Friday, 12 April 2013

Signs of spring at Hickling

Caroline de Carle, Hickling Visitor Centre

As we sit and look out at a rather wintery, grey scene at Hickling - in the middle of April - it would be all too easy to feel more than a little glum. But NO! The signs of spring are here in abundance, but you just have to look and listen that bit more closely. 

Brimstone butterfly, photo by Liz Dack
There, see, a flash of yellow. Not one of our blousey daffodils but a beautiful male yellowhammer in full spring plumage, singing his sweet song of "bread and no cheese" to attract a mate. Another flash of yellow: a male brimstone, making the most of brief spells of sunshine to show of his acidic green colour as he seeks out nectar from the few flowering plants in bloom. 

Early sources of nectar and pollen are so vital to our insects, especially when the weather is far from warm. Emerging queen bumblebees have been making the most of the pollen-rich willow catkins to build up their energy on cold day and nights.

A few spring visitors are back; chiffchaff, redshank and garganey are all present but not in great numbers yet. And what of our reserve specialities? Three male bitterns have been booming since early April and establishing territories. Our cranes are also busy setting up home and have treated visitors to some noisy and spectacular fly-overs. Bearded tits are still very elusive but hopefully some fine weather will get them singing and pinging into breeding action.

So you see, there is always something exciting to see and hear at NWT Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve, but sometimes you have to make just a little bit more effort to find it. It's always worth the wait.

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