Spring is really marching on now, almost all our native tree and shrub species have burst into life, providing plenty of food for emerging insects, who in turn feed our resident and summer visiting birds. Orchards are in full bloom and busy with pollinators making the most of the short flowering season to collect nectar and pollen, in return, securing our next crop of apples and more importantly the country’s supply of cider!
In our woods, bluebells and wild garlic carpet the floor, young leaves burst from the trees into a brilliant green canopy. Each week, more summer migrant birds appear and add to the dawn chorus and amongst the blue mist of the woodland floor you may be lucky enough to see the first emergence of young badger cubs, exploring their home territories for the first time. Dormice have also begun to wake from hibernation, feeding amongst the young canopy on insects and buds, regaining some of the weight they lost during the winter months spent asleep.
This is a difficult time for many species, with limited food available and the potential for the weather to turn at any moment, the hazel dormouse can slip back into a state of torpor, likened to a light hibernation, in which the dormouse will fall into a deep sleep, lowering its body temperature to preserve energy until the weather is more favourable.
You may also begin to see more birds carrying nesting material this month. One of our earliest nesting birds is the long-tailed tit, with many nests already established by this time of the year. The long-tailed tit nest is formed into a giant eggs shape, with a small entry hole at the top, often positioned within dense bramble or gorse, for extra protection from predators. Built from an intricate mix of moss and spider’s webs, the outside is covered by hundreds of individual pieces of lichen, held on by the web. The inside is lined with an average of 1500+ feathers to keep the birds warm through the breeding season. The incorporation of spider’s web allows the nest to stretch and expand slightly, providing an ingenious solution to the problem of quickly growing chicks.