April in the Valley
Most of the wildfowl that spent the winter here will have returned to their far north breeding areas, such as Iceland and Northern Europe. The birds that stay all year round will now be singing and displaying to claim and protect territories. One bird this is becoming increasingly common in the Valley is the elegant Little Egret.
Territorial displays and disputes can easily be seen as the birds are far more interested in their own activities than avoiding being watched. Woodpeckers, Lapwings and Skylarks are amongst the birds that will draw your attention; look out for Sparrowhawks too.
Watch out for migrating birds, search the skies as House Martins, Swallows and Swifts return. Donít forget to listen as the dawn chorus begins and also listen out for the first Nightingale.
Surprisingly some of our richest wildlife woodlands rely upon regular tree felling to maintain their value. Small patches of the wood when cut in rotation (known as coppicing) allows light to reach the woodland floor so creating ideal conditions for many woodland flowers such as Bluebells, Wood Anemones and Lesser Celandine as well as warmth-loving woodland insects such as White Admiral and fritillary butterflies. The aim in a coppice woodland is not to kill the trees but to encourage a dense regrowth from the cut stumps. Cutting a new patch (cant) each year creates a mosaic of different aged cants providing a number of subtly different habitats suitable for a wide variety of species.
Do watch woodlands as they start to colour up, after the bright splash of yellow from Lesser Celandine look out for white spring flowers such
as Wood Anemone, Wood Sorrel and Wood Spurge. Also look out for Violets then the ever popular Bluebells. Rowhill Nature Reserve is worth visiting
this time of year for their display of spring flowers so make a point of visiting them.
Look for the new fresh green tufts of needles on Larch trees and see if you can spot the bright deep pink female cones emerging from them. Following the white blossom of Blackthorn, witness the greening of the hedgerows as they burst into leaf.
There should be no mistaking the vivid yellow of Brimstone butterflies as they fly along the hedgerows, also look out for Orange Tip butterflies as they hatch from over-wintering pupae as well as Holly Blues.
After the frenzy of activity caused by frogs and toads watch out for Newts as they migrate to their breeding pools. Their eggs are more difficult to spot than frog or toad spawn because the individual eggs are attached to reeds below the water.