April Wildlife Watch with Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Our friends over at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust provide a monthly guide on what to look out for.

Blue carpets

Many Cornish woodlands will be carpeted with flowering bluebells this month, and the Pendarves Wood Nature Reserve near Camborne is particularly noted for its impressive display. However these familiar plants are not all they seem. Sometimes called ‘wild hyacinth’, the native bluebell (Hyacinthoides nonscripta) is a protected species, threatened by the importation and spread of the non-native but commercially grown Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica). The Spanish bluebell can reproduce with our native bluebell producing ‘hybrids’. If this happens a lot we could lose our pure native bluebells forever, rendering them extinct. So, if you have Spanish bluebells or their hybrids in your garden – never take the soil outside of your garden – as it could lead to them getting into the wild.

Little dinosaurs

Common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) emerge from hibernation this month to feed on insects, spiders, snails and earthworms. They are the smallest lizards found in Britain and live in a variety of habitats from woodlands to grassland or verges, unimproved grassland, hedges and, particularly in Cornwall, coastal heathland and dunes such as our Upton Towans Nature Reserve near Hayle. South facing Cornish hedges and banks are particularly favoured, where you should look out for them basking in the warmth of the sun. They will often dash off into the undergrowth at the first sign of any disturbance - however be patient and wait, since they will often return to the very same spot soon afterwards. As a defense against predators, a lizard can shed its tail which will then twitch on the ground all by itself – potentially as a distraction for the predator. The lizard will soon re-grow its tail, although there will always be a scar, and the new tail is often a little shorter.

The first sound of Spring

Common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) one of the most traditional heralds of spring, return from their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa in April. Despite having one of the most familiar of all bird calls, these migrants are becoming scarce across the UK and indeed across Cornwall itself. Famous as a ‘brood parasite’, cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other birds with precision timing. Once hatched, the chick ejects the legitimate occupants and then gets fed by its new and unsuspecting foster parents, often a species such as meadow pipit or reed warbler. The cuckoo has recently been placed on Birds of Conservation Concern Red list. The UK Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) showed that nationally, between1994-2007, the cuckoo population declined by 52%.

For more info on Cornwall Wildlife Trust visit their website at: www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk, you can help protect Cornish wildlife by joining as a member.

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