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Spring Diary 2016

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I suppose that after such a mild and wet winter, we should not be surprised that spring is cold and late. After so many flowers bloomed during the mild winter many of the spring flowers were late. Snowdrops often out in December did not start to bloom until February and only really peaked in early March. Daffodils seem to have enjoyed the longest flowering season that I can remember and are absolutely at their peak here in Lincolnshire as I write on April 8.

Coltsfoot bloomed on time in March, a short flowering period but a valuable source of nectar for early emerging insects and Primroses too were on queue.

The frogs were really late spawning in my pond with the first clump appearing on March 27, almost a month later than in some years.

It is getting increasingly difficult to accurately record the arrival of spring migrant birds as so many species are now over-wintering in Britain. Both a male and a female Blackcap appeared on my bird feeders over winter, so is the bird singing now one of those individuals or a newly arrived migrant? A Chiffchaff seen at Titchwell on New Year's Day was obviously over-wintering, but could the three birds singing at RSPB Pullborough Brooks Reserve on March 19 be newly arrived migrants?

Hirundines should be easier and a Swallow in our village on March 26 and Sand Martins feeding up over reed-beds in late March were obviously spring migrants, yet an RSPB warden told me that he had seen a Swallow in December!


Given that the Maltese government have once again ruled in favour of the hunters and even licenced the slaughter of the critically endangered Turtle Dove this spring, it is perhaps a good thing that an increasing number of birds are not choosing to make the dangerous trip south.

On a happier note efforts of conservationists to create suitable habitats for wildlife seems to be paying off. The wet grassland at RSPB Frampton Marsh and the similar habitat at The Lincolnshire Wildlife's Trust Reserve at Willow Tree Fen is vibrant with the calls of displaying Redshank and Lapwings.

Osprey at Burley House

Another conservation success story is the reintroduction of the Osprey to Rutland Water. Eleven birds had returned by the end of March and several pairs are expected to nest. A nesting pair can be watched from the comfort of hides on the LROS reserve at Lyndon Hill. I could not resist taking the picture of an Osprey perched on a post in front of Burley House. A suitably regal setting for this majestic bird.


Another display worth watching is the courtship dance of the Great Crested Grebe. If you can find a still bit of water with reflections not only do the two courting birds mirror each other, but you might catch their reflections in the water too.

Much less dramatic is the song of the Treecreeper. One of my favourite birds, mouse brown streaks with a pale breast and difficult to spot. It's song is thin and as delicate as its beak which probes for insects in the cracks in the bark.

I discovered a large and active badger sett in a local wood the other day. There were plenty of spoil heaps showing that the badgers had been busy tunnelling and also balls of hay which they take down for the comfort of their cubs.

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll Bath

Lesser Redpoll Bathing

Lesser Redpoll on Feeder

Redpolls and Siskins have been in evidence in the countryside and woods locally all winter but it was not until mid- March when their natural food supplies started to run out that they started to appear in gardens. In fact I have never known them to visit gardens in Lincolnshire in such numbers. Lesser Redpolls peaked in our garden in mid-March with 11 birds queuing up to feed from the Nyger feeder, along with the resident Goldfinches and we still have a few remaining in April. Siskins peaked at 3 birds and these will eat Nyger but are equally at home feeding on sunflower hearts.

Mayhem at the Feeder

I was lucky enough to be given a Birdcam for my birthday which I set up by the feeder. The shutter is triggered by movement and it recorded shots of Redpolls and Goldfinches battling for position on the feeder.

Basking Adder

March is also a good month for the close observation of basking adders. They allow the sun to warm their bodies but remain pretty lethargic as long as it is not too warm. One still needs to be careful though because it is Britain's only venomous snake.

Puff Adder in Gambia

Earlier in the month I got almost as close to a five foot long Puff Adder in The Gambia. This is one of the world's deadliest snakes and I was torn between getting the photo and running the other way!


Ian Misselbrook
April 2016


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