Spring 2018
The first signs of spring!

Hazel catkinsAs the evenings begin to draw out and the mornings get lighter, we start to feel like spring is near. But nature has a way of telling us too before the first budburst and leaf, with nodding daffodils, swathes of crocuses, beautiful yellow wild primrose and lesser celandine flowers and clusters of long hazel catkins that sway gracefully in the wind. If you’re already hankering after some blossom, it won’t be long before the earliest – the blackthorn (which produce sloe fruit in autumn) – will have it’s pretty little white flowers open along its short, spiky stalks.     

song thrush2Have you become more aware of the amount of birdsong that you can now hear at dawn? The song thrush is one of the first passerines to start singing to attract a mate (a female chooses a male who sings best!) and to defend their territory. But also keep an eye to the sky for rooks flying around with nesting material in their beaks as they are one of the earliest birds to make a start on nest building for their imminent new arrivals. March onwards, our winter migrant visitors will return to eastern Europe and Scandinavia while chiffchaffs, sand martins and later on warblers and cuckoos come and make themselves right at home in Blighty.

Queen buff tailed bumblebee2If you’re visiting Bedgebury in the coming days, walk along the boardwalk through the coast redwoods and giant sequoias and as you take a path which forks right, a delicious scent fills the air. Planted along here are an array of winter-flowering shrubs such as honeysuckle, daphne and sarcococca which are like a magnet for newly-emerged, large queen bumblebees! They are fresh from hibernation and will be searching for nectar in order to build up their reserves, create new nests and start the next generation. Of course you may also see honeybees (which do not hibernate during winter) and solitary bees on warm, sunny days too, making the most of the better weather.  

Red Admiral 2Some butterflies also overwinter as adults in the UK and now’s the time to keep an eye out especially for red admirals which will happily bask with their wings spread in the spring sunshine. In fact there have already been two sightings recorded at Bedgebury recently. As we get ever closer to Easter, expect to see newly-awakened small tortoiseshell, brimstone and peacock too.      

Down in the ponds and lakes, something is stirring! The start of spring marks a mass clamber for common frogs to reproduce and lay their jelly-like frog spawn. By late March, the first tadpoles will emerge and will have to try and avoid becoming a tasty snack for many hungry predators, even innocent-looking dragonfly larvae!                          

So next time the clouds have cleared and a few rays of spring sunshine burst through, go for a walk and see how many early signs of spring you can spot during the season that just keeps giving. And it’s not long to wait before everyone’s favourite flower, the bluebell, is carpeting our woodlands.

Sarah Harrington-James

Did you know?
  • Daffodils have been known to flower in early January! This is probably due to climate change as our winters here in the UK are becoming milder and wetter.
  • The early risers for the dawn chorus are often blackbirds, song thrushes, robins and skylarks.
  • Take a closer look at the birds that visit your garden. At this time of year male chaffinches and tits, for example, are at their most colourful as they develop their breeding plumage.