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APRIL IN CUMBRIA

The arrival of those summer migrants not yet here will be eagerly anticipated. The real gem would be a sighting of Garganey, peak times being late March into April (hot spots being Walney, Hodbarrow and around the Leven estuary). The first Swallow, House Martin and Willow Warbler have usually been reported by the end of the first week of the month, with the main influx soon afterwards. Common Sandpiper, Redstart and Cuckoo have often been sighted by mid-month. By the month end Swift should be riding the thermals and our woods should provide the opportunity to hear, if not see, Garden and Wood Warbler together with Pied Flycatcher. The raucous "song" of Sedge Warbler will be starting again around water with reed beds, and in a few places the more musical version of the Reed Warbler. The two Whitethroat species could just make it before the month is out - each following a different route from Africa - but peak numbers won't be here until May, the preferred arrival time of Spotted Flycatcher. Now should be the time to look out for the Ospreys returning to Bassenthwaite and Foulshaw Moss to breed. On the Solway, around Walney and in both the Leven and Kent Estuaries late April to early May is the peak time for passage Whimbrel.

On the estuaries the over-wintering flocks of Golden Plover will be developing the black throats and bellies of breeding plummage as they prepare to move into the hills to nest:-

April is the best time to see and hear an otherwise difficult bird to spot. At dusk Woodcock make their roding flights - damp woodland is the place to look, especially the Rusland and Greenodd areas.

Many insects should get on the move this month, if continuing cold weather does not hold them back. In the garden, warm sunshine will tempt 7-spot Ladybirds to the surface of any conifer where they might have been over-wintering. We are fortunate to have the foodplant of Brimstone occurring widely, if rather sparsely, across the southern parts of the county - Buckthorn on wooded limestone and Alder Buckthorn on lowland mosses. This month these strong flyers seek out the most favoured bushes, those in sheltered spots that get plenty of sunshine. Other butterflies which have over-wintered as the adult, Comma, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell will also be tempted out on warm sunny days.

Frogs and Common Toads will have already spawned but by the start of the month Natterjack Toads should be laying their long strings of spawn - remember it is illegal to disturb them.

The county's Red Deer population will be shedding their antlers at this time of year. Strongholds for the species are the fells south of Haweswater and east of Thirlmere, together with Grizedale Forest and the Cartmel Fells. The much smaller Roe Deer are much more widespread throughout the county, but will already have developed new antlers and the velvet will be fraying off.

Primroses and Cowslips are at their best in mid to late April and where both occur together look out for the hybrid - False Oxlip. Massed displays of Primroses or Cowslips were once very common - nowadays railway embankments for Primrose and roadsides for Cowslip can hold some spectacular displays. A fine display of spring flowers (Primrose, Lesser Celandine, Dog Violet) like that below near Barrow-in-Furness is now all too uncommon:

Woodland, especially ancient woodland, will be full of Wood Anemone, but Bluebells will not be at their most spectacular in our woods until early next month. In shady dry parts of woods, banks and hedgerows a plant that is associated with Easter is the Wood Sorrel (oxalis). In Cumbria, a lilac-flowered variant sometimes occurs.