Article from FOCUS Magazine – Spring 12 issue.
Spring is a season for optimists.The days are getting lighter, the odd daffodil is poking its head through the gloom, and wildlife is starting to stir.
The beginning of spring is all about subtlety. The first emerging bumblebee, a cluster of frogspawn in your local pond, and ultimately the sight of a swallow skimming over a lake, all suggest the season is coming into bloom.
Although most garden birds start nesting around April time, a particularly warm spell might get some species nesting early. Blackbirds are notoriously early nesters, breeding as early as February, with robins following suit from March onwards.
Keeping an eye on the birds in your garden should yield clues. If you notice any birds flying about with beakfuls of twigs and dried leaves, the chances are there’s a nest site nearby.
As the breeding season gets further underway it’s also worth remembering that any chicks you’re lucky enough to have hatch in your garden need to be fed large numbers of insects and caterpillars to survive (a young blue tit alone eats 100 caterpillars every day). Many gardens aren’t great for insects, so the more you can do to help the better. Leaving the odd corner of garden growing wild and cutting out chemicals will mean that adult birds will have an invaluable source of insect-rich habitat to feed their young from.
Putting out extra food is also important at this time of year, as garden birds need all the strength they can muster for the approaching breeding season. Regular feeding might also yield some unusual visitors at the bird-table, watch out for redwings and fieldfares, or wandering groups of long-tailed tits.
Away from your garden, woodlands are also influx, as early summer migrants start arriving and wintering birds leave.
It’s worth keeping an ear out for small warblers called chiffchaffs, which arrive as early as the first week of March. This tiny olive-coloured bird would probably go unnoticed were it not for the unmistakable ‘chiff chaff chiff chaff’ rhythm of its song. Hearing it during a gentle, sun-dappled walk through the Woods is one of the first, thrilling signs winter is receding.
From walks in the woods to pottering in our very own back garden, subtle signs of change will be creeping through over the next few weeks. If you open your eyes and ears, you’ll notice it all around you – and once you’ve started spotting spring you’ll see it everywhere.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Nature is amazing – help us keep it that way. www.rspb.org.uk