This blog is written by Jenny Pearson, one of our fantastic Ambassadors.
Spring is a season of great change. New life is awakening after months of cold, short days – plants are sprouting, and insects are emerging. Our winter visitors have flown north, and we are impatiently waiting for our new arrivals from the south.
In April, look out for these fantastic signs of spring around your local rivers:
The Chiffchaff sings its name for everyone to hear – pronouncing its arrival, and the arrival of spring, loudly from the canopy. They reside in Britain to avoid the scorching African summer sun and to breed and feed.
Chiffchaffs are passionate insect foragers and one of their favourites is the tiny, infamous midge - a common water-loving fiend in the height of summer. So, in coming here, they do us a bit of a favour by removing some of these pesky biters.
Look out for carpets of white and yellow flowers this April across the forest floor – the beautiful wood anemone is one of the first wildflowers to burst out of the soil. They take advantage of the bare canopy and soak up the sun before the trees fill out their leaves.
The Wood Anemone is star-like with 5 or 8 petals, with a yellow centre. Underneath, the petals have a pink tinge. The flower stands out stunningly against the green ground. These flowers spread underground, via a system of roots. Therefore, these plants don’t do very well in areas that are often disturbed. Often, these lovely little flowers are indicators of old forest, which quite often, grow on our riverbanks.
Orange Tip & Cuckoo flower
One of the most easily recognisable butterflies, and one of the first to see in Spring, is the Orange Tip. As its name suggests, the wings of the Orange Tip, are (you guessed it) bright orange, like a summer's sunset sky. But only the males carry these gorgeous tips. The females are a little more unassuming, with subtle white wings. Orange Tips favour damp habitats, including riverbanks!
Orange tips lay their eggs on a lovely purple-pink flower – the Cuckoo flower. The Cuckoo flower is so named, as its arrival coincides with the arrival of cuckoos! Look out for these in April, as they sprout along our rivers and in fields. Look gently on the stems and under the leaves, for the tiny orange eggs of the Orange Tips. The caterpillars that then emerge from these eggs, will then feast on the cuckoo flower, until it is ready to grow its orange tipped wings.
Large Red Damselflies
Around slow-moving water, watch out for matchstick flashes of red as adult Red Damselflies emerge from their aquatic larval stages (which takes 2 years!) to take to the air! Damselflies are smaller versions of dragonflies and we get several species across the UK. The Large Red is one of the first of the damsels and dragons to appear in spring and can be found across the UK and in much of Europe.
Watch out for Damselflies resting on vegetation around the waters edge. They may start to fly when the sun comes out, warming them up and giving them energy to fly! They are also not particularly shy. If you take the time to sit by the damsels, they may come and say hello to you.
There are 17 species of Bats in the UK and in April, when the warmer weather draws out the creepy crawlies that bats love to feed on, the bats awake from their hibernation and head out to feed and find a mate.
Many bats, including the common pipistrelle, feed on midges and mosquitos – which are often found near or around water sources, including slow moving rivers. Did you know that the common pipistrelle can eat up to 3,000 insects a night! That’s a lot of midges…
The Daubentons bat is also known as the waters bat, as it feeds on insects on the waters surface and it can often be seen flying close to the water. Bats may also roost in trees on the riverbank, or in bridges and tunnels. They will often come out to feed at dusk, as the sun begins to go down. Bats are quiet, and so you won’t hear them... but keep your eyes peeled!