Progress in the garden is slow as one would expect in January, but there is always plenty going on and worth keeping an eye out for firsts of the year.
Firsts of the year!
Blackbirds, Carrion Crows, Black caps, Robins, Blue Tits, Gold Finch and Starlings have all been about in good numbers. A small patch of Hairy Bittercress became the first plant to flower this year (on the 3rd January), closely followed by the Hazel, who’s catkins opened and its tiny red flowers emerged to be pollinated, thus ensuring a crop of Hazel Nuts this coming year.
We finally had our first significant frost on the 14th January, with the wetland pond freezing over completely. We ended up with a few days of frosts but no sign of snow. Indeed we had some very mild weather.
New species already!!!
We’ve already recorded some new species this year to add to the project list. Having ended 2021 with a list of 406 species, we have now jumped to 411. As per the previous blog there was the spider Zygiella x-notata, which since first recording we are noticing everywhere. Also two new snail species, a Glass Snail – Aegopinella nitidula (left below) and the Girdled Snail – Hygromia cinctella (right below).
Add to this a tiny species of woodlouse called Trichonsicoides sarsi (left below) and our first identified Springtail Dicyrtomina saundersi (right below), both of which require a microscope to identify. The microscope revealed several other species, including at least 3 other species of springtail and a mite which we are yet to identify. Plus what we think is a soldier fly larvae.
One regular visitor, in fact an almost permanent visitor to the garden, are the midges that swarm around the ponds. We are yet to attempt to capture and identify one. But even in the middle of January, when not much else is stirring, here they are again, swarming and mating and making our heads itch (not that these ones bite).
The wildlife pond on the middle layer of the garden was cleared of much of its silt in December (see below), to lower the pond nutrients and be more favourable to a greater variety of wildlife. No signs of amphibians returning to the pond yet, but hoping to hear some noise in the coming weeks.
Since we noted the bottom of the garden flooding in the summer, we have also noticed that many of the more invasive species in the garden, particularly those that like wet conditions have spread. This is likely because the flooding occurred during heavy rainfall just as many flowering plants were setting seed. Most notably over the winter we have seen Hairy Bittercress, Curled Dock and Creeping Buttercup pop up in good numbers. We spent a good amount of time plucking Bittercress from all over the garden, amassing a large pile, but it keeps appearing in new locations and we may have a fight on our hands.
The creeping buttercup last year was found solely under the hazel / maple border. However a new patch has formed adjacent to the new wetland area as shown below (left). We decided we needed to nip this spread in the bud, so we firstly raked the whole patch to remove much of the leaf area and hopefully break the rhizomes by which it spreads.
To further attack the rhizomes we then made repeated 20mm cuts into the soil using a shovel (left below) and have since covered the whole area with pond liner to help prevent it recovering (right below). How successful this will be we will find out in the spring, but already we are finding new patches emerging.
That’s probably enough for now, but plenty going on as usual.