest and coldest springs for many years. In most of the recent springs frogs had returned to my pond before the end of February but this year they did not appear until March 8th and then only stayed a couple of days. It is now mid March and still I await their return.
Although the snow drops have been out for two months, daffodils are reluctant to break from their buds and only a few Lesser Celandines are brave enough to show their blooms.
You are probably quite pleased that you have not had to mow the lawn yet, but the lack of grass growth has serious consequences for our livestock farmers. Dairy cows which would normally be out happily grazing a flush of new grass growth are still inside. Many farms are already running out of maize and grass silage which leaves them no alternative but to purchase expensive feed adding to their already crippling costs. It is a sad fact that many dairy farmers are selling milk at below their production costs and the late spring can only add to their problems.
The hard weather we have experienced is also bad news for our bird population, but like many of you, I endeavour to make a difference by ensuring those that visit my garden are well fed.
Most of the natural food resources in my garden have long been utilised; such as the windfall bramleys and crab apples, that proved so popular with blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings earlier in the winter and the berry supply had mostly been exhausted by the end of the autumn. So now the birds rely on the food I put out and in answer to frequent questions below is a list of what I have regularly put out this winter and what it has attracted so far:-
Peanuts in hanging containers. Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Greenfinches, House sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Siskins, Starlings, Robins, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits and Long-tailed Tits.
Black Sunflowers in hanging containers. Greenfinches (sometimes over 30!), House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches and the four tits mentioned above.
Niger Seed in special feeder. Goldfinches and occasional Siskins.
Fat Balls. G.S.Woodpecker, Starlings and Tits.
Wheat, barley and maize grain on ground. Up to 14 yellowhammers all together in mid March, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, Robins, Pheasant (one cock pheasant daily), Woodpigeons, Collared Doves. Goldcrest - exceptionally one under the bird table during hard weather in March.
Mixed small seeds on table. Sparrows, Chaffinches, Robin and Tits. Apples and other fruit. Fieldfares, Redwings, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Starlings. Meat and fat. Jackdaws, Starlings, Blackbirds, Robins and Tits.
The RSPB recommend feeding birds all the year round, but if you don't do this you should consider putting food out well in to May when natural sources of food can still be quite scarce.
Before the end of March the first migrant birds will have returned. Chiffchaff's will be singing their names in the local woods and spinneys and the gravel pits at Baston should be hosting the first returning Sand Martins and Little Ringed Plovers. The wheatear is another early migrant; the sea wall at Witham Mouth is always worth a look but inland birds can be quite common, so keep an eye out on the local fens. By early March five Avocets had joined an individual that wintered on the lagoon at RSPB Frieston Shore.
By early April, given favourable winds, migrants should be pouring in and our local woods will once more resonate to the sounds of warblers and nightingales. Not forgetting to our hardy resident species many of which have cheered a cold grey dawn and gladdened our hearts with their songs. Perhaps no songster is hardier than the Mistle Thrush. The Rippingale Mistle Thrushes commenced singing early in January and often live up to their colloquial name of Storm Cock by perching atop the highest tree singing defiantly in the most inclement weather.
Look out for insects too. Any sunny day, even as early as February can induce the lovely Brimstone to fly, and Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Speckled Woods all enjoy the spring sunshine.
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