Garden Views-04-April 2017

April began with a welcome change form the generally grey months of February and March, with a week of very sunny conditions, and towards the 8th, the winds switched to the South and temperatures climbed. Spring had arrived! However the clear skies at night meant slight frosts on many mornings. 

Although high pressure continued to dominate, by April 10th, the winds had swung to the North again, and it felt distinctly chilly once more. But great for catching up with burning brush from the winter’s hedging works.The high pressure weather system that dominated for much of the month continued, bringing stable, generally cool conditions into the last quarter of the month, with very little rain, when temperatures dropped again into single figures, to usher in a very chilly beginning to May. So the early start to bulb flowering was helped by longer than usual flowering times in later varieties, and once again Camassia leichtlinii overlapped with pale Narcissi to good effect.

Death is never very far from the scene at Gelli Uchaf, and as we waited for our few planned late lambs this year (we’re still getting a feel for optimum stocking density to manage our meadows for greater floral diversity, and entered 2017 with a total of 22 ewes), an ataxic polecat was noticed wobbling along our terrace paths and later found dead in a meadow – largely untouched as carrion,Whilst another Canada goose met an untimely end, just beyond our boundary hedge – piles of feathers appeared overnight, and a solitary bird flew in to our pond alerting us to its mate’s demise. Swallows returned this year in the valley on April 13th, but they were very late getting going on nest building – presumably because of a lack of insects in the cool conditions.

In our upper hay meadow, it looks like a bumper year for Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor, and the first cowslips flowered from seed scattered just a couple of years ago, though were quickly chomped by something (? rabbits), before I managed to get a decent photo. Lousewort, Pedicularis sylvatica, is now well established, along with Common dog-violets, Viola riviniana, on a mossy banked section of this meadow, giving a smattering of pretty pink and purple, nectar rich flowers, for the early bumblebees.

April 22nd saw fabulous sunshine flooding the scene for most of the day. And in a special day of seasonal firsts, the first Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, Orange-tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines, Bee-flies, Bombylius major, and down by the upper pond, a Large red damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, all put in their first appearances, of 2017.The month ended as being very dry, with a rainfall total of just 47.8 mm, quite cool after the warmth of March, but reasonably sunny as illustrated by the 410 KWH PV inverter record.