Lots to talk about again from the past couple of weeks. It's been a mixed bag on the weather front, with some good spells of sunshine mixed in with showers and more prolonged spells of rain, frost and some high winds which led to the arboretum closing early on 5th May. Nonetheless, the place is looking incredible - so much colour, scent and new life. The shift to south/south-westerly winds during the first week of the month brought with it more new migrants and by the 6th there were at least four singing Garden Warblers around the arboretum - this one showing (and singing) very well by Rowe's Flashe Lake.
We now have at least one pair of Cuckoos on site, both seen well together by the garden team on the edge of the Phillimore Wetland on the 13th, although I am certain there have been two singing males around. The senior gardener captured this video clip of one singing right by the main gate early on the 10th.
On the subject of singing, the dawn chorus walk on the 3rd produced a total of thirty-eight species - not bad given the rather miserable conditions, although Jonnie's engaging leadership and Tina's fried breakfast made for a very enjoyable morning despite the weather!
Up above the arboretum, meanwhile, the first Swift of the year was noted flying east on the 5th, while Sorbus Hill is proving to be the best spot to see House Martins with at least eight hawking around low over the trees on the 11th. Swallows remain a common sight flitting low over Rowe's Flashe Lake.
Talking of Rowe's Flashe, that brings me on to the babies mentioned in the blog title...
The second week of the month saw a burst of new life, with at least twenty-three Mallard ducklings present on the 11th, including this family group on the meadow side of the lake.
The female Little Grebe is still on the nest towards the southern end of the lake, although she vacated her position just long enough on the 11th for me to catch a glimpse of at least one chick.
Meanwhile, on the 12th there were five Mandarin ducklings to add to the list (sadly I wasn't able to get a photo), along with our first Canada goslings of the season. In the trees along the dam there was also a family party of Long-tailed Tits. Other birds I've noted clearly gathering food for nestlings include Robin, Coal Tit and Blackbird, while there are at least three active Jackdaw nests around the arboretum now - listen carefully down in Bluebell Wood and you may hear the muted squawking of the young emanating from one of the Oaks.
Roe Deer remain a common sight around the arboretum, most frequently seen along the Spring Walk or in Bluebell Wood, while on the 11th a regular visitor told me she had seen a Stoat with young in Rowe's Flashe Meadow.
While erecting a fence in the upper arboretum this past week the garden team encountered two very striking beetles. Firstly, this Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)...
followed by the Black-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa coccinea)
Some warmer spells towards the middle of the month have seen more butterflies taking to the wing in the arboretum. Species seen so far in May have been Holly Blue, Orange-tip, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Peacock and Speckled Wood (pictured below).
As a final point, if you're interested in reading a short piece about the arboretum I penned for local magazine, The Bridge, you can find it here.