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In April

as the days get warmer more and more animals are emerging from their winter torpor. You may catch a first sight of reptiles such as adders – widely feared but will not attack unless threatened – and grass snakes basking in the sun. Frogs and toads have already laid their eggs and now newts also are heading for ponds to breed.

By the end of the month resident birds such as long-tailed tits and blue tits will have completed their nests and will be sitting on their eggs. Willow warblers, blackcaps and whitethroats will be arriving from Africa and will be pairing up and establishing their territories.

Some queen bumblebees have built a nest and are already raising worker bees to help them build a colony and produce new queens for the following year. Others are still prospecting for nest sites. Make cavities in sheltered spots such as hedge bottoms or under piles of logs or stones and you might tempt them to build a nest in your garden. Bumblebees are in widespread decline. They are inoffensive creatures and valuable as pollinators of both wild plants and fruit trees, so please try to make them welcome in your garden.

Towards the end of the month tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies will be spinning webs for their caterpillars on nettles. Brimstone and orange tip butterflies will be on the wing this month also.

Bluebells come into flower in April, making a spectacular display in many Essex woods. They are a familar sight to us but they grow only in NW Europe and the British Isles are their main stronghold. They are threatened by cross-fertilisation with non-native bluebells grown in gardens and may also be threatened by climate change. Early purple orchids flower in woods now as well, as does the unspectacular wood sorrel. Enjoy the early woodland flowers at Danbury Ridge or Little Haven, and at Blakes, Chalkney, Hillhouse, MarksHall, Shut Heath, Weeleyhall or West Woods.

Photo © Chris Gibson

By now most of the winter visitors have left the Essex coast to head for their northern breeding grounds. As they leave the resident birds and summer visitors are preparing to breed here. Go to Tollesbury Wick, Abbotts Hall Farm, Wat Tyler or Blue House Farm to see breeding birds such as teal, redshank and shelduck on the fleets and marshland.