The weather may be trying hard to dampen the spirits, but it can’t hold back the inevitable arrival of spring for much longer. Easter is always an exciting time for the re-emergence of plant and animal life as well as the arrival of summer visiting birds. For those prepared to brave the elements at the weekend, here are some of the things to look out for.


The blackthorn is in flower now providing a beautiful show and vital nectar for emerging bees and other insects. On the lookout for these insects are some of the first summer visiting birds. Look out for the Chiff Chaff; little delicate brown birds that call their name ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’. Primroses are in flower, often nestling in the base of the hedgerows and when the sun comes out, so do the Brimstone Butterflies;  lemon yellow or butter colour. Did you know this is how the Butterfly got it’s name?

Rivers and lakes

If you are close to the water, all sorts of activity is going on; ducks and grebes are nesting, while otters and water voles have already been seen in the early morning on the Thames in Wallingford. Kingfishers are more active now; a screeching whistle on the river gives you just enough time to look for the bright blue flash as they fly low to the water, often down the middle of a river or stream. The first ospreys have also been seen passing through Oxfordshire migrating North to Northern England and Scotland in greater number each year. They stop off on lakes and reservoirs to feed. Watching an osprey catch a fish is one of nature’s great spectacles and it is happening this weekend.

Try Farmoor reservoir or the Standlake Pits complex – you might get lucky.

Greater spotted Woodpeckers seem to be everywhere this year. Their trademark drumming, particularly early in the morning is a welcome sound. The first cuckoo is generally heard in April although sadly a less and less common sound so savour that one if you do hear it.

Swallows and house martins will also begin to arrive soon, returning to their familiar nesting places under eaves.

For those birds that are here all year, things are more advanced. One of our teams is carefully working around a pair of expectant robins, already sitting on a clutch of eggs in a nest box tucked in the corner of a garden we’re working on. Blue Tits and blackbirds are also preparing for the arrival of young. If you haven’t got a nesting box yet, visit our shop to find one to suit your garden

Then there are the unusual things that the lucky, observant few may see: grass snakes, adders and smooth snakes need the first warm days to wake them up and bask in the sun to achieve this. They are wary and will disappear if they see you first. Late in the day, on fields with scruffy boundaries you may see the ghostly figure of a barn owl quartering the ground, eyes down looking for voles.

While providing the viewer with a great thrill, all these seasonal sightings are vitally important in recording and understanding the distribution of wildlife in our area. So please visit The Woodland Trust website’s Nature’s Calendar where you can record your sightings as well as find out what to look out for and where.

Or visit The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust to find places to visit near you.

Happy spotting!

New products in the GreenArt shop

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