Two of the most evocative sounds at this time of year are the kronking of Ravens and the mewing of Common Buzzards. Both birds nest on the League sanctuaries and both compete for territory and airspace. The aerial acrobatics and courtship displays of ravens contrast with the apparently nonchalant circling displays of buzzards, but when they are in competition then feathers are certain to fly. Sadly, both bird species are still illegally and unjustly persecuted by gamekeepers and livestock farmers because they are opportunist scavengers.

Other signs that spring is on its way are everywhere. Much of the frogspawn in the various ponds on the League sanctuaries has turned into tadpoles. Now newts have joined them in the ponds and they are busy breeding whilst snacking on the odd tadpole. Slowworms also venture out of their hideaways on sunny days to bask beneath the corrugated metal sheets that have been laid down especially for them. Meanwhile, outside my window a female Blackbird is frantically collecting materials for the nest she is building in a large conifer.

Newts in a pond at St John

We have just sited fifty newly constructed nesting boxes for Hazel Dormice in Brockhole Wood as part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme. Made from untreated timber to avoid the risk of poisoning the dormice we are trying to help, these boxes don’t last long in the mild and wet West Country climate and so they need regularly replacing. This isn’t a five minute job, but it is very rewarding when you find a torpid dormouse and have it curled up in your hand. These endearing little rodents used to be so common and widespread that people would keep them as pets, but now due to habitat loss they are largely restricted to the south of England and the Welsh borders and they are heavily protected. We are fortunate that Hazel Dormice are thriving on the League’s wildlife sanctuaries and hopefully when they come out of hibernation in May some will make use of their new homes.

Houses for dormice