RSPB Scotland's Nora Casey gives us tips on how to spot signs of spring, how to engage a toddler with the changing of the seasons, and what the wildlife of Edinburgh is up to at this time of year.
Love for local wildlife in lockdown
I’m still relatively new to Scotland and the lockdown has (necessarily!) put a halt to my efforts to getting to know the wider country. However, it’s given me an extra push to explore my immediate local area in suburban Edinburgh, even though it’s been in patches every few days between work and housework. Since I was little and my parents took me out for walks in the woods and helped me make plaster casts of animal tracks, I’ve been enthusiastic about nature, although for an RSPB staffer, I don’t have a great knowledge of birds. I’ve been enjoying watching the trees and flowers emerge in the course of spring and showing my own toddler the highlights of the season in his second year - his ability to identify nettles at a distance is coming along well.
Left: Lime bud, Right: Horse chestnut bud
In the past few days, I’ve seen sycamore leaves unfurling from their characteristic round-tipped buds and the green flowers starting to show up. The “candles” of horse chestnut flowers have started to emerge from their sticky brown coverings along with the leaves, and lime trees’ zigzagging pink-tinged buds are giving way to delicate drooping green leaves. Just over the long weekend, oak buds in my area have begun to expand from their scaly brown square-shaped buds and show signs of green leaves underneath the brown. The spear-shaped buds of beech trees are starting to turn into green crescents as the leaves unfurl. Ash is one of the last trees to start coming out - in Ireland, it’s said you can still plant potatoes until the ash is in leaf. I’ve just started to see the first of its flowers bursting out of its black buds in the last day or two as I write this. In leftover patches of hedgerow where you often get ash and sycamore, I’ve also seen the tender young leaves of hawthorn emerging.
Many wildflowers arrive later in spring or in summer, when there are plenty of pollinators around, but woodland floor species have to take their chances early on, before the tree canopy is in place. I’ve seen wood anemone and lesser celandine in bloom on my travels, along with the white trumpets of dead-nettle.
In terms of all things furred and feathered, I was delighted to see several jays out on my walk at the weekend, as well as a goldfinch, a nuthatch and vast numbers of blue tits and coal tits. At home, I’ve been enjoying the company of starlings, robins, wrens and blackbirds as well as the antics of grey squirrels and magpies.
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