Dig out your RSPB membership card - the sun’s out (sometimes) and it’s time to get out there under the treetops or along the waterways and enjoy the busiest time of year.
Embrace nature on the bank holiday weekend – absolutely free! (Photo: Eleanor Bentall, rspb-images.com)
Your RSPB membership not only entitles you to 100 glorious pages of Nature’s Home magazine (full of seasonal sights, tips for everything from gardening to photography and all the latest stories from the wildlife world).
It also gets you free access (and parking) to a network of over 200 nature reserves across the UK, where you can enjoy ‘nature as nature intended’.
There’s a bank holiday coming up, too: Monday 7 May is the spring long weekend, and what better way to spend the gift of spare time? Let’s hope for a dry forecast, as there are some wonderful reserves just begging to be explored. Here’s just four…
ST AIDAN’S, LEEDS
Members should by now have your Summer issue of Nature’s Home, where on page 74 you’ll be able to see the glories of St Aidan’s, an oasis of nature just a few miles from central Leeds. Listen out for booming bitterns in the reedbeds and singing skylarks, hanging kite-like in the sky far above the chattersome flocks of black-headed gulls. Look out for grebes doing their balletic courtship dance out on the water, too.
Bittern over reedbeds. (Photo: John Bridges, rspb-images.com)
EXMINSTER & POWDERHAM MARSHES, EXETER
As featured in the last (Spring) issue, the RSPB reserves dotted around the shores of this south-coast estuary make the perfect day out. Local companies even run birdwatching cruises to see them all by water. It’s the only lapwing breeding site in Devon, and they and redshanks can be seen displaying over the fields. The sedge warblers should be showing up from Africa about now and are easy to spot here, and you might even spot a furtive little Cetti’s warbler (a relatively new arrival to our shores) if you’re keen of eye.
Blue evening skies on the blooming shores of the Exe Estuary, Devon.
ARNE, POOLE HARBOUR
The Dorset coast is an incredible place for what I like to call a ‘beachy bimble’, boasting everything from fossil-filled cliffs to Victorian seafronts. All of which seem a world away from this remote-feeling corner of Poole Harbour, where a vast expanse of sandy heath runs down to quiet little bays. It’s a great habitat for reptiles, including adders that come out to bask in patches of sunshine, and rare sand lizards. The air is filled with birdsong - listen out for stonechats or the rare Dartford warbler singing from atop the gorse bushes. Also look out for seething wood ant nests; these clever colonists carefully ‘thatch’ their roofs with pine needles and leave litter, carefully angled to capture warmth from the spring sunshine - you can find out more about them on page 17 of your Summer issue of Nature’s Home!
I took this snap at Arne during the first week of May last year. That's Corfe Castle in the background!
LOCH GARTEN, ABERNETHY
This ancient forested wilderness nestled around the shores of a Scottish loch is magical place at the best of times; its clear air scented with ancient pines rising up the slopes of fells. But the spring wildlife makes for an unforgettable day out: visitors flock to watch ospreys nesting via the nestcams at the Osprey Centre, while you can also look out for some of Scotland’s star wildlife: crested tits amid the branches, capercaillie along the forest trails and Scottish crossbills in the pine canopies. The latter often nest early, so you may even see some chicks about now. Red squirrels will be nesting, too.
Be an osprey! There's lots to see, do and learn at RSPB Loch Garten. (Photo: Niall Benvie, rspb-images.com)
Wherever you are though, you won’t need to travel miles to enjoy the best of Britain’s spring wildlife – absolutely free! Check out our reserves finder to find one near you, grab your RSPB membership card (and possibly a camera and a picnic), and enjoy the glories of spring!
Share your spring sights with us: email us at Nature's Home magazine, or log in to comment below.
Unfortunately there is only Coquet Island as an RSPB reserve, in Northumberland, County Durham or Tyne and Wear and no landings allowed. I’ve been an RSPB member since 1974 and now a Life Member. I was born in 1952 and I’ll be 66 in May 2018. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever see any more RSPB reserves in those 3 county’s of which I live, in my lifetime.
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