There has been an intermediate feel in the air of late; as Winter begins to release its frigid grip on the landscape and the welcome rejuvenation of Spring begins. Birdsong, amorous amphibians, butterflies and bursting buds marking the start of the new season while loitering relics of Winter remain very much apparent. It has all been rather wonderful, and I, for one, very much enjoy this time of the year. The sight and sound of nature as old yields to the new, utterly enthralling, at least for those, like me, beginning to grow weary of the chill.
This week has seen a number of firsts brought about by the tepid weather and advancing calendar; not least the sight of spawning frogs. With a grand total of fourteen descending on my small garden pond – depositing their spawn in a rowdy scrum of flailing legs and hormonal calling. The pond now jampacked with conspicuous globules of eggs – sure to give rise to a bumper crop of tadpoles as the season advances. Testament to the value of such humble places for our embattled amphibians.
Frogs aside, this week also saw my first Peacock butterfly of the year – making the most of the late Winter sun amid the blooms of a nearby garden – while other invertebrates are also on the wing. Wasps, hoverflies, White-Tailed Bumblebees and a number of small, brown, unidentifiable moths all appearing as if from nowhere in the house, in the garden, in the wood and elsewhere around the local area.
Change is clearly afoot in the local avian community too; marked by the resurgence of Goosander and Grey Wagtail on the local river – species too long absent from the confines of my local patch. The resident Dippers are nesting, tucked away beneath the crumbling arch of a nearby bridge; while the wood finds itself positively abuzz with the singing of lustful passerines. Robin, Blackbird and Great tit, the species who have sung since January, now joined by the undulating notes of Goldcrest and the flutey tones of Song Thrush. Five of which were noted in full song during my last foray into the depths of Half-Penny.
A trip into the uplands at the weekend was also characterised by the sights and sounds of change; the most obvious of which coming from the Lapwings. Their shrill calls carrying far and wide over the windswept heath, joined, at times, by the sound of Curlew, fresh in from the coast. With the presence of Golden Plover back on their traditional breeding territories not going unnoticed either, though all of these soon fell into insignificance upon the sight of three Black Grouse – one male and two females – foraging at close quarters in a roadside field. Not a sight particularly representative of Spring but an enjoyable one nevertheless.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this Spring-inspired ramble; species most often associated with Winter remain very much in evidence also. Pochard on a number of local lakes – a rare sight in present day Northumberland – and no end of Pink-Footed Geese, Goldeneye and mergansers. The nearby bay pebble-dashed with the silhouettes of Red-Throated Diver, Common Scoter, Guillemot and Razorbill; all yet to depart for their Summer abodes. Though it cannot be long now and here too, on the sea, the signs of Spring abound. An increase in the number of Gannets a clear sign of things to come, and the return of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls to the surf most welcome.
All in all, this week has been an enjoyable one; characterised by a wave of fresh life and mounting anticipation for the joys to come as the year trundles on. I look forward to warmer days full to the brim with swallows, wheatears and Summer warblers, but, for now, am happy to revel in the fluid, dynamic fortnight before the true Spring begins.