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Spring Diary 2017

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After another mild winter spring arrived early, or so it seemed. Here in Lincolnshire Winter Oil Seed Rape was flowering in March and as I write in mid- April the landscape is bright yellow. Frogs arrived in our pond on March 4th but spawning did not get underway until the 9th.

Frogs Spawning

Now one pond, the shallower and weedier of the three is full of tadpoles whilst the two deeper pools are favoured by Smooth Newts. Having enjoyed some unseasonal warm weather - 25 degrees on the 9th of April, it has now turned cold with some early morning frosts. Daffodils have been in bloom since late February and they seem quite capable of surviving quite severe frosts.

Small Tortoiseshell

Despite the chilly north-west wind there is plenty of sunshine and I have already seen seven species of butterfly. Dandelions are generally not welcomed by gardeners but their flowers are a great source of nectar for early emerging butterflies as this Small Tortoiseshell demonstrates.

Grass Snake

Butterflies are not the only animals to make use of early spring sunshine as the photograph of this Grass Snake taken on the 25th of March illustrates.

Regular readers will know that I try to record the dates of migrants arriving and those of winter visitors leaving our shores. This exercise has been made more difficult by the number of birds choosing to winter with us. Although ringing recoveries seem to indicate that, for example the Blackcaps that over-winter here move on to Central Europe to nest and they are replaced by a different population that has wintered further south. So is the Blackcap that was singing in our garden on the 20th of March the one that has been a regular throughout the winter on my feeders or a newly arrived migrant?

Reed Warbler

Chiffchaffs are also increasingly overwintering but their numbers were boosted by a mass arrival of migrants on the 12th of March and the closely related Willow Warbler singing in my village on March 31st was a particularly early bird. Sedge Warblers arrived early in April and the larger and rather plain Reed Warbler turned up at Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve on a chilly but sunny Aril 17.



Talking of Willow Tree Fen this remote fenland reserve in Lincolnshire is getting a reputation for attracting rare birds. The last few years have logged in a Red-footed Falcon, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilts and throughout this February and March a beautiful Bluthroat. This is a very rare bird in Britain despite a small breeding population as close to us as The Netherlands. It is estimated that more than 7000 bird-watchers made the pilgrimage to Lincolnshire to see and photograph this bird. I am lucky to live a few miles from the reserve and I saw it the day it arrived when we were enduring one of the few wintry showers in February and I have been back to see it again on several occasions.

Ruff coming in to spring plumage

April and May are very exciting months to spend on the coast as arctic breeding waders feed up on our mudflats and begin to moult from their dowdy winter plumage in colourful breeding attire. The Ruff photographed in early April will look even more spectacular by the end of the month and if you are lucky you may witness them displaying (or lekking) to prospective females, called Reeves.



Ian Misselbrook
April 2017


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