Almanac: May 2021

The month of May has long been associated with burgeoning new life, with ducklings, tadpoles, bluebells and hawthorn blossom – aka “mayflower” – repopulating hedgerows and fields, puddles and streams. One reward for rising early this month is hearing the dawn chorus, as blackbirds, robins, wrens, thrushes and finches all enrich their songs as they search for mates and protect their nests. It is not just for practical reasons, however. Scientists recently determined what many of us already suspected: that birds sometimes sing for their own innate pleasure, even adding their own improvisations. In other words, birds make art. In May, broadleaf woodland’s green crown is restored, transforming the countryside into what H.E. Bates, author of The Darling Buds of May, called “the lofty miracle of light and leaf.”

This month, several species of butterfly including peacock, brimstone, small white, holly blue, green-veined white, speckled wood, painted lady, and small tortoiseshell, take wing and flutter amongst wildflowers such as dog violet, honeysuckle, and wild garlic. Keep an eye or ear out also for swifts and nightingales, unfettered by the pandemic, returning from their southern adventures. The music of the male nightingale is arguably the most arresting of the world’s 5,000 songbirds, and if you’re lucky he might give a performance in a leafy glen near you. Most of all, May is a month of magic; it’s time to ditch the wellies and set off with a lighter step, seeking out that small path leading to our own enchanted woods.

Positive Ecological Restoration News

UK’s rarest bee discovered in Scotland Conservationists have had a “once-in-a-lifetime moment” after discovering a swarm of one of the UK’s rarest types of bees, the Great Yellow Bumblebee, in heathland in Caithness, Scotland. The scientists who filmed the yellow bumblebee later stated that: “It’s rare to be able to find any bumblebee nest in the UK, but to observe and film a Great Yellow Bumblebee nest is astonishing.”

New Whale Species in the Gulf of Mexico

A small group of whales in the Gulf of Mexico seem determined to become a new species. Marine researcher Pamela Rosel concluded that the whales are a separate subspecies. She published her findings in the scholarly journal, Marine Mammal Science. Rosel named the new breed “Rice’s whale” or Balaenoptera ricei after the scientist who first recognised the whales living in the Gulf as a distinct group.

Extinct mouse reappears

Scientists declared the Pinatubo volcano mouse to be extinct after the massive 1991 volcanic eruption in the Philippines. However, the species was rediscovered during recent fauna surveys on the volcano’s surface. “For some time, we’ve known that many of the small mammals of the Philippines can tolerate habitat disturbance, both natural and human caused,” said Eric Rickart, Curator of Vertebrates at the Natural History Museum of Utah, “but most of them are geographically widespread, not locally endemic species which are viewed by conservation biologists as highly vulnerable.”

Sky Events

The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower passes through our night skies on 6 and 7 May, producing up to 60 meteors per hour. The planet Mercury can be viewed in the western sky just after sunset on 17 May. A “super moon” will rise on 26 May, followed by an eclipse when the moon will gradually darken, slowly transforming into a reddish to bronze colour.

Tides

1 – 4 May – Spring
6 – 9 May – Neap
10 – 17 May – Spring
18 – 22 May – Neap
23 – 29 May – Spring
29 – 31 May – Neap

May Moon Phases


Andreas Kornevall is a Swedish storyteller, writer and ecologist. He is Director of Operations for Earth Restoration Service, a UK-based charity

 

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