April Wildlife: What to Look Out for in Nature This Month
Unbelievably, as I type, it is still snowing outside. We were all up-in-arms about snow in March (and it snowed really quite a lot in March) but no one really expected it to be going strong into April. There were some bright hopeful days, but they were few and far between. If this was this time last year, I’d be freaking out because I’d be about to head off on a road trip to the Isle of Iona on the west coast of Scotland to get married in quite a summery dress. Instead, last year, it was all spring flowers and sunshine and the things you expect in Spring! I am going to proceed with this blog as if that is the going to be the case very soon. But really, who knows.
We had my sister here for Easter weekend last weekend, which was lovely. We walked down to the field-across-the-river to watch the lapwings do their wonderful/crazy display flight. The male lapwings do this fabulous tumbling dipping display to attract a mate, accompanied by the distinctive ‘peewit’ call which sounds like some strange broken answerphone machine. The ‘peewit’ call and the sky-dance are strong markers of the progress of Spring, so we can rest assured that even if it’s still snowing outside, the seasons are progressing. This is not an eternal winter. While we were on our walk we also had a chat with a pair of oyster catchers, startled a beautiful hare, and saw lots of bouncing white bunny-tails.
It feels like there’s a lot to like about April. Even her showers seem pleasant and manageable compared to the winds and pouring rain of the winter that preceded. April is a genteel lady among months. There’s so much activity to spot in April too. Things are reappearing and popping up and arriving back everywhere you look.
First off, the trees are back in bud. The green is returning! There’s two general rules to the timing of the appearance and disappearance of the leaves on the trees in Spring & Autumn:
One: the taller the tree, the later it will come in to leaf.
Two: Deciduous trees tend to be either long or short-season, so if they come into leaf early they will most likely shed later, and vice versa. Ash leaves are among the first out and the last to fall in autumn.
There’s a saying that goes: “Oak before ash, we’ll have a splash, ash before oak, in for a soak.” Did anyone notice which was in bud first this year?
Secondly, there are flowers and potential-flowers everywhere, all of a sudden. The woodland floors are carpeted with wild garlic (is there anything greener than the green of wild garlic leaves?). The spring flowers are in peak colourful gorgeousness – daffodils along the sides of the roads, fat-headed tulips, grape hyacinths, crocuses, wood sorrel, chionadoxa, primroses. The first sign of blossom. And the weeds will be back soon! Sweet daisy heads and buttercups and dandelions grace us with their presence again. The flowers bring the insects, the insects feed the birds, and the circle of life continues.
My personal favourite day every year is the first time I see the swallows back in the village. Last year they arrived back on the 18th of April. Apparently they are arriving two weeks earlier than they did in the 1960s. I love thinking that at this very moment, the same swallows are flapping toward us on their crazy journey, determined to end up back in our little village. And with them come the swifts, cuckoos, nightingales and warblers. The skies fill up with birds and insects and bats and moths and bees.
Hopefully by the time I write my May update, we’ll have had a few more of those delicious yellow days of sunshine and colour. We’ll be full of hope for a long sunny summertime. Until then, stay warm friends!
If you need more Spring joy, there’s a short-list of The Best Thing About Spring in this blog post.