Well, March did not go well and with a few exceptions, April has been rather cold and wet too. A few good days though made for an interesting month.
3 April was bright and there was a brilliant comma butterfly on the village green feeding on the newly flowering blackthorn (image 1).
5 April was also bright and brought out the first gorgeous red mason bee exploring our drilled log bee hotels. For the first time, our south facing house wall warmed and a tiny zebra jumping spider appeared running across the brickwork and, judging by the size of his palps, this was a male and perhaps out hunting a lady (image 3). These striped spiders are very inquisitive and will look back at your camera lens before getting bored and heading off on their hunting for food and a mate.
6 April continued the warm weather and the first bee-flies were out on the village green probing the flowers for nectar using their amazingly long proboscises. To my surprise both the dark-edged (image 4) with a dark leading edge to their wings and the dotted (image 5) with dotted wings were out. A few days later they appeared in our garden. These are true flies, part of the Soldier Fly group, and named after their furry bee-like appearance, although to me they are more like humming-birds, as they hover in front of flowers with their proboscises extended ready to probe deeply into flowers. There is a race with bee-fly enthusiasts to see who can see the first of the year, mine were sadly rather late.
The evening of the 6 April was rather special because looking out over the village green I spotted a barn owl and the sun had hardly started to set. Grabbing my camera, I joined my neighbour as the owl quartered back and forth across the field, often coming close enough to photograph (Image 6). That was quite an evening!
7 April, the village green blackthorn bushes were now in full flower (image 7) and I searched but failed to find any mining bees feeding on the flowers. And then, a few days later on the 12 April I re-found the colony of these amazingly bright orange-red tawny mining bees (image 8), that could well fall prey to the female beeflies which lay their eggs in mining bee burrows.
8 April, our oldest grandson came to visit and on lifting one of our wildlife refugia tins in the garden found our first slow-worm of the year (image 9). These pieces of corrugated iron warm up the sun and provide a warm refuge for reptiles and other small creatures. Slow-worms are of course really legless lizards, not worms, and they can be really quick.
10 April found the first early thorn moth of the year (image 10). These butterfly-like night-flying moths rest with the wings closed like butterflies
18 April, I had the moth trap on and soon caught a large black beetle which on looking it up turned out to be a black sexton beetle. Sexton beetles are carrion feeders sensing dead rodents, birds, and frogs by their smell. They bury the dead animals, process them to reduce decay and when the females lay their eggs in them and as they hatch will feed them small amounts of food. There is more information about these fascinating beetles on: https://www.ukbeetles.co.uk/nicrophorus-humator.
19 April my daughter and I had a visit to the wonderful Conford Moor near Bordon, and where we found another splendid beetle, this time the three-horned minotaur beetle (image 12), a scarab beetle of heathland and moorland laying single eggs in vertical burrows below animal dung, males using their horns to compete with other males. More information on: https://www.ukbeetles.co.uk/typhaeus-typhoeus. Today, we also found our first grass snake under one of our refugia tins.
28 April found our first scorched carpet moth (image 13) attracted to the moth trap ultraviolet lamp, a really attractive moth with its bands of black, white, and burnt brown colours.
29 April was another warm day and our young grass snake was warming itself under one of our wildlife refugia tins (image 14). As it moved off, we could see that it was perhaps about 30cm long; adults can grow to over 100cm, exceptionally to 150cm. Grass snakes are common in the wetter western parts of the parish.
Reddish-brown bank voles often shelter and have their babies under our tins and this one was particularly brightly coloured (image 15).
29 April and the moth trap produced this amazing but tiny many-plumed moth (image 16). These moths lie flat to the surface and are hardly 1cm across and well camouflaged; but look closely and you can see that their wings are made up of many separate delicate feather-like plumes. Also attracted to the light was this nursery web spider (image 17), named after the way they carry their eggs and then look after their youngsters in web shelters.
That same day, 29 April, Mary and I took a walk across our parish seeing brown hares on the fields and also lapwings as they flew up and then across and down showing the white patches under their wings in the sunlight as part of their display flights.
Reaching the footpath through Furzefield Copse we found a badger latrine (image 18), a series of pits in which badgers place their dung to mark the edges of their territories; several of the pits having freshly deposited dung. Among the spring flowers were bluebells (image 19), lesser celandines (image 20), Bugle (image 21) and primrose (image 22).
Finally, head over to About Us on the Village Hall website where you will find the link to the new section I have called ‘Wild Stroud’ after David Attenborough’s recent television series ‘Wild Isles’. Still an ongoing project to be added to from time to time.