This is the busiest time of the year for our feathered friends, with everything from nest building and courting to egg laying and feeding happening right over our heads. It’s also the start of the migration season as we begin to welcome back many birds after a long journey from the winter warmth of Africa. Here are some birds to keep an eye out for in early spring both in your garden and in the countryside.
This iconic bird and national favourite makes a return from South Africa during April and signals the summer’s approach. They migrate in huge numbers, and you’ll likely see vast flocks of these birds winging their way through the sky. You can recognise a swallow by its distinctive long, forked tail and red throat. Swallows often nest in our outbuildings, such as garages. Sit by a pond or lake and marvel as they skim low to drink on the wing.
These busy birds begin to make their nests in the eaves of our houses during April, having just made a long migration back from the warmth of Africa. They spend much of their time swooping and diving in the air to catch winged insects, and can be identified by their shorter forked tail, bright white underside, shiny blue/black feathers and white patch on their back.
Unassuming to look at, the nightingale brightens up spring with it’s beautiful song, and is at its most vocal at dusk and dawn. You’re much more likely to hear than spot these elusive birds, with their rather plain brown colouring and small size. Sandy brown, they have a russet toned tail and like to hide in thickets and bushes, mainly in the south east of the country.
This controversial bird doesn’t make many friends thanks to its habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds. They arrive back in the UK around mid-April, and are unmistakable with their grey colouring, beady yellow eyes and black and white striped underbelly. They look quite like kestrels and of course have that distinct call.
More endangered than the other birds on this list, the yellow wagtail is truly eye catching with its bright yellow feathering, green highlights and tail wagging gait. The black and white pied wagtail is seen across the country all year round, but the yellow wagtail only arrives in spring. Sadly, their numbers are dropping due to habitat destruction so keep an eye out for these beautiful little birds after their long migration from Africa.
As birds are nesting and feeding their young throughout spring, food and nesting boxes in the garden will help them through the season. Keep all bird feeders, water stations, and bird baths away from bushes where cats could be lurking and think about food falling off feeders because many birds are ground feeders and they are very vulnerable when on the ground. Bird tables are great for seed mixes, soft fruits, grated cheese, porridge oats, rice, and pasta, while hanging feeders such as the Lantern Shaped Bird Feeder or the All Weather Three Seed Feeder are designed for sunflower seeds, nuts and fat balls. Nesting boxes and bird houses should be well secured and at least 1.5 metres above the ground.
Dusk and dawn see the most feeding activity, so if you have cats, these would be good times to keep them inside the house.