Bridgend County Borough Council’s countryside management officer is encouraging residents to look out for a number of wildflowers and wildlife during the month of May.
Countryside officer Rob Jones who also put together a feature on what residents could see in April said: “There’s so much to see this month in gardens, looking through windows outside, and while people are outdoors on their daily exercise, maintaining social distancing guidelines.
“People can see bluebells, the hawthorn in flower, slow worms or dippers as well as bats and the cockchafer beetle.”
Hawthorn trees flower this time of year, which gives it the alternative name of May. Hawthorn is a member of the rose family that produces fruit called haws. In old English haws were also called ‘hege’, which is where the word hedge is to be believed to originate from. This is also an indication of the association of hawthorn and hedgerows, where it can make up over 50 per cent of the tree species. Hawthorn is associated with over 150 species of insect so has significant wildlife value. The haws provide a welcome berry source for birds and mammals, while this thorny tree also provides habitat and protection from potential predators. Hawthorn is believed to have a range of medicinal properties. For instance, it’s used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and may reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and hair loss!
April and May are a great time to see bluebells. It has been estimated that up to 50 per cent of the global distribution of blue bells can be found in the UK. The native bluebell has a single flower spike drooping onto one side while the Spanish bluebell is generally a much larger plant with a paler appearance and has flowers at various points over the stem. The Spanish bluebell is a threat to the native bluebell as they hybridise.
For more details on how to tell the two species apart visit: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife/how-identify/identify-bluebells
The dipper is a welcome sight on our rivers. It can be seen all year round and can be used as an indication of unpolluted water. This is due to dippers feeding on invertebrates that are sensitive to pollution. It does this by diving under the water and searching out species such as freshwater shrimp and mayfly larvae. In colour, it is generally dark chocolate brown with a white breast and white eyelids. Dippers also have short wings which are beneficial when searching out prey underwater.
As its name implies, dippers can be easily recognised by its regular dipping/bobbing action. For more information visit https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/dipper/
As the days get warmer and nights draw out, bats will come out of hibernation and feed on winged species such as midges and moths. There are about 18 species of bat in the UK which are protected due to bat numbers declining for a number of reasons. The reasons include: loss of habitat (known as a roost), use of pesticides and a decline in the number of bat habitat feeding areas including woodlands and scrub. So if you see a bat flying over your garden on a warm night in search of food you are very lucky!
May is a time when slow worms have come out of hibernation and start mating. The slow worm is neither a worm nor a snake, it is a legless lizard, measuring about 30cm in length and totally harmless.
It feeds mainly on insects, worms and slugs so is a gardener’s friend. Not being a snake, slow worms have eyelids.
Slow worms are found in a number of habitats, but notably rather than basking in the sun, slow worm prefers to lie up under stones or corrugated sheeting.
The female is a brown/copper colour with black stripes on the sides and back. The male doesn’t have stripes and is a greyish brown or reddish in colour, sometimes with blue spots. Slow worms are able to shed their tails if being attacked which starts to grow back in a couple of weeks.
For more information visit https://www.arc-trust.org/slow-worm
This striking beetle can be seen on the wing on warm nights between May and July, hence it’s other name of the may-bug.
When flying they can be heard before they are seen with a distinctive whirring noise and being over an inch (4.0-4.5 cm) in length.
While their size and noise might be off-putting to some and they do sometimes fly into windows, they are herbivores feeding on leaves and can be found on trees and shrubs.
The adult cockchafer has a shiny brown body with ridges. Males have feathery antennae.
Although called ‘a bug’, cockchafers belong to the beetle family which are another group of insects.
For more information:
You can submit all of your wildlife sightings to the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre