At this time of year, we find a ‘first flower’ of the season almost every day. Last week, a guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) I had been watching closely in one of the hedges came into flower (nearly a month earlier than last year) and on the bank below it a columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) came into flower joining greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) wood millet (Milium effusum) and red campion (Silene dioica).
Guelder-rose in blossom
Just a couple of months ago when these plants were not even in bud we were completing our winter coppicing and hedge-laying programme. Coppicing continues on rotation. Some of the coppiced hazel is used for stakes and binders for hedges as illustrated below.
A few weeks ago as the hours of daylight were gradually lengthening, we were cheered by signs of spring growth through the decomposing leaf litter. The leaf tips of Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum), have been pushing up since the end of December, as well as the smaller spikes of bluebell leaves. First flowers are late this year, compared to the past few years. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) flowered on 2 February, 11 days later than last year, and daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) appeared on 20 February – 17 days later than last year.
With few flowers in sight we have carried out surveys of common fungi and the distribution of these common species throughout the garden. Fungi forays are generally associated with autumn – the most productive months for larger fungi such as mushrooms and toadstools. However there are many attractive species present through all seasons and a search early in the new year can be rewarding.
A little over a month ago, the Museum applied for planning permission to continue with an ambitious transformation of its outdoor spaces. Drs John Tweddle, Paul Kenrick and Sandy Knapp of the Museum’s Science Group provide the background to the project and clarify its impact on the Wildlife Garden.
This week marks 21 years since the establishment of the Museum’s Wildlife Garden – a wonderfully green and diverse space tucked away in the western corner of our South Kensington grounds. Since then these habitats have been actively managed and have matured into their current condition.
Vibrant and verdant colours in the Wildlife Garden at the west end of the Museum
The anniversary gives us a moment to reflect on how the Museum and its partners are contributing to inspiring people to look more closely at wildlife around them – something that’s a hugely important part of our jobs – and to look forward to how we can make even more of this in the future.
As the daylight hours gradually lengthen, the Wildlife Garden is becoming greener by the day, and ever noisier as the spring chorus of our resident blackbirds, robins, wrens, finches and tits fills the air. The woodland floor is bursting into life with different shaped buds breaking open daily – greater stitchwort today, yellow archangel, wild garlic and wood sorrel earlier this week.
But the current star of the show is the primrose – the first woodland plant of the year, now blooming profusely throughout our different habitats. Museum Botanist, Fred Rumsey, tells us more about this beautiful plant…
A brand new citizen science project from the Museum and Earthwatch Institute is inviting you to get digging to explore the underground world of earthworms. By taking part in Earthworm Watch, you’ll be contributing to world class research into soil health.
Lucy Robinson, Citizen Science Manager, getting hands on with earthworms in the Museum’s wildlife garden.
Taking part is easy. Choose your garden, a local park, allotment, school grounds or a nature reserve as your study site, grab a trowel and a free survey pack and you’re ready to go.
Reports of early spring sightings throughout the country have been coming in for weeks now… not surprising since it’s been the warmest winter since records began. In the Museum’s garden those early signs have included wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) that flowered on 3 February – nearly a month earlier than the previous 3 years; and another early plant record – our first primrose (Primula vulgaris) flowered before mid-winter’s day, again nearly a month earlier than last year but more about primroses in the next blog.
The fantastic Mr Fox in the wildlife garden
No records for our amphibians yet as the cold spell these last few weeks seem to have deterred early movements from breeding frogs and toads – usually in our pond in mid-March.
We are also waiting patiently for signs of fox cubs, first spotted last year by Daniel Osborne at the end of March. On most days we catch sight of the adults that have made the wildlife garden their home and hope to share some sightings with you on video. In the meantime, Daniel, who followed their movements closely last year gives an account of his observations…
As the end of the year draws closer, my mind has cast back to another story about bats… Well it’s not just that I’m obsessed with bats, but I do like sharing good news – in autumn we found that we have two species of bats newly visiting the wildlife garden.
Tree surgeon Liam attaches an Anabas recorder to our lime tree and bat activity was monitored from 24 Aug until 26 Sep
During the week of our Bat Festival and International Bat Night, and through the help of Philip Briggs of the Bat Conservation Trust and tree surgeons Liam and James from Wassells Arboriculture, an Anabat recorder was installed in the lime tree overlooking the pond. This provided us with a new way to register bats visiting our small patch of London.