April – It rained some more…

In South West England the season of renewal arrived riding an endless grey cloud. However there was the odd afternoon when you could venture out and have a nose at life in the Garden. We even managed to clock several more species for our Garden list.

Our first newbie was our third member of the buttercup family, in the form of Lesser Celandine. Isn’t it fabulous and no stranger to these parts, as it grows extensively in the nearby woodlands. We haven’t yet seen any of the Meadow Buttercup, the seed of which was found in the mix we purchased and sowed in 2022, but fingers crossed.

Lesser Celandine – Ficaria verna – 7th April 2023

Celandine was introduced to the Garden following a walk last year in one of our local nature reserves (Nightingale Valley). A dog scrambling out of a brook dislodged a large clump, which we brought home and potted up. We thought it had wilted and died, so didn’t think anything more of it. Then this spring we noticed it’s leaves and before we knew it, it had flowered. It spreads vegetatively and can become a problem species. But for now we will keep an eye on it as it is a welcome early flowering species.

Next up was a tiny insect we had no idea existed, Notiophilus biguttatus – Common Springtail-stalker. Identified by the second elytral interval being wider than the 3rd to 5th combined and on the 4th interval there is a single and clearly distinguishable indentation.

Notiophilus biguttatus – Common Springtail-stalker – 8th April 2023

It’s a fairly common species and as it’s name implies, it does like to hunt Springtails. Indeed this fella was recorded on our moss cover steps. Moss which we know supports large colonies of springtails and mites. Apparently it feeds during the day so we are a little surprised not to have recorded one before now. Although they are relatively small, 6mm or so, perhaps easily missed.

Our next new comer we were very much expecting and had simply been waiting to flower to confirm it’s identity. We started to notice a small patch of sedges growing near the wildlife hotel last year. As we have stated elsewhere on this site, we suspect the nearby housing development has altered the hydrology of the Garden and allowed this species to move in (we didn’t introduce it ourselves). The Pendulous Sedge or Carex pendula has a very distinct flowering head once it is produced.

Pendulous Sedge – Carex pendula – 20th April 2023

We may need to keep an eye on this species, as it can become aggressive and spread. But it is also good shelter for invertebrates and seeing as it made the effort to arrive of its own accord, we will see how it gets on. This is only our 11th confirmed species of Monocotyledon (although we know of at least one more we should soon be adding to the list, red fescue). It also produces large amounts of pollen as shown below, a good food source for a number of invertebrates.

It’s rare for us to get the chance to film wild mammals, let alone add one to the species list. But on the 22nd April, whilst doing some spring cleaning in the top area of the garden, two House Mice – Mus musculus, apparently oblivious or unconcerned by our presence, happily rummaged around by our feet looking for a snack.

House Mice – Mus musculus – 22nd April 2023

We also added our 17th species of spider to the Garden list this month as we welcomed the identification of Tetragnatha montana. Took a while to identify this fella as we only had a view of the underside.

Tetragnatha montana – 29th April 2023

Away from new species, what the heck is going on here?

Bubbling Behaviour

This fly was observed early in April, on one of the warmer days, blowing bubbles. A quick foray online provided the answer to this behaviour. Apparently it’s a way for the little guy to stay cool, with heat transferring from its body to the surrounding air via this bubble, which it can deflate and blow up repeatedly, although deflate is likely a misnomer as the bubble is in fact completely liquid.

As for the garden itself. Not yet in full bloom but the following species have all flowered already. Hazel, Primrose, Dandelions, Bittercress, Herb Robert, Green Alkanet, Pendulous sedge and Bluebells. And as can be seen below the wildflower patches sown last year are coming along nicely, compare the images taken on the 7th and 29th April and you can see why we are hoping for a bumper crop.

Wildflower patches – 7th April 2023
Wildflower patches – 29th April 2023

Species in these patches includes Oxeye Daisy, Ribwort Plantain, Small Scabious, Yarrow, Sorrel, Wild Carrot and Musk Mallow. We are still concerned with the vigour of the grass growth. One concern is the nutrients added repeatedly by our little dog, nutrients which the quicker growing grasses are better able to use to their advantage than the wildflowers.

Plantago lanceolata – Ribwort Plantain – Flowering 29th April 2023

In terms of unwanted species. We have been concerned as mentioned before, about certain species dominating and we have continued to try and control the following species this spring as they appear. We don’t necessarily want to eradicate them but likewise we want to make sure they don’t out compete other species.

The naughty list continues to be. Herb Robert, Bittercress (wavy and hairy), Dandelions, Bind Weed, Cleavers and Docks (curled). Green alkanet is still proving to be aggressive but generally easier to control and as it flowers from March-November, we are inclined to allow it to flourish in places. We are also starting to become concerned with the spread of ivy from the retaining wall. The ivy has never flowered but has taken over most of the area around the wildlife pond and is spreading onto all levels of the Garden. We will have to give it a good trim this spring to knock it back to where we want it.

We ended the month with the first moth trapping of the year on the 29th April, only recorded 4 species, Nut Tree Tussock, Light Brown Apple Moth, Emmelina monodactyla and not actually in the trap but located nearby a Brimstone moth.

Moth Trap.28.04.2023

On a final note, it seems we should finally be able to put to rest our concerns over the garden flooding. Good to their word, although it took nearly 2 years, Bristol City Council have installed a soak away in the lane behind the Garden which should drain the lane before any flooding can occur. Time will tell, but the gravel area is significant as can be seen below.

Installed Soakaway In Lane Behind Garden – 01.05.2023