Signs of spring have been popping up all around us over the last few weeks. Daffodils, butterflies and the first migratory songbirds were the first signs and, all of a sudden, we’re seeing the first ducklings and goslings hatching from their eggs at many of our centres too.
The picture postcard frosts and lakes alive with winter migrant swans and geese are now behind us – in their place are blooming flowers and trees and the sound of songbirds.
Slimbridge has recorded its first sand martins, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, swallows and willow warblers of the year. They’ve also had visiting waders, including a large number of black-tailed godwits and an avocet. Spotted also are frogspawn, grass snakes and boxing hares. And toads have been heard singing too.
At Llanelli, many migrants from the south have begun to appear – including sand martins, swallows, wheatears, chiffchaffs and even three garganey (the only species of duck to migrate to our shores during the summer months). Caerlaverock also have a pair of garganey present on their reserve and have seen chiffchaffs, a female wheatear and a white wagtail in recent days.
London has spotted its first sand martins – so work to install new cameras on the centre’s sand martin bank has been stepped up to be completed over the next week, before they start to nest in the boxes. Once finished, visitors will, for the first time, be able to see these birds flying up to the bank and sitting on their nests.
Also marking spring at London is the blooming snakes’ head frittilary meadow – one of the most beautiful sights at the centre.
Our Martin Mere reserve has had 62 avocets and has also seen the return of migrants such as the sand martins and oystercatchers too.
And Arundel is blooming with primrose, snow drops, daisies, marsh marigolds, greater celandine, colts foot, sweet violet and blackthorn trees all coming into flower.
There have been daily sightings of brimstone and comma butterflies at the centre, while lapwings are displaying daily and two pairs appear to be nesting.
Washington is enjoying a similar explosion of colour with crocuses and primroses in flower, as well as gorse bushes. Lapwings and other songbirds are busy staking their claims on nest sites, and spring migrants such as little ringed plover, oystercatcher and avocet are all arriving at the centre’s Wader Lake.
If your favourite thing about wildlife watching in the spring is seeing cute, baby birds and animals, the coming months are also the perfect ones for getting out and trying to spot youngsters among the bushes and reed beds.
Many of our centres are getting their first hatchlings. From Washington, which has seen the first clutches of grey heron eggs hatching, to Llanelli, which has two broods of mallard and a moorhen brood.
Our collection birds too are beginning to produce young. Llanelli, Castle Espie, Slimbridge, Arundel and Washington have all had clutches of Hawaiian goose (nene) eggs, with most now hatched.
Over the spring, the eggs of some of the rare birds that are part of our conservation breeding programme will be hatched in incubators and our duckery facilities opened for the public to view.
Check your nearest centre for details of when their hatching facilities will be open and the times of guided tours. Depending on when you visit, you can see incubated eggs and ducklings and goslings of varying ages.
You can also view wildlife sightings pages for each of our centres for up-to-the-date information on which birds have been spotted and where.
It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy the wildlife that’s getting busy all around you. All of our centres will be open over the Easter and spring bank holidays so make sure you set aside some time to visit and get outdoors and up close to nature.