April was a good month for us. We again had flux levels in the 80's & 90's for a good part of the month and enjoyed night path propagation on 20. Then they took a dive below 70 and the polar windows were still open on 20, but not as well. As I write this, the ionosphere is disturbed and conditions are off. At this time of the year, all we need is a quiet geomagnetic situation for plenty of DX. Seasonally, the high bands don't get any better than this at the low end of the cycle. The WPX CW contest is coming up, and is one of few remaining contests where we can enjoy nightpath pipelines to Europe and Japan on 20.
One factor we won't have to worry about this year is the low summer MUFs. At the high end of the cycle, this stifles 10 Meter DX from May through August and effects 15 during midsummer. Since these bands are not producing anyway, there is no need to worry. May is a good month for 15 Meters, so we can still expect marginal openings to Europe when the flux gets above 80. Most DX activity, however, will be on 20.
DX windows to remote parts of the world are important. Long haul paths over the pole provide contacts to rare spots like A5, XZ, YA, 9N, VU4, VU7 & S2. Europeans need these same windows to work parts of the Pacific. When expeditions are launched to these locations, the season has much to do with your chances of making the contact. Even at the top of the solar cycle, 10 Meter propagation is scarce in midwinter. Polar paths are always difficult on 40 and very formidable on lower frequencies. The best all around band for polar work is 20. (At the top of the cycle, 15 is awesome - but not any more.) At the low end of the cycle, the polar paths on 20 are only reliable during the late spring and summer. This is when you hope these rare DX spots are activated. 17 and 30 Meters would also be good to watch for this difficult propagation. The windows open in both the evening and the morning.
20 Meter openings to the far east are improving in the morning, and will become a daily pipeline through the summer. Evening openings will continue to improve to Russia as the grey line tilts in that direction. East/west paths are not a problem and never are. We have more bands to choose from when working these paths, even including 10 Meters. It is wise to catch Pacific expeditions on the low bands around our sunrise, even in midsummer.
It is my opinion that stateside sporadic E on 10 Meters (and 6) is much better at the low end of the sunspot cycle. This season is upon us, and includes Field Day. Expect plenty of activity on 6 this year.