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Spring in the Country


What better introduction to Spring than this quotation from the writings of Richard Jefferies.

"The bird upon the tree utters the meaning of the wind—a voice of the grass and wild-flower, words of the green leaf; they speak through that slender tone. Sweet­ness of dew and rifts of sunshine, the dark hawthorn touched with breadths of open bud, the odour of the air, the colour of the daffodil—all that is de­licious and beloved of springtime are expressed in his song. Genius is nature and his lay, like the sap in the bough from which he sings, rises without thought". —’ Field and Hedgerow’: Hours of Spring. Richard Jefferies

Most of my birdwatching is now from around home - birds that I see in and around the garden and adjacent fields, lane and woods.

We feed the birds throughout the year with three feeding stations scattered around the garden, two of which can be seen from the house; the other in a little group - too small even to be called a copse - of trees: Cherry, Whitebeam, Hazel, and Rowan, at the bottom of the garden next the lane.

My notes for Spring this year read .....

Spring came suddenly …. this year in an explosion of green, leaving the drab and dreary days of winter behind – a quickly lost memory. Yet the primrose – the first flower of Spring – was in bloom on Christmas Day with the snowdrop not long after. Dog Violet in early April and Blackthorn still with some remnants of its snow-like winter mantle.

The Great Tit, calling sporadically on the odd warm day since February, is now in full song - Teacher Teacher Teacher …. the harbinger of spring. Blackbird too, a songster to rival the Nightingale, sings melodiously every morning and evening; and the Song Thrush singing ‘Cherry B’ ‘Cherry B’ ‘Cherry B’ from somewhere atop the Black Poplar near the end of the drive.

Regular visitors to the garden include: Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Song thrush, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Magpie, Collared Dove, Pied Wagtail, and House Sparrow.

A Greenfinch on the feeders, April 24th - must be the first in about five years. We occasionally get Siskin during the winter. And the odd Reed Bunting: A male was in the garden a few weeks ago; And a female underneath the feeders along the bottom of the hedge line on the 11th May.

Buzzard and Raven, both resident breeding birds, I see daily over the fields and woods throughout the month.

By April the last stragglers of the Winter thrushes - Redwing and Fieldfare and migrant Starling have all left for their breeding grounds. Yet still too early for our Spring/Summer visitors - Cuckoo, Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer, and Whitethroat.

I heard the first Whitethroat almost a month later. Swift which I have seen hereabouts, on 12th May, almost without fail were obvious by their absence. I felt a sort of loss.

Great Spotted Woodpecker have become regular visitors to the feeders over the last couple of years: both a male and female around most days during the Winter and Spring. The sound of the male drumming on a fine fresh Spring morning, along with the buzz of a distant chain saw tell me the year is well on the way.

Almost a Century and a half ago Richard Jefferies also wrote of Spring:

“In the second week of March, there were sprays of haw­thorn out in leaf in warm corners. On the 10th of April, a month later, precisely the same thing might have been said. There were the hawthorn leaves out in places, but the hedges at large were still bare, the trees leafless, and the grass equally short. But signs appeared from time to time of the irresistible march of the days: the sun, rising higher, forced progress in spite of all.

On the 12th of March the hedge-sparrows were hawking from the tops of the hedges, flying up and seizing insects—showing that insect-life was already teeming. The wood-pigeons called in the copse as late in the evening as half-past seven, by moonlight. In waste places the little chickweed-flowers came out, and in orchards the daffodils were almost open. A larch showed green buds on the 14th: the larch, which looks almost dead and dry during the winter, is one of the most interesting trees to watch in spring—its aspect changes so delicately. A yellow-hammer was singing on the topmost branch of a young oak on the 16th. The lesser celandine flowered on the moist ground in a withy-bed, between the scanty stoles; and in the wet furrows the marsh-marigold stalks were up. The ditches, where there was any running water, were now brown at the bottom, instead of clear as they had been previously. A brown butterfly was seen on the 18th.

By the 20th the reddish flowers of the elm were so thick as to partly conceal the nests of the rooks in the upper branches. The sheaths had fallen from the buds of a horse-chestnut tree on the 21st; but the buds were not open. A spray of briar was in leaf on the 23rd and a burdock had risen about eight inches; but it grew no higher for a long while. A chiff-chaff, first of the spring migrants, called in the copse on the 26th despite the wind.

By the 5th of April there was just the faintest green upon the boughs of the pollard willows: a green visible from a distance where the boughs were seen in the mass, but almost disap­pearing upon approaching. Walking across an arable field it was pleasant to see the light-blue flowers of grey speedwell among the rising clover. A bunch of red dead-nettle had evidently been in flower some time.

On the 10th of April a tree-pipit sang, descending to a branch of elm: a willow wren was heard; and a white butterfly appeared. Hazel-buds were half open, but there were no leaves yet. On the next day a slight shower fell and the wind turned and came from the south. The effect was wonderful: in two days the hedges became green—quite green where before they had been’ bare; horse-chestnut leaves came out, sycamore buds opened, the grass took a fresh tint, and the sweet notes of blackbirds came from the trees.

The delicate white petals of stitchwort appeared on the 14th; only four days before, on the 10th there was no sign of the flower opening, so quickly had the warm wind brought everything forward. On the 14th, too, some of the birches were slightly tinted with green, and a few leaves had come out on the lower branches of elms. Hedge-mustard had now risen high, though not in flower; hedge-parsley and white dead-nettle flowered. Blackthorn was in flower—a white spot in the middle of a low cropped hedge about an arable field recently rolled and bare of green. This bareness rendered the blackthorn bloom the more attractive. The same morning a nightingale was heard for the first time this season, in the same hedge where the first was heard last year.”


Artist Credit

The featured picture by Rowland Hilder is from an original watercolour ‘Spring in the Dales’. It’s a painting of early spring with the trees just beginning to come into leaf yet there still snow on the distant hills.

I have a small (20” x 16”) framed open edition print of this picture for sale, published by M&S in the ‘70s. You can buy it through my shop - please ask for more details or pictures. You can read more about Rowland Hilder in his brief biography here.

The next post is all about Summer ...

While Spring came suddenly in an explosion of green - Summer came in softly, almost imperceptibly, changing the landscape with a kaleidoscope of colours; a few warm days and a westerly wind and the hedges, fields and woods also had a different soundscape - with Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Redstart and Flycatcher, all adding their songs to the chorus of our resident songsters.


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March 6, 2018 11:42 am

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