Primroses in flower

Wildlife Diaries from the Botanic Garden

Welcome to Wildlife Diaries. This is a collaboration between the Museum of Zoology and Cambridge University Botanic Garden, sharing the wildlife of the Garden as spring arrives. Join us for a special livestream at 5pm on April 1, when we will be joined by a panel of wildlife experts ready to answer your questions:

Livestream taking place 5pm on Thursday 1 April 2021
Page from Jenyns' notebook about swallowtail butterflies
Page from the notebooks of Leonard Jenyns

We have been inspired by the naturalists of the past – Charles Darwin, Gilbert White, Leonard Jenyns – who kept journals of their observations of the natural world. Each week up until the livestream the teams from the Botanic Garden and Museum of Zoology will be sharing diary entries of the signs of Spring in the Garden. Here is the first, taking us from January up until the first week of March. Why don’t you join in and keep a diary of sightings in your own garden or green space?

7 January 2021

It’s the middle of winter, but the signs of new life are already in the Garden. Some of our Snowdrops have already burst into bloom, with Galanthus elwesii var. elwessi being amongst the first . The heady scent of the winter flowering Sweet Box Sarcococca confusa and Daphne ‘Jacqueline Postill’ fills the air as you enter the Garden from the Brookside entrance. In the wilder area near the Cambridge Oak, there are buds on the primroses waiting to welcome in the spring and the Lords and Ladies are poking the tips of their leaves through the surface of the soil.

22 January 2021

The Winter Aconites are out along with a few Daffodils! The Hazel trees are covered in catkins. We’ve put out a wildlife camera in the Garden to see what’s about at night. Although it’s still cold, the Badgers are active every night. They don’t hibernate, but they may be inclined to sleep more when the weather is particularly bad and the ground is too hard to dig for earthworms which is their favourite food.

18 February 2021

The snowdrops are out in their full glory carpeting the Garden in white. They aren’t the only flowers to be in bloom. Primroses and Daffodils add splashes of spring colour. A mixture of Daffodils, Snowdrops and Winter aconite cover the ground beneath the bare trees along the western boundary. The first Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) blossom has appeared in the Cambridge hedge near the café! Leaves are also beginning to burst from their buds on some branches. Elder (Sambucus nigra) has just done so and is usually one of the first native tree species to burst its buds. We’ve now recorded this on Nature’s Calendar which is a citizen science project where you can submit your spring sightings (Nature’s Calendar ( We’ve also spotted hibernating Seven-spot Ladybirds all over the place, often in quite large groups, sometimes in quite exposed locations like the edges of benches or in the foliage of herbaceous vegetation. The birds are singing in the February sunshine, from Robins defending their territories to the trills of the Wren skipping in the wood pile and the insistent ‘teacher-teacher’ call of the Great Tits. We heard the first Song Thrush of the year singing back in mid January, but now they are much more vocal, repeating the same sounds two or three times in succession.

25 February 2021

As the Snowdrops start to wind down, the Daffodils take over the show and they now cover the ground beneath the trees, most of whom are still naked. The first furry catkins of Aspen (Populus tremula) were spotted today! The grove of Cornelian Cherry trees (Cornus mas) near the Cambridge Oak are now in full bloom, with clusters of tiny bright yellow flowers delighting visitors and providing a food source for the Great Tits who are starting to check out potential nesting spots.

2 March 2021

From the pale pink blossom of the Sweet Almond to the boughs of yellow on the Forsythia, splashes of colour can be found around the garden. And it is not just the humans that are enjoying the spring blooms, as bumblebess buzz from flower to flower. In the early evening, tawny owls can be heard calling to each other.

5 March 2021

Things are really starting to take off! More and more trees are awakening, many of the Prunus trees in the Garden are now in blossom, we await with bated breath for the spectacular Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) on the main lawn to burst into blossom, could it be next week? Its the iconic spring sight in the Garden and the date of first blossoming is a special occasion. Bird song is starting to really pick up, with robins, blue and great tits, wrens, blackbirds, song thrushes, coal tits and others all singing their hearts out. It’s the males singing for a mate. We were really excited to spot the first flower of Purple Toothwort (Lathraea clandestina) today, poking its head above ground near the lake! Its a root parasite and the only time you know its there is in the spring when it flowers. We think this one may be parasitising the roots of the nearby Willow trees (Salix sp.).

Daffodils and helebores in the Botanic Garden

Take a look at Wildlife Diary 6-12 March 2021 for badgers, bats, bees and more.

3 thoughts on “Wildlife Diaries from the Botanic Garden

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