Look out for little brown job birds and butterflies on your walks, says Rippingale nature columnist
Neither the frosty mornings and cold north winds of April, nor the cool showery weather in May favoured our butterflies, writes naturalist Ian Misselbrook.
One exception might be the delightful orange tip butterfly. During my rambles I noticed how adept it is at keeping out of the cool breeze, finding the sunlit banks of dykes and sunny sides of hedgerows. Only the male has orange tips to the forewings, the female which usually emerges about a week after the male resembles other white butterflies from which it can be distinguished by hindwings “mossed” with green; a feature it shares with the males.
Orange tip butterflies can generally be seen from early April until the end of June. Eggs are laid on garlic mustard (also known as Jack by the hedge) in dry areas and Lady’s Smock on damper soils.
A popular acronym for many of the visually more difficult birds to identify is LBJ – little brown jobs. Fortunately, many of these LBJ’s can easily be identified by their calls and songs; none more easily than the much loved nightingale.
Like so much of our wildlife, nightingales have seriously declined in England. This can be attributed to various factors, but top of the list is probably loss of habitat. Destruction of woodland understory by deer and changes in forestry practices resulting in more open woodland lacking the shrub layer beloved by nightingales and many of our warblers means that the melodic song of this iconic bird is unfamiliar to most of the younger generation. Fortunately, a few birds can still be found in our area.
Another LBJ with a distinctive song is the cetti’s warbler. This is a relatively recent colonist to the UK and it favours the scrubby edges of reedbeds along water courses and disused gravel pits. Its’ explosive song is rendered at high volume and is unmistakeable.
The last LBJ that I am featuring today is one of the later migrants to return to the UK; the spotted flycatcher. Not noted for its song but more for aerobatics as it will dart out from a favoured sunny perch to catch an insect on the wing. I was delighted to watch the first bird of this year in a local wood. I hope that this will be the first of many.