As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Spring is now in full swing at Winkworth, although given the changeable and often chilly weather in the last week to ten days, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Still, the trees, flowers, birds and insects around the arboretum cannot hide the fact that the season of new life is very much upon us.
Down in Bluebell Wood a pair of Mandarin Ducks have been regularly seen up in the Oaks, presumably looking for a suitable hole in which to nest. Chiffchaff numbers are steadily increasing now, with at least six present on the 23rd.
Mandarin Duck pair in Bluebell Wood
There appear to be two pairs of Grey Wagtails holding territory now - one along the dam at the northern end of Rowe's Flashe Lake and one around the car park and property office area.
In addition to the regular cast of Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Coots, etc on Rowe's Flashe Lake, Pochards have been a fairly constant presence for a while now, with numbers peaking at five drakes and one female on the 16th. Kingfishers are becoming a more frequent sight also, and there were two present on the morning of the 23rd. On the 24th a female Mute Swan was seen on the water briefly in the morning - the first time I've seen one here in the nearly six months I've been a gardener. Twenty-four Canada Geese on the 20th was a particularly high count. The pair of domestic Greylag Geese appear to be nesting, with the presumed female now spending a lot of time curled up on the gabions on the west side of the lake.
Grey Wagtail male
The squealing of the Water Rail continues to be heard regularly down in the Phillimore Wetland, and a pair of Marsh Tit are also still around.Buzzards and Sparrowhawks have been seen most days lately, with at least six of the former soaring overhead on the 20th. Red Kites were seen on the 17th, 19th, 20th, 22nd and 24th. All previous records of this species I've seen at Winkworth have been birds flying over, but the one on the 17th was notable by the fact that it was the first time I'd seen one perched in a tree here, just across the field from the northern end of Bluebell Wood. It was a misty morning so excuse the poor photo!
Red Kite in the mist
Other bits of note in the past few days include a Reed Bunting calling in the Phillimore Wetland on the 24th, and regular Red-legged Partridge calling in the fields just to the east of the lower arboretum boundary.
On the 23rd March there seemed to be a northward surge of Meadow Pipits right across Surrey, and various skyward glances throughout the day yielded small groups moving over the arboretum.
Ravens were seen on the 19th - when one flew west - and the 23rd, when two birds were seen circling high above the upper arboretum.
There are new flowers opening all the time in the arboretum now, particularly on some of the Rhododendrons, Acers and Magnolias. One Rhododendron near the car park is proving particularly popular with insects like this Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) pictured below.