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Green Shoots

Flying geese. Photo Steve WaterhouseFlying geese. Photo Steve Waterhouse

By Dyane Silvester

The days are beginning to stretch out quite noticeably now, and despite the cold and often wintry weather, we are just beginning to see the first vestiges of spring.

Don't you think that the first time you see the snowdrops' green shoots each year is a moment of optimism? When these are followed quickly by their white flowers, we know that spring is definitely on its way.

As the days lengthen further, wild daffodils and crocuses will begin to emerge along the verges too and catkins will appear on trees such as willow and hazel which flower before their leaves grow.

It is also the time of year when you might see huge skeins of geese migrating northwards to their summer haunts. The groups' distinctive “V” shape is unmistakable, albeit usually lopsided and ragged. Did you know that the front bird has to work hardest; the others can take advantage of the turbulence and air flows generated by the leader. In order to share the effort, each bird in the group takes a turn at the front. You will often hear these skeins before you see them – stop and consider for moment just how far they might have come; perhaps thousands of miles.

As well as migrants returning, hibernating animals such as dormice and hedgehogs will begin to emerge as the weather warms a little more. Although red squirrels do not actually hibernate they become more active in the spring so you are likely to see them more over the next few months when they will gorge on trees' fresh buds – a welcome source of nutrients after a winter diet comprising mainly cones and nuts.

Other birds which don't migrate are returning to their nesting grounds; I see lapwings in the fields regularly now, finding mates and choosing nesting sites. Curlews will leave the coast to breed – we will hear once more their familiar haunting cry on the fells.

As plants grow and flower, insects will become more active too, and their grubs will provide food for smaller birds and their young. By this time, we will almost have forgotten the cold dark months behind us. 

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