The Narcissi are starting to flower throughout the gardens at the start of the month while the Snowdrops (Galanthus) will be at the end of flowering.
Camellias are now flowering with increased vigour as the weather warms up, the collection is interesting with a selection of historic varieties that are less common in cultivation, work will commence on labelling specimens as they are identified. Following flowering the Camellias will be hard pruned to allow regeneration.
Volunteers have continued with their valuable work clearing Rhododendron ponticum and cutting back wild areas to allow for natural regeneration. The arisings are stacked in tidy piles that provide a place for wildlife to shelter or nest in. This style of management; though it appears drastic has been proven to increase the diversity of wildlife.
The garden staff are continuing to clean the streams and weed the beds.
The February storms did some damage to trees, most significantly to a 30m Canadian poplar (Populus x canadensis ‘eugenii’) in the Woodland Pheasantry Garden that lost a large limb leaving a tear out wound on the stem which compromised the structure of the tree to such an extent that we had to fell it. In the same area the one remaining 30m poplar will be pollarded to reduce the likelihood of this re-occurring.
Otherwise the population of trees fared well, with a few hawthorns and birch being blown over; the waterlogged ground provides poor anchorage for these shallow rooted trees.
The early spring bud burst means that we are racing against time to complete our winter re-pollarding programme.
The weather continues to be very mild and very wet. The good news is that the Brewhouse meadows are no longer flooded. This has allowed work to get underway to remove approximately a 1/3 of the reeds from the pools and to remove them completely from the connecting channels to allow the water to flow freely. This will benefit the amphibians who have suffered due to a lack of open water. Work is also being carried out to remove sediment from the Longford River to improve the flow of the river. Winter visiting birds are still low in numbers, Redwings being the only ones that have been very visible as they feed under the trees along Chestnut and Lime Avenue.
Skylarks will be return from farmlands in the south to stake a claim for a breeding 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.
For more bird news check out www.regentsparkbirds.blogspot.com which also covers Bushy Park - By Tony Duckett
Further information can be found on The Royal Parks web site or email firstname.lastname@example.org