It is currently sleeting as I write this (the joys of British weather) but Spring has arrived and is in full swing. It’s one of my favourite times of year as the days are warming up and the evenings are much lighter. Spring is a fabulous time to be outside as there is loads of wildlife to enjoy! Here are some things you can look out for.
Spring has flowers aplenty. Just last week I found a clearing full of bluebells in my local woodland, Shaw Wood. It was so beautiful to see a carpet of blue flowers appear after months of Winter. You might also spot some primrose, wood anemone, ramsons, dog violet, wood forget-me-not and cow parsley.
The trees have also started to blossom so you might see bursts of colour or white amongst the greenery. A few houses down from mine there is a lovely magnolia tree that is in bloom. Trees will have buds and catkins starting to show. These are really helpful when trying to identify a tree. The Woodland Trust have a handy guide that you can print off to help identify blossom and catkins.
You may have already noticed lambs in the fields near where you live. They are a sure sign that Spring has begun! I am currently working near Chatsworth Park and have the pleasure of driving past sheep and deer every day. The little lambs have made my commute even more enjoyable. I haven’t spotted any fawns yet, but I’m sure they are around to be spotted by those skilled at sneaking.
In rivers and ponds you can look out for frogspawn and tadpoles. You might even find frogs and toads in your garden enjoying all the slugs. For more information on amphibians in the UK see froglife.org and BBC nature.
During early Spring you could come accross some caterpillars, hungrily eating everything ready for their change into a butterfly. They might be big, hairy or even with a group of friends. Later in Spring and throughout the Summer you will see the butterflies emerge. British Butterfly Guide is a handy website to help identify butterflies, plus it is organised by which month they can usually be spotted.
Spring isn’t all about what we can see, it affects a combination of our senses. There are some great sounds to hear during Spring time from the variety of bird song to buzzing bees. While you may spot birds building their nests, you will certainly hear them calling.
What can you hear?
Early on in Spring you will be able to hear robins and great tits before the migrating birds return. Later on, in May and June, they will be joined by others such as blackcaps and chiffchaffs.
You might notice a pattern in the bird song if you are up early enough to hear it. Many birds are awake and singing an hour before sunrise. Among the earliest risers are thrushes, robins and blackbirds. I have clearly chosen an apt forest school name as I am an early bird myself!
Things you can do in Spring
While the rain is never too far away, there is a good chance of plenty of mud. A fun activity is to use mud and scavenged natural items to create tree faces. There is a mythical figure called the Green Man who is often represented as a face of leaves. In Celtic mythology, the Green man is a god of Spring and Summer time who disappears and returns each year. The Celts believed that spirits lived inside trees and could see a face on each one. Because of this, the trees were worshiped and talked about as if they were human. Every tree has a story, can you create a face for them?
Whether you are in your own garden or further afield there are always birds, mini-beasts and small mammals to spot. Spring is the end of hibernation and the wildlife is waking up. You could buy a guide, or download one for free, to help identify the wildlife that you spot.
There are lots of ways to encourage wildlife into your garden. Planting a wildflower mix will encourage pollinators like butterflies and bees. Diverse grass lengths are also good for bees, longer grasses and flowers give food whereas shorter grass provides an area to burrow.
For birds, a feeder can be made using an apple, peanut butter, seeds and string. Simply core the apple, cover in a layer of peanut butter and stick on the seeds. No peanut butter? Press the seeds into the apple skin and make it look like a hedgehog. When finished, thread the string through the centre and hang in your garden. Many more DIY ideas can be found on the RSPB site.
With the erratic weather in Spring, it is always a talking point! Why not keep a weather diary to keep track of the changes. One day snow, a few days later a balmy 17 degrees. You can predict what is going to happen, draw pictures, take photos and even measure the temperature.
There are so many more ideas as well. Shadow shapes, seed sowing and sunset searching are just a few! How many will you try?