The winter has been extremely mild with very little sign of frost, and because of this, we are getting very early signs of spring at the woods. On today’s walk, with temperatures in double figures (about 10 Celsius), I saw a lot of evidence that an early spring is happening – worrying evidence, in that we could still have a harsh winter come upon us! First of all, I found willow catkins Salix caprea starting to emerge on some of the young trees in Betty’s Wood. Not yet generating pollen, but not far off, and there are similarly advanced catkins on alder and birch as well.
Near the entrance to the woods we have a lot of naturalised daffodils and these are emerging rapidly too. This is not the only clump – most of the daffodils are well advanced and looking good to flower early.
Finally, the hazel catkins, which have been around since December, are now mature and starting to shed pollen. These are in the main woodland, but Betty’s Wood also has mature hazel catkins. And I have hay fever already!
Last year spring was very late thanks to the harsh winter, this year it is very early. There are other signs of spring all around – leaf buds looking ready to burst on our cherry and rowan trees, great-spotted woodpeckers drumming, great tits and blue tits singing their territorial songs. We haven’t had enough frost to kill off the brambles, which have continued to grow all winter – worrying for the bluebells that rely on the bramble dying back in the frost to emerge into the light in spring.
But it is still winter, and the large flocks of fieldfare and smaller flocks of linnet and siskin are still feeding in our meadows and the adjoining fields. Winter may still hit hard – last year it snowed in early May – so we will be interested to see how these early signs of spring develop.