MY FAVOURITE SIGNS OF SPRING
FLOWERS From sweet-scented blossoms and the first snowdrops and violets to that egg-yolk yellow of erupting daffodils, spring is one long flower frenzy. Keep an eye out for primroses, the porcelain-looking leaves of garden magnolias and, later, that aqueous wash of light-streaked bluebells in full bloom.
BEES Attracted by the flowers, spring also sees our most loveable pollinators emerging. Bumblebees – on the hunt for nectar – lumber between bursts of colour; likewise honey bees and solitary bees thrum through our meadows and anywhere where the food’s plentiful. It’s a pleasure to hear the warming drone again.
BUTTERFLIES With increasing sunlight and food, early spring migrants to these shores include some of our best-loved butterflies, such as the painted lady. Small tortoiseshells, commas, the peacock, brimstone and some red admirals all overwinter here and emerge from hibernation. Encountering a butterfly on a wall, beating its wings and basking, can be a beautiful spring sight.
BADGERS My first really memorable encounter with wild animals was being taken to watch badgers as a boy in the scrappy ground behind my childhood home. Spring is perfect for such sorties as badger cubs start to shake off the cabin fever of months underground by making their first playful forays in April and May. Look for signs of a sett in daylight, then return pre-dawn, sit quiet and stay downwind.
BIRDS As anyone without double-glazing will tell you, the brightening skies of early spring herald a mighty crescendo of a dawn chorus. Step outside and you’ll likely hear birdsong at this time of year, and it’s a sound that brightens any commute. There’s much nest-building too; expect to see many species zipping about with beaks full of building materials.
BABY WILDLIFE Lambs may be the cute poster boys, tottering around on unsteady legs or gadding about the fields like hooligans, but many wild species take advantage of the calmer, warmer weather ahead to raise their young. Look out for baby fallow deers, squirrels, coot, foxes, mallards, hedgehogs and, in puddles and ponds, the darting, inky squiggles of tadpoles.
WILD GARLIC Growing thick through woodland and up river verges and under bridges, the unmistakable garlic-scented ramson – or wild garlic – scents many a spring stroll. It’s the dream ingredient for the forager; wild garlic is delicious when cooked in butter and turned with pasta, or blitzed into pesto with Wensleydale and walnuts.