Wildlife To See – April
Remember to keep dogs on a lead during the bird breeding season (1st March to 31st July) and avoid nesting birds, particularly those that nest on the ground such as curlew, lapwing and grouse.
Bird song fills the air, from the dawn chorus to courtship and territorial displays or even fights between robins.
Watch out for swallows, blackcap, whinchat, redstart, little ringed plover, warblers and cuckoos arriving whilst redwings, fieldfares, snow buntings and some wildfowl and wading birds leave.
Some of our resident bird species may also have their first bird broods, look out for adult blue tits and blackbirds feeding their young.
Badgers are active, sets have been spring-cleaned and adults forage each night. The young are born from mid-January to mid-March and remain in the breeding chamber for around eight weeks, therefore the baby badgers may be seen above ground for the first time.
Amphibians And Reptiles:
Any remaining frogspawn hatches into tadpoles and so does toadspawn. Adult toads leave the ponds.
Butterflies and bees forage for food. As well as the more common butterflies such as peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell also look out for some of the less common ones such as holly blue and brimstone. The peacock butterfly has the largest eyespot of any British butterfly.
Eyespots scare predators such as birds and lizards. The Brimstone is an important pollinator of primroses, whereas its caterpillars feed only on the leaves of the buckthorn and alder buckthorn shrubs. The adults often over winter amongst ivy.
During late April swarms of St Mark’s flies maybe seen with their longish black legs trailing lazily beneath them as they fly around. They are a valuable food source for newly arrived migrant birds as well as our resident birds.
Look out for caddisfly larvae if you go pond dipping. The larvae have soft bodies which they cover with protective cases made with particles of sand and gravel and pieces of plants etc. The different species of caddisfly build a different type of case, which is exactly the same length as the larva because sensory tips on the end of the tail are used to measure the case for size!
Orange tip butterflies emerge in April but it is only the male that has orange-tips on its forewings. However, the underside of the wing in both sexes is a mottled pattern of yellow and black with a moss green colouring, which provides excellent camouflage when they settle on flowers. The eggs are laid on cuckooflower and garlic mustard. The females only lay one egg per plant because the caterpillars will become cannibals if they have to compete for food!
Trees And Shrubs:
Fresh green leaves appear in adundance on trees and shrubs while wild fruit trees are heavily laden with blossom,
Ash trees flower and the mass of purple flowers look like large swollen buds.
Gorse blooms on acidic soils, its yellow pea flowers smelling of coconut or vanilla. Gorse provides a very important food source for insects.
Marsh marigold or kingcup flowers beside ponds and streams, primroses cluster on sunlit hedgerows, bluebells carpet the woodland floor and cowslips and orchids feature in meadows and roadside verges.
In some of the older woodlands clumps of the native wild daffodil still survive. The wild plants have smallish yellow flowers and the central trumpet is quite cylindrical – don’t be fooled by the multitude of garden varieties.
The Early Purple Orchid is the first orchid of the year to flower and is one of the commonest orchids in Britain. Most orchids don’t have a strong smell but the early purple orchid’s scent can be quite offensive and has been compared to the smell of a tomcat!
Garlic mustard is a member of the cabbage family and is also known as Jack-by-the-Hedge or hedge garlic. It has soft, nettle-shaped and slightly hairy leaves, which smell of garlic and can be eaten in salads.
Also look out for barren strawberry, violets, wood-sorrel, wood anemone, wild garlic, meadow buttercup and cow parsley.