Dreamed-of season only ever lingers a short while
OF The definition of spring is contentious and highly subjective. For most people interested in the countryside, the arrival of spring is not a date; it is a state that can be felt and observed in vari- o ousu s na tu events. We know spring when it’s happening, even if we can’t’t can’t quiteit quite pini pin it down. ddown. New green shoots push through; bird song is more intense; the light and air quality changes – - ralra l not simply brighter and warmer but somehow full of vitality. Spring is about excitement and the promise of
ne new w life. Th The e fifine fine de- tail of f spring iss of greatt interest too scientists s moni t toro r- ing ourr cha changingng i ng g c climatel im at e through the study of phenology – the e timing of recurring natu- ral eve-nts.eve- nts. Many of the events that are recorded by a network of people across the country are associated with spring – the first flfloweringi flowering off of colt’s-lt’ffoot,t colt’s-foot, wood-anemone or blackthorn, the first sightings of queen wasps or small white butterflies, or the first call of retur returning chiffchaffs.
Through year years of such observations, we now know that springspri arrives in Britain from the southwest, and takes a slanting course across theth country at a speed of roughlyr 1.5 miles an hour.
But we still aska ‘ has it arrived yet?’ Ind Indeed we’ve probably been asking for at least a month month, prompted by newspapers,newspape weather forecasters and posts on social media.media
Longing for s spring is a perennial featurefeatu of our existence.
What are youryou personal signs of spring?
Mine have alw always been the first fifirst sightin sightings of delicate violets, clumpsc of primroses in flowerfl and brimstone butte butterflies fluttering purposef purposefully along the sunny edges of woods. However, sightingssighti of all these are gettinggett more variable and c can feature in ‘false springs’,sprin those brief warm p periods in February February, even January!
My reliable sign of spring is the remarkable bee-fly, a lovely bee-like insect that can be seen hovering in front of early flowers and using its long pointed tongue to feed on nectar.
I haven’t spotted one yet so, as the poet Edward Thomas penned, “spring is being dreamed”.
Spring is not really about dates. It is more a happening that creeps up on us after we’ve almost given up hoping. It is the end of a period of deep longing that can start back in February.
Then, as soon as we are sure it’s arrived, it is almost as suddenly gone as plants burst into growth and race headlong towards summer and autumn fruiting, clouds of insects mate and die and the complex web of nature overwhelms our senses.
Enjoy the simple delights of spring while you can.
Join Mick for a guided walk at Dancersend nature reserve on April 23 and discover the site’s spring flowers. Book your place at bbowt.org.uk/ whats-on.