Signs of spring are showing

The enforced slowdown of our normally frenetic lives gives us the opportunity to reassess the things that are really important to us. During difficult times like these, the proven restorative power of nature can truly come into its own. Just taking time to notice the first flowers coming into bloom and the buds bursting out on the trees, the butterflies and bees waking from their winter slumber, or watching birds as they prepare to start the next generation, can all help with our mental and physical wellbeing.

On the League’s wildlife sanctuaries, the signs of spring are all around. The milky white flowers of snowdrops have been replaced by the vivid yellows of lesser celandine, dandelions and daffodils, and the more subtle hues of primroses and cowslips, all of which seem to glow in the spring sunshine. The flowers of blackthorn and goat willow trees provide a vital source of early nectar for the bees and other insects that take full advantage of the bountiful supply.

Cowslips - Paul Tillsley
Blackthorn - Paul Tillsley

Migrant birds are now flooding back into the country, untroubled by human-made boundaries and regulations. Learning the different calls of some of our more common birds can add a new dimension to stepping outside the door or just opening the window. Birdsong lifts your heart and knowing the cheery song of a robin from the reeling call of a dunnock and chirping of a house sparrow gives it a bit of extra meaning. Chiffchaffs are the first migrants to arrive back on the League’s sanctuaries from southern Europe or north Africa and the males are busy proclaiming their territory to anyone willing to listen with their unmistakable ‘chiffchaff’ call.

Red deer stags on the League sanctuaries lose their antlers in spring and immediately begin growing a new pair. It costs a phenomenal amount of resources for the stags to get themselves ready in time for the autumn rut and so they lie low from now until then.

To see what other mammals are doing it takes a bit of fieldwork, some technology and maybe a chance encounter. Footprints and fresh spraints along the riverbank reveal that otters have moved back in, now that the river levels have dropped, and they will be searching out a suitable holt in which to give birth.

Badgers give birth early in the year and a trail camera located on one of the sanctuaries caught the special moment when a mother moved her young cubs during a period of prolonged wet weather. It is great that the Government has decided to phase out the unscientific badger cull and we hope to be able to continue vaccinating badgers on the sanctuaries later this year.

Badger with young cub - Paul Tillsley

Walking through Barlynch Wood a cacophony of alarm calls from birds alerted me to a stoat working its way through the undergrowth and the unmistakable odour of fox pre-empted the owner suddenly appearing from a hole almost beneath my feet and dashing away.

Stoats on Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary - Paul Tillsley

If we all pull together, we can get through the current crisis and if we do so with an increased appreciation of our natural surroundings then it will surely be for the betterment of humans and wildlife alike.

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