Nature enthusiast, Ian Misselbrook, discusses birds in his latest column
Early spring is one of the best times to visit our woodlands. The trees are not yet in full leaf, so birds are easier to spot and as the understory of bracken and bramble has also yet to develop, woodland mammals and spring flowers are also more visible.
Our resident birds have now taken up their breeding territories, so the dawn chorus is very impressive and even during the middle of the day birds can be seen and heard singing to attract a mate or repel incursions into their nesting area.
One of my favourite birds is the acrobatic long-tailed tit. Easily distinguished from other species by its incongruously long tail protruding from a round, fluffy looking body. From a distance it looks black and white, but a closer approach reveals various shades of pastel pink.
Another one of the tit family worth looking for is the marsh tit. Despite its name it is actually a woodland bird and in Lincolnshire its breeding stronghold is in the south-west of the county, along with Rutland. It is extremely difficult to distinguish from the willow tit which is now virtually extinct as a breeding species in our area. A few willow tits might remain, especially in Rutland so look and listen carefully.
If in doubt listen for the distinctive “pichoo” call of the marsh tit which I liken to a delicate sneeze. This call is not shared with its rarer cousin.
By the middle of April most of our resident species will have been joined by summer visitors; mostly members of the warbler family. Chiffchaffs are already here and singing their name in every wood and spinney. Some will have over-wintered with us, but others are genuine migrants, albeit many from only as far as Cornwall.
Every visit to our woods at this time of year reveals a succession of wildflowers. The snowdrops have now finished and as I write Coltsfoot is in full bloom. An old name for this is “Sons Before the Father”, which refers to the fact that it is only after the flowers have bloomed and set seed, that leaves are produced.
Most of the fallow deer, abundant in our local woods, will be losing their dark winter coats in favour of the attractive dappled fur depicted in most books. However, some individuals will retain their variable coats all year, from pure white to almost black.
Make time to enjoy our wildlife rich woodlands this spring.