As the spring marches into summer and the young green leaves burst open and spread out, then nature watchers begin to find that they can no longer see the things that they may be looking for.
Around the nature trail, birds are still singing loudly but are difficult to see now. So I use the RSPB app on my smartphone, which gives everything anyone would need to know about every bird on the British list, including a handy recording of every bird call. This was great when I heard what I believed to be a reed warbler singing in the reeds by the top lake.
So I played the recording at top volume and the bird answered and even flew towards me. In fact there turned out to be two males occupying territories and so there may even be young reed warblers soon. This trick also works very well with tawny owls, in fact any species that is difficult to see but you know is calling or singing.
Other things to be seen, heard and smelt right now are: Two species of damselflies (related to dragonflies) both beautifully coloured in metallic blue or bronze mainly down by the river, the aptly named Beautiful Demoiselle and the Banded Demoiselle – which is the one with the banded wings. Only the males have the dark wings, the different coloured ones are the females with clear wings. Mayflies and craneflies (daddy longlegs) have started to hatch and fly in mating swarms. They hatch out from their larval stages now but do not feed at all as adults, they live just long enough to mate and reproduce. Ladybirds of various species feeding on aphids on nettles. Look out for the grublike spotted larvae soon. Cuckoos calling (I heard two males competing yesterday) The old saying is that cuckoos sing their “song” in May and change their tune in June only to go away in July back to Africa.
Fox scent marks along tracks Rabbit and badger diggings – both excavate small holes to find food and as markers around their territory. Badgers sometimes leave their droppings in specially dug latrine pits. The sooty black swifts are back flying singly or in small groups amongst the more common swallows, a bit like Formula One race cars amongst the ordinary cars of the rush hour. Look up at telephone wires where you might see a kestrel perched waiting to spot a beetle or vole. I am trying to discover where the kestrel pair that live locally have their nest – it is somewhere south of the golf course possibly in an old crow’s nest. It is quite frustrating as the resident buzzards chase them off as do crows.
Keith Falconer, May 22 2016
Keith Falconer is a local naturalist with many years experience of observing and photographing the wildlife of this region. He has an amazing knowledge of birds and bugs and all the creatures that live around us. Every few weeks he share his seasonal account of what to look for and listen to across our wonderful nature trail.