In April the days are getting longer, and signs of spring are starting to show. Spring bulbs are flowering, birds are starting to sing, and the early migrants are returning. This being Shetland however, there is still the chance of freezing weather bringing snow and winter winds ready to give our poor daffodils a battering!
In Focus- Skylark
My favourite sound of the summer is the Skylark (Alauda arvensis) singing and it is in late March into April that they really get going. We are lucky here in Shetland as they are still a very common bird but in many parts of the UK they are in decline and it is now rare to hear their song. The Shetland name for a Skylark is ‘Laverek’
Skylarks have an amazing song-flight. It can be really difficult to pick out one singing against the sky as they fly so high. This song-flight may well have evolved to attract females. The higher, longer and more spectacular the song, the more a female might be attracted. If he can sing that well for that long and avoid predators, then he should make a good dad for my chicks!
Moth of the Month- Brindled Ochre
The Brindled Ochre (Dasypolia templi) is common in north and northeast Scotland including Shetland and Orkney.
Adult females overwinter in drystone walls and outbuildings before laying their eggs in the spring on Wild Angelica and Hogweed. Once the eggs are laid the females do not survive much past May.
Larva hatches in April-July where they stay in the host plant until pupating. Mating occurs in autumn after which the males die and the females find a spot to hide for the winter.
Due to their lifecycle, they are one of few moths in Shetland that are likely to be seen in both spring and then again in autumn.
In other news…
Other highlights this month include some of our most favourite returning migrant birds.
The first Atlantic Puffin was spotted on the cliffs at Sumburgh Head on 5th April this year (2020) via the cliff cam. Webcams can be viewed here. The Puffin is one of Shetland’s most iconic birds and loved by both residents and visitors alike. The Shetland name for the Puffin is ‘Tammie Norie’.
The Great Skua is another of the early returning migrants with the first few being spotted in late March and early April. The Shetland name for the Great Skua is ‘Bonxie’ and is one of the most commonly used Shetland bird names.