Nature Now - April 2019

by Sarah Dobson Nature Now

Spring arrived early this year and is already well underway! If the skies are clear, then take a look up on the night of 22nd-23rd April to see the Lyrids meteor shower that is at its peak then.

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 are already bedecked in delicate white flowers, ready 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.

In woodlands and along hedgerows the first fresh green leaves are starting to bud and unfold. Now is the moment to enjoy flowers such as Primroses, Violets, and Wood Anemones in woods, 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 again also. Look out too for the charismatic 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 should soon be 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 – take care if you’re out walking the dog then!

Our resident birds are now mating and making nests, whilst the first migrant birds are expected to arrive soon on our shores from their wintering grounds in Africa. These include iconic summer birds such as Swallows in the countryside and Swifts in towns, as well as more cryptic species like the scratchy-sounding Whitethroats and various Warblers. Make sure that you get up early one morning to soak up the cacophony of the dawn chorus – don’t miss this natural spectacle!