We see the changing of the seasons in technicolour here in the forest and there’s no mistaking that spring is finally here. How can we tell? Here are 15 signs that spring has arrived in the forest.
It’s the spring equinox on 20 March, meaning that the season is officially upon us. Come and stay on a spring break at one of our beautiful forest locations and see if you can spot these 15 signs of spring. Book a Forest Ranger adventure to learn what this season of rebirth means for forest life and to feel the therapeutic effects of the forest.
1. A host of golden daffodils
The first real splash of colour after a grey winter, daffodils are a sure sign that spring is truly on its way. The mild weather this year has brought them out early, but the further north you go, the later they flower, so head for Ardgartan Argyll for a last-minute break and you should still be able to see them fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
2. The hibernation wakeup
Surprisingly few native UK mammals hibernate; only three in total: hedgehogs, dormice and bats. As the weather gets warmer, they are all venturing out for food and to mate. Evening is the best time to see all three, as they are nocturnal creatures.
3. The dawn chorus
From late-night hedgehog watching to early morning birdsong, there’s no time to sleep in spring! Rise just before dawn to hear the blackbirds, robins, wrens and an orchestra of other birds heralding the new day. The dawn chorus builds throughout spring and peaks in May. There’s even an International Dawn Chorus day on 5 May. We’re not sure the birds know that though.
4. The call of the cuckoo
Tradition has it that spring is not here until you hear the first cuckoo, whose name mimics its call. In late March and early April, these migratory birds are arriving from Africa, ready to lay their eggs in other birds’ nests.
5. Spring blossom
The frothy white flowers of the blackthorn tree burst forth in March, followed shortly after by hawthorn. When the cherry blossom emerges, towards late April, it feels like summer is just around the corner. If you are staying at Thorpe Forest, you’ll have no trouble spotting the blackthorn blossom, which is making it feel very spring-like at the moment.
6. Frogspawn and toadspawn
Who, as a child, didn’t watch avidly as frogspawn became tadpoles and tadpoles became frogs? Down at Deerpark, the children are pond dipping and learning that frogspawn comes in clumps while toad spawn is in long chains.
7. Boxing hares
Mad March hares really do box. It’s not the males showing off to the females though, it’s the females boxing away the attentions of the amorous males. Hares have become rarer in recent times but the best place to look out for them is in the bare spring fields that border the forest.
8. Wild Garlic
At Forest of Dean, swathes of wild garlic fill the air with their unmistakeable scent. Their dark green foliage looks similar to the bluebells that follow, but their flowers are delicate and white. Wild garlic is a common woodland plant and is a sign that the woodlands are old.
‘One swallow doesn’t not a summer make.’ However, it does mean spring is here. The old saying is telling us to wait until the skies are dotted with swallows before we can really say it is summer. But the first swallows arrive in April so keep a lookout for these graceful birds with their long forked tails.
10. Queen bumblebees
The first bumblebees to emerge, during March and April, are the queen bees, who have been hibernating alone. Their energy stores are depleted so they will buzz around the spring flowers guzzling nectar before searching for a suitable nest site.
11. The first butterflies
Early butterflies you may spot include red admirals at Ardgartan Argyll, peacock butterflies at Cropton and Thorpe Forest, brimstones at Keldy, common blues at Beddgelert, range tips at Forest of Dean, and the rare purple emperor at Blackwood Forest.
12. Woodpeckers drumming
One of the first signs of spring is the drumming of woodpeckers as they tap-tap-tap the tree barks to establish their territory. Sightings have occurred of great spotted and green woodpeckers at Deerpark and, on a break at Beddgelert, you may be rewarded with the sights and sounds of the much rarer, lesser spotted woodpecker.
13. Wild deer
After the tough months of winter, wild deer are once again in evidence where the grass has started growing again. Look out for red deer at Ardgartan Argyll and Strathyre, muntjac at Thorpe Forest, roe deer at Blackwood Forest, Forest of Dean, Cropton and Keldy, and fallow deer at Sherwood Forest.
14. A carpet of bluebells
If daffodils herald the start of spring, bluebells are spring’s glorious swansong. They cover the woodland floor in a rich blue haze and there is nowhere better to see them than beneath the towering beech trees at Blackwood Forest. They fade from glory only as the unfurling forest canopy deprives them of sunlight.
15. Trees in leaf
And finally, the surest sign of the changing seasons, the dark silhouettes of the trees that we have been living with throughout the winter burst in to vibrant green leaf. Not great news for those bluebells but a welcome sight to the insects and wildlife of the forest, and to humans too. Spring has truly sprung!
The clocks ‘spring’ forward on 31 March to give us an extra hour of evening daylight, so book your spring break now and forge a connection with the natural world as you look out for our 15 signs of spring.