Signs of Spring starting to emerge in the Great Ouse Valley

A Spring tapestry of snowdrops and aconites at The Elms in Houghton

A Spring tapestry of snowdrops and aconites at The Elms in Houghton. - Credit: OUSE VALLEY TRUST

Although it is too early to say winter has definitely gone, we can see and hear the signs of spring. The lengthening days trigger our native birds to prepare for the breeding season and their singing is increasing.

The laughing cry of the Green Woodpecker – traditionally called a ‘yaffle’ - echoes around the woods, whilst the Spotted Woodpecker doesn’t sing to attract a mate, instead he drums or hammers on the tree trunks.

The Great Ouse Valley Trust. 

The Great Ouse Valley Trust. - Credit: GREAT OUSE VALLEY TRUST

On Holt Island Nature Reserve, in St Ives, observation of the ‘Adopt-a-Box’ nest boxes shows that there is much house-hunting underway, with the Great Tits busy with the most viewings. But no relocation for the Red Kites. They have stayed put. High up in their pine tree they are refurbishing last year’s nest, and we can be optimistic that they will breed here again.

Their only challenge is occasionally sorties from the nearby rookery, but with a wingspan of nearly five feet, the kites have aerial superiority.

The swallows have left South Africa and are on their way. Flying at a speed of 17-22 mph and feeding in flight, they cover about 200 miles each day of their 6,000 mile journey. All being well they will be with us by early April - many returning to the same nests.

Other birds are also coming to enjoy our spring and summer – among them, House Martins, Sand Martins, Swifts, warblers and flycatchers. But especially we listen out for the arrival of the Cuckoo.

Last year, there was almost an outbreak of ‘cuckoo wars’ when several males could be heard in The Thicket and along to Hartford - each trying to out-sing the others to attract a female.

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And gradually – day by day - the countryside hues are losing the dull, muted browns and greys as green and bright colours emerge. Golden Hazel catkins sway in the hedgerow, the Bullfinches are already picking at the tiny buds of Prunus blossom, and down at ground level there are Snowdrops, purple violets and pale yellow Primroses to raise Spring is especially welcome in 2021.

The Great Ouse Valley Trust promotes the conservation, restoration and enjoyment of the landscape, wildlife and heritage of the Great Ouse Valley and environs in the county of Cambridgeshire.