The gentle touch of spring is gaining momentum

The grip of winter may still be strong, but its grip is slowly easing as daylight hours increase and temperatures gradually rise.

It’s a slow process: two steps forward when favorable weather materializes, and one step back when a new cold snap sets in.

But the path of direction cannot be stopped – spring is already on its way.

Change in the air

Even the light at this time of year is different, brighter and more welcoming in tone.

Nature senses tangible changes in the air and begins to act with growing anticipation.

Downriver, the air resonates with the gentle chirping of dippers as males announce their territories and seek mates.

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Dipper. Image: Keith Broomfield

Sitting on top of a half-submerged tree trunk at the water’s edge or on a protruding boulder, the male flicks his tail excitedly and sways up and down as he sings.

Dippers breed early and often lay eggs by the end of March.

I have already heard my first great spotted woodpecker this year drumming on the hollow branches of dead trees.

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The male bear shows the female. Image: Keith Broomfield

For me, it is the quintessential sound of spring, a far-reaching crackling sound performed at machine-gun speed as the male repeatedly strikes the tree with his beak.

It’s a threat and a love letter rolled into one; a warning to other males to stay away because this is his territory, but also an advertisement to females of his desire to mate.

Helper Fitness

I wonder if depth, tone, and duration of drumming are important to a female when she evaluates the suitability of her potential mate?

That’s how I imagine it, and for a male, a good drumming tree in his territory is equivalent to gold dust.

Woodpeckers have cushioning tissue between the base of the bill and the skull to cushion the impact of the drum.

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Dipper. Image: Keith Broomfield

Snowdrops are now in bloom, their white swaying buds bringing life to the forest floor.

William Wordsworth described the snowdrop as “a lone flower surrounded by snow” and “a valiant harbinger of spring”.

Snowdrop is a harbinger of good times, procreation and abundant growth.

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Walnut earrings. Image: Keith Broomfield

It is a joyful flower of white virgin purity and innocence, fragile in appearance, but with a steely inner strength that can withstand the coldest weather.

Despite the widespread distribution of snowdrops, it is believed that they are not native to our shores, as they were brought from continental Europe several hundred years ago.

rich hazels

The hazel is now richly adorned with lime-green catkins, or ram’s tails, as they are called, while on the banks of rivers and lakes, heavy catkins hang from the alder.

Alder earrings are easy to overlook, but look closely and their delicate purple beauty quickly becomes apparent.

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Alder earrings. Image: Keith Broomfield

In the wild expanses of Africa, far to the south, birds such as swallows and warblers begin to disturb.

In their veins runs an irresistible desire to travel north, a treacherous journey fraught with peril that must be undertaken to ensure the creation of the next generation.

Life and death are inextricably intertwined in nature, but the vitality of an enthusiastic new dawn will eventually take over with the coming of spring.

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