Gardens have sprung into life and are now busy places full of all sorts of surprises. In the last week I have visited several friends’ gardens and found great tits nesting in a sparrow flat, a pair of collared doves sitting on a nest behind a broken security light on the house wall and, in my own garden, some strange little golden spiders clustered on the shed door. When I moved in closer to photograph them they scattered like ball bearings. The next morning they had criss-crossed the open door with threads spangled with little golden dots. I did some research and found they were garden spiderlings. They cluster together after hatching but scatter if danger threatens.
Under a sheet of corrugated iron, a young slow worm was coiled like copper wire. By the pond was a small newt. I picked it up and it crossed my palm with its cold dainty fingers. Glossy red ladybirds choose the shiniest green leaves to display their colour, while turquoise flies flash like tiny kingfishers amongst the foliage.
The wet weather has created snail and slug heaven. In the early morning snails slide over the fennel and make lace of the lupins – small stripy snails like humbugs, mellow yellow ones, large tawny garden snails and tiny brown whorls. I can’t bring myself to use slug pellets, even the wildlife friendly ones, just in case they harm the birds. Anyway, the snails themselves are beautiful so I’ll just have to put up with lacy lupins and holey hollyhocks.
Bees are immersing themselves in wells of nectar, becoming covered in bright yellow nuggets of pollen, their contented buzzing the soundtrack of summer days. House martins are wheeling around catching mayflies and other airborne bugs. The weather has been perfect for nest building with plenty of squidgy mud for plastering. A green woodpecker struts around in the long grass at the edge of the allotment enjoying the ants.
In a heathland garden, greater spotted woodpeckers – male, female and young – are visiting the bird feeder and scooting up the pine trees searching for bugs beneath the bark. An upside down nuthatch on the peanuts caused the great tits to wait nearby till it had finished feeding. The hierarchy on the bird table was interesting, small birds giving way to the larger ones and waiting patiently till the coast was clear. A rabbit was sitting upright in the field adjoining the garden, sun glowing through its ears.