April temperatures in my Whitley garden reached as high as 30ºC and as low as -5ºC, the hottest and coldest ever recorded for that month; the average temperature for the month was 17ºC. We also experienced an afternoon hail storm at the beginning of the month that briefly covered the garden in what looked like snow.
I spotted a red-legged partridge on my morning garden walk on 4 April. I think we spooked one another, and the partridge flew off in the direction of Callington Road.
On 8 April, a female blackcap appeared again at the feeders; she had not been seen since January. Unusually, the male blackcap is very elusive this year. The female pied wagtail also took food away on 8 April, so she must be feeding young somewhere.
This has been a very disappointing year for nesting birds, with not a nest in sight, and I have not seen any birds collecting nesting material. My Scottish Twitter contact tells me that it is much the same up there; this does not bode well and, later in the year, I expect we will hear from experts as to why this is happening.
I had been aware of aware of activity at my bird food store for some time. This food is stored in metal dustbins with plastic lids, and I had assumed a rat had got in as the lid was always on the floor in the mornings. How wrong I was! It’s a good job I don’t use rat poison, because a squirrel had eaten through the lid. I spotted the squirrel in the dustbin on an afternoon walk of the garden; you can’t beat a squirrel, it always wins. Very clever animals.
Mid-April saw the first of the wild flower plants flowering, a Silene dioica (red campion). I planted a number of wild flower plants back in February purchased from a specialist grower near Winchester; all plants from this gem of a nursery are grown from seed. This period also saw a few days of hard overnight frosts, although daytime temperatures averaged 17ºC each afternoon.
14 April was a day to remember when, at 2.14am, my trail cameras confirmed we had fox cubs in the garden. The vixen and cubs were on the back lawn eating hedgehog food as well as in a kennel (my Hogtel) where the hedgehogs had food and also rested at night. The trail cameras also confirmed the foxes den was directly under the Hogtel. It became clear that four fox cubs were using the Hogtel to rest and feed in, and living under the decking beneath the Hogtel during the day.
I was initially worried for the hedgehogs, but surprisingly, they all seem happy to share their lodgings with one another. I will eventually have a complete photographic record of the cubs from the time they first appeared on the lawn to when they leave home in June.
By 20 April, the fox cubs were foraging and playing in all parts of the garden; they absolutely love hedgehog food. Two male and one female hedgehog spent three hours attempting to mate outside the den entrance and I caught all this amazing activity on camera. Even more surprisingly, the hedgehogs were using the foxes’ den, and without the trail cameras I would never have known about this unusual behaviour. To give you some idea of the intense activity, I look at 5000 trail camera images a day.
Easter Sunday was the hottest day of the year so far, with afternoon temperatures of 30ºC. Such warm temperatures for the rest of the month meant we were blessed with numerous moths each night, and large numbers of butterflies by day. I recorded butterflies such as small and large whites, orange tips, speckled woods, holly blue and yellow brimstone.