The Norfolk Coast – A monthly wildlife guide by Oli Reville
May is (hopefully) the month where Summer begins. Since the prolonged and damaging bad weather at the start of the year the weather has generally been dry and even warm at times. May is the month where the longer evenings can be enjoyed due to prolonged periods of sunshine and warmer evenings.
May is also the time where one of Britain’s best loved flowers is at its peak, the Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). 2014 seems to be a bumper year for this gorgeous plant and from gardens to dense woodlands it seems to be abundant throughout Norfolk after its emergence in April.
The first orchids are emerging too and as May progresses more will emerge of various species. Blossom from fruit trees is also very evident in May before it begins to fall later in the month.
Insects come into their element in May, as long as the weather stays dry and warm. Many of Britain’s butterflies emerge in May and as well as the more common species, rarer species emerge including Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper and Swallowtail.
It is also a good idea to get a moth trap set up as the warmer evenings of May should mean high catch rates and more interesting species than earlier in the year.
Bees and other insects will also be enjoying the warmer weather and the increased daylight hours allow them to thrive in the Norfolk countryside.
May, as with April, is one of the best months of the year to see birds. More and more Summer breeding species are arriving and May will bring some of sub-saharan Africa’s most fascinating species.
The coastal reed beds, despite the winter floods, will be full of Reed Warblers and are already filling up with Grasshopper, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers. These four species are all migratory and very vocal so listen out for them at reed bed sites like Titchwell or Cley. Other Warblers such as Whitethroat arrive in May and their scratchy call is often heard from bramble bushes on the coast in this month.
Swifts are also one of May’s most prominent species as they arrive for just 3 months from sub-sahara Africa. Their screams as they shoot across the sky is all too obvious and often drowns out the far more subtle House Martins and Swallows.
May is also a great month to see two of Norfolk’s rarer species, Golden Oriole and Hobby. Both are a specialist species at Lakenheath in South Norfolk but Golden Oriole can turn up anywhere on occasion and Hobby are often seen over reed beds on the coast during May and over the summer.
With Europe now fully stocked with migrant birds a rarer bird or two may turn up in Norfolk during May and highlights in the past few years have included Bee-Eater, Red-Backed Shrike, Short-Toed Lark and Red-Footed Falcon. All of these are species from Southern Europe and as they move North can over shoot and end up on the Norfolk coast.
Hopefully May will prove warm and sunny so the wildlife can be enjoyed to the full.
In June we move away from birds as the climbing temperatures make it the best time of year for Butterflies and Orchids, and these will be the focus.