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Wildlife - April

On the cliffs there is plenty of activity amongst our nesting seabirds: Guillemots form long lines on the water or can be seen whirring in and out of the cliffs in large 'squadrons'. Come into the Castle and watch them on the camera. Razorbills are less numerous but are regularly spotted from the coast path, often in courting pairs. Shags dive deep for fish while stiff-winged Fulmars glide effortlessly over the water. A Peregrine or an occasional Raven may provide a dramatic spectacle for the lucky observer.

Further out at sea, migrant terns, skuas, waders and wildfowl pass by en-route to northern breeding grounds. Please report any sightings of Bottlenose Dolphins (look out for their black dorsal fins). A basking Adder can often be seen near the Tilly Whim Caves. Later in the month the harmless St. Mark's Fly appears, a weird creature with its dangling legs.

The woodland chorus is augmented by the rich fluty tones of Blackcaps and the wistful cadences of Willow Warblers. Later on, the shivering song of a Wood Warbler may be heard. The loud 'yaffling' calls of Green Woodpeckers can hardly be missed but a keen ear is needed to hear the tremulous sounds of Treecreepers. Early butterflies like the Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue flit around sunny glades while hoverflies hang motionless in mid-air.

Lesser Celandine, Bluebells, Cow Parsley and Ramsons brighten up the woodland floor. Less conspicuous are the flowers of Spurge Laurel, Pendulous Sedge and 3-Cornered Leek. The heavy fragrance of the Balsam Poplar may waft through the landslip side of the woods. In the long grass listen for the high pitched shrieks of squabbling Common Shrews.

Migrant birds, like Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails, may be seen feeding on the ground while scrub may conceal a Redstart or a singing Nightingale. Overhead the glorious song of the Skylark contrasts with the simple piping of the Meadow Pipit. Both are ground-nesting and particularly at risk from disturbance, so please keep to the waymarked paths. Listen out for the strange 'reeling' song of the Grasshopper Warbler. Incoming Swallows and Martins may attract a newly-arrived Hobby. Stonechats perch conspicuously on yellow-flowered Gorse bushes, often in the company of Linnets and Yellowhammers.

Sharp eyes are needed to see Early Spider Orchids but the purple blooms of Early Purple & Green-winged Orchids are easier to find - as are the bright blue flowers of Chalk Milkwort. Cowslips bloom in the meadows alongside Pale Flax, Buttercups and Good Friday Grass. White Blackthorn blossom makes an impressive sight and attracts early insects like the Bee Fly. In the pond you may notice Frog spawn and Smooth Newts.