Aprilish Wildlife in the Garden
Posting this slightly later than planned as it was meant to highlight what you can see in your garden in April. However, all these creatures can be seen in May too. Now we are just into May spring is in full swing. Everything seems to be busy, birds nesting, bees buzzing and the trees bursting into blossom. The creatures I have highlighted really reflect that.
There are many butterflies you can see in April, but the one that is the most synonymous with this time of the year in my mind is the Orange-tip. For one thing you can only really see them in April and May so it is only a short window. Apart from the orange colour to the wing tip, which only the males have, they also have a beautiful green pattern on the outside of the wing which marks them out from other white butterflies. They are also quite a bit smaller then their other white and yellow relatives. The lava particularly like Cuckoo Flower and Garlic Mustard which grow in damp areas, so great for a pond or bog garden. Other butterflies that you can see from now include Holly Blue, Large White and Green-veined White.
Many other insects are also on wing now, such as the Early Bumblebee. As the name suggests these bees are one of the earliest to emerge and start nesting. Early Bumblebees are social and live in colonies with up to 120 individuals. They are one of our commonest bumblebees and can be identified by the orange tail with two yellow stripes, but these do fade with age so watch out for that. The queens emerge first and are much larger than the workers. Another pollinator to look out for is the Dronefly, which is a type of Hoverfly. Although you can see them all year round, I find in my garden they are most active at this time of year. The males hover in one position for several minutes in order to attract a female, which I find fun to watch. Returning to lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), the very distinctive Angle Shades moth can been seen from April. This is a great moth for beginners to identify because its angular shape and markings are unique. A more challenging insect to look for is the Bloody-nosed Beetle. This gets its seemingly gory name from a red liquid the beetle exudes when threatened which is an irritant to deter predators!
Of course it is not just during the day that creatures are busy. Now is the time to start looking for Bats newly emerged from their roosts. Bats hibernate throughout the Winter, although they have been known to venture out occasionally. One particular species that is fun to spot if you live near the Watercolour Estate, is the Daubenton’s Bat. The reason for this is that it skims over the surface of the water to catch its prey. Another curious thing about these bats is that they are very drawn to street lights which many other bat species avoid. On several occasions my Dad and I have taken a torch and shone it over the water at the Watercolour Lagoons to watch them. The agile way that they zoom low over the water is very similar to a Swallow in the ‘day shift’. Swallows have reappeared now and will often be accompanied by House Martins. Migration is one of the most wonderous events in all of nature. I am always in awe of the fact that such a small bird can fly all the way from as far as South Africa to our shores.
I hope you enjoyed reading about just a small handful of the many creatures you can find in and around your gardens. I have now reached 140 species in my garden wildlife challenge for this year, which just goes to show what an important asset our gardens are for wildlife in this country.