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Spring Diary 2018

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I was tempted to change the title to "Winter in Spring" following the recent repeated visits of The Beast from the East!

Wildlife surely suffered during our last two bouts of winter weather. Frogs and newts had already returned to my garden pond only for it to freeze over within a day or two. I feared the worst but as soon as the last of the ice melted the frogs spawned and now we have a very healthy population of fast growing tadpoles. The Smooth Newts were also unfazed by the cold spring and I counted nine adults in the fishpond a few days ago.

Brent Geese

In mild winters many of the birds from northern Europe will have commenced their return migration by early March but this spring some Fieldfares and Redwings lingered on until the middle of April. In fact, many of these birds sought food and shelter in gardens and I have hosted more than a dozen Blackbirds at any one time as well as a very confiding Fieldfare. Mealworms, raisins, crumbled fat balls and cooked rice seemed to go down particularly well. Brent Geese were still present in good numbers mid-April and even the odd Hen Harrier was spotted on the Lincolnshire coast.

Common Snipe

My friends John and Pauline Warman, my web master in fact, who live in the same village as me, were treated to the sight of a pair of Common Snipe crouching in a field behind their house. They both managed to photograph these birds from their bedroom window. I have visions of one of them holding on to the ankles of the other as they hung out from the window but perhaps that is my imagination running away with me!


Whilst winter visitors remained spring migrants were late. Normally I log in Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Swallows, Sand Martins and Wheatears before the end of March but this year a Chiffchaff singing in our garden was the only March arrival. All the other expected early migrants arrived in early April except for Wheatears which were very late.

Daffodils and Coltsfoot had a much longer than usual flowering period and the latter provided a valuable nectar source for butterflies and bees emerging from hibernation.

Male Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier Displaying

Male Marsh Harrier

A visit to the RSPB's Titchwell Marsh Reserve in Norfolk on a rare sunny day in early April produced the dramatic sight of up to 7 Marsh Harriers; many of them displaying. The male birds danced and tumbled in the air giving even the Red Arrows some good competition. Other stars of the Titchwell show were Bearded Tits feeding on the edge of a reedbed. These very active little birds presented a real challenge for photography, but I managed to fire off a few shots.

Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit

As well as being a late, cold spring it has also been very wet. This has led to farmers having a tough time too. Thousands of sheep and lambs died either during the cold spell or in the floods that followed. Dairy cows and beef cattle had to be kept inside and silage in clamps soon ran out, so animals had to be fed on expensive concentrate feeds. Grazed grass is by far the cheapest food source for all classes of livestock but even at the beginning of April there was very little grass growth and even if there were, the animals would seriously damage the sodden pastures.

The middle of the month witnessed a complete turn round with sunshine and temperatures soaring to the high 20's in parts of the UK. Spring seemed to explode with butterflies and bees on the wing and plants bursting in to flower wherever you looked. After what seemed to most like an interminably long winter we are all hoping that the remaining weeks of spring will be amenable and that a long warm summer will follow.


Ian Misselbrook
April 2018


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