April is, by my reckoning, the middle of spring. The earlier signs of life and growth are replaced by a general busyness and acceleration which brings us new leaves, flowers, butterflies, the appearance of fox and badger cubs and the arrival of many of the summer’s bird visitors.
Swallows seem to be fewer in number each year, but I hope that the reasonable weather last year may have helped them. They have to survive many dangers to reach our country, and once here they need food, catching insects on the wing, and breeding sites where they can nest under cover. The classic site would be on a ledge or rafter in a barn and the nest is a mud cup, lined with feathers. In the past their efforts to build at Uncllys have unfortunately been disturbed by our cats, but they may fare better now that one has died and the other has become more middle-aged! The building used for nesting must have an open door or window to allow the birds constant access, but even a brick-sized hole will be enough. An artificial ledge about 15cm wide and with a rim of beading to keep the nest from sliding off could be fixed high in an outhouse. (I may have a go at making some papier mache nests to make up for the criminal records of the cats).You can also help swallows and house martins by making sure there is a nice, muddy puddle available for building material (perhaps in an upside down dustbin lid), and you may be rewarded by seeing up to 3 broods of nestlings during the summer.
Mid-way through March a new family trail was launched by the Forestry Commission. ‘Superworm’ follows on from the success of the Gruffalo trails, both based on children’s books of the same names by author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler. A short trail leads from the car park past boards bearing pictures of Superworm and friends, information and suggestions for forest activities. Super or not, the forest soils couldn’t do without the worms. They drag down leaves into their burrows, enriching the soil with humus and allowing materials to mix and be aerated. They are also the main food of shrews and moles, badgers and many birds. Moles can eat 50grams of worms a day, and an area of grass the size of a football pitch can hold up to 2 million of them! (Thankyou, Springwatch, for those figures) Actually a football pitch or golf green probably doesn’t have any worms in it because green keepers poison them to prevent wormcasts, and consequently have to do the fertilising and aerating themselves.
So there you are, two things to get you looking up and down this month!