Spring arrivals

Jon Hawkins - Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

The Fen is starting to get really lively at this time of year; you can hear the difference.

While the weekend gave us the stark contrast of warm, sunny weather on the Saturday, and cold wet weather on the Sunday, the wildlife was still very vocal.

The birds are a delight to both the eye and to the ear, and I heard my first blackcap song of the year on Saturday, on a woodland edge, atop of a flowering blackthorn; such a combination really does deeply etch the memory, in the best of ways of course. Later that morning I also heard a chiffchaff singing its name (“chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff”), the drumming of a great spotted woodpecker, followed by my first willow warbler song of the year.

Now that the spring rush is on, lots of species will be active, the common toads are out and mating, laying their strings of spawn, and even on a really wet day, such as Sunday, the skylarks are singing, and the meadow pipits are performing their ‘parachute display over the grasslands, joined by the occasional call from a yellow wagtail. From the bushes, linnet are in song and yellowhammers are singing their usual “a little bit of bread and no... cheeeese”

Some species are nesting already, long-tailed tits are constructing their amazing pouches made of lichen and cobwebs, and birds of prey, such as red kite, are gathering twigs for their nests; following on after the early nesters such as the cormorants and rooks.

Butterflies are also out and about; our early spring species including the butter-yellow brimstone and the red peacock  and small tortoiseshell, being attracted to the catkins on the sallows and willows. Primroses are in flower in the woodlands, and some early bluebellsas well as cowslips in the wild flower meadows; all useful early nectar sources for those insects coming out of hibernation.

So if that is not enough evidence for you that spring really has arrived, the swallows have also started to fly over, arriving after the house martins and sand martins, as usual, and to top it all off, Sunday also produced the first cuckoo of the year!

At this time of year the Great Fen Monitors are out and about, gathering evidence to show how well the restoration work is proceeding. This week they were out counting amphibians, discovering great crested newts galore, and they will be out again soon carrying out bird surveys.

If you are able to identify birds by their calls and song, and are interested in joining the monitors in the next round of surveys, why not get in touch?

Henry Stanier (Great Fen Monitoring and Research Officer)