In the previous two years, when it had been my task to lead our early spring walk on the reserve, the weather had been, to say the least, indifferent. Last year at this time you may remember we had recently had a brief spell of snow and it was still quite cold. But, as they say, what a difference a year makes, and today we were treated to a fabulously pleasant spell of sunshine and temperatures that were almost summer-like. Having said that, though, you can’t hurry nature and wildlife will do what it will do in its own time. We were still lucky enough to catch up with a number of duck species in the form of wigeon, teal, shoveler, goldeneye, pintail, tufted duck, goosander, mallard and gadwall. although many of their kin have left us to breed in more northern climes. Great-crested grebe are now looking splendid with their golden brown crest feathers. The common scoter, reported yesterday, was elusive or more likely has moved on. Later in the day there was a report of a pair of mandarin seen on Ivy Lake.
Spring firsts were also a little elusive, although the increased level of birdsong was most welcome. From near the Lapwing Hide a Cetti’s warbler, one of this country’s two truly resident warblers, was ‘tuning-up’ and giving a somewhat subdued and fragmentary version of its usual piercing song. For most of the year they are birds which are quite difficult to see, but the next few weeks is a good time to look for them as they set up their territories and get a little bolder, sometimes perching out quite openly.
Perhaps the most evocative indication of spring were the four, or five, chiffchaff giving out their onomatopoeic song. Another indicator of warmer conditions were the numbers of butterflies scuttling through the reserve. We must have had sightings of close to twenty brimstone and several peacock and a couple of comma butterflies. The brimstone were a little too active, but the other two have the good manners to settle openly on the path, inviting us to take their pictures.
I sometimes wonder what possessed the people who gave names to our wildlife. The comma is a quite distinctive orange-brown and black butterfly with scalloped wings, quite unlike other U.K. butterflies, yet its name derives from a small, almost inconspicuous, comma shaped white mark on an otherwise dark underside of the wings.
All in all a quite uplifting day with the promise of many exciting things to come in the next few weeks. The end of the day was quite unremarkable, quite unlike the dramatically coloured sunset that I saw yesterday from my home.