April 2012

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Bluebells. Beesby Wood, Lincolnshire
Well I blame the hosepipe ban! Ever since this started on 5th April it seems to have done nothing but rain and I heard on the news this morning that it has been the wettest April since records began. In fact I was at Messingham Sand Quarry Lincs Trust reserve yesterday looking for insects and I noticed that some ponds that I have never seen with water in are now completely full. I expect that the hosepipe ban will continue, however, as it will be sometime before the groundwater reserves are completely topped up. We had 108 mm of rain during the month where the average for April is 56mm. Overall temperatures were about normal for the month but we all felt cold as it had been much warmer in March. The cold wet weather continued into the first week of May and this has meant that insects are much later appearing. I have had one trip to Messingham and apart from a few butterflies and the occasional damselfly there is very little activity. May is the prime month for the emergence of the beautiful green hairstreak butterfly on our coastal reserves and last year I photographed them in April. As I write on 9th May there are still no sign of them despite some diligent searching.
My first outing in April was on the 5th when I went down to Humberston Fitties to see if there was any sign of one of our early migrants, the whitethroat. This is always a good spot to find them when the males display in the hawthorn bushes behind the sea bank. It was a clear sunny day after a day of torrential rain with heavy snow in the Pennines and Scotland but there was a bitterly cold easterly wind coming off the sea. Disappointingly there were no whitethroats to be seen, nor were there any wheatears. This is also a great place to find these birds as they make landfall along the east coast before moving inland to breed. I did, however, find one bird in Fulstow later in the morning. The regular ruff which winters at the Fitties was no longer in evidence so presumably it had begun its long migration north to breed in the Arctic. A visit to Covenham reservoir rewarded me with my second migrant of the year, a chiffchaff, busy in the trees and drawing attention to itself with its onomatopoeic call. I was delighted to get photographs of it as well. A couple of days later, 7th April, saw me competing in a mountain bike orienteering event in the Howardian Hills of North Yorkshire. It was another very cold start to the day but the woods were full of the insistent calls of the chiffchaff. Spring had definitely arrived.
9th April was one of lovely gentle spring rain and I was in Bradley Woods to photograph the magnificent spectacle of the wood anemones that carpet the terrain. I love photographing in woodlands in the wet. There is always the prospect of glistening water drops in the images and colours are always more saturated. Whilst I was busy taking pictures of the flowers I could hear the forceful and very loud calls of the local nuthatches.
We spent a showery and cool day in the Hope Valley of Derbyshire on 10th April with my brother and his wife and enjoyed a lovely walk along the River Derwent where we found 2 female and 3 male goosanders. Although they are regulars here, it was a real treat as we don’t find them in our part of the world.
Another trip out in early April was to Rigsby Wood near Alford. This is a Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust reserve and is famed for its bluebells. Although beginning to look very spring like with carpets of wood anemones and primroses there were very few bluebells. I did find and photograph some, however, in Beesby Wood, near North Thoresby, on the way home. One special treat on this day was an excellent sighting of a stoat as it ran across the road in front of me.
In the middle of the month we went for a short break to Perugia in Italy to visit our daughter who is studying at the university there. I was interested to note how much more advanced spring was there than at home and I even enjoyed photographing poppies which we won’t see here until June. Other interesting sightings were lizards, a hoopoe, and large numbers of swifts, swallows and house martins. By the end of the month, though, it was a pleasure to see them gracing our own skies.