Nature still somehow managing to cope... - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Nature still somehow managing to cope…

Veterinary Practice’s conservation correspondent is filled with the joys of spring as frog spawn appears and curlews return…

AFTER the persistent rain that
many people have suffered this
winter, the signs that warmer
weather is on its way is a welcome
relief. As the weather improves so
the various harbingers of spring
appear and these may vary
depending on where in the country
one lives.

For many of us it is the
emergence of spring
flowers such as primroses
that tell us that the winter is
fading into the past. For
others it will be the first
sighting of early flying
butterflies such as the brimstone or
orange tip, both unmistakeable in the
male form being bright yellow or white
with a vivid orange tip to the forewing
respectively.

Hibernating small tortoiseshells and
peacocks will also be wakening and
searching for nectar to recharge their
batteries prior to breeding to produce
the fresh and brightly-coloured
individuals of the species that crowd the
buddleia bushes in summer and autumn.

At home here the first frog spawn
appeared in our pond on 7th March, no
doubt weeks later than for those of you living further south, but a sure sign that
the cycle of life is beginning again.

These clumps will be added to in
the coming days until some parts of the
pond appear a mass of spawn and the
heron will gorge on the courting frogs, a
welcome feast after the privations of
winter.

Where I live there is one quite unmistakeable sign that the season has
turned. I have, through wishful thinking,
been fooled a couple of times in the last
two weeks by starlings calling from the
TV aerial. Then, on 10th March, I heard
the sound I had been waiting for: the
calls from a pair of curlews returning to
their upland breeding grounds from
their winter coastal haunts.

There is no more beautiful,
mournful, yet strangely uplifting sound
to be found in the whole of nature and
if there is ever a spring when I fail to
hear them from my bed in the early
morning light, well it will be a very sad day indeed.

Other birds too are now frantically getting
down to the task of nest
building. On 2nd March I
reinstalled a renovated
camera box in our garden
and within five minutes a
pair of tree sparrows had
begun to build a nest.
Their comings and goings
visible on our TV screen
were far more entertaining
than most of the rubbish that is
currently on offer.

It takes a surprisingly long time for
them to complete a nest, several weeks,
and nests are sometimes abandoned for
a variety of reasons. Hopefully this is
one that will reach full-term and we will
be rewarded with the sound at least of
baby tree sparrows.

Excited sounds

I say “sound” because tree sparrows
built in the same box last year, a domed
nest full of feathers that meant we
eventually had no view of the activities
of the parents and chicks, just the
excited sounds of them as the parent
birds flew to and fro feeding them.

Perhaps the final sign for me that
spring has arrived is the arrival of the
swallows in the byre. At this latitude it is
usually the last week of April that we
see them flitting over the garden and it
brings a sort of reassurance to me that
in spite of all the problems besetting
our planet, most of it at the hands of
humankind, there are some constants
that show that nature is still somehow
managing to cope.

For any of you that have seen the
film The Road (a post-apocalyptic film
that is not an easy viewing, but a very
thought-provoking one), it is no
coincidence that it was the sight of a
bird on the wing that gave cause to
hope for a better future.

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