A peaceful time to watch wildlife

The peace and quiet created by the reduction in traffic allows us to really savour nature’s spring chorus.

I hope you are all keeping well at this strange and challenging time. I know I am enjoying the peace and quiet created by the reduction in traffic which allows us to really savour nature’s spring chorus. The birds and bees are so much louder and clearer and a lovely distraction from other things. There is so much happening in the great outdoors!

If you live near open fields or countryside you may be lucky enough to be enjoying the therapeutic calls of curlew and skylark and maybe lapwings which are now displaying over their chosen territories. Chiffchaff, with their very distinctive call are more recent arrivals from Africa and the Med which you may hear from woods, thickets and hedgerows; a sure indication that spring is here. I love the calls of all these birds which mark the changing seasons and reminds us that life goes on despite our ups and downs. What I am even more excited about though, is the return of bumblebees emerging fresh from hibernation. The last week of March in the north east finally saw us in the teens, temperature wise, so most people will have noticed large queen bumblebees buzzing about their flowers or lawns, looking either for food or a sunny nest site.

A chiff chaff resting on a branch

Chiff-chaff (c) Janet Packham Photography

Buff-tailed bumblebees are probably the commonest bumblebee you will first spot in your garden. There are 7-8 species of bumblebee that you may find in your garden along with numerous solitary bee species. Butterflies are also now on the increase as the weather warms and flowers start to open along with hoverflies, beetles and many, many more types of insects and the animals such as bats that feed on them. If you can’t get out for walks at this time due to current restrictions have a close look in your garden, you may be surprised what you find!

Bee ID sheet graphic

Bee ID sheet

Many of our migrant birds are not yet back from warmer climes, and who would blame them after the temperature drops, snow and hail we have seen. Listen out for cuckoos returning from central Africa from early April. Only the male bird calls the characteristic Cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo and more so when it first arrives back in the UK in order to locate a mate and establish its territory. Later in the season its call changes and they can leave the country again as early as June leaving their young to be reared by the host bird and to find their own way back to Africa!

The other birds to look out for this month are swallows and sand martins. A few swallows now overwinter in the south of England but most make the 6000 mile trip back to their nesting sites arriving in April and May, often to the same colony, sometimes even the same nest. Sand martins, as the name suggests nest in sandy banks, often river banks or quarries. They are a sandy colour themselves, white below with a sandy chinstrap. I look forward to the arrival of both which will currently be en-route. 

a swallow resting on bench in the sunlight

Swallow (c) Amy Lewis

Do let us know what you have been spotting and hearing. We look forward to hearing all about your discoveries and sightings. We have also just launched some wildlife educational material that you can use at home with children or anyone who would like to learn more about the wildlife in your gardens or back yards. Please visit www.durhamwt.com/wildathome to take part and let us know how you get on.”