High Weald Species
If you spot a large bird soaring in the sky, its straight wings motionless, the tips of its wing feathers curled upwards, tail spread out, you are likely to be looking at the UK's commonest and most widespread bird of prey, the Buzzard.
The Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) migrates to the UK from the Mediterranean and West Africa. One of the earliest migrants to return, sometimes in February/early March and one of the latest to depart in September, there is now a small population who stay and overwinter in southern England.
Tree Pipits (Anthus trivialis) return to the UK after spending the winter in Africa and stay for the summer months. They breed on heathlands and other open areas where they can often be seen 'parachuting' from the top of pine trees to lower branches with their legs dangling.
The Yellow Archangel, Lamiastrum galeobdolon has leaves that are very similar to the common stinging nettle, but bears yellow flowers rather than white. It is thought that the inclusion of ‘Archangel’ in the name is a reference to the fact that it does not sting.
The Common Toad, Bufo bufo will be busy mating throughout April and May. Look out for this drowsy looking amphibian in shady places by the water.
Ramsons or Wild Garlic, Allium ursinum is an unmistakable sight and scent in the woods through April and May. It is so impressive and prominent that it was even used by King Edmund as a boundary marker in a charter for a piece of land granted to Bishop Aelfric in AD944.
The Orange-Tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines is the prettiest of the springtime butterflies and remains a common sight across the High Weald.
Common Dog Violet
Common Dog Violet, Viola riviana is an easily recognised flower. The ‘dog’ part of its name refers to the fact that it is unscented as opposed to ‘sweet’ violets that do have a fragrance.
The Green-Winged Orchid, Ancamptis morio famously put in an appearance at short mid-wicket on the cricket ground at Stansted Park, West Sussex in May 1992. Happily it was protected by both players and spectators!
The Cuckoo Pint or Lords-and-Ladies, Arum maculatum flowers in April, with the distinctive red fruits following in July and August. There are many traditions associated with this plant, but it was particularly popular in the 18th century, when young men considered it to be a love charm and if a piece was put inside the shoe while saying: “I place you in my shoe, Let all the girls be drawn to you”, then it would have the power to lure the prettiest girl at a dance. There are no records to confirm or deny the truth of following this tradition!
Sweet Vernal Grass
Sweet Vernal Grass, Anthoxanthum odoratum has long been regarded as the best grass for chewing due to the sweet taste of the centre stem.
Coralroot (Cardamine bulbifera) is a beautiful woodland flower which is very scarce in Britain. This rarity is only found naturally in The Weald and the Chilterns.
Look out for coralroot on undisturbed road verges in the High Weald, and damp, ancient woodland on clay.
Closely related to the more common cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), both bloom around the time the cuckoo starts to call in April. Coralroot is a larger plant, with bigger, pale lilac flowers, and unlike cuckooflower, coralroot has brown bulbils in the leaf axils on the stem.
The Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus is a light blue butterfly which often flies at head height.
The Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta makes a welcome appearance this month. A carpet of this attractive, fragrant flower under a woodland canopy is truly a delight to behold.
The Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) makes its return from West Africa to spend the spring and summer in the UK to breed and raise their young before leaving again in August.