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May

is a frantically busy month for most of our resident birds: in our gardens blue tits, great tits, robins and blackbirds are at work from dawn to dusk ferrying food to their hungry youngsters in the nest. Song thrushes are far less common in our gardens than they used to be: you can help them by putting out soaked sultanas and raisins, which they will feed to their young in the nest.

In woods and fields summer visitors such as blackcaps, chiffchaffs and whitethroats fill the air with song. In Essex we are fortunate that there are several places where you can hear the best songster of all, the nightingale. Fingringhoe Wick, Essex Wildlife Trust's first nature reserve, usually has more than 20 pairs nesting, and the males sing through the day as well as at night, and you can join nightingale walks there. Other Essex Wildlife Trust reserves where you may hear nightingales include Abberton Reservoir and Great Holland Pits. To hear other songbirds in full voice, visit other woodland or wetland reserves such as Langdon, Hainault Forest, Ingrebourne Marshes (Hornchurch CP) or High Woods.

Other animals are further behind in the mating game. Around or after dusk you may hear hedgehogs snuffling and grunting in their noisy mating ritual, while bats are emerging from their winter sleep and looking for roosting and breeding sites in trees or buildings. The first dragonflies will be on the wing on sunny days: broad-bodied chasers and damselflies such as the large red damselfly.

 



Photo © Owen Keen

Hawthorn and holly are in flower in the hedgerows and cow parsley on roadside verges, attracting insects to their pollen and nectar, including soldier beetles that lie in wait for prey to arrive. Our largest beetle, the stag beetle, can be seen from mid-month onwards – especially the males, buzzing around in ungainly flight looking for mates.