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Spring Diary 2019

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Hands up if you thought that spring had arrived when parts of Britain enjoyed unseasonal temperatures of nearly 22 degrees centigrade back in February? It certainly had one frog fooled because it returned to my pond where it spent a lonely vigil until its mates turned up 3 weeks later.

Scientists are telling us that spring is arriving earlier as measured by flowering plants and the activities of birds and other animals. Plants probably do provide an accurate barometer of climate change. However, the departure of birds that winter with us and the arrival of spring migrants is more likely to reflect the strength and direction of the wind.

Orange Tip

Butterflies are probably a good indicator of changes in the seasons. During the warm spell in February I noted Brimstone, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock in the garden. On the warmer days in March a very early Holly Blue and a Speckled Wood appeared. Late March witnessed the earlier than usual emergence of a small number of Orange Tips here in Lincolnshire and by April the month to normally expect them, they appeared in good numbers.

Fallow Deer

Apart from the odd day, the winds this April have been predominantly from the north and these winds have held back departing winter thrushes. On the 5th of April I counted a very large flock of 500 Fieldfares feeding in a pasture adjacent to a large wood. In the same field there were 3 Buzzards worming and a huge herd of over 400 Fallow Deer. When I revisited the field on the 8th of April the Fieldfares had moved on, but the Fallow Deer herd had increased to over 1000 - quite unprecedented!

Chiffchaff in Blackthorn blossom

I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year on the 18th of March, Sand Martins and Blackcaps on the 31st, Willow Warbler on the 2nd of April and a Swallow on the 5th; all similar arrival dates to previous years.


Some plants did start to flower early, perhaps responding to the warm weather in February. Coltsfoot, Early Violet, Lesser Celandine, Primrose and Red Nettle all commenced flowering in February.



Godwits Fighting

Migrant wader numbers began to build in March and by early April Black-tailed Godwits had visibly changed from their winter grey plumage to russet and chestnut hues. For some individuals their behaviour changed too and as the photographs show tolerance to flocking and feeding together, gave way to bitter rivalry presumably in pursuit of a mate.

Godwits Fighting

Godwits Fighting

Marsh Tit

Early spring, before the trees break into leaf is always a good time to observe woodland birds. A local wood that I visit very regularly provided excellent views of several species. I was pleased to note that the wood held at least 3 pairs of the much declined; Marsh Tit, but unfortunately the even scarcer Willow Tit that I found there feeding in a mixed flock of tits during the winter did not stay to breed. In the mid 1980's the Willow Tit was the commoner of the two very similar species in this wood.


Some birds are much easier to locate if you are familiar with their calls and songs. If I was unable to recognise the song of the Treecreeper, I don't think that I would have ascertained that there are 3 potential breeding pairs in my local wood.

Short-eared Owl

Over-wintering Short-eared Owls often cause excitement amongst birdwatchers by staying late into the spring before leaving for northern climes. Two years ago, some stayed until early May and I really thought that they might breed. But that was not to be.

Short-eared Owl
At least one of the three Short-eared Owls that wintered only a few miles from my home this year, remained well in to April.

Short-eared Owl


As an employee of the seed company Limagrain UK , I am proud to announce that we have sponsored the RSPB Wash Reserves at Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore for the fourth consecutive year by supplying seed mixtures. The pioneering "Wader Scrape Mixture" provides pollen for insects when in flower and seeds for passerine birds in late summer before it is flooded. After it is flooded the plants rot down to provide a nutritious organic "stew" for the invertebrates that the wading birds, for which Frampton Marsh is famous, to feed on. This year we have also provided a sunflower rich bird feeding mixture. Last year when in flower every sunflower head hosted a bee and later in the year, the seeds fed a wide assortment of finches and buntings.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to our new page on ticks and the increasing incidence of Lyme Disease. It is well worth reading, as even here in the UK ticks seem to be increasing and I personally know of several people that have contracted Lyme Disease as a result of being bitten by these unpleasant creatures.

Ian Misselbrook
April 2019


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