The arrival of spring sees an incredible array of nature returning, blooming, growing and thriving outside, bringing a buzz of activity from birds and other wildlife alike. What better way to unwind than to spend time with Mother Nature this Mother’s Day? RSPB England’s Becca Smith shares the top ten signs of spring you can spot this March.
As the days grow longer and the weather a little brighter, celebrate the change of season by getting out into nature and enjoying all it has to offer, with the sound of birds singing and the sight of nature coming to life after winter having a remarkable way of restoring calm.
Header image: A jay sits amongst bluebells. Credit: Ben Andrew
Image: A long tailed tit feeding chicks in its nest. Credit: Ben Andrew
1: Birds building nests – most birds only spend a small part of the year making nests, so now is the time to be on the look-out. They use a huge range of materials with chaffinches opting for sticky cobwebs to make pads on the branches, forming ‘anchors’ for their nest, and long-tailed tits creating pouch-shaped homes with as many as 2,000 feathers inside as padding. Meanwhile blackbirds and house martins use mud to make their nests, and starlings love fresh cut green leaves – nothing goes to waste! When admiring birds and their beautiful nests, remember to keep a respectful distance from them so as not to scare the parent birds off from raising their families.
2: Hedgehogs waking up – while birds are making their beds, hedgehogs are just getting out of theirs. They come out of hibernation around March/April and are on the hunt for food and water – they’ll have lost around a third of their weight during hibernation! You can help them out by putting out a clean bowl of water, a meat-based cat or dog food, or special hedgehog food.
Image: Swifts flying overhead. Credit: Ben Andrew
3: Migratory birds returning – spring sees the return of migratory birds to the UK. Listen out for screaming swifts overhead, marvel at sand martins balancing on telephone wires, or hear the nightingales chirping call.
4: Bats waking up – you may start to see bats coming out to feast on insects at dusk – a single pipistrelle bat can eat 3,000 midges in one night!
Image: A family walks through bluebell filled woods. Credit: Fabian Harrison
5: Bluebells –spring is the best time of year to see bluebells burst into bloom, transforming a brown, dormant ground into a sea of blue. Look out for them in a woodland near you, including at:
6: Dragonflies return - the common darter dragonfly will start to come out in force. They are regular visitors to gardens, perching on vegetation, walls, fences, and even garden canes and washing lines as they wait to leap out at their prey – which, for a common darter dragonfly, is pretty much anything they can catch. Look out for a fantastic array of dragonflies and damselflies around rivers, ponds and wetlands near you, including at:
Image: Frogs in a pond. Credit: RSPB
7: Frogspawn in ponds and toadlets emerging - If you have a pond in your garden or nearby greenspace, you may start to see tiny toadlets emerging. They love some juicy insect larvae, as well as spiders, slugs and worms, so you can create a true toad haven by making your garden as insect friendly as possible. Head to rspb.org.uk/yourdoorstep for guides to easy activities such as leaving your leaves to dissolve into the ground rather than raking them up, planting wildflowers, or building a bug hotel!
8: Blossoms – crab apple or cherry trees will soon be starting to burst into colour, as nature’s own bouquet comes to life. Bees love flowers as a source of nectar, so listen out for a buzz near you, including at RSPB Dungeness, Kent, where the grey-backed mining bee, one of the countries rarest bees, can be seen.
Now is also a great time to spot beautiful butterflies at nature reserves, including orange tips and brimstone butterflies, all feasting on nectar from the spring flowers. Head to a selection of RSPB reserves to see a colourful butterfly or two flutter past:
9: Grass snakes waking up - Grass snakes also start to wake up from hibernation around this time of year to look for a mate, so you might see one in your garden or the local park. The females will lay her eggs (sometimes up to 40!) in places such as compost heaps where the rotting vegetation can keep the eggs nice and warm, so be sure to check any piles in your garden before moving them. Keep your eyes peeled for adders too, which can be spotted in the countryside and at nature reserves such as RSPB Pulborough Brooks, Sussex and at RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk in spring.
Image: A nightingale sings. Credit: Ben Andrew
10: Dawn chorus for early risers on light mornings – from March to July the birds are looking to defend their territories and attract a mate – which means an early start! The first birds start singing about an hour before sunrise, with skylarks, song thrushes, robins and blackbirds starting off the choir. The early day is perfect for birds – it’s dim enough that predators can’t see them, and the still air can carry song about 20 times as far. There’s always the RSPB birdsong radio if you can’t get enough and want to listen to birdsong throughout the day too!
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