30 Days Wild 2022: My Wild June

Every June the Wildlife Trusts hold their annual 30 Days Wild challenge, aiming to connect more people with nature. It is free and easy to get involved with, and is a great way to have fun, relax, and learn something new. It is completely up to you how you spend your 30 days, with every ‘Random Act of Wildness’ counting. Now in its 8th year, the Wildlife Trusts hope that this year will have been the challenge’s best year yet.

For the last 3 years, I have been taking part in 30 Days Wild each June. From baking to birdwatching, this challenge has been an opportunity to slow down and spend more time out in nature. If you want to read all about my previous years participating in 30 Days Wild, check out my blog posts from 2020 and 2021.

For this year, I wanted to try something a little bit different. Instead of intentionally trying to do something wild every day, I wanted to simply appreciate nature in my everyday life. Being a very active, outdoor person, I wanted to see how in 30 Days I naturally connect with nature on an average day-to-day basis. Read on to find out all about my 30 Days Wild 2022!

30 Days Wild 2022

Wednesday 1st: The first day of the month was a busy one, but in my downtime I spent part of my evening exploring my farm’s and neighbours’ buildings for occupied swallow nests ahead of monitoring them over the coming weeks. So far I have found 4 that were either lined or already had eggs laid or chicks hatched.

Thursday 2nd: I spent my Thursday working, but also taking some time to relax out in nature. This included going out for a hack on my neighbour’s lovely mare Marsha with a friend and her horse, and watching a spectacular sunset with friends on Okeford Hill for Okeford Fitzpaine’s Platinum Jubilee beacon lighting.

Friday 3rd: This Friday was my first Wild Friday of the month on my blog. For this one, I went back to one of my very favourite times of the year: the blooming of the bluebells. This post had a twist though as I explored a little further and focused on the life amongst the bluebells this year.

Saturday 4th: As the breeding season for birds continued, I took some time today to check some of my nests. My barn owl nest box was looking good, and I discovered an interesting new nest tree on the farm (stay tuned!). I also discovered a robin’s nest hidden in the middle of a rubbish pile where the chicks are close to fledging.

Sunday 5th: On a more chilled work day, I began reading Simon King’s book ‘The Shetland Diaries’ and continued sketching butterflies and their caterpillars for my next blog post. A little bit of escapism!

Monday 6th: Today I got to ring my first swallow chicks of the year, with one nest that has done well and is 2 weeks ahead of all the others. I hope the chicks continue doing well and fledge successfully! The rest of the day I was out working in nature, until I ended up hurting my knee and going to A and E!

Tuesday 7th: Despite a stitched up knee, between rest and easy jobs, I still went to check my current bird nests. I now have 5 swallow nests, 1 with my ringed chicks and 4 with eggs, and discovered my second kestrel nest of the year.

Wednesday 8th: My wild highlight of the day came in the form of fluffy goslings. At lunch my neighbour’s family of Canada geese got spooked and the parents flew off. The 6-8 goslings fled in fright and I did my best to catch them back up. I only found 4, but I was able to successfully release them back to their lake and their parents thankfully returned to them later on in the day.

Thursday 9th: I began my busy day, that included some habitat maintenance, bright and early with the dawn chorus and a wonderful sunrise. It was a great start to the day, listening to the songs of robins, song thrushes, chiffchaffs, and more.

Friday 10th: Today’s wild time was spent out in nature walking a lovely little dog called Kaya for the Cinnamon Trust. It was also Wild Friday on this blog once again, and this Friday’s post was one of my favourites to put together. With a collection of facts, my photos, and my own drawings, my post was a How to.. guide to identifying common British butterfly species.

Saturday 11th: Today I had a lot on my mind, weighing me down. So I thought it was the perfect time to take a break and be mindful in nature. It was just what I needed to clear my head and calm my body, allowing me to pick myself up and carry on.

Sunday 12th: I took the day easy, giving my knee some more time to rest. I did though check my bee hotel, which is currently being well used, and spent a really lovely summer’s evening with my brother and his family in their wonderful little garden.

Monday 13th: Today was another day when I got to walk the little dog Kaya, and this time we escaped the hot day by walking in the shade of a huge avenue of trees and looking out for all the wildflowers we could find.

Tuesday 14th: Today was a special day on the farm for me. I got to ring the first of this year’s barn owl chicks, which is always a real pleasure, but I also got to ring our very first kestrel chicks on the farm! Stay tuned to this blog later on in the year to find out how our barn owls (and kestrels) have fared this year.

Wednesday 15th: My wild highlight of today’s work day was seeing fox cubs. On my daily travels around our land, I saw not one family of fox cubs, but 3, all out playing and exploring. Whatever people might think of foxes, fox cubs are a real joy to watch.

Thursday 16th: Though a day late, today I made my usual swallow nest checks. My 5 nests are doing well, 1 ringed brood of 5 staying close to their nest, 2 nests nearly ready to be ringed, and 2 more that are just hatching.

Friday 17th: I was outside most of the day, but my wild highlight has to be watching 4 red kites swooping over the fields following grass being cut by tractors. It was also Wild Friday on this blog, and so this Friday’s post was a collection of some of my favourite photos from spring 2020.

Saturday 18th: In between work hours, I used my free time to finish hand painting the bee hotel I had been working on for my niece’s 4th birthday. I really enjoyed painting it and I was very happy with the end result! Maybe I will have to do more wild wood painting in the future!

Sunday 19th: As I had a more relaxed day, I headed out and collected recent photos and videos from my two camera traps that are out and active at the moment. This is my favourite part of camera trapping, and my cameras did not disappoint. Check out my blog post coming next week to see all about my camera trapping adventures this spring!

Monday 20th: Around work today, I picked the first gooseberries of the year, explored what flowers are currently out right now, and watched a lovely sunset.

Tuesday 21st: Today I spent most of the day working away from the main hub of our farm, provided with wild moments including listening to yellowhammers sing, watching adult kestrels feeding their chicks, and escaping a swarm of honey bees. To finish the day, I got to ring another 2 of my 5 swallow nests. I am enjoying monitoring my small swallow population!

Wednesday 22nd: As Wednesday rolled around once again, I was back checking on my swallows that have yet to reach the ringing stage. Now 1 nest has completely fledged, another 2 have been ringed, 1 is ready to ring, and unfortunately 1 of my nests has been predated. This year has definitely been a tough one for swallows once again, but it is good to have seen some chicks fledge already.

Thursday 23rd: After a couple of weeks resting up from my knee injury, I was finally back out on horseback. I went for a lovely chilled hack out around my local area on Marsha, taking in lots of wildlife, including singing greenfinches and a hunting buzzard.

Friday 24th: Today I enjoyed sharing the last Wild Friday on my Laura’s Wild World blog this June. This particular post celebrates spring by looking at how spring happened in 2022. It was an interesting post to put together!

Saturday 25th: For the first day I had had off in a long time, I had been invited to a ‘Greylag Goose Roundup’. This event was being held at Poole Park to catch geese for a project where each year as many as possible of the current population are being coloured ring. It was a great day of catching up with other bird ringers and getting to ring my very first greylag goose!

Sunday 26th: Today I woke up to the rain falling and quenching the thirst of the land right now. It was great to take some time to appreciate the falling rain, before getting some drier spells to walk the countryside.

Monday 27th: Again another day begun with rain, before heating up and drying out. After a busy day, I enjoyed taking a break from life and walking around our land, exploring nature. Flocks of juvenile goldfinches, knapweed blossoming into purple flowers, and hares grazing in the fields, just some of the few sights to be beheld.

Tuesday 28th: This morning I had another lovely ride out on Marsha, with some of my wild highlights being a buzzard trying to hide in a tree, painted lady butterflies on the wing, and hedgerows full of wildflowers. This afternoon I had a good walk with my Dad watching butterflies and birds, including meadow browns and red kites.

Wednesday 29th: Today when I was not working or going to appointments, I spent time organising my wildlife photos and camera trap photos, and playing outside with my young nieces, who both love nature in their own individual ways.

Thursday 30th: For the last day of this year’s 30 Days Wild, I have been travelling up to London by bus to spend a few days exploring with my mum. For something a little different, I challenged myself to my annual A-Z of wildlife, but a travel edition. Here’s how I got on:

Looking back at my June this year, I was very busy, but the month shows that I naturally take time each day to connect with and appreciate nature. This could be through harvesting food, walking out in nature, or even getting involved in conservation projects. Being outside out in nature is important for my mental health, for my inspiration, and for my lifestyle, and so after this year’s 30 Days Wild, I now appreciate our natural environment even more so. Here’s for living every day a wild one!

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!

Trees

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.

Shrubs

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.

Flowers

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

Grasses

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.

Birds

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.

Insects

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.

Summary

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

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.

Spring in Bloom in Dorset 2022

‘There is no time like Spring, When life’s alive in everything… Before the sun has power, To scorch the world up in his noontide hour’ – Christina Rossetti

Where for me Winter is a grey, bleak, and quiet time, Spring is the opposite. Those first Snowdrops of January whisper of the season to come, leading the way ahead for new life to follow. This opens the door for change and the blossoming of Spring. A vibrant season, Spring arrives with an explosion of colour, awe-inspiring after tough Winter months. Yellows, pinks, purples, blues, and whites, amongst others, paint a landscape of reviving green. It is a magical time!

This year has been no different, with Spring unfurling in style, though with some added meteorological unpredictability. Right now though, woodlands are carpeted with the purple hues of Bluebells, pastel blossom drips from fruiting trees, and leaves begin to envelop trees and hedgerows. It is a time to be enjoyed and relished after another tough Winter, with promise now of more new life as this season continues. Let us now celebrate the blooming of Spring 2022 so far.

Exploring With My Camera Trap Spring 2021

After I click open the file on my camera trap, I press next through a male pheasant strutting his stuff and a female roe deer passing through, until a photo makes me stop. There towards the back of the shot are two small brown shapes. I move through the rest of the photos as day passes into night, and watch as these two rough and tumble through the photos, exploring, playing and watching their wild neighbours go past, ending with one sitting stock still in front of the camera. My camera trap had successfully found my first litter of fox cubs of the year!

The last few years I have become known for my exploration of my family’s farm in Dorset using a camera trap. My camera trap allows me to delve into the lives of my wild neighbours without intrusion or disturbance of their natural behaviour, and to use my photos to inspire others to open their eyes and be motivated to conserve our local wildlife. It is always a rollercoaster of emotions, never knowing what my camera trap might find, but in the end it is a very rewarding experience. If you are interested in getting your own camera trap or knowing how to make the most of your own, check out my ‘How to… Use and Make the Most of a Camera Trap’ guide for some more information.

My camera trap has been a very useful tool for me over the last few years, so since 2019 I have spent my spring seasons moving my camera trap around different sites across 250 acres of farmland, taking in different species and behaviour. In 2019, I saw 12 species of birds and mammals, including families of badgers and a family of three fox cubs. In 2020, my camera trapping got even more interesting, with badger cubs, a couple of litters of fox cubs, and lots of roe deer sightings. The most enjoyable shots are always the most unexpected though, despite from time to time getting a photo bomber or two, for example in the form of our farm cat!

This spring I have been out and about once again on the farm with my camera trap. This year I selected six different sites across our land, with the hope of capturing some of the normal sights, along with some new ones. As the spring has now come to an end, activity has dropped across these sites, and thus it is time to see how spring has been captured by my camera trap this year.

Camera Trapping Spring 2021

Quarry Field Badger Sett

My first camera trapping site this year was an active badger sett to the east of my family’s land. It sits between a silage field and a maize field in a wide and thick hedgerow, and is a great crossroads for animals passing through. I have used this site in previous years for camera trapping, with varying success, such as last year’s highlights of badger cubs and a lively, lone fox cub.

This year I set my camera trap up at the sett for a week (3rd-10th April), moving the position and angle every other day to increase my chances of capturing wildlife. It paid off as I had a successful first week, with rabbits, roe deer, badgers, and a fox.

Due to seeing a lone fox cub at this site last year, the presence of an adult fox at the sett once again led me to return with my camera trap seven weeks later for another week (27th May-1st June). My hunch paid off as my camera trap returned photos of two fox cubs playing, living alongside a badger family, and being fed by a parent.

Gill Hill Copse

For my next site, I set my camera trap up within a copse surrounded by a cow grazing field west of the Quarry Field badger sett. During early spring this is a great site to capture wildlife moving through the landscape as the copse is a great stopping place. I have used this site before, and last year I saw species, such as roe deer and foxes.

This year I used my camera in the copse for just one week (11th-18th April), but moved its position within the copse every couple of days. I captured photos of a territorial male pheasant, an adult badger, a grey squirrel, an adult fox, and a rather comical sequence of photos of two female roe deer being spied on by a hiding male. As vegetation in the copse grows up and spring progresses, camera trapping success decreases at this site, but it was nice to see some life early on this spring.

Dorset County Council Wood

For my third site, I set my camera trap within a small, young wood that can be found at the centre of my family’s land, bordered by a road and a meadow. I have used this wood before, with some positive sightings in 2019 of foxes and badgers passing through.

This year I tried the wood again for a couple of days (19th-24th April), with some overall disappointing results. A male pheasant and magpie were seen, with an adult fox being seen twice, but overall the wood was quiet, reflecting a lack of diversity evident in this unmanaged woodland. I did not return to the wood again during this spring as a result.

Badger Field Sett

For my fourth camera trapping site, I returned to an active badger sett towards the centre of my family’s land. The sett is bordered by grazing land on both sides, and is set within a wide, thick hedge, extending out into the field on its east side. Last year I used my camera trap to look within the sett and to the sett entrances on either side, and saw adult badgers, badger cubs, and an adult fox. This was unsurprising as the sett is a thriving mixed site for badgers, foxes and rabbits alike.

This year I positioned my camera trap first on the western side of the sett (25th-27th April), before positioning it directly within the area above the sett (4th-7th May). Pointing my camera trap at the animal track running along the side of the sett, I captured an adult badger, adult fox, and my first hare! Above the sett, my camera trap was more active, capturing lots of badger activity, woodpigeons, blackbirds, and red-legged partridges, and a surprising sighting of a field vole climbing vegetation. It was a lovely sequence of photos!

Badger Alley

For my fifth site, I chose to return to one of my favourite locations, the familiarly known Badger Alley. Badger Alley is an enclosed footpath that has dug out animal holes along half of its length, split into two old badger setts. In 2019 this was a super site for seeing badgers wondering its length, but last year it was obvious that wildlife numbers had declined, badgers in particular.

This year I spent two stints setting up my camera trap along Badger Alley. Firstly, I spent five days with my camera trap trained on the non-active lower sett, changing the camera’s position after two days (10th-14th May). Amongst photos of a female roe deer and a displaying male pheasant, I got lots of really lovely photos of two fox cubs playing and exploring their world.

I then returned to Badger Alley in June, moving my camera from the non-active lower sett (5th-11th June) to the sett further up (11th-14th June). By now my camera trap found that the family of foxes had moved on, with only the female and new male roe deer appearing at the lower sett. What was really sad, was finding that Badger Alley has now been fully abandoned by badgers, with the higher sett now being home to just rabbits. A slightly disappointing end to my camera trap’s time at Badger Alley!

Monkwood

To finish camera trapping during the spring season, I took a bet on a site where there was a possibility of finding another litter of fox cubs. This site was a hedge in the middle of cow grazing land, where I had not previously camera trapped before. I chose to set my camera trap up on a fence post pointing along the hedgeline where I had found holes into the hedge, and left my camera for a couple of days (14th-16th June).

On retrieving my camera trap, I was excited to find that my instincts had been right and my camera trap had shot photos of two fox cubs and an adult. It was a lovely end to my spring camera trapping season!

My 30 Days Wild 2021: A Wild Month

June has been one of those months that has passed by in the blink of an eye. Rainy days quickly moved into scorching heat and then back to rain, framing the last of spring’s events. Every day I have tried to be outside as much as possible, with my happy place being out in nature. From work to down time, my life and hobbies revolve around the wild and the natural world around me. This is why I love to share my experiences with others, to excite, inspire, and instill, and to help motivate people to protect and conserve what is left of our natural world.

It is not surprising then that I am always up for a wild challenge. Last year this took the form of the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, an annual nature challenge that has now run for 6 years, with more than a million people taking part last year. This challenge aims to bring people closer to nature whilst making a positive difference for wildlife and its conservation. All you have to do is complete one ‘Random Act of Wildness’ each day for the whole of June. It is that simple!

Last year I really enjoyed participating in 30 Days Wild, with the challenge enriching my days, helping me to relax, and allowing me to develop a deeper connection with the natural world around me. It also gave me an added focus on days that were busy and stressful, keeping me centred and moving forward. My Random Acts of Wildness ranged from making bird food and picking fruit, to dissecting barn owl pellets and learning my chalkland wildflower species. So it was an easy decision this year to take part once again.

Here’s what I got up to during 30 Days Wild 2021:

Day 1: Tuesday 1st (Work)

For the start of my 30 Days Wild, I began strong.

After failing to find an active kestrel nest last year, I finally found the natural nest I had been hoping for! I also checked and moved my camera trap after a week out at a badger sett, discovering my second family of foxes of this year, with it being by far my best camera trapping season yet!

Day 2: Wednesday 2nd (Day Off)

I love an adventure, and so today I ventured out into my local area in the rain to take in as many different habitats and species as possible, with the highlight being 4 red kites sitting in a tree on my family’s land. After drying off and allowing the rain to pass, that afternoon I headed back outside, this time to test my brand new macro lens and get stuck in to the world of the small.

Day 3: Thursday 3rd (Day Off)

For my second day off, I made the most of free time and went for a long ride with a friend, the highlight being riding through chalk grasslands, embellished with colourful flowers and melodious birds. Being on horseback in this way allows me to take in a range of wildlife in a short period of time and also give me great up-close views.

Day 4: Friday 4th (Work)

For spring, my wildlife blog has been back up and running, and every Friday has been a Wild Friday. For this week, my new post was all about the spring bluebells, which are one of my favourite parts of spring each year. Check it out on my blog now!

Day 5: Saturday 5th (Work)

After a long day at work, I still had energy to work on some of my nature projects. This included putting my dad together a list of all the bird species seen on my family’s land in the last year (65!), and learning how to fill in nest records for the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme, beginning with a blackbird’s, kestrel’s, and barn owl’s nest.

Day 6: Sunday 6th (Work)

A week ago I cleared a small wildlife area of docks and sowed some homemade wildlife mixes, so this evening after work I headed over to the area to do some management and to water the seeds. I then headed home to finish off my day with Thursday’s and Friday’s missed episodes of Springwatch.

Day 7: Monday 7th (Work)

After catching my neice’s cold, today I felt particularly under the weather. It was a perfect way then to spend my evening curled up in an armchair reading some lovely nature blogs to cheer myself up before an early night.

Day 8: Tuesday 8th (Work)

My happy place is out in nature, and so I have been enjoying working at the moment on my family’s farm in Dorset, and keeping an open mind to what I might discover during day-to-day life. Today I had everything from peacock butterflies and Lackey moth caterpillars, to yellowhammers singing and brown hares grazing within 10 metres of me!

Day 9: Wednesday 9th (Day Off)

I began my first of two days by heading to my bird ringing trainer’s private nature reserve to help with summer maintenance work, before returning home to check the kestrel nest and to head round to my next door neighbour’s to look for active swallow nests (4 so far!).

Day 10: Thursday 10th (Day Off)

For my second day off, I had a lovely relaxing hack with Marsha exploring a new route near my home, and spent time watching and counting the birds visiting the feeders in my garden. From pheasants and house sparrows to goldfinches and greenfinches, all species and their abundance are recorded in my garden and sent off at the end of the week to the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch scheme.

Day 11: Friday 11th (Work)

Today after work I spent time expanding my wildlife knowledge through reading the BTO’s Lifecycle magazine and BBC Wildlife magazine, and watching the very last episode of 2021’s Springwatch.

Day 12: Saturday 12th (Work)

Today I used my lunch break to take photos of the bees buzzing around the poached egg flowers in my family’s garden using my brand new macro lens (very exciting!). My evening was then spent relaxing with my family in my brother and sister-in-law’s garden for a lovely family bbq in the setting sun.

Day 13: Sunday 13th (Work)

Last year I completed a self-set challenge to find an example of wildlife for every letter of the alphabet during just 1 day. Today I decided to have a go once again, but with the added challenge of finding different examples compared to last year. It was tough, but I did it!

Day 14: Monday 14th (Work)

After a long day at work, I spent some time exploring Twitter’s wildlife community, visiting some of my favourite and some new pages. Why not check them out yourself to find out what they have been getting up to?

Day 15: Tuesday 15th (Work)

After work, I had a really lovely evening checking my family’s barn owl nest box and kestrel tree nest with fully licensed members of my ringing group. We were excited to find the adult female barn owl brooding 4 young and the adult female kestrel feeding 3 two week old chicks!

Day 16: Wednesday 16th (Day Off)

To finish off a jam packed day off, I went for a lovely evening walk that began with just me and my camera and ended with me also carrying my camera trap and family’s farm cat. He likes to have a walk, but he gets tired too easily!

Day 17: Thursday 17th (Day Off)

Around my usual horse riding today, I kept myself busy with my wildlife photography, using my camera, taking photos off of memory cards, organising photos, and sorting my camera trap.

Day 18: Friday 18th (Work)

Today was another ‘Wild Friday‘ on my blog meaning a brand new blog post went up all about how spring 2021 unfurled. A little scientific, a little anecdotal, and a little visual-based, it was an enjoyable piece to write.

Day 19: Saturday 19th (Work)

Today I have been very busy looking after my parents’ farm whilst they are away. It has been a great opportunity to take in all that the farm has to offer and to appreciate all the work my parents have done and are doing for wildlife on the farm, from digging ponds to planting trees.

For more information check out my 2020 blog post called ‘Giving Nature a Home on the Farm’.

Day 20: Sunday 20th (Work)

After a busy few days looking after the farm, this afternoon I took some time to relax with my family, and be a proud aunt seeing how my very intelligent neice is learning more and more about wildlife. To top off my day, I took part in the Wildlife Trusts Big Wild Quiz, getting a respectable 28 out of 35.

Day 21: Monday 21st (Work)

Nature has a strong influence on british culture, influencing everything from music to art and literature. Nature is also a great inspiration for my own creativity, for example encouraging me to improve my own ability to draw and sketch, and to use my drawings to illustrate my wild ‘How to’ guides.

Day 22: Tuesday 22nd (Work)

After a busy day at work, I decided that for today’s Random Act of Wildness I would make a valuable donation to Dorset Wildlife Trust. Any donation that can be made is important for such organisations to be able to do their conservation work, such as rewilding and habitat management.

Day 23: Wednesday 23rd (Day Off)

Around a lovely much needed catch up with and old friend, I spent my day off countryside walking, checking swallow nests, and baking. I followed suit of last year’s baking, and kept it simple with yummy sponge cakes with wild decorations, in the form of flowers, butterflies and leaves. A lot of fun!

Day 24: Thursday 24th (Day Off)

Today I spent my day checking barn owl nest boxes with Dorset County Council and Alan who I ring with at Conservation Action. Such experiences always feel like a privilege to me and it was a great training experience, topped off with ringing 3 out of 4 of my swallow nests.

Day 25: Friday 25th (Work)

Today was Wild Friday on my blog, with this week’s post being all about my how spring looked for me personally, featuring 16 of my favourite photos from the season. They are either aesthetically pleasing, a great memory, or just bring me joy. Check it out now!

Day 26: Saturday 26th (Work)

Today on a much needed afternoon off, activities included exploring a road verge in my local area to ID plants with my mum (24 wildflower species), and picking elderflower heads to make this year’s elderflower cordial.

Day 27: Sunday 27th (Work)

For the last 2 years I have been enjoying training as a bird ringer, and have become a member of my trainer’s conservation group called Conservation Action. We are based in Dorset and the South West and aim to protect, restore and preserve biodiversity, promote conservation, and to research and monitor the state of nature.

For more information, check out our website at www.conservationactionuk.org or our Twitter and Instagram pages.

Day 28: Monday 28th (Work)

Though my happy place is being outside in all weathers, today was one of those days when I got a bit too wet and then a bit too sweaty. The day was still very productive, so I felt content at the end of the day to head home and curl up with my current wild book: Gavin Thurston’s ‘Journeys into the Wild: Secret Life of a Cameraman’.

Day 29: Tuesday 29th (Work)

Today I accidentally found a bird’s nest at waist height in a hedge on my family’s farm, spent a lovely half hour out in my garden, the flowers thick with bumblebees, and ringed my final of first brood swallow nest.

Day 30: Wednesday 30th (Day Off)

Today I had a glorious last day of 30 Days Wild. I had a lovely early morning walk with my mum, took photos of the many butterflies on the farm at the moment, and finished the day checking barn owl boxes with my bird ringing training as the sun set

A lovely, active and wild month spent in some of the best ways possible!

Spring in Photos 2021

Last year spring was my lifeline, as we experienced the world around us being thrown into disarray. This year spring was instead turned on its head, with changing weather patterns making it unpredictable and different from what we would usually expect at this time of year. A hot and stormy March, cold April, and wet May made nature emerge later, with spring events taking longer to arrive, and being anywhere up to 60 days late.

Still this year’s spring has been magnificent. Vibrant and colourful, it had much to be celebrated. My family’s farm in Dorset became full of new life, from blossoming trees and flowers, to fox cubs and leverets. Spring is unsurprisingly my favourite time of year, so this year I again made a point of getting out as much as possible to experience it, with my camera by my side. Here’s a look at some of my favourite photos from this spring, either for their aesthetic appeal, meaning to me, or overall joy factor.

Spring in Photos 2021

1. Blackthorn – This photo was taken at the beginning of April on a misty morning. It was a beautiful way to see delicate white blackthorn flowers in a different light, framed in front of a splintered stem.

2. Male blackbird – Blackbirds are an iconic sound of spring for me and also so many others. Their beautiful song often symbolises the beginnings of longer, lighter evenings, or for me fresh spring mornings. This male would sit in this willow tree every morning throughout spring to sing his song, defending his territory and mate. In particular, this male and his female nested in our shed, successfully fledging 5 chicks at the start of June.

3. Oak trees of a farming landscape – What hits me first in this photo is how bare this landscape seems for late April. The oak trees have barely begun their bud burst, looking skeletal behind a farm field that is being worked. This almost autumnal scene is refreshing though, showing the new beginnings of another year in nature.

4. Camera trap fox cub – This photo is one of my favourites from this spring, symbolising a successful spring camera trapping season (blog post to come). This was one location, an abandoned badger sett, where I thought that foxes may have been breeding. My camera trap proved my feeling to be right, and treated me to an assortment of photos, day and night, of 2 very active fox cubs. Just one of multiple litters that I found on my family’s farm this year!

5. Wood anemones – Wood anemones have slowly become one of my favourite spring flowers, being one of the first to appear in woodlands across the UK. They are a great indicator of ancient woodland, and an interesting flower to photograph for their shape and colour. My memory cards are full of all sorts of different types of photos of this species!

6. Tawny owl chicks – One of my highlights of spring this year has been ringing chicks under license with my bird ringing group (Conservation Action). In particular, I had a great day in early May at the Woodland Trust’s Duncliffe Woods site in North Dorset checking tawny owl nest boxes. It has been a poor year for tawny owls in general, which was reflected by Duncliffe Woods, but we did get lucky and found 3 active nest boxes. I had the pleasure of ringing these chicks, under permit, which will provide important information to help conserve tawny owls in the future.

7. Brown hare – This year has been the year of the hare on my family’s farm in Dorset. We have a reputation for being a great site for this species, but this year has been truly astounding. With 1-3 hares to every field, I was humbled to spend my spring out working alongside them everyday, getting to see them up close and experience their behaviour firsthand. Truly magical!

8. Pussy willow flowers – Willow flowers have been a difficult subject for me to photograph this year, with poor results. I was pleased though to find this refreshing photo on my memory card, of willow flowers stood out against a clear blue evening sky. They are beautiful in their own right.

9. Spider in macro – This photo that is not photographically ‘perfect’ is still a favourite of mine from this spring for other reasons. As I invest in my camera equipment, my latest edition has been my first professional macro lens. So this photo was the first photo I even took with my new lens, and it fills me with joy to see the new world I can now start to explore.

10. Grey wagtail – Last year my Dad began digging a pond in his field that he is currently wilding. Though he was rained off in the autumn before completion, the half-dug pond is already attracting a wealth of species from birds to insects. Majestic grey wagtails that have begun populating this area over the winter have also found the pond this spring.

11. Sunset – Though sunrises are magical, sunsets have always been my most favourite time of the day. This is because many of my happiest memories can be linked to beautiful and vibrant sunsets from field research in Canada to evenings at home on my family’s farm. I have seen so many incredible sunsets already so far, but I hope to see many more in the future.

12. Wild garlic – Though my busy spring dissuaded me from mornings waking up before the sunrise, I did spend a couple of glorious mornings waking up and getting out an hour or so after instead. The light is glorious at this time of day and always provides me with inspiration for my photos and life in general. This photo represents this magical time of day and the joys of spring flowers, wild garlic being an iconic example.

13. Feather in the bluebells – Wait, a feather again? Well feathers always sneak into my many files of photos, being a symbol of mine and representing my love of feathered species. They can also tell us useful information about what is living in a habitat, for example this feather is most likely from a collared dove.

14. Aberdeen angus calf – This photo is one of my favourite photos of one of my mum’s beef suckler calves. Spring is a time of new life in nature and on the farm, with my mum’s small free range beef herd giving birth at this time. This year they have weathered it through some turbulent months, but now are enjoying a bit of sunshine on their backs.

15. Honey bee – As I was intending to buy a macro lens this year, I made sure to time my purchase to be able to use it on the flowering of the poached egg plants in my family’s garden. It arrived well in advance, and, despite some rained off days, I got to spend some happy lunchtimes in the sunshine photographing bees on these flowers. This is one of my favourite macro photos of the flowers this year.

16. Dog roses – Dog roses were the last event of spring that I looked out for this year, and it kept me waiting! They were 22 days later for me than last year, with the first flowers blooming on the 8th June. They came out in force though, covering hedges within the space of a couple of days, adding some more colour to our hedgerows. With their lateness though, I feel like they also marked the end of spring this year.

Spring 2021: How It Happened

This spring has been an unexpected, unpredictable and turbulent season, that has taken its time to unfurl. Traditionally spring is a season that is characterised as calm and dry, with days getting longer and warmer, and the potential for cooler nights. As lighter evenings returned this year though, spring was far from traditional, with a stormy then hot March, cold and frosty April, and a wash out of a May.

Since 2017, I have recorded the dates of the events of spring every year, and with the start of my blog, every year since I have analysed and compared spring events to see how the season took form. Last year I showed that the timing of spring events is heavily linked to spring weather, resulting in either earlier or later occurrence accordingly. Over the last couple of years this has varied alot, so it will be interesting to see what has gone on this year.

This spring a lot has been going on for me, but I have still found time to be out in nature as much as possible and to enjoy the time when one season slips into another. It has felt that spring has dragged on longer this year, with the potential effects of spring starting warm and progressing to cold, then wet. So as this spring comes to a gradual close and the heat sets in, it is time to find out what actually went on during spring 2021.

Trees

This year there was a general trend for trees being later in their bud burst, leaves unfurling, and flowering compared to 2020. Even before the frosty nights of April, silver birch (Betula pendula) buds burst 14 days later on 26th March, Norway maple (Acer platanoides) first flowered 5 days later on 26th March, and beech (Fagus sylvatica) buds burst 14 days later on 27th March.

As we moved through April and into May, spring events began to stretch even further in their lateness. For example, wild cherry (Prunus avium) buds burst 35 days later on 8th April, horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) first flowered 18 days later on 20th April, alder (Alnus glutinosa) buds burst 15 days later on 21st April, the first lime (Tilia x europaea) leaves unfurled 23 days later on 26th April, pedunculate/english oak (Quercus robur) leaves first unfurled 31 days later on 5th May, and ash (Fraxinus excelsior) flowered 37 days later on 9th May.

Field maple (Acer campestre) did not follow this trend though, with bud burst being 10 days earlier on 26th March, and first leaves unfurling 5 days earlier on 1st April. This may be as these trees missed the worst of the spring weather, but for the other trees spring events ranged from being 1 to 37 days late!

Shrubs

For a lot of the shrub species I monitored a similar trend was shown as with tree species, being later compared to 2020. For example, elder (Sambucus nigra) leaves first unfurled 34 days later on 18th March, blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) first flowered 17 days later on 23rd March, and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) first flowered 23 days later on 11th May.

Though half of the shrubs I monitored were later in their spring events, ranging anywhere from 2-34 days later, two species did not completely fit this trend. For lilac (Syringa vulgaris) bud burst occurred 12 days earlier on 24th February, but flowered 17 days later on 2nd May. This was the same for dog rose (Rosa canina), where buds burst 12 days earlier on 22nd February, but first flowered 22 days later on 8th June. For both of these species though, it is the spring events occurring before April that are earlier, as the ones occurring in April and May were not immune to the frosts and heavy rainfall like the other shrubs.

Flowers

For many of our commonly associated spring flower species, there was a little more of a split between appearing earlier or later, but on average they flowered later compared to 2020. Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) first flowered 15 days later on 18th January, wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) 8 days later on 30th March, bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) both 4 days later on 1st April, cowslips (Primula veris) 12 days later on 2nd April, early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) 12 days later on 18th April, wild garlic (Allium ursinum) 14 days later on 20th April, and oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) 16 days later on 3rd June.

The exceptions were a section of earlier flowering species, including primrose (Primula vulgaris) first flowering 27 days earlier on 31st December, lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) 3 days earlier on 15th January, daffodil (Narcissus spp.) 22 days earlier on 19th January, and cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) 10 days earlier on 8th April. These flowers would have been influenced by a warmer winter and start to spring, generally flowering before the cold spell in April.

Birds

On average, bird species spring events have also become later this year compared to 2020. I heard my first song thrush (Turdus philomelos) singing 17 days later on 1st January, I saw my first rook (Corvus frugilegus) nests being built 10 days later on 25th February, and I heard my first chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) on 16th March. April and May events were again influenced, for example I saw my first swallow (Hirundo rustica) 5 days later on 10th April, saw my first house martin (Delichon urbicum) 9 days later on 21st April, heard my first cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) 3 days later on 1st May, and saw my first swift (Apus apus) 10 days later on 16th May.

There were two exceptions though, where I recorded hearing my first blackbird (Turdus merula) singing 13 days earlier on 10th February, and saw my first blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 8 days earlier on 14th April. These would most likely relate to other influencing factors, such as overwintering in the UK or habitat requirements.

Insects

Compared to previous years, I have still yet to see some species of butterfly that would typically be on the wing by now, such as gatekeeper butterflies (Pyronia tithonus). For the insects I have seen though, again there was a split in event occurrence compared to 2020. For example, I saw my first small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) 2 days later on 7th April, red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) 26 days later on 7th April, brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) 26 days later on 18th April, and speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) 52 days later on 13th June.

The early emergers came in the form of my first buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) 14 days earlier on 27th February, peacock butterfly (Aglais io) 5 days earlier on 30th March, orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) 13 days earlier on 31st March, and red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) 12 days earlier on 19th April. Despite these species appearing earlier in spring, later flowering plants will have had a knock-on effect for them due to a mismatch in timing for food. Only further down the line will we be able to see the extent of this impact.

Summary

This year I have recorded more spring dates than I have done so before, such as alder trees flowering, first yellowhammer singing, and first green-veined white butterfly, which will be useful information during the years to come. This reflects how I have felt more in touch with nature this year even with the unusual weather patterns, such as alot of rain! It became clear as we went through May though, that there was a trend for events happening later and later. This is why I was so interested to see how far this trend actually extended amongst species.

Last year I wrote that spring events are ‘in fact getting later, which will be related to… weather and environmental factors here and further afield’. This year this has turned out to be the case, which shows how climate change is having more of an impact through changes in weather patterns rather than just warmer temperatures. Earlier spring events have been getting earlier with warmer winters, but heavy rainfall and colder starts to spring have been affecting late March to May events most. I wonder now what impact this might have as we move forward, for example greater mismatches in ecological timings.

Celebrating the Spring Season

Spring is by far my most favourite time of the year. It is a time of warmer weather, lighter evenings, buds bursting, animal travellers returning, new life, and new beginnings. It is a time to refresh and revive, gain new strength to move forward, and celebrate what spring means for us and our wild world.

For me the first snowdrops whisper of spring coming, and blooming yellow flowers sing of new starts, but for me spring truly begins with the return of the chiffchaff. The song of the chiffchaff epitomises the feeling that spring is here, and that the season now has hold of the landscape. It is much harder though for me to sum up just one or two favourite spring moments, as I love all that spring has to offer. I gain joy in moments ranging from bursting cherry blossom and the first oak leaves to fox cubs and the return of swallows. However, a star of spring for me has to be when our woodlands become carpeted with the brilliant blues and heady scent of native bluebells. Walking amongst these sensational flowers has given me many happy memories growing up and moving into my adult years.

Spring 2021 has been a tumultuous spring to say the least. Despite this, I have tried to make the most of the season and all it has to offer, rain or shine. Many of you too will have done the same, even though many people I know do not share their spring moments with others. With this in mind, when celebrating spring this year on my blog, I wanted to focus on more than what spring means to me and to include some of my friends and family in my celebration. So, I asked them the questions: What signs make you think that spring has arrived? And what is your favourite thing about the spring season (out in nature)? Here’s what they had to offer:

Nick Tuke, my Dad and farmer, Dorset

The signs that make me think that spring has arrived come in the form of spring flowers, such as daffodils, primroses and bluebells, or seeing the first swallows. My favourite part of spring has to be being out first thing in the morning, when the sense of bright, fresh, greenness, and new life, fills you with a sense of optimism for the year ahead, before the summer heat dulls everything.

Amanda Tuke, my Aunt and London-based naturalist

I always feel that spring has arrived when I see my first hairy-footed flower bee in the garden. The females have gorgeous black furry bodies and they have a very distinctive and energetic way of flying.

There’s a point in spring when a number of my favourite grasses are all finally in flower and looking particularly pretty, in particular Sweet Vernal Grass, Meadow Foxtail, Wood Melick and Wood Millet.

Kasia Starosta, my friend and member of Conservation Action, Dorset

Springtime starts for me with the first glimpse of the curlews flying inland to breed. It’s all about magic “curleee” in the air and familiar shape cutting across the sky. Looking at them I remember some of the names people were giving them. Old French ‘corliu’ the messenger, latin ‘Numenius arquata’ – new moon, bow shaped bill bird… There comes the reflection how far we have travelled from nature, not knowing what species are living around us now, not mentioning naming them after changing seasons and planets.

Judyth Tuke, my Granny, Dorset

For me the first sign that spring has arrived is seeing the first swallow over the garden. This year though, they did not arrive until the end of April.

The things I enjoy most in spring are watching the first flowers opening in the wild or in my garden.

Emily White, my friend, software engineer and writer, Winchester

I know Spring has arrived when it is announced by the smell of grass in the air, flooding my mind with memories of Spring Term lunchtimes spent sat outside on my school’s field. The coming of Spring is further confirmed by birds having conversations ever later into the evenings.

My favourite thing about Springtime out in nature is not actually something the landscape does itself but the way the Springtime sun presents it, showcasing the vivid colours of the fields. This is much unlike the Summer sun which makes everything far too yellow. However, if I had to pick something that happened within nature it would certainly be the sudden appearance of hoards of ducklings.

Marilyn Tuke, my Mum and my nature guru, Dorset

I feel like spring has arrived when I see the first yellows of primroses, celandines, daffodils, and cowslips when walking through the countryside. My favourite part of the season though, is when on early morning walks in spring, I hear the birds singing, such as chiffchaffs, chaffinches, great tits, blue tits, and many more, and I am able to pick out and know each of these individual species. A special spring favourite too is seeing barn owls hunting close to home at this time of year.

Ellie McNeall, my friend and geography teacher, Hampshire

I think that spring has arrived with the signs of life which start to come, such as the daffodils and the buds on the trees, which symbolise new beginnings. My favourite parts of spring are the daffodils and bluebells which come out at this time of year, and start to show that new life is coming after the cold winter. Also, I enjoy seeing lots of baby animals everywhere, especially little baby lambs jumping and little ducklings.

Andy Dell, my uncle, Northamptonshire

Spring is usually close when you see the first sign of the brimstone butterfly. They manage to find the first spot of warm sunshine, but in the changing climate other butterflies are now earlier visitors to the garden especially the purple emperor in this area. Also, the horse chestnut is probably the earliest tree, the big sticky buds the first to show. As the seasons change and merge in to each other it is becoming more difficult to define the start of spring. My favourite part of spring though, is when the sap starts to rise and you start to see the first bright vibrant greens in the trees and hedgerows, the more insistent bird song as the birds seem to reawaken to the prospect of better times, and the little owls are on the wing.

Emma Rogan, my friend, IT auditor and nature enthusiast, Manchester

Spring is in the air when the first bees start to appear in the garden, and when my favourite walk by the river becomes completely carpeted with wild garlic!

There are so many things I love about the spring season! I love being able to sit outside in the fresh air and read my book with a cup of tea, and this year I’ve found so much happiness in getting to know the wild residents of our garden. Mr and Mrs Blackbird visit daily for their plate of mealworms, and our friendly neighborhood fox is a regular nighttime visitor. I also have a special place in my heart for bees (Manchester girl!), so seeing big fluffy bees out on their travels is always lovely. I like going on walks along our local river with my mum and seeing how many different birds we can spot, particularly when we spot proud mum ducks with their ducklings.

Thank you to my friends and family that took part and have helped me out with this spring celebration!