Summer is starting to shine through spring, with blossom in full show and the return of some of our migratory birds. With increasingly earlier and warmer springs hawthorn has subsequently come into blossom earlier and earlier, however with such a cold start to the year, we now get to see why hawthorn has the nickname of may blossom. In urban areas you may see the return of house martins and those of you on the edges of towns or in the countryside will see swallows or hear the distinctive calls of chiffchaffs or an occasional cuckoo. If you’re lucky enough you may also hear the return of shrieking swifts which tend to time their flight north a little later than the other birds.
With spring in full flow, May is a month for the wildlife gardening calendar:
Coinciding with the return of our summer visiting birds is International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 2nd May 2010. If you’re feeling inspired you could spring out of bed early to see which birds comprise the morning chorus from your garden. Alternatively there are events within the county where you might find a musical ear to help you work out the song of a blackbird from the tweet of a great tit. You can find more information on local events in Devon from the International Dawn Chorus web site at:http://www.idcd.info/events-in-your-area/europe/england/devon/
Alternatively for those of you who appreciate your Sunday morning lie-ins, don’t forget that the birds also hold a more reasonably timed dusk chorus just before sunset too!
Saturday 15th May 2010 is National Moth Night, focusing on finding out what aerial visitors we might have during the night. You can encourage moths to your garden by incorporating night-scented flowers such as honeysuckle, evening primrose, verbena and tobacco plant into your garden. These perennials and biennials are relatively easily grown from seed earlier in the year but you should also find grown on specimens at your local garden centre. For further information on taking part on National Moth Night visit their web site at:www.nationalmothnight.info
All this moth activity may encourage additional nocturnal visitors to your garden, bats! Bats feed on many types of invertebrates and at this time female bats will be eating for two, as they will be grouping with other females to form maternity roosts where each female will give birth to a single bat pup. To give bats a helping hand you could put up a bat box on a tree or building. Bat boxes should be placed above three metres in height and facing a southerly orientation, as bats like their maternity roosts to be quite warm. Make sure your bat box is well out of the way of any cats which can be surprisingly agile and effective predators of emerging bats. Bat boxes can be purchased from a variety of retailers or alternatively you may be interested in making your own, and further guidance can be found on the website of the Devon Bat Group.
The last date for your wildlife gardening calendar is National Be Nice to Nettles Week lasting from 19th to the 30th May 2010. We have all at some stage stung ourselves on nettles and spent the subsequent time holding a dock leaf on the affected area trying to cool the irritation. However this sting defence mechanism has made nettles the ideal home for a range of invertebrates, particularly for the otherwise helpless larvae of numerous butterflies and moths. The drooping flowers also attract a range of invertebrates with the subsequent seeds providing food for birds. So if you have a patch of nettles growing from beneath your garden fence take a second thought before cutting them back. For even more reasons to keep a patch of nettles in your garden visit the National Be Nice to Nettles Week website at www.nettles.org.uk