The feeling of spring

Primroses

Primroses

Early Mining Bee on Willow Catkin

Early Mining Bee on Willow Catkin

Spring is here at last, and what a welcome thing it is. It started when I was cooped up in a hospital room for two weeks, watching the crocuses on the balcony bloom in their tubs, and the first small tortoiseshell butterfly flutter past my window. But I could not go out and enjoy it.

Coming out of hospital, the first thing I noticed was the wind on my face. Cold, for sure, but very welcome, and something that had been sorely missed.

They seemed almost imperceptible at first, the signs of Spring at the woods. It was very subtle. One week, you could see through the understorey, through the woods to the fields beyond. Then a few days later, you couldn’t. Just a few buds bursting here and there and the woods were transformed once again.

Birch Leaves and Catkins

Birch Leaves and Catkins

Daffodils

Daffodils

The daffodils came out in great numbers, followed by the lesser celandine, primroses and cowslips. This last weekend the first bluebell buds appeared, the blossom was profuse on the blackthorn, and the first cherry blossom also came into flower. Snakeshead fritillary are also in flower, and the smell of wild garlic hits you before you see the emerging leaves.

Cowslips

Cowslips

Ladybird on the edge of a leaf

Ladybird on the Edge

Within a few days, tiny green leaves were all over the birch trees, like little jewels, backlit by the sun. Catkins cover the willow trees, leaf buds bursting, early bees feasting on the pollen. Comma, small tortoiseshell, brimstone and peacock butterflies are everywhere in the sheltered parts of the meadow. Chiffchaffs are calling. The first blackcap is in song.

Surprisingly, for most birds are still building their nests, we even have a robin feeding her young, the nest precariously perched in an empty log bag thrown onto the top shelf of our log store.

Robin Feeding Young

Robin Feeding Young

This is the feeling of spring. The wind on your face. Some warmth in the sun. Frantic bird activity, flowers on the woodland floor, and the delicate sight of new leaves and catkins. A feeling magnified by my release from captivity. A glorious feeling. A joyful time of year.

Blackthorn

Blackthorn

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly – shame about the background but lovely butterfly all the same.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

Early Spring

Golden Tassels - Hazel Catkins

Golden Tassels – Hazel Catkins

Alder Catkins

Alder Catkins

Alder Catkins

Alder Catkins

Birch Catkins

Birch Catkins

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Golden Tassels - Hazel Catkins

Golden Tassels – Hazel Catkins

I’ve seen hazel catkins out in January before (just!), but never seen willow or alder catkins at this time of year.  Yet that is what is happening at the woods right now.  The lack of a really harsh frost this winter has led to everything being extremely early.  We have buds on our daffodils, bud burst on elder, and a load of catkins coming out, producing pollen and giving me hay-fever!

These photos were all taken last week.  Hazel, birch, alder and willow catkins coming out.  It really seems crazy.  We have had frost, but not a hard frost, and no frost under the trees themselves.  I hope we don’t get a hard and late frost to set everything back now they have started to come up.

Signs of spring

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Willow Catkins

Wild Daffodils

Wild Daffodils

After a long and very wet winter, there are at last some signs of spring around the woods.  In particular, there are catkins.  Lots and lots of catkins – hazel, birch, alder and willow – and my hay fever tells me they are producing a lot of pollen.  This is wonderful for the honey bees and bumblebees that I see around the woods, waking up from their hibernation.

The wild daffodils have also started to come out, although the naturalised domestic daffs are a little behind their wild cousins.  The bluebells are also showing their shoots through the ground.

The little birds are singing their territorial songs:  dunnock, robin, wren, great tit and blue tit are in full song, as well as willow tit and yellowhammer, and the great spotted woodpecker is drumming away.  A pair of buzzards are calling as they circle over the woods.  The skylarks are up as well and that is truly a sound of summer.  And in our meadows, the grass is rising and the speedwell is in flower in places.

Blue Tit

Blue Tit

Buzzard

Buzzard

The light, too, is getting that lovely light and watery quality of spring as the sun creeps higher and higher, and sets later and later in the day.  The sunshine and showers weather is a big improvement over the wet winter storms.

Hazel Flower

Hazel Flower

Spring is such an exciting time and always welcome, whether the winter has been cold and snowy or mild, wet and windy.  It represents a time when the winter work in the woods is finally done and we can sit back, enjoy the fruit of our labours, cease worrying about the dwindling supply of firewood logs and concentrate on the beauty, tranquility and peace of the woods again.  And maybe even turn our hands to a little bit of green woodworking again with the fresh supply of coppice wood…but that is a post for another day!

Spore Heads on Moss

Spore Heads on Moss

Untimely Signs of Spring

Salix caprea catkins starting to emerge - very early!

Salix caprea catkins starting to emerge – very early!

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.

These daffodils near our entrance are emerging early too

These daffodils near our entrance are emerging early too

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.

These hazel catkins are mature and releasing pollen

These hazel catkins are mature and releasing pollen

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.