Spring is here and there are signs of it all around us, from birds singing and flowers blooming to longer days and the return of sunshine.
A connection to nature has a positive impact on both physical and emotional wellbeing, and to celebrate the arrival of the spring the RSPB has created a list of what to look out for in your garden.
Birds building nests – birds only spend a small part of the year making nests – and use a huge range of materials. Chaffinches use sticky cobwebs to make pads on the branches, forming ‘anchors’ for their nest. Long-tailed tits create a pouch-shaped home with as many as 2,000 feathers inside as padding. Blackbirds and house martins use mud to make their nests, and starlings love fresh cut green leaves – nothing goes to waste.
Hedgehogs waking up – hedgehogs come out of hibernation around March/April and are on the hunt for food and water. They’ll have lost around a third of their weight during their winter sleep, but you can help them out by putting out a clean bowl of water, or a meat-based cat or dog food.
European hedgehog (Ben Andrew – RSPB)
Migrant birds return to the UK during spring, and you may well catch swifts swooping over rooftops, sand martins balancing on telephone wires, or hear the chirping call of nightingales at this time of year.
Swifts flying over rooftops in Cambridgeshire (Ben Andrew- RSPB)
Bats will be waking up now and you may start to see them coming out to feast on insects in your garden. A single pipistrelle bat can eat 3,000 gnats in one night!
If you have any bluebells, now is the best time of year to see them as they burst into bloom, transforming a brown, dormant ground into a sea of blue.
Bluebells in bloom (Andy Hay – RSPB)
Common darter dragonflies will begin to come out in force this season. They are regular visitors to gardens, perching on vegetation, walls, fences, and even garden canes and washing lines as they wait to leap out at their prey.
Frogspawn in ponds/toadlets – if you have a pond in your garden, you may start to see tiny toadlets emerging. They love insect larvae, as well as spiders, slugs and worms. Create a toad haven by making your garden as insect-friendly as possible – leaving your leaves to dissolve into the ground rather than raking them up, planting wildflowers, or building a bug hotel.
Natterjack toad (Ben Andrew – RSPB)
Blossom – if you have any crabapple or cherry trees in your garden they’ll be starting to blossom and burst into colour now, which is very attractive to bees.
Grass snakes wake up from hibernation around now to look for a mate. The females will lay her eggs (sometimes up to 40!) in places such as compost heaps where the rotting vegetation can keep the eggs nice and warm, so be sure to check any piles in your garden before moving them.
Grass snake (Ben Andrew – RSPB)
Dawn chorus for early risers – from about March to July the birds are looking to defend their territories and attract a mate – which means an early start! The first birds start singing about an hour before sunrise, with skylarks, song thrushes, robins and blackbirds starting off the choir. The early day is perfect for birds – it’s dim enough that predators can’t see them, and the still air can carry song about 20 times as far.
You could also tune in to RSPB bird radio if you’d like to listen to birdsong throughout the day.
Why not join in the conversation with RSPB @Natures_Voice on social media using hashtag #NatureIsOpen