It’s April and, traditionally, this is the month when we should notice a change in our garden visitors.
For our bird life this should be the month when the last of our winter migrants leave and we start to see some of our summer visitors. But the changeover is unlikely to be particularly dramatic this year – a mild winter throughout Europe means that many of our winter visitors just didn’t bother to fly in. Fieldfare and Redwing numbers were way down and even regular garden visitors like Siskins have been thin on the ground.
In recent years, in our garden in the Kentish Weald, we’ve enjoyed large numbers of Redpolls visiting our feeders. Last year numbers were greatly reduced and this year we haven’t seen any at all! Is this the new pattern of bird activity brought about by climate change and do warmer winters mean we’ll see less changes to the birds in our gardens? Maybe that’ll be so for our winter visitors but hotter summers in southern countries and warmer temperatures here mean that we should continue to see our regular summer visitors – Swallows, Swifts and House Martins – and may even experience an increase in more exotic visitors, like Hoopoos and European Bee Eaters.
In even the smallest garden you should be noticing how much more active your birds are. House Sparrows and Starlings will be busy building nests in April but Blue Tits and Great Tits are already incubating their first broods – it all kicks off this month so keep the bird feeders topped up and keep an eye on the increased activity. Just remember – all your winter pruning should be out of the way by now as it’s illegal to disturb any nesting bird. Hopefully you’re ready for a new season in the garden and are already getting going with your planting – no doubt with an accompanying Robin who’ll be following you around waiting for you to uncover a tasty insect or two! Happy gardening.
Even in the cities you’re probably starting to notice Swallows and House Martins appearing and, by the end of this month or early next they’ll be joined by the Swifts. And, of course, this is the month when you might just be lucky enough to hear a Cuckoo. This African bird arrives in the UK in late March/early April and will be with us until around late July. Sadly, numbers of Cuckoos are down as well, as damage to their native habitat means that they are now a Red List species. So, if you do hear one get in touch with the RSPB and let them know about it – they’re always keen to keep records up to date. In fact, if you’re interested in our visiting bird life you might want to consider registering with BTO BirdTrack – http://blx1.bto.org/birdtrack/main/data-home.jsp – a partnership between the RSPB and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) that keeps track of bird migrations to and from the UK.