This month saw a very welcome increase in our population of snake’s head fritillaries. The original planting in the boardwalk field about ten years has been on its knees for some time, numbers hovering between two and five for the past six springs; this year there are ten, admittedly not a huge count, given the thousands of bulbs that were originally planted but perhaps, it represents the start of a fragile recovery. Far more robust figures came from the hay field, where 400 bulbs were planted in autumn 2019; last year we found 26 flowers, plus a further 36 non-flowering stems, but this April there were 154 flowering stems. The charming fairy lantern flowers looked remarkably fragile nodding in the breeze, yet survived the frequent April frosts with little apparent impact on their beauty.

Photo courtesy of Dave Smith

After that little bit of fritillary excitement, the rest of the month has been rather subdued. The pair of great crested grebes appear to have abandoned Tonford lake, and nothing has been seen of the reed buntings. The first returning whitethroat (right) was singing on the 25th, the same day that an overstaying fieldfare was seen high up in one of the embankment poplars – the former fresh from a winter in Africa, the latter contemplating a return to breeding grounds in Scandinavia. Lesser black-backed gulls are largely summer visitors here, so the arrival of two on the 19th was a further welcome sign that spring is coming, even though the thermometer indicates to the contrary. Also of interest was a pair of bullfinches, the first since November, and four greylag geese flying over.