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Our top 10 wildlife sightings in April

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Thursday 29th March 2018 by bbowtblog

Iffley MeadowsIffley Meadows by Michael Brown

Spring is in full swing, insects are emerging from winter hibernation, flowers are blooming and birds and singing. How many of our 10 species will you see or hear this April?

1 Warblers


Listen out for warblers singing away at this time of year: 

Reed warblers return to the UK to breed after spending the winter in Africa. They tend to sing hidden away in reedbeds so you are more likely to hear them than see them. Their nests are a favourite with the cuckoo, which lays its egg inside. Once hatched, the cuckoo chick removes the reed warbler eggs and is then raised by the unsuspecting reed warbler.

Sedge warblers also return to the UK to breed. They tend to sing perched on a bush so are easier to spot.

Cetti’s warblers are very noisy for a small bird and almost seem to be shouting “Hey, don’t you know I’m here, right here, can’t you see me?” at the top of their voice! Have a listen to all three songs here:

2 Dawn chorus


Set your alarm extra early once a year to listen to nature’s symphony, the dawn chorus. Reserves ecology officer, Colin Williams thinks the dawn chorus is “vibrant and uplifting; it’s powerful and melodic; it’s soothing, yet it’s stimulating”. Why not join one of dawn chorus walks and get some help picking out individual species from the 'symphony'. Here is a selection of beautiful birdsongs to get you started. 

3 Swallows


Look out for swallows returning to the UK from their winters in Africa. They feed on small, flying insects, and are often found near farmland or grassland, particularly if there’s water nearby. According to the British Trust for Ornithology females look for males with the most symmetric tails to mate with! 

4 Snake's-head fritillaries

snake's-head fritillaries

There’s some debate about whether the snake's-head fritillary is a native species in the UK or not, but whatever its origin it’s been adopted as the county flower for Oxfordshire. Here, the sight of thousands of purple and pink chequered blooms nodding in the wind at Iffley Meadows nature reserve, near Oxford city centre, draws people from far and wide.

Join us at the reserve on Sunday 15 April to find out how we manage the site for wildlife, on behalf of Oxford City Council. 

5 Cowslips


Cowslips grow in meadows and grasslands, and flower in April and May. Their name may derive from cowpat as they were thought to grow in or near these! Chimney Meadows nature reserve is a great place to see swathes of them in spring.

Did you know these flowers smell similar to apricots.

6 Pasqueflower


The pasqueflower is a rare purple flower with bright yellow centre, which grows on undisturbed chalk grassland like that at Hartslock nature reserve, near Goring. It generally blooms around Easter, giving it its name which derives from ‘Paschal’.

7 Large red damselflies

large red damselflies

Large red damselflies are the earliest damselflies to emerge in the UK, appearing in March or April and flying until late summer. They're one of our most common species, look out for them flying around gardens looking for a pond to breed in.

8 Orange-tip butterflies

Orange-tip butterfly

Orange-tip butterflies are a common species, seen flying in spring. The adult males have the bright orange wing-tips but the females just have black wing-tips. Both have the mottled green underwings. The adults lay eggs on plants including cuckooflower and garlic mustard.

9 Grizzled and dingy skippers

Dingy skipper and grizzled skipper

Dingy skippers like to bask in sunlight on bare ground, making them hard to spot! You may find them on chalk grassland, woodland rides or clearings, heathland and wasteland. The caterpillars of dingy skippers feed on bird’s-foot-trefoil, horseshoe vetch or greater bird’s-foot-trefoil.

Grizzled skippers have a black and white appearance. They are found in similar areas to dingy skippers, but their caterpillars need wild strawberry, or cinquefoils: their striking pattern makes them easy to distinguish from the dull brown dingy skippers. Both of these species have declined in recent years. 

10 Water voles

water vole

Water voles, ‘Ratty’, are more visible at this time of year as they start to breed in April. Look out for signs of them on waterways:

  • Burrows in the riverbank, often with a nibbled 'lawn' of grass around the entrance.
  • Piles of nibbled grass and stems may be found by the water's edge, showing a distinctive 45° angled-cut at the ends.
  • 'Latrines' of rounded, 'tic-tac' sized droppings may also be spotted.

Watch our quick guide to water voles to learn more about these animals and our successful Water Vole Recovery Project.

Things to do

  • See which of our nature reserves are at their best this season.
  • Find a nature reserve near you with the Wildilfe Trusts' Nature Finder app for iphone and Android
  • Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery
  • Oxfordshire photographer Andrew Marshall's book Photographing wildlife in the UK (published by Fotovue) includes advice on how to take great wildlife photographs. The book includes top locations for photographing wildlife and some images that were taken on BBOWT nature reserves (Greenham Common, Chimney Meadows, Foxholes and College Lake).
  • Sign up to our e-newsletter and stay up-to-date with our news about local wildlife
  • Our experts work with over 1,400 volunteers to look after over 80 nature reserves, four education centres and run hundreds of amazing events. We rely on the generosity of individuals, charitable trusts and businesses. Help us look after these precious places for your local wildlife by donating today.

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