By Deborah Deveney - Biodiversity Officer

As the days get longer we can start to make the most of the lighter mornings and early evenings and feel the warmth of the sun on our skin. Wildlife is also responding to this increase in natural daylight and warming temperatures, encouraging animals to pair up and prepare a safe space to raise their young.

I’m sure many of you are waking up to the sound of bird song, maybe a robin or wren is singing in your garden. Our resident birds are the first to start the spring chorus – male birds will sing at first sunlight to attract a mate or to defend their territory.  Migrant birds will join the choir a bit later to create a melodious symphony culminating in May. Join in with others around the world to celebrate ‘International Dawn Chorus Day’ on Sunday 2 May 2021 

Some bird species start to pair up earlier than others, so in February I started to survey the Burrator woodlands for one of Devon’s rarest birds the Willow tit. By sight it is virtually identical to a Marsh tit -  both birds are similar in size, have a black cap and favour damp habitats such as wet woodland/scrubby edges of Rhos pasture near streams and ditches, so spotting the difference is virtually impossible. Instead the only reliable way of distinguishing between the two species is to listen to their song/contact calls, we therefore use a playback song/call and listen for a response.  Unfortunately no willow tits have responded yet but I did see a beautiful pair of Marsh tit foraging on a mossy tree, listened to a mistle thrush in song (sounds quite like a blackbird) and heard great spotted woodpecker drumming to establish their territory.

Another creature we associate with spring is the Common frog, listening to the males croaking at night or early morning. Whilst out in the sunshine I came across frog spawn in most of the wet flushes, and even saw a few worn out frogs enjoying the sun’s rays! The female frog lays thousands of eggs each spring to ensure survival – only 1 in 50 eggs makes it to tadpole stage and the odds are even lower to reach final adult stage, so I’m always excited when I discover tadpoles and froglets. You can attract frogs to your garden by creating a small pond – it’s amazing how quickly they will find it. The pond should have gentle sloping sides to allow the frogs to climb out and a deeper area in the centre so that they can hibernate at the bottom in the mud, but don’t introduce fish as they will eat any frog spawn. The Freshwater Habitats Trust are collecting spawn data or, for advice on how to create a garden pond, click here.

I hope you are able to get into your garden or local green space and appreciate the beauty and sounds of nature in full song.