May Wildlife: What to look out for in nature this month
We’re already 14 days into May & it has been quite marvellous so far – lots of blue skies and pink blossom. The swifts arrived back in the village last week, joining the swallows and martins, and filling the sky with looping joy.
One of the most lovely things about May is watching the birds busying around with nesting material and then zipping back and forth to the nest with food for demanding, loud-mouthed youngsters.
I read this delightful piece about springtime and wrens recently:
“On baby wrens hatched in a hanging flower basket, the sun shines through silky leaves and flapping flowers and glittery rain, which inspires earthed worms to unearth themselves. The spring winds may send the nest of wrens swinging, but swinging with geraniums. In the warm flowered sunlight, the newborn wrens begin to riot. Their riots are perpetually rewarded with worms. The only hint of winter for the wren, when the wren is young, is that flowers close at night.”
from ‘Things That Are’ by Amy Leach
Wrens are known to build their ball-shaped nests in all sorts of unusual spots, including hanging baskets and flower pots. Anywhere that is tucked away and warm. Wrens are amongst my favourite home-makers. Other nesters of note are the robin, who has been known to make a nest under a car bonnet for her perfect blue eggs, and the Long Tailed Tit who is the most fastidious of our nest builders. They build bottle-shaped nests that are constructed from moss, hair and cobwebs, camouflaged with layers of lichen, and lined with up to 1,500 feathers. Both parents work on the build. Their carefully crafted constructions can take up to three weeks to build. The parents usually start building quite early in the season, perhaps in February. They are capable of doing a week-long rush-job, though, if they’ve left it a bit late in the season. The stretchy design of the nest takes into account the expanding space that will be needed for a growing family of 8 – 12 chicks. But after 18 days of rapidly growing chicks the nest will almost be at breaking point and it is time for the little ones to fledge.
A couple of years ago I read a wonderful book called ‘Nest: the Art of Birds’ by Janine Burke. She says: “The word ‘nest’ conjures fundamental notions of home, family, privacy, shelter and rest. It’s a word of embrace, of origins, both visceral and tender.” Burke’s thesis is that birds as nest-builders have a sense of style and beauty as well as function. Whether nature can appreciate beauty is a much-debated topic, but it cannot be denied that to the human eye there is a great deal of beauty in a nest. Burke quotes a photographer who says:
“I loved the quiet, subdued palette, and the shapes created by the form-follows-function of the nest builder themselves. I loved the amazing variety of content and construction, the way materials become like line and brush stroke.”
Have you got a nest in your garden that you’d like to identify the owner of? There’s a nice guide to nest-identification here.
Other than nest-tending and fledglings, there’s so much going on in May-time. There’s ducklings, tadpoles, bluebells, blooming hawthorn . The flycatchers, cuckoos and nightingales arrive back. Seabirds fill every available space on the sheer cliff-faces. It’s all going on!
In our house, we keep a tally of how many times a month we eat our tea in the garden. Last summer started strong but tailed off as the summer got wetter and wetter. This May, we’re full of hope for a warm and dry summer (the annual hope: never fulfilled but so delicious). We’re on tea-in-the-garden number 5 already!
I hope that the rest of May is warm and light and that you get to eat all your teas in the garden! See you in June!