Nature's calendar

Whether in your garden or out on a walk, nature is happening all around us. Find out what you should look out for this month to spot the very best the wild world has to offer.

May

Birds

Migrant watch 

  • Swifts are arriving - do you know your swifts from your swallows?
  • Watch for Hobbies scything through the sky, especially if you hear panicking swallows and house martins
  • Spotted flycatchers have a song and call that's easy to overlook, but there's no mistaking their expert fly-catching abilities as they dart out from trees to snap up a snack. One of the last migrants to arrive back in the UK each spring.
  • House martins are building their cup-shaped nests on houses in early May. Give them a hand when the weather is dry by making sure there's a puddle of water nearby to help them make their nests.
  • If the wind is in the east, check your local lake, gravel pit or reservoir for the beautiful black tern stopping off on its migration, to swoop over the water to pick insects off the surface of the water. It doesn't nest in the UK, but it’s a regular May migrant.
  • If you live close to heathland, you might be in with a shot of hearing the eerie "churr" of the nightjar at dusk and through the night.
  • Seabird cities are packed to the brim.

Garden watch

  • Baby birds are appearing. Watch for adults carrying food, or looking watchful. Blackbirds and robins are among the first to appear.
  • House sparrows are chirping away on houses - have you left a space for them to nest in your home?
  • Fluffy tawny owl "owlets" clamber around trees, sometimes in full view. Listen on still nights for vocal tawny owl families.

On your walks...

  • There's no mistaking the piercing, laughing "yaffle" of the green woodpecker. Watch for this colourful character hopping on the ground in search of ants.
  • Have you seen the UK's most colourful bird? Kingfishers are busy nesting in their tunnels in steep riverbanks and the rootballs of upturned trees. The number one tip for seeing this stunner is to learn its call as you'll almost certainly hear it first. Once you hear the piercing whistle, look for a brilliant flash of blue and orange racing past over the water.
  • Lapwings have super-cute chicks in fields and marshes. The adults are very protective parents and "dive-bomb" anything that comes too close…
  • Common sandpipers are back, bouncing their back ends up and down as they walk along the edge of the water in search of flies and other food.
Kestrel in flight

Insects

  • Red Mason Bees are inspecting holes in walls - make a bee hotel for them.
  • Is there a more stunning UK insect than the banded demoiselle? It's truly tropical-looking! They're on the wing this month with their beautiful demoiselle cousins so keep your eyes peeled on waterside walks.
  • In late May the big dragonflies are on the wing. The brilliantly-named hairy dragonfly, four-spotted chaser and broad-bodied chaser are among the first.
  • Mayflies are "dancing" by the water. As adults, they have very short lives (just hours in some cases), so they need to make the most of it!

Mammals

  • Badger cubs appear above ground.
  • Are you lucky enough to have hedgehogs visiting your garden at night? If you haven’t got them yet, why not follow our advice to make these much-declined mammals a night-time feature on your doorstep.

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Grass snakes can be found in gardens this month - don't be alarmed if you find one of these beauties. They are harmless.
  • Seen a slow-worm? They're not worms and they're not snakes, they're actually legless lizards. They love compost heaps. Have you made one?

Flowers

  • How many species of wildflowers can you see on your walks? Roadside verges and path sides are looking fabulous at the moment.
  • Horse chestnut trees are full of impressive flower spikes.
  • Look for early purple orchids in woodland and grassland - one of the first orchids to appear.

This week you're asking...

Where to find advice on some of the most asked about topics this week:

Baby birds

Cutting hedges

Nests in tricky places