Looking for signs of spring is instinctive as the days lengthen. Perhaps it’s looking for reasons to be cheerful, especially on a bright day when you suspect variable weather will soon return.
A mistle thrush singing, a woodpecker drumming or a black-headed gull with a hood the colour of dark chocolate remind us that the increasing day length is prompting birds to pair up or gain breeding plumage.
In general, gardens are likely to have more flowers than the countryside as we plant with early blooms in mind, as if we are trying to bring forward the feel-good season of spring. Early season bumblebees appreciate them.
At Thorpe Marshes, flowers out now are a curious mish-mash. It’s been a mild winter despite storms Ciara and Dennis: this pattern of a lack of hard frosts coupled with storms is one we may have to get used to as the climate changes. Some flowers, such as dead-nettles, have simply kept flowering.
Two blooms caught my eye on my usual circuit around Thorpe Marshes. A spiny bush, planted by the viewing area of St Andrew Broad, has attractive white flowers. Very early white flowers on shrubs or small trees in hedges are often wrongly identified as blackthorn, which is unlikely to be in bloom before April. Actually, this is cherry plum. Though a native of south-east Europe, it is widely naturalised and planted in Norfolk.
A patch of bare ground by the River Yare has another reliable early flower, coltsfoot. The leaves, said to resemble the shape of a colt’s foot, emerge later. What we see now are the first, yellow, daisy-like blooms, on the top of odd-looking stalks with scales that grow straight from the ground.
Chris Durdin leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of monthly walks and recent sightings at the nature reserve can be found here. Chris has written a wildlife report for Thorpe Marshes, which can be found on his blog here.
Header image: Cherry plum blossom, by Chris Durdin