Whilst we’ve spent more time coping with wind and rain than snow and ice this winter I’m sure, like me, many of you are looking forward to spring. The noticeably longer days and the sight of the occasional butterfly on the wing certainly hint at brighter times ahead.
One of my favourite aspects of early spring is the sense of sheer pent up energy that can be sensed when looking at our gardens and hedgerows. Spring bulbs pushing through the soil ready to flower and the leaf buds and early blossom on the trees are just some of the seasonal delights.
Amongst the earliest providers of brightness in the countryside is the blackthorn. This traditional hedgerow tree blossoms considerably earlier than the hawthorn and carries its clouds of snowy white flowers on branches still bereft of leaves, enhancing the contrast of this natural display. A friend of mine recently described these delightful blossoms as being like ‘slow motion popcorn’ and I think he really captured the essence of these flowers as they transform from tight buds into open blooms.
After the earliest blossoms, more and more leaves will start to unfurl and the dull dark tones of winter will, as if by magic, give way to verdant greens and splashes of colour. The occasional glimpse of an over-wintering butterfly awakened by a solitary warm day will soon give way to regular sightings of newly emerged butterflies ready to lay their eggs and emerging queen bees ready to find thriving colonies.
Early migrant birds to look out for include sand martin and the onomatopoeic chiffchaff — named after its ‘chiff chaff, chiff chaff’ call. This delightful bird is one of the few birds of which I can actually identify by its call and interestingly, its call is interpreted slightly differently by people with different languages — giving rise alternative names such as the siff-saff in Wales and the Tjiftjaf in Holland.
As the temperature rises and warmer days become more frequent, hedgehogs will permanently rise from their deep winter slumber and many species will begin their frantic annual race against time to produce the next generation whilst the weather is more hospitable and food supplies are plentiful.
As Mother Nature waves her magic wand across the countryside and transforms winter into spring, why not join us Idle Valley Nature Reserve to enjoy the delights of the season for yourself?
Over the weekend of the 14th and 15th March our Wildlife Watch group will host a special ‘Spring is in the Air’ session for children and we will also be running a bird walk and an optics demonstration day to help you choose the right binoculars or wildlife watching ‘scope to ensure you get the best out of trips into the countryside this spring.
For further details visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/nature-reserves/idle-valley.
Image © Mike Vickers