By April temperatures should be rising, and spring is truly here. Trees will come into leaf, and crops will surge in growth. Furthermore, April is the month when serious nest building and bird breeding activity gets underway.
As the daffodils begin to wane, woods will be carpeted with bluebells which will peak towards the end of April. Two interesting things to note about bluebells are that they do not survive if picked and put in a vase (they just wilt in the vase), and they do not survive trampling. Therefore at this time of year, please be sure to stick to the footpaths in our local woods. Enjoy the view, but avoid picking or walking over them. It’s best to do all we can to protect them so others can enjoy them too, and they remain for years to come.
At East Hall Farm, the cows will be calving from early April until mid-May. The cows have been in barns throughout the winter. Once the calves are a few days old, they and their mothers will be allowed to graze in the fields. Calves remain with their mothers throughout the summer and into the autumn, able to benefit from suckling milk even as they move on to eating grass.
It is always exciting to see the flurry of activity at bird nesting time whether it be the mating rituals of the birds themselves or the collecting of nest material. Bird’s nests can be made from all sorts of materials and each bird species builds their nest differently. Materials used for nest building can include twigs, leaves animal hair, sheep’s wool, fine grasses, feathers, mosses, lichens, spider’s webs, mud and even sometimes sadly fragments of plastic.
The male or female may construct the nest or they may carry out the nest building jointly. The male Wren builds several nests which are each inspected by the female and one is chosen to lay her eggs in.
The earliest nest builders we are likely to see locally, with nest building completed by mid-April, are Long Tailed Tits, who make beautiful nests from mosses, lichens and spider’s webs lined with feathers. Tawny Owls, Ravens, Grey Herons and Blackbirds can start to nest build as early as February.
Mid-April also sees the arrival of our summer migrants coming to breed. The first Swallows have been noted to arrive locally between 2nd and 17th April so lookout for them around that time. Their traditional barn nest sites are often converted into dwellings but they can be encouraged into garages and outhouses. Leave a door or window open and fix a wooden nest platform high up out of the reach of cats and place a plastic bag underneath to catch droppings. In very hot weather you can place an old piece of carpet onto the roof of the barn and soak with water from time to time to keep the temperature down inside.
Also from the middle to the end of this month listen out for the arrival of the Cuckoo and then we know spring is definitely here.
Julie Wise and France Harris