Spring 2022: How It Happened

This year spring has been a blast of colour, abundance, and new beginnings. Though April experienced some cooler weather, and storms blew up here and there, on the whole spring was calm and dry. What characterised this spring most of all though was the weather being warmer in general, making spring 2022 the 5th warmest on average with a quarter less rainfall. Turbulent winter weather led to a slower start to spring, but the increasing warmer days led to spring speeding up and going out in a hurry in my home area of Dorset.

Last year weather patterns had a big influence on spring events, with events moving earlier or later as a result. For many species, events actually occurred later in spring in Dorset in 2021 due to cooler and wetter weather overall. For example, compared to 2020, oak leaves unfurled 31 days later, bluebells flowered 4 days later, and swallows arrived 5 days later. It was an unsual spring that was still joyful, but showed the unexpected impact that climate change is already having on spring events.

After the unpredictability of spring 2021, it will be interesting to see how spring events have fared this year in 2022. How is spring looking as a season overall in 2022? Did specific spring events get back on track or continue to become later? And did spring events continue to follow weather patterns? Read on to find out!


This year on my family’s farm we have seen a general trend for tree budburst, first leaf and first flowering occurring earlier than in 2021, showing dates more similar to those of 2020 or ones that were even earlier. This was true for beech (Fagus sylvatica), field maple (Acer campestre), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), english oak (Quercus robur), wild cherry (Prunus avium), and Norway maple (Acer platanoides) trees, all between 9 and 28 days earlier. This was similar for ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and silver birch (Betula pendula) trees, but ash showed budburst 10 days later and silver birch first leaves 4 days later.

For first flowers, horse chestnut and ash trees shared the earlier trend with them blooming 2 and 34 days earlier respectively. For field maple, english oak, silver birch, wild cherry, and Norway maple flowers though, flowers actually appeared anywhere between 1 to 24 days later.


For blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), dog rose (Rosa canina), elder (Sambucus nigra), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), lilac (Syringa vulgaris), and hazel (Crataegus monogyna) first flowering occurred earlier than in 2021. This ranged from hazel flowers 5 days earlier to blackthorn flowers 21 days earlier.

Surprisingly for first budburst and first leaf, the opposite trend was actually shown. For blackthorn, dog rose, elder, hawthorn, and lilac these spring events were seen to occur on the same day as 2021 or later by 2-13 days. As these shrub events occur more towards the start of spring, maybe the slow start to spring was having an effect. Hazel budburst occurred 12 days earlier instead, but first leaf was delayed and ended up fitting the trend, unfurling 13 days later on 24th March.


Though snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) first showed their snowy heads 12 days earlier on 6th January, first flowering was 6 days later for daffodils (Narcissus spp.) on 25th January, 11 days later for lesser celandines (Ficaria verna) on 26th January, and 45 days later for primroses (Primula vulgaris) on 14th February.

Other spring flowering species had a more mixed response to the season, either appearing earlier or later compared to 2021, as we moved from March to April. The earlier appearers were:

  • Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) – 6 days earlier on 26th March
  • Early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) – 11 days earlier on 7th April
  • Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) – 22 days earlier on 11th April
  • Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) – 1 day earlier on 19th April
  • Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) – 16 days earlier on 18th May

The later appearers were:

  • Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) – 2 days later on 1st April
  • Greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) – 3 days later on 4th April
  • Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) – 2 days later on 10th April
  • Cowslips (Primula veris) – 9 days later on 11th April


This year all recorded grass species flowered earlier. Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) first flowered 18 days earlier on 22nd April, Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus) 33 days earlier on 10th May, and cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) 21 days earlier on 19th May.


With birds, the first spring events of the year occurred later on average. For example, song thrushes (Turdus philomelos) were first heard singing 18 days later on 19th January, rooks (Corvus frugilegus) were first seen building their nests 2 days later on 27th February, and blackbirds (Turdus merula) were first heard singing 6 days later on 16th February.

As we reached March, events occurred earlier than in 2021, with chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita) arriving 3 days earlier on 13th March, cuckoos (Cuculus canorus), blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), and yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) first singing 3, 7 and 14 days earlier respecitvely in April, and great-spotted woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major) first fledging 10 days earlier on 6th June. Swallows (Hirundo rustica) were an exception though first returning to our land 1 day later on 11th April.


The majority of insects I recorded were first seen on the wing on our land earlier than in 2021, making the most of our more stable weather, These were:

  • Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) – 27 days earlier on 3rd March
  • 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) – 1 day earlier on 19th March
  • Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) – 10 days earlier on 20th March
  • Small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) – 16 days earlier on 22nd March
  • Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) – 26 days earlier on 23rd March
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) – 14 days earlier on 24th March
  • Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) – 53 days earlier on 21st April
  • Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae) – 14 days earlier on 8th May
  • Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) – 43 days earlier on 17th May
  • Meadow brown butterfly (Maniola jurtina) – 27 days earlier on 22nd May
  • Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) – 31 days earlier on 17th June

The exceptions were the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) that emerged 19 days later on 18th March and orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) first seen 18 days later on 18th April.


This year during spring, plants tended to flower earlier, which could be due to the on average less turbulent weather, alongside the possibility of stress responses being triggered by the increasing temperatures at times. As a result flowers appeared earlier and went over more quickly.

Budburst and leaves did not follow as consistent a trend, but on average plants went through these spring events later than 2021. This may be due to many of these events occurring more towards the beginning of spring, when day length and temperature increases would have only just started to take an effect. Bird events followed spring in general with a slow start and a quick finish, whilst insects emerged earlier, as expected after last year’s unpredictable weather.

This year I have enjoyed all that spring had to offer, though it felt like once it got started it rushed through to its finish. In the moment it was a glorious season, but was cut short in its splendour. Being my favourite season, this year I was particularly sad when the season went over in to summer. Let’s see what will happen during the seasons to come and enjoy the adventures to be had!

Spring In Photos 2022

Spring this year has been a joyful and colourful experience. In 2020, spring was a lifeline during lockdown. In 2021, spring was a turbulent and unpredictable season, with some real wonderous moments to behold. This year though, I have simply enjoyed every moment that spring had to offer, watching as the season swelled into being and slipped out once again with the heat of the summer sun.

This spring the season began slower, but reached its peak quickly once it got going. In Dorset, from blossom and bursting leaves to nesting birds and breeding mammals, spring bloomed spectacularly, with so much new life on offer. During this time I made lots of adventures out with my camera and took many, many photos. Here are just a few of my favourites from spring 2022.

Spring 2022: In Photos

Sunset Damson Blossom – This year the blossom of fruiting trees was fantastic. Our damson tree blossomed without being bitten by frost or hit by strong winds, so hopefully it will be a good year for damsons

Lambing at Home – My mum has her own mini flock of Lleyn ewes, a Lleyn ram, and a Charolais ram, and for us spring would not be spring without lambs springing around the fields!

Horse Chestnut Flowers – Often tree flowers are simple, green and unassuming, but not those of horse chestnut trees. Horse chestnut flowers form a candelabra of fantastic white flowers with dots of pink and yellow, towering high in the boughs of the trees

Woodland Minibeasts – This year during the bluebell bloom, I focused on exploring the hidden life amongst the bluebells (check out my previous post for more). One of my finds during my hunts was this fly which looks to be a St. Mark’s fly. This fly gets its name due to emerging around St. Mark’s Day in April each year

Oak Flowers – Though horse chestnut flowers are showy, some tree flowers are fantastic in a subtler way. The flowers of English oak trees hang down in green streamers from their branches, looking pretty swaying softly in gentle spring breezes

Up Close With Stitchwort Flowers – Stitchwort flowers or ‘Shirt-buttons’ are white stars spotting the countryside throughout spring. Taking a closer look, this particular flower looks weird and wonderful with stamens that curl around each other

Super Snail – This white-lipped snail is a simple, but colourful individual amongst the green of spring. Their swirling shells are a great subject to photograph

Wild Cherry Blossom – Every year one of my favourite flowering trees is the Wild Cherry. There’s nothing like banches covered in blankets of white set against a bright green backdrop of new leaves

Fabulous First Frogspawn – In 2020, we started digging a pond in our own mini nature reserve at home on our farm. This year we were excited to find our very first frogspawn! It was amazing to watch the tadpoles change and transform over time

1 O’Clock, 2 O’Clock, Dandelion Clock – All children find magic and wonderment in dandelion clocks and their parachute seeds. Even as an adult I still find inspiration in their fragile globe-like forms

Majestic Beasts – My mum has her own herd of beef cross suckler cows and an Aberdeen angus bull that are free range and raise their own calves. We especially enjoy watching the calves grow up and grow into themselves over their very first year of life

Apple Blossom – As a family we have always enjoyed growing and foraging for our own food in our local area. Though last year was not a very good year for fruit, this year looks to be a better year, apples included

Woodland Spider – Just like the St. Mark’s fly, whilst exploring a woodland of bluebells, I found this species of orb-weaver spider. The bluebells were home to many, many of these little arachnids all weaving their webs between flowers, waiting to catch a meal

Beautiful Blackthorn Blossom – Every year one of my favourite parts of spring is blackthorn. The snow white flowers of blackthorn winter bring colour to the landscape at a time when things are still grey and spring is only just trickling in

Portland Pets – This year I spent some time photographing my neighbour’s pedigree Portland flock. These small sheep, topped off with curling horns, have a great character and warm colour to them which make it a joy to take their portraits again and again

How to… Identify UK Butterfly Species

A flash of colour flitting by in the heat of the summer sun. Twisting this way and that, showing off amazing aerial acrobatics above a meadow of long, waving grass. A butterfly, small but standing out against a backdrop of browns, yellows, reds, blues and whites. Floating like a leaf down to a flower, the butterfly stops, flicking its wings before coming to a stop, wings outstretched in the sunshine. What could this beauty be?

Butterflies come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and can be found in a variety of habitats, from big cities to more remote areas. They are also a popular cultural symbol across the globe, with symbolism ranging from rebirth and transformation to representing the human soul. Along with their long history of capturing the mind and imagination of people, in nature, butterflies are great indicators of the health of habitats and are an important part of the food chain. As is the common story right now, butterflies are unfortunately threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as climate change, pesticide use, and invasive species. They need our help!

To be able to help butterflies, we need to understand them better. In the UK, we have 59 species, with only 2 being migrants. Though butterflies are more noticeable for people to identify, most Brits can only name but a handful of species. As we ease into summer, now is a great time to brush up your knowledge of what species you can identify. Here’s 13 to get you started!


Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

  • Family: White and Yellow butterflies
  • Size: Large (60-74mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Look like veined-leaves with pale-yellow undersides and an orange dot on each wing. Uppersides: Males= sulphurous yellow; Female= paler in colour
  • Caterpillar food plants: Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn
  • On the wing: Can be seen throughout the year, but most commonly during spring
  • Winter: Hibernate as adults in wooded areas
  • Distribution: Common in England and Wales, less common in Ireland, and very rare in Scotland

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

  • Family: Brush-footed butterflies
  • Size: Medium (45-60mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Bright orange wings with a black pattern, white patch close to each outer top edge, and a border of blue half-moons. Underside dark and light brown
  • Caterpillar food plants: Nettles
  • On the wing: March-October
  • Winter: Hibernate as adults in sites, such as tree hollows and sheds
  • Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

  • Family: Brush-footed butterflies
  • Size: Large (64-78mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Black wings with red bands and white markings. Underside is similar, but paler and more mottled
  • Caterpillar food plants: Nettles
  • On the wing: March-October
  • Winter: Hibernate as adults
  • Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

  • Family: Brush-footed butterflies
  • Size: Medium/Large (58-74mm)
  • Butterfly appearance: Orange wings with black and white markings. Underside is similar, but paler and more mottled
  • Caterpillar food plants: Thistles and sometimes nettles and mallows
  • On the wing: March-October
  • Winter: Migrate from Africa each spring
  • Distribution: Widespread across Britain

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

  • Family: Brush-footed (brown) butterflies
  • Size: Medium (37-48mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Orange and brown wings on top with a black false eye on each wing. Males are smaller and richer in colour than females, with distinct dark band across the forewing. Underside of the forewing is largely orange and the hindwing yellow and brown
  • Caterpillar food plants: Fine grasses, such as fescues
  • On the wing: June-September
  • Winter: Hibernate as caterpillars
  • Distribution: Most common in southern and central England and Wales

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

  • Family: Brush-footed (brown) butterflies
  • Size: Medium (53-58mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Distinctive black and white chequered wings that vary in pattern between individuals. Undersidesnot so brightly marked with eye-spots and grey or yellowish bands
  • Caterpillar food plants: Grasses, such as red fescue and sheep’s-fescue
  • On the wing: June-August
  • Winter: Hibernate as caterpillars
  • Distribution: Southern and central England and Wales

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)

  • Family: Brush-footed (brown) butterflies
  • Size: Medium (42-52mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Begin velvety with deep blackish brown wings bordered by white. Iconic rings on wings vary in number, size and shape. Females larger with more pronounced markings
  • Caterpillar food plants: Various grasses including cock’s-foot and tufted hair-grass
  • On the wing: June-August
  • Winter: Hibernate as caterpillars
  • Distribution: Everywhere apart from northern Scotland

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

  • Family: Brush-footed (brown) butterflies
  • Size: Medium (46-56mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Dark brown with cream spots, though the female’s are larger. Forewings have a false eye and hindwings have three false eyes. Undersides mottled brown
  • Caterpillar food plants: Various grasses including false brome, cock’s-foot, Yorkshire fog, and common couch
  • On the wing: March-October
  • Winter: Hibernate as caterpillars or a chrysalis
  • Distribution: Throughout England (except the far north), Wales and Ireland, and in northern Scotland

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

  • Family: Brush-footed (brown) butterflies
  • Size: Medium (40-60mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Male= dark brown with dark scent patch on forewing and faint orange smudge; Female= lighter brown with more orange on wings. Underside is largely orange with mottled brown hindwing
  • Caterpillar food plants: Wide range of grasses from fine fescues to coarse cock’s-foot
  • On the wing: May-September
  • Winter: Hibernate as caterpillars
  • Distribution: Widespread across Britain

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

  • Family: Brush-footed butterflies
  • Size: Medium/Large (50-64mm)
  • Butterfly appearance: Orange wings with brown patterns and scalloped edges to wings. Mottled underside with white, comma-like mark on hindwing
  • Caterpillar food plants: Nettle, elm and hop
  • On the wing: Spring after hibernation; Summer brood= June-July; Autumn brood= August-September
  • Winter: Hibernate as adults, camouflaged as a leaf
  • Distribution: Widespread across England and Wales, rare in southern Scotland and Northern Ireland

Peacock (Aglais io)

  • Family: Brush-footed butterflies
  • Size: Large (63-75mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Red wings with four large false eyes. Undersides almost black
  • Caterpillar food plants: Nettles
  • On the wing: Spring after hibernation, and June-September
  • Winter: Hibernate as adults in hollow trees and buildings
  • Distribution: Widespread across Britain

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

  • Family: Skippers
  • Size: Small (25-34mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Orange on top with a black edge, and paler undersides. Male= dark stripe in centre of fore-wing. Antenna tip is orange below
  • Caterpillar food plants: Yorkshire fog and other tall grasses
  • On the wing: June-September
  • Winter: Hibernate as caterpillars
  • Distribution: Widespread up to North Yorkshire and Scottish border

Large Skipper (Ochlodes venatus)

  • Family: Skippers
  • Size: Small (28-36mm wide)
  • Butterfly appearance: Wings rich brown with orange patches, but male has a dark bar in the centre of the forewing. Underside mottled orange
  • Caterpillar food plants: Cock’s-foot and other tall grasses
  • On the wing: May-September
  • Winter: Hibernate as caterpillars
  • Distribution: Throughout England, Wales, and in Dumfries and Galloway

Life Amongst the Bluebells

‘When you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise’, and in late April to early May, this surprise comes in the form of a fantastic mass event! During this time, our woodlands are blanketed with a sweeping carpet of colour; a rich mass of violet-blue, made up of thousands of nodding heads. This popular spring spectacle is a heady treat for the senses, epitomising the beauty of British springtime. This is not all that our woodlands have to offer at this time though, with the Bluebells making us overlook some humbler stars of the show.

So when walking through the Bluebells, why not stop and look around you for a moment. ‘Daddy’s-shirt-buttons’ or Greater Stitchwort can be found dotted throughout the woodland carpet, white star-shaped flowers on slender stems. In thicker patches of green, clusters of green-centred stars can also be found on sturdy stems, their pungent scent giving them away as the flowers of Wild Garlic. These are joined closer to the ground by the white-cupped faces of the Wood Anemone, heads turned to the sun, merging into the galaxy of colour.

The palette is added to by splashes of pink and yellow. Shining yellow stars of Lesser Celandine float above heart-shaped leaves. The green-spiked Yellow Archangel, like a nettle, adorned with rings of butter-yellow flowers, each with their own hood. You can also find Early Purple Orchids beneath the trees, pink spikes growing from purple-splattered green leaves. Closer to the ground, the glittering pink faces of Herb Robert add to the show.

Amongst the Bluebells, there is not just a colourful backdrop of flowers to be found, but a hidden world to be discovered. Down at Bluebell level, the woodland floor comes alive. Spiders spin webs from Bluebell to Bluebell hoping to catch a meal, whilst Bumblebees fly from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen for their colonies. They are joined by a fantastic array of flies, varying in size, shape, and colour.

If you take an even closer look at the flowers, you might even find some more hidden characters that capture your mind and inspire your imagination. Camouflaged spiders, weird and wonderful weevils, colourful shield bugs, fascinating beetles, and even patchwork snails are waiting to be found. Minibeasts and their tiny worlds can create a sense of calm and simple joy, an easy example being a graceful Butterfly gently flitting by through dappled spring sunshine.

Walking through the Bluebells is a wonderful visual experience, but if you open your ears, then another world can also be added to this. The fluting notes of the Song Thrush, the onomatopoeic song of the Chiffchaff, the melodic Robin, or the powerful trilling song of the Wren. All flow together to create a symphony of bird song, a soundtrack fit for the spectacle that is the blooming of the Bluebells.

‘When you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise’, and in spring this might just be bigger than you expect. Next time the Bluebells are blooming, why not stop and see what you might find amongst those nodding heads.