The vibrant month

A fine April can encourage the blackbird to sing on balmy evenings and a solitary swallow may sweep in from South Africa. All is well. Then, suddenly, an easterly wind will rip and roar, tumbling the wheelie bins and showering us with hail, sleet and even flurries of snow. This is what makes April full of vibrancy. It’s a dangerous time for our flowering plants, daffodils always being the optimists of a warm spring from the start. Trees are more careful about budding early. Do you remember the ancient saying: Oak before Ash, in for a splash; Ash before Oak, in for a soak? This comes from the fact that trees carefully monitor temperatures to gauge their optimal time to spring forth. This plant intelligence is called vernalisation and prevents the tree from being tricked by an early warm weather pattern, since budding too soon would be dangerous. Japan has recorded the bud-bursts from cherry blossom trees for over a thousand years, and China has meticulously recorded crop yields since 974 BCE. These budding documentations play an important part in understanding changes to our climate. For example, we’re told the white oak tree from France may migrate to the UK if our springs get warmer. So now is the perfect time to leap into action and practise vernalisation on our own plants. Our gardens will be seeking our attention and this month is an ideal time to start planting a herb garden and getting organised for the summer months ahead. If you have a greenhouse, the tomatoes can go in with relish: enjoy! If not, you may be taking a risk as Jack Frost is still around. But it’s definitely time for us gardeners to bud. When Easter comes with its symbolism of eggs, hares and young lambs, it encourages us to stretch into the sunshine. We have earned a sprinkle of ease and joy after a long winter.

This month is an ideal time to start planting a herb garden and getting organised for the summer months ahead

Positive Ecological Restoration Stories

Hopping glad
Cotswold wildlife park in Oxfordshire has successfully bred froglets from the near-threatened Cinnamon frog species. Jamie Craig, general manager of the park, said: “Our dedicated reptile team have been working hard to perfect breeding techniques in our Amphibian Room. Many frog species have incredibly specific requirements, and it is a testament to their hard work that they have now managed to replicate our previous success with the Cinnamon frogs.” Cinnamon frogs are endemic to South-East Asia and have an unusual call. Cotswold’s reptile keeper Megan Howard described it as, “delicate, beautiful and unusual” after hearing the new froglets calling to each other. “Save the Frogs” day on 28 April aims to raise awareness of their vulnerability and how to protect them from extinction.

An octopus’s garden
The Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Falkor research vessel is travelling with scientists studying the ecosystems of the deep sea. Recently, they discovered four new species of octopus in the deep waters off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast where they were found laying eggs near underwater hydrothermal springs. “Through hard work, our team discovered new hydrothermal springs offshore of Costa Rica and confirmed that they host nurseries of deep-sea octopus and unique biodiversity,” said Dr Beth Orcutt from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, who co-led the expedition. “I hope that the expedition serves as an inspiration for new generations. We need more international collaborations to advance knowledge of our deep-sea heritage,” said Dr Jorge Cortés of the University of Costa Rica, the expedition’s other co-lead.

No more dog dishes
South Korea has passed a full ban on the sale of dog meat. Although official figures are hard to find, activists and farmers report that thousands of dogs are slaughtered each year. This market has been met with great antagonism over the years. Activists formed a strong alliance to ban dog meat for good. When the new bill comes into effect, all sale of dog meat will be illegal, with a firm prison sentence in place. “This law is aimed at contributing to realising the values of animal rights, which pursue respect for life and a harmonious coexistence between humans and animals,” the legislation says. “I never thought I would see in my lifetime a ban on the cruel dog meat industry in South Korea, but this historic win for animals is testament to the passion and determination of our animal protection movement,” said JungAh Chae, executive director of HSI’s (Humane Society International) Korea office.

A free ride
One of the wealthiest countries in Europe offers free public transport for all. In Luxembourg, no tickets are required to take buses, trams or trains. The country celebrated four successful years of this radical idea in March. At first it seemed an impossible target, and now there is little likelihood of the public ever paying for tickets again. However, there is no free lunch in life and transport utopia comes with a price: it is subsidised by taxpayers. “There is greater equity in this because those who pay little tax pay nothing or very little in this system, it’s really free. And those who pay more tax, obviously, they have a price that is perhaps a little higher,” commented Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister, François Bausch, last autumn. The main impact is environmental, because people use their vehicles less – car use was down by 11 per cent in 2023. Now Luxembourgers see free transport as their civilian right. The interesting psychological phenomenon is that four years on they don’t even notice how lucky they are.

Sky Events

On 8 April we have a solar eclipse in the US, revealing the Sun’s corona. According to NASA, an estimated 31.6 million people will be in the path of the total eclipse this year. On 22 and 23 April, the Lyrids Meteor Shower will be producing 20 meteors per hour above us at its peak. The meteors will radiate from the constellation of Lyra. The Full Moon is on 23 April this month. It is known by Native American tribes as the Pink Moon, indicating the time of the first spring flowers, and in the UK as the seed Moon or the budding Moon.

April Tides

Spring: 9th –11th and 24th – 26th
Neap:  2nd – 4th and 16th –18th

Andreas Kornevall is a Swedish storyteller, author and ecologist. He is the Director of Operations for the Earth Restoration Service Charity based in the UK

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Almanac, April 2024, Life

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