Today has been my favourite kind of day. One of those rare and fleeting first spring days, when the world is thrilling with life all around, wherever you look or listen or sniff. The blackbird’s song has bookended the day, and in between I spent several busy hours at the allotment. (For more details of my allotment adventures, take a look at my other blog post published this evening: ‘Operation Compost Heap’)
The official First Day Of Spring, in meteorological terms at least, was only a few days ago, Wednesday March 1st, but the season has wasted no time on busting forth in its full glory in time for the weekend. Despite unsettled weather all week, with alternating days of sun and rain that is so typical of this time of year, today truly felt as though winter was finally over.
As I arrived at the allotment plot, it was impossible not to notice the bird noise. I say noise, because it was not simply a chorus of song, but a myriad of chirps, cheeps, squeaks, calls and twitterings.
A trio of dunnocks were flirting, nipping back and forth through the patchy hedgerow that separates my plot from the neighbour. The robin saw us arrive and dropped down to instruct us on our jobs for the day. Twice the wren sang at an improbable volume and intensity from the willow scrub at the back of the plot, and returned a third time to scold us angrily when we didn’t get the message about who’s territory this was.
I was crouching down to admire the crocus flowers that have begun to emerge since my last visit, when a harsh chattering noise jarred in the tree branches above. A pair of mistle thrushes were frantically flapping about in the ash trees, squawking and throwing out their football-rattle like alarm calls. The seemed to be having an intermittent squabble with a group of equally raucous jays over the ownership of the strip of trees between my allotment plot and the lake.
Down at ground level, I have yet to see a frog or toad this year. Hopefully they are busy breeding in nearby garden ponds and will return soon to much on all my slugs and pests!
I did see a bumble bee however, it seems these rotund flying fuzzy ladies have reached full emergence time now as I am seeing at least one, almost daily. I just hope they dodged the showers (I hid in the shed!).
The first crocus, the first bumble bee, the blackbird singing at dawn and dusk; many of us hold dear, certain sights and sounds that reassure us of the change from winter to spring.
I have a list, I call them my Spring Things (I do like a rhyme!).
My Spring Things:
- 1st Bumblebee
- 1st Blackbird song: there’s one that sings from the roof pinnacle of my neighbours house, above my bedroom window.
- 1st Blackthorn blossom
- 1st Brimstone butterfly: it’s said to forecast good fortune for the year if the first butterfly you see is yellow!
- 1st Chiffchaff song: a two note metronome that sets the pace of the year
- 1st Celandines in flower
- 1st Hawthorn leaf (and the first leaves of other trees)
- 1st Hawthorn or ‘May’ blossom: it smells of marzipan!
- 1st Bluebells
- 1st Lady’s Smock flowers (also known as Cuckoo Flower, or Cardamine pratensis if you like your latin)
- 1st Orange Tip butterfly: I once heard these described as ‘the most cheerful butterfly of spring’, and they certainly never fail to make me smile.
I am looking and listening for all these sights and sounds from now onwards. By the time I see an orange tip butterfly, I will stop counting signs of spring as we will be well into that season and rather than waiting for it, I’ll instead want to slow it down so I can enjoy it and all the delights it brings before it quickly becomes summer.
Last year, the Brimstone and Chiffchaff did not put in their appearances until the last week of March, which was late compared to the previous few years. In 2015, both turned up within the same half hour, on a sunny 5th March.
So far this year no sign yet, and the date tomorrow is 5th March, but the weather forecast is heavy rain; not promising for butterfly watchers. But they will come soon, and I look forward to that so very very much.