7 signs of spring everyone should know

Spring and Daffodils - Easter at Aberdulais

Many of us love to watch the annual rite of nature awakening after winter. There's the first snowdrop and daffodil, then everything gathers pace into a rich bubbling up of green growth in fields, woods and hedgerows.

Maybe this year we'll have more time to notice these little milestones of nature that take us through spring. Here's a little reminder of seven signs of spring to look out for.

1. The order of spring flowers

Snowdrops are brave pioneers, nosing through frozen ground at our places as early as January. Soon after, the early bulbs come through - purple crocuses, iris, winter aconite and scillas. 

Towards the end of February into March, yellow daffodils are cheering us up, whilst in the woodlands you might spy dog's mercury, yellow lesser celandine and violets. They'll be nestling close to the ground, making the most of the light before the tree canopy shades over.

The last hurrah of spring flowers are the bluebells in early May. They're a beautiful, but fragile flower, be sure to stick to paths so you don't trample them.

Patchwork border in the gardens, Greys Court, Oxfordshire
Spring bulbs coming through in the patchwork border at Greys Court
Patchwork border in the gardens, Greys Court, Oxfordshire

2. Nest-building

You might notice the birdsong building from February as birds start singing again to attract mates or warn rivals off their patch.

In late March and April you can see evidence of remarkable workmanship. Blackbirds, robins and song thrushes build classic, bowl-shaped nests of woven grasses and twigs.They're often camouflaged with moss and lined with mud.

Rooks are more noisy and messy. They collect sticks and drop them on tree branches until they lodge and build up into a scruffy nest.

Other birds make use of existing holes in trees or under the eaves of roofs.

Mount Stewart provides many different types of habitat where animals can flourish
A recently hatched buzzard chick in its nest surrounding by eggs at Mount Stewart, County Down
Mount Stewart provides many different types of habitat where animals can flourish

3. Frogspawn

Searching for frogspawn is a great thing to do with kids because it's so delightfully disgusting. The jelly-like globules with embryonic black dot brings out a delicious shudder in the hardiest of children. 

Around March, frogs return to the water to mate and lay eggs near the water's edge where it's sunniest. They'll even lay in ditches or tractor ruts, so it's worth have a peer in them when you're out on a spring walk in our places.

4. Lambs

There's nothing so uplifting as seeing fluffy white lambs leaping with the joy of life in the fields. Here in the south, the lambs come in late winter or early spring. You'll see them on any country walk around our places. Do keep dogs on leads, as the stress of being chased can kill a sheep or cause them to miscarry their lambs.

Brockhampton lambs
Brockhampton lambs
Brockhampton lambs

5. Tree buds, catkins and blossom

Spring is a busy time for trees. In early spring the tree roots start mobiling water and nutrients from the soil up to the rest of the tree. 

The buds resting dormant since autumn are ready to burst into leaf when there's enough sunlight. Many trees flower around this time. Some tree flowers are tricky to spot, although the confetti blossom of fruit trees or waxy blooms of magnolia are beautiful and obvious. 

Others we notice but don't always recognise as flowers, such as pine cones and the catkins of hazel or birch.

6. Early butterflies and bees

The first sign of a bumblebee or butterfly is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Hoverflies, some butterflies and hibernating bees will come out at the first sign of warm wather. The queen bees are searching for nests any time from February to April.

Some butterflies are immigrants from warmer climes in spring, others hibernate and overwinter as butterflies, eggs or caterpillars. On a sunny banking you might see a small tortoiseshell, peacock or comma. The first sighting of the year is usually the sulphur yellow of the brimstone.

Look out for the first Brimstone butterfly
Brimstone butterfly
Look out for the first Brimstone butterfly

7. First lawn-cut

When you hear the buzz of the lawn mower for the first time in a year, you know spring is here. The smell of newly cut grass is an exciting herald of picnics and lazy summer days to come.