Spring has sprung!

“April brings the primrose sweet, scatters daisies at our feet”

Who’s been eating the Bluebells? 

So it has been a long winter. The rabbits and deer up at the House have been struggling to find food. For weeks the emerging bluebell leaves were being eaten as quickly as they were showing through the soil. A quick online search of Monty Don, the RHS and other endless websites all agreed that ‘nothing eats Bluebell leaves’  but something was eating ours! 

Could it possibly be Muntjac deer in Central Scotland? 

I now realise that it was the hungry, omnivorous roe deer.

Hungry deer!

The delayed Spring has stretched their depleted winter reserves to the limit and they were foraging for literally anything edible. Snow cover for many days and ice and frozen landscape has not yielded much sustenance for these poor creatures and many of the lower branches of the Portugese Laurel have been stripped of their leaves.

Clearly daffodils, rhododendrons and snowdrops must be toxic as these were untouched.

The pruned bough from one of the apple trees was absolutely stripped of any bark and fruit buds over three nights and a flowering quince has had one third of its branches nibbled bare and yet this, like the bluebell, is also on a list of deer resistant plants. It’s such a pity they don’t eat bracken and nettles.

Shelter among the trees 

Today I found a magical spot – snug against the lee of the walled garden are three flattened patches of moss. It’s easy to see that the deer were using this area to sleep and gain shelter from the worst of the scourging east wind as it blew all the way from Siberia. Most of our woodland is on the east side of the estate so there would have been little shelter for them in among the deciduous trees. I love to think of the deer pushing their way through the broken wooden bars of the rotting gate, nibbling some bark from the quince tree as they crept through in the twilight heading for a semi sheltered mossy bed, and some respite from the hard biting wind.

Unfortunately, we can’t let them continue coming into the the enclosed space and between them and the rabbits, we are going to have a difficult task trying to protect new shoots and plants from their ravenous jaws.

Smart crows & buzzards

Meanwhile, up above, the crows are busy building their treetop townships. They have a brilliant vantage point and whenever the local farmers are ploughing they quickly launch themselves in the direction of fresh worms and beetles.

Every now and then a solitary buzzard glides by which the crows absolutely hate. They take to the skies with much noise and flapping of wings trying to chase away the intruder but the graceful buzzard, wings outstretched, effortlessly out glides them, then just at the point when they seem to be gaining on him, folds his wings and plummets beneath them simultaneously changing direction and flying off at a tangent, completely outwitting them. I can watch it any number of times and marvel at their skill as they fly high and free realising that my ancestors since time began have experienced the same sense of wonder at the effortless flight of birds.

Migrating geese

Two evenings this week I have heard the unmistakeable sound of migrating geese and counted as large skeins, over two hundred birds apiece, in stunning formation swept across the skyline as they headed for home and northern breeding grounds. We shall not see them again until September or October when their arrival will once more mark the changing seasons.

Swelling buds 

Back down on the ground, there are weed seedlings and young nettles beginning to grow and the buds are swelling on the fruit trees. Gooseberry leaves are unfurling and each day brings more daffodil flowers and primroses. Soon we will see the first bright yellow dandelions as they carpet the roadside verges and slowly that pale green haze will spread across the hedgerow and woodland as the trees and hawthorn bushes begin to break into leaf.

Bluebells 

Happily, in the last week I noticed our bluebell plants are gaining in height and are now about five centimetres tall. This of course can only mean one thing – the grass has started growing!

by Margaret from the Gardening Volunteer Team 

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