Goldfinch | The RSPB

Nature’s Calendar: April

At last, April is here! With flowers coming into bloom, bees and butterflies emerging, and lots of our migrant birds returning, April can feel like a wildlife party in the garden.

We’d love to know what you spot - share your stories and photos with us on our Facebook community.

 

A swift with its wings outstretched soars through a blue sky

Swiftly come, swiftly go

The end of April and early May marks the return of our glorious swifts. After a long flight back from their summer in Africa, these perky little birds will have one thing on their minds - to mate. Swifts pair for life, rendezvousing at the same site each year for a little nest renovation before laying and incubating their eggs.

 

Swifts are a sooty brown, with a pale throat. Unlike the swallow’s long tail, the swift’s tail is short and forked. They rarely, if ever, touch the ground, eating, sleeping and mating on the wing. Keep your eyes skyward for rowdy parties of them careering around rooftops, or swooping low at dusk to catch insects and steal a drink from ponds.

 

Swifts are currently on the red UK conservation status, so installing a swift nest box is a great way to provide a cosy home for years to come.

Map your swifts

Swift numbers are falling sharply, and in just 20 years more than half have vanished. By mapping where you see swifts nesting on the Swift Mapper, you’ll help to build a picture of where swift nest sites need to be protected and where it would be best to provide new nest sites.

Slow worm | The RSPB

Slow worm

Now’s the time to keep your eyes peeled for sight of the silky slow worm, as they’ll soon be coming out of hibernation. Slow worms look like snakes but are actually legless lizards that thrive in warm, humid conditions. They eat slugs, snails, insects and other creepy crawlies, so they’re a friend to the gardener. 


Once they’ve emerged from hibernation, slow worms too will be on the lookout for a mate. Female slow worms incubate their eggs internally, giving birth to live young in the late summer. She usually has around eight babies, which can fend for themselves immediately. 


If you’d like to attract these fascinating creatures to your outdoor space, making a slow worm sunbed is really easy.

Glorious dawn chorus

From April until July, the early mornings will be full of the raucous sound of songbirds. These feathered alarm clocks sing to attract a mate and also to defend their territories. The still morning air and spring chill makes for the perfect time to attract a mate, before the day’s main activity of foraging for food kicks off.  


The earliest risers each morning tend to be skylarks, song thrushes, robins and blackbirds. Wrens and warblers typically join in after a bit of a lie in. For a morning activity like no other, wrap up and head out with a cuppa around 30 minutes before dawn to catch the full concert as it warms up.

puffin revive our world l RSPB

Tough lovin' puffin

It’s also time to welcome back our affable puffins, as they return to their breeding colonies around the coast. They won’t be here for long, though, with parents raising young before leaving again in August. 


Puffins hollow out nests in the ground with their beaks, although they’re happy to occupy an empty rabbit burrow instead. Often mating for life, pairs will return to reuse the same nest for many years. Together puffins raise a single chick - a puffling - sharing incubation and feeding duties until the chick is ready to fledge. Shortly before the pufflings leave the nest, the parents desert them and head back out to sea.

Keen to ‘I spy’ some puffins? Find a puffin breeding colony at one of our coastal RSPB reserves and make a trip to see them. You won’t regret it.

 

UK seas should be a spring haven for puffins and other seabirds but many are struggling to survive. Find out about the RSPB’s work to save our threatened birds, and discover simple ways you can help them to thrive. Together, we can save our birds.

Male orange-tip butterfly

Cannibal caterpillars

April marks the emergence of one of our most abundant butterflies - the orange tip. One of the earliest butterflies to be seen, orange tips can be found flitting through meadows, woodland glades and hedgerows, as well as gardens with tasty flowers. 


The male orange tip is pretty easy to spot - he’s white with, you guessed it, orange tips on his wings. The female, however, is white with black tips on her wings. Both have gorgeous green mottled underwings, which helps to differentiate the female from the small white butterfly.  


You’ll generally only find one orange tip egg per flowerhead, as the caterpillars are cannibals, and will happily munch on another orange tip egg or caterpillar they meet. To avoid this, the females produce a pheromone to deter other orange tip females from laying an egg on the same flower. 

 

 

Pipistrelle bat | The RSPB

The bats are back

Head out at dusk on calm evenings from now onwards and you might be lucky to see bats on the wing. Many of our bats emerge from hibernation in April, hungry after a long winter’s sleep. They’ll be hunting voraciously through April to build up their depleted reserves, ahead of mating season in May.  


We have 18 species of bat in the UK - one you’re most likely to see in gardens is the common pipistrelle. Despite its tiny size, a pipistrelle can get through 3,000 insects in a single night! You can cater for bats in your garden by planting night-scented flowers that attract moths and insects for the bats to eat. Honeysuckle, night-scented stock and evening primrose are beautiful choices.

Nature on your doorstep in April

Grow wildlife-friendly flowers

Growing wildlife-friendly flowers in your garden, on your balcony or even in a window box is a great way to add colour and interest for yourself and nature. Sow fast-growing annual plants like poppies, corn marigold and cornflowers now for a mass of flowers in a few months. They’ll provide a welcome feast for bees, butterflies, birds and other creatures.

Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, close up

Feed the moths

Often overlooked in favour of butterflies, our moths are glorious in their own right. They’re also key food sources for bats and birds, so growing plants for moths is a great activity. Putting up or building a simple trellis for a climber such as honeysuckle or jasmine is a great way to encourage moths to your garden, as well as providing a gorgeous wall of blooms.