Birdwatching blog: Spring’s finally here!

25 Apr 2013 @ 9.56 am
| News
Singing from the treetops… a chiffchaff at St Nicks. Photographs: Ian Traynor

ian-traynor-headshotIn the first of his birdwatching blogs, Ian Traynor celebrates signs of spring


Maybe spring has finally arrived! OK, it’s a few weeks late, but there are signs of change in the York area.

Certainly, in the mornings, blackbirds have finally started singing, as have other birds, such as dunnocks and wrens. But we are also starting to hear some of our summer-visiting birds. Members of the York Ornithological Club have, in the past few days, been reporting sightings of swallows, blackcaps, house martins, willow warblers and chiffchaffs – still in small numbers, but a welcome sign that spring has finally crept in.

The chiffchaff, a member of the warbler family, is often one of the first summer breeding birds to arrive in the York area, and a few elect to spend the winter here. It is a tiny bird, and chooses to sing from the tops of tall trees so it’s not always easy to see.

However, its song is very distinctive – it’s one of the few birds to actually sing its own name! Have a listen:

Butterflies, too, are starting to emerge from hibernation. The brimstone, a large yellow butterfly, and one of the earliest to be on the wing, has been seen in several areas of York, and I saw one in my Osbaldwick garden a few days ago. Also reported from the St Nicholas Fields Local Nature Reserve, off Melrosegate, were speckled wood and small tortoiseshell butterflies.

A small tortoiseshell butterfly
A small tortoiseshell butterfly
Spotted at St Nicks… a common newt
Spotted at St Nicks… a common newt
A welcome burst of colour: lesser celendine at St Nicks
A welcome burst of colour: lesser celendine at St Nicks

Frogs and toads are beginning their mating rituals, and frogspawn is starting to appear in a number of lakes and small ponds in the York area. Common newts have also been seen at St Nicks.

Also, after a very delayed start, many wild flowers are finally starting to appear, such as lesser celandine, lungwort and dandelion. I’ve even seen the odd, brave daisy showing its head. And isn’t it lovely to see the first blossoming trees, mainly varieties of cherry?

But, despite the appearance of the planted daffodils on the York Walls, the famous wild daffodils in Farndale on the North York Moors have yet to put on their marvellous display. It’s possible that quite a number of the bulbs have been killed off by a combination of sodden ground last year and the ice and frosts of recent weeks.

So, as the temperatures gradually creep back to normal, spring, and all its wonderful natural sights and sounds, seems finally to have made a delayed appearance!