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Waiting for spring to really get into gear

PUBLISHED: 07:54 16 April 2018

Cuckoo: Mike Toms is looking forward to its arrival.

Cuckoo: Mike Toms is looking forward to its arrival.

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Mike Toms looks forward to the arrival of more spring migrant birds.

Over the past few weeks it as felt as if spring has been put on hold; the cold winds, rain and low temperatures have extended winter’s grip beyond her welcome. March and early April can be fickle, with one day full of spring warmth and the next cold and wet, but this year they have been stubborn in blocking spring’s arrival. The first summer visitors, including wheatear and stone-curlew, were met with challenging conditions in late March. Saturated ground and low temperatures made favoured invertebrate prey hard to find and some of these arrivals would have struggled.

As Easter came and went there was a sense that our spring migrants were sat to the south, waiting for things to change; and change they did. The pulse of warm air, pushing all of the way up from North Africa, released a great flood of swallows, martins and warblers as we moved into April proper. No longer was it a solitary willow warbler singing on the reserve but now a chorus of birds, joined by blackcap and a scatter of whitethroats. It is the arrival of these birds, back on traditional nesting territories here and in the forest, that speaks to me of spring’s arrival.

Over the coming weeks more and more migrants will return. We know that the cuckoos are on their way because we can see some of them online, thanks to the British Trust for Ornithology’s cuckoo tracking project – check out the maps at www.bto.org/cuckoos. For other species we will have to trust that they will come, that they have already left wintering grounds in western and central Africa and that they are already making their way north across southern Europe.

In some years the transition from winter to spring can be a gradual process, perhaps with a few false starts, but this year it feels as if it has come all at once, late but most welcome. Everything will now happen at pace and perhaps all too quickly we’ll move from the fresh greens of spring to the heat of summer. I would like more time to savour the spring, to appreciate the transformation that is taking place across the countryside, and to give the new season due welcome.

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