Nature Now - April

Nature Now

British Summer Time is now well and truly with us, and the spring seems to have arrived all of a sudden – with double-figure temperatures and people flocking outdoors. Keep an eye out for April showers though!
And look up at night to try to catch the Lyrids meteor shower that peaks on the night of 22nd-23rd April.

Farmers’ crops such as wheat and oil seed rape are well-established, their growth being boosted by artificial fertiliser applications. Fruit trees such as apple and cherry will soon be bedecked in delicate white flowers, to be pollinated by bees and so produce their juicy fruits later in the year. Farm animals kept indoors over the winter are finally back to eating fresh grass in the fields, and some spring-born lambs are already half-grown whereas others are just being born – you can see spring lambing at Saddlescombe Farm, on the first two weekends of April.

In woodlands and along hedgerows the first fresh green leaves are starting to bud and unfold, and now is the moment to enjoy flowers such as Primroses, Violets, and Wood Anemones in woodlands, making the most of their brief time in the sun – before the leafy tree canopy grows over to cast them in to shade through the summer. The first flowers are in bloom in fields also, from Daisies and Dandelions in urban spaces to delicate nodding Cowslips in patches of chalk grassland.

Insects are also re-appearing on the wing, with the first butterflies such as yellow-green Brimstones fluttering by as well as over-wintered Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Commas, and Bumblebees and Honey Bees are now active also. Look out too for the black St Marks Fly on the 25th April, the day when it traditionally emerges each year from its underground larval stage to fly as an adult.

A thriving mass of mating Toads can be found in many ponds, whilst the earlier Frog spawn is now hatching to become free-swimming Tadpoles that will later grow legs and metamorphose to become young adults. Adders can now be found on the Downs, following their winter hibernation, and are most visible in the early morning when basking in the sun to warm up their bodies.

The first of the migrant birds are expected to arrive on our shores from their wintering grounds in Africa, including iconic summer birds such as Swallows and Swifts as well as more cryptic species like the scratchy-sounding Whitethroats and various Warblers. Get up early one morning to soak up the natural spectacle of the dawn chorus!

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