Signs of spring are becoming well and truly obvious and the added flush of colour, whether from blossoming trees or spring flowering bulbs, is certainly welcome. With days noticeably longer there is also more time to go in search of wild encounters.
With the crescendo of the dawn chorus of bird song still many weeks away, April is a great time to soak up the sweet serenade offered up by the song thrush before its wonderful song becomes lost amongst the noise of less ‘talented’ species. With nature starting to rouse from winter hibernation there are also opportunities to observe wonders such as badger cubs exploring their new surroundings above ground or hedgehogs becoming reacquainted with their local patch. Towards the end of the month we should hopefully be able to savour the first call of the cuckoo as they arrive back from a winter spent in Africa – a potential treat well worth heading out for.
Spring is also a great time to observe often overlooked, and sometimes misunderstood, creatures such as reptiles. Whilst you’ll need to settle in before dusk if you hope to catch a glimpse of a badger, the time to look out for snakes, slow worms and lizards is just as the early morning sun hits south-facing banks or slopes. Their cold blooded nature means they must sit tight whilst they absorb enough early morning rays to raise their temperature and if you tread lightly and avoid casting shadows you could be in for a treat.
The species of reptile most likely to be encountered in gardens is the grass snake, a species that sometimes lays eggs in compost heaps where the warmer temperatures provide ideal conditions for incubation. To some, grass snakes might seem frightening but these distinctive looking beasties, replete with a striking yellow and black collar around their necks and black markings down the length of their bodies, are not to be feared. Shy, retiring, and non-venomous, they are the UK’s only egg-laying snake.
As they emerge from winter hibernation one place they can often be found is the garden run by the Muddy Fork charity at our Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford. Here, resident grass snakes, hedgehogs, and several other hibernators who make use of the compost heaps, tree root systems and abandoned rabbit warrens will now be making an appearance – presenting Muddy Fork’s growing community of conservationists and gardeners, who visit to access horticultural therapy, with wonderful opportunities to see and enjoy wildlife at close quarters.
Details of all Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves across the county can be found at www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org. As lockdown restrictions eases the charity plans to reopen the café and shop at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve seven days a week.
Main image Grass snake © Lorna Griffiths