Nature Notes – The Heart of Spring

Whether you consider that spring starts on 1 March, or at the equinox around 21 March, April is at the heart of spring.

Days are lengthening and temperatures should be rising. Birds are singing to define territories and attract mates, and migratory bird species are returning from their wintering areas south of the UK. Frogs and toads are returning to the ponds where they hatched as tadpoles. And young mammals are venturing above ground or from other cover that has kept them safe. Trees such as Sallow provide a brief but spectacular show of yellow flowers. They are rich in pollen that is sought by cold-blooded insects that emerge in the warmth of the spring sun.

Stop, Look and Listen

If you enjoy being out of doors in your garden, the local park, or the wider countryside, what might you encounter if you ‘stop, look and listen’? Set out below are ten things that you might look or listen for this month. No prizes; finding them will be a rewarding experience.

  • First butterfly of the year, probably a brimstone (bright yellow), a peacock (‘eyes’ on its wings) or an orange tip (orange-tipped white wings).
  • Birds carrying nesting material. Crows or herons carrying sticks, blackbirds with straw and/or mud, blue tits with scraps of wool.
  • Sheep with lambs or, better, baby rabbits or fox cubs
  • Frog, toad or newt eggs (spawn) in your garden or other local pond.
  • Be up early and listen to the dawn chorus. You can probably hear robin, blackbird and song thrush on your doorstep, or great spotted woodpecker drumming if you live near mature trees.
  • Trees of the willow/sallow family with their bright-yellow flowering catkins.
  • Violets (you need to look carefully for these small aromatic flowers) and primroses and possibly early bluebells by the end of the month
  • Swallows flying in and out of barns or skimming low over pasture fields and always seeming pleased to be back at their nest sites
  • Bumble bees around the garden. Take a photograph and try to identify the species using the Nature Spot website.
  • By the end of the month, your first dragonfly sighting of the year. The large red damselfly is one of the earliest species to be found locally.

David Scott