Signs of spring

Well, it seems that the clutches of winter are really loosening their grip on the landscape, and thus allowing the spread of colour and life to begin in earnest. The last few weeks has seen a gradual – but definitely noticeable – advance in the progress of spring: hazel Catkins dangling with ever-growing fronds from above; Daffodils carpeting the brown fields in a blaze of bright yellow; snowdrops delicately patterning the ground in satin-white; the ever-growing chorus of birdsong at dawn; and the early nest-building of crows and buzzards already underway in tree-tops.

The weather, on the other hand, does not seem to quite understand the advancement of the season: some of the winter’s coldest weather has been persisting over the last few weeks, accompanied by the inevitable Cornish rain and drizzle, and plenty of windy storms and gales. However, there has been the occasional day when the sun has appeared in ernest, basking the land in a real warmth that allows us to reminisce of what summer and spring can feel like. I can’t wait to leave the wet, grey tendrils of winter behind as a wave of new life emerges from sea, sky and land.

Hazel Catkins in the morning sunshine

Cornwall is the UK’s main producer of Daffodils for floral displays and amenities, growing vast acreages of the colourful plant in the distinctly mild climate. These plants – the very epitome of spring – have been flowering down here since January!
More plants! Snow Drops and Primroses are getting their flowering period in before any deciduous trees begin thinking about unfurling their fleshy leaves and shading out the ground flora of woodlands
BIRDS!
I have been getting out birding as often as I can, and it has been great to see the gradual restlessness and behavioural changes take place as spring edges closer. The dawn chorus has steadily been growing louder and louder, particularly as day length increases: everything from Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming away on rotting trunks to the tinkling songs of Goldcrests and the repetitive melodies of Song Thrushes. Partly due to the mild conditions this winter, there has been a steady exodus and general absence of wildfowl and thrushes in the county, which has been particularly noticeable on patch: whereas back in December the nearby College Lake was teeming with Wigeons and Teals and whatever else, all there is making use of the freshwater are Coots and Tufted Ducks now. Thrush numbers have likewise been very low this winter, but the odd flock have been appearing on campus. Great Crested Grebes are perhaps the exception to the wildfowl trends…the number of pairs on the nearby reservoirs have doubled over the last month, and are already carrying out their pair-bonding dance moves, flicking heads from side to side in synchrony; a superb sight.
one of the local Great Crested Grebe pairs – I am looking forward to trying to capture these stunning birds in their dancing display
Kingfisher
Moths haven’t featured too highly as yet, I suppose partly in response to the chilly temperatures predominating over recent weeks. However, we have got a Robinson trap established on campus now, which is great, and we are really looking forward to seeing what the diversity of lepdioptera is like at the university. Out year list so far stands at a grand total of three: Hebrew Character, March Moth and Common Quaker
March Moth! A cracking moth, even if it was a day late (trapped on the 2nd)

Hebrew Character – by far the commonest species around at the moment
Grey Squirrel
Birding the university campus has been great fun, especially as spring approaches: the likes of singing male Firecrest, overwintering Blackcaps, Green Woodpeckers and fly-over Ravens are amongst the highlights so far, but a wealth of common garden birds make any morning meanderings vastly entertaining! I have been keeping a handful of feeders topped up for ringing activities in the coming weeks, and they have been attracting Nuthatches, Coal Tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and the more unwelcome visitor pictured above! I am really looking forward to seeing what the campus grounds will produce in the coming months, particularly with our partaking in the University Bird Challenge. The year list is coming on well, with over 60 species including the likes of Peregrine and Black Redstart… 
Nuthatch
Robin 
Starling

Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon

Rook – rather spectacular iridescence!
I have been getting out around Falmouth’s coast with AK Wildlife Cruises most weeks, which has been brilliant to get a look at the wealth of overwintering divers, grebes and seaducks which inhabit the various coastal estuaries and bays. Falmouth holds some nationally important wintering areas for species such as the Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, with rich feeding grounds providing the ideal staging for seeing out the winter months. Whilst out on the cruises, we have seen as many as 15 Black-necked Grebes, 5 Slavonian Grebes, Red-necked Grebes, 20 Great Northern Divers and various other species, which is fantastic! It won’t be too long until these begin dispersing to breeding grounds, but I’m hoping they will acquire breeding plumages before leaving!
Slavonian Grebe
Great Northern Divers
a smart male Red-breasted Merganser
adult Cormorants are endowed in their splendid breeding plumage now, with the crisp white frosting on crest and neck, deep blue eye and bright yellow facial features making them really rather stunning

As an end note, the invertebrate side of things (besides moths) is slowly gaining momentum, with the likes of queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees emerging and the odd Red Admiral or Peacock making an appearance. However, I think the cold temperatures recently have been slowing the emergence of many species, particularly moths. Looking forward to when things really start hotting up!

Pill Bug (Armadillium vulgare), otherwise known as the Rollie pollie or Pill Woodlouse. The similar Pill Millipede has two legs per segment, but both display the same anti-predator defence of rolling up into ball

And a Snail to end with…but by no means the least of the bunch!
I have a busy few weeks ahead with uni work, deadlines, assignments, exams and a cheeky trip to Norway, so keep your eyes on my Facebook page and Twitter feed for more regular updates! 
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