What to See in May

May is a month of abundance with rapid growth and lots of new families

Though starting to flower in April, this year our Bluebells will be at their best this month. Great Britain and Ireland have international importance for this iconic spring flower. Good places to see carpets locally included Perivale Wood (see Selborne Society for open days), Long Wood, Gutteridge Wood and the wild area at Kew Gardens. In gardens, the hybrid with Spanish Bluebell tends to be more common. Greater Stitchwort with attractive white flowers and Red Campion should also be out now in woods and hedge banks.

May blossom, the flowers of Hawthorn should also be at their peak at the start of the month and are worth checking for a variety of insects including several Solitary Bees, Hoverflies, and Longhorn Beetles as well as many other species of insects. A good number of moth caterpillars feed on the young foliage. Hawthorn is one of our most valuable woody plants for wildlife, so worth incorporating into a hedge.

Long Wood Bluebells, photo by David Gordon Davy | A Hairy Footed Flower Bee on Dead Nettle, photo by Julian Oliver | Holly Blue Butterfly on Hawthorn Blosom, photo by Ann Tierney | Red Campion, photo by Jane Ruhland

The last of our spring migrants will be arriving this month, most notably Swifts, which hopefully will be screaming around our rooftops. Much scarcer but keep an eye open for Spotted Flycatchers on their passage. Sadly they no longer breed locally, but may be seen as they pass through, though they tend to be more numerous on their return passage at the end of summer.

Many young birds should now be evident, especially large family parties of Starlings with very noisy, brownish juveniles with their parents. Look out for lots of other familiar garden birds with their young. Please remember any fledglings who have fallen from nests should be left where they are unless there is a very real threat to them, such as a cat or they are on a road. In such cases move them to nearby safety where the parents can find them to feed them.

May is peak mating season for our sadly declining Hedgehog. This can be a prolonged noisy activity with lots of grunting; not a particularly gentle affair! There can be head-butting and chases with rivals. Also, look out for playful Fox and Badger cubs becoming more confident above ground.

Starling Fledgling, photo by Duncan Brown | Hedgehogs, photo by Allan Hopkins | Fledgling Robin, photo by Silvana Hladik | Fox Cubs, photo by bayucca

For those into nocturnal life, Bats will be pretty active now with the sexes largely separate. The females in pre-maternity roosts and the males either on their own or in bachelor roosts.

Moth numbers and diversity should be approaching a peak. Nighttime Moths include some of our glamorous Hawkmoths such as Lime, Poplar and Elephant. Other species you may see include Green Carpet, Brimstone Moth, Blood-vein and Pale Tussock. By day Moths such as Burnet Companion, Cinnabar and Mother Shipton can be seen in flowery places.

Butterflies emerging this month adding to the earlier spring fliers include Common Blue, Brown Argus, and Small Copper. Horsenden Hill and Yeading Brook meadows are two local sites where all three species can with a bit of luck be seen but numbers do vary from season to season.

May is also the month we should start looking for early dragonflies and damselflies. A few damselflies can be seen in late April in some seasons, but things are a bit slower this year. First seen is usually the Large Red Damselfly quickly followed by Azure, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies, while along the rivers and brooks check for Demoiselles, almost always Banded Demoiselle locally. Hairy Dragonfly, a small hawker species, is one of the first dragonflies to appear; a local but increasing species. Also, look out for Broad-bodied Chasers at garden ponds. Most of these species can be seen at sites such as Northala pools and ditches as well as Perivale Wetlands while look for Banded Demoiselles on the River Brent and Yeading Brook.

Elephant Hawk Moth, photo by Candi Bloxham | Bats, photo by Stuart Anthony | Small Copper Butterfly, photo by Sean McCormack | Banded Demoiselle, photo by Caroline Farrow

Our thanks again to Neil Anderson for his expert local knowledge.

Header Photo by Nigel Bewley