The start of April was disappointingly cold and overcast and not at all spring-like, but as the week progressed things began to warm up a little. A reminder of more wintery conditions were still with us in the form of a single lesser redpoll in the garden for a short while which was using the using the feeders at the back of the house as well as those outside my office window. A few siskins remained with the males singing beautifully and they were using all the bird feeders around the house including a small window feeder, which gave me the opportunity to see both males and females close up. These little finches are not just beautiful but are also incredibly feisty and argumentative – constantly squabbling and fighting amongst themselves. A mistle thrush was heard singing from the far end of the wood opposite my garden and blackcap and chiffchaff were both singing locally. ‘Our’ male blackcap returned on the 3rd of the month and began to sing from all his usual places in what by now was quite pleasant sunny weather. Both of the resident moorhen pair were around the garden every day and our cowslips were coming into bloom especially in the small ‘cowslip meadow’ in the back garden. In the big garden with the meadow however, they were much less abundant. Leaves of our common spotted orchids were appearing all around the garden and the now yearly task of transplanting them from the grass paths into more secure areas began. It seems like an act of vandalism to mow over them, even though we now have hundreds here, so transplanting is a yearly task! The nights were cold this week with some heavy frosts but the warm sunshine every day meant it felt like spring was well advanced.
The second week of April brought much cooler weather but a little sunshine made the icy wind more bearable! Locally, ploughing began in the field next door and several red kites and buzzards plus a large flock of rooks, were following the plough. Yellowhammers were seen frequently on our long hedge and the local linnet flock was often seen often flying over the garden with a single pair on the hedge and in the orchard at the end of the week. Unusually no newts were seen in the big pond and all the frog tadpoles seem to have gone, possibly eaten by the moorhens. A single marsh tit was seen every day, usually on the bird feeders outside my office and a pair of red-legged partridges appeared in the big meadow. A bank vole was frequently observed on the patio at the back of the house eating sunflower hearts which were left for him each morning. The cowslip meadow put on a great show and it became obvious that there were going to be even more common spotted orchids around all the grassy areas. Chiffchaff and blackcap continued to sing every day and the whole garden felt very springlike and alive with singing birds.
The third week of the month continued to be warm and the warblers continued to sing daily around the garden. Both male and female blackcap were seen bathing in the overflow water from the pond next door along with several finches and a song thrush.. At least four siskins were still around the garden and the males were singing beautifully every day – hopefully they are going to breed somewhere close by. There was still no sign of either swallows or redstarts but robins were clearly nesting in one of our hedges and the pair of yellowhammers was seen on the long hedge every day. The cowslip meadow continued to dazzle. On the morning of the 19th two Canada geese arrived noisily at the big pond but after a quick look flew off (thankfully!) The female blackcap was often seen on the hedge in the vegetable garden and the male sang all around the garden, usually from one of the big hawthorns. On the morning of the 19th two Canada geese appeared by the pond! Thankfully they didn’t stay long but as a new species recorded in the garden I was pleased to see them. Both male and female brimstone butterflies were seen this week, as were the first orange tips and a peacock.
At the beginning of the last week of April two swallows were feeding over the field opposite our garden and on the 23rd a single swallow flew over and around the house and garden and was later joined by a second – these birds were hopefully swallows that have bred here in previous years. Two pied wagtails – unusual for this garden – spent some time around the meadow areas but there was still no sign of a redstart. The marsh tit was notable by its sudden absence – hopefully moving to a breeding area nearby and not predated by the local sparrowhawk. In the middle of the week a single swallow, with great familiarity, visited the front porch where they have nested in the past and was also seen using several of the usual perches – on the rambling rose close to the nest site and on the wires over the garden. As the month came to an end there were now several yellowhammers on the long hedge daily, plus the bank vole was very active and was accompanied by a very small vole on one occasion! With swallows swooping around and visiting the nest site every day it felt as though summer was approaching!