The Narcissi are starting to flower throughout the Woodland Gardens at the start of the month while the Snowdrops (Galanthus) will be at the end of flowering.
Storm Doris caused a number of casualties in the Gardens, thirteen trees were lost in total, the worst damage was caused in birch glade with losing two mature alders and a number of birch trees, we are going to look at improving the drainage in the area to reduce the chance of losing more trees in the future.
Camellias are now flowering with increased vigour as the weather warms up, the collection looks to be an interesting one with a selection of historic varieties that are less common in cultivation, work will commence on labelling specimens as they are identified.
Volunteers have continued with their valuable work clearing weeds and tidying shrub beds around Fishers pond, Canada Glade , Camellia walk and near Ash walk in the Pheasantry Gardens. Some cleared areas have provided scope for replacing lost plants and will be planted up in the near future.
The garden staff will be renovating the shrub beds on the south side of the Pheasantry garden, the size of the beds will be reduced and plants added or moved to provide an aesthetically pleasing display with a longer seasonal interest
Towards the middle of the month we should have experienced our first warm days, meaning that spring is on its way. However a few winter visitors such as Siskin and Lesser Redpoll will be present, their numbers will sometimes increase in March, joined by birds that have wintered further south United Kingdom. Small mixed flocks may be found feeding on the Alder or Silver Birch trees in the Canal Plantation or Woodland Gardens, before heading northward to their breeding grounds in Scotland or Scandinavia. There will be a gradual decrease in the number of Redwings feeding in the park; these will also soon be heading back across the North Sea, though a few may have come from Iceland.
Skylarks, some of which may have over-wintered, will be staking a claim to a territory. They do this by soaring high in the sky and singing, before parachuting back down to the ground and chasing off any males that may have come too close. In recent summers we have taken steps to control the spread of Bracken in certain areas. Skylarks are a grassland species whose numbers in the United Kingdom have dropped by over 61% in the last 40 years. The Skylark breeding zone in the south-east corner of the Park has signs asking all dog walkers to keep their dogs on a short lead during the breeding season. This is very important and should not be flouted.
As the month nears its end our first summer visitors may be arriving. It is impossible to say though if these early Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have wintered in the UK or made use of a breeze that has carried them up from Southern Europe. Warm sunny days are ideal conditions for seeing large raptors, particularly Common Buzzard and Red Kite. These birds make use of the warm thermals and can attain great heights, which can cause them to drift away from their breeding areas further west in the Thames Valley.