If ever a month summed up the vagaries of the British weather, it is April. Whilst officially in spring, April frequently masquerades as both winter and summer and the wildlife on offer is as varied as the weather.
Woodland flowers such as primroses that begin to bloom in winter can still be enjoyed in shady spots and when April showers sometimes turning sleety you might be forgiven for thinking it was winter as you enjoy the flowers’ last hurrah. Take a walk in the same woodland on a bright sunny day and you might feel that summer has arrived early whilst admiring an amazing display of bluebells or spotting warblers that have travelled all the way from Africa to breed. Whilst there is still a chance of ground frost, warmer days bring opportunities to spot reptiles such as slow worm basking to become warm enough to hunt after their hibernation.
The prospect of a frosty morning makes it imperative to wrap up warm and pack a flask when heading out to enjoy the delights of the dawn chorus, but towards the end of the month you might catch a glimpse of bats hunting insects on warmer evenings. They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but with house martins already busy building nests, April brings the arrival of house martins, swallows and even swifts – hinting that summer is just around the corner.
With so much wildlife on offer in April, it would be a shame to wish spring away, but the sights and sounds of species we more typically associate with long summer days are most welcome and the ever lengthening days provide more opportunity to get out and about taking in all Mother Nature has to offer. With sunsets stretching towards 8.00pm there is time to plan a decent walk after work or to potter in the garden whilst listening to the chattering birds or watching blue tits busily taking food back to their nest.
With the days lengthening and warming, April is a good time to make sure you’ll have a garden, yard or even window box full of flowers to provide nectar for bees and butterflies all summer long. The cheapest way to support pollinators is to raise your own plants from seed and many can be sown outdoors this month, or raised quickly on an indoor windowsill. If you plant herbs such as lavender, rosemary and thyme you’ll be supporting pollinators whilst also providing a cheap supply of fresh herbs to use in the kitchen.
Our nature reserves across the county provide opportunities for everyone to connect with nature on their doorstep. At this time of year wetland sites such as Daneshill Lakes, Besthorpe and Idle Valley nature reserves are havens of activity with an array of summer migrants, from willow warblers to lapwings, breeding alongside year round residents such as mallard and mute swans. Our woodlands such as Dyscarr, Kirton and Eaton and Gamston Woods will be bursting with wild flowers such as bluebell and red campion and alive with the sound of the dawn chorus. To help make more of the longer days our café at Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford now has extended opening hours. For details of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves and how you can take action for nature visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org.
Main and inset: Nadia Ming; Lapwing, Richard Rogers