Links | Contact Us | Accessibility | About Us   

Spring Diary 2021

(Click on the images for a larger picture.
If you are viewing Country Eye on a Smartphone or Tablet the page layout may not be as intended, please see Accessibility . )


Spring is always the season of hope and renewal, but this spring seems to be of even greater significance as our nation slowly emerges from the especially dark times brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic.

I always chart the progress of spring by observations of wildlife; Snowdrops giving way to Primroses and Coltsfoot followed by a succession of wildflowers of many shapes and colours. Coltsfoot is especially interesting as it comes into flower only briefly during March and early April, producing flowers and seed before it breaks into leaf. Hence its country nickname of "Sons Before the Father".

Orange Tip

Butterflies respond to sunlight and warmer temperatures. Bright yellow Brimstones can often be seen as early as February and during a couple of days of unseasonably warm weather in March, Small Tortoiseshells and Peacock Butterflies emerged from hibernation. By early April the catalogue of species had grown to seven with Orange Tip, Green-veined White, Comma and Speckled Wood added to my list.


The arrival of migrant birds is perhaps a less reliable indication of the development of spring than it used to be. I used to expect to log Chiffchaffs as the first spring migrants, but now so many are over-wintering in the area and tempted to burst into song on sunny winter days, that I can no longer count them. Doubtless their numbers are augmented many times over as spring arrives, but even then, birds might have only migrated from southern parts of Britain.

Female Blackcap
Blackcaps, another warbler also overwinter with us and have become familiar visitors to garden bird feeders. However ringing recoveries have shown that the birds that winter here are of a different population to the birds that nest here and the wintering birds are probably leaving our shores to nest in central Europe at about the same time as our breeding birds are arriving. Our nesting Blackcaps possibly winter around the Mediterranean and as far south as Sub Saharan Africa.


Spring is an excellent time to go birdwatching in our local woodlands. Birds are easier to observe before the trees are fully in leaf. Winter visitors will have left, but our resident species will be in full song in their nesting territories and as the season progresses, they will be joined by more summer visitors. I have noticed that some species which are shy and retiring in the rural woodlands are much easier to see closer to towns. The colourful Jays, for example will allow a much closer approach in the woods where walkers, joggers and dog walkers are frequent visitors, than the woods on the shooting estates in more rural locations.

Sparrowhawk on pigeon

During the successive lockdowns and travel restrictions our gardens became the main focus for our important communion with nature. Sometime this was gentle and rewarding, such as the many hours spent watching the Stock Doves, which for the third year running have taken up residence in our owl box. But on other occasions we were treated to demonstrations of nature "red in tooth and claw."

Stock Dove
Regular sorties by both male and female Sparrowhawks were usually unsuccessful but on one occasion the larger female Sparrowhawk killed a Woodpigeon and visited the carcase on three successive days until not a morsel of flesh was left. The smaller male Sparrowhawk targets smaller birds so that it does not compete with its mate for food in the same territory.

Little Bunting

Travelling any distance to see rare birds is known as twitching and due to the pandemic, this has effectively been curtailed for over a year. However, sometimes rarities turn up on our doorsteps. Sadly, I missed the White-tailed Eagle which was seen soaring over the local woods and I also missed an Osprey that flew right over the village. I did catch up with a Little Bunting; a visitor that breeds in northern Europe and Siberia. I was reliably informed by a friend that it would fly in to feed on a crop of game cover seeds at 8 o'clock in the morning and 2.30 in the afternoon. My wife and I went for a walk for a couple of hours and arrived at the game cover crop at about 2.15. Dead on 2.30 the Little Bunting flew in to briefly feed before flying off again!

Fallow Deer

Deer still seem to be increasing in the area. During my daily rambles I visited most of the local woods and counted the Fallow Deer. One herd numbered over 800 deer and when you take into account several other herds of over 100, the local population certainly exceeds 2000. Roe Deer are less common in the larger woods; perhaps they are outcompeted by the larger Fallow Deer. I often see Roe Deer in the fens where they take shelter in the small spinneys .Even here the Fallow Deer are venturing out of the woods and although the group of Fallow Deer gracefully skipping through a field of flowering oilseed rape made an attractive photograph, their presence would not be welcomed by the local farmers!

Ian Misselbrook
April 2021


© All Images are the copyright of Ian Misselbrook. For further information, please

Some text may be lost if you are viewing with a low screen resolution - click here for more info