On the first really warm day of spring this year I saw my earliest butterfly of the year – always a heart warmer after the long winter (an especially long winter this year). It was a brimstone butterfly, a large, pale yellowy green butterfly – I think it was a male as females are lighter in colour. Brimstones are often the first butterflies seen as they can spend the winter hibernating, tucking themselves into tangles of bramble or ivy (makes sense in our garden as we have a lot of both!) in sheltered sunny places and emerging when the sun warms them enough.

Just a few minutes later a bumblebee dive bombed by, being chased by my father’s dog who thankfully, for both their sakes, didn’t manage to catch her. Female or queen bumblebees are another native insect which overwinter. In late autumn they dig holes in chilly north facing banks to avoid being warmed up by any winter sun and emerging too soon. There are many bumblebee species in this country (24 according to a quick Google), but this one didn’t stop long enough for an ID check.

These insect flybys were just one of many clues that spring has sprung. Snow drops have already finished their bright white show by the beginning of March; crocus, daffodils, aconites and wood anemones close on their heels. The blackthorn bushes – a very common sight on the sides of Sussex roads – burst into beautiful white blossom. If pollinated these flowers will become sloes later in the year. If you look around a wood in early March the buds are bulging, just waiting to burst and fill the canopy with fresh green again.

The birds too, are clearly in the throws of spring, frantically collecting nesting materials and singing for mates.

We have recently moved and are lucky enough to have a lovely garden which backs onto farmland. Although clearly once much loved, our new garden is currently overgrown, full of bramble and bindweed, great for wildlife but not so fab for a gardener perhaps. Saying this – as I spend hours meticulously digging bindweed roots out – I will, most definitely be making room for wildlife in our garden plans. My children have started their wildlife pond design and I will take heed of Monty Don’s advice and leave some areas of lawn long – it will be interesting to see what weed species crop up. I love spring.

by Nicola Brewerton

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