The Spring we all need is almost here!

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa, blossom flowering on tree, RSPB Winterbourne Downs Nature Reserve, Wiltsh

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa, blossom flowering on tree, RSPB Winterbourne Downs Nature Reserve, Wiltshire, March Credit: Ben Andrew - Credit: Archant

Spring 2021 is just around the corner; discover which bird species to watch out for in your garden

Birds: Swallow perched on overhead cable with blue sky in the background, hertfordshire.
Credit: Ch

Birds: Swallow perched on overhead cable with blue sky in the background, hertfordshire. Credit: Chris Gomersall - Credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com

After a year of restrictions including a late-winter lockdown, Spring 2021 looks like it might be the most keenly anticipated spring ever.

From last March onwards, many have found themselves glued to watching nature come back to life in our gardens and green spaces, just as our own busy lives were being dialled down and have been finding solace through the business-as-usual life of the natural world.

The 12 months which followed have been a stop-start of restrictions, cancelled plans and uncertainty, compounded by a January lockdown made harder than the first by cold weather and short, dark days.

Whilst we’re always glad to put a winter behind us, have we ever been more in need of seeing the first signs of spring and feeling some sunshine again?

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, perched in the leaves of a tree, Co. Durham, October
Credit: Joh

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, perched in the leaves of a tree, Co. Durham, October Credit: John Bridges - Credit: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

As well as green shoots, leaf buds on trees, blossom on blackthorn and the first tentative buzzing of bees, returning migrant birds are a sure sign that warmer weather and longer, lighter nights are round the corner.

Guy Anderson, RSPB’s migrants recovery programme manager, said “Every spring is special and there’s always a great deal to look forward to. But I think all of us are in need of an extra boost this year, which the new season certainly promises.

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“For me, the greatest joy of all is hearing and seeing our returning migrant birds. These guys face all kinds of challenges, some flying from as far away as South Africa to reach the UK.

Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, adult standing on meadow amongst flowers, Isle of Mull, Scotlan

Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, adult standing on meadow amongst flowers, Isle of Mull, Scotland, June Credit: Ben Andrew - Credit: Archant

“I think we’re all incredibly eager to hear and see that that natural world is still turning and migrant birds are free of travel restrictions.”

Millions of migrant birds head here to breed, and their songs add extra volume to the morning symphony which culminates in International Dawn Chorus Day on May 2. Their appearances in our gardens, woods, farmland and uplands are sure to bring even more joy this year.

Common swift Apus apus, adult in flight, Cambridgeshire, July
Credit: Ben Andrew

Common swift Apus apus, adult in flight, Cambridgeshire, July Credit: Ben Andrew - Credit: Archant

Here are five feathery signs that spring is at the door:

Chiffchaff – one of our earliest migrants to return, you may have already heard one if your daily walk takes in any southern woody glades – it’s simple ‘chiff-chaff’ song immediately brings to mind a sunny spring day.

Wheatear– another early arrival, reaching our shores this month (March). Often pausing in open bare or short grass fields in the lowlands, before heading for northern and western uplands and coasts to breed. Males are dressed in blue-grey feathers with black wings, a peachy chest and a black bandit mask. Females with more muted shades, but all with the bold white flash on the tail as they take flight – the name ‘wheatear’ probably derives from ‘white-arse’!

Cuckoo – the most poignant of spring calls, nothing says spring like the meaningful calling of this iconic migrant.

Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus, adult male perched on lichen covered branch, Thursley National Nature

Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus, adult male perched on lichen covered branch, Thursley National Nature Reserve, Surrey, April Credit: Ben Andrew - Credit: Archant

Swallow – whilst one does not a summer a make, their return in April is a sure sign that spring is in session. Many areas had a poor year for swallows in 2020, so let’s hope 2021 is better.

Swift – one of our latest returnees but surely one of the most popular, their scythe-like silhouette in the air and their noisy screaming parties really do help to get the festivities started.

For more information about spring migration and how to identify the new birds you are spotting, please go to www.rspb.org.uk