6 Most welcoming signs of spring
25th Mar 2021
As the evenings begin to get lighter and the cold winter days begin to fade away, it’s time to head outside and look out for nature's cues that spring is on the way. It’s the season we all look forward to, when the National Forest bursts into a riot of colour, the birds treat us with a morning melody, we hear the buzzing of bees and the first glimpse of a butterfly. Here is our guide on the signs to look out for when on your daily walks in the Forest, on your doorstep or in your gardens this spring.
Flowers in bloom
One of the most welcoming signs of spring is the array of flora we are treated to. First, it’s the delicate snowdrop, filling the Forest floor with a white blanket from January to March, followed by the joyful bursts of yellow as the daffodils bloom - a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. If you’re visiting an ancient woodland in late April keep an eye out for wood anemone’s which start to emerge as they take in the sunlight from leafless areas in the canopy before it becomes too dense. Around this time, it will also be the turn of the iconic bluebell, filling our woodlands with a violet glow – a sure sign spring is in full swing.
Buds & Blossom
As winter turns to spring, the once bare branches of native trees begin to show signs of life, some trees grow new leaves first, whilst others flower. In March, ash, beech and oak tree buds begin to burst as the first verdant leaves of the silver birch, maple and alder trees begin to emerge. Then, as we move into April, the delicate pink and white flowers of the hawthorn, wild cherry and crab apple blossom, providing an early source of nectar for bees and butterflies, before the blossom falls creating natural confetti and fruit begins to form later in the year.
We hear bird song all year round, but as mornings get lighter their song gets louder, as birds rejoice, looking to defend territories and attract a mate. The first songsters of the season to treat us to a morning melody are robins, then later in the season, migrant birds such as chiff chaffs, black caps, and goldfinches join in as the dawn chorus reaches its peak in May and June – the best time to enjoy this season spectacle. As well as the dawn chorus, there are also solo calls to listen out for too, a great sign that spring is upon us. If you’re walking in a woodland, listen out for that first call of a cuckoo, or the drumming of a woodpecker as they begin to establish their territory.
We don’t just hear birds more in springtime, we see them more too! Once they have claimed their territory and attracted a mate, we will start to see them zipping around our gardens with beaks full of grasses and twigs as they begin nest-building. If you have a nest box, you might be lucky enough to have some feathered inhabitants this spring. Robins, wrens and blue tits will often nest in gardens, while woodpeckers, nuthatches and tree creepers make use of the holes and cavities created in trees to raise their young, so keep an eye out whilst on walks in the National Forest. And if you pass by a hedgerow whilst out and about, you’re likely to hear the chirping of dunnock, chaffinch or song thrush chicks, as hedges provide shelter and warmth as well as an abundance of food to feed their young, making it a perfect nesting environment.
The saying as ‘mad as March hare’ really is the reality in spring! These usually secretive and solitary animals, spring into action as the breeding season begins and the males start to look for females. Boxing matches between hares start when the males chase the females vying for their affection, but their advances are not always reciprocal and females will try to fend off the males, by standing up on their hind legs exchanging and defending blows! This really is a captivating spring spectacle to witness and probably something that you’ll be lucky to see this spring. Though if you’re somewhere near large areas of grassland or arable farmland between March and April, keep an eye out and you might just spot some.
Bees, butterflies & beetles
With the days beginning to warm up and the first blossoms appearing, insects start to wake up from their winter slumber between March and April. Bees and butterflies awake with a thirst for nectar, with the early spring blossoms such as the cherry plum, blackthorn and willow providing a vital source of energy. Queen bumblebees and mining bees are some of the first species of bee to be spotted in early spring, whilst the first glimpse of a butterfly is likely to be the yellow-lemon brimstone, fluttering through a woodland glade or even in your garden. Beetles also start to emerge in spring, including the ladybird, which can be spotted in woodlands, parks and hedgerows, and provide welcome pest control in our gardens, feasting on the insects that like to feed on garden plants!
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