There is a sense of anticipation on these early spring mornings, a feeling that each new day holds the prospect of seeing and hearing returning summer migrants. It is a sense shared by more than just birdwatchers, for many of us look forward to the sight of our first swallow or the call of our first cuckoo. The absence of these species for so much of the year seems to make us treasure them all the more, transforming them into totems for the changing of the seasons and heralds of renewal.
Already the first of our cuckoos is back and the growing dawn chorus reverberates with the calls of sedge warbler, whitethroat, chiffchaff and blackcap. On the nearby fallow, a pair of stone-curlew has been in residence for several weeks; these birds are less obvious than the many pairs of breeding lapwing, whose shrill calls and unruly aggression are being directed at passing pheasants, partridges and brown hares, all of whom have strayed too close to active nests.
Many shrubs and trees are coming into leaf and the whole landscape is greening up. Walks taken along regular paths reveal the speed with which the ground cover is emerging, as the fresh greens of nettle and bramble replace the more earthy tones of winter. The gorse, always early into bloom, casts a scent on the warm breeze and the air begins to hum with flies, bees and other winged insects.
It is the kind of weather to tempt me out at dawn and to keep me out after work. With so much to take in it feels as if the lengthening days are still too short and that there is insufficient time to truly appreciate the surge in new life that is taking place around me. These are the days to be outside, to be in touch with the natural world and to revel in its diversity. To feel the strengthening warmth of the sun’s rays and to breathe in scents that mix on the gentle breeze stimulates senses that have been subdued by the weight of winter. It is this time of the year that brings me closest to the landscape, delivering the feeling that I am part of it.