Though I love the sunshine of summer, changing colours of autumn, and crisp days of winter, spring is by far my most favourite of seasons. Spring each year brings with it new life and a vibrancy that always lifts my spirits and makes me look forward to the rest of the year ahead.
Unfortunately for the last few years, I have felt like I have missed out on being able to fully appreciate this time of year, due to concentrating on my degrees. This year though, working in a seasonal outdoors job, things have been very different. In fact, I have been privileged enough to be able to fully immerse myself in the changing of seasons and blazing emergence of spring. Thus, I now want to take a moment to look back and reflect on my favourite moments of the amazing spring that is now slipping us by.
- Winter warmers
Spring began for me even before the season had started this year. With a cold winter in Dorset being experienced, my spirits were lifted at the beginning of the year with the first sprouting of snowdrops in my garden and surrounding countryside. These little white beauties reminded me that winter would not last for forever.
I was then given similar reminders with the arrival of sunshine yellow hazel catkins in February, brightening a grey and imposing landscape, and the melodic songs of male song thrushes and blackbirds, especially singing to me at dusk each day. The increasing activity of plants and animals were comfortingly hinting at what was to come.
2. Signals of spring
Following winter reminders of spring, there was nothing better than the arrival of the first real signals of its arrival. Three of my favourite standouts this year began with the blooming of vivid white and yellow flowers across the countryside, the most notable being daffodils, primroses, lesser celandines, pussy willow and sycamore. This was accompanied by the emergence of yellow-green male brimstone butterflies fluttering across the fields and along the hedgerows.
One of my most anticipated first signs of returning spring though, was the onomatopoeic call of returning chiffchaffs. These incredible small migrants, and now a resident British species, have such an iconic song that just sings that ‘spring is here’ for me. Thus, nothing brightens my days more than seeing these small birds flitting between trees and shrubs and hearing ‘chiff chaff, chiff chaff’ wherever go.
3. A new favourite
Often from year to year I have very similar favourite moments of spring, such as the bud burst of oak and horse chestnut trees or the return of nesting barn swallows. This year for me though I got to add a new one to my highlights.
When the first signs of spring began to creep back in this year, our hedgerows looked rather bare and empty in their skeletal form. This made it all the more noticeable when in March the hedgerows around me became awash with white, like rolling waves. Some years the flowering blackthorn does not make a full show, but this year it was rather spectacular, bringing fresh colour to the countryside around me. It even became a favourite for me to dabble with up close plant photography with my brand-new camera. Here are some of my very first photos!
4. Something special
Another of my favourite moments this spring included an additional first for me. Where many naturalists in the UK may have had spring encounters with this bird species before, previously my experience has been limited to hearing one call a year if I am lucky. This year though, I had the pleasure of being able to get well acquainted with this parasitic migrant, the common cuckoo (red-listed in the UK).
It has to be said that the male cuckoo has a song that is traditionally iconic of spring time, but as the years have been rolling on, this is has become a scarcer occurrence for many. That is why this spring I was overjoyed when most days the song of a number of male cuckoos became the soundtrack of my work life. It has been really special to become so used to this sound, and it has filled me with such pleasure on a day-to-day basis. So all I can say is that I hope I get this privilege again in the future!
5. The best of all
For me, though I love all that spring has to hold, I cannot help but have the same favourite highlight each year. With the beginning of new life during spring, one of my favourite parts of this is our woodlands becoming lush with an assortment of plant species. The one species that stands out during this time though, is characterised by its colourful purple flowers carpeting woodland floors.
The sight of flowering bluebells at their peak is an incredible one, which is a feeling shared by many people. It is hard to pinpoint why this is so, but it may be due to how the deep purple carpet totally contrasts with its bright green surroundings, or for the sweet heady scent of native bluebells. Whatever the reason though, they always fill me with joy with every sight, along with the other flowers that are dotted amongst them, such as stitchwort and wood anemone.
With the return of the bluebells this year, it can be said that they really did not disappoint me. Many a day I took a turn through my local woods and took a moment to look back at all the memories past walks amongst the purple flowers hold for me. For example, I have always enjoyed taking a four-legged furry friend to the woods with me to responsibly enjoy this setting too.
So, as quick as the bluebells came and put on their show this year, they also died away. I cannot help but feel a little bit sad when this happens every year, but with their exit, this signals the start of the next season and that one has to offer.