Early signs of spring: what to look out for
The end of winter can seem dark, cold and bleak, but the daylight hours are gradually lengthening and nature is beginning to gear up for spring. How many of these early signs can you spot over the next few weeks?
Frogs are the first amphibians to emerge from their winter homes under logs, stones and dead leaves and hop off to the nearest pond, where they croak loudly to attract a mate.
Before long, there’ll be lots of gloopy frogspawn around!
Minibeasts are starting to awake from their cold weather snooze and crawl out of crevices in dead wood and winter foliage. Keep an eye out for these:
Bees – some bee species start to emerge from their winter hiding places as early as February. Watch out for them buzzing around early spring flowers.
Butterflies – a few butterflies, such as the red admiral, peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma, sleep in a dark and sheltered place for much of the winter but you may see one out and about on a sunny day, especially when spring’s just around the corner. The brimstone is one of the first to emerge, so look out for its bright yellow wings.
Ladybirds start to wake up in February too. The one you’re most likely to come across is the seven-spot ladybird, our most common species, but check with our ladybird ID if you’re not sure. It's also super handy for identifying other types of UK ladybirds!
Early spring flowers
Snowdrops and primroses are already blooming, and before long they’ll be joined by the first daffodils.
In the woods, you may also begin to see the bright green shoots of bluebells poking up through the leaf litter. The fluffy catkins on hazel and willow trees are flowers too, and will soon be releasing their pollen into the March breezes.
Early migratory birds arriving from abroad
It won’t be long before the first migratory birds will start flying in to start building their nests and breeding.
Have you heard birds singing early in the morning? This is called the dawn chorus, and it means that spring isn’t far away! As the nights get shorter and the days get longer, more and more of our feathery friends will join the choir.
The wheatear begins arriving from central Africa in February.
Look out for a tiny bird with a white underneath and orange-tinted breast hopping about on the ground on moors and in rocky fields, especially if you live near the coast.
It’s soon followed by the chiffchaff, which spends the winter in West Africa or the Mediterranean (although more and more of them are choosing to stay in the UK during the colder months).
You’ll see this small, greenish-brown bird flitting through bushes. It has a funny habit of wagging its tail, and has a really distinctive song – it sings its name.
Remember you can share your finds using #NatureDetectives.
You can also log your first sighting of some plants and creatures on our Nature’s Calendar website. This information, gathered from all over the country, will help scientists understand how our changing climate is affecting nature.