Nature diary: share your first day of spring

Close-up of daffodils in the garden at Tyntesfield

Spring has officially arrived, signalling the start of warmer days and longer evenings, renewed life and returning colour.

To celebrate, we called on nature lovers across the UK to send us their observations of the first day of the new season, Wednesday 20 March 2019.

For generations, poets and writers have put pen to paper to express the importance of the arrival of spring and the burst of colour and busyness in the animal kingdom. 

On 20 March, wildlife lovers continued that tradition by contributing to the first ever crowd-sourced nature diary to mark the official start of spring. The digital diary offered a unique snapshot of the change of season as it swept across the UK. 

To take part, we asked you to write 150 words about your observations of nature on the first day of the new season. Have a look at some of our favourite entries below.   

The National Trust supported the initiative, which was led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Land Lines research project. 

Read our diary entries
Hilary McGrady

Hilary McGrady

'Spring is one of my favourite times of year – a time when National Trust places burst into life. After a winter of long and cold nights, we all look forward to lighter mornings and long walks in the fresh air. It’s about refreshing our senses in gardens bursting with colour, being inspired by wandering through magnificent landscapes and re-connecting with each other in the great outdoors.

'This year, I was privileged to spend the first few hours of spring in one of my favourite places. Divis Mountain has long been a place I love to walk and run because of the sense of freedom it gives me. The light rain felt refreshing, and a reminder that April showers are just around the corner! It was a joy to share this wonderful open space with my colleagues.'

A chiffchaff perched on a branch

Pete Brash

'Bright daisy buttons burst, scattered on the grass,
Bluebell green spears through forgotten autumn leaves,
Sparrows gossip in the ivy, greenfinches wheeze and wings wheel,
Starling quacks creaks snaps crackles and pops whistles,
Wood pigeon claps wings and sails while another croons deep bass,
Song thrush enquires, nuthatch quips, squirrel chatters,
Dunnock juggles a jumble of notes that scatter,
The robin considers, sings syrupy sweetness and pauses,
Red-tailed bumblebee blunders on a currant bush,
Pounces on pink grape bunches of tom cat flowers,
Red orange butterfly cavorts and corkscrews through bright light and deep shade,
Sun beams, laser through branches, stair rods on celandine reflections,
Chiffchaff constant, metronomic, counting time as the heartbeat of spring quickens.'

A picture of ayellow Iris flowering in spring

Pam Smith

'‘Strolling is the gastronomy of the eye. To walk is to vegetate to stroll is to live.’ (Balzac 1799 - 1850). I associate spring with strolling; looking far and looking close, the mid-range confident garden scenes can wait until summer; it’s the quieter long views and the up close secret studies of squeezable buds I’m interested in.

'My favourite flower colour is yellow. Spring is blue skies, yellow flowers and jewel green buds. Sounds are those of stones on rakes as we prepare seed beds, a chiming percussion to the anticipation I feel as I step through the gates of our walled gardens.

'For gardeners this is a sped up time up year as seemingly overnight the tree canopies turn green and cast shade, but we wait for the Ash, our last tree to unfurl its leaves; as we wait our seeds germinate with the promise of future harvests.'

Golden reeds reflected in water beneath a blue sky

Ajay Tegala

'Spring at Wicken Fen means fond farewells to wintering wildfowl. The Whooper Swans have headed north. We savour the sight and sound of Fieldfares on the Fen, before they too depart. Spring at Wicken Fen means celebrating new arrivals. Our wild population of Konik ponies, which graze on the fen and live their entire lives here, have begun foaling this week. Our Highland Cattle have already begun calving, but more will follow throughout spring. Lush green reed shoots are pointing to the sky. Yellow flowers of Coltsfoot and Celandine shine brightly in the sun. Bright Brimstone butterfly are on the wing. Spring at Wicken Fen means waiting for the first Cuckoo to call and the first dragonfly to take flight. Suspense increases as we wait for the Fen to burst into life and colour: the most beautiful time of the year.'

Jackdaw sat on a fence in front of spring flowers

Judith Teasdale

I always know that spring is on the way when the Jackdaws are busy. The sound of Jackdaws chatting companionably at the top of a chimney stack can bring the fear of a blocked chimney! But I enjoy their gregarious nature. In the village of Pen Selwood, on a hill to the west of Stourhead, there is a large old sycamore, growing on a grassy triangle. The loss of some large branches has left huge, nest-sized cavities and is home to a family of Jackdaws. As I walked past this morning, about a dozen birds were hopping in and out of their prospective dwellings. One Jackdaw - undeterred by my presence - dropped down onto the grass beneath the tree to grapple with awkward-sized twigs, testing their manoeuvrability before carrying them up to its new nest. There will be house-building in Pen Selwood for a few weeks to come!

Walker enjoying a spring dawn on the Malham Tarn Estate

Roisin Black

'Spring generally arrives late and tentatively at Malham Tarn as there is always the threat of a late snow flurry. But this morning, walking around the boardwalk, frog spawn is appearing in the ponds and it is always wonderful to watch a barn owl hunting over the reserve in the early morning light. The promise of what spring will bring can be seen all around.

'When spring does arrive in the Yorkshire Dales the air is filled with the sound of curlew, lapwings and oyster catchers returning to nest. Lambs begin to fill the fields running, jumping and so full of life that you can’t help but smile. Wild primroses begin to show off their bright yellow flowers, the delicate yellow Star-of-Bethlehem begin to flower at Hudswell Woods and the ransoms at Janet’s Foss start to fill the air with garlic scent.'

A picture of daffodils at The Vyne

Jess Usher

'The day dawned a luminous grey, the distant trees silhouette grey, backlit by the merest hint of sunlight that may yet break through the cloud. A greyish day but all around are the signs of a spring ready to unfurl. I am sitting on leaf litter amongst the daffodils in woodland high above the fields. Twiggy stems of understory hazel bear tiny green buds. The birds chatter, chirp and trill, refreshing to the ear as this week past they have been either silent or their voices drowned out by wild weather. At my feet spreading away down the slope a thick carpet of shiny green rosettes show where the bluebells will bloom. Today the daffodils hold court, elegant swathes drift up the bank, white flowers nodding gently on the slightest of breezes. Spring, early or late? This time it seems it is tip-toeing in, bang on time.'

White blossom against a pale blue sky

Immy Tinkler

'Early this morning I was barefoot in the back garden, with its view of the ridgeline and the clump of trees atop Kelston Roundhill. It was a pale start to the day with a cloud-coloured sky, but the early birds were already in full voice and the blackthorn tree was covered in frothy white blossom and fat buds that will soon unfurl into green leaves. The stream trickled faintly nearby, muffled by the tangle of brambles growing over the ditch, and from somewhere in the hedgerow came a blackbird’s syruped call.'

Wild garlic at Coed Ganllwyd in South Snowdonia

Rebecca Bevan

'This morning in the woods, spring felt as joyful as ever. Wild garlic is carpeting the ground, little violets have appeared and the trees are fat with buds. Up on the common, the turf is still stunted by wind and trampling feet but amongst it I spied the shoots of innumerable species, poised to begin their ascent into meadow.'

A butterfly perched on a magnolia

Helen Champion

'For gardeners, spring arrives slowly. Even in the darkest days of winter, there are signs of stirrings from the ground beneath us, signs of nature's pulse.

'By the time the first day of spring arrives on March 20th we've witnessed golden aconites rising out of dark soil, snowdrops gleaming in the low sun and immersed ourselves in the intense colours of crocus and Iris reticulata.

'Nature breathes slowly as she awakens. Hellebores bloom, Sarcococca scents the air, and on bare branches the spidery flowers of witch hazel emerge. Days lengthen, the air warms and early daffodils cast a golden sheen on the garden. And now today, the first day of spring, we hear a skylark pure and clear, see magnolias heavy with flowers and garden with energy, knowing that we are at the tipping point. Nature is no longer slumbering. On this day she rises, and gives a joyful shout.'