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Wildlife Calendar - May


May signals the transition of spring into summer - temperatures are rising and rain showers are still frequent, which triggers vigorous growth of flowering plants in the borders and heightened mating activity of garden wildlife.

Native species of birds are joined by many migrant songbirds such as Blackcaps and Garden Warblers. These immediately start feeding on insects to replenish their fat reserves for nesting - dried mealworms supplied on your bird table will be appreciated.

Beautiful native flowers in flower this month are Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), Snakeshead Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) and cowslips (Primula veris), and although there is still a chance of frosts, you should be able to sow annual bedding outside for a summer show - choose varieties that are good for nectar or butterfly larva foodplants such as Verbena, Centaurea (Cornflowers) and Nasturtiums. It is also worth mentioning that other plants that are weeds to some have a place in the wildlife garden, and are flowering this month - Dandelions (Taraxacum) provide nectar for a variety of insects and Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) a larval foodplant of the Small Copper Butterfly to name a couple. Just keep them in check and they will give you enjoyment in the wildlife that visit.

The hedgerow is at its best at this time of year - the Hawthorn is flowering after pushing out it's lush-green leaves in the spring, and flowers such as Garlic Mustard (Allaria petiolata) and Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) nestle beneath the hedge. These are the larval foodplants of the Orange Tip butterfly (see photo), which will be on the wing towards the end of May. If you need to clip your hedge, make sure there are no nesting birds - they may abandon a nest if it is disturbed or exposed.

The garden pond may be a writhing mass of tadpoles in May leaving little room for other wildlife it seems, but they are heavily predated and numbers will drop significantly before they emerge as froglets and toadlets. Predators of the tadpoles include Dragonfly and Damselfly larvae, who live in the depths of the pond for many months or years before hauling themselves out of the water up the stems of aquatic plants in May and emerging as flies in an amazing transformation. Look out for this amazing spectacle!