April wildlife highlights in the South West
Don't be put off by those pesky April showers - this is a great month to head outdoors and see some truly fantastic sights in the wildlife world. From bluebells and blackthorn to swallows and warblers, nature is springing into action in the South West.
The birds and the trees
Toward the end of April with the emergence of oak and beech leaves is a great time to see the region’s western upland oakwood specialities (pied flycatcher, redstart and woodwarbler) singing, displaying and beginning the nest building process. Our woodland spots around Dartmoor and Exmoor - the Teign Valley below Castle Drogo, the Upper Plym Valley, and Horner Wood on the Holnicote Estate - are all great places for this.
Although sometimes earlier bluebells normally start to flower in April. It's mostly a woodland plant, found flowering across most of Britain in the light shade that forms before the woodland canopy closes. However, they are more widespread in the damp, humid climate of the South West, where they can also be found amidst bracken on moorland and on damper, often north-facing coastal slopes. Good places to see them include Horner Woods on the Holnicote Estate, Wembury Woods in South Devon, also the woodlands on our Lanhydrock, Godolphin and Trelissick estates and the steep coastal slopes between St Ives and Pendeen in Cornwall.
Follow the swallows
This month the bulk of summer migrants return and swallows (the longer tailed adults) become especially visible as they return to traditional breeding sites, nearly always in association with livestock farms and cattle. Look for them around our herds of parkland cattle on the Kingston Lacy, Killerton and Lanhydrock estates.
Blackthorn in bloom
Blackthorn is flowering profusely on coastal slopes and in other scrubby places, attracting large numbers of hoverflies and other pollinating insects. Look out for it on walks along the South West Coast Path and areas of scrub land on Exmoor and Dartmoor.
Look out for the tiny, secretive Dartford warbler flitting between scrub bushes at Wembury Point. It has a long tail compared to other warblers and its plumage is of dull muted tones to blend in well with the scrub and heathland it inhabits.
If you're on a spring walk at Woodchester Park this month, stop for a breather near the heronry on the island of Parkmill Pond and you might see some nest building and other activities taking place.
Woodland insects are very active at this time of year, warmed by the sun that penetrates through the open canopy and feeding off the profusion of wild flowers on the woodland floor. Keep your eyes peeled on a family walk in the woods and who knows what creepy crawlies you'll discover...